Friday, April 29, 2011


Yesterday, I woke up fatigued. It felt like I drank a bottle of cheap red wine for dinner and promptly went to bed.  I quickly realized that I was fighting a different dehydration.  With the increased heat we are experiencing in Los Angeles and the added extra exercise, I did not nourish my body properly with water.

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The “extra” exercise is a major milestone in my recovery and training. This realization added major excitement and joy. This marks the first week where I was able to run three days in a row consistently after work.  On the eve of my long run, my workweek mileage stands at 8 miles.  After my long tomorrow, I should be closer to 15 or 16. Getting back to 20 a week where 10 miles at a crack feels just fun, is where I can’t wait to get back to, but for now, I have to look at each mile.

The most difficult part of training still remains me, as I’m sure it is with all runners.  It is difficult not to look at my Garmin and say, “I should be running faster,” or “I used to be able to be at this spot by x time.” The park I’m running at was the base for my first training, and thanks to an Eagle Scout project, the distances are already calculated… outer loop 1.3 miles and the inner loop is .5 miles… Running here, I know I can run a 5k by doing a combination of outside and inside and get my suggested daily mileage. In my early training, I did this without a Garmin and just focused on mental math. It’s difficult to go slow and I feel like I should be doing better. These three miles are two, three minutes slower than my “normal” three miles. And even though I want to berate myself and say I should be better, better than what is the question.  Sure, if I didn’t take the winter off or have life-changing surgery, I could be running at a faster pace. Giving myself the grace to run slow has been one of the biggest challenges. I keep telling myself that it’s not about the pace, it’s about the distance, and speed will come. Naturally, these are words that have been spoken to me since I took up long distance running three years ago.

The milestone has a larger mean than just being a convenient part of our vernacular- They’re constructed to provide reference points along the road. They reassure travelers that the proper path is being followed, and to indicate either distance travelled or the remaining distance to a destination. Each consecutive day I’m able to run, I look at as a milestone, and each of those days contains a milestone in its own right with each time my Garmin rolls to an additional mile.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Four Months Post-Op

This is NOT one day post-op.
That photo is not fit to print.
If you told me four months ago that I was going to run 10 miles, I would’ve laughed and called you overly-optimistic. I was one day post-op, lying in the ICU, drugged to my eyeballs and having fond memories of things that never happened and seeing friends that weren’t even visiting.

The drugs were there to help me not be completely aware of the massive pain my body was in. Their intent also was to keep me mostly motionless because of the ventriculostomy that was placed during the surgery. An over-arching concern was that I was going to over-drain the excess cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) that was in my head. Four months ago, I wouldn’t have believed and thought that you may be on the same heavy-duty steroids that I was on.

I’ve never been so glad I fell in love with long-distance running. I was told that my stamina made me an ideal patient and that it would help with recovery. Today was not a marathon 8+ hour work day, but I had to buckle down and do my long run.

My intent was to stay close to home since the majority of my running group was going to be in Boston for the marathon & my normal running buddy was out of town volunteering. The forecast of upper 90s persuaded me to drive to the beach. The weather at the beach was still 77*, but far more arable than what I would’ve found in The Valley. After putting a second coat of body glide on, one of my other running friends showed up. This was his first run back since facing and conquering the torrential rain at the LA Marathon.  He had been persuaded to get back out there and keep training.

We shared our distances… I was going to run 7 and he was going for 10.  The plan was to run a bit together before we settled into our own paces and training regimen. After the first mile and a half, and our first water break (and loading up our Nathan’s), he switched his pronouns on me, and all of a sudden WE were going to run 10 miles!

Along the way, we shared our Bible power verses to get us through tough runs…. He: Philippians 4:13 and me Isaiah 40:30-31. He stayed with me the whole way cheering me on to our turn around and then all the way back to our cars.  Being very conscious of the heat, we hydrated every mile and made sure we had plenty of water with us. After my last long run, I also realized that I MUST fuel during the run even if I think I won’t/don’t need it.  The Clif shot block every 45 minutes was key for my last training and proves to still be a necessity. The last mile was not fun. I was tired. BUT, this last mile felt different than the last mile during last week's 7 mile run. My muscles were fatigued, but my body did not ache and was not cold (which are signs of lack of nutrients).
Ten miles was my favorite distance prior to surgery, and it still is— DOUBLE DIGITS wow. Today’s run, while it wasn’t fast, it was what I needed.  I'm so grateful to have friends who push me and stick with me for the long run and when they need a little pushing to do their best, I'm glad I can do the same for them. More than anything, after today, I have more motivation to stick with my training schedule— Today's run tweaked my mind and my body to the direction it needs to be in to be in Marathon Shape.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

An Unconventional Workout DVD...

A week without much running, and still I need another nap during my lunch break.  It’s getting a little warm in Los Angeles to be sleeping in my car, but with the windows rolled down, it’s rather cozy.

Still lacking in energy to run, but with the steady realization I need to increase by abdominal strength, after I got home from work, I popped in the Perfect Pregnancy Workout DVD.  It involved a lot more stretching than I expected. I know the stretching will keep me loose and is also an important part of log-term health. Many of the moves were similar to Mat Pilates classes I’ve taken.

There was one move where I was REALLY concentrating to keep my balance and my sweet little kitty made a noise that I had never heard. His pupils filled his eyes, and then he attacked me… (claws and teeth, the works). You may want to put your kitty, dog, etc away if you try this DVD. While the moves seem simple it’s a great workout. **Remember to concentrate on breathe and core.** As you get adept at a level, there’s a way to modify the workout to make more difficult.

I will keep this is my repertoire but despite fatigue, I cannot skimp on my runs. I know the runs will be tough because not only am I coming off an injury (aka brain surgery), I’m basically coming back from taking the winter off.  I need to keep reminding myself that it’s ok to be slow, just get the miles in... Speed will come. I spoke with my neurologist a couple days ago, and she said I need more sleep but can and should keep running.  So running and this DVD it is. So, I just need to stick to my plan and remember it may be awhile before I can run 20+ miles a week like I was doing one month before surgery. I need to keep plugging away  and just be healthy and sensible about my fitness goals.

Tomorrow is Friday and the night before my long run...  Pasta Dinner and Salad is on the menu.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Day Off With Core Training to Come

Who am I, Sleeping Beauty? My run last night felt great. (As great as a run can feel when you're fatigued from a day of work and long run over the weekend.) There’s nothing like sitting in the back of my car with the back hath open swapping my orthotics between the Brooks’ Addiction (the sneakers I wear for long runs) and my Brooks’ Arial for my shorter runs.  Simple things like this make me feel like an Elite Runner. The 2 mile slow slog did not, but this recovery run is key… not only to be used to running on tired muscles but to keep my weekly mileage up and to prevent injury. You can’t just do a long run on the weekend and call it good.

Despite a short run, early to bed and a solid 9 hours of sleep, I still found myself napping in my car at lunch.  At the request of my boss and co-workers, I called my neurologist. She said I need to sleep more and to take it easy.  From running my previous marathon, I know sleep is key, especially when you get into those longer runs. The combined major surgery and just effort of running is probably enough to make me require more sleep.

Tonight, no run. The good news is- I got my workout DVD in the mail!  I ordered THE PERFECT PREGNANCY WORKOUT. I am not pregnant, but after seeing the astounding results my pregnant sister had, I figured if it can do this for her, imagine what it can do for me!  While vanity may play a tiny part, the bigger goal is to have a strong core to make me a more efficient runner.  You cannot see the results of something without a before and after, so here is my modest Before.  A modest After will come later.  As you can see- I need more core strength.  I lost weight in the ICU, and then promptly gained it all back and then some eating the delectable treats that were brought to me to nurse me back to health. I got stronger, but didn't take into account that I couldn't exercise.

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Bump in Training

Last week was a particularly difficult week. During my lunch break, I would go out to my car to take a nap.(Somehow the 8-9, sometimes 10 hours a night I was sleeping wasn’t enough.) When I got home from work, I had all I could do to cook and eat dinner before I’d collapse in a lump on my couch. This is far from what is on my running schedule.

I knew coming back after surgery would be difficult, especially when my surgeon said, “you’ll either have the dexterity of a one-year-old or 3 weeks after surgery you can do 10% of what you used to do.” I figured while I’d probably make everyone around me miserable, I could get through “having the dexterity of a one-year-old.” The idea of being able to only do 10% of my normal activity was frustrating. Since I was doing 20 miles a week, the 10% resulted in two miles a week!

Once I was discharged from the hospital and feeling better after my surgery, I dug through my running archives and pulled out my first training schedule- the one that was taking me from non-runner to a marathoner. It was a 33-week program designed specifically for me by my running coach.  After my first meeting with my coach and running a couple miles with him, he combined his know-how with a modified Hal Higdon program to develop this schedule for me. The schedule got me through my first 3 5ks, 2 half marathons, and one marathon. I figured, I did it once, I can do it again; and my muscle memory will help get me there.

The marathon is by far too industrious for me to do at this time given working over eight hours a day at a desk tuckers me out. On the road to running a marathon, my first goal is to run a half marathon. But this blog is about getting in shape to run a marathon. From my experience, you need to be in two types of shape to run a marathon: physical shape to keep your cardiovascular and muscular systems in check to keep you going through those 26.2 miles and then the mental shape to keep you plugging away when you want to quit once you hit the wall and/or you’re feeling a little fatigued.  At this time, I do not have either. The half marathon will be a good way to get me back into the corrals and closer to be in the physical and psychological shape that you need to be in to run a marathon.

I have realized that since work is my own long run, I need to modify my schedule yet again. I will focus on day on day off running… concentrating on abdominal strength and moderate lifting when I’m not running. (I still need to be judicious with my choice of exercises since my neck was cut into during surgery and it doesn’t have the same strength it did, and I’ve found even girly pushups hurts it.)

While not the ideal way to train, the surgery has essentially given me a clean slate to see what different types of training will do. I had resisted abdominal and core training earlier since being those muscles were neglected, the exercises were difficult, but I know these are essential to keeping you going through the longer miles. A strong core will also protect your body on the whole. Prior to my December surgery, my goal was to run a half marathon in October 2011 in a sports bra and pants. This goal is too soon given my circumstances for my original plan of an October race. Concentrating on the core and arms is essential for any runner. 

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Quick Thoughts on Fueling During a Long Run

Have to run out, but more to come later today….

This morning my running group gathered at our normal spot to do whatever long run we had on our schedule. While I didn’t run a great distance, today’s run reminded me about the importance of fueling…. Fueling the days before your run and then during your run.  I didn’t skimp on dinner or my pre-run breakfast, but where I fell short and forgot what I had learned during my first marathon training regimen- eat while you run. I fond that I LOVE the Clif shot blocks, but figured that I could just leave them at home. Boy, was I sorry. Just short of mile 5, my muscles were aching for the potassium and nutrients the blocks provided. My running partner and I didn’t want to admit we were fatigued and walk. We just buckled down… reminded ourselves we would never run without fuel again and we pushed on. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A Look Back at February 27, 2011

My thoughts were heavy. The LA Marathon was less than a month away and it wasn’t terribly long ago where I was anticipating running through my new home-town. But, with the impending words “you have a mass on your brain,” followed by the surgeon’s warning, “you will either have the dexterity of a one-year-old or you can be doing 10% of what you were doing 3 weeks after surgery,” I knew the LA Marathon would have to wait.

I’ve been back at work for about a month. Prior to returning, I was doing the Jeff Galloway run walk for about 3 miles every day. I have yet to work a full 8-hour day and run in same day. The depth of frustration was great since working and running has been my normal for a few years now.  (It actually had become such a large part of my life that the nurses and doctors in the ICU were impressed with my strength, referred to me as an athlete, and my neurosurgeon said that my previous training would help me recover faster once he saw me post-surgery.) I still didn’t consider my athlete- sports has always been something I’ve struggled with, but apparently the paradigm shift I had taken in the last couple years put me into this untreded category.

My neck was tender- it was necessary for the doctors to slice into it to drill a hole in my skull to remove the tumor. It was difficult to sit up on my own, and I needed to be propped up by pillows. When I was first able to start running (Jeff Galloway style) with my sister and then my non-running parents, normal first started returning. It really felt like it was returning when I was strong enough run with my running group- Waking up early on Saturday and have my pre-run breakfast of wheat bread and peanut butter.  It was a difficult 5 miles, and half the distance of what I had become accustomed to when I wasn’t training for a race, but it was 5 miles and despite the level of difficulty, it felt good to get a long run in.  My running friends stayed by my side for part of the run, but they had other races on the horizon and I didn’t want them to neglect their training so after words of encouragement, we settled into our normal running paces.

I have made some of my best friends through this running club. We found each other through meetup.comWe don’t necessarily go at the same pace, but it’s great to have a friendly face out on the trails cheering you on. When we’re not running, we share training and nutrition tips- when time permits, we even get to have a meal together.