blk: (running)
In a moment of questionable decision-making, I ran the Great Race (10k) on Sunday.

I love this race; it's a favorite of mine, despite the crowds and the lack of corrals and other issues. It's got a place in my heart, and it's convenient and cheap, and well, I just want to keep running it. So I signed up back in Jan every year. This year, it was early enough that I figured my knee and toe problems would have plenty of time to get worked out.

Well, 3 specialist visits and quite a bit of money later, my toe issues have improved from "regularly minorly painful and specifically irritated by running (among other things)" to "occasionally minorly annoying, and mostly ok if I treat it carefully and wear insoles." So, while it's not as fixed as I would have wanted, the expensive orthotic insoles do seem to be helping. My current theory is that it's inter-metatarsal bursitis, which fits with the "bone and foot structure is fine" observations of the doctors and mostly fits the pain symptoms I do have, but is also a "be nice to it and hope it gradually improves" injury, which I hate because it means I expect this is basically something I just need to learn to live with.

My knee, on the other hand, I'm pretty sure is "just" a flare-up of that old patellofemoral pain, i.e. a form of "runner's knee," i.e. my kneecap doesn't track properly under load, and there are definitely exercises I can do to help it (once I figure out what they are). And proper foot alignment helps a lot.

These stupid joint problems meant that I didn't run at all for 9 months, waiting for pain to go away; and when it did, there wasn't time to get back my mileage. So I didn't plan to run. But then I failed to give away my registration, and [livejournal.com profile] xuth picked up my race bib and a shirt that actually fits me (this is the first year they have women's-cut race shirts) and he was going to run it anyways, and I decided if nothing else, I could walk it just fine, so.....

I taped1 things up and made a goal to finish in between 1:15 and 1:30. Basically, no faster than a slow jog, and no slower than a fast walk. I ended up running slowly for the first 4 miles whereupon I hit a big downhill and my knee complained really loudly. I ran/walked the rest of the way, coming in at 1:24:29, which is my slowest race pace ever, but considering conditions, marks success. My knee hurt a lot at the end, but no more than in the past, and was more or less fine as soon as I stopped running.

Of course, the rest of my body took the brunt of that whole unprepared for running thing, and every other muscle in my legs has been SUPER sore since then. Stairs and desk job do not make things easier at all. However, none of that is anything more than overworked muscle, that will be fine within a few days.

The important part is that my toe never felt any worse than mildly annoying, which I consider not only success for this race, but a sign that I can (slowly) start running again regularly (combined with appropriate knee exercises). So that's my new plan. Er, as soon as I finish recovering.


1 I totally thought that the kinesiology taping fad was a total crock, and then my google searches brought me to something called McConnell taping for PFPS, and it actually WORKS. By "works" I mean it greatly reduces pain when I go about my normal activities. It obviously doesn't fix the underlying issue, and various online sites seem to disagree about exactly WHY it works, but some of my dubiousness has been turned into curiosity. And it turns out that if I don't care about pretty colors or brand names, and only use it occasionally, it's quite cheap and easy to acquire.
blk: (running2)
I almost didn't run the Filthy Four race this year. I was wavering about whether I would go out all the way up to the point where I was lying in bed at o'dark-thirty and would need to get up in 10 minutes if I was going. It was super cold (18F at 7am), my toe's been bothering me lately, I haven't done nearly enough running recently and was underprepared, I still haven't gotten any of my friends to join me, and, well, hills suck. And the bed was warm and cozy.

I finally decided that if I didn't go, I'd regret not even trying, and if I did go and things got to be too much, I could always stop part way and come home. So I went, and I did it. This year there were more overall runners (31, up from 24) and more women (5, up from 3), and once again I firmly secured my last place but got one point per hill because I ran them all, dammit. Overall I don't think I created any new injuries which is great, although my knees were pretty unhappy with the downhills and are still quite tender.

I am glad I ran, and I'm glad it's done, and I realized afterwards that this was pretty much the last big thing I was working for this year. It's quite freeing to be done. I also realized that I need to fail more often. Or give myself the chance to fail. To quit. To try something that's too much and not be able to do it and just deal with it. Because I'm much more likely to not try at all. It's much safer and less scary that way. Which is not the person I want to be.
blk: (running)
This weekend was my 5th time running the Great Race, and my best time yet.

I'd been doing a great job of running all summer, but then on my camping trips in Aug/Sep my foot started hurting again, so I didn't do any running for the month leading up to the race, in an attempt to not injure myself further. I've been running strong this year, though, and got my 5k PR down to just under 24 minutes, so I decided I would aim for a 50 minute 10k. This was made significantly easier by my lovely new GPS watch as well as the Great Race having marked pace groups for the first time, so I didn't spend the first 2 miles trying to dodge slower runners.

I started off just ahead of the first 8:00 min / mile pacer. Thanks to my watch I was able to keep an even pace just under 8:00 for the first few miles, not letting myself go "all out" on the downhills but taking those times to breathe and recover a little, while stretching on the uphills. As expected, the mi 4 hill (110ft in .8mi) slowed me a bit, and the 8:00 pacer edged past me just at the crest of the hill. But I was still on target, and just had to keep up my race pace through the end, which I did, to finish at 49:41. Yeah!

Post-race, I walked around a bit, had two oranges, two cups of water, a cup of gatorade, a quarter bagel, and an E'n'P smiley cookie. Then while walking around with Xuth and Rachel, my stomach started hurting. I think I'm blaming the gatorade. We eventually bused back to Squirrel Hill and walked home. After getting home, I was going to go shower, then decided that while I was already gross and sweaty, I should mow the lawn, THEN shower. Or really, mow the weeds, since that's most of what was growing. Once outside, I decided to do just a wee bit of weeding out the strawberry patch before mowing. That turned into both gardens getting cleared out. THEN I mowed, then I showered. Ahhhh. Yay, being productive.

Later on in the evening my muscles all started to stiffen, and my hips were sore, so I went to bed early. Today my calves are sore, my thighs are sore, and my back is sore. Oof. Standing up after sitting is painful. Going downstairs is difficult. My foot is also pretty tender, which I kinda expected, so going on a no-running diet for at least two weeks, possibly more.
blk: (running)
If I ran races more often I probably wouldn't be doing race reports after so many of them, but I only do a few, and they keep being interesting to me, so I'm writing.

I ran in the Run Around the Square 5k last weekend, and the most interesting part was that it was the first race I've done with my new toy, the Garmin ForeRunner 225, which is the first ever GPS watch I've owned (thanks, Katy!). I have ALL the data! Data is fun.

First off, it told me I ran a great race (not The Great Race, that's next month) without needing to wait for posted results. My total time was 24:40, which is a 5k PR for me if I define the P as standing for "Pittsburgh" (my best 5k was on a super flat, straight course, which Pittsburgh does not have). It also told me that I got a new 1mi PR which I wasn't expecting. It took me over 2 years to "officially" beat my last 1mi PR, since all I had to go on was total race times (and I rarely race anything less than a 5k), but now the Garmin tracks my mile splits as well.

The course was mostly flat for the first mile, went up 260 feet in the next mile+1/3, and went most of the way back down in the last 3/4 mile. The first mile had my best pace, the second was slower with a few noticeable dips, and the last 3/4 I sprinted and sped up my average pace from 8:44 down to 7:57. Woo!

My heart rate averaged 184bpm with a max of 195, and although I was pushing reasonably hard, at no point did I feel like I was doing too much. I've suspected for years that my heart rate runs high (various age-based equation estimates give me "max" ranges between 183 and 174, but I can hit 170 while barely breaking a sweat), and I had been intending to look into stress testing for a while. These numbers feel like they represent my experiences better.

After the race there was wandering around collecting food and drink and goodies and looking for other people I knew (didn't see many). Stayed around to see if I placed in my age group (didn't, but got 7/90), then biked home. Nothing hurt, which is a major win. Or at least, nothing hurt that wasn't the expected lingering muscle soreness the next day that I consider normal and not actually an injury.

Nice race, I should do it again.
blk: (running)
It turns out I'm really awesome at running when I have a goal, even more so when I have 15 of them. Also, flat terrain and a slow pace makes me feel like I can run forever (well, at least for the first 90 minutes or so).


me pre-race, pic via City of Play

This morning was the City Spree put on by City of Play (formerly Obscure Games) in Pittsburgh, and part of the first Open Streets Pgh, where they're trying to shut down a bunch of road and attract non-vehicular traffic. The whole event today was pretty successful and nice and I really hope it moves towards something even bigger in future years. I'd waffled a lot about whether I was going or not, mostly due to fickle weather forecasts and not knowing anybody else running and not really wanting to get up early, so I didn't get myself signed up in advance. But this morning an insider tipped me that I could still register on site, so I got up stupid early, ate, and showed up downtown to find the right people and give them money.

The "race" is about hitting a minimum number of checkpoints of your choice within a time limit (6/1hr vs 13/2hrs) Runners were given a google map with 23 checkpoints. We registered a phone with a texting service before the race, then at each checkpoint, texted in a code word to mark that we'd gotten there. Points at each checkpoint slowly degraded with number of runners visited.

As with the last time I ran this, I figured the strategy lay primarily in visiting as many high-value checkpoints as possible in the total time, and that I could probably expect to be able to run about 10 miles. I mentally worked on my traveling salesman techniques in the 15 minutes before race time, and figured a pretty good route that would get 13 med-to-high value checkpoints, and then some additional low value ones if I had extra time at the end. I started off running a little fast with a couple who were heading my way, but we diverged after the third checkpoint, and I slowed myself down a little to a comfortable jog. Flat terrain is awesome. I didn't start feeling real discomfort until about 90 minutes in, and then the promise of finish line helped keep me going. Each checkpoint I slowed to a walk, texted the code, made sure it registered, took a drink, and kept running. My walk breaks got longer towards the end. I collected high-fives from police officers who were helping with the street closures, waved to several friends, and generally enjoyed myself. I neglected sunscreen, having been anticipating an overcast morning and possible rain, but it ended up partly cloudy and lovely. Fortunately, I only got a tiny bit of burn on the back of my arms.

I hit my required 13 checkpoints at 1:40 in, at about 1.3 miles from the finish. I decided I could easily get another two points that were mostly on the way, but the second one slowed me more than I expected, and I ended up sprinting the last half mile. I grabbed one more checkpoint on the way, slowing for just a few seconds, and reached the finish line (and texted the final code) with 20 seconds to spare! If you know my cell phone number you can look at the points I hit and approximate route here.

Nothing was hurting too bad at that point, but I decided to sit and take my shoe off, and as soon as I did so I noticed my toes were pretty tender, and any movement at all was pretty painful. So I just kept sitting down, even when they called my name out as the top female 10k (haha) finisher. Yay! It turns out I even won by 45 points, which means the last two checkpoints hadn't even been necessary. A half hour of sitting, several cookies, and a bunch of water later, my foot pain had decreased a lot, and now it's feeling mostly fine. I guess I'll see how it feels in the next few days.
blk: (running)
I celebrated the end of the longest night by doing something ridiculous, difficult and exhausting - running the Filthy Four again.

The day dawned... oh wait, no, this was all pre-dawn. My day started cold but dry, and stayed just below freezing the entire time. Fortunately, I've spent the last month+ learning how to run in cold, and I managed to layer appropriately so that I was a comfortable temp the entire time. Well, except for my hands towards the end, because I don't have good running gloves that don't get my fingers cold when I sweat. But it wasn't awful.

I found the group easily, and once again I didn't know anybody except the organizer, as I had sadly failed to convince any of my friends to run it with me (despite trying!). There were more runners overall, including more women runners, but a worse ratio (1:8 down from 1:7). The more runners overall meant a larger differential between the fastest and the slowest of the group, which tended to cluster in a large pelaton up front and a very few trailing behind. Over the first 3 miles to the first hill I ended up falling somewhere between the two, which is an extremely unfortunate place to be when it's dark out (even with streetlights) and very difficult to make out people just a block away. After the second hill and a few times of almost losing the group and getting stressed about it I fell back to jog with the rear guard. We arrived several minutes later for the last hill but at least I had people to run with and didn't worry about getting lost.

My goals were to 1) finish, 2) without injuring myself. Well, I successfully made it up all the hills, albeit (relatively) slowly and painfully. My suspect foot was feeling pretty tender by the end, so I walked home carefully after the requisite group photo (fb), but it didn't bother me at all for the rest of the day, so I guess it's OK. The rest of my legs (muscles and joints) were pretty sore, but I think mostly in normal ways. Still hurting today, but in pretty manageable levels. Afterwards I had the best shower to warm up, and caught another hourish of lovely sleep so that the shortest day didn't inadvertently turn into my longest day (of being awake), as I had more things planned later.

But now I can stop my focus training and take a nice lovely break... ahhh, who am I kidding, I'll probably be back out on the trail by next week at the latest.

and i'm feeling good )
blk: (running)
My nitty gritty race report (part 2) of the Pittsburgh Half Marathon from Sunday, which I ran while dressed as Supergirl.

Running can be boring. Running with friends is kinda fun. Running races is pretty fun. Running races among thousands of other runners, with thousands of spectators, all cheering you on, is a lot of fun. Running races with thousands of other people around while dressed in fun ways to stand out, look interesting, and be entertaining in some way is just awesome. In past races I've just worn bright stripey socks and put in colorful braids. This time I decided to go as a costumed character.

In picking out who I wanted to dress up as, I pondered a lot of possibilities. I wanted a (preferably female) character whose basic costume 1) was easily recognizeable at a glance to the average spectator, 2) was suitable for running and sweating in (no skimpy lingerie, no leather, no facemask or headgear, no big dresses or accessories), and 3) was one that I, with my meager and beginner sewing skills, could re-create reasonably authentically on my own (if I'm gonna do something, I'm gonna do it as right as possible).

With those requirements, the list of reasonable possibilities that I came up with was rather depressingly small. Supergirl hit everything pretty well (specifically, the 1984 Helen Slater movie version), so I went with that.

the making of

Materials (cost is rough estimate):
- bright blue long-sleeved compression shirt ($10, target)
- red circle mini skirt ($5, ebay)
- red running mini shorts ($5, ebay)
- plain red knee-high athletic socks ($10, amazon)
- red and yellow tech "performance" fabric and matching thread ($20, jo-ann)
- white bracelet watch ($1, ebay)

Steps:
- google everything to death, figure out what to buy and what to create
- attach yellow belt/border to red skirt
- attach shaped yellow border (with red fabric to even it out) to socks1
- create front 'S' shield from yellow and red fabrics and glue
- attach shield to shirt
- cut and shape cape (I made a small one, so it wouldn't get in the way of running, and also made it detachable, in case of jet engines)
- cut and sew yellow 'S' shield to cape
- attach cape to shirt

I used a basic google image search for the general look, and got some inspiration from this tutorial. I did all the sewing, with Xuth playing the very important role of Expert Advisor and taught me a lot of things. I tried to do test versions of almost all the parts, and still ended up spending seemingly just as many hours with a seam ripper undoing mistakes and things that didn't work. But I learned a lot more, and the finished product was something I was pretty happy with.

the running of


proof of questionable legality

The practicality of the outfit was fantastic. I was perfectly comfortable for the entire race - The socks and shorts wicked well, the shirt was not too warm or too cold, and I barely even noticed the cape or the skirt while running. I had attached the cape to the shirt with stick-on velcro in case of jet engines or if it ended up interfering with running, but neither were a problem. In the future I may just go ahead and sew it directly on. The tech fabric made all the parts that touched me similarly comfortable. Of course, by race end I had sweated through everything fairly well, so it was also important to be all machine-washable. We'll see how it holds up after that happens. The "Kryptonian bracelet" aka cheap white silicone watch was a silly addition that was lightweight and not annoying and helped me greatly in letting me keep approximate track of my race time.

The reaction from other people was awesome. Other runners were very positive and polite, with several "I like your costume!" comments and one mid-race fist bump. The spectators, however, mostly went wild. For the first half I ran near the side and occasionally would hold up my hand offering high fives, and got about a zillion of them. I got so many "Go Supergirl!"s2 I lost count. I also got several even more enthusiastic reactions, like "OMG IT'S SUPERGIRL!!!!" and one "Supergirl, you just made my day!" Amusingly, most of my best reactions were from adults rather than from kids.

One memorable moment happened on the short Alexander St downhill just after mile 7, turning left onto Main St, where the majority of the runners were hugging the inside corner, but all the spectators were on the right side, with a wide space between. Right at the corner I saw a group of teens who were clearly performing something, but at the moment were all just standing at the sideline, so instead of curving in with the rest of the pack, I charged straight down towards them and stretched out my hand at the bottom. About halfway down the hill a nearby announcer interrupted his chattering and yelled "It's Supergirl!" and the teens all started jumping and cheering and about 50 hands reached out for my highest density of high-fives in the entire race.

By midway through the race I was pretty tired3, and the last several miles I was really pushing myself hard, which left no more energy for enthusiastic high-fiving and posing and such, which was sad. At some point it would definitely be fun to race without a new PR goal, ideally with other costumed people. I spotted a variety of other runners in fun attire, but sadly nobody else in full costume (I know some existed; I suspect many were behind me). And I unfortunately was feeling worn out enough at the finish line that I didn't think to stop and intentionally get some pictures of me. And despite the dozens of cameras I'm sure I saw pointed at me, I haven't been able to find any other public photo evidence. Fortunately, the costume is totally re-wearable so I'm sure I will have other opportunities.

other pictures )

1 I actually fully expected to be able to buy approximately lookalike socks, but amazingly, these didn't seem to exist at all (costume-marketed socks all had 'S' shield, and most with little capes). Mine aren't perfect (especially since I was optimizing for running) but they turned out decent. They were also by far the most fiddly part of the thing, and took me a couple days of trial and error before getting something that worked.

2 also several "Superwoman!" calls (fine), a couple "Wonder Woman!"s (not exactly) and a few "Superman!"s (well, I suppose just because -I've- never seen him in a miniskirt doesn't make it impossible).

3 That left picture is me breathing really hard, not making ducklips, I swear.
blk: (running)
My nitty gritty race report (part 1) of the Pittsburgh Half Marathon from yesterday, which I finished in 2:00:50, while dressed in costume (costume details are next post).

the race

The preface to the race seemed like it was going well in March, but then April happened. I suspect training a little too enthusiastically was a likely contributor to my fracture, which then kept me from running for most of the 5 weeks immediately leading up to the race. Not the best circumstances.

On race day I woke up slightly late, which wasn't a problem as I had budgeted plenty of time, although I did opt to skip breakfast as I was too jittery. But I didn't count on being turned around as I approached my intended bike parking spot, and having to go the long way around, nor did I count on the slight change in start location. This meant that I got stuck further back in the start mob than I wanted, nowhere in sight of the 2:00/4:00 pacers I had really hoped to follow. By the time my section moved to the start, I was only near the 4:45 pace group, and surrounded by people running 10-11 minute miles, when I wanted to be doing 9s. So the first two miles were spent alternating dodging other runners, getting stuck behind slow clumps, and hopping up on the sidewalk to sprint ahead. Amazingly, I kept to my intended pace on average, but I'm sure I expended way more energy than I should have in the process. It took me until I caught up to the 4:15 group before I realized that if I ever actually caught the 4:00 group, I'd be ridiculously ahead of my time by the finish, and that probably wasn't reasonable. So once the pack evened out I just held my pace and did the rest of the race alone.

The 10k mark went by and I was still doing reasonable well and a minute or so ahead of my goal, although definitely tired. I had also managed to give about a zillion high fives, which was great. At 8 miles I was still on target, but shortly thereafter I started majorly lagging, similar to last year. I lost about 3 minutes in the next 2-2.5 miles, which made me fairly sure I was not going to make my goal. But, well, what could I do but keep running? On the theory that it might simply be calories, I grabbed a half powerbar and a few cups of gatorade at the next few stops, which tasted pretty good (except for the icky aftertaste, as I suspect they used the splenda-enhanced versions), so it may or may not have helped.

Mile 11 was the bottom of the last bridge, with the big hill to go, but I did this one last year and knew it was there. I decided just to attack it, and I did, either with the renewed caloric energy or perhaps with just sheer stubbornness. The top of the hill around mile 12 came and I just hurt. My feet hurt and my knees hurt and my hips hurt but a glance at my clock and I realized I actually was reasonably close to the 2 hour mark after all, with mostly downhill to go, so I pushed on as hard as I could, damn all the hurting things. I think I hit 2:00 right around mile 13, and the finish shortly thereafter.

Afterwards, everything from my waist down hurt. A lot. I zombie-hobbled down the finish stretch into the park, grabbing water and some carbs along the way. I checked my final time, ate more food, and got one of the most needed massages of my life, which helped mostly everything but my right knee. Changed into dry clothes and attempted to bike back home, but after about 3 blocks I realized that my knee was not going to be at all happy with that, so I just slowly rode the flat trail and hitched a ride with Xuth at the end. At home was a shower and a very delightful nap and then a very rewarding beer.

It feels SO GOOD to not be running right now.

+/-

+ Totally a PR! I beat last year's time by almost 10 minutes. Detailed results from Xacte.
- didn't beat my 2:00 goal. Although all things considered, I'm also not terribly surprised (or disappointed)
+ Right foot (the fractured one) didn't bother me at all!
- Might have injured the left. Fortunately it's mostly stopped bothering me a day later.
+ Left knee didn't bother me at all, and neither really got swollen!
- Right knee had a big flare up of the PFPS from 1.5 years ago. At least this time I know what it is and how to treat it. I'm putting myself on a strict no running, only gentle biking, and lots of yoga/stretches body diet for the next week.
+ Nothing else actually injured, afaict! Every other muscle in my body is sore, but it's just regular soreness.
- OMG sore. Everything hurts. Going down stairs really sucks. Fortunately, massage and yoga and alcohol have been helping a lot.
+ Ran with a SUPER AWESOME costume that I MADE MYSELF and got lots of positive attention for it.
- Forgot to get any pictures of myself at the finish line and race photos are stupid expensive. (I do have some photo evidence, though. next post!)

for next year

- Figure out how to run more and more regularly over winter so I don't try to go from 0-20 MPW as soon as spring thaw hits. Also probably get slightly more padded shoes.
- Figure out how much and when to eat things on runs >10miles so I don't run out of everything. Probably includes eating breakfast.
- Take care of my knee and strengthen up all those muscles and hips. Also remember to check my form when I'm exhausted.
- Find the pacers pre-race! Or at least be at the start or end of the corral, not the middle. Approach the start line from a side street, as the masses in the main road completely blocked forward progress.
- Totally doing the costume thing again.

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