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.  

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Marriage Post

There's a thing going around facebook which is a like a 7 Day Marriage Challenge... or I'm not sure exactly, but people post pictures about their marriage for 7 days.  Anyway, I've been 'challenged' at least 3 times now, so I thought I would go in.  I've decided to put my own spin on it though.  hah - gotcha! (jk)

Anyway, I think married life is worth celebrating and can be rather challenging sometimes, so it good to remember why you bothered.  I also think single life is worth celebrating and can be rather challenging sometimes, so it's good to remember why you are bothering.  This has been sort of my crux of participating, so here I go, reinventing things a bit.

Day 1 - Past.
I don't keep it a secret, but naturally something I don't speak to in open company often, but my current marriage is not my first marriage.  Sometimes people regret divorce, but in my case I regret ever getting married in the first place.  I know now the reasons I got into it were based on insecurity and loneliness and so in choosing a spouse, I choose poorly.  And while I could easily vilify my ex, very few men would have been much of a match for me at that point in my life.  It simply wasn't truly what I wanted at that point in my life, which wasn't something I truly knew about me and certainly wasn't comfortable admitting to myself.  

Life goes on, you pick up the pieces and you tell yourself it isn't worth wallowing... and it's not.  You find a career you enjoy, you open yourself up to friendships and eventually love, and you run.... you run and run and run.  I've been applauded for walking away relatively non-jaded, and I know I'm a tough cookie... but I don't discount the struggle it is to live life with regret.  To process that, without hating yourself for it.  It's a challenge to get there, but a worthy one.

This is the only photo I have of the TC 10 mile, the longest I had ever ran at that point in time.  I felt alone, but I had just come farther than I ever had before and that I could keep going without anyone by my side. 

Day 2  - Choice

While I won't bore you with the philosophy, I'm a skeptic to the idea that we actually have true freedom of choice.  That said, I believe a mentally healthy outlook is too feel like you are in control of your own choices and to take ownership.  What a dichotomy!  So to the extent that I can, I believe I choose to be married.  It's something I wanted.  Why I wanted it... is not as easy to pin down.  The shared bank account, tax benefit and double income are certainly benefits, for instance I couldn't afford my home without a partner, but I believe it's more than that.

I like having a best friend, a companion, a cheerleader.  I like someone who understand my problems and gaps and still accepts me as who I am.  I wanted a family... and I don't just mean 'baby'.  I mean children ... and maybe some grandchildren some day, and nieces and nephews and even inlaws.  I wanted a backyard with a firepit to roast marshmallows.  To sit by it with someone who's with you through thick and thin.  I wanted to make coffee for someone in the morning (and I usually do).
The family I gained
Day 3 - Love

I'm guilty of being somewhat of a serial monogamist.  It's not something I like about myself, so I try to embrace it by telling others before they tell me.  ;)  hah! Anyway, I guess you get that point where the 'cult of the new' in dating sort of fades and you are actually looking for worthwhile relationship which seems to not exist.  
I remember vividly the first time I met Matt McCrorey.  He was energetic and interesting, and clearly a lover of life.  He understood things about me and my history that I had trouble explaining to anyone, partially because we had a lot in common, but also because he really listened.  He was also really darn cute ;).  It had been a long time since I felt that excited about anyone... perhaps never.  

Our first picture together

Day 4 - Luck 

I think finding the right person is tough to do.  I honestly think it almost boils down to luck.   I think you can increase your luck by attempting to meet more people, and being open to the possibility, but that's basically the two cards you get.  

Here are just some of the things I'm really lucky to have with Matt
-He's a really hard worker and is exuberant about doing lots of things.  
-He's gone a long for a few crazy rides and supports me though all of the crazy schemes I cook up.  
-He thinks I'm smart and beautiful. (and I know this on my own, but I like being on the same page ;)
-He fixes things around the houses and makes our house a home.  We would live in shambles if it was up to me.  
-He understands more about about me than anyone else.  
-He think it's cool that I'm a feminist (and I think he is one too!)
-He cheers me on at races and even is doing one with me this fall!
-He also fixed my computer so this post is actually possible.

I'm really lucky.
Lucky enough to be kissing this 70s stash! 

Day 5 - Adventure

Matt goes along with my crazy schemes, and cooks up a few himself too. Together, we have traveled across the country, and now the world, helped run a non-profit together, planted a garden, opened up our home to our friends, gone camping, gotten trapped in a blizzard in the Appalachians together, caught the last bus, then train, then bus again to get back to Muenchen, and caught a lot of pokemon!
Sportin Passportin

Day 6 - Heart

Matt's has the biggest heart of anyone I know.  It's sounds cliche I know, but Matt always gives it his all.  Consequently, he's not mild mannered or of soft reproach, but I guess that wouldn't be very interesting.  He maximizes and perfects, and he gets involved.  He wears his emotions on his sleeve, and it's a beautiful thing to live life that fully.  It's something I'll probably never do, but I have had a lot more feeling of the feels since I've been with him, and for that I'm largely grateful.  It's good to not be a robot... sometimes ;) .

Feeling all the feels with my main guy Matty McC

Day 7 - The Future.

As of my first wedding anniversary, this is the longest relationship I have ever been in.  Somehow, I feel this legitimizes something.  It also is a thing that makes me feel old.  #meh  Anyway, everything going forward is uncharted territory, and that's exciting!  My hope for the future is that we go on more adventures, do more crazy stuff, and maybe take a little more time to just relax and enjoy life once in a while.  

Rockin the Mun, and Marriage #winning

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Swimming: weirdly good.

For the last 4 years, I've participated in a triathlon in my local area.  While, I'm not much of a triathlete in general, I really enjoy participating in this particular event.  Here's what I wrote about it on my facebook wall a couple years ago:

Today I saw women who were considered 'too' by societies standard. Too old, too fat, too poor, too boyish, too bossy... but luckily they were all too strong to let that stop them. I saw women dog paddle all 500 m of an open water swim. I saw women her 70s biking 15.5 miles on a dated looking huffy. I saw a visibly pregnant woman running the last leg (a 5K) in. I spoke to a women who had recently dealt with an abusive relationship, and then I saw her pass me on the bike. 
My participation in the YWCA tri has always been a positive one, but today I felt shaken by the influence of these people who weren't living up the expectations that society had chosen for them, and were simply being 'too' awesome! 

Anyway, back to me, myself and I... So Swimming.  Here's the thing, I like to run, and every year a toss in a little time to swim and bike so I can do this tri.  On the bike, I'm as you would expect, mediocre.  However, for the swim, I rank into the top third, which doesn't make me ultra competitive or anything, but that's really pretty good considering the level of effort I put in.

Again, let's compare.  Biking, I hardly do at all, and wind up towards the back.  Running, I pour my heart and soul into and it is a dire fight for mid pack standing.  Swimming, I approach with even more lethargy than biking, and I'm in the top third.  This is such a confounding result that I didn't even notice until late last year, when my dear friend kept mentioning how strong I look out there (thanks J!).  Anyway, I riffled through old results, and yes, I always place the best during the swim.  Even in the year I was running my fastest.

I share all this because I have a theory on it.  My parents weren't real into signing us up for sports, we did between zero and very little of that.  However, we did swimming lessons all the time.  My susceptibility to colds with wet hair in MN winter encouraged us to skip the winter months, but I recall taking swimming lessons at least twice per year most years between the ages of 3ish and if you include school lessons, probably 15.  After that, I didn't do anything serious, but was still spending a lot time in the water at the lake or community pool.  When I signed up for the first triathlon, I didn't think much of knowing how to swim.  My theory is this:  all those early years of swimming ingrained some skill in me that I was easily able to tap back into when I was 26 and looking to try a tri.

The larger point.  I loved swimming lessons as a kid, but I obviously didn't sign up or take myself.  However, I ,quite possibly, am benefiting now.  It's seems like many things are this way, we get rewarded or punished for decisions that were never made by us.  This encourages me to withhold judgement for the performance of myself and others.

It also encourages me to swim more!  hah!