Sunday, February 27, 2011

Where The Line Between Suffering And A Tough Run Is

This week has been tough. Training is going well, but I am feeling it as I am ramping up the mileage and doing different workouts .

On Tue, before my hills workout, I informed coach how my half at Birch Bay went: though I finish in my regular time, I did suffer. After hearing this, his words were "you do not suffer the long runs. You suffer today - Tuesday (hills/sprints/tempo), you may suffer on Thursdays, but you never suffer on the weekend. You go easy. Remember what I told you the first day we met? I don't like my athletes to race every weekend because they go crazy. Yo don't suffer during the weekend. You suffer TODAY. You suffer Wenatchee (test race), you suffer Coeur D'Alene (marathon), but you DON'T suffer the long runs...". 

Then I still talk back: Coach, I really didn't race. I think is that I am feeling the training... and he shoots back:  you do not suffer the long runs. You suffer today - Tuesday (hills/sprints/tempo), you may suffer on Thursdays, but you never suffer on the weekend. You go easy. Remember what I told you the first day we met? I don't like my athletes to race every weekend because they go crazy. Yo don't suffer during the weekend. You suffer TODAY. You suffer Wenatchee (test race), you suffer Coeur D'Alene (marathon), but you DON'T suffer the long runs...".

He repeated this another time, not mad or mean, but serious. Though he didn't say "Is that clear?" or... "is that understood?" I responded as to a Drill Sergeant. "Yes Sir".

The hills workout was awesome and I did better than expected. On Wed I dragged my feet on an easy 60-min run under sleet and snow. On Thu I ran a 6-miler with Monica, a new running partner, and we had a great run.

On Sat, "not suffering day", I had a 17-miler in the plan, 15 to be run in a race. The day was sunny and clear, and you know what that means. COLD. Temp at 7 am were 16F/-9C (10F/-12C with wind chill factor). When race started, temps have climbed up to 24F/-4C (17F/-8C with wind chill factor).  I had 6 thin layers (top), 3 bottom, and 3 pairs of gloves with hand heaters inside. I was perfect, never felt cold or hot.

Birch Bay last week was harder as I ran at a better pace, but this run was as tough as it could be and the pace was s-l-o-w. I ran it almost at 12 min/mile, to barely clock a minute under 3 hours. Last year, same race, I clocked 2:47; not that I am getting slower, I am pretty sure of that. Different week with respect to marathon race day, and different training. Plus, I had done 1.7 miles as a warm up to log the required mileage. One similar thing with last year: I was very thirsty. Probably because it was SUNNY. Yesterday's highlight, other than a tough run, was the delight of having natural "icy water" at the aid stations. Tough to pass the GU, though.

Coach words were in my brain along the course... Yes, Sir.... Here I go: easy, girl, easy... I did not suffer - baloney. Not sure Where The Line Between Suffering And A Tough Run Is.

I haven't gained weight. It is the amount of layers....

3rd place in my division...
AND GOOD AWESOME NEWS.... I am going to be a grandma!!!! So, initial grandma's "demands" to son Diego and daughter-in-law Shelly were:

1) I will spoil him/her all I want.
2) I will not try him/her to be a runner, however, ALL kids love to run for fun, so I will take him/her to all kids' dash while possible.

Here my first picture with my grandbaby....

Feb 26, 2011. First picture with my grand-baby to be born in Nov 2011.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Shortening My Stride Got Me Closer To Duvall

To drive 200 miles round trip for a Half Marathon doesn't make sense, does it?

It may, if you do it once in a while, but as a regular business I am starting to believe is silly. But silly and all, that's what I do, and will continue doing. Rational? Even in days like today, where I suffered so much during the race, I still performed better than in a regular long run.

At 5.30 am I left home to Birch Bay, 5 miles away from the Canadian border. It was a long and lonely drive now that daughter is off to a new adventure. For two months I was spoiled with her as my companion; the driving to those races was easy and fun.

For 100 miles I was guided by an almost full moon (good, I lost my glasses and I am nearsighted). The skies were clear... and you know what that means, it is cold!!!! 27F / -3C. After picking up my packet, my face was already frozen. Jogged for half a mile to keep myself warm, and got back to the start line where I didn't recognize any face (I run mostly in Seattle area and South Seattle, but not North, where I only run 3-4 times a year).  As all pre-registered runners have the bib with their names on, I killed time reading their names. The guy that was in front of me was Duvall, with a Triathlon jacket.

Ready, set, go and there went all the first liners, including a couple of marathoners in singlets and shorts. These guys were pretty much naked. Maybe their plan was the 5:30 min/mile? I've seen this gear at these temperatures for a 5K or 10K but for a marathon? Not even the elite field in NY run without arm warmers or gloves.

The scenery couldn't be more gorgeous. The bay as blue as could be, with the peaks of the mountains in the background, as white as they could be. The view permitted me forget that I had no legs. At least, I didn't feel them. They were frozen. They were each, a long one-yard 'legsicle'. At mile 3, I started to slow down to 11 min/mile, and decided to change my strategy. I targeted people: Duvall was the chosen one. After shortening my stride the pace went to 10:15. Duvall got closer. As soon as I "forgot" to think about the stride Duvall separated from me. Now that my legs finally warmed up, I focused on my stride for the next 2 miles. At mile 5 I passed Duvall.

A little after mile 6 it came THE hill. A hill that didn't look that bad, but felt miserable. 200 ft gained elevation in one mile and I almost bunked. I didn't take my GU at mile 4 because I didn't feel like it.  I had slowed down to a pace above 12 min/mile. I was thirsty and hungry and stopped at the water station at the turnaroud (~mile 7.5) for a GU. Duvall passed me, and he was gone. Tried to reach him going down the hill, shortening the stride, but my legs were in trouble, and Duvall was out of my sight. A couple dressing my same colors (black & red) also passed me uphill. We started a passing game, I passed them downhill, they passed me in flat areas, and that was it. They stayed ahead of me.

At mile 10 I was dead. I wanted to stop. I would've done it if training alone, but it was a matter of pride. The day I DNF it will be because I got sick, got cramps, or because a physical condition that won't let me continue. Though the leg power was gone, at least I still had will power.

"Three more miles"; "only a 5K"... yeah right. "Assume you are in a marathon and is mile 23". I was pulling tricks out of my hat. Nothing helped. I was in bad shape. Then I saw Duvall, he was far enough that it looked impossible to reach him. There were two guys in their 40's running close to him. Also there was the black&red couple. At mile 11 the b&r wife got vitamin or something; she sped off and left. I tried again to shortening my stride and it worked. I passed the husband; then passed one of the 40 yo guys. Mile 12, Lizzie, is over. Passed the other 40 yo guy. Only Duvall is left to chew.

0.3 miles before the finish line I reached Duvall. I had an incredible nice pace: 8:15 min/mile. He stuck with me. Quarter of mile, 0.2, 0.15 we are side by side at 7:45 min/mile. 0.05, Duvall put the right gear and chewed me by 9 seconds. The good thing was that Shortening My Stride Got Me Closer To Duvall.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


After graduating from college, my daughter, who is a citizen of the world, went to Thailand as a 2-year Peace Corps Volunteer. From there, she went to Dominican Republic for another couple of years. She came home for the Christmas Holidays and as a stop between destinations. The caviat: she didn't know what the next destination would be. She applied to several jobs in International/Sustainable Development with the desire of getting something in Africa or Asia. In the meantime she told me: Mom, whether I get a job or not, I am leaving in February. Where? Don't know.

Then she came with the destination selection method: Throwing a dart at the world map, blindfolded. And she was committed to the dart! The process was documented, and I am so happy of having witnessed the process. Let the throwing begin will take you also to witness the process which I particularly think was pretty neat and ingenious.

I can't be happier for her, but I would lie if I say I am not crying and I won't miss her. These two past months with her were a precious gift. We always have said that we are happy even inside of an empty cardboard box. And that is true. We know how to enjoy every single moment of our lives and breathe deeply and record those moments forever. She was my partner in every run; my caregiver during my surgery; my fashion designer for my marathons shirts (she even finished the Idaho shirt the day before leaving so I could have it for my next marathon in May). We watched TV like nobody's business (noteworthy to mention that I never watch TV); ran together, and for first time, a snowshoe race having a blast; played bananagram many of our quiet winter evenings in front of our fireplace enjoying a nice glass of wine; assembled puzzles; ate candy every day (also noteworthy to mention that I never eat candy); ate delicious vegetarian wraps prepared at random hours; spent most of the nights in her bedroom talking or simply falling asleep, coming to my bedroom at dawn... (poor hubby, he was displaced, but he was supportive and understanding).

Now it's time for her to move on ... as she said: I was the supportive self, that just want her to leave so I can come and visit.... visit her, see her, hug her, kiss her, adventure with her.... and why not... run a road race with her in Kiwiland...

Coming home last Christmas, between destinations
Welcoming & birthday

Romp To Stomp Snowshoe Race - Stevens Pass  - Feb 12, 2011

Romp To Stomp Snowshoe Race - Stevens Pass - Feb 12, 2011
Farewell Dinner
Run For Tina - Fort Steilacoom - Jan 29, 2011

Winter Series Fort Steilacoom - 10-miler - Jan 22, 2011

White Elephant 5-miler - Olympia, WA - Jan 8, 2011
Yukon Do It - Half Marathon Port Orchard - Dec 31, 2010
She biked at my side for a 20-miler
Me walking to the car after a 20-miler run. She helped me to finish it

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Runners Don't Have Any

On Friday Jan 7th I went for a routine every-3-month-scheduled-breast-cancer-in-remission follow up. A mammogram this time.

Nurse: We'll do the left only. 
Me: Why?
Nurse: Because the healthy one (the right) gets checked only once a year.
Me: I want it for both.
Nurse: That's OK but you need to sign a waiver for billing purposes.
Me: I'll sign.

Exam done. Wait until the doctor sees the pictures. Preoccupation Level = 0.

Nurse: We need to take a magnified picture.
Me: Why?
Nurse: Doctor wants to see something with more detail.
Me: Which one? 
Nurse: The right one.
Me: Oh, the one that we were not going to see at all?

Magnified picture taken. Wait until the doctor sees the pictures. Preoccupation Level = 3.

Doctor: I can spot calcifications, and as you had them in the breast that had cancer, we need to be conservative. I'd like to do a biopsy. 
Me: OK, can it be done today?
Doctor: Yes, right away.

Biopsy done. Wait until Mon or Tue for the results. Preoccupation Level  = 5.

On Tuesday 11th I went to the doctor's office to find out the good news that I don't have cancer. The semi-bad news is that I have atypical lobular hyperplasia (i.e.: pre-cancerous cells). In short, I need to coordinate with my oncologist and the surgeon for the removal.  I go immediately to my oncologist office, who orders an MRI, contacts the surgeon, and is puzzled by the findings. With my current treatment this should not be happening. He had the biopsy report but didn't have the pictures in hand so he didn't know where the spot(s) was/were. As it's late in the afternoon, the Imaging office has already closed. We have to wait until next day. He tells me that if the spot is localized, an excision would do it. If there are many spots, a mastectomy is the recommended action. My Preoccupation Level  is now elevated to 8.

On Wed 12th my oncologist calls me and gives me great news. It's localized. Preoccupation Level  goes down to 3. MRI will follow on Thu, and with all the results we'll meet the surgeon on Mon 17th.

The appointment with the surgeon went really well. After 75 minutes of examining, evaluating, breast cancer 101, and surgery procedure explained, Preoccupation Level goes to 0. Then, the question is posted.  

Doctor: When do you want the surgery?
Me: I have a race on the 22nd and one on the 29th that I would not like to miss. My racing calendar is empty for the weekend of Feb 4th. Could it be that week?
Doctor: Sure. What about Feb 1st? 
Me: Deal. (In my mind, I write a note to Running In The USA: You might be a runner... if you schedule your surgery around your races).
Doctor: OK, let me take you to the nurse's office so we have you scheduled. 
Me: Doctor, when after surgery can I run again? 
Doctor: I tell runners to use common sense, though I know Runners Don't Have Any.


PS: Surgery was successful. I have my post-op follow-up on Mon 7th and hope to get clear for running. After a week doing NOTHING, I am stiff like a stick.!