CAUTION: Pig-Headed Capricorn Running

•November 16, 2012 • Leave a Comment

You know those moments when a lightbulb goes on in your head? Yeah, well apparently 5 days of resting my ankle gave me the time to finally think and process a couple of things. (Still waiting on the MRI results, FYI.)

First of all, it has come to my attention that I am a stubborn, pig-headed Capricorn with a high tolerance for pain, and the inability to call a time-out when my body is screaming for it.

For example, I am the idiot who, when in high school suffered an injury to my left arch, insisted on dancing on pointe in my dance recital, while hobbling on crutches during costume changes. I am also the idiot, who, when her uterus burst a few years ago, delayed going to the hospital for almost 24 hours. I am also the same idiot who, 4 days after being discharged from the hospital after said uterus situation, and while on bed rest, drove to a photo shoot and modeled for a few hours. This past year, I was also the idiot who piled on an endless race season, battled injury in a marathon and decided to drag her busted ankle the remaining 14 miles.

Sigh….

I am issuing my own intervention.

While I cannot change my stupid ways over night, I can promise myself that 2013 will be a different race season. While sitting on my butt and icing my ankle, I’ve had a lot of time to look over my workouts, races, results,  injuries and such for the last year.

You know how some parents tell their children to “do what they say, not as they do?” Yeah, well apparently I have been that kind of coach, and that kind of athlete. Here’s the thing: my training, minus the fact that I apparently cannot allow myself to take much time off after a race, was pretty darn wise. The problem, as I see it, was the lack of recovery time after goal races, and the amount of races I ran. This was also the first year I ever tackled an Ultra Marathon (two, if we’re counting), which was a whole new type of stress to my body.

It’s not that I don’t know what I should be doing, which is why I’m an idiot. I train with a coach and a team of smart athletes. I read everything I can about running – blogs, books, magazines, memoirs. As if working on my certifications in Sports Nutrition and Personal Training, along with my RRCA certification as a running coach weren’t enough, I am constantly thumbing through training programs and nutrition information specifically for endurance athletes.

There is a reason while elite (and smart) athletes only race a few marathons a year,  fitting smaller races into their schedule as “tune-ups.” The mind can recover from the stress of a race quickly, but muscle tissue needs time. While some of my friends and team mates seem to be able to bounce from one race to another without much problem, I need to en grain in my brain that no two bodies are the same, and I am still relatively new to running and training as hard as I do these days.

Here’s what 2012’s races looked like:

Early January: I ran the Goofy Challenge (a half marathon and a full marathon within a weekend) After two days off, I picked up where I left off for Boston training.

End of February: I ran the Bandit 50 Ultra (Placed 6th female in my first Ultra. Note that it was in the mountains of the Simi Valley, with a 5000 elevation gain and loss. I could barely walk for a few days, my quads were shot. Guess who ran 4 days later…)

Mid April: Boston Marathon (Only DNF ever, thanks to a stomach bug. Guess who ran the next day…)

Early May: Broad Street Run (Ran a new PR. Took 1 day off before clocking more miles).

Mid-May: Brooklyn Half Marathon (Ran a new PR, then ran an additional 5 miles as a “cool-down.” Ran the next day.)

Mid-June: Raced a 5K (New PR and won the race, ran 20 miles the next day).

Mid-July: Lone Ranger Ultra (Ran 68 miles, before being pulled from the course due to kidney problems and severe dehydration. Took off 5 days, after beating the crap out of my body).

Mid-September: Philly Rock ‘n Roll Half (New PR, terrible calf cramping. Took 2 days off.)

Mid-September: 5th Avenue Mile (New PR only 6 days after the Half Thon. Ran 18 miles the following day).

Mid-November: Harrisburg Marathon (see previous post for details)

Folks, as you can see, I apparently think my body has super-hero-like qualities. Up until the Lone Ranger Ultra, I was clocking 50 miles most weekends.

Moving forward, I have realized that if I want to have the best chances at PRs, staying healthy and having fun clocking miles, I need to dial back the amount of race goals per season – especially when most of the races are 13.1 miles or more. In 2013 I will not run any Ultras, which should help. I also need to find a few months where I dial back the mileage so that I can jump back into training completely healed, when the time is right. Therefore, I need to space my races with REST AND RECOVERY as a factor.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, the most time I have taken off from running within the last 15 months was eight days. Yeah, that is NOT smart. And while I have come to realize that I need to listen to my body and not “power through” pain the way I usually do, I also realize that I cannot change my personality over-night. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t packed my running stuff for this weekend – just in case my doctor calls with my diagnosis and magically says I can pace Chris for the last few miles of the Philly Marathon. 🙂

…Sometimes we have to learn lessons the hard way. Well, ankle, I heard you loud and clear at the Harrisburg Marathon. And this time, I am really trying to listen.

 

Harrisburg Marathon and the end of 2012

•November 14, 2012 • 7 Comments

This past weekend, I hopped on a train to Harrisburg to achieve my marathon goal for 2012. I felt good, considering that this was a whirl-wind and impromptu race thanks to the cancellation of the New York City Marathon the previous weekend. I had rested my legs, studied the new course, and carb-loaded. I felt calm and focused, and I went to Harrisburg with the mental focus of an athlete. All of my training had led up to a 3:06-3:10 (based on recent races and plugging numbers), and so I went into the race prepared to work hard.

As I had mentioned in my previous post, I have been relatively healthy and injury-free this past year. Sure, there have been aches and pains – especially in my left ankle, but nothing I couldn’t power through or manage. You learn to run through discomfort, and minor twinges, otherwise many of us would run far less than we do.

Race morning came, and I woke up ready to run. I topped off my carb supply, threw on my team attire, and went over my hydration plan. I was focused. Chris and I met the runners from JackRabbit in the hotel lobby, and we walked over toward the starting line together. The weather was cool and sunny, perfect marathon weather in my book.

Being a small race of about 2200 runners, I started up near the front. I waved to Chris, the gun was fired and off we went. I held myself back during the first mile, and told myself to relax. Almost immediately, I realized this course was not going to be as “fast and flat” as advertised. I told myself to relax into the hills and to take it a step at a time. While it was mostly flat, there were steep and short ramps and over-passes. There were also trail sections, which cause runners to work harder and activate stabilizer muscles in the ankles and legs. Besides a few popular spots on the course, the course was quiet and lonely.

As I passed Chris at mile 6 and 7.5, I was on track down to the second of my goal: 3:09:38, 7:14 minute miles. I felt great and strong. Then, around the 12 mile mark, injury struck. I felt as though a knife was stabbing me in the left ankle with every step. Soon I realized, as the pain became worse and worse, that there was no way I was going to be able to achieve my PR. Plus, the “flat and fast course” was now steep and rolling hills, aggravating my ankle – especially on the down-hills.

A million thoughts ran through my head as I limped along: Should I stop and DNF? I REFUSE to DNF! I can’t pace Chris in Philly next weekend. Maybe I am not meant to run. How can I coach if I can’t walk? This isn’t even going to be a BQ! I am weak…

The further I went, the more apparent it became that I was in for a long morning. The mile markers passed slowly, and the pain became worse with every mile. The second section of trail/gravel brought tears to my eyes as I tried to navigate through the unstable terrain. The ground beside the trail was lumpy and uneven, and no better than the trail.

The VERY steep mile 18-20 section made me want to sit down and cry. A medic was stationed on the course between two of the steep hills, and I stopped and asked him for ice. While he was very nice, he didn’t have any ice on him. I was livid. SERIOUSLY?!? I hobbled on, and asked the next medic I saw, about a mile further. Guess what, no ice there either.

At this point I was passed the 22 mile mark, and had 4 LONG miles ahead of me. As tears streamed down my face, and I tried to do anything to distract myself, I chipped away at the miles. I’d limp/run for as long as I could, and then limp/walk, over and over again. When I got to the last climb, up the ramp to the Walnut Street Bridge, I told myself to finish strong – whatever that meant.

During my first marathon, two years before, I had run with my ipod. I rarely use music in training, let alone racing these days, but I opted to use music for the Harrisburg Marathon since I knew it was going to be quiet on the course. In my first marathon, Eminem’s “I’m not Afraid” was the song that blasted through my ears as I closed in on the finish line and crushed my goal by over seven minutes and snagged a BQ. Well, as I came to the end of the Harrisburg Marathon, Eminem’s “I’m not Afraid” blasted through my ipod – completely by chance. I had already been in tears due to physical pain, but now my eyes swelled due to emotion.

I crossed the bridge and the finish line “running” as best I could. The photos show just how bad my gate and limp were, even as I tried to really run. Chris was at the finish line (thankfully he didn’t leave!), and I almost collapsed into him. I couldn’t hold my weight on that ankle for another step. I finished in an agonizing 3:43:23. My slowest and most painful marathon, but I finished. Yes, I finished 33 minutes slower than my goal, but I somehow found a way to finish.

The medic at the finish line examined and taped my ankle, cautioning me to handle this injury with care and to take it seriously. My posterior tibial tendon seems to be the culprit. Today I have an appointment with a sports medicine doctor, and am hoping for some answers and a clear direction for the future.

I could barely walk on Monday, and have been able to put some weight on the ankle on Tuesday and today, though I have spent my time resting and avoiding putting any additional strain on my ankle.

This is certainly not the way I saw the Harrisburg Marathon, or the end of 2012 to go for me, but these things are never planned. I can only hope that my future will be bright, and that I can hopefully still go after a great PR in Boston – though April is only a short 23 weeks away. 

Running Fool Round-Up

•November 7, 2012 • 1 Comment

As the 2012 race season comes to a close, I look back on what was quite the year. As can be expected there were highs and lows. I joined the City Coach Multisport Team, training along other athletes for the first time in my life, and trusting in the watchful eye of Coach Cane. The friendships I have made in the running community are more meaningful than I can say. The people I train besides are some of the most supportive, positive and talented athletes I know.

I have luckily (knock on wood!) made it through the season injury-free, minus some plantar and calf issues that every once in a while rear their ugly heads. Nothing major. More twinges than anything else. Considering the longest break I ever took this entire calendar year was 8 days (thank you, stomach flu), and I clocked 80-mile weeks while Ultra training, I’d say I am finally learning how to listen to my body and the miles/rest ratio it’s happiest with most of the time.

Some season highs: I tackled my first two Ultra Marathons ever (details are in past blogs), finishing 6th place in the first on zero Ultra training in the mountains of Southern California, and completing 68 miles in the Lone Ranger Ultra in Philly before medical personal pulled me from the course. As far as PRs go: a new PR for the Broad Street Run 10-Miler, a new PR for the 5K distance (and a win), a PR twice this year in the Half Marathon distance, and a PR in the Fifth Avenue Miler.

Season lows: Boston Marathon was my first DNF, thanks to the heat and a stomach flu, bombing the Philly Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon (a PR by 17 seconds) when my calf seized with 4 miles to go, and the cancellation of the NYCM – which was hopefully going to be a marathon PR.

The NYCM cancellation was extremely hard on me for a number of reasons. As a New Yorker, I felt the race should have been immediately canceled as soon as the aftermath of Sandy became apparent. As a coach, I wanted the race to go on for my runners and friends who had trained so hard for some many weeks. As an athlete, I felt conflicted. With running being my happy place, and a way I deal with stress, I craved a race to burn my stress after Hurricane Sandy assaulted my city. However, I also felt like all runners in NYC were being blamed for Sandy, and accused of not caring. It was strange.

I was ready to toss out the 2012 season when the cancellation of the NYCM was announced last week, but had a change of heart and decided I would fight for that marathon PR. After all, I had trained all year, so why not give it a shot – even if it wasn’t the course, the weekend or the city I was preparing for?

So, before my 2012 racing season comes to a close, I have one last hurrah – the Harrisburg Marathon. I am nervous, and I’d be lying if I said my mind wasn’t slightly plagued by my failures this season, however I also know I need to get out there, be a warrior and just get the job done. No excuses. I am leaving it all out on the course.

After Harrisburg, I will pace Chris next weekend to his new PR at the Philadelphia Marathon, and then focus on training for Boston 2013. I am going for Boston with guns blazing. I want a big PR in 2013, and I want it bad. Hopefully I’ll inch my way toward that big PR this weekend.

 

Playing Dead and Getting Shot

•October 21, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Over the last three weeks, I shot for two different magazines: Cosmopolitan Magazine, and Fitness Magazine.

For the Fitness Magazine shoot (look for the December issue), I shot for a segment addressing how we hold our emotions in our gut. I had my abs painted with a smiley face, while two other models had different moods painted on their abs. Our faces are not in the shot, so if you are looking for me, look for the happy abs! We shot individually and together, and we’ll see what type of layout they choose. The shoot was easy and quick, and I really enjoyed chatting with the body painter and one of the models.

The Cosmopolitan Magazine shoot (look for the January 2013 issue) was a fitness segment, in the same format as the one I shot last year for them. All of my exercises were arm related, and I had a lot of fun with the team.

I have always wanted to play a dead person on tv, and I finally got my chance this week. I played a dead girl on the new NBC show “Infamous,” episode 4. In the story, my character is found outside, half-naked and after having sex with one of the lead characters, having been dead for about 6 hours in the cold.

The makeup process took about two hours for two makeup artists to basically paint me from head to toe. I had to stand for the two hours, constantly moving my arms and legs in order for the artists to cover my skin evenly, which was a little tedious as I was battling a stomach bug on the day of the shoot.

The director and entire crew were professional and considerate. Laying face down on the cold ground and partly in mulch, wearing nothing but pasties and a skirt is not exactly comfortable, but the crew and my team were so considerate that I wasn’t bothered by the circumstances. I even had a place to shower before heading home, so I could wash some of the mulch out of my hair and remove some of the body makeup. Playing dead was certainly fun. I hope to do it again someday.

What will the next few weeks have in store for me? No clue. I’d say for the first three weeks in October, those three gigs were a pretty decent string of bookings. With November will come market week, which equals a week of fit modeling for Fine Lines Australia. Throw in two marathons, and you’ve got yourself a party!

Epiphany on the Subway

•October 3, 2012 • Leave a Comment

 

A week ago, I had an epiphany about my life, purpose and passion. I was on the subway, on my way to run in Central Park. A young woman got on the train and sat across from me. She was probably in her early 20s. She was pretty. She was also morbidly obese. Her ankles, which were exposed, were hard to identify as ankles. Her body didn’t fit in one seat, and so she took up two. When I looked at her, my heart broke. I wanted to go up to this stranger and give her a hug. I also wanted to yell at her. This reaction struck me hard, and made me think and process my reaction.

This young woman has her entire life in front of her. A life, if continuing down the path she is on, will probably be cut short by decades, and a life of immobility, self-consciousness and medical problems. I wanted to hug her and tell her that she can change her fate, that it is in her power to be healthy and strong, and to live a life full of energy that lends itself to amazing experiences. I wanted to tell her that I could help her, and that I don’t want her to feel sad or worthless of judged. I wanted to yell at her and ask her how and why she could possibly let herself get to such a dangerous place. I wanted to yell at her for being stupid, and not learning and applying all of the knowledge at her fingertips regarding health and nutrition.

I left the train at the stop for my run without saying a word to her. As I ran through the park, I could not let go of the fire in my belly. I realized that not only do I want to help train and coach athletes and average Joes, I suddenly felt like I NEEDED to help.

Now, I am not giving up on acting and modeling – I REPEAT, I am not giving it up. HOWEVER, I have realized in my “old age” that the arduous process of being an actor in NYC has weighed heavy on my shoulders. Sometimes priorities change, and the beat down of the acting business beats down hard. I became an actor because I fell in love with theatre when I was 8 years old. It has been a love affair that has lasted 20 years, and I don’t see it going anywhere. Being on stage and singing my face off is one of the best sensations I can think of right now.

When I walked away from that young woman, I realized how selfish I am. As a country, America is in serious danger of obesity and the health problems caused by obesity killing us off and stressing an already expensive medical insurance crisis. Here I was, an actor, but also a runner and a coach with all of this knowledge and a passion for health. The odds that I will leave my mark on the world as an artist are small. Sure, it could happen, but what is the point? I realized that I could make a HUGE difference to individuals. There are people out there that need a hug and a kick in the ass towards a healthy life. I know I cannot help everyone, and you can only help those that WANT to be helped, but that fire in my belly has been blazing since that subway ride.

I knew before that encounter that I want to coach athletes, and had been studying for my certification in both Sports Nutrition and Personal Training, but now I feel that my passion for sport and nutrition is ignited. I want to train athletes, but I also want to change the lives of those who seriously need it. I want to help people lead a healthy, happy life. Sometimes people don’t have the motivation or self-control to do it on their own, and I am going to be happy to kick their ass in the right direction, all with a smile on my face.

Double-Race Weekend

•October 3, 2012 • Leave a Comment

I am a bit behind in my blogging, for which I apologize. I am going to play catch up, so bear with me.

The weekend of September 22-23 I ran two races. However, I did not race both, as that would have been silly and dangerous. I raced the first, the Fifth Avenue Mile. This race is fun and fast, though not flat. The weather was humid but cool, and I toed the starting line with the goal of beating last year’s time of 5:47. With being a distant runner, a short race like the mile is a strange challenge, since my training and goals are not based around this distance.

When the gun went off, I told myself to push hard but run smart, since there is a hill about halfway through the race. I reminded myself that I should embrace the pain, and that it shouldn’t be easy. I refused to ever look at my Garmin during the race, kept my focus on the lead car, and cranked away. I crossed the finish line in 5:36, a new PR and 13th place. The only negative about my performance: I didn’t feel like I had killed myself at the end, which means I should have pushed harder. Next year I’ll aim for under 5:30.

The second race was the 18 Mile Tune-Up, three full loops of Central Park. Between my warm up and cool down, I ran 22 miles total. I was under strict instructions to NOT race, and I did not – though I did run faster than my typical long runs, which was intentional on my part. I clocked 7:40s per mile, and was delighted to bump into Isang Smith, my friend and team mate, and we ran about 12 miles together, chatting and laughing as the miles clicked by. This was no doubt the most fun and social race experience of my life, and it was a nice change of pace!

No more races until the New York City Marathon, which is only a few weekends away! I am looking ahead to Boston, and the best plan of attack for a decent PR and training in the NYC winter. I despise everything about winter, so I am going to have to find my happy place while braving the weather for a few months.

Reporting from the Trenches – Philly Half Marathon

•September 20, 2012 • 2 Comments

After my race experience this past weekend, I wanted to give myself a few days to collect my thoughts before sitting down to blog. This weekend was perhaps the most painful race I have yet participated, which says a lot from a girl who attempted a 100 mile Ultra Marathon in July and experienced her first DNF ever at the Boston Marathon, thanks to a stomach flu and heat combination that did me in. However. I also managed to pull off a new PR this past weekend, so I can’t look at it all doom and gloom. Let me explain – and I promise I won’t be all Debbie Downer for the entire blog.

The Philly Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon was my “goal race” for fall 2012. I set the lofty goal of running a 1:25, as my most recent PR was a 1:28:52. It was ambitious, but everything leading up to race day indicated I was prepared to tackle that goal head-on. I did everything by the book.  I tapered the week prior to the race. I was well-hydrated. I had a banana with oatmeal for breakfast. I warmed up with a mile jog before the start. The weather was perfect. I had gone through hours of mental preparation. My legs felt good. I had talked through my plan of attack with mentors. I was ready.

When I hit the starting line, it all fell apart.  My mental game was off. I settled into an easy pace, as the plan was to start for 6:35 miles for the first three miles and then to start shaving off time. Out of the gate, I had doubts. All of that mental preparation I did I saw fly away from me. I tried to relax, and told myself to settle. Somehow, I just could not shake the doubt from my mind, and my legs and head struggled to sync up. Still, as the miles clicked by, I told myself to calm down as I had plenty of time to get my game together. Then, around mile 6, the tendon (my guess) on my left ankle which has been a minor nagging pain off and on since spring started to flare up. I pushed through it, as I had in pervious races this year.  Ironically this pain did more mental damage than physical.

Then at mile 9, my race crumbled to pieces and there was no salvaging the goal I had set out to achieve.  A few weeks ago I had experienced major pain in my right calf muscle. It felt as though it were knotting and twisting. This pain lasted for about 6 days. I ran through it, and though the pain reminded me of that one experienced right before a muscle Charlie Horses, it never actually fully cramped. Well, after 6 days, that calf pain was magically gone. At mile 9, it suddenly came back, in full force. Unlike the left ankle, this pain was borderline crippling. Physically, I was in agony. Mentally and emotionally, I was losing it. It took every ounce of strength to make it up the final hill to the finish line. My plan of killing the last 5K, and “fishing” for runners was entirely out of the question.

I crossed the finish line in 1:28:35, a 17 second PR from the Brooklyn Half in May. I was devastated, angry, shocked, and asking for ice the minute I saw a medic. Ironically, no one knew where ice was near the finish line. I tried not to act annoyed as I hobbled a good distance to get ice, but I was.

I said I wasn’t going to be completely negative during this blog, so here are some positive things. A PR is a PR, so I should take that for what it is. I have PRed this year in a 5K, two Half Marathons, and a 10-Miler, plus I have run two Ultras. I cannot stay frustrated and say that 2012 has thus far been a disappointment, because it hasn’t. The bigger and more lofty the goals, the better the chance of failure – simply because there is marginal room for error and race day is always unpredictable.

While I am disappointed with this past Sunday, it makes me want to work harder for future goals. Plus I realize now how I can better handle myself if and when things begin to unravel during a race.  The humorous part of all of this: since Tuesday that calf has been fine! I experimented with speed, incline, decline, and it feels totally fine. The muscle is still a bit sensitive to the touch, the bruise that developed is finally fading.

Here are the official race stats:

  • Overall: 422 out of 15142 (top 3%)
  • Division: 23 out of 1857 (top 2%)
  • Gender: 76 out of 8850 (top 1%)