Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Why Bother with 2012 Goals Right Now

I love making goals, I'm goal-oriented, I'm driven by my goals, I don't think goals are rigid and are a moveable, adaptable target, I've even written about running goal-setting in a Texas running magazine. I'm all about goals.

I started 2011 with a 1 month old baby and a fresh bright-red C-section incision scar and 2 weeks of recovery to go. I didn't really make many goals because I didn't really know what to expect when I got running again. I had an amazing running year, but my goals and achievements grew organically as I was learning how my body was going to act this year.

Now I go into 2012 in the exact same place. No fun with another year of not being able to make many goals. I've been light on my running, as planned, in December, as I prepare to direct a large race event this New Year's weekend. I've started with a new trainer who is helping correct many of my biomechanical dysfunctions by strengthening, stretching, and adapting different muscular groups. Let's put it this way: I now have butt muscles. Never did before! And I will be starting 2012 with sinus surgery, postponed a month due to race production demands, on January 5th.

The doctor has said 2 weeks of no workouts of any kind. Then, as an athlete, he doesn't think I'll feel fantastic until at least 4-6 weeks post-surgery.

So yes, goals are on hold. I'm deferring my awesome 1-of-only-250 race entry into late March's Gorge Waterfalls 50K, I had to cancel pacing Derek at Rocky Raccoon 100 Mile in February, and I'm slightly on hold as a runner right now.

I have some thoughts brewing on some fun race plans for May and onward. And still plan some races in March and April that are regular parts of my spring schedule. But let's just see how January and February treat me. Then we can revisit this whole goal thing.

And yes, I'm beyond swamped preparing for Saturday and Sunday's New Years Double races, but I thought it was a priority to get my burning thoughts down on paper, so I prioritize the 5 minutes it took to ramble here. ;-)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Body Composition Changing for the Better

About 6 weeks since my last body fat check, Donnie (my new trainer) and I did a check on Saturday. Since each trainer can do it slightly different on a 7-site skinfold caliper method of body composition testing, we expected we could see a small amount of difference so we're considering this a baseline for future measurements.

Happily, the number was LESS! I went from 22.0% to 20.7%! I'd lost 2 pounds too.

To put it in perspective, since I started strength training 3 hours a week in mid-May, I've lost TWENTY, 20, TWENTY!!!!!!! pounds of JUST body fat, and GAINED 7 pounds in just lean muscle mass and blood volume! That's just crazy to think about. It's like taking my 1 year old baby girl and turning her into just squishy fat ball (but same weight) and I've lost that. Okay, that was kind of gross, but a good visualization for me of what kind of heft 20 pounds is!

Ironically, while the gym's standard report says 19.1% is the low end of optimal (so I'm on the low end of their optimal range with still another 1.6% to go to hit the edge), my BMI is still on that edge between normal and overweight. For the purposes of post-meal, having clothes and shoes on weighing in, I'm still 159 pounds.  I'm a solid Athena (over 150 pounds) in the race weight divisions. And that's perfectly fine with me. This is why the number on the scale specifically isn't important. It's if it moves up or down that I concentrate on.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Good Day in Race Directing

I've had a rough few weeks - it's mile 24 of this race directing marathon metaphor. Everyone has these times where it all just feels too much, it's all so overwhelming.

But today was a good day. After 3 days sick, I woke up feeling better today. After a couple days of routine pre-race crises (yes, each really is a behind-the-scenes crisis, I'm not being melodramatic on that wording, but every race has them in the weeks leading up), today was a good day.

I had a crucial vendor that was stressing me out because I couldn't get the fellow to communicate, call back in a timely fashion, get the equipment committed. I got a new contact today and an immediate callback to the voicemail I left. Oh, so things should go smoothly sometimes? Wow, awesome!

I was able to get an announcement out to race participants that I'd been working on for the last month. What started as a "Hey, wouldn't this be cool?" email to a company turned into a partnership for giving something really fun back to all the registered runners. And it was so fun to see the surprised reaction from everyone to the news, and the excitement. Their excitement gets more even more excited for race weekend!

I got more progress on another offering for the runners I've been working on. One more piece to fall into place, and I can't wait to be able to announce it too.

Then, dinner out at Gloria's with the family. A rare moment where I wasn't so stressing out that I couldn't enjoy it.

Finally, a hard workout - 1 hour of strength training with my trainer. Rocked the 3 one-legged squat sets in between alternating legs 90 lbs each on the leg press machine. Felt strong!

So the bad days do come with a balancing out with good days! I needed that reminder after recent days. It was SUCH a good day!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Friend's Analogy of Race Directing to Running a Marathon

I called a friend of mine yesterday about the meltdowns I'm having right now with the race in 17 days. Even when we do something we love, some days just suck and I had vented about that yesterday.

So this friend had the best analogy. She said that the process of directing a race is like personally running a marathon.

My Finish Line: Race day, the happy runners, the smiles at the finish line.
Mile 1: Setting this race in motion for this year.
Mile 6: Wow, this is really real. Completely the feeling when I pulled the trigger on announcing the race and opening registration. In a marathon, around mile 6 is when I have the "I'm really doing this?!?" moment.

And right now, I'm at mile 24. And life sucks at mile 24. Even when you're prepared, which I know I am, in that moment of the race, you don't often feel very prepared for those final miles, and even if you're prepared, it hurts anyway.

You have your breakdowns that can happen at mile 24 of your marathon. Where you just need to cry sometimes. It doesn't mean you won't get to the finish line. And there's nothing wrong with having that breakdown. I shouldn't let anyone fault me for having the breakdown, because I'm human.

At mile 24, you aren't sure you want to run a marathon again. Why would you do this again? It's hard, it can be painful. It was an awful lot of work. Of course, most of us after the marathon sign up for another. So it's how we felt in the moment, not how we felt overall about the experience.

So right now, while life is a little rough, and I feel fragile like one more thing out of perfect position will shatter me, I remember that there's just 2 more miles to that finish line. And that feeling at the finish line is awesome.

So "Dear Diary", yeah, mile 24 is kinda not fun right now, and I need to not worry about anyone who feels I have no right to talk about that feeling. This is my blog, my party, I'll cry if I want to. And voicing those thoughts and getting them out into real words versus ucky undefined feelings, is what got me to a place where this friend could offer up the "race directing is like running a marathon" analogy. And it was so helpful I had to write it down. I'm sure I'll be referring to this again at future races I work on!

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Dirty Side of Race Directing

I should start by saying I leave myself very vulnerable when I taught about my experiences race directing. A race director friend thinks runners don't want to know, and if they know, they don't care. I don't find that to be the case. I think once you've seen a glimpse of the other side, behind the curtain, your perspective changes mightily. This is just my reality, every race and every race director is living a different one. But I'm always open, you always know where you stand with me, and this terrible honesty is endearing to some and a moment for attack by others. There's the disclaimers, do what you want with it.

So beginning of last week, I saw the ENT doctor who told me I indeed needed sinus surgery. My sinuses are completely inflamed and closed up and we had tried a strong cocktail of antibiotics and steroids, 5 times a day, for the last month to see if any of it could be fixed or if surgery was the only option.  It didn't work. And I'd run two 50Ks through these medical issues too.

The part that sucks, but it's reality, is that I couldn't have surgery immediately because there is no one to take my place as a race director for the New Years Double. There are too many details to pass along and there's too much work to do if I'm sidelined for a short time. And that's if the surgery went well - what would happen if the surgery didn't go that well for my recovery time?

So January 5th I'll have sinus surgery, putting it off a whole month because of this race. I'd like to say the decision was easy - but I'll be honest, it wasn't.  In the meantime, more drugs to manage it until we can get me in the operating room. And now I've come down with a cold - which wouldn't normally knock me on my butt, but when you can't breathe through your face and your sinuses are already full and painful, it's completely sidelined me.

A friend who is a race director says runners don't care. They don't want to know what's behind-the-scenes, they just want to go race. And they don't know or care that there are these moments as a race director where you have to choose... Me or Them. And race directors typically choose THEM. I co-directed a 4,000 person half marathon, and was at a race site for 8 hours, just 2 weeks after my first daughter was born. We want people to have a good experience.

And for all this, most of us are NOT doing this as a business. And it's funny because I'm coming to realize over the years the biggest incorrect assumptions runners have made...
a) Someone is getting rich off of every race that's over 200 people or an entry fee over $20,
b) There's a large race committee behind every race who all feel equally accountable and will give up their sleep and personal health
c) That the standards for all races should be the same

A race director friend had someone come up and tell her I must be making so much money off the New Years Double because they multiplied the half marathon current entry fee times the sold out entries. So first you aren't even taking into account 5Kers in the mix, coupon codes, early registration fees. But the part most runners have no idea is that every little piece of a race costs more than you will every think.

For the New Years Double...
  • Those little plastic pieces with your race number on it that you pin to yourself and many throw away after? $600.
  • Those silver heat-retaining thin metallic-y blankets a half marathoner or full marathoner will get thrown over them at the finish line? $1000.
  • Just two tents at the race site? $3,000.
So all that money coming in, it doesn't line anyone's pocket. A lot of it goes right back out the door to pay bills, and then money goes to the beneficiary. And yes, if for being solely responsible and sacrificing my own health choices and working 1,000 hours on an event, if I want to get $1.84 per hour, I should be able to do that without justifying it to the world. It's doable to be all-volunteer for a 300 person 5K that's been in the same logistical set-up for the last 10 years. But new events, large events, and events bigger than a 5K, take hours of preparation people never see.

And why would you expect the same of a small charity event that you expect from a national conglomerate that has a staff of 40 producing a near-similar event in 20 different venues each year? That constantly surprises me.

But these are the days, when I feel awful and sick, that you wonder why you don't raise the entry fee $15 per person, sacrifice quality to make it 4000 runners instead of 2000 on a 12 foot wide trail, and get paid big bucks for the sacrifice. Especially when everyone already thinks you're rolling in dough from working 1,000 hours, and intense hours near race day, working on an event anyway. When 4% of the runners will hate anything you do, because that's just their own unhappiness or them imposing their own expectations on you.  When something's going to go wrong behind-the-scenes race week that will stress you to the point that hair falls out - it happens with every single race. But my heart, and my gut, know that's not the intention. I do this because it's my passion, it's my give-back to the sport I love, it's worth every smile at the finish line.

And as I blow my nose and work with the portalet guy this morning on set-up/teardown hours and exact potty locations, it's that visualization of happy runners achieving their goals that keeps me pushing forward.

Update: As someone pointed out, yes, I chose to start volunteering and hten race directing. But as with anything, some days still suck. Why should I talk only about the fun awesome days in this "Dear Diary" that is my blog?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

1,000 Miles Since Having a Baby, and a New 5K Personal Best

I thought I was going to take 5 or so days off running and strength training - no work outs of any kind - because I'd been feeling overdone and overtrained since not taking a break just after my first two 50k races just two weeks apart.
But today's Sophie's birthday. She turned 1 year old today. A year ago I had a C-section and our second daughter was born. I am extremely blessed.

But as I've also talked occasionally on the chronic medical condition I face each day with, my health is a constant aspect of this life that I focus on and celebrate. And so I realized tonight that if I ran 1.6 miles, I would hit 1,000 miles for the year. But with the date that Sophie was born, and the fact that I then had to sit out 6 weeks of mandatory C-section recovery, that means I could also hit 1,000 miles in the 1 year since having a baby!!!
So why is 1,000 miles in 2012, and 1,000 miles a year after childbirth a big deal to me? I didn't count miles run before 2009 but in 2009 I ran 457 miles. In 2010, while pregnant, I logged 426 miles + a lot of miles on the elliptical thanks to the pregnancy. So with one month left in the year, and having sat out the first 2 weeks of the year, I'm already over double my biggest previous year!
This has been a great running year for me, and I am thankful every day for that. And I recognize how hard I had to push myself this year to come back from the harshness your body endures physically and hormonally through pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum, and I look like darling Sophie and see how worth it the fight has been, especially knowing that for the things within my control, I'm giving myself a larger chance of being around for a LOT of her birthdays.
SIDENOTE: I also had an amazing run. Instead of 1.6 miles, after a 1/4 mile slow run warmup, I changed my run posture a little based on a general physiological observation my new trainer had made about me yesterday. And all of a sudden, the speed came from nowhere. I did a personal best in the 5K on this training run, took 49 seconds off my previous best to bring me to 31:09!!! Hmm, might need to run a 5K race this month to see if I can reproduce this and make the PR official!!!

Scary AND Excited at 2012 Race Plans Firming Up

Part of the plans I've already made for 2012 scares me... and yet I'm SO excited.

Two things from yesterday:

1. Gorge Waterfalls 50K - Hood River, Oregon.

After friend Jennifer posted a picture of this gorgeous race on Facebook, I couldn't get it out of my head. I looked at their website and was instantly enamored. I'm not a fast runner, I'm not trying to get a high placing at a race, but I love being out on the trails and how that's the best way to see everything it has to offer.

Check this course description from their website:
This is one special course! When I ran it I was constantly being blown away by how many waterfalls there were and by how amazing they were, I literally lost count within the first couple hours. First, at the start, is 282 foot Wahkeena Falls that you run right past before you've even had a chance to get warmed up. You climb from the start gaining 1500ft in the first two miles(don't worry this is the only climb of this magnitude in the race--the others are much less steep and don't gain as much elevation) and pass the otherworldly Fairy Falls. As you start dropping back down towards the valley floor you pass numerous other small falls and cascades as you make your way to the viewing platform at the top of the 620 foot Multnomah Falls(the tallest falls in Oregon and possible the 3rd tallest in the country!). After leaving the viewing platform the course switchbacks it way down the mountain with views of Multnomah falls pouring out from the cliff. At the bottom of the switch backs you've only gone 4 miles but you already seen numerous amazing waterfalls and have had views of the Columbia River Gorge. You're just getting started!
As the route heads east following the Gorge Trail and paralleling the river it continues to show off many of the best aspects of Pacific Northwest trail running. Super fun single track that rises and falls gently(most of the time) as it weaves in and out of creek drainages. The trail is mostly in the forest but every once in a while it pops out into clearings with Moss covered rocks and views of the river. Sometimes it follows a creek sometimes it crosses the creek on fun bridges. There are many more big waterfalls including the 80 foot Ponytail Falls that you run right under and 289 foot Elowah Falls that you'll run so close to the base of you'll get wet from the mist!
Sounds beautiful and memorable, doesn't it? Now the scary parts...

  1. Major Dallas-sized mountain in the first couple miles - it's not the worst mountain, but for a flatlander like me and to put it at the beginning, that's a little scary. We're talking 1200 feet gain in constant switchbacks over a mile. And then back down the mountain.
  2. Infrequent aid stations - From their website: "There will be two full aid stations(mi 10.9 and 20.2) and three water only aid stations(mi 5.5, 15.4 and 25.5)." I've done two 50Ks and never had to go more than 4.5 miles between full aid stations. So this will take some practice especially since I already know I need to work on my 50K nutrition plan.
  3. The weather - temperatures in the 40s and wet, very wet.
  4. 9 hour time limit - this will be tight for me. More speedwork on the trails in my future!
And then the question of can I even go. The video game Steve's producing comes out next year, so it's up in the air what his schedule will be like, and someone has to watch our kids. So there's a solid possibility I won't even be able to go.

But it's worth taking the risk of losing or deferring a $60 entry fee. So when the race opened registration yesterday at 10 am, I was on my computer, punching the keyboard to get in. They had said it could sell out that day, but more likely within a couple weeks. Well I'm glad I went for it because the race sold out within 12 hours!

2. Pacing Rocky Raccoon 100 Mile - Huntsville, Texas.

I'd been planning for a while that I wanted to go to the Rocky Raccoon 50Mile and 100Mile on February 4 to see, cheer, and love on all my frunners (runner friends). And I knew so many first time 50milers and 100milers in that mix too. Quite a few first 100milers. And starting at mile 60, they are allowed pacers.

So then I thought of course I want to help my friends succeed the best they can, I'm a pretty solid consistent pace runner, even though it's a slower than average pace. So I thought that could help someone. Derek's tried a couple 100 milers, and he's a total teddy bear of a guy.

Yesterday I TOLD Derek, yeah, didn't ask, but told him I was going to pace him miles 80 to 100 of the race. He has a multiple 100-miler finisher buddy pacing him miles 60-80 which will be hard to live up to that guy. It's scary to feel responsible for getting someone to the finish line, since you can have your own crappy run day that day. But I know I can do this. Nothing like 20 miles at 3 in the morning through trails and using every skill and strategy in the arsenal to get a fellow frunner to the finish line of his first 100-miler. I can not wait to see Derek succeed at this race!