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.  

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!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Letting "We are equal" be the beginning, not the end of the conversation.

Growing up, I lived in a community that was incredibly white and wealthy.  I guess that same neighborhood has diversified up a bit in recent years, but in my elementary class I remember one black kid.  This is out of 4, 30 person classes for the entire 1st grade.  I don't think he stayed with us for the whole 6 years of elementary either, which means we were probably down to 0 at one point.

I read the Addy books, and I was taught about the civil rights movement and we honored MLK day and I knew there was a history of poor treatment of black people, but I figured it was all in the past and hardly anyone did stuff like that anymore.

I was pretty darn ignorant, and I stayed with this belief system for quite sometime.

I remember a conversation in high school about interracial marriage, where someone pointed out that there can be a lot of cultural challenges?  What?  This was news to me, because I never knew there were any cultural differences to begin with.

For all of my life, I was taught to believe that black people are equal, the community I grew up fostered this belief the best they knew how.  I don't know anyone I would have to convince that this is true. I think people exist like that out there, but for good or for bad they are not in my sphere of influence.  However, this belief system came from white people with similar experiences is to mine, so naturally it missed a big part of the story.

I missed the experiences that black people have today.

This is to say that the only experiences I saw were the black people I knew on TV.  One was a cop, and one was a doctor and they had families that seemed very similar to ours.  Other than the color of their skin, I figured their lives were exactly the same as mine.  I didn't think about why, if that was the case, were none of them living in my community.  

I wasn't taught about generational poverty, culture, ethnocentrism, oppression.  I wasn't given role models of color, I didn't celebrate traditions that included other histories besides my own.

I think a lot of people are in the boat I use to be in.  They believe all people are equal.  This a great thing to believe, but quite simply not enough.  We need to remove ourselves as much as possible from our own bubble.  We need to hear other people's stories.

It took years and time for me to do that.  I made friends outside my social circle, I listened, I read, and I still have a lot to learn.

Last fall, I remember getting pretty riled up about threats to protest a marathon last fall, but I listened to what people had to say and I realized a marathon cut short is much different than a life cut short.  (Also, only fair to say, they did not do what they threatened)

The BLM tactics don't always make sense to me, but I'm willing to ask myself why that is. I have not lived that oppression, I do not have my own life to fear, I have a lot of resources and education to make change that others may not.  It is my belief that those who have those experiences don't deserve to be evaluate from afar by the mainstream media.  I encourage you to ask these questions.

What are the stories of people involved?  
Alton Sterling and When Black Lives Stop Mattering by Roxane Gay (super awesome and smart lady)
The problem we all live with (2 part series on This American Life Podcast)
A Letter from Black America.

What are the actual goals of the movement?  
The actual demands of the movement may be things you can support.