Sunday, November 30, 2014

November ..... The Month of the Running Comeback

During the month of November, I ran 4 races including a 5K, two 5 mile races and a 13K. Here is my place, finishing time and pace for each race:

I came in 53rd place in the Halloween 13K with a time of 1:15:30, which is a 9:21 min/mi pace.

I came in 69th place in the Returning Warrior 5 Miler race with a time of 44:00, which is an 8:48 min/mi pace.

I came in 27th place overall and 2nd place in my age group at the Chilly Chase 5K with a time of 25:55, which is an 8:20 min/mi pace.

I came in 297th place at the Pete Keyes Turkey Trot 5 mile race with a time of 44:57, which is a 9:00 min/mi pace.

For someone who just had surgery 6 months ago and is making her running comeback, I would say that those are some pretty great race times. A few months ago I was not sure that I would ever run again or if I would ever be good at running again. It definitely took me quite awhile to get back into running and it was a bit of a struggle at first. I am actually a faster runner now than before I had surgery. Being healthy again makes it much easier to run.

Out of all of the races that I ran this month, I am most proud of how well I did at the Chilly Chase 5K. I decided to sign up for this race because I wanted to run a shorter race after signing up for 3 longer races this month. I knew that I had a chance to do well in this race because my pace kept continuing to improve and this was going to be a smaller race.

There were only about 100 people who ran this race so it was nice to run a smaller race for a change. When the race started, I was out towards the front of the pack and there were only about 15-20 people ahead of me. I definitely got caught up in the hype of this race because my first mile ended up being around 7:50 and I never run that fast. I knew that I needed to slow down if I wanted to do well so I did.

As I finished my second mile, I did not see anyone ahead of me that looked like they would be in my age group. I was feeling good and I knew that I was going to have a really good finish. When I was around mile 2.5, I turned around and did not see anyone who was very close to me. I thought that I was going to be able to finish the race without anyone in my age group passing me.

At mile 3, I turned the corner to the finish line. I only had 0.1 miles left and I could see the clock at the finish line. I knew that I was going to get a personal record for my best 5K time. I was running as fast as my legs would let me when 2 girls blew past me right before the finish. One of those girls was in my age group. She beat me by 5 seconds and took 1st place in our age group. I was a little upset at first that I was so close and I had missed 1st place by 5 seconds. However, I would say that coming in 2nd place in your age group and getting a 5K PR is still a pretty big deal.

November was a really good running month for me and I had a lot of great races and runs. I am glad that I am finally back into running and even faster than I was before. I am going to continue running through the winter, but I always cut back my mileage during the winter months. I like to give the body a break from running and I plan to do other forms of cardio this winter. Amy and I actually joined a gym so that we could take classes and do things other than running. It was funny that we both ended up running on the treadmill the night that we signed up for the gym. I have been doing other things at the gym besides running since then. I do not have any upcoming races, but the month of November was definitely a great finish to the 2014 running season.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Things That I Am Thankful For

So my last few blog posts have not exactly been the happiest blog posts. Recovering from surgery and returning to running certainly has been a roller coaster ride. Some days it is frustrating to not be able to run like I used to, but I am finally starting to enjoy running again. I might not be getting my distance back quite yet, but I have certainly improved my speed quite a bit. I actually think that I can run faster now than before I had surgery. I used to run a 9:30 - 10:00 min/mi pace for most of my runs and lately I have been able to keep my pace below a 9:00 min/mi pace. I was even able to maintain a really good pace at the Returning Warrior 5 miler race this weekend.

Jay, Amy and I all signed up for this race together, but they ran the 10 mile race. I definitely was not ready for 10 miles and I am glad that I stuck to the 5 mile race. I definitely could not have run 10 miles on Sunday, but I felt pretty good running 5 miles. When I started the race, I went out at a pretty comfortable pace. Shortly into the race, I saw Jackie and we ran together for about a mile. It was nice to have someone to talk to and run with for a little bit. I was hoping to run the race in 45 minutes, but figured that I would probably finish between 47 and 50 minutes. I went out a little more quickly than I should have so I had to slow down a little bit. I did not think that I was going to meet my race goal because I felt like I had slowed down quite a bit. However, I have improved my speed so much over the last few weeks that I really wasn't running as slow as I had thought.

I ended up crossing the finish line at 44:00, which was a minute faster than I was expecting. This race was exactly what I needed to turn my running attitude around and to really start to enjoy running again. My pace for the race was 8:48 min/mi and I cannot ever remember running that fast before I had surgery. I ended up finishing the race in 69th place out of 231 runners. I was the 22nd female to finish and I was 10th in my age group. I was very happy with how well I did in this race and I am extremely happy that running is beginning to get easier again. I am just going to focus on shorter distances for awhile and not worry about increasing my distance. Sometimes I forget that it has only been 5 & 1/2 months since I had surgery and I am definitely doing very well for someone who is making her comeback.

As I have been making my running comeback, I have been thinking a lot about how thankful I am to be running again. I am extremely thankful to be so healthy after struggling with stomach issues for 11 years. It was around this time a year ago when my stomach issues began to worsen and running no longer felt good. I love that I am able to run again and I love that I feel pretty good when I am running.

Lately, I have been thinking about how much my life has changed for the better over the past year and a half and I have Jason to thank for that. It is hard to believe that a couple of years ago I was not sure if I even wanted to stay here. Now we are engaged, we own a house and we are planning our wedding. Jason is the perfect guy for me and I would definitely say that he is my better half. I think that Jason has made me a better person and I am so lucky that I get to marry such an amazing man in just a few more months.

I am extremely thankful for all that Jason and our families did for me after I had surgery, but there is one person in particular that I owe a special thank you to. I might not tell her enough how much I appreciate her, but I am extremely grateful for everything that my mom did for us. My mom stayed here for a week and a half when I had surgery and her and Jason spent every day in the hospital with me. My mom did a lot of stuff for us right after I had surgery like cooking, cleaning and laundry. When we moved a month and a half after that, I still had some restrictions so my mom came down to help us again. My mom spent another week and a half down here helping us clean our house, my apartment and move. She definitely went above and beyond and I am so grateful that my mom still does so much for me.

Even though we do not live near each other anymore, I am extremely grateful that I am so close with my family. I am thankful that I still get to see my parents often and that my mom and I talk almost every day still. I wish that I was able to see my brothers and sister-in-laws more often, but I am glad that we still talk often. My family is one of the reasons that I am looking forward to our wedding so much. I cannot wait to have my dad walk me down the aisle and try to keep up with him on the dance floor. We are rarely ever all home at the same time anymore so it will be extremely nice to all be together that weekend.
I am also very thankful for Jason's family. I love that I have gotten to know Jay's family so much better over the past few months and that we get to spend a lot of time together. I am extremely thankful that Amy was persistent in playing matchmaker for Jason and I. I am really happy that Amy and I have become such good friends and that I am close with her family too. I absolutely love her children Andrew and Maddy and I love spending time with them. I also love seeing how great Uncle Jay is with the kids and I know that he will make a great dad in a few years when we are ready to have kids. In conclusion, my life is pretty wonderful right now and I have a lot more to be thankful for than just running.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Halloween 13K Recap

Lately I have been running because I feel like I should and not because I really want to. I feel fine physically so that is not why I really do not want to. One year ago, I was having health issues and I still found running more enjoyable than I do now. I think the hardest part is that I cannot run like I used to and I've even said to a couple of people that my prime running days are over. I am only 26 and my prime running days really are over. I have run 51 road races in the past 6 years, including 6 half marathons and one full marathon. The road race total will definitely continue to increase, but the marathon total definitely won't and it's pretty likely that the half marathon total will not increase either. When I was training for the half marathons and for my marathon, I had a big goal that I was working towards and I do not have that anymore. I'm not used to running just to run. I am used to having a running goal and working towards that goal. I do not have a training plan that I am sticking to anymore and sometimes it is harder to force myself to go out and run when I do not have a set plan. I have a couple more races coming up so hopefully that will make running a little more enjoyable again.

This past weekend, Jay, Amy and I all ran the Halloween 13K. Jay and Amy both had really good race times and they each came in 2nd place in their respective age groups. I finished the race in 53rd place with a time of  1:15:30, which is a pace of 9:21 min/mi. I felt really good for most of the race. The first half of the race was pretty easy for me, but the back half was a little bit tougher. We were running against the wind for the second half and then there was a killer hill between miles 6 and 7. I got a cramp after the hill, but luckily it was not on my surgery side so I was glad about that. Jay waited for me and ran a little bit of the end with me and I even finished the race 8 minutes faster than I did last year. Even though I ran faster than last year, I did not have a fast race time or win a medal or really accomplish anything. I don't feel entirely proud of my race this weekend because I was the only one who did not really accomplish anything. I don't know if I will ever get to the point where I am fast enough to place in an age group. I have improved my pace quite a bit over the past month, but I am still just a mediocre runner.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Struggles of Returning to Running

Think about something that you love to do. Think about a problem that can get in the way of you being able to do the thing that you love. Think about being told that you can no longer do the thing that you love to do. Think about getting the problem fixed. Think about being told that you can now do the thing that you love again. Think about being told that even though you can do this thing again that it probably won't ever be the same. Think about doing the thing that you love again and it being completely different than it was before. Think about the thing that you love to do being more difficult and having more restrictions. This is exactly what has gone on with my running journey over the last year.

I stopped running back in March and did not start running again until sometime in August. During the month of August, I would run a couple of times a week and I would only run about a mile or two. When September hit and we went back to school, I was running, hiking, walking or biking pretty much every day. I began running like I had in the past. I was running 3 times a week and some weeks I even got 4 runs in. I began to increase both my distance and my speed while I was running, but things were different this time.

Before I knew it, I could run 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and even 8 miles again! For someone who had surgery just a few months ago, I could not believe what my body was able to do again. It was almost like I had never stopped running. But I had stopped running for quite awhile and now my body is no longer the same. Ever since I did return to running, my running has been very inconsistent. Some days I can run at a really great pace or a really far distance and it feels great. Other days, running can be a struggle. I am not as fast as I once was and I cannot run as far or as much as I used to be able to.

Since I began running so much again, I decided to sign up for a few races that Jay and Amy had signed up for. The first race is a Halloween 13K this Saturday. If Jay and Amy had not signed up, I most certainly would not have signed up myself. However, Jay and I do have a great couple's costume picked out for this race and the 3 of us were excited to be able to run this race together. Truthfully, I am not sure that I am ready for this race. I was not sure that I would be ready for this race when I signed up, but I felt like if I kept increasing my distance it would be no problem.

Did I get back into running too quickly? Did I do too much too fast? Am I pushing my body too far too quickly so soon after surgery? Have I been overdoing it? The answer to all of these questions is probably yes. I hate accepting the fact that there are some things that I cannot do like I did before and one of those things is running. I know that I am probably running too much and I fully intend to cut back on the running now. I spent too many years being sick so often to let running ruin what the surgery has fixed.

The surgeon told me that I would be able to return to running again, but to listen to my body and know that running probably won't be the same for me anymore. I know that I won't be able to run 20-30 miles a week again. I know that sometimes running 3 times a week will be too much. I know that sometimes I won't be able to go as far or as fast as I would like. I know that I do not need to sign up for races just because Jay and Amy are. I know that I need to find other things to do besides running. The only hard part is that I cannot lift weights or do core exercises so I am pretty much limited to cardio anyways. I do plan to continue running, but I am going to cut back and be more conservative in how far or how fast I run.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

4 Months Post-Surgery & My Return to Running

It's been 4 months since I had surgery for a hiatal hernia and I am now the healthiest that I have been in 11 years. I no longer suffer from acid reflux. I no longer have to take several medications a day. I no longer have stomach pain or trouble sleeping at night. I have the nissen fundoplication to thank for the extremely significant improvement in my health. For those not familiar with the nissen fundoplication surgery, my stomach was wrapped around my esophagus and my hiatal hernia was also fixed. When my stomach contracts, the wrap closes off the opening between my esophagus and my stomach so that the reflux no longer comes up. I also no longer have the ability to burp or throw up, which is both a good and bad thing. Some people are able to burp or throw up again after they have the surgery, but so far I have not been able to and that was definitely a challenge during the beginning of my recovery.

Even though I am healthy now, I still have some restrictions and I have had to make some lifestyle changes. I have to eat smaller meals now and I am not supposed to eat my food too quickly. Sometimes food gets "stuck" in my esophagus when I am eating, but it goes down eventually. I have 5 different incisions from my surgery and sometimes I get some occasional pain in any one of the incision sites when I overdo it. I don't really think much of these minor changes because having this surgery was the best decision that I have ever made.

The only part of my life that this surgery has majorly impacted has been my physical activity. There are some things that I will never be able to do again and there are some things that I have had to cut back on. Since I had a hernia fixed, I can no longer do upper body workouts or lift too much. Even though I am pretty much recovered, it was recommended that I avoid core exercises for a year to really give my body time to heal. I have to be careful with activities that include jumping or physically exerting too much. Despite all of my limitations, my body finally feels like it is back to normal, or at least my "new normal." I am able to walk, run and bike, which were the 3 activities that I did the most before surgery.

In the weeks following my surgery, I started using MyFitnessPal as a way to track my calories because I was not getting enough calories right after surgery. Since I was on a restricted diet, I was not eating as much and I did not have a lot of energy. The restricted diet also caused me to lose 18 pounds after my surgery. I was not fat before I had surgery, but I definitely had a few extra pounds. I am finally back down to the weight that I was in high school so I have continued to use MyFitnessPal to maintain my weight.

After I had surgery, it was a struggle to even walk a 1/4 mile. As I recovered all summer, I went walking everyday. I slowly built up my distance over the summer as my body continued to heal. Jay and I joined the FitBit craze and it was great motivator to keep walking. Despite all of the walking that I was doing, I thought that I would never be able to run again. At my 2 month follow-up with the surgeon, he lifted all of my restrictions and gave me the all-clear to start running again. I did not begin running right away, but I did continue to walk and I started biking again.

It took me almost 3 months after my surgery to finally feel ready to run again. If I had not kept walking everyday, then it would have been an even bigger challenge to get back into running. All of that walking made it a lot easier to get back into running than I had expected. I started out very slowly and did very short distances a couple times a week. I have continued to slowly build up my distance and my speed over the past month, but I still have an extremely long way to go. I still have a pretty slow pace and my longest run has been 4 miles. I usually go out for a 1 or 2 mile run, but I have had a couple of 3 mile runs. This is definitely a huge decrease in the amount of running that I was doing even a year ago.

It feels to good to be running again, but running will never be the same as it was before because my body is not the same. I will never be quite as fast as I used to be and I will never be able to go quite as far as I used to. I will certainly never run another marathon and I might not ever run another half marathon. I am not going to rule out another half marathon, but I know that if I ever run another one it will be a long time before I ever get there. I don't know if my "new normal" will ever allow me to go that far, but time will tell what my body will allow. I never even expected to be running 4 months post-surgery so that alone is a huge accomplishment.

It is hard sometimes to know that I cannot run like I used to. Sometimes I get a little jealous when Jay or my friends are running long distances and are running much faster than I am. However, they constantly remind me of the huge accomplishments that I have had in my running career. I have run over 50 road races including several half marathons and a full marathon. I am proud of all of the running accomplishments that I had before surgery, but sometimes I do miss running like it was before. I miss running several times a week and running far distances, but maybe one day I will be there again. For now, I am just happy that I am able to run now.

My running plan for now is to not have a running plan. I am enjoying being able to run whenever I want and how far I want without any pressure of any big upcoming races. I would like to do a couple shorter races in the near future, but I would definitely not be trying to go for a personal record. It is nice to be able to just run for fun again and not worry about sticking to a training schedule. I am going to continue working on building my speed and distance back up and just run what feels good. For the first time in a long time, I finally feel like a runner again and I am extremely happy to have that part of my life back.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Life without Running

I created my running blog a year and a half ago when I began training for the 2013 Buffalo Marathon.  I was able to share my journey from the beginning of my marathon training until I crossed the finish line at the end of that glorious 26.2 miles. Since I am a math teacher, I naturally included running statistics at the end of every post during my marathon training. Over my 30 weeks of training, I ran a total of 527.1 miles over the course of 85 hours, 9 minutes and 44 seconds.  When you do the math, it equates to a total of 3 days, 13 hours, 9 minutes and 44 seconds of running. On top of the 85 hours of training, it took me 5 hours, 5 minutes and 30 seconds to cross the finish line of the 2013 Buffalo Marathon. After devoting 90 hours of running over the course of 30 weeks, I was extremely proud of myself for accomplishing something that only about 1% of the world’s population will ever accomplish.

I decided to continue blogging occasionally after the Buffalo Marathon because that certainly was not the end of my running journey.  I met Jason shortly after I ran the Buffalo Marathon and he quickly became a part of my running journey too. He was just beginning to get into running when we met and we quickly began to compete with one another in the distance aspect. If one of us went out and ran 5 miles, the other one would go out and run 6 miles. If one of us went out and ran 8 miles, the other one would go out and run 9 miles. We were both in pretty good shape by the end of the summer and coaching cross country helped me to begin to really improve my speed while running. By the early fall, Jason and I were both in the best shape that we had ever been in and we began running road races together. By running road races together, I mean that we would enter the same races and Jason would always finish well ahead of me. I loved that he was always waiting for me at the finish line and that running had become an integral part of our relationship.

The last time that I wrote a blog post was about 8 months ago, which was the last time that Jason and I had entered a road race together. I have run 2 more road races since my last blog post so I have now completed 50 road races since I began running 6 years ago. Those 50 road races include several 5K’s and 10K’s, 6 half marathons and 1 marathon. I had been hoping to increase the 50 road race total, but my body had different plans for me. It has been 8 months since I last posted because I have not run much since then and it has been 4 months since the last time that I actually went out for a run. After the Buffalo Marathon, some stomach issues began to worsen and I slowly began to run less and less. I had dealt with acid reflux for 10 years, but I had still been able to continue running. A hiatal hernia developed over the last couple of years and the acid reflux started becoming a problem when I was running. I decided that it was time to stop running until I was able to get my stomach issues under control.

Since I finally had surgery 2 months ago, running has been and will continue to be out of the question for a while. I know that running has caused a lot of wear and tear on my body and it certainly attributed to my health issues. I know that if I ever get back into running eventually, it will not and cannot be the same as it was before. Truthfully, I am not even sure that I will ever really get back into running or if I even want to. In fact, I do not even really consider myself a runner anymore. I am not even proud of my running accomplishments anymore since I am no longer running. When I began cutting back on the running a few months ago, I took my 13.1 and 26.2 magnets off of the back of my car. I worked really hard to accomplish running several half marathons and a full marathon so I proudly displayed those magnets for months. After spending 6 years running 3-4 times a week and entering many road races, I felt like I no longer deserved to display my accomplishments because I am no longer a runner.  As a former runner, I had always considered running to be a huge part of my life and that is no longer the case. Some days I would really love to just lace up my running sneakers and hit the pavement again. Some days I am jealous of all of my friends who get to go out run and I am sad that I am not out running too. Some days I really do not miss running at all, but most days I do. I am not sure when or if I will ever begin running again so in the meantime I will have to find something else to fill the running void in my life.