Sunday, September 28, 2014

CIM minus 10 weeks: aiming high

Weekly summary:

70 miles
1 speed workout: 5 x 1000m/3 min recovery (3:26 ave.) + 6 x 200m/200m recovery (34 sec ave.)
1 long run: 20 miles moderate (7:05 pace)
6 hours strength training (3 x hot pilates, 1 x kettlebells, 1 x barre, 1 x bikini butt) 

This has been an interesting week in a number of ways. I was anxious in the first half of the week about the speed workout I had lined up for Wednesday. I haven't run many speed workouts in the past several months and the last attempt (3 weeks ago) went really badly. For those of you who have followed my blog for a while, you are aware that, relatively speaking, I am much faster at the longer races. For example, my marathon PR equates to a 16:57 5k, but I have only barely broken 18:00 for that distance at my fittest. The main reason for this disparity is that I don't practice at 5k pace. I started running as a marathoner and have focused on that distance at the exclusion of all others. I am very comfortable with the discomfort of running a lot of marathon paced miles but am very uncomfortable holding 5k pace. That's why I was anxious.

My paces for this workout were also very ambitious. 5:24 pace is fast for me, but I wanted to give it a shot. I asked the Genius if he wanted to do the workout with me and maybe help pace me for some of it. Thankfully, he agreed. I'm not sure I could have pushed myself that hard without help. I was pretty sure I could hold 83 second quarters for this workout and that was my goal, even though my training plan called for 81. My fastest 1000m workout ever averaged 3:35. So, this would be new territory. I wondered whether I had ever really pushed myself in an interval workout and I really wanted to try to do that here.

We started off the first 1000 and I was right on The Genius' heels. Despite getting a slight tingling feeling in my fingers at the end, it felt reasonable. First 1000m = 3:22 (81 sec/400m). We jogged the 3 minutes (which is a long time) and started again. This time, I started to fall behind my pacer. I felt like I was going backwards fast. I didn't look at my watch, but he pulled away from me in the last 200m and I started to feel heavy-legged and tingly as I tried to keep up. Second 1000m = 3:22. The Genius was speeding up, which made me feel better. However, I also realized the signs of oxygen debt coming on too early in this workout and decided to dial it back a bit. I ran the next three 1000m repeats in 3:30-3:31. I didn't take my splits during the repeat for these but just tried to concentrate on holding a hard but steady pace. I was happy that the early fast intervals didn't compromise the final miles of this workout. I felt good at the end. I finished the last 200m of the last repeat with a very strong mind repeating my new mantra, 2-4-2, to myself as I pushed it to the line. We finished this workout with some fast 200s. I ran all of them in 34-35 seconds and they felt great. 

Much like the threshold pace run last week, this workout was a huge confidence booster for me. I lack confidence at the shorter distances so this was a really important training experience. To know that I can push myself and even start out too fast and still hold it together was big. 

I had a straight up, easy to moderate paced long run of 20 miles on Saturday and wanted to try to get my legs a bit tired before that run so I could work on running long on tired legs. So far, my mileage for this cycle hasn't taken me to a point where I experience muscle fatigue during my runs. I decided instead to use strength training to tire my legs out before this long run and see how that felt. I did back to back classes at P2O Hot Pilates on Friday night taking Bethany's Kettlebells and Barre classes. These were great workouts and my legs did feel pretty tired. I want to add a caveat to this experiment, and say I would never tire myself out with strength work the day before a hard workout (meaning a workout with faster paces in it). In fact, I try to "protect my workouts" by doing easy strength work two days before a planned workout and none the day before. Last week's botched midweek workout taught me an important lesson about how long it takes me to recover from strength work. 
I met my speedy friend, Juliet, again this weekend for the first 10 miles of my long run. She needed to be home early so we started at 5:15 a.m. I am always willing to wake up super early on the weekend to meet a good friend and training partner! We negative split that first 10 and had a great run. I was able to lose my headlamp at the halfway point and take in another dose of Generation Ucan before heading back out for the second half. I also negative split that 10 miles and averaged 6:37 pace for the last 5 miles. My legs did feel tired at the end, but they were still very capable of running fast. The bonus of starting so early was that I was done by 8:00 a.m.!

I had someone mention on Facebook that she thought it was great that I was putting my goals out there so boldly. My goal of running 2:42:XX is absolutely a stretch goal for me, but I believe I can run that time if everything comes together. It is absolutely a gamble to put it out there in the world though--telling people that I am trying to do this huge thing. What if I fail? Will people think I was stupid for trying? While I risk taking a hit to the ego if I come up short, I think putting my big goals out there will help me more than hurt me. Every time I tell someone I am trying to run 2:42 for a marathon, it makes that goal a little more real. It keeps me honest in workouts and even in my strength training where I use my mantra of 2-4-2 when I start to shake in the last few reps in a tough class. It is becoming part of my psyche right now. I am gaining that mental focus that I remember developing before I ran my qualifier in Chicago. 

Running healthy again has given me perspective. The last 9 months of health problems kindled a fire inside me that is helping me accomplish extraordinary things in this training cycle. I am running faster than I ever have and am challenging myself in new ways. It is both exciting and scary. I never want to experience health problems like that again, but I am grateful for the perspective it has given me.


Sunday, September 21, 2014

CIM minus 11 weeks: the reality show

Weekly summary:
61 miles
1 missed workout
1 long run: 19 miles w/ 4.5 miles easy + 2 miles T (LT pace) + 5.5 easy + 2 x 2 T pace w/2 min jog + 2.5 E
6 hours strength training

This training week was both marginal and spectacular for me. It was marginal because I missed a workout. That is such a hard thing to deal with emotionally, especially when it is due to stupidity (on my part). The spectacular part was the long run I did get in. I am pretty sure this one counts as a breakthrough workout. I had planned to run 65 miles this week, so I came close to that. All in all, I would put this week in the plus column.

I missed the workout because I was testing my limits with strength training. I started adding serious strength work into my exercise regime about 6 months ago. It started with a couple of months of hot yoga and then I found P2O Hot Pilates in Midtown Sacramento and knew I'd found a the right place. I have been training there for 4 months now. I started gradually taking a variety of classes but no more than 2 per week. I worked my way up to 3 and then 4 per week within a couple of months. Now, I do 4-6 workouts per week. These are mostly hour long classes and they are hard--the hardest strength classes I've ever taken.

This week, I was feeling ambitious and decided to double up on Monday with a kettlebells and hot pilates class followed by a 6 mile run with our run group. I think that would have been okay had I not done hot pilates and a bikini butt class the two days prior. On Tuesday, I was feeling pretty worked. By Wednesday, my planned workout day, I knew I wasn't going to be able to deliver anything close to fast running, so I just ran easy. I thought I would postpone the workout to Thursday, but work got in the way of that. So, there I was, on Friday with a workout to do. I got my new training plan from Jack and the Saturday long run meant I wasn't running anything fast on Friday. I bit the bullet and let the midweek workout go and decided to focus my energy on having a great workout Saturday.

I was lucky enough to convince a friend to meet me for the warm up of this workout, but she needed to meet at 5:30 a.m. Having someone to meet and getting the workout done early were way more important than sleeping in on a Saturday. My friend is 4 months pregnant and amazingly fit. She pushed me for the first 4.5 miles!! After we parted ways, I put in my headphones and took off at T pace. On my training schedule, my T pace has been 5:54 for over a month now, but I have not been able to hit that pace. The last few weeks, I've flirted with it, but never nailed it. I didn't intend to do it on Saturday either. I have been treating my target paces as something to work toward as I become fitter.

It was completely dark out when I started my speed work, and I was able to just get a nice rhythm going. I decided I would only look at my pace at the 1/2 mile markers. I hit the first one and saw 2:54 as my split. I thought, "this is going to be a long day" realizing I was really pushing the pace early. I split the first mile in 5:51 and the second in 5:55 (hilly mile). I now had 5+ miles to think about those next 4 miles at T pace. My legs were feeling a little tired from the barre class I had taken the night before.

With 13 miles on my legs I started the next 2 miles and split that in 11:46! I was so excited, I was actually running my goal T pace at the end of this long run. The last 2 miles weren't nearly as pretty, but I still split 11:52. I then jogged back to my car, pretty pumped about what had just gone down. I love the breakthrough workouts. You never know when they'll happen, but they always do when you're putting in the work and taking care of the machine.

I definitely need to keep playing with the strength schedule to find the ideal mix to compliment and not detract from my running workouts, which have to be the priority. I tell my athletes to "protect their workouts" which means don't do a super hard strength workout the day before a hard running workout or try to run off of 4 hours of sleep. Treat your workouts like races. I think I have given an example here of what happens when you don't! The key to experimentation of this kind is not pushing yourself so far that you can't recover from any mistakes you might make. The smart decision I made was not doing the running workout midweek after I had cooked my body. Had I done that, I might have pushed myself over the edge into injurious territory or overtraining. Neither pops up immediately, so I'm not out of the woods.          

There is no doubt that the strength work I am doing is making me a faster runner. I have never been able to hit paces like I did this week in a long run like that, not even during my build up to my fastest marathons. Get your strength work in, listen to your body and make smart decisions! These are the lessons to be learned from this week.

On Saturday, I took those Oiselle Distance Shorts for a ride and earned my coffee! 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The build up to CIM

It is official. I am entered in the Cal International Marathon to be held on 7 December 2014.  This will be my 7th time running CIM and my 21st marathon. Did I mention that 7 is my lucky number? Kismet.

I have decided to update this blog much more frequently as I build up to the marathon--posting about my training and racing each week as well as the little things that I am doing to stay healthy and strong. If my past marathon training is any indication of how this one will go, it should be an interesting ride.

I am finally feeling healthy enough to make a run at an Olympic Trials Qualifier in this race, and that is exciting. However, so many things have to come together to make that happen. I have had magical days before and will continue to push myself in training and believe that I can achieve this big goal.

Please, join me for the ride. Eleven weeks and counting...

Thanks, Lindy, for posting this! 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Four weeks post-surgery and a win!

Wings out. My debut race as a Oiselle runner and I won!
I am really happy to finally be able to report that I am cured. After months and months of seemingly endless posts about my struggle with out-of-control uterine fibroids and my anemic state, I am sure you are happy to get this news. No more posts about bleeding and lady parts.

Well, maybe one last bit. I was cured with a procedure called hysteroscopic resectioning. In this procedure, you are put completely out while a skilled surgeon sticks a device fitted with a camera and laser up your va-jay-jay and whittles away at the fibroid growing inside the uterus. The laser cauterizes as it goes so there's no risk of excessive bleeding. My fibroid was occupying the whole space, so there was a lot of work to do. In fact, they were only able to remove 80% of my fibroid baby before I became borderline hyponatremic. That's the risk of the procedure. The fluids they pump inside the uterus to keep things flushed out start to get absorbed by the body and at some point the electrolyte balance in the blood is compromised to a dangerous level. I knew ahead of time it was unlikely that they would be able to get it all in this first try, but was assured what they did get would still solve my problem.

I doubted this but have to say I now believe. I am 4 weeks post surgery and training like a mad woman again. It took a couple of weeks to stop bleeding completely, so my blood levels are still recovering, but, lifestyle wise, I am blissfully normal again. One odd thing that occurred within a day of the surgery was a return of massive energy and cognitive clarity. I have found nothing on the interwebs that can explain this. I was still taking the same (damn) hormones (massive dose of progestin) at that point so this had to be from the lack of fibroid. The only thing I can surmise is that the little bastard was stealing my energy. It makes sense physiologically that growing one huge ass muscle (fibroids are all muscle) inside the body over a very short time period would require a lot of nutrients and energy. So, my body must have been directing a lot my energy to it. Think about it. I was basically growing a bicep inside my uterus.

The surgery was a breeze. I was recovered in two days. I ran 13 miles three days after surgery and have not looked back. My training has gone really well too, though I am trying to be very cautious about not overdoing it. It is really easy with this much energy to want to ramp up fast and push myself too hard. 

My race shoes had Schwings! Thanks to Christina for the photo from mile 10.

I ran a race on Sunday. Well, I won a race on Sunday! It was thrilling to feel strong again. This race was the Buffalo Stampede 10 miler and it was my first race running for Oiselle. I have run this race numerous times and actually won it once before in 2010, just before my PR marathon in Chicago. My workouts leading up to the race were mixed. I caught a cold the weekend before (lack of sleep does it to me every time!) but still had a great long run workout of 17 with 2 x 2 miles at lactate threshold (T) pace, then 5 miles easy and another 2 x 1 mile at T pace. My last T mile was 5:50 and I knew I was on a roll. 

Midweek was another story. The cold was fully embedded in my sinuses and I couldn't breathe. I did a track workout of 5 x 1200m and had to cut the third one to 800m because of the breathing issues. I was barely holding the pace I had run for my 15th mile on Saturday! Did I panic? Nope. I wish I could recall who wrote this: "you can't fake a good workout". You can have bad workouts, but there is no questioning your fitness if you have a good one. So, I clung to my Saturday workout for confidence in my fitness and let the track workout go.

On Sunday, I was excited to see one of my Impala teammates at the starting line. She and I have always been really well matched in fitness and have battled at the line on numerous occasions. I love racing with her because I know we will push each other. What I wanted from this race was a hard effort and a strong finish. I have never finished strong in this race. I always die the last 3 miles. We ran together for the first 8.5-9 miles, in and out of a pack of boys and it was great. Our first mile was my slowest, and we negative split the race. At mile 9 or so, I saw The Genius with our hounds on the side of the road. This gave me a huge boost, especially as I heard my girl Bella start hound barking at me as I passed by. She was telling me to go. So I did. I had a lot of kick left and used it to get myself to that finish line as fast as possible. Megan is a fierce competitor so once I kicked, I knew I couldn't let up. I felt so strong rounding the corner and pushing myself through to the finish. My last mile was my fastest by about 15 seconds per mile.
Me and the Genius. And our shy dogs. Thanks for the picture, Maria!

I ran 1:02:23. This is not close to my PR, but I wasn't racing for time. I ran my goal marathon pace, and it felt good to feel so confident at that pace for 10 miles three months out from my goal race. 

My legs have felt amazingly strong lately in workouts and in this race. While I was dealing with my fibroid issues, I hunkered down and concentrated on my strength training. That has paid off. I have mentioned before that I go to (and am a run coach for) a Hot Pilates Studio in town called P2O and the strength work has made all the difference. I take 4-6 classes a week there, which is a lot more strength work than I've ever done. I love the hot pilates class, and that's what I do more than anything else. I am also a fan of the kettlebell classes for heavier lifting and TRX. I don't let these workouts interfere with my running workouts and use the "keep your hard days hard and your easy days easy" philosophy. I was very proud of the group of runners from the Studio at the race for pushing themselves and accomplishing their goals too!

I wore the Hoka Cliftons in my race on Sunday and I really liked them. I debated about this and did my track workout on Wednesday in my Lunaracers as a comparison. However, I didn't notice that it was a very tired pair. I grabbed the wrong ones from the shoe box and they were dead! Big mistake! I ended up dealing with a calf/tibialis/achilles problem the rest of the week and was nervous about that impacting my race. With some good self-PT and focused rolling, I didn't feel it at all in the race. It actually feels much better after having raced. That's a good sign! The Hokas definitely take some getting used to. My only concern with the Hokas is that I won't be able to go back to the lightweight, less cushioned shoes after wearing them exclusively. As long as Hoka sticks around, I guess that's not a problem.

The outlook for CIM is good this year! I am looking forward to the next 3 months of hard training and a few long races to test my fitness along the way. After having to pull out of my last three planned marathons, I am very excited for this one! 

I am mostly excited to be living a normal life again. In looking back on what I endured and how much it affected my life, I am not sure how I got through it in one piece. It was a wild ride but I am happy it is behind me. Thanks for your support along the way!              

Did I mention I won a pile of poop?
First place wins a pile of buffalo poo!


Thursday, July 17, 2014

So many good things to share

Despite the setbacks I am having in my running due to my health problems, there are so many things going right at this moment, that I can't possibly be bummed out.

First, I am pleased to announce that I am now representing a fantastic company, Oiselle. This company first caught my eye when they sponsored one of my favorite runners, Lauren Fleshman. They are a group of strong, outspoken women who provide awesome support for female athletes of all levels. I love that they have opened up the team to more runners and are able to support so many athletes despite being such a small company. I saw this as a chance to be part of something that is wonderful.    

Our fun running group last Sunday!
Second, I have partnered with a local studio, P2O Hot Pilates, to help with their running program. I joined this studio on an introductory offer and fell in love with the family atmosphere and the work ethic of the instructors and members. These classes are no joke and are fantastic for developing strength and mobility in runners! I love that they offer a free organized running program that is open to all levels and even non-members. The owners want to encourage running in their community, and I am excited to be a part of that! I am currently leading the runs on Thursday a.m. at 5:30 and Sunday a.m. at 7:00, both from Big Lots at 8700 La Riviera Dr. We head to the bike trail and have a lot of fun. Please feel free to join us for a run!

Third, my businesses are doing really well right now. I am enjoying an amazing explosion in my ecological consulting business. I love the work that I'm doing, all of which is supporting the conservation of biodiversity in California and beyond. I care so much about this work and am grateful I am able to make a living doing what I love. It's also wonderful working for myself. I was pretty freaked out at first about the challenges of starting my own business and all of the hardships that come along with that. I have been pleasantly surprised at how easy and fun it has been. Even with the health issues and medical expenses, I am able to make it work. My coaching business is also thriving, with athletes doing really well all around the country. It is an honor to help them and watch them work hard and reap the rewards of that hard work. That is why I love coaching.        

Finally, it wouldn't be an RAF blog post without a health update. I know it seems weird that I am so public about something that is so personal and really unflattering. This blog has always been about honesty and sharing information and experiences with others in hopes that it will somehow help. The messages I receive from women who are either going through this same thing or know someone who is confirm that my openness is helping others, and that's what it's all about.

This week confirmed that I made the right decision to postpone my marathon until December. My health issues reemerged at an alarming level this week, and I have become even more anemic, yet again. The good news is that I am working on the things that I can: overall strength and running speed. My endurance is not good at all, but I can do speed work without a problem. As always, once the spigot shuts off, I will be able to get my blood levels up and will be back where I left off.

I had a hysteroscopy (scope inside my uterus) last week and confirmed that my big daddy fibroid is in fact occupying my entire uterus and is stuck inside the lining. I have a picture of this guy on my refrigerator. My friends who saw the picture started seeing fibroids in everything: banana muffins, emoticons. I will spare the rest of you that torture. So, the fibroid I have can't be removed surgically without taking everything with it. What they can do, and I go in for a surgical consult tomorrow, is shave away at the fibroid a little at a time. This supposedly will reduce the hemorrhaging. That's the hope, anyway. I may need to go in a few times to get this big guy shaved down, but the recovery time is a matter of hours rather than weeks with this procedure. Totally worth a try. I will look forward to losing a few pounds as well with the removal of this little ball of muscle!

I am proud that I have held my ground and fought the doctors who were ready to yank out my useless uterus, telling me I had no other options. I may be on my 4th OB/GYN, but I now have doctors telling me that I have some great options available and they are actually treating me as if I have a choice. In the end, I may end up having a hysterectomy, but nobody should be pressured into that decision. There are so many other options out there, and we deserve to at least hear about them!!!

So, all good things. Give good stuff to the world, and good stuff will come back to you!  

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

I Got You Babe

I had to make a tough decision this week about my racing schedule. I have been training for the Eugene Marathon now for months and am as fit as I have ever been heading into a marathon. I have conquered some major workouts and have been putting in the highest mileage since last fall. In my last post, I mentioned that my health issues had cropped up again and that I was taking some new medication to try to bring things under control. As luck would have it, the new medication worked for its intended purpose, though I had to up the dosage to get it to work. However, the side effects from the meds were pretty dramatic. Several days last week, I experienced severe GI distress for hours so terrible that I was unable to eat or even stand. I understand this to be a common side effect of the medication, but that doesn't make it any easier to deal with.

As I missed a couple of days of training (and work!) I realized that I just wasn't going to be able to rally from this one. I could feel in my easy running that my blood levels had dropped again (confirmed yesterday with hemoglobin of 11.5 and hematocrit of 35). It feels like I'm running at altitude or through molasses. The easiest efforts feel harder than they should. I've had success at getting my blood levels to recover quickly, but my training suffers until they improve. So, I conferred with friends and coaches and decided that I should let Eugene go.

One of the things that really struck me in my conversations about this was the distinction between just running another marathon and trying to achieve a gigantic goal. I have no doubt that, if my blood levels did rally in the next couple of weeks, I would have a decent race in Eugene. I'm sure I'm in sub-2:50 if not faster shape. I had to ask myself the question: what are you really wanting to do in Eugene? Do you just want to run a decent marathon or do you want to run your fastest marathon? 

We've all read stories of elite runners who overcame years of injury or sickness to come back and have spectacular races or seasons. What I am realizing is that you don't get to play the lead role in that story without making some really smart decisions about your training and racing. You have to decide what is most important and you have to go after that goal with the determination and drive of a predator. It is perfectly fine to race a bunch of races because you love the thrill of competition or racing, but that comes at a cost. You won't maximize your potential with that approach or if you do, you will pay later with a broken down body. I've seen it over and over. The people who achieve the big goals make sacrifices and smart decisions along the way that move them closer to their goals. 

So, I did the calculations. If I ran Eugene and then took the 4 week recovery into account, I wouldn't be ready to start training for another fast marathon until September. I think my best chances for a fast marathon are in my own back yard at the Cal International Marathon. I would need to get started training for that in a few weeks.

So, my body decided not to cooperate this time around. As frustrating as this continues to be, I do know that my day will come and that there is a marathon PR or even an Olympic Trials qualifier in my future. I also know that if I don't work with my body and make smart decisions along the way, I won't reach my potential.

So, I am starting over again, getting back to some speed work and letting my body recover a bit before launching into another marathon training cycle. I feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, waking up to Sonny and Cher over and over and over. But, I'll take that over the alternative any day. 

Keep your dreams alive people!                        


Friday, June 20, 2014

The one where I run a 1/2 marathon distance PR

That's right kids. What are the chances that both half marathons I run this spring end up being long, and not just a little long from Garminization, but 3/4 mile long? I feel like I should play the lottery some time soon. Here's a picture of me right after I finished. Do I look pissed?

I think this is right before I exclaimed, "Damn it, Chad!" (a Fleet Feet Event Mgt. employee) as he put my finishers' medal around my neck.
I have put off writing this race report because, quite frankly, it isn't fun to write about failures, and I also needed some time to cool down. I am not going to bash Fleet Feet Event Management, the organization that put on the event. They typically put on really professional races, but they had some bad luck of their own in the days leading up to this one. In short, they were short on volunteers for the event and they weren't able to supply enough course monitors to man the half marathon course. I'm sure they thought they had set up enough barriers and laid down enough chalk to keep everyone straight, but the course was very confusing to even the cyclists with maps who were leading the runners all over Sacramento.

The first problem I had that day was forgetting my Garmin. I have never done that before! I thought I might try to be Zen for this one and just not use a watch, but OMG am I glad I found a loaner! I can't imagine how much more disastrous that race would have been had I not known how long I had been running after I lost the course. And, then having a record of some of my splits for posterity's sake since the recorded time was about 5-6 minutes slow. I saw my friend Erika right before the race and luckily she had a friend, Jacqueline, who was running the half marathon and generously offered me her Garmin. I was so humbled by this gesture! I will pay it forward one day, I promise!

As I saw the pleas for volunteers from Fleet Feet Event Management stream across Facebook in the days leading up to the race, I had a bad feeling that something might go wrong. Given my experience at the Parkway Half and the fact that I had missed a 10k race the month before because of my health issues, I just wanted to run a legit race and test my fitness.

I met the eventual winner at the start line and introduced myself. She runs for the Oiselle Racing Team, and I knew that she would lead the race from the gun since she has a 1:17 half marathon PR. I also found a friend at the start, Kristen, whom I have met at other races and expected her to be right up there in front too. This is an all-women's race, by the way, so the three of us formed the lead pack. Except that we really weren't a pack. From the gun, Alison was in the lead as I expected. She went out hot. I stuck to my race plan which was to run 6:10-6:20 pace for the first couple of miles to get in a groove. I didn't become discouraged as Alison and then Kristen increased their lead on me in those first few miles. I had read a fantastic race report from Ellie Greenwood, the winner of the 2014 Comrades Marathon, the day before where she emphasized the importance of never giving up. You just never know what might happen in a longer race. Especially a hot race. The temperatures would reach 100+ later that day, and I think it was about 80 degrees when I finished, so not exactly cool. I have been heat training so I knew I would race relatively well in those temperatures and that would be an advantage.

Back to the race: Alison had gained a lead on Kristen and me by mile 3 and a cyclist dropped back to help us figure out where to go since we could no longer see the lead runner. Kristen was right with the cyclist and I was a few seconds behind her. We made a couple of turns and then I saw the cyclist stop abruptly while Kristen followed some cones around to make a left turn onto Folsom Blvd. This is one of the most heavily trafficked roads in Sacramento and I was a little surprised that they would shut down traffic for the race. In actuality, I wasn't really thinking. I was racing and following the cyclist and Kristen. As I turned onto Folsom, the cyclist, parked safely on a side street, looked up from his phone and smiled at me. I could see Kristen running in the vehicle lane and, at first, there wasn't any traffic coming toward her. I thought it odd that they wouldn't have coned off the shoulder of the road for the runners, but whatever. Then, the traffic light changed at 65th and Folsom and cars started streaming toward us. I was in the gutter at this point recognizing that something was seriously wrong, but Kristen hadn't caught on yet and cars had to swerve around her as she held her lane. I finally realized we were screwed and yelled at Kristen to turn around, but she was wearing headphones and didn't hear me. Don't wear headphones in races, peeps!!!

I took the first left that I could, which was 65th street and took it to Elvas Ave. I knew that the course hooked up with Elvas at some point, though I didn't know whether it was on the way out or the way back. At this point I had no idea how to get back on course or whether I was cutting it short or running long. I finally found a police officer acting as course monitor and stopped (and didn't stop my watch) to ask where I was. He directed me down an off ramp and I started seeing what looked like course markings. It wasn't until I found an aid station around mile 6 that I found out where I was on course. That's when I knew this was going to be 3/4 mile long. I also found out that the leader had run the correct course, so now she was completely out of reach (as a side note: she ended up slowing a lot in the latter part of the race, which makes me wonder what Kristen or I could have done in the latter stages as we caught up to her). I didn't see Kristen anywhere even though I half expected her to catch up to me as I had lost some motivation at this point. I found out after the race that she was misdirected not once but twice and eventually dropped. Unlike the Parkway Half where everyone ran a long course, I knew that no adjustments would be made to my time for this one since at least the leader had run the correct course. How deflating.

Of course, dropping out crossed my mind A LOT in the second half of the race. Luckily, my friend Christina Applegate was on her bike not only giving me info on what was going down from an effed-up race standpoint, but also keeping me focused on getting my job done. I love that she decided to put these words on this photo she took because they are the same as the title of Ellie's blog post. I did not give up!
Thanks, Apple, for the pic and the support!
The final insult happened when I approached McKinley Park and there was a cop directing traffic at an intersection. He had his back to me (!) and was waving cars to move through the intersection. I made eye contact with the lady in the car who was being directed to cross the lane I was in, but she just kept moving right on through! I kept running thinking she would stop until she eventually nicked me with her bumper as I yelled out in surprise. I wasn't hurt at all, but Jesus Christo that was ridiculous!

I didn't quit the race even though I did slow at the end. Even running to the 13.1 mile point and lapping my borrowed watch was pointless because I had stopped running a few times to figure out how to get back on course without stopping the watch. I am still unsure what I really ran that day, and I guess it doesn't matter. I estimate I was about 5-6 minutes faster than my gun time but who knows?

I ended up coming in second place and found out that a pack of runners behind me also ended up running different configurations of the course., though most ran shorter than me because they figured out the mistake sooner. Eventually, someone figured out the problem and the rest of the runners were directed along the proper course.

I am not going to lie and say that I let this one roll off my back. I didn't. I really felt sorry for myself after this one. I didn't get to run a single legit race in my build up to the Eugene Marathon because I was either anemic or the course was long. That is some bad luck.

The next day, my health issues cropped up in a major way. I had cramps of the same magnitude as the ones that sent me to the ER back in the winter. This time, I had a bottle of Norco to ease the pain, and I knew that it was just my fibroid baby talking to me. But, holy cow, those cramps are debilitating. It took me out for the entire day. Then, I started bleeding like crazy from Tuesday until, well, yesterday. I had my blood levels taken on Monday to just get a sense of where I was and I was only borderline anemic (hemoglobin = 12.3; clinical anemia is < 12). This actually made me happy to think that I could experience as much blood loss as I had the week prior and still not get nearly as low as I was back in March (hemoglobin < 10). Nonetheless, these levels are still low, and I have found anything under 13 has a noticeable impact on performance, particularly my endurance. I ended up having to skip both of my hard workouts last week because of the uncontrollable blood loss, but I am back training as normal again this week.  

I ran a long workout Wednesday (shout out to Jen P. for getting my butt out there!) and attempted the workout as written. I knew I would have to play it by ear given how I had been feeling, but I wanted to give it a try. The workout on my schedule was 16 miles with 5-7 mile warm up and 4 x 2 miles at threshold pace. I was pretty certain my threshold pace was going to be slow but I thought I might be able to do at least 3 of the repeats. It went better than expected with my 2 mile splits at 12:15 for the first 2. I could definitely tell I was working though. I ran one more mile at around 6:08 pace and then the wheels started coming off. The last mile was around 6:15-6:20 pace and I knew it was time to jog it back in. I didn't really jog though. I finished all 16 miles at an average of ~6:50 pace, so that was another surprise. I will say that I felt like hell afterward. However, I rebounded quickly and enough to get in a TRX workout that evening.

I am on a new medication that is supposed to help control the bleeding, but it does have side effects. It is basically a super dose of progestin. It seems to be working to control the bleeding so far (fingers crossed).

So, what does this mean for my Eugene Marathon training? It means that I am going to continue to train as if I didn't have these health issue and just do what I can. I can't push my body harder than it can go, but I am hopeful that these new meds will keep the bleeding to a minimum so I can use the next 5 weeks to create more red blood cells. The good news is, once my hemoglobin levels get close to 14 again, I am going to feel like a freakin' rock star! I have been there and I know that feeling. It may or may not happen before Eugene, and that's okay. There will be other races for me to attempt to run under 2:43.

If I've learned anything from this spate of bad luck and bad health it is to never, ever give up on myself.