Race Report: 2012 Jingle Bell Run 5K

Wait, you’re saying to yourself. Didn’t she say that her chiropractor made her swear off running?

Technically, yes.

But the 2010 Jingle Bell Run was my first-ever 5K, and the 2011 Jingle Bell Run was my triumphant return to running after having a baby, so the 2012 Jingle Bell Run felt like a necessity. It’s my runniversary.

Because I’d been so carefully following my chiropractor’s advice, and hadn’t actually been out running since July, I’d gone out running with Sheryl once a week for the past month, just to make sure I still had it. The race would be the proof of my functional fitness — do I really have a 5K in my pocket when I want it?

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Throwing A Wrench In The Works

Last month, at my regular visit, my chiropractor wrote me an order to go get a back x-ray. Since I’d started my regular adjustments when I was pregnant, she hadn’t been able to get an x-ray of my back — and since it was still bothering me so long after the pregnancy, she wanted to see what was going on with my spine.

X-ray imageSo, I got x-rayed at a local medical center, and brought copies of the films to her a week later. Turns out, I’m a nearly-unique snowflake.

“When God made you,” Dr. Smith began (and I had to consciously keep from rolling my eyes), “He decided, ‘Let’s give her an extra lumbar vertebra!’” Yep, turns out I am one of the few percent of the population that has an L6 vertebra. Not only that, but this extra vertebra is slightly offset, which is what’s been causing my constant low-level lower back pain.

Her plan for me, she said, was to continue my monthly adjustments and to monitor my discomfort. If the pain were to become worse, she said, we could look at CT scans and steroid injections — but she’d rather avoid that sort of thing unless it’s necessary.

I thought this might be a good time to bring up my recent running regimen. Good thing I did: her immediate response was, “That’s the worst thing you can do.” I tried to feel her out — is this a permanent thing? — by telling her how much I’d grown to love running.

“Well, you’re going to un-love it,” was her reply.

Shit.

I’d been running regularly with my bestie Sheryl for months! Through the winter and the spring, and into the sweltering summer. And now I had to quit cold-turkey?

Yep.

Sheryl and I were both sad, but we adjusted. We started attending the yoga class at work on Tuesdays (before which I weigh in at Weight Watchers, but I skip the meeting), and doing weight training on Thursdays. I walk alone on Mondays and Fridays, and she runs alone on Mondays and Wednesdays.

Surprisingly enough, it’s not the end of the world.

I’ve discovered that yoga is not only good for my super-tight hamstrings, but can also be a great body-weight strength-training workout, if done correctly. My core and triceps love me for a couple days after a good yoga session. Plus, I’d forgotten how much I enjoy lifting weights! It’s a super-short-term goal — I can do three more reps! — and it makes me feel good physically and mentally.

Since I don’t have as many Activity Points to eat through on a weekly basis, this shift in exercise level has made me refocus on eating according to Plan. I’ve been trying to forgo eating my Weekly Allowance Points, with positive results on the scale. I’ve also been noticing that my clothes fit better, and more so than just a five-pound weight loss could account for.

So, I guess that this horrible turn of events turned out to be a “blessing in disguise,” as usual. I’ve refocused on my diet, begun effectively cross-training, and have seen results. Maybe running wasn’t what I needed to reach my overall fitness and weight goals, after all. At least, maybe it wasn’t all I needed.

I visited my chiropractor again this past Friday, and straight-up asked her if I could start running again after I lose 20 or 25 pounds. Her answer was no. Running — and any other high-impact exercise — is permanently out of the question.

I suppose that I could see a specialist in sports medicine if I decided to get a second opinion… but I’m learning to live with a lack of running in my life. (Although I do miss having alone time with Sheryl.) I can set other goals for myself. I don’t have to be one of the 5% of the population who has finished a marathon.

I’m content with being the best version of myself that I can be.

Race Report: 2012 Get Luckey 5K

My blogging lately has been confined to monthly notes to/about Connor (and imported tweets from my Twitter feed). That means that I’ve completely missed out on writing about one of my few non-Connor activities: running.

To summarize: since I came back from maternity leave in late November, I’ve been running with my good friend Sheryl twice a week during our lunch breaks. We made it through all nine weeks of the Couch-to-5K program, run/walking the 2011 Jingle Bell Run (with Sheryl’s friend Don, who wrote the race report I failed to write) in 40:21 after only a few weeks on the program. The Get Luckey 5K on February 11 was our official post-C25K Let’s-Run-The-Whole-Thing race.

And we did.

ready to start!

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Proud Member of the Slow Runners Club

On Friday the 7th, I was honored to be a guest on the Slow Runners Club podcast with Zen Runner (aka Adam Tinkoff) and Eddie Marathon. We talked about my first 5K last month, and what the experience was like, among other related and unrelated tangents. I haven’t listened to the final edit yet, but hopefully Adam was able to make me sound a little less rambly and more like the seasoned podcaster he made me out to be!

Seriously, though — as I mentioned with Adam and Ed, I read a comment from someone on my Twitter feed that identifying as a runner is like identifying as a writer; if you don’t do it for a while, you tend to lose the identity. That was how I felt this past week; I ran on New Year’s Day, then didn’t run again until this evening. Talking with the guys on Friday really helped me to reinvigorate my identity as a runner.

(It still feels weird to even think that. I’m a runner? Me?)

Anyway, here’s Slow Runners Club Episode 5 for 7 January 2011. Enjoy!

[Download mp3]

Race Report: 2010 Toledo Jingle Bell Run 5K

I was sitting in the parking lot of the movie theater, eating a banana behind the steering wheel of my car, watching runners and walkers of all ages trickle into the building.

“I’m sitting in the parking lot before my first 5K, eating my breakfast banana and watching the other runners arrive,” I tweeted. “Exciting, surreal.” And it really was.

I walked into the building, car key clicker looped onto my shoelaces, bib and timing tag in hand, looking for the flock of bright green shirts that would be my teammates (even though I only really knew one person on the Heartland team). Turns out they were right by the door, so I didn’t have to look far.

The Heartland team in their lime-neon green team shirts

I also found that the one person I knew was in charge of doling out the remaining green tech shirts, so she wasn’t going anywhere. We chatted while I got my timing tag on my shoe and my bib on my hoodie. While we chatted, I looked around at the other runners and realized that I really should have layered one of my thrift-store tech shirts under the new green one I got for my fundraising efforts. They say not to change anything up for the race, though, and wearing the hoodie and scarf over the tech shirt was how I’d been doing things, so it’s just as well.

As we chatted to pass the time, she asked me what my pace was. I hadn’t run the race last year, after all, so she was understandably curious. I only lied a little when I said I had an 11-minute mile (it’s actually about 12:15, but has been as low as 9:15 for shorter distances). She offered that, if I could run the whole 3.1 miles instead of run-walking, we could run together! I was doubtful, but was feeling the pre-race hype, so I agreed to try to pace her.

She also decided she wanted to be ON the starting line, instead of farther back in the pack. I had no place whatsoever being on the starting line — I might have actually enjoyed the experience more had I been ensconced in a swarm of fellow runners — but there we were.

And the gun went off, and there we went.

(Photo by Ferguson Photography)

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Running

If I searched back through my blog archives, I could probably find an instance or three of me admitting that I knew running would be good for me, if I would just do it. I know I’d find multiple instances of me doing it wrong and kicking my own ass too hard the first time out. I’d find documentation of several false starts, self-proclaimed failures, and lots of excuses.

I’m running my first 5K this coming Saturday.*

Technically, I’ll be run/walking my first 5K, since I can’t run 3.1 continuous miles quite yet. I’m trying really hard not to be embarrassed about this fact, and to just get out and do what I can. I’ll have plenty of opportunity to improve later.

So, how the hell did I even get interested in running? As with many things, the influences came from many directions, and I’m not sure which of the many planted seeds was the one that finally took.

I can tell you that the first time I seriously considered running was after one of my co-workers started running for weight loss back in Spring of 2008. He was using Roy Palmer’s method, and he shared the program with me. I wasn’t quite ripe for running yet, though, even though I knew I should do it.

Some time later, or maybe it was around the same time, I heard about the Couch-to-5K program — I think Mur Lafferty was the first to get C25K on my radar, although I continued to hear about it from other sources, too. Finally, after letting the idea circulate under the surface for a while, I got out and started C25K in March of this year.

Week 1 went great! I did Week 2 twice, since I’d missed a day and didn’t feel comfortable incrementing my run time yet. Week 3 didn’t go so well, and I stopped running for a month or two, then restarted the program in late June. Eventually, I gave up on incrementing my running time and just picked an interval that felt good and went with it.

I’d been toying with the idea of signing up for a 5K when sign-up time came for Race For The Cure. It was to be held in downtown Toledo, and I had a month or so before the race. I’d only been running once every couple of weeks, although I’d been walking two to three miles almost daily. Not surprisingly, when I decided to see how far I could run without stopping, I only made it one mile before I pretty much imploded. I haven’t tried to do that since.

Even though I could easily have run the race with walk breaks, I came up with a boatload of excuses as to why I couldn’t or shouldn’t sign up, and I didn’t. So, when the corporate e-mail came through about the Jingle Bell Run, I felt almost obligated to sign up. In fact, I barely gave it any thought; I signed up the day the e-mail showed up in my inbox.

My training has been sporadic overall: one week, I’ll run/walk 2.5 miles three days out of the week, and the next week I’ll only run 1.5 miles for a day or two. Since I signed up for the Jingle Bell Run, though, my training has been a little more consistent (except for that week when I was sick). Having basically a public performance to prepare for is a big motivator — even more so than the technical shirt I was going to promise myself as a carrot-on-a-stick reward for running three days a week.

I’m curious about how this 5K is going to pan out. Will I love it and want to train to do even better next time (and seek out more wintertime races), will I decide to hang up my running shoes for the winter, or will I go into an all-out fitness backslide?

Even though I can’t run more than a mile yet, I think I’m a runner in my head, finally. A slow runner, but a runner nonetheless.

I’m a runner, and runners run.

* The Jingle Bell Run benefits the Arthritis Foundation. I would humbly encourage you to make a tax-deductible donation, if you haven’t already. Arthritis affects someone you know.

What’s New With Me

I rarely do these catch-all blog posts anymore, but since I’ve committed to blogging every weekday for a while, I figure I can let one of these slip in.

Last night I bid on (and won) a Yashica FX-3 35mm film camera on eBay. I bought it specifically so I could have a battery compartment cover that will also fit the Yashica FX-D Quartz I already own — I think that’s all that’s wrong with it. This particular model of camera won’t work with a dead battery, and the battery cover is completely stripped out, so it’s nigh on impossible to remove the cover once it’s screwed in. So, if a fresh battery fixes it, then I have two cameras to play with, and I just have to swap the battery cover between them. (Also? Once I get the FX-D working, I’m planning to re-leather it for cheap.)

Today I finished running a test roll through the Spartus Full-Vue. Brought it to work, in fact, and got several comments about the fancy/old camera sitting on my desk. The test roll will include photos from my house, the Hindu Festival, and downtown Toledo. I really hope I kept the camera on “instant” exposure instead of “time” exposure — when I went to remove the film this evening, it was on “time”, which could mean that the last part of the roll will be especially blurry and overexposed. Crossing my fingers that I didn’t accidentally fuck up my test roll…

I mentioned the Hindu Festival — Aaron and I went to see my supervisor perform a Bollywood-style dance with a group. Well, to be fair, that wasn’t the only reason we went — we wanted to try the food and see the sellers’ stalls, too — but it was the main one, and the reason I knew the festival even existed. My supervisor, it turns out, once did classical dance (she’s built for it like I never was — my height, but long-limbed), and she was a joy to watch.

And now for something completely different: I went on my first walk/jog in a VERY long time yesterday morning, and I’m feeling it today. I only ran for a total of maybe three or four minutes out of the 20 I was outside, but I’m OK with taking baby steps. My plan is to walk/jog — or do “interval training,” as it were — on Sunday mornings and Tuesday and Thursday evenings. How I do it: I have an exercise playlist set up on my iPod, where the songs are mostly four minutes long, and between 100 and 150 beats per minute. I run through the first verse and chorus, then see how I feel — run through another verse, or switch back to a walk? I should probably stick to more brief jogging stretches for now, and not try to push myself too hard in the middle of my jog like I did on Sunday (damn you, Kool and the Gang). I also should add more songs in the neighborhood of 150 bpm, as I think that’s about the pace I jog (gauged from running around the basement for less than a minute just now).

Well, It may not be terribly coherent, but that’s the latest in a nutshell. Looking forward to the International Festival this coming Saturday, going to King’s Island with Amy and Aaron in a few weeks, and going to Chicago over Labor Day Weekend. Which reminds me: I need to go research the conveyor belt sushi joints in Chicago…

Interval Training?

I’m feeling pretty good right about now.

Eariler today, I told Sheryl over e-mail: “Now, yesterday I did my Push workout again, for the first time in a couple of weeks. And y’know what I’m going to do tonight when I get home? I’m going to change clothes, feed the cat, and drive to Wildwood armed with some water and my iPod. Then I’m going to walk-jog the shortest trail. Cardio is my biggest obstacle, and I’m going to just DO IT already. Maybe I’ll find jogging fun. (Never did before, but there’s a first time for everything.)”

And that’s exactly what I did. Saw Aaron off to work, changed clothes, fed the cat, set some brown rice to cooking and some chicken to thawing, gathered up my wallet and keys and iPod and a camera with five exposures left and $1 in change (for water), and drove off to Wildwood Metropark.

I found an excellent parking spot, close to the trailhead; however, I failed to note what time it was when I arrived. D’oh! Anyway, I loaded up with my wallet, keys (obviously, since I couldn’t leave them in the car, could I?) and iPod, and went to decide on a trail.

Wildwood has about six trails, ranging in distance from 0.6 miles to 3.1, I think. I decided to take the yellow Meadow Trail, which was 1.2 miles. I thought that was fair to start a walk-jog routine. And away I went.

I’d decided that, instead of looking at my watch constantly, I would start jogging when whatever song that was playing got to the first chorus. I’d jog/run/whatever for one minute, then walk until the first chorus of the next song. That seemed like a good compromise.

Until I got to a.) The Pixies, who have two-minute songs, and b.) another band with a six-minute instrumental. That threw off my jogging cycle mojo hardcore.

About that time, I took a wrong turn down what wasn’t the yellow trail, so I ended up on a paved path. S’ok — I still knew where I was going, but I didn’t know exactly what distance I’d be travelling anymore. Since my mojo was thrown off and my distance gauge was no longer valid (since I forgot to bring my pedometer), I just jogged when I felt like it. ‘Let’s jog the length of this fence’ or ‘Let’s jog to the tree’ or something like that.

“That’s nice and all,” you’re saying, “but how did it GO?”

Surprisingly well, actually.

My first jogging stint was right out of the gate. Walked down from the trailhead, got on the yellow trail, started jogging. I really enjoyed it, and didn’t want to stop after my minute was over — but I did, anyway. Then I realized that I was winded. Bad. I hadn’t noticed while I was jogging, and I wonder how long I could have jogged before my body spoke up.

My next stretch was a little harder, and slightly embarrassing. A guy probably five years younger than me was on the trail in front of me when it came time for me to break into a jog again, so I psyched myself up to pass him. My keys were jangling in my back pocket, but there was nothing to be done about that. I was sure I looked like a total dork with my keys on one ass-cheek and my wallet on the other. Oh. well.

Approached, no problem. Passed on the left, no problem.

Pants started to fall down. Problem.

I didn’t even consider stopping to pull them up and cinch in the drawstring. Nope. Not an option; this is my jog-time. Instead, I yanked up my workout pants as I ran, trying to run faster to get around the bend and out of sight. They just fell right back down. I was sure this guy could see my underwear at this point, and I tried to be funny by making a frustrated gesture to the world in general as I hiked them up again and successfully disappeared around the corner. Once my minute was up, I had run waaaay too fast and winded myself even worse than before. But I did pull up my drawers and tie the drawstring tight. Guess that’s why it’s there — to keep your pants up while you’re running with keys and wallet and iPod on your person.

All in all, I think I had about four or five jogging stints and spent somewhere just over 30 minutes with my walk-jog. Next time, I’ll be more careful with checking the time and staying on the right trail. And bringing my pedometer.

After the walk-jog, I went back to the car, fetched my change and my camera, bought a water from the vending machine, used up the last few exposures on the camera I was testing, then got back in the car and headed home.

When I got home, the rice was done, which tells me I was gone at least an hour. That’s good. Finished making dinner (Szechuan chicken) and divided it into thirds: one for dinner, one for tomorrow’s lunch, and one for Aaron when he gets home tonight. Yummy.

So, how do I feel? Well, my quads were already sore from yesterday’s workout, and they’re even more sore now. My ass is sore. Actually, come to think of it, just about everywhere is sore, between yesterday’s PUSH workout and today’s interval training (if you want to call it that).

But I feel GOOD.

I’ve still got the memory of that I’ve-been-breathing-hard feeling in the back of my throat and my upper lungs, and I feel like my heart rate is still a little elevated (not much, but enough that I notice).

If I can do this every Tuesday and Thursday, and do it with Aaron on Saturday or Sunday, and keep up with my M-W-F PUSH workouts, I think I’ll see results. At the very least, I’ll feel better, which is part of what this thing’s all about.

P.S. – Thank you to everyone who commented on my last post or sent me e-mail. I really appreciate having friends and acquaintances who step up to help and know how to motivate me. You guys are teh awesome! ^_^