Friday, November 25, 2016

2016 Home Run for the Homeless

This post is subtitled "I've Got Issues."

Happy Thanksgiving weekend, Peeps!  I'm thankful for all of you who have followed my misadventures in running and fitness.  Stay tuned for more of my foolishness:

Thanksgiving morning is always the traditional Home Run for the Homeless. This is a 4-mile race that benefits Gennesaret, an organization that helps homeless people get into apartments and homes.  They have one fundraiser a year, and this is it.  For only 20 dollars, you run a cool-looking course that goes partially through West Akron and then through the Glendale Cemetery. Plus, you get gloves.  And muffins.  And donuts. The cemetery is awesome because it is very hilly and has lots of old mausoleums, which reminds me of Pere-Lachaise Cimetiere in Paris (burial place of Jim Morrison, among other legends).

I didn't intend to really race the Home Run.  I have a problem with my Achilles Tendon on my left foot.  It has been pretty painful for a few weeks, and though I can tell it's getting better (the exercises are working), it still hurts in the first 1/2 mile of any run, and I don't want to permanently jack it up.  This is why when my son asked me how long I'd be running, I said, "About 36 minutes."  I figured 9:00/mile would be respectable but easy to maintain, even on the hills. After all, my tempo runs are faster than that, and last year I ran the Home Run in 33:48.  No sweat, I thought.

This is EXACTLY how I look when I'm thinking about the blueberry muffin that awaits me at the finish.

This is a pretty big race, so the start was packed.  I managed to squeeze into the corral on the street.  I had spent a good half an hour rotating my ankle and stretching it, but I didn't run a warmup, which I absolutely should have done.  No matter, I thought.  I'll take it easy in the first mile; after all, I'm not here to PR.

The first mile was 9:00, and then all hell broke loose.  My chest tightened up, and my arms got incredibly weak. I could feel the weakness/looseness pass down my body to my legs, which got very wobbly.  Then I started to gasp.  These are the same symptoms I've had several times before, twice during races and at least four times on various runs.  I knew what I had to do: switch to walk/run.  I did this for the next two miles, walking 1/4 mile and then running 1/4-1/2 mile, depending on the terrain and how I felt.  I felt awful until I didn't, which was at 3.5 miles, and by then it was too late as the finish line came up at 3.85.

I have lots of theories about why this happens to me once in a while:

1.  I am doing something stupid regarding fuel or warmups (or lack of warmups). I just wish I could figure that out because each time it has happened, it has been under different circumstances.

2.  I am under a lot of stress, and stress can really jack you up.  Now, to be fair, I am VERY high-strung and Type-A.  Stress is my middle name.  These past two years though have been incredibly difficult for me, and these past four months have arguably been the most stressful of my life. Look at the proof:

This is EXACTLY how I looked the day after the elections.  I was trying to get my act together to teach my first period class. Instead I burst into tears and then took a selfie to see the humor in the situation.  Somehow it doesn't look funny, even today.

This is EXACTLY how I looked on Halloween.  I was dressed as Carrie's crazy mom, but I think I was too convincing.

These are the flowers I bought for my grandfather's funeral.  Yes, ANOTHER family member just died.  I'm starting to suspect that I am the problem.

Anyway, these are just small glimpses into my life. I have had a few more personal challenges in the past month, and it has become very difficult to pretend that I have no worries, which is usually my MO.

This is EXACTLY how I look when I try to stay positive.

I'm starting to think that running away from trouble isn't as much of a solution for me as it used to be. 

Back to theories:

3.  This is the one that worries my mom the most: 

My father had two heart attacks, a quadruple bypass, and a heart transplant before he died a year and a half ago.  Most of these problems were due to a heart murmur and an enlarged aortic valve.  His lifestyle (diet, lack of exercise, etc.) exacerbated the problems in a major way.  I think that the stress in my life has possibly triggered an underlying heart problem that I may have inherited from my father.  I don't even know if this is possible, and I've never had a doctor detect a problem with my heart, but I never specifically asked about it either.  I guess it's about time that I did.

Anyway, I intend to follow up on all of this by this spring, when I will have recovered from some minor surgery in December.  

Back to the race: 

The Home Run for the Homeless is really such an excellent race.  I love the course.  I love the muffins.  I love the gloves.  I love the volunteers who gave up their Thanksgiving morning to shiver in the cold. Most of all I love that I was able to do something for someone else and still have fun.  Thank you, Gennesaret.

Sunday is the Tryptophan Run in Hudson, and I intend to be there, and I DON'T intend to collapse that day.  Until then, Run Happy, Peeps!

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Sunday, November 6, 2016

Race Recap: Second Sole Made in America Half Marathon

I learned something about myself today.  I learned that I am full of crap.  Literally and figuratively.

Ready to hear about this?

Andrew (Andrew Runs A Lot), my friend and fellow Cleveland Marathon Ambassador, has been bugging his friends to sign up for the Second Sole Made in America Half Marathon.  I usually ignore Andrew because: dumb kid, but I had three other friends (Kirstie, Kevin, and Mandy) who were running that race.  I believe that I need to always try new things, and the race was cheap, so I signed up.

If you read last week's post, you know that I was going to decide during the race if I'd be running it or racing it.  Everyone said that the first four miles (the road part of the race) would be very hilly, but then the rest of the race would be on the Towpath, so flat. I thought that I'd decide how to attack the race after I left the road, where I'd be running conservatively.  This is a new tactic for me; I am not usually a negative split runner.  More on this later.

If you read my blog, you will recognize that I often brag write that I have a very strong stomach; I take pride in the fact that I can fuel on anything.  I often say that I'd love to find a way to fuel on burritos.  Whatever.

Who wouldn't want to fuel for a marathon on this???
Because I was ambivalent about today's race, I didn't really prepare for it the night before as I normally would.  Now, I've eaten (and drunk) some weird things before a race, and it has never been a problem for me.  I once fueled the Perfect 10 Miler on fried cheese and beer for dinner the night before.  No joke.  I PR'd, too.  So, when I ordered pizza the night before and ate it with salad and some red wine, I didn't think twice.

This morning I ate my usual bagel with cream cheese, but I did something different (a NO NO, as every runner knows): I used Pumpkin Spice creamer in my coffee instead of my regular Peppermint Mocha.  It was made by the same company, though, and let's not kid ourselves; all creamer is just harmful chemicals designed to give us cancer or turn us into zombies.  So, I didn't think about the number 1 racing rule: NEVER do something different for a race.  Another bad thing: when I opened the bottle (brand new, bought yesterday), there was no seal.  For some reason I shrugged this off and poured the creamer anyway.

I spent some quality time, more than usual, in the bathroom this morning, and that should have been my first warning, but it wasn't.   Why?  Because I'm not that smart.

I arrived in Massillon at 7:30, half an hour before the race.  Peeps, there were only FOUR port o potties there.  That is it.  There was a line a mile long just to get there.  I had driven half an hour to the race, so of course I had to use the bathroom.  It was nerve-wracking to wait in line up until the last second before the race.  I didn't get to meet up with any of my friends, and I was nervous the whole time.  Parking and bathroom issues are two deal breakers for me in a race, and this race had already failed with the bathroom. This automatically means that I won't run it again.  Sorry, Second Sole.  I love you dearly, but you failed.

The race started, and I took off,  making sure to hold back.  I know that I always get carried away in the first few miles of a race, so I made myself start in the back of the pack and run more slowly.  I was just over a 2-hour half marathon pace, and I knew that I could make that up later on flat ground.  The hills weren't really hills; b*tch, I'm from Akron.  They were gentle, rolling inclines, and I liked them a lot.

At 4.5 miles, I started thinking that I could PR this bad boy.  I popped a GU, and then all hell broke loose.  My legs immediately got weak, I started feeling cold, and I couldn't catch my breath.  "Son of a bitch," I thought, "it's the stupid heart palpitations again." I knew what to do, and I switched to run/walking.  I ran for a 1/4 mile and then walked for a minute.  Normally this does the trick, but this time it didn't.  I started worrying after a mile.  "What is wrong with me?" I thought.  Walking always gets me out of this, and it usually only takes a few minutes. I started thinking of a way to get out of the race because I couldn't see walking for the rest of the race. The problem is that this is a VERY small race; there were no volunteers or sweepers or medics to help me, so, I had to keep going.

At mile 7.5, I saw a lone port o potty by the side of the Towpath, and all of a sudden I KNEW what my problem was. The pain, weakness, shortness of breath?  It was stomach cramps, dammit.   I had to stand in line to use the potty, and while I did, I texted Andrew:

Me: Don't wait for me.  I may not finish.

I didn't want to sound dramatic, but I honestly was looking for a way to DNF.  The port o potty was absolutely disgusting, so while I was losing my sh*t (literally) in there, I was trying not to throw up, too.  Meanwhile, my stomach had incredible cramps.  And there was no sanitizer, so I looked forward to trying not to touch my face for the rest of the race.  You try not touching your face for over an hour.

I immediately felt better after the port o potty, and I was relieved that the problem was not heart-related, so I started reflecting on my eating/drinking choices during the past two days.  I spent a good two miles wondering if someone tampered with the creamer and I was going to die in the next copycat Tylenol scandal.  Then I remembered the pizza. Of course.  That was it.

I managed to pass most of the people who had passed me while I was walking or at the port o potty, and for this I'm thankful; however, I never did recover my half marathon pace.  I still had twitches of stomach cramps for the rest of the race.

As I approached the chute, I was disgusted with myself.  I saw Andrew, and he said, "Hurry up; I need a beer," so I managed to sprint to the end.  At least I did that.  Andrew had PR'd, which is awesome, so we had a beer and some rice chips together.

Budweiser: Made in America
After Andrew left, I talked to Kevin, Kirstie, and Mandy.
 Here we are in the corral before the race.

  I told Kevin about my stomach issues and that I attributed it to pizza I had ordered.  It turns out that Kevin and Kirstie had also ordered pizza from the same place, and he was having stomach issues, too.  And there you go.  It was the damned pizza.  And my stomach is not as strong as I claim it to be.

I've learned that I need to think more carefully about how I fuel before a race.  I've learned that I can make last minute decisions on racing ONLY if I treat my routine as if I will race.  I've learned that I'm old and I can't "gut" out everything, especially greasy pizza.

As for the race, here are my thoughts:

Parking: Great
Support: Almost nonexistent.  You'd better be ok with running for yourself.
Food: Meh.  Rice chips and beer.  Coupon for 6 inch sub at Subway (which I didn't use) is a bonus.
Band at end: Awesome.
Bathroom access: Terrible

Will I run this race again?  Hard to say.  There are so many races out there; I don't know if I want to repeat this one.  I liked the course a lot; the finish is super-strong. As I wrote before, though, lack of bathrooms is a non starter for me, and I heard a lot of people saying the same thing while waiting in line.

My last race of the year is the Gennesaret Home Run for the Homeless on Thanksgiving Day.  Will you join me? Until then, run happy, Peeps!

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