Monday, August 24, 2009

Run for the Fallen - an Incredible Experience

As you may know from my earlier post, this past Saturday was NJ's Run for the Fallen, which was an awesome experience.

After a week away from running (and really any athletic activity at all), I was honestly a bit apprehensive about the run. Towards the end of the week, the weather report was calling for major storms on Friday and Saturday, separate from Hurricane Bill which was to be 400 miles off the coast of NJ by Saturday afternoon. As I drove to my parents' for dinner on Friday night, I could see dark black clouds rolling in and we all expected the storms to converge on the area with a bang.

But no. Instead, only more and more humidity rolled in.

I had friends coming in Friday night and Saturday morning (two of whom would also be running with me), and we woke up to bright sun on Saturday, which eventually gave way to clouds. An afternoon spent on the beach with a nice breeze gave me hope that the run would be cool enough and that the migraine that had started on Friday afternoon would dissipate, but neither of those things happened. I kept thinking about the active duty and reserve airmen and soldiers who had been running through NJ since 6am that morning and hoping that the humidity hadn't been too hard on them. We would be meeting up with runners around mile 75, where they would be placing a mile marker for 1st Lt. Michael Cleary, Hamilton class of 2003 and the inspiration for the first national Run for the Fallen held last year. Any time I thought about how little I've been running lately, or how humid it would be, I just remembered that we'd be running for military men and women who can't run anymore. After the run, I got to go home to my nice air conditioned house, where I could take a shower and rest, while these service members don't get to go home again. Running a couple of miles was the least I could do.

Around 5:30, we headed out to where I thought mile 75 was and it turned out I'd mapped it just past there (I'm legendary for getting lost, so it's really a miracle we found them at all). But the important thing was the run itself, so when we saw the two-man team running with their flags and a police escort, along with Warriors' Watch, we joined up. As the run's organizer, Bubba Beason, later told the paper, the "humidity along Route 9 [was] so thick you could cut it with a knife." It felt like running through a sauna. But it was worth it. We stopped at the first mile marker (for us, mile 76 for the overall run) to place a flag and card in remembrance of Spec. Gil Mercado of Paterson, NJ.

As the runners headed out again, we met up with Bubba (known in my first post as "The guy in charge, who said they'd love to have me") who had been in the first team of runners that morning, and was following the runners in a pickup. He thanked me for doing this, which made me laugh, because it felt like such a small gesture in return for the gratitude I feel for our military, especially those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. I think he could also tell I was already getting overheated, because he offered to give me a ride up to the next mile marker. So did another nice woman escorting the runners. But I felt like I would be cheating - I was running such a small distance, how could I give up and accept a ride?

We were a little ways behind the other runners at that point, and after a few more minutes. I was really struggling. I told my friends to go on ahead while I walked for a few minutes. I alternated running and walking to the next mile marker, in remembrance of Pfc. Bruce Miller Jr. of Orange, NJ. I didn't make it in time for the flag placing, but I was determined to make it to the next mile marker, even if I had to crawl there.

A few of the passing motorists honked as they passed and there were a few people gathered at each of the mile markers, which I thought was great. I wished more people had been there to remember the fallen, but at least there are some who never forget. And since Bubba's planning to continue doing this year after year, I'm sure it will only build on itself!

The last mile I ran (& walked) was certainly the slowest, but I pushed myself (I made it almost 3 miles total). I missed the flag placing at the final mile marker we stopped at, in remembrance of Sgt. Trista Moretti of South Plainfield, NJ and I couldn't have been happier to have been a part of the run. Overall the run raised $16,000 and my friends and family generously donated $190 of that. After we left the runners, they continued on to Toms River, where they stopped for the night before running the next day north to Holmdel. The run ended with a 10k that other volunteers could register for and run, capped off with a ceremony at the NJ Vietnam Veterans' Memorial. For the full story and photos, check out the Asbury Park Press. I would have loved to participate in the final five miles, but the migraine finally did me in and landed me in bed for two days (hence the late post).
Continuing Run for the Fallen in NJ this year was a great thing that Bubba and his fellow runners accomplished and I'm so grateful that I could be a little part of it.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Short Run, Sore Quads

You know what they say about the best laid plans...

I was actually thinking about getting in a bike ride on Wednesday night, right up until about lunchtime, when a fierce thunderstorm blew in here and pounded us with lightning, thunder, and enough rain to flood my entire yard and my crawl space. So instead of sneaks, I was sporting knee high rubber boots and babysitting my sump pump.

But since I'd gotten a run in that morning, I didn't feel too bad. And it turned out it was probably better that I skipped the bike. I seem to have a delayed reaction to bike riding. Whenever I go for a ride, I feel great the next day - no muscle soreness or tiredness, which was what allowed me to feel pretty good on Wednesday's run (aside from the humidity of course). But when I woke up on Thursday, holy quad-soreness Batman! That hour bike ride on Tuesday night followed by 25 minutes of running on Wednesday morning kicked my butt!

Fortunately, quad soreness does not result in any funny walking, except for when going up and down stairs. And of course, yesterday was laundry day, so I got to do that a lot. Awesome. My legs were still sore enough last night that I debated whether I'd get up and run this morning. I figured I should plan for it though, in case it was good running weather. When my alarm went off and I checked the temperature, it was only 61 degrees - I knew I'd kick myself later if I didn't push myself out of bed and out the door, so I got myself up and ready.

Of course, 61 degrees sounds beautiful. And it would be. If it wasn't also already 88% humidity.

Because of the high humidity and my quads still feeling the burn, I decided to stick with a shorter run that was all run, no walking. Unfortunately, I wasn't paying close enough attention to be able to map my run correctly, but from my estimates, I think I was fairly close to a 10 minute pace (which I keep thinking just CAN'T be right, but who knows). I pushed myself to run 15 minutes, which is the longest consecutive time I've run in a few weeks and once my quads warmed up, they actually felt pretty good. My main problem again was overheating quickly. Even though I definitely felt sick at the end of the run, I was satisfied with it because it was one of those runs that showed me that once the cooler weather comes around, I'll be back to longer runs again. Although I love sitting on the beach in the warmer weather, the fall is my favorite season for a lot of reasons, and I really can't wait for the cooler weather to come back!

So hopefully this weekend I can get in a couple of bike rides and swims in between beach time!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

It's a Tie

Last night, I finally got out for a bike ride again. It's been so unbelievably humid the last few days, which has some people saying "Yay! Summer is finally here!" and me saying "Where's fall already??" Because it took me until after 3am to fall asleep on Sunday night, I've been having trouble motivating myself in any way to get up early to run. Because I'd missed runs all weekend with friends in town, I was feeling very lazy yesterday. So I pushed myself to get on the bike last night and spend an hour cruising around the various dead end streets around my neighborhood. It was certainly humid, but you always get a better breeze on the bike, so it didn't seem nearly as impossible as running would have. And I'm really loving the exhaustion I'm getting in my quads and hamstrings after a long ride. Plus, riding my bike around here always reminds me of why I moved here in the first place - I can take in the hazy sunset over the swampy marshland just across from the bay and smell the salty breeze as it wafts in from the water. At that time of night, the water is my favorite - I would never get in it after watching Shark Week and gaining the knowledge that sharks feed at that time of day, but it's a reflective blue that shimmers in the waning sun, a color that you get no other time of the day. Riding a bike seems to give me the mental relaxation that allows me to take that all in - whenever I'm running, especially in the humidity, I'm mostly thinking of survival, so I don't notice as much. Though when the weather was cooler, I was trying to take the time to soak it all in!

After I got back, slick with sweat, I was ready for a dip in the pool. I changed into my suit, but then got a phone call from an old friend right before I headed out the door. Old friends are certainly more important than the pool, so I'll have to leave that for another night! I think it may have been better that I skipped it anyway, because I might have been less motivated to get up this morning for a run. I was still tired when my alarm went off, but not the sick-tired I've been feeling, so I focused on the endorphins the run would bring, threw on my clothes and headed out the door.

Although it was only about 71 degrees, the humidity was still pretty high (really any humidity is too high for me :)). Despite this, I was determined to get in a good run. I started slow to compensate for the weather and reminded myself of how much I always hate the first mile. I was keeping slightly more than a 10-minute pace for the first mile, which felt slow but obviously wasn't slow enough. I started to get overheated around the 8-minute mark, and told myself I'd do 10-10-10 running with 5 minutes of walking in between each interval. I felt okay around the 10-minute mark, so I changed my mind and wanted to push myself to 15 minutes.

Well, that was silly.

Around 11 minutes, I felt very overheated, so I slowed to a walk for five minutes. I was right by the water at this point, and this time of morning is always beautiful. If you're a morning person. And fishing instead of running. But I digress. There was a slight breeze, but the humidity is so high that it was more about moving around warm air and not cooling me off. I still felt hot, so I decided I'd switch to 10 minutes, 5 walking, 8 minutes, 5 walking, 6 minutes and done. I started up my eight minute interval and pushed myself as much as I could. Around six minutes, I very much wanted to stop, but I'd made a decision, so I kept going. I was very happy to walk for five minutes and was definitely regretting my decision to wear a hat. With short hair, it's tough - I like to wear a hat to keep it out of my face (and avoid crazy runner hair), but heat escapes from your head, so it actually makes me hotter. I'm still working on the balance and basically just waiting for the cooler weather so I can be happy again about running.

After my second five-minute walk, I started to run again and realized that I had turned around too late and was actually going to finish the run pretty far from home. Ugh. By this time, I was so thirsty, I felt like I'd never make it. A police officer passed in his car, and I actually wondered if he might have some water in there and think I looked pathetic enough to stop and give it to me. He didn't. But I wanted to finish my six minutes, so I kept at it, ending up with what I thought was a sharp pebble in the back of my shoe with about 90 seconds left to go. I kept telling myself "You can do anything for 90 seconds," and then the same for 60 and 30 and 15 seconds. Finally, I was done. I wiped at the pebble in my shoe, but it kept bugging me, so I finally sat down to take a look. No pebble, just a nice blister - I guess my sock had slipped down a little! I limped for a few minutes until the pain became manageable and I cooled off a bit. Realizing how far I still had to walk, I got bored quickly and decided I could make it another two minutes. So I pushed myself to run another two minutes, which definitely did me in.

By the time I got home, I was very excited about two things:

1) That I had air conditioning. Which was on.

2) That I had remembered to fill the Brita the night before, so I had a lot of cold, cold water waiting just for me. So. Good. Although really, I kept thinking about Pepsi, which I've been limiting lately. I think it may be just too good for me to actually give up, no matter how bad it is for me. I just have a sweet tooth that won't be denied!

I was also very excited about the post-run shower. Until I got in and remembered how much it hurts to run water over a fresh blister. Good thing I just wear flip flops around the house. The joys of running.

Despite that, I was very satisfied with making myself get up and run today and I'm really feeling the exhaustion in my legs, which have stiffened up nicely. I still wasn't thrilled with having to walk some, but I'm redefining success for this summer as being any running at all in this humidity. Although I felt like the humidity beat me today, someone pointed out that it really was more of a tie, so I'll take that. I'll reassess when the nicer weather arrives in the fall, and I'm very excited to get back to some real running, when the only thing I'm battling is the limitations of my own body. Hopefully tonight I might get in a bike ride or swim, but I might put those off until tomorrow morning. It's still a constant struggle of always being happy and satisfied when I do workout, but still putting it off as much as possible. I'm blaming the weather - that's my story and I'm sticking to it!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Missing those Humidity-less Days!

Well, faithful readers, I have again been neglecting my blog, and my running! After the final ORC Summer Series 5k, I found it tough to get back into the swing of running, despite my best intentions. However, last Saturday, I woke up early, saw that it was only 70 degrees outside and felt that I NEEDED to run.

I gave myself the goal of 35 minutes, but it turned out that the humidity was pretty high that morning, which sapped all my endurance. I decided that rather than beat myself up for getting so tired during my runs lately that I have to include some walking breaks, I'd just admit that the summer's humidity was getting to me, and make the best of them. So I managed to get in 25 minutes of solid running, broken up with a total of ten minutes of walking breaks. Not too bad.

After that decent run, I felt motivated to get back into my three-day a week schedule. I decided that part of my problem was not getting to bed early enough, so I've been working (successfully) on making myself get into bed and trying to fall asleep before 11, to give me a solid 8 hours of sleep before a 7am run. However, it seems that my body has had other plans. Every night this week, starting with Sunday night, I've had a violent nightmare, scary enough to wake me out of a deep sleep. And since I'm such a great sleeper to start with, it then takes me anywhere from 30-60 minutes to fall back asleep, which has left me exhausted in the mornings. So I've been skipping the runs.

However, much to my own surprise, I haven't been sitting on the couch. Sunday morning, I took a nice thirty-minute swim at the condo pool (which sounds cool, but honestly, I can only do the breast stroke, and only with my head above the water. I'm so sporty.), and Monday and Wednesday, I took evening bike rides. Monday was my first time on a bike in about fifteen years - when I was a teenager, I rode my bike through what I thought was a small pile of sand. It turned out to be enough to turn my wheel and result in a crash - nothing like falling right onto sand and pavement. I haven't really been on a bike since, but my dad recently got new tires for my bike (which I honestly didn't still think we had) and my brother-in-law and sister dropped it off last weekend. So it was clearly time to get back on the bike.

I didn't want to put the bike in my shed, partly because I knew it would be a convenient place to just forget about it, and partly because my creepy neighbor was sitting outside at the time and I didn't want to deal with his interrogation and snarky remarks about my bike. So instead, I'm storing it right in my living room. I've found that's a good motivator. So Monday night, I took it easy, cruising around some of the side streets near my house and realizing that if you're going to live at the beach, you really should have a bike to ride. I would have ridden again Tuesday, but anyone who's been away from bike riding for an extended period of time, only to come back to it again, knows that it takes a WHILE to readjust and get comfortable.
Yesterday, after yet another nightmare ruined my plans for a morning run, I figured I'd give an evening run a shot. Until I saw that the temperature at 5:30 was 90 degrees. And it was still humid. While some people like to run in the humidity, it gives me an almost instant headache, so I decided instead to break out the bike again. This time, I pushed myself hard, putting the bike in a tougher gear than Monday's ride and pushing myself a bit so I could really feel the burn in my quads. When I run, I really feel the run more in my calves, so I think biking will be a good off-running day activity to really strengthen my legs. I rode about 5 miles in a half hour (I want to think that's pretty good, but I think some triathletes are doing between 25-30 an hour, so I feel a bit wimpy as usual). But I definitely felt as if I could have fallen right over by the time I got back home, so I was happy with the workout nonetheless.

This morning would have been a perfect morning for a run, because it was cool, low humidity and raining. But I again had a crazy nightmare that woke me up, and the sudden wake-up combined with the weather was a recipe for the perfect migraine. So instead of running, I took three Excedrin migraine, ate a yogurt to coat my stomach, put my eye mask back on and tried in vain to get comfortable or fall back asleep. So no running today, but some yoga might be in the cards for tonight! I'm hoping this weather sticks around for the morning, so that I can get a nice run in tomorrow!

I'm also looking forward to those humidity-less days that will hopefully come with September. I found a new plan on for doubling my mileage (for those 5k slowpokes like me), and once it cools off a bit, I plan to put it into effect. But meanwhile, I have to get my mileage back up for the Run for the Fallen run coming up in a couple of weeks - good thing we'll be breaking at each mile marker, though I still highly doubt I can keep up a 9:30 pace with those soldiers!