Monday, February 3, 2020

My First Half Marathon

My first half marathon was in November 2010, at the San Antonio Rock 'n Roll. After I ran, it I wrote about the experience in a short story. I'm so glad I did; reading it again after years of running still makes me excited for long distance races! I'm running half marathon number 7 on Sunday; and the excitement is still there!

_______________________________________________________________

The sun was still sleeping when my alarm sounded that morning. Usually I hit the snooze once just to give myself a little more time to wake up. But this morning was different: I was ready. I turned off the alarm and got out of my warm, cozy bed and let a blast of chilly air hit me.


My clothes were already picked out and folded near the bed. Before shedding my warm pajamas, I took a breath and smiled. These are the clothes that I will run my first half marathon in. I dressed quickly in the chill of the morning and put my hair in a ponytail. I carefully pinned my bangs back and put on my trusty black visor. The sun was not yet awake, but I was ready.


I headed downstairs and began to prepare breakfast. On the morning of a big race, breakfast is extremely important. However, nerves and excitement tend to suppress the appetite and breakfast becomes a ritual in which you force-feed yourself whole grain toast with peanut butter and a banana.


Coffee brews in the pot loudly, as if excited to be of any assistance on this important day. The morning chill welcomes the hot coffee with open arms and instantly blood vessels come to life. As blood streams into the brain, thoughts begin to pulse through it. Did I train enough? Is it going to rain? Will my long sleeved shirt be too warm?


And then, my good old enemy, Negativity, starts consuming my thoughts. What if I don’t make it? I can barely do 10- what if I push myself so hard that I make myself pass out? What if I have to walk the entire second half?


My heart starts beating very quickly and my stomach tightens up as I force myself to swallow the last bite of breakfast.


Breathe! -Oh God, what if my lungs close up??


I begin to quickly rummage around for anything else I may need and throw it into the loud plastic race bag.


Water bottle.


Power bar.


Another banana.


Race bib and timing chip.


Arm band and headphones.


Throw on my jacket.


Grab coffee tumbler.


The part I love most about being a runner: putting on my shoes. This activity excites me about running like putting stage make-up on excites me about acting in a play. During this simple act, I carefully untie both shoes (a task I completely ignore when putting other shoes on). I put my foot in, making sure my socks don’t have painful wrinkles in them. Then, I slowly tighten the laces, working from toe to ankle and finish off with a double knot. Sounds boring enough, but this process allows me to assess my brain and physical well being before a run. Before a big race, this is where I am able to calm myself down and pump myself up. I tell my heart to slow and regulate my breathing. I tell myself that the morning’s task is possible, even if I don’t make my goal. For my first 13.1, just finishing will make me feel more accomplished than anything.


With my shoes on, I grab my favorite gray zip-up sweater, coffee, purse, and race bag and head out the door.


In my car I turn the heat on low and search for some tunes to pump me up. And I’m on my way.


The minute I pull onto the road near the parking area, I realize just how huge this event is. I start to panic- I forgot to prepare myself for the large masses of people. As a crowd-hater, this was a big mistake. I start to lose my cool while parking, grabbing a shuttle, and getting situated. Thus begins the morning of standing in lines.


Get in line to park.


Stand in line for the shuttle.


Stand in line for the bag drop.


Stand in line for the port-a-potty.


Stand in line to race.


It’s not until I’ve gotten back to my corral and see the small empty parking lot nearby that I begin to calm down. After an hour of lines, this empty cement slab is like an oasis. I begin to very slowly jog around and force myself to breathe. I concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other, on taking one breath at a time. Slowly, my confidence rises as I tell myself “Slow and steady wins the race.”


I check my watch, realize it’s almost time, and head toward my corral. Being slow has its perks, and one is being in a corral in the back. While others in the front are starting, we still have time for last minute adjustments- and finding friends. Luckily they were able to wave me down and together we talked about our race anxiety and how much more time we wished we’d had to train. When we began running, I was so confident and relaxed that I actually felt good. We kept each other at a slow, steady pace to conserve energy and used the time to catch up with each other. Before I knew it, we were already an hour in, and I was feeling fantastic. This wasn’t so bad, afterall! I can do this! It was shortly after that that I found myself always in front of my friends and heard them say several times that I should just go ahead- they’d meet up with me at the end. A few minutes later I looked behind to see that I had pulled ahead. I’d have to go the next 7 miles alone.


It may sound crazy (heck, just the act of running sounds crazy), but at this point I started talking positively to myself. I put my headphones in and told myself over and over, slow and steady, slow and steady.


Mile markers approached and flew by; water/drink stations became more important to watch for. Being aware of how much liquid was in my stomach was key. If I drink too much, I can feel it sloshing around and it makes me nauseous. I also did not want to run out of energy. Somehow, I got it right. Good stomach, good energy, and no port-a-potty stops, which are crucial to time.


I’m going at a steady pace on a brick road around mile 8 when I realize that both my knees feel like they are going to fall off and the bottoms of my feet are starting to throb. My old shoes are trying hard to support me, but it’s not working. I slightly panic and yell at myself for not budgeting for new shoes. I told myself this race was their last hurrah. Thanks for all the miles, shoes! For the next mile I think about the new shoes that I should get- what brand, what color, how much should I pay?


I stop my thought process to assess how I’m feeling. I’m starting to tire and my knees are in pain. I hope that a fuel station is ahead.


I trudge on, stopping to walk for the first time as I pass the 10 mile marker. I’m proud of myself for making it that far without walking. It’s not that I wanted to run the whole thing (that’s ideal), starting to run after walking is like trying to scale a wall. It’s so extremely difficult to muster the energy but I do it and make it to a fuel station.


They are offering energy gels and I take one. They are not the best, and the texture makes me want to vomit, but I’m growing tired by the second and force myself to eat it.


After the gel, we come to the split in the course where the full marathoners go straight and the halfies turn toward mile 11. At this point it all becomes a blur as adrenaline kicks in. I start to realize that I’m dodging a lot of walkers and feel like I’m sprinting to win second place. The Alamodome looms into view and I have visions of the finish line- one more mile to go! Suddenly I can’t believe I’m about to finish a 13.1 mile race. Last year I couldn’t run a 5k without stopping to walk. I’ve come a long way, even if it doesn’t feel like it in other aspects of my life.





I see the 13 mile maker ahead- only one tenth of a mile left. We turn a corner and staring us down is a giant hill. Why do they put the hills at the end? I turn up my music so I can’t hear anything else and push myself up that hill. At the top is sweet, sweet, glory. Nothing can describe the feeling of crossing that finish line and getting that medal. Finishing a long distance race, no matter the time, is a feeling that I love, and it’s what keeps me signing up for more races each year. There’s nothing like setting a goal, working hard towards that goal, and achieving it. That was half marathon number 1, and will always be my most memorable race.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Running: How to Get Started

New Year's Eve makes most people think about resolutions, starting something new, or making a change.  If you are thinking of becoming a runner, read on to find out how to get started!

First of all, I'm going to preface by saying that if you run, then you are a RUNNER.  It doesn't matter how long or how far or how fast you run.  Once you hit that pavement or trail, then you are a runner!  Be proud of it!

I call myself an average runner.  My yearly mileage is around 360 (roughly 1 mile per day!  Yeah!), while most of the people I follow on Instagram are way above 1,000 miles for the year.  To me, that is INSANE!  I don't have time to run that mileage due to work, and it's just too hot in the summer when I'm off of work.  I consider my 360 miles a great achievement!  So, don't compare yourself to others or you will never keep going.  Start where you are!

I started running in August of 2009 in Phoenix, Arizona.  I know, I know; it's balls hot!  I just needed something to set goals for that I could achieve as I was stuck with a master's degree and no job due to the amazing economy.  So, I decided to start running.  I went to Kohl's and bought some new shoes (not pricey, I think I spent $40) and shorts and a t-shirt. I already had sports bras.  I waited until the sun went down (I'm NOT a morning person!), fired up my click wheel iPod, and made the goal to run around the block to the first light post and back.  That was it.  So I did it.  IT. WAS. HARD.  But I did it.  I could feel my body resisting, but later I could feel my lungs changing as I was laying in bed.  Things were already changing.

The next day, I decided to go a bit further and back.  And I did it.  I could fall asleep easier, I could feel my lungs changing. Each day I decided to go a bit further, until I needed to look up a distance and route on MapMyRun.com.  I mapped out a 2.5 mile route around my neighborhood, and soon that was my daily run. I didn't have a phone with an app to track, or a GPS watch, just my old iPod.  I don't have selfies of me running during this time.  I don't even think I had an Instagram account.  I just ran for ME.  If you're just starting out, I suggest you run for YOU at the beginning.  Then you can find an app or fancy watch to track your stats.  But don't let the stats make you feel any less of a runner.

I didn't run for speed.  But it was nice when I ran it faster than yesterday.
I didn't run to lose weight.  But I did lose 15 lbs in the process.  (I also used the Wii workouts for strength training, and that helped!)
I didn't run to train for any race. I just ran for myself.

Soon, I was wanting a little more.  I decided to sign up for my 1st 5k, and asked some friends to run with me.  They are faster than me, but that didn't bother me.  We started out together at first, but then I told them to go ahead and meet at the finish line.  It wasn't time chipped, and I didn't have a phone or watch to track anything.  It was so empowering to set a goal and complete it. 

From that fall, August to October 2009, I was hooked on running.  It became something I could do, something that made me feel powerful and that I am capable of tough things.

All you have to do is start.

How to become a Runner:
1. Put on your shoes and a good sports bra.
2.  RUN!

Whether your resolution is to start running or be a faster runner, I hope that you have confidence in yourself to become the runner you never thought you could be!  Happy New Year, and Happy Running!

Cheers,
Kasey

Sunday, March 24, 2019

I Tried Morning Yoga for a Week to Help Anxiety and This is What Happened

In the past year, anxiety has reared its ugly head in my life.  I find that it really flares up in the mornings, making falling asleep the night before a work day difficult, and very stressful to get going at the start of every day.  Little things would set me off, and I didn't feel good about things until after 10:00 am every day.  I exercise regularly, I leave work at work (most of the time).  I'm trying new things to try to calm the anxiety monster.

This week, I decided to wake up earlier than usual and do some yoga before making breakfast and getting ready for work.  Here's how it went:



Day 1: My alarm went off at 5:42am-- 25 minutes earlier than my normal routine. However, I was already awake. This never happens. Anxiety already had its grip on me. Instead of getting up, I stayed in bed until my usual wake up time. No yoga. Had a hard morning at work.


Day 2: Didn't fall asleep until after midnight, but got up after hitting snooze once. Took my time and did just 5 minutes of breathing and moves I like without a video. Got to work early. Had a better morning. Was asleep by 10:30 with the help of melatonin.


Day 3: Hit snooze once, but got up and did 10 minutes of yoga with a video. Yoga with Adriene is my go-to for yoga videos. She's amazing; check her channel out! Got to work a little early but later than yesterday (thanks traffic!). Had a better morning even though I had to quick make copies and go to duty. Fell asleep by 10:30 with the help of melatonin.

Day 4: Hit snooze twice. Thursdays are hard, y'all! I didn't have time for yoga by the time I got out of bed, but I could feel soreness from my workouts. I did some foam rolling while my eggs cooked. Got to work later but on time, had an ok morning.

Day 5: Hit snooze once, but stayed awake. Did a short video for runners, took my time getting ready, and had a good morning, and overall good day.

It's only been a week, but I think I like this. I am NOT a morning person, so when I workout it's always after work, so waking up earlier is not on my list of things that I want to do. Maybe I will become one of those people who gets up super early and gets their workout in before work, but I have to be at work by 7:40 so I don't see myself getting in a full workout and cool down in before work. However, I do think that getting up 30 minutes earlier and moving my body with a few yoga stretches and breathing exercises is a good way to wake up. I have essential oils and I need to bring them to the living room with me to help that relaxation and focus.

Overall, it's been a good week. I'm going to continue to keep yoga in my morning routine for as long as I can. It's nice to have that time to wake up the entire body and calm myself down before I begin my day.

Cheers,
Kasey

Monday, January 14, 2019

Injury Update: So Far So Good

I ran 7 miles yesterday, and I'm pretty excited about it.

I had 10 on the plan for that day before I got hurt last month.  Since then I've reworked my plan.  Those last two miles were tough- my legs felt heavier than they should have.  I cut back on Camp Gladiator workouts in order to give my body time to recover.  My new adjusted plan is to just finish this race.  I don't see myself getting a PR after how yesterday's run felt.  Usually I don't feel that heaviness until mile 10.  I still have three long runs left, though.  I just wish I could be more active (it would help to shed these extra holiday pounds) in order to build up more speed.  I feel like I'm not getting the speed workouts I need now.

After yesterday's 7, I soaked in Epsom salts.  I didn't ice it because it's chilly in my house, but it feels great.  I didn't feel any soreness at work today. 

Now, I have mountain cedar allergies bothering me.  I took the day off of working out because the medicine I take makes me feel so sleepy and dehydrated.  I figured a workout in this state wouldn't be good for me.  We will see how tomorrow goes.  I will probably need a workout since there is another event using our rehearsal space for one act play and I will be confined to my black box.  It's difficult to rehearse this play without our stage. 

I usually bring a 64oz water bottle to work and fill it up again by the end of the school day.  I got down the road this morning and realized I didn't grab it.  I stopped at the gas station near school and found a gallon of electrolyte water so I grabbed it.  I finished half of it, and I'm about to drink more.  How much water do you drink a day?  Does it leave you satisfied or do you feel symptoms of dehydration?

Have a great week!
Cheers,
Kasey

Friday, January 4, 2019

"The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry."

The very same can be said for marathon training.  My first week and a half felt AMAZING and I was in top shape to really get some tough workouts in and have a better chance at a PR at the Missions Heritage Half in February.

Then I felt it.  A sharp pain in the front of my lower leg on a easy two miler.  It was sore for a week after, so I didn't work out, didn't run. I taped it up, soaked in Epsom salts, foam rolled, and iced.  I saw a doctor but he was no help. I'm really bummed that I was forced to stop when I was just getting started.  

Since the week of Christmas, I've run a few times and taken it slow.  It definitely doesn't hurt as bad, and when I run it's never above a 1.  So, I'm going to tweak my training plan and see if I can salvage this training cycle even though my race is a month away.

New and Improved Half Marathon Training Plan:

Week of: December 30: easy 2, cross training, 5 miles
Week of: January 6: cross training, easy 3, cross training, 7 miles
Week of: January 13: cross training, easy 4, cross training, 9 miles
Week of: January 20: cross training, easy 5, cross training, 11 miles
Week of: January 27: cross training, easy 5, cross training, 8 miles
Week of: February 3: crossing training, easy 4, easy 2, RACE DAY!

I'm giving myself more recovery after long runs this time around to see how I feel.  If I feel good, then I will add more cross training throughout the week and tempo runs.  It went from a 10 week plan to 6, but I already had one and half in the bank so I guess it's 7 and a half?

I am extremely competitive, so part of me still wants to get a PR on this race, but I have a feeling I will just have to hang in there and hope I can finish at a decent time now that I've lost 3 weeks of training.

Thanks to KT Tape, compression socks, ice, foam rolling, Epsom salt, let's see if we can get this back on track!

What are some challenges you had to face during training?

Cheers,
Kasey

Friday, December 28, 2018

Emotional Stages of an Injured Runner

Slowing down is difficult for many of us runners.  Even when our body is telling us, "Hey!  Take it easy!" we don't want to believe it.  It happened to me a week and a half ago.

I had a GREAT first week of half marathon training.  My long run felt great, I was sprinting faster than usual at Camp Gladiator.  Then I went on a short, easy run around the block and felt a sharp pain in my right shin.  I cut the run short and headed for home, hoping that it was nothing.  But, it was sore for a few days after that.  I thought it could be shin splints, so I taped it up.  Usually that feels better but it made my calf muscles tight and the dull ache was still there.  I foam rolled.  I soaked in epsom salt.  I even AVOIDED running for several days!  Then I went for a test run.  Two miles on our usual route, and still felt a dull ache.  

I made a doctor's appointment.  It's this afternoon.  I know I won't get an immediate answer today because x-rays don't typically show stress fractures so an MRI will need to be scheduled so who knows when that will be.  If I do need an MRI according to this doctor, I will have to defer my entry to the Missions Half Marathon in February.  I'm super bummed because I was in awesome shape when this happened and I was really looking forward to tough workouts and another PR.

My friends try to console me by telling me there are other ways to exercise but I look at them like they are crazy.  (There's nothing else besides running!!)

10 Stages of a (hopefully not) Injured Runner

1. Feel a (slight) pain and pretend it was nothing.  We do have a high tolerance for pain, anyway.
2. Go for another run the next day, feel the pain again, and it's worse, but maybe not?  Maybe I'm just making this up in my head.
3. Ice it anyway.  It will go away tomorrow.
4. Apply KT tape and ice it the next day.  It can't be that bad.  Go for a run.
5. Foam roll with KT tape, then ice it.  It's really not that bad!  Go for a run.
6. Soak in epsom salt, foam roll with KT tape, then ice it.  It's going away! (hopefully)  Go for a run.
7. Take ibuprofen, tell yourself it's better.  It HAS to be with the epsom salts, KT tape, ice, and foam rolling!  I even took a few days off!  Go for a run.
8. Give in and make a doctor's appointment.  Stop running.  Cry myself to sleep.
9. Go to doctor's appointment, play it off like it really doesn't hurt that bad.  Wait impatiently for results.
10.  If results are negative, lace up IMMEDIATELY!  Don't forget the ice later.  If results are positive for an injury, wallow in sorrow, scroll Instagram and feel extreme jealousy that others can run right now.  It's going to be a long recovery!

I'm praying I can lace up again soon!  Until then, take care of yourselves!  Listen to your body and eat your goddamn vegetables.

Cheers,
Kasey

Saturday, November 17, 2018

My Half Marathon Training Plan

I've gone and done it: I signed up for my 6th half marathon! 

Half Marathon 1: Rock 'n Roll San Antonio Half in 2010 (2:44)
Half Marathon 2: Alamo 13.1 in 2013 (3:18)
Half Marathon 3: Cocoa Women's Half in 2015 (DNF)
Half Marathon 4: Alamo 13.1 in 2016   (2:39)
Half Marathon 5: Cocoa Women's Half in 2018 (2:28)

Half Marathon 6 will be the Missions Heritage Half on February 9, 2019.  I have more success running longer distances in the winter in Texas, so I avoid signing up for longer races in late spring, summer, and early fall.  January and February are the BEST times to run long in Texas!

Here's how I'm planning to train for this race:

The main training format I plan to follow involves running 2-3 days a week and cross-training 2-3 days a week.  I know; it seems strange to train for a running race with so much cross-training, but that is what I did for February's half and I came away with an 11 minute PR.  Typically, training includes different types of runs:

1. easy run (comfortable pace)
2. speed work (sprints with rest periods in between; these can be short or long sprints)
3. tempo runs (warm up mile, race pace miles, cool down mile.  Typically a longer run in the week.)
4. long runs (slow, for endurance)

I try to do an easy run mid-week when I'm exhausted, a long run on the weekend, and use Camp Gladiator for speed work.  I may add more longer tempo runs during the week into January. My training plan is only ten weeks instead of twelve because I can run 5 miles at this point in time.  (Sometimes, I need to start earlier because I'm not always in shape...)

My Missions Heritage Half Marathon Training Schedule:


Workout 1
Workout 2
Workout 3
Workout 4
Workout 5
Week 1: December 2
Cross training
Cross training
Easy run 2-3 miles
Cross training
5 miles
Week 2: December 9
Cross training
Cross training
Easy run 2-3 miles
Cross training or tempo run
6 miles
Week 3: December 16
Cross training
Cross training
Easy run 3 miles
Cross training
7 miles
Week 4: December 23
Cross training
Cross training
Easy run 3-4 miles
Cross training or tempo run
8 miles
Week 5: December 30
Cross training
Cross training
Easy run 4 miles
Cross training
9 miles
Week 6: January 6
Cross training
Cross training
Easy run 4-5 miles
Tempo run
10 miles
Week 7: January 13
Cross training
Cross training
Easy run 5 miles
Cross training
11 miles
Week 8: January 20
Cross training
Cross training
Easy run 5 miles
Tempo run
12 miles
Week 9: January 27
Cross training
Cross training
Easy run 5 miles
Tempo run
8 miles
Week 10: February 3
Cross training
Cross training
Easy run 4 miles
Easy run 2 miles
RACE DAY!

As always, a good training plan needs to be vigorous but flexible at the same time.  I didn't label the top of the chart with days of the week even though I try to stick to workouts on the same days.  We all know that work and life get in the way so there needs to be flexibility.  Right now, Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays are Camp Gladiator Days.  Wednesdays and Saturdays are run days. I have a contest for work and two major holidays in there but it should all work out.  If I miss anything during the week I try not to freak out as long as I can get my long run in on the weekends. 

It's also important to make sure I'm watching my diet and fueling properly as mileage increases.  I'm trying to lose body fat right now, but as my runs get longer, I need to add more calories back to my diet. I never try to lose weight when training for a half marathon; especially the last month of training.  I learned that the hard way with my DNF in 2015.  Whole 30 and running long did not work for my body.

I always try to beat my last time for any race that I run, even if I tell myself to just have fun.  I'm very competitive so it's hard to turn that off!  My current half marathon PR is 2:28 which is an average of 11:17 per mile.  I did a lot of walking after mile 8 in that race so I'm hoping to avoid that this time.  I don't have a goal pace, but I think I will be training for under 10:00 per mile on my speed work/tempo runs and under 11:00 for long runs.

I hope this training plan inspires someone out there, and I hope I can stick to it and have a great race!

Cheers,
Kasey

References:
Kara Goucher's Running For Women