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Race Report: Louisville Half Marathon

I had signed up for 2019 Indy Women’s and Urban Bourbon Half Marathons months before those races. They were long-term goals that I set for myself last year. I signed up for this race on a whim a few weeks ago mostly because a bunch of women from my running group were running and pacing it. FOMO is apparently a motivator for me nowadays.

So Urban Bourbon Half Marathon was three weekends ago. As I wrote about in an earlier post, it was a great time, so fun, so perfect how prepared I was and how the things I couldn’t control turned out just fine. This race was a bit different.

I’ve had left hamstring soreness since UBHM, though I noticed it several days after, so I’m not sure it was because of that race or something else. Could be too much sitting; could be my obnoxious pulling dogs. Consequently I had only run a few times in the past three weeks. In addition, I hadn’t been keeping up with cross training like I should, eating a lot of shitty food, not drinking enough water. So in the week leading up to this race, I just generally felt not great and was full of ambivalence.

I simply didn’t want to run it. Mostly because it could potentially be a shitshow, for above reasons. Also I didn’t want to make whatever was going on with the hamstring* worse. The icing on the Meh Cake was a friend’s fiftieth birthday party at a local bar the night before the race. This party would be full of close friends and people I like whom I hadn’t seen in a while. I knew I would either leave before I was ready or stay longer than I should.

*back of the knee, feels more like weakness rather than pain; gets worse throughout the day, especially after a dog walk; consulted dr google and got more confused; had a different chronic hamstring injury 12 years ago and would really like to not deal with that bullshit ever again

Also the weather forecast was annoying, specifically the temperature. I know how to dress for 50 and above. I know how to dress for when it’s actually cold. The 40s though. It’s not rocket science, but the right number of the right layers continues to baffle me. Especially in a race, where there’s a bunch of standing around in the beginning. When home, I just leave and I’m warmer in a couple blocks, and I typically only go for 30-60 minutes. Being chilly before the race, then overdressed for more than two hours of running is not fun. So Saturday evening I picked out some clothes and spent the rest of the night second guessing myself. Like I lost sleep and had stupid Dressed-Wrong Dreams. The amount of bourbon I drank at the party didn’t help, and in general I don’t sleep well on the night before a race.

The dogs got me up earlier than I wanted, but I wasn’t asleep anyway. Coffee, English muffin, half a leftover Cuban sandwich; pooping happened. I got dressed in what I had originally planned and left. The Parklands of Floyds Fork is this huge and beautiful park system in eastern Jefferson County. It’s really four connected parks, about 4000 acres, with woods, trails, creeks, roads for biking and running and walking. I wish it were closer than the 30 minute drive. I’ve run and raced here before. It’s nice, though the concrete road isn’t the friendliest for runners. This particular race is actually marathon, half marathon, and 10K distances. All start together, run the same direction, and have different turn around points.

I thought about downgrading to the 10K in the interest of my sore hamstring but decided not to. Probably because it was not horrible all the time. If I had been in constant pain, I probably would have downgraded. I would like to say I would have not run at all if the pain was that bad, but in reality I tend not to do that. I didn’t pay $80 to not run dammit!

Once I got there, I found M/SRTT (Moms Run This Town/She Runs This Town), my running group. Greeted people, talked about goals, injuries, clothing, pooping, snot rockets–ya know, runner stuff. Got in the group picture. I had a friend pacing the 2:20 finish, and she encouraged me to run with her. I had my doubts about keeping up that fast. Even though I had just finished with 2:06 a few weeks before, I did not feel good enough that I could get close to that. A couple other women from the group were pacing 2:45. I was planning on running with them and having a good time, but when it came time to corral, I was kind of in the middle of both pacers. I decided to just stay put, somewhere between 2:20 and 2:45 and see what happened.

We started off pretty tightly packed. I started slow, testing to see what my hamstring would tell me. It told me I was stupid. But! It didn’t tell me I was fucking stupid, so I just kept running. Finally the crowd started to thin a little, and I settled into a rhythm around mile 2. There happened to be a hill right here. More or less straight up. Like you see it and think it’s a joke.

So one thing different about this race is intervals. Normally I do intervals. When I started running last year after surgery, I needed to start slow and also I really wanted stick with it. I had done Couch to 5K the year before (didn’t stick) and my favorite part of that program was the middle weeks, when you run for several minutes, then walk for a minute, repeat. I read up on the Galloway Method, a run-walk-run program designed to prevent injury, and decided to try that. I used it for the last few weeks of June, when I was being gentle on myself during recovery. It got me through the early weeks of running, when historically I would have quit. It got me through the heat of summer, when a short break to walk help me calm down enough to keep going. I played with frequency and length of intervals and settled on 2 minutes run, 30 seconds walk as my goldilocks spot. This training got me through my first half marathon, and even though I’d recovered from surgery and seemed to have integrated running into my lifestyle, I felt like if it was working for me, why change? This fall I started skipping intervals, especially if I was running down a hill, and shortening them. So I was doing like a 18-26 second walk and correspondingly longer run. It was all fine. This race…not sure why, I hadn’t planned on doing it this way, but I didn’t run intervals. The first mile of a race, I often don’t do the walks. It’s crowded, my heart rate is fine. All good. Same for this race, but then I ran the second mile. Maybe because my pace was slower I thought I should go for it. Then that hill. If there was a time and place to start walking intervals, it was looming in front of me. But I kept running. I ran up the hill. And didn’t die! So I ran the third mile and kept running.

The giant hill was followed by a long less-steep climb, then a long wooded downhill with occasional flattening out spots. By this point the people in the lead for the 10K had turned around and were now running toward us. This is where I was less satisfied with the race organization, about which until this point I had absolutely no complaints. The road had narrowed and there were no cones. Tons of people not moving over, getting in each other’s way. I’m sure very irritating for the folks in the front of the 10K pack who were hoping for a top 3 finish or whatever. Several people were forced into the grass, others cut people off. Could have been ugly. I just hate seeing so little self-awareness.

Anyway, finally got past the 10K turn around, so there were no longer people running at us. I passed the 4:45 marathon pacer (2:23 half pacer for those not inclined to do the math) and saw my friend pacing 2:20 up ahead. I ran a little faster. I realized my hamstring was fine. Twingy, but not painful. I caught up with her and the other 2:20 pacer around mile 5. I was nice to run with pacers. It was also trippy to realize that this was the farthest I’d ever run straight, no walking. And I still had eight miles to go! I felt good for a while. Chatting with the other people hanging with the 2:20 pacers. Giving myself little pats on the back for not walking. Happy that problematic hamstring was not asserting itself. We got to the half marathon turn around! Only another six and a half miles!

And then, like clock work, the Mile 8 Struggle Bus showed up. For every half I’ve run, somewhere between mile 8 and mile 10, I want to give up. Whether it’s tired legs, tired everything, racing heart, hungry tummy, burning lungs, low energy, whatever, I find myself saying “let’s just walk, running is hot bullshit” It’s totally a mental game at this point. For Filly Women’s and KDF, it was low energy, so I experimented with adding runner candy (Honey Stinger Energy Chews). This worked for UBHM and a few long runs. This race though, I had been eating a few pieces every 40 minutes, which had worked for me before. It was less low energy and more just super tired legs. My hamstring wasn’t necessarily that bad; more like all of both legs were fucking done.

I kept going though! Around mile 10 we were back into the long wooded area, but this time we got to experience it going up hill. Joy. I walked twice, about 10 seconds each time, because I wanted to get my heart rate down a little. These were the only two times I walked the entire 13 miles. I caught back up with the 2:20 pacers. I stuck with them and their motivation really kept me in it. Around mile 11, the huge downhill, my knees started to hurt. Around mile 12, I needed a toilet. I was seriously afraid I’d shit my pants otherwise. Luckily there was a portapotty just a handful of yards off the course. I lost at least a minute, but it was absolutely necessary.

Back on the road! One mile left! It was not a fun mile. I was no longer running with my pacing friend. My legs hurt. I was tired. Finally the end. I did not sprint to finish, but I did manage to get my arms up like I wasn’t about to crawl the last yards.

I look happy because I don’t have to run anymore. Maybe ever.

My time was 2:22. Not the best, but way better than I thought I was capable of. Hell, I didn’t know I was capable of running for more than a few miles without walking, much less a half marathon. I didn’t see anyone I knew around the finishers’ area. There was Derby Pie as an end-of-race perk, but it was so sweet, I could only choke down a few bites. There was also beer (provided by Goodwood Brewery, a race sponsor), but at that point I think anything other than plain water would have made me vomit. I just wanted to go home and lie in a bath tub full of hot epsom salt water.

So that’s what I did. I was moving like a 90 year old. The walk back to the car was comical. Very stiff, very sore. My hamstring didn’t seem any worse than every other sore, agonized part of my body. I ate the other half of the leftover Cuban while the tub was filling up and had a bottle of water mixed with electrolyte replacement. The soak in the tub was perfect.

I ran three half marathons in six weeks, five this year. One was a PR and one was with no walking intervals, something I wasn’t sure I could do. I’m kinda proud of myself and my training. I look forward to all the shorter races I have lined up over the winter, mostly just fun stuff nearby, a few of which I’ve gotten Spouse to sign up to run with me. Lots of group runs with M/SRTT. I have some trail races coming up too. And a Thanksgiving Morning race, which I have always been opposed to in theory and, until now, in practice. I guess I’m a real runner, for good or ill. Now I just need to rest this stupid hamstring. At least it’s taken my mind off my stupid fat thumb.


Race Report: Pupkin Spice 5K

So this race was originally the Pumpkin Spice 5K, but the organizers changed the name when they partnered with Tyson’s Chance Animal Foundation. It also became a dog friendly race. Costumes were already encouraged.

I signed up for this race because 1) near my house 2) something easy and fun to do shortly after UBHM 3) River City Races does this thing called Run the 502 (Louisville’s area code) where if you participate in 8 of 11 or so races beginning in the summer and going through winter, you get this big fleur de lis (Louisville’s symbol) medal on which to hang the little medal charms from each individual race. And since this year I am apparently a crow and attracted to shiny things, I am all about the race bling of this series.

I was pretty ambivalent about the costume aspect of this race. I love dressing up for Halloween parties…but not to run in. My running group was doing an October Scavenger Hunt Challenge and one of the items was “selfie running in Halloween costume”. Sold. I kinda already knew that my costume would be a last-minute, low- energy effort. The running-with-your-dog part was a bit more complicated. Kira loves to run but she has a bum knee and she is not reliable with other dogs. Also she’s a little crazy under perfectly controlled circumstances. She was staying home. Camp Randall on the other hand is a well-behaved, mostly chill little dude. But he is only good for running like a mile before he starts slowing waaaayyyyy down. So Kira was a Sorry No and Camp was a game time decision. Everything was made worse by the weather forecast–lower 50s and 100% chance of rain.

The night before the race, I pulled out some stuff from the costume closet that Spawn had bought a few years before for Halloween. It was goggles, a tool-type belt, and work-type gloves to be Tara from Teen Titans. Tara wears yellow shorts and a black, long-sleeved belly shirt with a yellow T in a circle. No yellow shorts (went with black capri running tights) but I did have a plain black tech shirt (full coverage, thanks). I cut a T In A Circle out of bright yellow fabric that was Praise Be! toward the top of a fabric pile and used a glue stick to attach it to the front of my black shirt. All set!

The morning of the run was as wet as was predicted. If it wasn’t for the giant medal-medal charm bauble and my completionist needs, I would not have gotten out of bed. Coffee, toast, pooping like clockwork. I put on my costume, which was all fine except my tights had no pockets and I couldn’t carry my hand-held water bottle because of the gloves. This was bad because I had no way to accommodate my phone. The compartments on the tool belt thing were big enough for my car key, but nowhere big enough for the necessary phone. Leaving it at home or in the car was not an option, as I wanted to take pictures.

So cue last minute destroying my closet and the coat racks looking for my flip belt (stretchy fabric waist band thing with interior pockets). I found it right before I gave up (not sure what I would have done with the phone…worn a jacket? stuck it down my pants?). The flip belt fit under the tool belt thing and I was able to squeeze my phone in. Yay! Also found cheap yellow poncho thing for if I wimped out and needed protection from the incessant rain.

It was time to leave. Camp or No Camp? I checked the radar and it was solid green. All rain. I hate being wet, having wet feet, wet shoes, being wet and cold. Everything about doing this run was going against my instincts, so I decided “goddammit if I’m gonna do this, I want a friend.” Spouse was still in bed and both dogs were there with him. I did not want Kira to know she was about to miss out on something adventurous. Camp has Toast Radar, so I opened and closed the bread box, then slid the toaster around. Sure enough, he came bouncing down the steps, expecting food to happen soon. Instead I put a doggie tie around his neck (he was in costume too!), leashed him, and off we went!

The drive only took a couple minutes. This is literally my neighborhood park. I saw some people from my running group immediately. Some in costume, some not. Some with dogs, some not. It was nice to see MRTT folks and catch up with a few people on post-UBHM feels. Pictures were taken, costumes admired (yall, some people had a goat with them), doggie-costumes awarded.

Me and Camp, ready to go

It was coming down steady at race time, so I donned my poncho. Camp went pee on command on the way to the start line because he is the best. The run was fine. Very wet, pretty fun. Thankfully it was mid 50s and no colder or I would be bitching nonstop about the temperature. The only thing of note–about 4 tenths of a mile before the finish, there is an exit out of the park. It is the exit I most often take when I’m in the park with the dogs, which is several times a week. Camp, who was completely and utterly soaking wet at this point and, keep in mind, *not a runner*, seemed to think that perhaps it was time to Later The Fuck Out Of This Noise And Go The Fuck To Our Dry Home. I enthusiastically told him NO! KEEP GOING GOOD BOY WE’RE ALMOST DONE! He said “bitch, I’ll show you how done I am.” He got slower and slower and I basically dragged a doggie anchor up the last hill.

Then we were done! We went back to the shelter and talked to friends and Camp got treats and I got coffee. We placed a 3rd in my age group. Lots of wet, happy people and pets. It was time to go home. On the way back to the car, I noticed how dirty Camp had gotten. Not from the run, but from the dirty floor of the Witches Hat pavilion shelter area. Like, seriously the floor was so damn nasty and because of the rain it was gummy and sticky and just overall ugh no. And it was all over Camp’s back legs and tail because he had been sitting so much. Thank gods I remembered to throw some towels in the car!

When we got home, Spouse had already left for the gym. The Camp and Kira reunion was insane. HE HAD NEW SMELLS. As soon as they mellowed a little bit, I put Camp’s leash back on and dragged him up to the bathtub. I’m sure he at that point was convinced he should never leave the house with me again. A big day, and it was comical how hard he crashed the rest of the afternoon.

The race seemed well organized. Packet pick-up the day before was fine, awards went quick, free photos afterward were awesome. The Heine’s Coffee was a blessing. Bummer about the weather–it would have been much funner without the rain and I’m sure more people would have been there and more people in costume.

Camp post bath, wearing age-group medal

Race Report: Urban Bourbon Half Marathon

UBHM 2018 was my first half and my first big goal when I started running post surgery last summer. My only aim was to finish and not die trying. Training for it got me beyond the point where in past years I would have stopped running. It’s the race that turned me into a real runner. It was great–organization, crowd support, after party, course, everything.

So I was really looking forward to UBHM 2019! Training had gone well, no injuries, plenty of long runs, lots of running up hills. The extreme heat persisted well into October, but I just kept trying to get out as early as I could. Even though the temps were in the 90s almost every day for the beginning of October, it was getting into the 60s at night, so morning runs were totally doable. Everything about the week leading up to the race was ideal. I felt well rested, well hydrated. The stars were aligned to have a great race. Last year’s UBHM time was 2:12. Kentucky Derby Festival was 2:11. I was hoping to get under 2:10, with a dream goal of 2:07. This would be the race I had been hoping Indy Women’s Half would have been if not for the obnoxious heat and humidity.

The morning was chilly but fine, mid 40s. I wore capri-length tights and a tank top, with a light jacket on top of that. I met my running group for a picture, then went straight to the portapotty line. It took forever. I would have skipped, but I did need to pee. I got out and into the sea of humanity way toward the back of the pack, but I didn’t have time to move up. The call to the post had happened minutes before. I got my jacket off and tied around my waist right around the time I heard the starter’s pistol. Then we were off!

The race started downtown and first went toward Waterfront Park. We had the whole width of the street, so plenty of room to pass people. I went past the 3:00 pacer, then the 2:50 pacer quickly. I met up with a group of the friends I run with, but they had no time goal and encouraged me to go for it. After the course looped around waterfront park, it cut back up toward downtown, then turned to go east. It was there, around a mile and a half into the race, that I passed the 2:10 pacer. I had a few lingering doubts about my speed, that I was doing too much and I wouldn’t be able to keep it up. I thought to myself that I did not want to see that pacer again, and if I did, it would mean I was in trouble.

The course made its way to Lexington Road, along Cave Hill Cemetery’s long brick wall, and into Cherokee Park. Cherokee is where I go almost every time I run. I usually run counter clockwise, but I had been running clockwise, the direction of the course, to hit the hills the right way. I was ready. It was still hard as fuck. That first hill that goes up the “back way” to Hogan’s Fountain is no joke. But then there’s a nice long downhill. At that point I saw a running friend and her little girl, cheering people on. That was awesome. I was half hoping, half expecting to see Stuart and the dogs somewhere around there, as it’s a half mile from our house, but no luck. Mile eight was right around the time we were leaving the park. Over half done!

At eight and a half miles, water stop # 5 happened. This water stop was staffed with volunteers from my running group. It was so fun to see so many familiar faces! They had music blaring and horns and some of them were in costumes. Lots of high fives and cheers and enthusiasm. Best water stop! It was a good point in the course to see noisy fun friends. I was feeling good, under five miles to go, but I had been running hard for almost an hour and a half and the mental boost was nice.

After that it was up hilly Grinstead Drive. I run up Grinstead regularly, so I was prepared. Last year it seemed like a lot of people hit a wall at Grinstead because they thought the only hills were in the park. Or something. The hills going up Grinstead aren’t bad, but if you aren’t ready, they seem like they go on and on, and when you’ve already run over eight miles, it’s easy to get discouraged. Soon though we were by Cave Hill again, then down Baxter Ave to turn back toward downtown. Only a few miles left and no more hills! I was starting to get tired and sore feeling legs, but my energy level was okay. And the pain wasn’t too bad. Nothing I hadn’t felt before on a long run.

The finish line was near Fourth Street Live, a touristy commercial area in the middle of downtown Louisville. I felt good enough to push the last quarter mile with no intervals. I had been skipping a lot of intervals for most of the race, but at this point, I had been taking every one. Finishing was such a relief! I knew I was close to my pie-in-the-sky goal time. I grabbed a bagel to gnaw on while I checked the race results webpage to see what my time was. 2:06! What an amazing feeling to squash a challenge. I saw some running friends, who had also met and exceeded their goal times. So much celebrating!

The UBHM after party is the best race after party. Bourbon, beer, pizza, burgoo (Kentucky’s version of the regional stew that is made in a huge pot and contains every type of meat from chicken to venison and every vegetable lying around the kitchen and pantry; called booyah in the area of the country I grew up in). It took place at Fourth Street Live, which I normally avoid like the flu, but it’s kind of a perfect place for this event. I saw a bunch of friends from my running group, got in lots of pictures, but I had to leave to go get ready for another event on the calendar. I’m already looking forward to next year’s race, and my running group is talking about getting a couple hotel rooms to continue the celebration.

So now that I’ve accomplished a running goal, I need to figure out the next milestone. Should I try for a sub-two hour half or think distance and shoot for running a full marathon? I’ve got a few trail races lined up over the next several months, a bunch of short races this winter, 2020 Triple Crown and KDF Mini. I could upgrade KDF to the full or really work on speed this winter and early spring. Decisions, decisions. I’ll be turning 50 in there somewhere, so there’s also that to contend with!

Race Report: Indy Women’s Half Marathon

I should have written this up two weeks ago, but better late than never!

I’ve been running with Moms Run This Town/She Runs This Town for a year and a few months.  It is a free women’s running group that is organized on facebook and it has changed my life.  The support, the group runs, the fantastic women are why I am still doing this running, instead of bailing after completing the Urban Bourbon Half Marathon last year.  I’m not 100% positive I for sure would have quit, but I started and gave up on running too many times to assume I would have persevered on my own. I do know that the women in my group made continuing much easier.  I know I would never have given trail running a try if not for the group. I know I would not enjoy running as much as I do.

Anyway, so can’t overstate how important M/SRTT is for me. 

About a year ago, one of the members came to a group run on a weekend morning wearing the Indy Women’s Half tank shirt and telling tales about how nice the race was.  We all admired the cute shirt, a bit of a novelty as race shirts are, in my opinion, frequently boxy, ugly, and garish. It could be just me, who hates HATES tshirts and turns her race shirt into tank tops, but I think in general women like tanks or tshirts that fit well.  The cute color and design elements didn’t hurt.

So a bit after that, she posted on the group’s facebook page that the 2019 Indy Women’s Half was having a limited time $30 entry fee.  $30 for a half is pretty cheap. Indianapolis is a less-than-two-hour drive from Louisville. A fun time for a little group of us crazy lady runners.  That was the first thought, but within a few days, 100 of our members had signed up! I guess we really wanted to go on a field trip.

I’d been looking forward to this race for months.  Both because I would be taking over Indianapolis with 100 of my best running buddies and because I was hoping for a PR. 

I did the Filly Women’s Half at the beginning of April and the Kentucky Derby Festival Half at the end of April of this year.  I felt undertrained. Not enough long runs, not enough cross training. My time for Urban Bourbon Half last year was 2:12. My time for the Filly Women’s Half was 2:13 and KDF was 2:11.  I thought this was an opportunity for improvement. Training this summer had gone well, despite the heat, and I began to experiment, seemingly successfully, with nutrition during a long run.  I’d been better with cross training and did lots of hill work.  I was hoping I could get under 2:10, maybe even under 2:07. 

Three weeks out, the weather looked favorable.  The low for Indianapolis the night before was predicted to be in the upper 50s.  Perfect! Unfortunately as the date drew closer, a heat wave fucked everything to hell.  We would be lucky to see 68 degrees the night before, which meant at least mid-70s by the time I would be finishing the race.  Ugh. 

I used to be the kind of person who preferred hot to cold.  I guess I still am, as I loathe cold and being cold. But I no longer have my tolerance for heat.  I don’t know if it’s my age or the tamoxifen, but heat and especially running in the heat is the worst.  So yay. Probably no PR. I was already getting in the mindset that I would just be happy to be there and finish with a smile.  Let’s hear it for low expectations!

Normally I don’t get nervous before a race, but packing up the car, I realized I was kind of anxious.  I assume it was because this would be my first out of town race. I often have some anxiety when I go out of town, but usually it’s when Stuart and I go together and have to leave the pets behind.  He was staying though. I think really my two fears that would make the race go badly were related to not being home, namely sleeping poorly in the hotel and not pooping in the morning because my routine was thrown off.

I slept not great but not horrible.  Pooping did not happen at the hotel, but the walk to the start got things moving and I had some success at the portapotty.  No complaints. M/SRTT did a group photo, another just-in-case stop at the portapotties, then off to the start line.  

It was hot and humid but so much great energy!  Lots of people, tons of excitement. Time to do the thing!  I quickly caught up to some friends I often run with. We ran together a couple miles, but I was ready to skip an interval, so off I went.  Everything was going well. My first few splits were right where I wanted, around 9:50 pace.  

Around mile 4, disaster struck.  I started getting stomach cramps and had to slow down, convinced I was about to shit my pants.  At 4.5 water stop, there was a portapotty. I don’t think I’ve ever been more relieved. Another woman went in right ahead of me, and she was in there for at least two minutes.  It was a torturous two minutes. I saw my friends I had been running with go by. We waved. I contemplated saying fuck it and just going back to the road. My stomach wasn’t cramping much.  But it seemed stupid to have stood there for nothing. The woman inside came out eventually. And of course all I did was fart. But I physically felt better and I now had the confidence that I was not going to poop my pants.  

Back to the road!  I met back up with my friends and ran with them for another couple miles.  They had joined up with a couple other women from other states. The course had a section with a turnaround, so we got to see a bunch of our group members who were faster, then after we turned around, we got to see a bunch more friends.  So fun to cheer everyone on! It was getting really uncomfortable, and seeing people was such a boost. Again I started to break away from my friends. All was good. Mostly good. The road was not the best. Very broken up in spots, with some actual giant pot holes.  And I confess, stretches of the course were boring. So yeah, everything was good for a while. I knew my time standing by the toilet had pretty much tanked my hopes of a PR, but I wanted to see what I could do with the situation.  

Mile 7 was a tiny glitch.  I started feeling hot and tired.  Nothing I couldn’t talk myself out of.  But then mile 10 happened. So hot, so tired.  All I could think was running is stupid and all the people around are stupid just like me because we are running and it’s so so stupid.  Oh the mental state of a runner who is battling doubts. And the heat/humidity. Physically I was doing okay. Tummy issues were over and I was drinking at each walking interval.  I just wanted to be finished running. I actually thought about walking the rest of the way. Like, what’s the worst thing that could happen? PR is out fo reach…why suffer? Well, I kept going.  Around mile 12, my body started to hurt. RIght hip, my usual nemesis, was yelling at me. My pace slowed, but I was still running.

My finish time was 2:13:17.  Not too bad considering I wasted a couple minutes with my pooping false alarm and in general the weather was not ideal.  A couple of my favorite running friends finished right around when I did, so we went into the party area and decompressed and drank mimosas together.  The after party was fun. Every few minutes someone from our group would finish and join us. Lots of celebration for being done with a hard race, lots of camaraderie.  Several of our group were running their first half, so extra celebrating with them.   

Back to the hotel for showers and relaxing.  We said goodbye to some friends who weren’t staying a second night and did some room switching.  I walked around downtown Indy with a running friend and we got a late lunch, then shared an Uber with a couple other friends to a brewery for a group meet-up.  Good beer, good company. We walked through a cool Indianapolis neighborhood to get back to the hotel area, then got ice cream.

It was a hard race, but a great weekend overall.  Lots of fun with this group of women who have come to mean so much to me.  Urban Bourbon Half Marathon is in 3 days. Can’t wait!

Double Racing Weekend

I had back-to-back races this past weekend.  Pure Tap 5K on Saturday at the Louisville Water Tower and Downtown Doubler 15K/30K in New Albany, IN.

The weather was great both mornings, around 60 and no rain.  Saturday was overcast and a tad humid; Sunday was sunny, but it started an hour earlier, so the sun didn’t get too hot.  Or at least it didn’t get too hot for the 15K runners.

The 5K was a big race, over 1000 runners, and the first of the Fall Runathon series.  A large number of my women’s running group MRTT/SRTT (Moms Run This Town/She Runs This Town) was there, so it was good to see all the friendly, supportive faces.  I was with a few portapotty stragglers from the group and a couple minutes before start time, after we started walking toward the start line, we remembered we needed to take some selfies (important things y’all).  Suddenly the bugler was playing the call to the post.  We hustled.

After the race we found out the race photographer took a picture of us taking a picture of ourselves.  Could be my favorite thing ever.  I’m the one in the grey top, blue running skirt.  Credit:  Marvin Young


I felt mostly good during the race.  Course was flat, down River Road, with a little swing through one of the parks there.  It was congested in the beginning, necessitating weaving through all the walkers, but spread out and got better pretty quickly.  Skipped a few intervals.  For a three-mile run, I wasn’t worried about getting tired, though maybe I should have!  The finish line was after a small incline and I could tell I was getting slower and slower with every step…or at least that’s what it felt like.  Thankfully that was only the last tenth of a mile.  I didn’t really have a big goal in mind.  I would have loved my time to be in the 28:30 neighborhood, alas not meant to be.  My time was 28:58.  Fourth in my age group though!  I’ve never really worked on speed, no speed repeats, no sprints.  Maybe I should add that in to my running schedule if I want to get my 5K speed faster.

Sunday morning was Downtown Doubler; I opted for the 15K (9.3 miles for non-runners, non-metric-familiar folks).  A few weeks ago I considered bumping up to the 30K.  Soooo glad I didn’t.  For no reason other than not wanting to train more than I had already planned.  Yes, lazy.  But I’ve been tired lately (I blame the tamoxifen) and already running a fair amount.  NO INJURIES

The course started at the amphitheater in New Albany and went down the Ohio River Greenway for a little over 4 and a half miles.  Flat and rather beautiful in spots.  We started at 7:30, so we got to watch the sun come up in front of us.  Lovely.  The out and back thing was fun–seeing all the fast people pass by after the turn around, then seeing the runners behind me after I started going in the other direction.  Lots of encouraging, fun people, including a ton of women from my group.

I used Jelly Belly Sport Beans (hereby to be referred to as runner candy) for the first time during a race.  Don’t know if they helped or not, but they sure didn’t hurt!  I kept my pace up for every mile and was able to push it at the end.  I did my usual intervals, skipping one walk every mile.  I’ve been doing that lately on training runs, and it seems to be working without making me too tired.  I’m sure it’s helping with stamina.  I’ve also been cutting my walking time short, around 20-24 seconds instead of the full 30.

TMI Alert.  Feel free to skip the next paragraph.  Everything was great except the whole GI thing.  Y’all who poop regular better not take that shit for granted.*  I sat on the toilet successfully before I left home, so I thought I was in the clear.  Around mile 3 I had that pooping feeling, but I decided I would manage.  Not much I could do about it at that point, because one thing this course did not have a lot of is portapotties.  The feeling got stronger, still no big deal, until mile 7.  At that point I knew I would be going straight to the bathrooms after I crossed the finish.  At mile 9, I was worried I would be going straight to the bathrooms after I crossed the finish, having shit myself just minutes before.  Lucky for me, no pants pooping.  I did go straight to the bathrooms.  A stall was free and had toilet paper, which made me happier than actually finishing the race.  *See what I did?

Really fun race; saw lots of my running friends, including seeing some finish and seeing the women from the 30K club starting their second time around.  It’s so great to cheer for and be cheered on in person by the people you encourage and support via facebook group.  I can’t say enough about how wonderful these women are and how important they have become to my life.  I truly doubt I would still be running if it weren’t for them.

My time goal was 1:33:00.  That’s a 10 minute mile average.  Respectable.  My pie-in-the-sky goal was 1:30:00.  Like I didn’t think it was in the realm of possibility.  My typical pace for a longer run is 10-10:30 on a good day.  I hadn’t slept well the night before, so I was not expecting anything, just wanted to finish with a smile.  My chip time was 1:30:09!  I did the math–9:42 pace.  I was so surprised and so pleased.  And proud.  Fifth in my age group.  Not too shabby!  The thing I’m most happy about is I’ve got a half marathon in Indianapolis in just under 3 weeks.  This race gives me hope for a PR.  My time for Kentucky Derby Festival Half was 2:11:14.  Under 2:10:00 is doable.  Under 2:05:00 would be amazing.

Today was a rest day.  Tomorrow I’m back at it.

I Suppose I Should Write About My Stupid Thumb

Hmm it’s been awhile.

What started as a cancer blog, quickly evolved into a running diary, and even more quickly died a quiet death once the race I was training for was over.

For several months I didn’t have any cancer news to share.  I see my oncologist every three or four months to make sure everything is still good.  When you’re NED (no evidence of disease), no news is the best news.

My running slowed to a crawl over most of the winter months, but I picked it up around February to start training for the Filly Women’s Half Marathon at the beginning of April and the Kentucky Derby Festival Half Marathon at the end of April.  Currently training for the Indy Women’s Half toward the end of September and the Urban Bourbon Half Marathon in October.

I started sewing more and hope to post lots of pictures of Finished Objects and Works in Progress.

The point of this post though is to finally talk about my stupid thumb.

I’ve been putting this off, hoping it would just get better and I could forget that I ever had issues, but it is apparent that my stupid thumb is my new-new normal and I should accept that.  Now I wish I had started posting back in April, back before it was a thumb problem and was only mild tightness in my forearm.  I wish I had been tracking and recording my progress, because now I have to rely on my shit memory to tell if it’s getting better or worse.  Anyone who has seen me recently and asked “how’s your summer?” has heard the whole story.

So it started the day after the Filly Women’s Half.  I was pulling weeds in the front yard when I noticed a little tightness in my right forearm and inner elbow area that hadn’t been there before.  Odd and random.  I recognized it as similar to the soreness I felt while recovering from the double mastectomy, though that was higher on the inside of my arm.  It had been more than 10 months since my surgery.  Almost 9 months that I considered myself pretty well healed up–little chest tightness, full range of motion, phantom pain calming down, scars shrinking and fading and becoming less itchy.  I totally thought I was done with having to worry about anything other than getting cancer again. 

A quick word about cording or lymphatic cording, also known as Axillary Web Syndrome.  It is a sometimes side effect of sentinel node biopsy or axillary node dissection.  Damage to the lymph system can cause scarring or hardening of the lymph and blood vessels, creating stiff cords just below the skin that are most commonly in the armpit but can travel down the arm too.  It’s not well understood, which is a little infuriating.  Breast cancer is not an uncommon disease, lymph node removal is the norm for breast cancer surgery, and studies suggest cording happens in up to 72% of patients who have had node dissection.

I had mild cording in the weeks after surgery, but the stretching I did as part of my recovery took care of it easily.  So I did the stretching I did back in June.  It didn’t go away, and maybe got a little worse, but not appreciably worse.  I had a one-year follow-up appointment with my breast surgeon’s office scheduled for the end of May already, so I figured I would just keep stretching and if it was still a thing, I would bring it up at that appointment.

I ran a 5 mile trail race on Mother’s Day, and afterwards, while I was taking a shower, I noticed that my thumb had gotten badly swollen and I couldn’t really reach the shower head well.  The tightness in my forearm was now painful, extending up to the under arm, and inhibiting my range of motion.  Great.  The trail race was muddy and slippery, but I hadn’t fallen.  WTF

The next day I called the hospital cancer help line wondering if they could hook me up with a physical therapist to get this under control.  The person I spoke with was spectacularly unhelpful, and I got off the phone frustrated and feeling like I just needed to deal until the end of the month.  The thumb swelling was worrying me though because of lymphedema.

A word about lymphedema.  It’s not the same as cording, though they may be related (again, lots more research needs to be done on cording).  It is swelling, happening in the hand, arm, and/or torso of a breast cancer patient, caused by lymph fluid build-up from surgical node removal.  It can get worse if not treated and cause permanent tissue damage.  Not cool.

Stuart and I were going to be flying to Las Vegas for Memorial Day Weekend, before my scheduled appointment, and my stupid swollen thumb was concerning.  Flying can make swelling worse, and I had always heard that women with lymphedema should wear compression sleeves on airplanes for that reason.  So I called the breast surgeon’s office directly and got a referral to the physical therapist who treats the lymphedema patients.

This whole thing was not a fun time for me.  I had spent 9 months feeling like a normal person.  It was what I wanted, and why I chose the surgery I did, a double mastectomy with no reconstruction.  I wanted to get back to living life with a minimum of doctor visits and procedures.  I wanted to carry on with my new normal.  Flat chest, daily dose of tamoxifen, but cancer-free, training for a half marathon, optimistic.  Now I felt like a cancer patient again.  I only had two or three nodes out, I was not overweight, I had not had radiation, I was NED, I had not had an injury, I had not had an infection.  And yet.

I felt like my body was betraying me again.

My physical therapist was awesome.  First she measured both my arms.  She was curious to see that my left arm was bigger than my right (I am right handed and it is my right arm that was the problem arm).  My explanation was I hold my dogs’ leashes in my left hand and they are extreme pullers, so every dog walk is like a one-hour session of resistance training for that arm.  Anyway.  The swelling, apart from the wrist and thumb, wasn’t awful.  The pain and tightness though was pretty bad.  I couldn’t really raise my arm above my shoulder.  She stretched my arm out, which hurt but in a good-hurt way, and did lymphatic drainage massage.  She also ordered me a compression sleeve and compression gauntlet (think fingerless glove) for the flights.   She told me that she wasn’t sure I had lymphedema, that the swelling may be related to the cording, but she was going to treat me as if I did have lymphedema.

I asked her why.  Why after 10 months did this happen?  Nothing seemed to have caused it.  The first symptoms showed up after a race and it got worse after a different race, but it’s not like I ran those two things in a vacuum.  I had run another half marathon in between without incidence.  And I had almost-as-long training runs in between as well.  There was no trauma.  Nothing new.  Why was I problem free for almost a year and within a month of the first tightness sensation I couldn’t reach a coffee cup on a shelf?  Her answer:  “Human bodies are weird.”  Okay, cool.  If I need to simply accept and be zen about this, I can handle.  A concrete explanation would have been nice, a behavior cause that I should avoid repeating, but I’ve long since learned that sometimes shit just happens.

After that one appointment and a day or two of doing the at-home stretches she gave me, the cording in my arm had resolved and I had full range of motion back.  Yay!  Unfortunately the cording was now in my wrist and into my hand and my stupid thumb was still swollen.  So that was my summer–twice weekly PT appointments for two and a half months, trying to get rid of the last cording and hopefully the swelling.  My PT taught me how to do lymphatic drainage massage on myself, experiment with hand stretches.  She taught me how to use Kinesio tape to help the swelling.  We even tried laser treatments.

My PT was stumped.  She had never seen cording go into the hand and up someone’s thumb before.  Why, after almost 50 years of not deviating from the norm (except for that cancer thing), was I suddenly a medical oddity?  Who the fucks knows.  The rotten thing is the way cording is treated is stretching and this weird manipulation-massage, but it’s really hard to stretch just your thumb and it’s really hard to pinch enough on your thumb to hit the cord there.  She consulted with her colleagues and none of them had any suggestions for treatment that she wasn’t already doing.  At the end of July she discharged me, saying to call her if I got worse.  I should wear my gauntlet when doing repetitive and/or stressful activities using my hand (like yard work and exercise), avoid lymphedema triggers, keep stretching and doing lymphatic drainage massage.

So now here I am.  The swelling and tightness in my arm is totally gone.  I have full range of motion in my arm, but my wrist is kinda weak.  There is one tiny spot of tightness at the base of my thumb on the back of my hand.  My thumb is still swollen.  I think it is less swollen than it was a few weeks ago, but I *stupidly* haven’t been documenting it, so I’m not even sure.  The fingers on that hand seem fine.  My thumb definitely looks worse at the end of the day, I think.  Who the fuck knows.  Some days are worse than others, and I’m eager to see what improvement comes with fall and cooler temperatures and lower humidity.

I have come to accept that I’ve got mild lymphedema and I need to be watchful.  Of what, I’m not 100%.  I know that I should avoid blood pressure cuffs and injections and blood draws on that arm.  I know that I should avoid tight sleeves and bracelets.  Keep the skin in good condition, avoid extreme temperatures of water, avoid extreme heat in general, no manicures, no cat scratches, no trauma, drink lots of water, avoid fatty foods, avoid sugar, avoid dairy, avoid salty food, avoid spicy food, avoid caffeine, avoid alcohol, avoid MSG, whatever you do don’t gain weight, avoid sun exposure, wear compression garments when flying and on long car rides, avoid being sedentary, avoid overuse, don’t wear a purse on that arm, don’t carry heavy stuff for any length of time, don’t wear a back pack, don’t cut yourself, don’t burn yourself. 

A bunch of things are no big deal, things I’m already doing.  A bunch of things I’m not particularly worried about at this point because my swelling is mild.  But.  Before it was mild, it wasn’t there, so I know that things can just change.  For no reason.  A bunch of these things are not exactly avoidable.  Accidents happen.  I’m not going to stop cooking because I might cut myself or burn myself.  I’m not going to get rid of the cats or stop doing my cat shelter volunteer work in order to bring my risk to zero.  I confess, I have used my thumb as an excuse to not do yard work (y’all it’s bad but honestly it’s been worse and the reason then was solely my avoidance and procrastination), but I’ll get out there and pull weeds…any day now.  Yeah.

So that brings me to the real fist shaking, life-is-so-unfair feelings connected with my stupid thumb.  The I-am-willing-to-ignore-medical-advice vanity that probably says a lot about me.   

I want a chest piece.

I want a chest piece and my PT said she would advise against a tattoo because of the lymphedema.

A chest piece was a huge reason I was so on board and cool with my decision to stay flat after surgery.  Getting on with my post-cancer-surgery life without a bunch of new surgeries and complication risks was absolutely the main reason I chose not to get reconstruction.  I never had wanted one before, but the idea of an awesome chest tattoo covering my scars was icing on the quicker-surer-recovery cake. 

I have in the past year become rather fond of my scars.  Like, I think they are badass and sexy.  They have ceased signifying mutilation and now are the mark of me as someone who healed. 

My feelings about my scars are as complicated as my feelings about my cancer.  For a while I felt a kind of survivor guilt.  I know I had cancer and got a big, life changing surgery…but no radiation, no chemo–the things that fuck up life for a lot of cancer patients, I got to skip.  I recognize how lucky I was to get my diagnosis at an early stage.  I was crazy fortunate to be able to get a mammogram the same day I saw my PCP about a lump and get a biopsy a few days later and surgery within a month.  I was crazy fortunate we had plenty of room on credit cards for the high insurance deductible.  I was crazy fortunate my pathology report was about as good as it could be.  But the scars on my chest are not simply the path of least resistance.  I gave up my curvy, still-perky chest to get rid of a disease that I didn’t choose, and I think that should count for something.  I was lucky to be diagnosed at an early stage.  That doesn’t make me less of a cancer survivor. 

So anyway.  Not hating the scars.  Kinda liking them. Not liking liking.  I don’t step out of the shower and look in the mirror and think “thank god I don’t have breasts anymore because the pre-teen flatness of this rib cage and these long, gently curving pink lines are a big improvement.”  No one would think that.  What I do think when looking in the mirror is “I fucking overcame a deadly disease to stand here on my own two feet after just having run ten miles and I am going to keep going and keep running and cancer didn’t kill me now and I’m going to do all I can to make sure cancer can fuck itself forever.” 

Getting a chest piece was part of this.  I no longer want to cover the scars with ink, to hide them, but maybe work with them, make them pretty.  And now I look at my stupid swollen thumb and get a little sad.  Then I wonder what’s the worst that can happen? 

Nothing right now.  I don’t have a design or really any concrete ideas.  But I sure as hell am not ruling it out.

Morning Run 23 October

First run post Urban Bourbon.  Distance:  5.4, Time:  55 minutes, Pace:  10:09

Sunday I felt okay.  Knees were screaming at me when I went up and down stairs, but fine other than that.  Definitely no running for me that day!  Monday I thought about running and ended up doing a two-mile dog walk, then a three-and-a-half mile dog walk.  Probably a good choice, though I think I could have handled running fine.  I just didn’t feel like changing clothes.  Yes, I can talk myself out of running with hardly any effort.

This morning I met a couple people from my women’s running facebook group.  We met at 8am at the Big Four Bridge, went over to Indiana, then down to the Falls of the Ohio and turned around.  A bit over 5 miles.  The weather was perfect.  When we began it was 45 degrees, with the sun starting to come up and very little wind.  5 miles in before 9am!

Piece of toast, one cup of coffee.  Capri length tights, tank, long sleeve tech shirt.  I was a bit warm by the time we got across the bridge, but we weren’t going that fast and we were in the shade a lot, so I was mostly comfortable enough.  Glad I left my jacket in the car though!  Blue shoes.  2min/30sec intervals.

So now that my running goal has been reached, I need to decide what the immediate and long-term future is for me.  There is a series of short races close to home in the winter months called the Polar Bear Grand Prix.  I’ll probably sign up for them.  Then the Triple Crown of Running (5K in February, 10K at the beginning of March, 10 miler at the end of March) I will definitely do.  Already signed up for the Kentucky Derby Festival Mini Marathon (end of April) and the Indy Women’s Half (in September).  I really like the half marathon distance.  There is a half on St. Patrick’s Day that I may consider doing too.  So I think I will continue to run three or four days a week, maybe two 4-6 miles and a longer 8-10 miles.  Something like that.  I want to keep running as long as I’m feeling good and if I always have a race to look forward to, I will keep it up.

Urban Bourbon Half Marathon

I finished!  That’s all I really wanted, but I kinda wanted to try for a sub 2:20.  My time was 2:12:02!  I kept my pace right around 10 the whole time, something I haven’t always been able to do.  I credit the cooler weather for not running out of steam.

Got up at 5:45, took care of the dogs, cup of coffee, carb loaded (English muffin and toast).  The weather was breezy and a little mist/drizzle, 52 degrees.  Capri tights, tank, and light jacket that I took off and tied around my waist a couple minutes before start time.  Black shoes.  Left a few minutes before 7 to get downtown while navigating traffic, utility work, and road closures in plenty of time.  All worked out well.

It was cold as fuck downtown with the wind, but once I got in the corral with all the other bodies, it was fine.  Then once the pistol went off, I was thankful for my light clothes within a couple blocks.

The course went towards Waterfront Park and looped around, then up one of those streets that connect downtown and Phoenix Hill, then down Lexington to Cherokee Park.  Yay home turf!  The course went around most of the loop, then out and down Cherokee to Grinstead, then toward Cave Hill, down Baxter, down one of those streets to the finish line, a block or so from where we started.  Lots of people cheering on the sidelines; Stuart went to watch with the dogs somewhere along the park road, but I think he got there right after I went by.

There was a post-race party right near the finish line, with bourbon tasting and pizza and burgoo (Kentucky stew).  I saw some old dance families, so we did some catching up and I had some friendly faces with whom to drink my bourbon.  Skipped the pizza and burgoo in favor of a bagel.

2 minute/30 second intervals.  I felt good for most of it.  A little twingy, but no big deal.  Around mile 10, the twinginess became something closer to pain and my right hip was pretty sore when I stopped running.  I stretched right away and that helped.  We took the dogs for a couple mile walk in the afternoon–slow and easy.  Right now, 10 hours later, I’m stiff and sore but not much worse than after my earlier long training runs.  I plan to take a nice epsom salt bath and get a good night sleep and anticipate feeling fine in the morning.

Thursday Morning Run 18 October

Last run before the half marathon on Saturday; I’ll probably go for a nice long dog walk tomorrow, maybe jog a few minutes with them, and stretch.

Distance:  4 miles, Time:  37:43, Pace:  9:26, Elevation Gain:  182

42 degrees at the start, didn’t check when I got home, but I imagine since I was only out for 40 minutes, not a whole lot changed beyond a degree.  It was sunny with a light breeze.  I wore long tights and long sleeve shirt with black jacket.  It seemed chilly when I let the dogs out; I should have just stuck with a tank and jacket.  I got quite warm after a mile.  Blue shoes (oops).

English muffin, one cup of coffee for breakfast.  Left at 9:45.  Good run!  I ran a little faster than I do for a longer run and it was fine.  Hard work going up hills though!  I took a new route, this time going into and out of a different park entrance and around the loop at Cherokee Park in the opposite direction as usual, the same direction as the race on Saturday.  I feel like the hills in that direction aren’t as bad.  I guess they are longer and not as steep.  Anything’s better than that damn hill at the golf course and luckily that fucker is not part of the race route.  Body felt good–no right leg twinges yay!  I listened to Eluveitie again, Slania, probably my favorite album of theirs.

2 minute run/30 second walk intervals.  I’m still not sure what I want to do on Saturday.  That or 90/30?  My goal is to finish and enjoy myself doing it.  No real goal on time, though sub 2:20 would be fabulous.


Tuesday Morning Run 16 October

Distance:  5 miles, Time:  49:38, Pace:  9:56, Elevation Gain:  119

Weather was decent—42 at the start, overcast, little wind, 45 at the end

Long tights, tank with black jacket were good choices.  Chilly when starting but got comfortable within a quarter mile.  Blue shoes.

One crumpet, one cup of coffee for breakfast.  Left at 9:30.  Not a bad run.  Normal huffy puffy at first and felt good at about one mile.  At about mile two, felt a tiny twinge on outside of right knee and a wee bit of twinge in right hip.  No big deal, though decided to do 5 miles instead of 6 because of it.  Didn’t get worse during run.  Could have kept going under other circumstances, namely no paranoia about right leg twinginess before half marathon on Saturday and general wanting to taper this week.

Down Bardstown Road and Baxter Ave past Feeders and looped around Main St by Home of the Innocents, then back up the way I came til Cherokee.  Only hill was way back on Baxter.  A lot of these sidewalks are in such sore shape, I could be trail running.  That and the traffic makes me love running in the park even more *shakes fist at hills*.  Listened to acoustic Eluveitie album.  I think I could listen to Brictom all day long.  Next run I will probably get back to their usual Death Folk Metal.

Eluveitie – Brictom from NORT85 on Vimeo.