• Category Archives Running
  • Who wants to run the Texas Marathon?

    I’ve kept pretty quiet about my leg injury updates because, frankly, it’s depressing. I apparently had a setback and there’s nothing I can do but wait, since stress fractures must heal completely. Despite a previous experience and the vast majority of runners’ tibial stress fracture stories online, mine is taking longer than expected/most to heal. And that leads me to this:

    If you’d like to run the sold-out Texas Marathon (finishers get the biggest medal in the country, and a rubber duck) on Jan. 1, let me know. It’s completely legitimate because the race, unlike most, allows transfers and refunds. It costs $60 and I need to know before Nov. 30, because that’s the cut-off date for me to just get a refund. Either comment here or e-mail me at layla @ thesmudge.com and we’ll work out the details.

    I’ve wrestled with this decision, but there’s no way I will be in marathon shape in 54 days. There’s a waiting list for this marathon, so I shouldn’t put it off any longer — if someone else can run it, they deserve to do so.

    If you want more information, here’s what I wrote about the marathon in a blog post on June 2:

    Is it wrong for me to be very amused by the website of Kingwood, Texas? It doesn’t hurt that their town motto is apparently “the surfable forest,” and one of their featured businesses is Heather the Pet Nanny (whose website features a rather fascinating bouncing yellow tennis ball). And, when asked their favorite meat to eat, visitors to the website overwhelmingly selected beef.

    As if that’s not enough to make Kingwood interesting, it’s just two miles away from the town of Humble (the H is silent, according to that link). Humble became a happening town after a 1904 “oil gusher” brought people in droves for work.

    Why am I jabbering about Kingwood, which is 1,926 miles from Lodi? Because it’s home to the Texas Marathon, that’s why. Oh come on, you knew there had to be running involved if Layla was posting.

    They always say things are bigger in Texas, so of course the marathon’s medal is the biggest in the U.S. At 2.2 pounds, that’s definitely one to wear through the airport or else it might push luggage over the weight limit. Finishers also get shirts, rubber ducks, and pizza. That is a nice bonus, because pizza usually sounds like the best thing on earth to me when I finish a long run. And, hey, a rubber duck has to be cute, right?

    The race is on Jan. 1, which means it’s 1/1/11. I’m a bit of a numbers nerd, which is one of the big reasons I’m running the Portland Marathon on 10/10/10. I surprisingly got into the lottery for the New York Marathon, which will be held Nov. 7, a mere four weeks after Portland. So, I’m thinking of just going completely nuts and running a third marathon within 90 days of Portland, so I can qualify for Marathon Maniacs membership. It’s either that or the much closer California International Marathon in Sacramento.

    So. Who wants to go to Kingwood with me for New Year’s?

  • Running thoughts while bicycling

    I don’t like cycling. I don’t always hate it, but I’d much rather be running. But since I’m still waiting for my injured leg to be back at 100 percent, I don’t have a lot of other options if I want to get back in shape. I motivated myself Saturday by setting out to ride the longest I’ve ever gone. I accomplished that by riding 43 miles. Yep, 43 boring, un-fun miles.

    I present to you the occasionally nonsensical “Thoughts of a Runner While Bicycling For Two Hours and Forty-Five Minutes”:

    • “I’ve been out here for two hours. I could have run a half-marathon and be relaxing by now.” (The fact that I’d cycled almost three times the length of a half-marathon didn’t matter to my thinking. It still doesn’t.)
    • “Headwind sucks when riding. I will never again complain about it when running.”
    • “Did that driver really just speed up to pass and turn in front of me, making me brake and start looking for an out? Yep, they did.” Five minutes later: “Really? Another driver just did the same thing? I knew I hated the town of Galt; apparently they’re so uncivilized that they don’t know what a bike is.”
    • “Stoplights really suck. They are not an issue when running.”
    • “The wind shifted so I STILL have headwind? I think that’s a sign I’ve been out here forever.”
    • “My back is tired. And why are the bases of my thumbs sore? These things are not issues while running, either.”
    • “Ack, a bug.”

    Suffice it to say that I’m a runner, not a bicyclist.

  • Friday Friend: Deb B.

    As I blogged earlier this week, I spend a good chunk of Sunday following the online updates of friends running a couple marathons. One of those people, however, was not just running the 26.2 miles of the Portland Marathon. Nope, Deb was adding another 9.8 miles for a total of 36 miles — one for every year, for a birthday celebration.

    Seriously, this was Deb’s idea of a way to celebrate her own birthday (which fell on 10/10/10 this year, an extra-awesome thing, if you ask me). Also, she did it in Vibram five-finger shoes. She had a birthday hat for the make-shift toilet paper finish line, too.

    I met Deb through Twitter, and I met her in person at the Operation Jack 7-hour run, which she helped organize in Portland. I attended a dinner for the runners/volunteers the night before the run, and I showed up at the same time she did. She and her husband were busy getting their three small children out of the car, but she happened to look up, saw me, and instantly recognized me. I shouldn’t be surprised, because runners really are that friendly, but it was a great way of breaking the ice as I showed up to a random house 700 miles away from home.

    Though we communicate most frequently in 140-character tweets, she’s become a good friend and has also voluntarily tried to help me to next step in my life — for which I’m very grateful. One of these days we’ll actually run together!

    Deb with her family, after a 34.2-mile run in September.

  • Virtual Spectating

    Whew! Except for eight hours of sleep, I was basically online non-stop from Saturday afternoon until past noon Sunday, watching athletes cross several finish lines on what was a busy weekend in the running/triathlon community. Let me tell you, as blogger Luau can attest, it was exhausting!

    Saturday was the Ford Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. In the world of triathlon, this is the ultimate race of all races. There are a few lottery spots, but almost everyone has to qualify in another triathlon in order to get to Kona. Once there, they have to reach certain points at certain times or else they’re pulled from the course. The heat and humidity are intense, and the bike and run are done on black asphalt past black lava rock on a course that has no shade. I’ve been along the whole course many times and have NO desire to attempt such a thing! Did I mention that it involves a 2.4-mile ocean swim, 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run? It was broadcast live online, and it was so fun to watch people in a place I know pretty well. The announcers did a great job and had some impressive details about many of the athletes. I also knew of a few of them, so that was fun.

    I was up and at my computer with a cup of coffee a little after 8 a.m. this morning. The Chicago Marathon, with 45,000 registered runners, had gotten started a couple hours earlier. I ran this race last year, and I’ve been to Chicago several times, so of course I was looking forward to seeing how this one shaped up. It’s also one of the things that first got me into Twitter — last year I found some people on there who were also running Chicago, and I’ve kept in touch with most of them. My Twitter running network has since greatly expanded, so this year I knew a lot of people running it. The weather was quite warm, but everyone I was following made it across the finish line.

    Meanwhile, the Portland Marathon, which I was supposed to run, also went down this morning. They had a record-high 13,000 people running the full marathon in steady rain. I was also following a bunch of people in that race. Some are Twitter friends, and some I met in person when I was in Portland last month.

    Between all the Twitter people and more running buddies I’ve met through blogs and websites, I had a lot of stuff going on. Both marathons had live tracking, and Twitter was a steady, unending stream of updates from runners’ support crew, and even from a couple runners who tweeted along the way. Meanwhile, all of us virtual spectators were comparing notes and updating one another. At one point, I apologized to my non-running Twitter followers because they were probably overwhelmed, but I didn’t hear any complaints. I think most of them know I’m fairly obsessed with running, anyway.

    So many racers had so many incredible stories. From the heartbreaking disappointment in Kona, to the Boston Qualifying run with two seconds to spare, to the birthday bash in Portland, every person out there had a unique story. A local woman ran Chicago in 2:45:09 to qualify for the Olympic Trials, while another woman battled illness through 6 hours and 28 minutes of rain. Another one spent many hours in the scorching Chicago heat, contemplated giving up, but knew she couldn’t let down all of her Twitter supporters — and she did cross the finish line.

    There are so many incredible stories from this weekend and I’m afraid of linking to some and missing others (though I’ve already decided that one of them will be this week’s Friday Friend feature). So I have a new goal: When I get down in the dumps about something running-related, I’m going to also tell one of those runners’ stories and link to their site/blog/Twitter page. It will give both me and you readers some perspective, and it will give a tiny bit of credit to those determined runners.

  • Wallowing in despair

    I’m skipping this week’s Friday Friend feature, not because I’ve run out of friends’ blogs to promote, but because I’ve been full of angst and despair. So, pardon me while I complain for a few bullet points. I promise to end this blog post on a cheery note.

    • In 36 hours, 12,000 people will be running the Portland Marathon. I, runner #2381, will not be there. My t-shirt, tree seedling and all sorts of other fun things are waiting for me, but a certain stress fracture in my leg ended all of that. I’ve watched my biggest goals for the year crumble to dust. It’s hard, because now I’m watching all the tweets and Facebook posts and blogs from people who are so excited to run on 10/10/10. I was one of them. The running nerd in me is crying.
    • My neck is mad at me. The last time it did this was six months ago, and it knocked me out completely for four agonizing days. I lost six days of running in what was supposed to be one of my highest training weeks leading up to a marathon. My big May race subsequently suffered because of it. At least this time I can function, but I think it’s going to cramp my weekend plans.
    • Writing is a struggle. A story idea finally started coming together and I was actually writing, but it’s not easy. I stalled yesterday, and today I’ve made absolutely no progress. Perhaps my waves of optimism and self-doubt cancel each other.
    • My quest to start a new life in a new place is going too slowly for my liking. I want to be there NOW. I want the move to happen NOW. I hate being in limbo.
    • As a direct result of the previous item, and the running injury, I can’t book plane tickets and make plans for Christmas and New Years yet. I’m anxious to get things squared away while I can still find reasonable airfare rates, but I have to prioritize things. Vacation, even if it does include seeing immediate family members, cannot be my top priority right now.

    OK, no more wallowing (for today). I said I would end this blog post on a good note, and I will. Since I probably shouldn’t tell my new favorite joke (don’t want to offend anyone), I will instead post this photo and say, “Aww, I was a cute baby.”

    Flat-footed and reading a book. Yep, that sums me up.

  • Leg jury is still out

    I went on another half-mile test run today to see if my stress-fractured tibia hurt at all. Like Sunday’s test run, it did not hurt. But I was ever so slightly aware of it, which I think means it needs a little more time off. If my leg is completely healed, it should feel normal; if I feel anything, it probably still has a few extra blood cells lingering around, finishing the healing process.

    I’m not letting this discourage me, because I KNOW my leg is almost better. I am NOT going to risk damaging it further, because a little more time now will mean all the difference in the future. In the meantime, I’ve realized how much I’ve slacked off on stretching and most exercise, so that laziness stops today.

    I looked back at my logs from summer 2008, when I got a metatarsal (foot) stress fracture. (It was the other leg, so they’re not related.) I thought that had taken eight weeks, but in counting the weeks again today, I realized it took a bit less than 10 weeks before I was out running again. Then, including a couple weeks of really struggling to get any mileage in because I was so out of shape, I had eight weeks until the Nike Women’s Half-Marathon. That was a hilly course and I had no hill training, but I ran what was then a PR (personal record) for me, then added on miles to total 17. Seven weeks later — 15 weeks after coming back from injury — I ran my first marathon. That time wasn’t even my slowest marathon time.

    This Sunday will mark 10 weeks since my tibial stress fracture. If, and this is most definitely just an IF, I feel perfectly fine to start running again, that would give me 12 weeks until the third marathon I had planned for this fall/winter. Honestly, I don’t know if that’s enough time. While I’d lose the non-refundable registration fee, I haven’t paid for the hotel and airfare yet. The airfare isn’t a lot, because it would be a stop on the way between holiday plans and I found a fairly good deal, but other things (hotel, car rental even if I can split it with friends, meals, other random stuff) add up.

    So I don’t know yet if I’ll run that marathon. I wouldn’t be looking to beat my current record, since I just don’t have enough time to train for that. But the race happens to be in a state I’ve never visited, and it happens to be on Jan. 1. The nerdy side of me really, really wants to run that 1/1/11 race, especially since I had to cancel my dream 10/10/10 marathon. Additionally, the last couple years I’ve had some very crappy New Years, so I think a marathon would be one of the better ways to start off the new year.

    Conclusion: I don’t know! If my leg continues to feel fine in normal activities, I will probably let myself test it out again Saturday. Meanwhile, I’m going to stretch and bike, even though I grumble about it. I did ride 16 miles yesterday for an average of 16.5 mph, so at least that’s something.


    Oh, and I fixed it so that people can actually comment without having to find the super-secret login page. I hadn’t realized how ridiculous it was. Feel free to comment!

  • Half a mile of hope

    Eight weeks ago, I ran a 20-mile training run, at the end of which my leg was killing me. Almost seven weeks ago, I made my last attempt at running, then went to the doctor and got the dreaded tibial stress fracture diagnosis. The only way to heal such a stress fracture is to avoid any hard-impact exercise — such as running.

    And so, despite the inevitable downward spiral into a pit of endorphin-lacking despair, I ceased all running. The pain gradually and steadily lessened. A couple weeks ago, I started talking about a test run, but I was still feeling occasional twinges of mild pain in my leg and knew it wasn’t ready. I’d already put in weeks of recovery, so I wasn’t about to jeopardize my progress.

    A few nights ago I put on my running shoes and walked around the house. A month earlier, my leg protested the instant I tried wearing my running shoes, but this time it was OK. I even tried hopping up and down a few times on the injured leg. It didn’t seem to mind, but I wasn’t sure if maybe I’d felt a tiny twinge. I told myself that if nothing hurt, I’d run a maximum of  half a mile on Sunday or Monday.

    Today, Sunday, I put on my running shoes. Then I proceeded to wash all my windows (yes, took the screens off and cleaned them, too). The walking and standing on tip-toes felt fine. So I strapped on my Garmin GPS watch, switched it from biking to running mode, and set out down the street.

    After a short warm-up walk, I began to jog, telling myself to go slow but let it feel natural. After exactly a quarter of a mile, I stopped and evaluated — did it hurt, did it feel weak, were there any twinges? The funny thing is that the only thing I noticed was a bruise I’d given myself falling off my bike while trying to learn new pedals. It’s near the stress fracture area, which is a ridiculous coincidence. I pressed all over the area of the stress fracture and honestly asked myself if it hurt. It did not. So I ran the next quarter mile and obediently followed my plan to stop at that point.

    Four hours later, I don’t feel any pain. I’m actually trying to be a bit of a hypochondriac, because in this case it’s so much better to err on the side of caution. To that end, I’m not going to run tomorrow but instead get out on my bike. If I don’t feel anything amiss, I will let myself go on another test run Tuesday. Even if I pass that test with flying colors, I’m NOT going to let myself plan for the future until Wednesday, at the earliest. I love running too much to mess it up.

    Oh, and do you think it helped that I wore my Operation Jack t-shirt today?

    With Sam, the Operation Jack founder, at the end of his 7-hour run.

    (No, I’ve never run for seven hours. I volunteered, as I mentioned in this blog post, and Sam blogged here.)

    Meanwhile, tune in tomorrow for my weekend wrapup that might just include photos of a blindfold.

  • Friday Friend: Aron

    I couldn’t decide which friend to highlight for my second Friday Friend installment (introduced last week), but then Aron celebrated her 500th post on runnersrambles.com, so my decision was made. Why not link to one of my favorite runner’s blogs?

    I’ve been following Aron’s blog for quite a while, and she has since done things like qualify for the Boston Marathon. We met in person at a trail race last spring, which worked out well because we happened to park near each other at another trail race a few weeks later. Then she was sweet enough to invite me to a Bay Area run/meet-up, and even invited me to a couple! I can’t always make them, but the drive is worth it because they’re a great bunch of gals, and it’s so fun to run in new places with nice people.

    Another bonus: Aron’s one of the most consistent bloggers I’ve ever seen, so I know I can always look forward to a new post from her. So, congrats on the blogging milestone, Aron!

  • My tibial stress fracture

    Warning: This is a long post. It’s all about the stress fracture in my right leg.

    It started as a tiny twinge, a little pain that seemed connected to some tendon issues I’ve been working out since last fall. So I kept to my carefully constructed marathon training plan. When I stopped at a drinking fountain around 15 or 18 miles into a 20-mile run on Aug. 8, it felt worse. When I stopped for good at the end of the 20 miles, I was struggling not to limp. I ignored it and had a fun meal with a bunch of Bay Area running buddies.

    The pain got worse, and I knew something in my right leg was mad. The next day, Monday, was a rest day. Tuesday was a normal run with my running club, but I only ran a couple easy miles due to the pain. Things were not right. I stayed optimistic, giving my leg some rest because I was in a recovery week and could ease off the training. The pain didn’t go away.

    I was convinced it was a tendon issue, but I broke down and went to the doctor (a rarity for me). My insurance had just changed to Kaiser, which I was less than thrilled about, but they got me an appointment the next morning, and I had the obligatory x-ray, though I knew it wasn’t going to do anything. I was right; the doctor called me that afternoon to say the x-ray didn’t show anything and that she was referring me to an orthopedic doctor — a routine I know well due to my lifetime of foot/leg issues. Here’s where I became a fan of Kaiser: I saw an ortho doctor the next day, and he ordered up a bone scan for that afternoon. With my previous HMO, that would have taken eons to get authorized.

    The morning of Aug. 19, I went to the “nuclear medicine” department, where they injected dye into a vein (after several failed attempts at FINDING a vein). They informed me I would not glow in the dark. I beg to differ, on account of my pale skin, but that’s beside the point. I returned a few hours later, and they put me in an MRI-type of machine to take what it basically a long x-ray. The dye makes certain blood cells stand out, so if they’re trying to heal a microscopic crack in a bone, they’ll show up as a big cluster. I’d done some research on this, and knew that if I had a stress fracture, it would look like this (taken from this site):

    You can see the bone there, and then that big black spot is the stress fracture. I was still convinced that was not what I had, because the pain wasn’t restricted to one place. Two years ago I had a metatarsal stress fracture (toe bone in the foot) in the other leg, and I could pinpoint the exact place it hurt.

    So I waited through this long x-ray-type process. This was not helped by the fact that I had to lay on my other hip, which I’d banged up falling off my bike while trying to learn clip-in pedals. (Don’t ask.) Along the way, I learned that the lab lady had run several marathons but doesn’t run anymore because she doesn’t have time. This excuse always seems false to me, because the busiest people can still make time for the things they truly want.

    Anyway, the picture were finally taken and the lady said a radiologist had to read them but probably wouldn’t get to it until the next morning, a Friday. That meant the orthopedic doctor likely wouldn’t get back to me until Monday. I asked if I could see the scans, since they were right there on her computer screen, and she said yes.

    I took one look and burst into tears. Now, I cry about two or three times a year at most, and I hate it. But when I saw that big, black, ugly SPOT on my leg, exactly where it hurt, I knew what it meant. The lady said she couldn’t tell me the results, but the look on her face said I was right. I stumbled out of the room and through the long Kaiser building, hiding my tear-covered face. Even then I knew that people get far worse diagnoses in that same building, but I couldn’t help it. I knew I was out for at least eight weeks, but sometimes these things can take months to heal. The ortho doctor confirmed my own diagnosis the following Monday.

    I was set to race a half-marathon in nine days. I’d been gearing up and training diligently for the Portland Marathon, and training was going well enough that I really could see a sub-4-hour marathon in my future. I would stay there with old friends, and the nerdy part part of me was so excited the race fell on 10/10/10 (yes, I registered for it solely because of those two reasons). And I’d been one of the lucky ones to get picked in the New York City Marathon in November. Not only were my fall running plans gone, but I’d lost $360 in non-refundable registration fees, as well as my bid to qualify for the Marathon Maniacs club by completing three marathons within 90 days.

    Today marks four weeks since I saw that ugly black spot on the scan of my leg, and almost six weeks since the pain started. My leg feels much better than it did a few weeks ago. The inevitable emotional roller coaster ride, triggered by endorphin withdrawal (that happens when you’re used to running 30-45 miles a week), is over. But I still long every day to be able to run. I see people running and I get sad. On my recent trip to Portland, I wanted so badly to run along the beautiful trails, and through a rain shower. I get frustrated over something and want to go run to clear my head.

    But it will get better. Perhaps this mandatory break is what my tendon wanted, too. I will run again, and I will love it that much more.