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Saturday, March 30, 2013

2013 13.1 Race Recaps #1 & #2

As I sit with my legs up against the wall at a 90 degree angle letting gravity force the lactic acid to flow through my legs, I figured it was the perfect opportunity to update my blog with my most recent race recaps!

One of my goals for 2013 was to run 13 13.1's during the year. The 1st two races are now officially in the books, and each included a PR!

13.1 #1:

On Sunday, March 17th I ran the March O' Madness half marathon in Cary, IL. This race comes with many challenges.  Due to it's hills, it is the #1 Boston training race in our flat state of Illinois. Even more challenging than the hills though, is getting into the race before it fills up. Registration opens at 6:00 AM on New Years Eve, and this year it sold out in 38 minutes! Let's just say I was really glad I didn't give in to temptation and ignore my alarm clock that morning like I wanted too!
Race day temps were in the 30's, but the skies were sunny and there was very little wind. I always dedicate each race I run to someone special, and this one was co-dedicated to both my friend Joe "Bones" Thompson, who passed away on St. Patrick's Day in 2011 at the age of 50; as well as the father of a very good friend of mine, General Harry Cochran, who passed away suddenly a couple of days before the race. Both of these incredible men inspired me to tackle this hilly course head on, and I ended up running a 1:55:44, which was a half marathon PR in my book.

Overall race rating:


Positives: Super friendly people, inexpensive registration fee ($43), close to home, easy race day packet pick-up, great pre-race & post-race atmosphere in a local high school with indoor bathrooms, awesome race hoodie, raffle (I won a coffee gift pack), fun medal, excellent volunteers, and the best post-race soft pretzels!

Negatives: The course is a road course that is not closed to vehicle traffic, making it a little dangerous at times.

13.1 #2

Today (3/30/13) my son, Bailey. & I ran the Egg Shell Shuffle in the beautiful Busse Woods forest preserve in Elk Grove Village, IL. I dedicated this race to my grandma who passed away in 2010, but would've celebrated her 100th birthday yesterday. As a bonus, my husband and son, Connor, volunteered at the race and presented Bailey & I with our medals at the finish line. Bailey ran the 5k with no training outside of soccer, and came in 98/418 runners with a time of 28:25. He thought he could've done better, but I was totally impressed!
I ran the half marathon, and from the start I could tell it was going to be a great race. My #1 goal with Boston coming up in 16 days, was to avoid injury. I ran my 1st mile at a pace of 8:11, and knew I had to slow down to prevent burning out. I settled into a pace of 8:35 and surprised myself by maintaining that pace throughout the race, taking 2+ minutes off of my PR from 2 weeks earlier with a chip time of 1:52:02. I thought my time might be good enough to place in the top 3 in my division, but I ended up in 5th, missing 3rd place by less than 2 minutes. Nonetheless very happy with my finish! Following the races, there was an Easter egg hunt for kids and adults.  Totally fun and well done! Bailey even ended up winning a $20 gift card!
One of the highlights of the day was meeting a fellow runner who proved once again how amazing runners really are! We were taking turns passing each other during our 13.1 today, & finally I passed her up for good for the final four miles. We bumped into each other getting water afterwards & instead of being mad, she was full of compliments. It made my day, and was a perfect example of how running truly isn't about winning. It's about inspiring, and being inspired, by others who share the same passion! One of the countless reasons I ♥ runners & running!!

Overall race rating:


Positives: Beautiful scenic course with live elk (seriously!), reasonably priced ($54), great volunteers (especially the ones who share my last name), egg hunt, variety of races (5k & 13.1), parking, ease of same day packet pick up, fun medal for finishers of both races.

Negatives: Lack of porta potties & tp, would've preferred last year's race hoodie rather than the shorts we received, post-race food options were limited.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Running Lucky!

For me "running lucky" means that after 3 years, 3 months, and 29 races, I continue to be injury free. (Especially since according to my son, I am "so old," and I definitely don't stretch or foam roll like I should.)  However, after wrapping up week 13 of my Boston training last weekend with a 20 miler on Saturday followed by an "easy 8" on Sunday, my luck seemed to have run out when I woke up Monday with alarming back pain. My 1st thought..."it's okay. It's a rest day anyway. Just ignore it, take lots of ibuprofen, and it will go away."  Mind over matter.

By Tuesday the pain had lessened a little, but even as stubborn as I am, I knew my early AM run wasn't going to happen. (I could hear my mom reminding me that "there's a fine line between between stubborn and stupid" loud and clear.) Tuesday night I bargained with myself that I would try running slowly, and if it got painful I would quit.  I survived the 5 miles, and woke up Wednesday to run 5 more. With a half-marathon coming up the following weekend, and Boston just over a month away, I was terrified to stray from my training.

The pain had dropped from a 9.5 to about a 6, but now I was starting to worry because I knew I had changed my normal running gait in order to accomodate the back pain. There was no ignoring the reality that if I didn't seek help, I was probably just making things worse rather than better. Of course my doctor had no convenient appointments available, but luck stepped in again when I stumbled upon a 6 year old gift certificate for a one hour massage given to me by Ethan; a sweet, curly-haired, former kindergartner of mine. The certificate had no expiration date (thank goodness) & I discovered that the founder/director of the massage therapy center happened to be Ethan's dad.  He couldn't have been nicer, and went out of his way to schedule me for a deep tissue massage that would get me in shape to run my upcoming race.

I have had a few massages in the past, and I have loved every minute of each one. I quickly learned however, that a deep tissue massage, is NOT a regular, relaxing to the point of almost falling asleep, massage. John, who has been in the business or over 30 years, and has worked on numerous professional athletes, could not believe how contracted my muscle tissue was; not just in my back, but everywhere. It was 75 minutes of pain, but it was good pain, and it was exactly what I needed.

During my visit her are a few things I learned...

  • Good-bye Water Joe. Even though I drink 4-5 liters of H20 daily, I discovered that I was dehydrated.  How can that be? I don't drink coffee, tea, or pop, but I do drink a liter of Water Joe (equivalent to two 8 oz cups of coffee) to wake me up each morning for my commute to work.  John said it takes 4 cups of water to undo the dehydrating effects of one cup of coffee. I had no idea. Needless to say, no more Water Joe for me!  (Except on race days!)
  • Sleep in a fetal position. While I already tend to sleep on my side, he said that by sleeping with one pillow behind me, and one between my legs, I should notice a big difference.  He also recommended splurging on a therapeutic neck pillow. Sounds well worth the investment to me!
  • Unstable thyroid is nothing but trouble. I've had thyroid issues since high school, but for the past year my levels have been all over the place.  (Pre-menopause?) Never did I think this would affect my back, but I was wrong. Hopefully my endocrinologist will have this stabilized sooner rather than later!
As luck would have it...
  • My back pain was NOT caused by running!
  • I WILL be able to run the March O' Madness 13.1 in Cary, IL tomorrow. (Considered in IL to be the best training run for Boston.)
  • Pain has gone from a 9 to a mere 1.5. (Hopefully to soon be non-existent!)
  • By shifting a couple of rest days around, I won't lose a single mile of training due to this little setback.
  • I discovered an amazing massage place & therapist! If you live anywhere near the north Chicago suburbs, check out the Message Therapy Center of Winnetka! Phenomenal!
  • Most importantly, by making a few small changes, I will be healthier & stronger than ever!
I feel so lucky to have discovered running just over 3 years ago, and even more lucky to have essentially remained injury free.  I am determined to keep that streak going, and one of the ways I do this is by actively engaging with other runners to share advice, tips, and resources.  (I will be visiting John, and breaking that foam roller out more regularly too!)

What do you do to "run lucky" & stay injury free? If you do happen to be sidelined from running with an injury, I highly recommend the book, The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanin. So inspiring!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Side Effects of Running

When people ask me why I run, the short answer is always "because I feel so great afterwards."  The truth is that running is my own personal cure for depression.  Depression runs strong in my family.  My mom has suffered from it for as long as I can remember.  Growing up I can remember periods, usually around holidays, that my mom would seem sad for no reason.  She struggled through suicide attempts, hospitalizations, alcoholism, lots of therapy, and divorce before finally finding the medication that worked for her. In addition, about 15-20 years ago, she also discovered the Nordic Track.  She has faithfully used it almost daily ever since, including while recovering from three separate battles with breast cancer. She is truly the strongest, most amazing, person I know.

Two of my sons were also diagnosed with depression in grade school. The oldest, now in college, was on medication for 10 years.  Interestingly, the medication that works so well for my mom, had very negative side effects for my son.  For him, a completely different medication seemed to work well. In high school, he felt like he wanted to wean off the meds though, and was able to do so with great success.

When Ryan was first diagnosed at age 8, he drew the picture above titled, "Side Effects." He did not like feeling like there was something "wrong" with him that he needed medication for, but he made the best of it by imagining that one of the side effects of taking the meds was that it would help him to become an amazing athlete.

Last fall, Ryan began his freshman year at St. Mary's University as a starter for their soccer team. I honestly believe that being active, in conjunction with being lucky enough to have had two incredible coaches growing up that understood his diagnosis, yet did not let it define him, is the reason he is so happy and healthy today. (Thank you Coach Mark and Coach P!)

My other son continues to struggle with his depression, and taking his medication is an ongoing battle.  The drug that works best for him, is the same drug that works so well for my mom.  The key being that he needs to take it consistently, which is where the problem comes in.  He tends to go through periods where he seems fine, and then for no obvious reason falls into a slump where he has little energy or motivation to do the things he typically enjoys.

Being in middle school, and going through all the typical hormone changes that are common at that age, make it harder to manage his depression.  Unlike my older son, he is also not as verbal about how he is feeling.  The one thing that does help pretty consistently though, is when he is playing sports.  His first love is baseball, but we see the depression abate for him regardless of if he's playing baseball, soccer, basketball, etc... The key for him is to stay active.

I too was diagnosed with depression after the birth of my 3rd son.  At first we had believed it was post-partum, but eventually it was evident that it was more than that.  For many years I was prescribed the same medication as my mom and my younger son with moderate success.  For whatever reason though, like my boys, I just didn't like the idea of taking pills each day.  I tried several times weaning myself off of them, only to have the depression return after a few months of being medication free. Then I discovered running.

Just over 3 years ago, I started running and have pretty much run 75-125 miles per month pretty consistently ever since.  When I was about 6 months into it, I was feeling so good that with my doctor's consent I once again weaned myself off of my anti-depressants.  I am happy to say, I haven't needed to go back on them since.  There have been a few months when my mileage has dropped and each time, the signs of depression would come creeping back.

I knew I had to make a choice. It is highly likely that depression will always be a part of my life.  However, I now know that I can choose whether to fight it with running and maintaining a healthy life style, or I can go back on my medication. I choose running.

I am not a doctor, nor an expert, but I do know that depression works differently for everyone, and there is no one right answer or cure. What works for one person, may have just the opposite effect for another. (As it did for my mom and my son.)  There is no stigma attached to needing an Rx, attending therapy, etc..., as long as it helps. However, based on my family's experience alone, it is clear that daily physical activity as at least one component in the battle against depression, is capable of delivering a pretty strong and lasting punch.

I love looking back at my son's drawing now because of course, the side effects of the medication did not make him an amazing athlete.  Ironically though, one of the side effects of being an amazing athlete, was treating his depression. On those days when I don't feel like lacing up, that drawing is all the inspiration I need!

I'd love to hear why you run & what positive side effects keep you motivated to continue day after day,  mile after mile!