Sunday, March 30, 2014

A Race in the Books

(First race after 18 months)

                After 18 months to the day I finally did my first race. Saturday I toed the line for a track 5km at the West Seattle Stadium and I came away with a very positive experience. In the 18 months I have been gone from racing, I have dealt with an MCL tear, had a baby, and then had knee surgery. It was great to finally be able to compete again. When enough time goes by without racing, or really doing workouts for that matter, it suddenly becomes very easy and comfortable to not race. If the time period is short enough, having to sit on the sidelines can make you hungry and eager to get back out into the racing world but for me the time away and changes in my life made it really easy to continue doing what I was doing, not racing.
                When I saw our Club was hosting a track meet I decided a week before the event that I would do it. Why not? It didn’t matter if I was ready or not, whether I felt like I could run “fast,” or anything. No excuses. It was time to just put myself out there and have some fun! Plus I wanted to see what it would be like trying to get a baby and myself ready and to the starting line on time. This race would serve as a test run of sorts in my “new Mother/athlete” role.
(Entertaining Lilyana before I warm up)
                Lilyana woke around 6:30am. As I nursed and rocked her I listened to the rain pouring down. It was raining extremely hard, a downpour, and I could hear the wind blowing, yet I was undeterred and started thinking about what rain gear to wear. After Lily finished eating I laid back down for another 45 minutes until we were both up again. Once she was up I made her breakfast and realized I needed to eat soon as well! I ate my breakfast, a little later than I would have liked but managed to get her and I fed by 8:45am. The start of my race was 10:30am. Levi helped get her ready while I got myself ready. We were out the door by 9:00 and to the race just around 9:15am. Since it was a low key event it was really easy to check in and get my number but first things first, I had to nurse the baby. Once she was taken care of I was able to leave her with Levi and go about my warm up. I was much more distracted on my warm up as I kept running into friends and chatting. I spotted some of my teammates and headed out with them.
                I could tell my food wasn’t completely digested but lucky for me I have been known to have an “iron gut” when it comes to eating food and running.  I did a couple strides and felt lactic in my legs already so I decided to stop doing them and rest. The sun came out and I was feeling good. I saw my brother and sister-in-law and we chatted. Everything was very stress free. I gave Lily a good luck squeeze and walked to the line.
(And we're off!)
                I knew some of the women in the race would be going for a faster time than I expected to run but several expressed that they would be starting at a pace I wanted to do. I figured I should be able to run 6:00 pace (18:45 5km) and a few girls said they were going to go out in 1:28. I might be able to go to the back of the pack and get some help through the windy laps. I was in a pack of about 6 girls for the first 2 laps. Having people running around me felt strange. I would definitely have to get used to this. After two laps they started running a little faster. Not wanting to blow up I backed off which left me in no man’s land.
(Cruising along in "no man's land")
There were 6 girls about 30 or so meters ahead of me. I just stayed focused and relaxed and ran my race. With 6 laps to go I go heartburn. I deal with a condition called Achalasia and have gotten these bouts of what I call heartburn on my runs but never in a race. I just told myself it would be good practice for me in case it happens in a big race. Luckily I was able ignore it and run fine. With two laps to go I noticed the front pack had broken up and some of the girls were coming back to me. I didn’t trust my finishing strength so did not try to close the gap. I saw the clock with one lap to go and figured I could break 18 so long as I could close in 90 seconds. I ended up running an 80 on my last lap and came through the line in 17:51.
(You can see my poor atrophied leg from my surgery. Lilyana cheers me on in the background with her Aunt and Uncle.)
                Surprisingly I felt good! It was a great start for me and I was really pleased with my time and how I felt doing it. I definitely have room to improve but it was very fun for me to race again. Having the baby has changed my perspective on racing and life in general. I am not so “me” focused and I think that can help keep nerves at bay and keep things in perspective. As I raced I would peak over and see Lilyana watching me and it made me feel good. Things don’t have to go perfect in the warm up, I can be flexible with what and when I eat, how much sleep I get, and I can still run well and have fun doing it. Because when I get right down to it running is a game and should be enjoyable. The day it stops being fun for me is the day I will hang up my racing shoes. But right now after my first race back all I can say is game on!
(Racing the 5km)

(Race on friends. Race on!)

Friday, March 21, 2014

Some Days You Can’t Win

(She knows the importance of fueling before, during and after a workout!)
                My training has been going well thus far. I am getting more creative with getting workouts in with the baby which means I am doing a lot more of my runs on the treadmill while she naps. I definitely like running outside better but I need to be flexible and running on a treadmill is better than no running at all! I like to think it makes me mentally tougher to be able to hang tough on the treadmill during tempo runs. One perk is that my water bottle is only an arm’s reach away. But there is a downside.
                After my 33 minute run on the treadmill today, I did  a 5 mile progression run (starting at 7:30 for the first mile down to 5:56 for the fastest with a mile cool down) I received a voicemail from my landlord that the neighbors downstairs were complaining about the noise claiming it was shaking the whole apartment even the windows. This may be a bit of an exaggeration as I have glass picture frames set up 3 feet from my treadmill and they don’t even wiggle. But either way they were annoyed.
                Let’s rewind over a year ago. I was newly pregnant and coming back from an MCL tear. It was dark (5pm in the winter) cold and rainy outside so I decided to do my run on the treadmill. A whole 4 miles. Thirty minutes max. Literally two minutes into my run I hear someone buzzing my door. Since I just started I decide to stop and answer the door. It was my neighbor complaining about my running. I tell him my situation, that I am pregnant and rehabbing a knee and will only be running for 30 minutes. He was not very nice and demands that I stop running. His girlfriend works “nights” (3am-1pm) and he said it is very hard for her to sleep with the noise. I asked if I could do just 20 minutes and he said no. Though I was mad at the time I agreed and went outside and ran.
                I have been very accommodating to their schedule. I never run in the evenings on my treadmill and before Lily was born I would go to my gym if I wanted to do a treadmill run. But now that I have a baby things have changed. Last Sunday Levi was in California for American Ninja Warrior and it was storming out. I had a long run to do and did not want to take the baby out in the bad weather. Yes I wussed out. It was the middle of the day (1pm) and I did my run. I typically do not run this long on the treadmill. I like to avoid it, but I ran 11 miles, so just over an hour and twenty minutes.
(Enjoying a run outside and without the stroller!)
                My neighbors called my landlord and told on me. My landlord never called me. He told me it was because he looked outside, saw the weather, knew I have a baby, and saw it was in the middle of the day. I wasn’t breaking any rules. Then today, the moment I started running they called and told him, “She’s doing it again.” I finished my run and listened to a voicemail from my landlord about the complaint. I was upset. What was I to do? I time my runs around her naptime and their sleeping schedule. After talking to the landlord I could tell he was somewhat on “my side” if there are sides in this equation. We came to the agreement that I will not run on the treadmill after 3pm. So that will give my neighbor 12 hours to sleep…ok now I am venting. He was going to call the neighbors and tell them the agreement. He did tell me that really I wasn’t doing anything wrong but he is trying to keep the peace.
                It is just so frustrating when I had talked to them and was being accommodating to their schedule. The people who lived below us before the current residents didn’t have a problem with the treadmill but I understand every person is different. There are 5 other units in the complex who are on a normal schedule and I run according to that schedule as well. Majority rules in my opinion. When I signed the lease I was told about quite hours are (after 10pm) and I have never broken any of the rules. If I wanted to do an “eye for an eye” I could complain to the landlord about the rules my neighbors have broken but that is not me and I know that is part of what comes with the territory when living in an apartment complex.
                I never brought up this point to my landlord but technically I am “working.” I just work from home. I am a “professional runner” of sorts. I have contracts for being a runner and I make a little bit on the side from it. So yes, I am doing my job during normal work hours. Oh yeah and I am “working” as a Mom. The hours are long and there aren’t many breaks. And when I do get a break I use the time for my “other job” as a runner.  Why not the courtesy on their part to accommodate my “working” schedule? And let’s be honest I’m not running at any bizarre times. In fact unless they have decided to get 12 hours of sleep a night I am not even running while they are sleeping. After months of changes and finally being o.k. with running on the treadmill and figuring it out with the baby I get thrown through another loop. Some days you just can’t win. But for now I am o.k. with the 3pm rule. Not much will change for me. I know this situation is not permanent as in a future blog I will discuss some more exciting changes for us.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Beginning Workouts

(Cruising the lake with Mom)
Lilyana is now a crawling pro and has figured out how to pull up to standing. She will grab onto anything to stand even if it moves, like a rocking chair. I have to constantly be on my toes with her! It is still hit or miss on learning to fall straight to her butt. She has definitely given me mini heart attacks when she pulls herself up to standing, finds something to distract her, let’s go of the object she was holding onto (seeming to forget she cannot stand without assistance) then comes crashing to the floor. I have to keep my reaction in control otherwise she will think she will start crying when she is perfectly fine.

She has started eating solids now and I have been making my own baby food. Right now it is very manageable as I can only introduce a new food every 4-7 days. She started off with oatmeal, bananas, avocado, and sweet potato. Next up I will give her carrots then some other fruits. I use my NutriBullet Blender and it works awesome for making homemade baby food
(Homemade baby food)
and is very easy to clean. I use small mason jars to store it. It’s interesting how picky I am about the quality of foods I feed her because I know how important it is, yet with me, oftentimes I neglect this aspect. I eat generally healthy but if I adopted the mindset of feeding a baby I would be a health nut! Everything in moderation though. I do not want to give up my nightly bowl of ice cream or the convenience of protein bars.
(Oatmeal everywhere!)
My training has been going pretty well. I have to take things a bit slower than I would like with my knee still healing and needing strengthening but that probably is not a bad thing for my long term health. It does make things a bit trickier for trying to get ready to race this outdoor season which will be starting up in a couple weeks. I know I shouldn’t try to force myself to race this outdoors if my knee is not ready but I feel an obligation to my sponsors who believe in me and have chosen to sponsor me for the 2014 season after having taken 2013 off due to pregnancy.
I have started doing workouts and I am eager to do them. The longest workout I have done is a 3 mile LT (lactate threshold) run and I was pleasantly surprised to run it in 18:50 (6:22, 6:21, and 6:06). I felt really smooth during it and it gave me confidence for the upcoming season. However, on the way home from my run I stopped at an intersection and upon starting again once the streets were clear to cross, I had a stabbing ache pain in my knee. It was strange. It almost felt like a growing pain of sorts. I limped home confused. The next day my knee was feeling achy and I took the day off. I was scheduled for a long run of 10 miles Sunday but knew I would have to play it by feel. I had done a very hilly run on Thursday with Lily in the stroller and wondered if that might have been too much up and down on my knee. I was sore the next day from it and vowed never to do that run again with the stroller.
Sunday morning things felt ok so I started out for my run. I jogged really slowly the first mile and my knee was aching slightly. I stopped and stretched and decided to try to run a little more. After another half mile things felt fine and I ran effortlessly for ten miles. Yet again though, on my way home, when I stopped at an intersection my knee began to ache again upon starting. I decided to send an email to my Doctor to see if any of this seemed unusual. Monday I took things easy. I was going to take Tuesday off when I received a message back from my Doctor. He reassured me this was perfectly normal and that I may see some swelling after I introduce a new activity (like my hilly run and tempo run) into my routine. Until I get that leg stronger I will most likely feel these aches.
(Ready for the sun!)
The morning I read that I called my coach (John Ricardi) and told him what the Doctor said and that I wanted to try running instead of taking a day off. It was a beautiful sunny, warm day outside so I couldn’t pass it up. I decided to run what I was originally scheduled for the day before, 4 miles with 6x100m strides with an exercise after each stride (i.e. pushups, lunges, dips, jumping jacks, burpees, mountain climbers, and squats). It is amazing how much less my knee hurt when I knew that it was o.k. (or so I am hoping). The ache was still there but it didn’t feel as sharp. My strides went fine, though I didn’t run them that fast. I focused more on form so as to not aggravate my knee. At this point I can tell I will have to take things on a day to day basis with my knee. If it flares up I will need to cross train, no sense pushing through pain. I did that for nearly 3 years before I finally had the surgery and I am not doing that again! I want to enjoy my life and not be in constant pain. After my run I met a friend and we walked the lake with our babies. I want to keep my body healthy so I am able to enjoy moments like these and be able to play and keep up with Lilyana as she grows.
I could learn a thing or two from Lilyana. One week she couldn’t crawl, the next she was on her hands and knees, the next crawling and shortly after standing! If I am just patient and don’t try to take short cuts my body will become strong and will be ready to perform when I need it. Right now my left knee cannot handle steeple barriers but it will in time.

(A mobile baby making mischief)