Friday, March 22, 2019

#3 North Dakota - Fargo Marathon

When I finished the Chicago Marathon, my body felt so beat up that I wanted to take a break from marathoning for some time, perhaps indefinitely.  So it wasn't until late 2015, about 2 years later when I had finished my math degree and gotten married that spring that I was looking to get serious again about running long distances.  One thing I had come to love in my running journey was pacing, and I got invited to pace again at a race in Fargo, ND.  On that trip, I met the organizer for the Fargo Marathon pacers, and she recruited me to pace the marathon!! (I had only paced halves up until this point).  It seemed like such an exciting and awesome responsibility.

So Spring of 2016, I ran the Fargo Marathon as the 5:30 pacer. 

Well... almost.  

The morning we woke up to run the race, it was projected to be very hot as the day warmed up.  Low 80s in some parts of the country isn't that exciting, but in the spring where I live it is sort of unheard of.  I was still going to pace a relatively low-key time for me so I wasn't too worried about it.  Despite the fact I was told explicitly, that it was worth worrying about.  

Anyway, for the first 16 miles, I ran with a delightful group of people and felt totally 1000% fine.  Those runners then lagged behind and I accumulated another group of sorts around mile 18.  I have since learned that this is a really common pattern when pacing marathons.  At around 20 miles I decided it was finally time to take a bathroom break.  In doing so, I felt it was necessary to skip a water stop (bad move) to keep up the pace.  

So then around mile 22, I was sick, felt like I was going to throw up or something.  I would later learn this is how dehydration feels.  I just thought I was out of shape and felt terrible for over-committing myself, as I was no longer holding my pace.   Even though I had banked some, I was overriding that cushion.  I walked, I moped, I became a difficult person.  I told my remaining pace groupers, I wasn't holding my pace anymore, and encouraged them to go on ahead.   They didn't seem to care, but I felt bad anyway.  

After a few rough miles, I probably regained hydration (not sure), but I started to pick it up, and felt pretty okay again, considering how far I'd run.  I gained strength and started being able to actually run.  I even ran passed the groupers that I originally pushed ahead, and I gave it my all for the last mile and a half... 

and I came in at 5:35.

Now, when I tell non-runners about this time, they are always like "whoo-hoo you did it!"... but most runners realize, I did NOT do it.  

Here are the lessons I take away from the experience.  
1) Stay hydrated to the best of your ability.  The truth was that hubris made me think I could sail through that water stop, and I paid for it.  
2) Stay positive, even when it's not looking so good.  I was soo upset with myself, that I wasn't being that fun to run with.  Additionally, I had more ability than I thought to stay steady, and sending those people ahead didn't necessarily end up helping them.  

Despite this "mess-up", I've now paced this time and distance 3 more times, and it's gone rather well.  Second chances almost always exist and it's good to not let failure determine what you're capable of.   More importantly, pacing races has lead me to meet some of the most amazing friends and have some of the best experiences.  

The Fargo 2016 pace team

Saturday, March 16, 2019

In the time since facebook....

After inspiration from this youtube video, my boyfriend and I discussed seriously limiting our time on social media.  The youtubers divorce from all internet-ing, but that isn't a realistic option with my job or graduate work without making a hefty list of exceptions that would more or less defeat the purpose.  As you'll observe from the video, the primary area of concern is the issue of social media.  This also felt like a reasonable "internet sector" to isolate.  While my main social media trap is facebook, we are applying the same rules to all social media, lest it be a general problem.  We decided to lump in almost all phone games, because we've both wasted a fair amount of time there as well.  Exceptions are Pokemon while walking (exercise), and NYT crossword app as we usually do that together.

I will now write what I would post to facebook, if I were on facebook and not avoiding facebook...

Since "radically" diminishing my time on facebook to 30 mins / week, here's what I've observed:  

(Yes, it's been not a full 48 hours.... that's probably eye-opening as a start.... shush!) 

The increased productivity is all too clear.  While I still find ways to get distracted–the rest of the internet, the cats, my own mind–it's not nearly the toxic scroll of death.   It's been an all too reflexive go-to, whenever there is a moment's boredom.  

Idle time turns to creative thought, instead of the usual scrolling or game play.  I think about scripts for my potential youtube channel (might never happen), write blogs in my head, and sometimes just enjoy people watching or being more present in daily tasks.  

I do miss having the ease of casual connection with the 200+ people I more regularly interact with on my feed.  (Yes, I have 900+ "friends", but not everyone is exactly active).  

I am wondering about how to proceed post facebook fast... I'm loving the new-found freedom, but I don't want to permanently lose the sense of connection social media provides.  My past attempts at limiting my social media activity have been only partially (or maybe barely) effective.  One of my friends mentioned finding an add-on that removes your facebook news feed; I'm now seeing the value of that tool.  

While many have spoken to the negative psychological effects of seeing everyone's "highlight reel", the oppression of political discussion, and yada yada,  I haven't felt this so much.   I'm at a place in my life where comparison, while known as the thief of joy, isn't very enticing to me.   That said, perhaps there are latent affects that I'm unaware of,  the results of which I may not see until I spend more time away.  

In short summary, I'm pleased with the still brief foray into a world without never ending scroll.  

Sunday, September 17, 2017

#2 - Illinois - Chicago Marathon

What seems like forever ago now, I became connected through blogging with a bunch of run-nerds. Among these people, one gal thought it would be a cool idea if we all got together in Chicago and ran the marathon.  At one point I think there were like 20 of us considering, then it was more like 10 and then it was 4.  It was not totally unlike my first semester of engineering.  So off I went to run a marathon, whilst sharing a hotel room with 3 other people I had never met in real life before.  Whatever lack of caution led me to do that, it was all worth it because I met some really great people!  Oh yeah, and I ran the Chicago marathon.

Chicago was my third marathon in as many years and given how much I had improved from year 1 to year 2, I felt I had every reason to believe this time would be even better.

It was not, but we'll get there.

Chicago is a CRAZY race to do because there are literally 40,000+ people doing it with you.  Even as a slower runner, the crowd of the race never really thinned out, as it usually does.  Chicago ends up being more than a race, but also an EVENT with international attention.  Everything that happens in a race is basically supersized.  The expo is the size of a small shopping mall, the corral is so long it takes over an hour for everyone to cross the start line, and I could go on.

Four years ago, I was probably in my best running shape, though I'm beginning to rival that now.  I had a banner spring and had basically set a PR for every distance I tried, and I've now subsequently beat those except for the 5K... but it'll happen.  Maybe.

PRing though I was, I had been pushing past (or with) injury-ish issues that had not been addressed fully, or rested from.  I was also enjoying a fun new relationship with my cute boyfriend (and now husband), but it wasn't the recipe for expert training.  Even so, I had completed both of my 20-miler long runs and really felt ready.

So on the day of the Chicago Marathon, I was probably in the best shape of my life, if you were willing to ignore whatever was going on with my knee (it was runner's knee) and my quads (IT band issues) and my questionable training plan which was high on carb-loading (beer).

I lined up with the 4:40 pacer with the fool-hardy optimism of every runner that has ever ignored all the signs their body has been sending.  I felt mostly fine though and stayed with the pacer until mile 12, when I used the port-o-potty, and upon return to the course my ankle felt like I had twisted it (I don't believe it was, not sure why I felt that way).  So I actually started walking for a bit in hopes I could walk it off.  I managed to feel a little better and had another good mile or two.  But then, my legs just felt exasperated, maybe fatigued? but they were heavy and sore.  I managed to keep moving, my cardio endurance felt fine, but my legs just felt trashed.

Now, my boyfriend, actually flew to Chicago to see me race! He managed to be the 'fan of the year'!  He saw me at more points along the course then anyone has ever done (for me), including my now husband (who is the same person).  However, there ended up being a gap between 16 ish and mile 24 (or something like that), which is when I was struggling the most.  I kept trying to 'run off' the feeling in my legs, but they were not having it.  I honestly think if I had seen him at mile 20, I would have been like "Take me home, I'm spent!".  Luckily or not, he wasn't there and I really didn't have much choice but to move forward, or so it seemed.  The 5 hour pacer passed me, the friends who I had expected to beat passed me and I just plotted along.

I saw the boyfriend again at mile 24 and he was so over-joyous to see me, and he did not care about my lack of PR getting, or friends passing me... In his mind I was running a marathon and therefore winning!  I also I realized quitting at this point would probably still result an additional 2.2 miles of walking (given that it was Chicago), so I might as well get it over with.

And over with it, I got.

I finished (5:11), I got my beer, I met up with my boyfriend and I hobbled back to my hotel.  I have to tell you my legs felt like they were on fire.  Even when I tried to sleep that night, my legs felt like they were burning up, and ibuprofen only somewhat mitigated the pain.

In the aftermath of Chicago, I ended up taking 3 years off from marathons, it just felt like too much.  In that time, I did get another degree, marry the hot boyfriend and still ran but more slowly and less far.

This post is a little bit negative, but I really am glad I did the Chicago marathon.  If nothing else, I've learned it is a distance you have to respect, as two weeks later I ran a perfectly timed half as a pacer (2:30), there is something about those measly extra 13.1 miles.   Also, other than about 14 out of 26.2 miles of the marathon, I had a good time.  Enjoying friends, sights and deep dish pizza.

Friday, July 21, 2017

#1 - Minnesota - Twin Cities Marathon

The first marathon I ever ran was in MN, which is also where I live, so a natural conclusion I guess.  The question at the time was more like marathon or not, as opposed to "which marathon?"  In my world at the, there were three marathons in existence.  Twin Cities, Grandma's and Chicago.  Side note: at present time, I've run all three.  I had previously done the Twin Cities 10 mile and signed up for TCM because it seemed like the 'logical' next step.  I actually signed up for and ran it before I ever ran a half, which is to say, I had no idea what I was getting into.

I also got injured (painful to even walk stress fracture, yes it was a doozy) that spring which brought running to a full stop period, let alone marathon training.   It was late June (to the October marathon), when I was first allowed to run again, 5 min intervals, with 5 minute walk breaks (and I could barely actually run the full 5 mins anyway).  So, even though I had signed up much earlier, I was on the fence about whether or not I would try.  It was a chance conversation in mid-July with someone who was also signed up for TCM, that convinced me to make the effort.  It wasn't really that monumental of a conversation, he just talked about his training, and made me realize "mortals do this".  My mantra was:  I paid for this, I should at least show up to the starting line.

I wrote out a training plan that was similar to the 10 mile plan I had followed, but with more miles...   as it turns out, it's not quite the same.  I did not anticipate whatsoever how my legs would feel after my first 15 mile run.  (Death, they felt like DEATH!)   That's when I actually read a thing or two and learned about cut back weeks and tapering... at which point I wasn't really on track, but I salvaged what I could and re-hashed my plan.  I also bought a book about marathons and skimmed, while mostly saying things like "oh gawd", "oh yup, didn't do that", and "well, that's out".  

When it came time to do the 20 miler, it was also the day of my birthday.  I had mapped out a route that encircled all four minneapolis lakes.  A really cool path by the way!  By mile 17 or 18 (I didn't have a garmin in those days), I was basically just walking and not well.  So when I saw the Nokomis beach front (mile 19.5), I decided it was time to be done.  I took off my shoes and waded in the water, and wallowed.  When I calculated my pace, I had averaged 14 min/ mile, which was shy of the 13:44/min cut off time required for the TCM.  I figured it was probably a lost cause, but I maintained that I would show up to the start line.

Before the race, I admitted my concerns to a fellow runner and TCMer, to which he said "don't worry about, on race day you'll feel great!"  Now, this was a person who ran a 6 min/mile pace, so I met this encouragement with some skepticism, but I also figured he might have a point.

And you know what, I guess he did, because I did do it and I not only made the cut off time but had 18 mins to spare.

I wrote my original recap here: TCM Recap 2011

and I came back the following year and shaved 41 mins off of my original time: TCM Recap 2012

.. and thus began the obsession.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

50 in 50 by 50

I've been resisting the urge to talk about running on here because I'm vaguely obsessed, and well, I didn't want to dominate the content with running related ruminating.  I would like to be seen as more interesting than that.  However, I recently 'broke down' and decided I would pursue running 50 marathons in 50 states by the time I'm 50.  It's a goal I've considered before, but it always felt a bit ostentatious.  So I went ahead and did a little SWOT analysis:

-I ran four marathons last year with no injury.
-I'm connected with a pace team that can help me run some races for free  (Beast Pacing).
-I genuinely enjoy running the marathon distance

-the expense
-not necessarily wanting running to become my entire life, such as dictating vacations.
-related: logistical challenge of getting to certain states. (especially, HI, AK for instance)

-joining other pace teams (talking to other pacers to learn more)
-mainly marathons puts on multiple-multiple state marathon events
-separately, there's a multiple marathon events I could do.
-double header gadget on Running in the USA
-figuring out cheap airfare

-the commitment could put a strain on my marriage
-potential kids
-people regarding me as insane (too late?)

After speaking to others with similar goals, encouragement from friends and even my husband, I decided to go for it.  I've since joined the "50 Staters" facebook group and spoken to people with similar goals to get tips and advice.  All this has lead to me feeling more and more secure about pursing the goal.  For instance, I've spoken to women who have families, modest budgets and aren't insanely fast.  It feels really exciting to have a BIG goal, that's maybe just barely on this side of the edge of obtainable.

One piece of advice I've received while doing all this work shopping is to record a journal and keep track of your experiences.  I couldn't agree more!  So, here I am beginning the process of documenting.  I 'spose I could have started separate blog, but after a moment's consideration, I didn't feel like it.   I hope to record various aspects of the journey here, but it will largely consist of race recaps.  Probably try to do a couple retroactive recaps as well, as I already have 4 states down. 

Thursday, February 2, 2017

TLDR -- Using : Facbook :: Drinking : Alcohol

I really love facebook.  These days, that seems to be a borderline shameful thing to say, but if I'm honest that's how I feel.  Let me elaborate.

I love connecting with people who would long since be strangers on a semi-regular basis.  
I love being able to forge new connections and meet people who I would otherwise not know from around the world.  
I love the format of being able to share interesting tid-bits, memes, videos, and sometimes more engaging material.  
I love the social organization features.  Setting up events, group chats really help me stay on track with 'real life' plans.  

-Some people are annoying and facebook will only amplify that.
-Everyone is sharing their highlight reel, so even don't bother comparing.
-Politics have always been difficult to talk about and facebook doesn't change any of that.  (Longer post needed, but I wouldn't say it always makes it worse, depends on a lot of factors.)

Whether from reasonable expectations or otherwise, I don't *think* I experience some of the psychological negatives that some people mention....(I don't think they aren't there, but that I combat them okay.)

But... has some downsides. Mainly, for me, it becomes a HUGE time-suck.  I've seen some people go on facebook fasts, and this isn't really desirable for me.  One) It's my main source of social communication.  Two) I use this for my work and other social groups I've managed in the past.

So... Basically, facebook is like alcohol, a little is pretty good, fun and can be a social lubricant.  A lot is physiologically damaging and can minimize your effectiveness in life.  Where that balance lies probably depends a lot on the individual.

All that to say, I've found a good spot of management, for me, for now, and here are the tips I have that might work for you too.

1) I disable most of my notifications.  I basically limit it to likes on post and comment replies.   Basically, only things that are directed towards me and might require my response.  Also, likes are fun!

2) I use a lesser known feature called lists.  I enjoy reading about politics and things that interest me, but like everyone else on facebook all my friends do not all share all my viewpoints.  For instance, I've created a specific politics list such that only people who are worth engaging with can engage.  I've tried to prevent myself from being insular by including people of different mindsets, but who are capable of being civil.

3) My newest/favorite tool: The Stay Focused chrome add-in.  This tool allows one to limit their access to a particular website to a certain number of minutes per day.  (I imagine firefox might also have such tool, so look it up!) Obviously, I've chosen to limit my access to facebook.  I still have the messenger on my phone, so people can 'get a hold of me'.  I've found a number that works for me and this prevents me from engaging in the endless scroll of doom, which I do find tiring and wasteful.

Otherwise,  the best 'tip' I have is learn how to use it.  Facebook is a tool, and like many tools you should read the instruction manual first.  For instance, understand the privacy settings.  Just like there is a difference between drinking a Budweiser vs a Martini, there's a difference between making a restricted post and a public post.  There are many resources out there that will teach you the basics of what facebook is and what each feature does.  The facebook itself has many great FAQs, and until you truly know what you are doing, proceed with caution!  

Monday, October 31, 2016

Math Survey - Results.

On October 25th, I posted a brief math survey to facebook.  If you would like to see it (or participate) here it is:

I'm working on writing a literary review for my grad school class and as I was stumbling through research I found a statement that suggested that some students miss basic math literary skills because they are too young to handle these skills when they are introduced in school initially.  Basically, spring babies may fair worse because their brains aren't prepared for the material when it's introduced, and the problem is further compiled because by the time they are, we've assumed them to know 'these math skills' already and therefore they never truly learn it.

As I type that out, I see some natural flaws with the theory, but I figured what better way to test it than a 'perfectly' scientific survey on the internet.

Anyway I got 94 responses, which seemed decent and here are the average 'math ability scores' for each group.

While the average for fall students was higher than average for spring students, which fits the theory that brain age matters, there are other observations to be made.  Summer (old for grade), was much lower than Summer (young for grade).  I wonder if that's because if that's because Summer (young for grade) students are often considered advanced, and Summer (old for grade) students may be students who were 'held back', whether or not those presumptions were fair they could affect one's math confidence, which was basically what the survey measured.  Also, Winter (any) was by far the highest.   Winter was also not an option on the original survey, which makes me think that the sorts of people who want a more detailed answer on a survey are the sorts of people with high confidence in math.  

When I have time, I may flesh out some of these findings with a more refined survey, that considers more factors.