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Archive for September, 2012

The Nautica Malibu international distance triathlon is less than 48 hours away. That means I have a big question to answer: to race or not to race? I have wrestled with this question over the last week. I am finding it helps to break it down into smaller questions.

Can I physically do the race? Absolutely. I’ve trained hard for this race, even if it wasn’t my goal race (the marathon was/is/who knows gah I hate stupid plantar fasciitis). My last triathlon was nine-plus months ago, which makes it feel like I’ve been training for this race FOREVER. I could have grown and popped out a baby in that time. Instead I’ve been gestating a triathlon baby. I’m serious about that — bear with me when I equate training for a race to experiencing pregnancy and birth. You’re all excited in the beginning, then you wonder what you’ve gotten yourself into, then you buckle down and do the hard work of growing that baby, then it becomes all you can think about and all you want to talk about. You get more and more excited as the big day approaches. You do everything you can do to prepare, but not everything is under your control. Part of your nervousness stems from the fact that you’ve invested so much of yourself physically and emotionally over the course of several months, and you just want everything to go well. All you can do is show up ready to roll with what fate brings you on the day, the day you give birth to that much-wanted figurative-triathlon-baby. (Fine, it’s not a perfect analogy.)

The more important question is: Should I do the race? My feet still do have pain from the plantar fasciitis. I don’t feel pain when I run, so it’s not like the race itself would be torture for me. It’s the fallout I’m worried about. There’s a possibility I could tear the plantar fascia in spite of all the stretching I’ve been doing. There’s the likelihood that my feet will become more sore in the days after the race and it might set back my recovery from the injury.

Which brings me to the question: Will running this race prevent me from running the marathon, my goal race? The answer is a big fat I DON’T KNOW. It’s not clear to me that even if I didn’t do the triathlon, I would recover in time to train for and run the marathon. The marathon is eight weeks away. As optimistic as I was when I did that 2-hour aqua running session, the reality is that I will miss some of my big training runs. Over the next five weeks I’m supposed to do five long runs of 16, 12, 18, 13 and 20 miles, respectively. Exactly how many of those could I “run” in the pool? And could I really transition from the pool right back out onto solid ground for a marathon training plan? It doesn’t seem likely to me. And even if I could train and get back to actual running, would I be able to meet my marathon goals? I do have quite specific goals. My goal was never just to complete the distance (while that might be someone else’s perfectly valid and worthwhile goal, it’s not mine). I certainly don’t want to run a marathon while injured, simply to say I’ve done a marathon. There will be other races (just not this one that I carefully researched and lovingly hand-picked because it’s smaller than big city races *SOB* and it is in a beautiful setting *SOB* and we booked a gorgeous hotel in Santa Barbara because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing *SOB SOB*).

Given that I don’t know whether the triathlon would be the thing keeping me from running the marathon, I find myself asking: If I didn’t have the marathon on my race calendar, would I go ahead with the triathlon? The answer is a resounding heck yeah. I feel well enough to do it, I want to do it, and I think the risk of further injury is low enough that I can do it. Then there’s the final nagging question: Would my answers to all these questions be any different if I weren’t doing this all in a public blog forum for everyone (my growing handful of readers LOL) to see? I don’t think so. If anything I’m slightly worried that I’ll do the triathlon, get more injured or stay injured and not recover, and the blogosphere will hit me with a big I TOLD YOU SO. It couldn’t be anything worse than I will be telling myself, though.

Well, wish me luck, tell me I’m crazy, hope that the crazy pays off for me. Hmm, that’s one final question. What’s the payoff? Who cares if I skip this race? (Yes, yes, that’s two questions). I care. If I don’t get to do the marathon (right now) then I want to do this race. I don’t want to have to give up everything to plantar fasciitis. I want to go see this year’s version of this:

sand sculpture

Nautica Malibu Triathlon sand sculpture. Photo by Denise Cross.

Those are my answers today. I can’t tell you I’ll stick to them. We’ll see what happens on race day.

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In all honesty, I can’t say that the half marathon is my favorite race distance. I love a 10K (6.2 miles). An 8K (4.97 miles). Those are long enough to tax me and yet short enough that I can really race them. A 5K (3.1 miles) is nice too, but it’s over before I even start to get in my groove. I’m not that speedy, you see. Endurance is my strong suit. And yet, for me, 13.1 miles presents quite the challenge.

My quest to complete a half marathon started when I finished my first Olympic distance triathlon in December 2011. I felt competent on the swim and bike but felt there was significant room for improvement in running. The Olympic distance includes a 6.2-mile run. For that triathlon, I completed that 6.2 miles in 55:35, a decent 10K time after the swim and bike portions of the race (enough to earn me first out of those in my age group, no matter that there were only two of us 40-year-old females!) I later completed a stand-alone 10K in 51:29, again a decent time, especially considering I was recovering from a groin injury at the time. At any rate it was good enough for a spot on the podium for 2nd place in my 40-44 age group in the local race. Still, I wanted more. I wanted to be a runner. (What constitutes a runner is a whole ‘nother blog post. On the one hand I’d say anyone who puts one foot in front of the other at any pace faster than a walk is a runner. On the other hand, I didn’t feel like a runner until I started training for the half marathon and other runners started recognizing that I was training for something.)

In January 2012, I signed up for a half marathon training class with a local running shop. My goal was to work on my running form and speed.  I knew from the start that I wanted to complete a half marathon in under two hours. I stated it out loud to anyone who would listen (not because I was overly confident, but because I wanted to hold myself to a training and racing goal). The 16-week program entailed five weekly runs, with three to four mile runs during the week and progressively longer runs on Saturdays. While I hit a bit of a speed bump with that groin injury, the training worked for me and on race day in May 2012, I came across the finish line at 1:55:10. I had blown away my sub-2 goal.

That’s not to say that any of it was easy. During the last weeks of training, I felt creaky. I acted like the Tin Woman, starting out slowly and gradually oiling up my joints on the long runs until I hit a 10-minute pace if I was lucky. Tapering helped rejuvenate me, and by race day I hit an 8:47 pace, for an average of 6.82 mph for the 13.1 miles. I was thrilled. I left it all out on the course. I wasn’t joyful for every mile. I was thankful I made it through. I was happy to hit my previous personal distance record of 12 miles, and push through that last 1.1 miles to hit 13.1. I was tired, I was spent, and I was completely thrilled that I’d done it. I thanked the girl who finished before me, the one in the neon yellow tank top who inspired me to keep up the pace and finish strong. She had no idea she was pacing me, but she did and I’m grateful, even if I couldn’t pass her at the end. I finished in the top 9% for my age group and gender, and 17th percentile overall. I was thrilled. I don’t care how you define a “runner,” that qualified in my book!

When I crossed the finish line, I was totally done. I hadn’t exactly enjoyed the race. At the 5-mile mark I had wondered what I had gotten myself into. At the half-way mark I was shocked how many people were still crowding the course. At the hill at 11 miles I truly questioned why I had ever wanted to run a half marathon in the first place. Then I hit 12 miles and knew I could push myself that last 1.1 miles. I finished and was utterly relieved. It was hard to keep moving and walk to grab some electrolyte water and bananas and oranges.

I met my husband and three girls at our designated spot, then met up with my coach Stephanie for some hugs and arnica gel. From there it was a long walk back to our car (the parking lot was full by the time my husband and girls arrived at the start of the race). I watched the marathoners at mile 24 and tried to shout encouragement to them. I am not sure I succeeded. What do marathoners want to hear at mile 24? My thought was, “Looking good! You’re doing it!” It’s not that you can do it, you ARE doing it. Then I made it back to our car, parked nearly a half-mile away at the local gas station, and saw this:

13.1 in the dirt

Badge of honor on my dusty, dirty car

I almost cried. The enormity of the accomplishment hit me. The reward of the half marathon was knowing that all my training time and effort had paid off and I had earned that 13.1.

Nearly four months later, on my 41st birthday, I found the following surprise (and then had to wash my car because I was shamed into it by the loveliness of the gift from my husband):

13.1 sticker

My awesome birthday gift, a 13.1 custom sticker

Am I glad I ran a half marathon? Absolutely. I’m glad I trained hard and accomplished my goal. What advice do I have for others who want to tackle this distance? Set out your goal(s). Do you want to finish, meet a time goal, or blast away a personal record? Have you run other distances in preparation for 13.1 miles? Be realistic. Have a plan in place and follow it to the best of your ability.

Have you run a half marathon? What advice do you have for others who want to race 13.1 miles?

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Before I talk about aqua jogging, I need to tell a seemingly unrelated story. Back in October 2011 I had just completed my first triathlon, the SheROX San Diego sprint tri. I loved it and immediately signed up for an Olympic distance race the following December. I dove right into training, and stuck to my new training schedule even when we went camping with some friends. What better setting for a long bike ride than Joshua Tree National Park?

Joshua Tree National Park

Gorgeous view of Joshua Tree National Park to distract me on my long bike ride. Photo by Vicente Villamon.

As I was driving back to camp after the ride, I passed lots of roads that were named after desert features — Outpost Road, Sunnyhill Road, Juniper Road. That’s when I began to get nervous about the Olympic distance tri. My mind started racing. I thought about how my friends would be able to see the SheROX race numbers on my calf and arms because the permanent marker still hadn’t worn off. Then I thought about how I had looked at the professional pictures of me at the race and I wondered how the photographers had seen my number on my triceps from the swim — I guess they saw it when I peeled off half my wetsuit as I exited the water. Then I remembered how I looked blue when I exited the water from the swim, and then I worried about swimming a whole mile in the Olympic distance race in December. I thought maybe I shouldn’t have signed up to do it! That’s when I passed another road sign. It read: “Olympic Dr.” I’m not kidding. All these desert names, and at that exact moment I pass Olympic Drive?! It’s not so much that I believe in signs sent from God, but I do believe we’re open to seeing certain things at certain times, and I needed to see that certain sign at that certain time.

Anyway, all that to tell you that I saw more signs on my recent aqua jog. I had been getting awfully discouraged with the plantar fasciitis. A week of rest didn’t help. I tentatively tried out a slow run at the track, and I felt no better, no worse, until two days later when my feet became even more sore. I started wondering if I’d have to give up on running the marathon nine weeks from now. That’s when I remembered my half marathon coach Stephanie’s story about how she recovered from a tear in her plantar fascia (ouch with a capital OUCH!) by jogging in the pool. My marathon training plan called for a 15-mile run. Could I do it in the pool? I watched a few videos on YouTube to study the proper form for aqua running. My favorite tutorial was this one:

After my studies, I eagerly told my husband my plan and headed out to the outdoor pool, the one that plays music that could entertain me for a 2-hour aqua jog. At the pool, a fitness class was just starting and many of the women were using flotation belts, the kind I needed for the aqua jog. The bin was empty, but I spotted one last belt hanging next to the pool. I asked around to make sure no one was using it, and sure enough, I had snagged the absolute last flotation belt. Sign #1?

I hopped right in the pool and got going. I couldn’t tell if I was replicating the proper form from the video, and I started to question the sanity of pumping my little legs away, running to nowhere in the pool. That’s when Foster the People sent me my second sign in the form of “Pumped Up Kicks,” one of my favorite tunes from my running playlist (compliments of Coach Stephanie). That song also happens to be a favorite of my spinning class teacher, and I knew I could run to the beat of the song, just as I set the bike cadence to the beat in spin class.

In the second hour of my two-hour “run,” the Bart Crow Band sent me another sign in the form of “Run with the Devil.” Yes, “I may run with the devil….” If only the band had said I run like the devil.

Finally, as I floundered during the last 20 minutes of my “run,” it was like Journey was serenading me, imploring me not to give up on the marathon dream. “Don’t stop believin’ [Angela, you can do it, you can train for a marathon in the swimming pool and on the bike].” Catchy little tune, don’t you think?

Do you believe in signs?

Have you ever trained for a running race by training on a bike or in the pool? How did that pan out for you? Do you aqua jog for injury prevention and/or for recovery from an injury?

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9-11 Memorial Fire Training Tower, as viewed from the Santa Ana River Trail

9-11 Memorial Fire Training Tower, as viewed from the Santa Ana River Trail

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Don’t worry men, you don’t have to avert your eyes for this one, we’re not talking about that kind of burning. We’re talking about the burning questions that bring searchers to Fit Fun Mom via Google. I am here to help!

1. black running shoes are they bad

Now that depends on what you mean by “bad.” Bad as in “cool”? Totally! My husband says I look like I’m on a secret military mission when I wear my black Brooks and my black running tights and top. I like looking fierce!

Runner in black

The fierce Fit Fun Mom in black takes on Mammoth in winter

(Confession: I only bought the black pair because they were cheaper on Amazon and I am nothing if not cheap). Are black shoes bad in the traditional sense? Only if you’re concerned about visibility, and even then you are better off relying on your shirt and shorts to make you visible to others on the road.

2. can you swim breaststroke in a wetsuit?

Absolutely! A wetsuit might totally feel restrictive but it won’t keep you from swimming breaststroke. You won’t get far (you’re way faster doing freestyle) but you can do it. I do it when I suddenly need to catch my breath during a triathlon swim.

3. do kids have to swim freestyle in triathlon

Nope! Adults don’t have to swim freestyle either! In triathlon you can swim any which way you want as long as you are propelling yourself forward under your own power.

4. can you swim in the Santa Ana River?

Dude, the better question is why would you want to swim in the Santa Ana River? The Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board names one of its challenges as, “Reduce salts and nutrients in manure and wash water from dairy operations overlying the Chino Groundwater Basin that have severely degraded groundwater quality and threaten downstream water quality.” Eww! It goes on to say it needs to “[m]anage nonpoint sources of pathogens that continue to affect the quality of the Santa Ana River, thus rendering the river unsuitable for swimming.” So no, do not dip your toe in that river. Besides, half the time the river looks like this:

The Santa Ana River, not exactly flowing along swimmingly

5. penis for women to pee

I know I wrote about the Shewee: For Women on the Go “To Go” and I did talk about penis envy, but even I had to giggle when someone searched for “penis for women to pee.”

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Forgive me, Marathon Training Plan, for I have sinned. It has been seven days since my last run. During that time, I have cheated on you with three bike rides, two swims in the pool, and two weight training sessions. I thought it would be fun to dally with the bike, but in fact I had to force myself to go for those rides. When I’m riding the bike because I cannot run, it’s not quite as fun as riding for the joy of it. I am trying to be smart about healing from plantar fasciitis, sacrificing the short term training for the long term benefit, but it is hard.

As those around me can attest, I am going through the five stages of grief. (1) denial (oh, my feet are just sore, and it’s my arches, not my heels, maybe it’s not plantar fasciitis), (2) anger (irrational desire to kick people when I see them run by, not because it’s their fault I cannot run, but because they are happily flaunting their ability to do what I cannot do), (3) bargaining (if I wear my Strassburg sock every night like a good girl, and promise to stretch my calves and feet in the future, maybe the running gods will smile on me?)

and (4) depression (speaks for itself). I haven’t quite made it to number five, acceptance. I do not accept this, at least not with grace.

It’s a little crazy to liken a running injury to a major life loss, I recognize that fact. I do try to put it in perspective. Last night I took dinner to a family to help them while the mother is undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer. She is at the point in treatment where she has lost her hair and is suffering other ill effects from the toxins in her body. I’m incredibly lucky to be healthy. I know this.

At the same time, I do think my feelings of loss are normal.┬áNautica Malibu is one week from today. I’d like to get a run in before then to test out my feet and see if I can justify participating in the race, complete with the 6.2-mile run. Cross your fingers for me, wish on found pennies, and bargain with those running gods, okay? And send up some prayers and positive thoughts for my friend, who needs them far more than I do.

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Y’all, I am struggling physically and mentally with the plantar fasciitis in my feet. It’s not painful, it’s not a sharp stab in my heel, it’s a dull ache in the arch of the foot. One day it’s the right foot yelling at me, the next day it’s the left. Frankly I want to yell at them both.

Back in May, right after I officially signed up for the Santa Barbara International Marathon this coming November, I had a flash of fear. Could I really do it? I’d struggled to run 13.1 miles and meet my goal of a sub-2 half, did I actually want to put myself to the test of 26.2? The more I thought about it the more I realized:

I am less afraid of running 26.2 miles than I am of being injured and not able to run at all.

Now here I am, staring down an injury. I’m halfway through my marathon training plan, with under 10 weeks to go until race day. Maybe the plantar fasciitis will go away in a matter of weeks and never come back. Maybe it will drag on for months. Maybe (heaven forbid) the plantar fascia will rupture. I’ve given myself a few days to worry and research and develop a plan of action for the next couple of weeks. Now it’s time to give myself a pep talk and move forward. What do you think of the following random thoughts in my own mental pep talk? Do you have any words of inspiration to share?

Sometimes the workouts we least want to do end up being the most important ones.

Even the best physical training plan is deficient if you do not pair it with your own mental training plan. How do you juggle training with the rest of life? What do you do to manage injury? How do you deal with pre-race nerves? What will your mantra be on race day? What is going to get you through those last miles?

Train without music in order to listen to your body and mind.

Overcome that “I don’t feel like it today” and you will be rewarded with a huge mental boost that is exponentially greater than the physical workout.

Figure out how to weather an injury without going crazy. Be resilient. Take the downtime to appreciate the gift of fitness. Come back stronger.

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