Sunday, February 26, 2012

Cracking It

@ The Movies: Rocky Balboa
Originally uploaded by ★WaiWai★.

I'm actually getting kinda sick of myself at the moment, I have to say. It seems my whole life is consumed by my sore knee and how it has been holding me back in training.

Yesterday was no exception. I got to Central Park on time, proud as punch to be using my fancy new fuel belt. Having iced and stretched my knee the night before, I was not feeling any pain as we started the first of two 4-mile circuits. I kept up a good, steady pace - staying out in front of the run/walker pack, for the most part. And then, just like clockwork, my knee injury demanded to be noticed. As I rounded into the last 1/2 mile, ignoring it was not an option and as I completed my first circuit, I had to stop.

I have been mad at myself ever since I started feeling this injury, but yesterday took the cake. I was mad, then I was sad. I am not a runner, so I am realistic about my performance in this race - I have always said that I just want to finish. And yet after yesterday's setback, I sincerely doubted my ability to do even that.

Last night I continued to feel sorry for myself, and then I took a long hard look around my apartment and realised that a one-woman pity party is pretty pathetic. So I gave myself a stern talking to. I pledged to go back to Central Park first thing Sunday morning, stare down those 8 miles and never again let my knee be the boss.

A little after 9.30am, I set off on the first of two 4-mile circuits; a wonderful reprise of Saturday's run. But the weather was so much better today - even the sun knew better than to let me down today.

Right on schedule, my knee started to twinge at the 3.5-mile mark and those second thoughts crept in. But I shut them up by squeezing Vanilla Gu into my mouth. Then I spent the next 1/2 mile trying to wash it off my hands and my tshirt, where I had slopped it. I mean, seriously - I was a mess, but at least it was a distraction.

I was almost 1/3 of the way into my second circuit before I realised how well I was doing. My walking breaks were a welcome relief from the running, and sure, my knee was hurting every time I started up again - but I would not let myself stop.

The hills on the western side of the Park (aka The Three Bitches) lived up to their nickname today, but I willed myself forwards. As I made my final turn into Bethesda Terrace, I could almost smell the coffee of the Central Park Boathouse.

And so after shuffling 8 miles around Central Park, the Boathouse was exactly where I headed. A strong, hot latte was the perfect reward for my longest run to date. And my knee will just have to live with that.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Riding the shame spiral

Sad Gargoyle Face - Ornate
Originally uploaded by Digital Wallpapers.

I was on a high after my 6-mile run yesterday and even as I iced my knee last night, I remember thinking how good I felt. I even wondered whether maybe my knee was finally ready to play ball and help me get across the half-marathon finish line.

Well don't I feel the fool now?

This morning I got up early(ish) and got myself organised - filling up my new fuel belt with water, some chocolate Gu, and even a sachet of Gatorade electrolytes I wanted to try.

I got all the way into Central Park and as I walked to the start of my running track, I felt a stitch in my side. Already? I hadn't even done anything!

I don't know what that was all about because I wasn't sore, and I'd eaten my breakfast, and I'd had a lot of water. And yet there was still that sore twinge down my side.

I tried to ignore it but the minute I started running, there was that niggling pain in the back of my knee. I wondered whether maybe my legs were just cold and after a while, the muscles would start to warm up and the pain would go away.

So I did what McGyver would do, and I battled through the hurt and charged on ahead, taking on the 1.7-mile Lower Loop of Central Park.

Sadly, my knee was having none of it. The stitch had gone away, but my left knee was still sore. I got a bit more than once around the loop and I had to stop.

Admittedly on the walk back to the bus stop I was sulking to myself. I just want to run and do well. The fuel belt works great, but the electrolyte drink tastes like sea water and I am not a fan. Maybe it only tastes good when you've been running for ages and feel like you're dying? I hope that one day soon, I get to find that out for myself.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

GK Huff-and-Puff

Central Park - Bethesda Terrace and Angel of the Waters Fountain -
Originally uploaded by

When the email came through during the week from our NYC half-marathon coaches, I read that the plan for Saturday was to run 11 miles, across the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges. I knew my knee would never make it (and I doubted whether my stamina would anyway), so I resolved to take myself back to Central Park and pound the pavement on my own there instead.

And so it was that I set off early-ish to reprise the Gridiron Classic 4-mile run I did a few weeks ago. The sun was shining, the taxis were honking, the ambulances were wailing - it was a perfect New York morning.

I got all the way to Central Park with my Gu electrolyte chews in my pocket, my Gymboss interval timer on my wrist, and my drink bottle filled to the brim with cool water. And who should I see walking through Central Park, but Morgan Freeman! All the signs pointed to this being a good run for me.

As I braced myself to get started, I realised that the battery in my run timer was flat. ARGH. How was I going to survive the full 6 miles without knowing when to run/walk at the proper intervals? I might die. But then I got over myself and decided I would just count. I figured that if I counted in time with my steps, I would get into some sort of rhythm (or trance) and I might actually do okay. And with that resolution, off I went.

Right on cue at the 4-mile mark, my knee pain started to announce its presence but I didn't let it throw me off. I kept on counting and ran-walked like I was supposed to. There were parts of the run today where I really thought "Woohoo, I can do this!" and then there were parts where I desperately wanted to stop. And just when I felt like that, a thought crossed my mind: Hey, I could do another 1.7 mile loop here! Madness, I tell you - madness!

In the end, sanity prevailed and I stopped myself at 6 miles. I was pleasantly surprised that, as I stretched, I was feeling normal - I could think clearly, I could see clearly, and I didn't feel like falling down and staying there.

I did forget to eat any of my electrolyte chews, but I will go back out tomorrow and make a conscious effort to try them. I even put a new battery in my interval timer so I won't have to rely on my brain next time. Most excellent.

Oh and I have a new fuel belt to wear tomorrow - one of these space-age (but very professional) looking contraptions with 4 little water bottles and a tiny pouch in the back for nutrition supplies.

So here's to another 6 miles tomorrow - hands free this time!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

I am the 90 percent

We had our second home-cooked lunch fundraiser at work today and we raised $404 for our NYC half-marathon efforts. It felt wonderful to feed everyone some delicious food and take home $101 to bank for the cause.

You might recall that our first fundraiser was on Australia Day. That time around I learned just how much cooked rice you get when you empty a 5lb bag into every saucepan in your apartment. Shudder.

This time, I got my Martha Stewart on and made pulled pork in wholemeal wraps with a zingy coleslaw. I actually cheated and used packet coleslaw mix, but the dressing was all mine and I was pleased with the result. It's always a gamble trying out a new recipe but I thought it went down well (it must have - I didn't have any left). The other main course on the menu was a hearty and delicious tofu & eggplant Thai green curry which proved really popular. Then the workplace was divided between our two dessert camps - it was either sticky date pudding with butterscotch sauce & whipped cream, or individual tiramisu. I mean, seriously! Could you go wrong with today's lunch?

After pocketing today's takings, plus some allegedly late donations from a couple of generous work colleagues, I've now met 90% of my fundraising goal. Can you believe it?

My knee is also feeling better, thanks to regular physio manipulations and Pilates at-home DVDs. And P.S, if you haven't ever done a Ana Caban Pilates DVD, you really should - she is excellent. The intermediate mat routine has some tricky bits in it, but close the curtains so the neighbours can't see, and nobody needs to know but you.

Oh but it gets better - I have even geeked out and I'm faithfully doing my knee stretches twice a day. What a nerd, right?

A little over a month to go until D-Day. Let's see how long this positivity can last.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

People Call Me Forrest Gump

Knee injury does little to stop rookie athlete completing her first race!

I tried to get back into training this week but I've been a little sidelined by a nagging knee injury. I have started seeing a physical therapist who is great, and he has put me on an exercise regime to turn the "al dente" muscles behind my knee into the "well-cooked spaghetti" they are supposed to be. Ice packs have also helped - not only to soothe my swollen knee - but also to make me feel like an elite athlete.

Something else that helped me feel like a pro was the 4-mile Gridiron Classic held in Central Park today. I had signed up weeks ago, before my knee was playing up, so this past week has been about psyching myself up to the physical challenge. This was set to be my first race ever, so I wanted to make a good impression, but I also didn't want to kill my knee and set myself back even further, fitness-wise.

I took my physical therapist's advice and waited to see how I would feel this morning. Oddly enough when the alarm went off at 7.15am, I was ready to get up and face the day. My knee was a bit cold and tender, but not as bad as it has been. So I went through the motions of getting myself ready for race day, including a healthy breakfast feast. For good measure, I put on make-up. It felt weird to be doing that, but I thought some effort ought to be made. I left the jewelry at home.

It wasn't that I was running late, but I didn't want to take any chances with public transport this morning. The cab broke the land-speed record and got me to Central Park in record time. Leaving my bag at the designated area, I found my Team in Training crew. My mentor happened to be there (I wasn't expecting to see her), but she gave me a quick pep talk and the same reminder that I had had from the therapist about not pushing myself too hard this time around.

The crowd was a real mixed bag today - young kids, all the way up to old people. And being Super Bowl Sunday, lots of runners wore their team colours (good to see a heap of NY Giants garb). Not having any football attire of my own, I opted for a gym outfit and a Nike top in a lovely purple-pink colour that matched my race bib. Of course.

Before long we were off and racing. I was wearing my interval timer Gymboss device, so I could time myself to run for 2 minutes and walk for 1 minute. I wanted to see whether pacing myself like that would give me enough energy in my tanks to finish the race and not feel dead afterwards. I also had my own water bottle, so I wouldn't have to stop at the fluid stations along the course.

My race ended up being ruled by beeps. When my timer beeped I ran, when it beeped again I walked, and when it beeped a third time I started running again. And so it was for the full four miles. Supporters were lining the race route and clanging cowbells or just applauding - cheering us all on and reminding us that we were doing great. I saw one guy a couple of times, who was telling us that we were all amazing, and running so much better than everyone who was still in bed. Was that even a compliment?

In the end I finished the 4 miles in 45 minutes 57 seconds, which works out to 11.5 minutes per mile. I know that's not great and it's certainly not fast, but it was good for me and it's a place to start.

I've got a little over a month to whip my knee - and the rest of me - into shape for the NYC half-marathon. But having experienced a race day now, I know what I can expect and in a perverse way I'm actually looking forward to it.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Coffee, with a beer chaser

I think night times are shorter in Boston or something, because I swear that Saturday morning came around faster than normal. But at least the rain had abated and the sun was shining, so we had that going for us. Plus we were still on holidays, and you know how I feel about that.

Emerging from the hotel and out into society, me and J-Train headed to Fanueil Hall and wound our way around the food stalls and trinket stands in Quincy Market. At this point in the day I was only being sustained by one in-room coffee pod and let me tell you that was nowhere near sufficient. Decaffeinated as we were, we both ordered a Starbucks coffee and immediately regretted it. Sometimes they are drinkable, sometimes they are just not - and you never know until that first, fateful sip. Sad faces all round.

Getting past our coffee craving, I suggested to J-Train that we be a bit rebellious and take the train out to Stony Brook, to tour the Samuel Adams Brewery. I mean, why not - right? And so after a bit of train route wrangling, we were on our way.

The Samuel Adams Brewery is located in the quiet but suburban area of Stony Brook, an easy 15 minute train ride from central Boston. When we came out of the station, I had a momentary panic that we wouldn’t be able to find the brewery. But it turned out we were blessed on two fronts – on the one hand, we had a crowd of young beer-drinkers to follow; and secondly, the street signs clearly marked where we needed to go.

Arriving a little before 1pm, we managed to squeeze ourselves into the free tour at 1.40pm. While we waited we just sat outside in the fresh air and watched a steady stream of people come and go. When we finally got inside, the one-hour tour went surprisingly quickly. Our tour guide (Meghan) was an enthusiastic Samuel Adams employee – and probably customer too. She knew her stuff and did a good job of imparting her knowledge about how Samuel Adams combines barley, hops, yeast and water to produce the best beers in Boston. I felt a bit sorry for Meghan really because all of us knew that part of our tour included a free tasting, and people were obviously pumped for it. As we moved around the brewery, we learned about the mixing machines and hoses and donating leftover slop to nearby dairies for cattle feed. Poor Meghan was only able to capture the attention of about half our group – the rest were way too distracted by the promise of freebies. And when we finally got into the tasting room, Meghan really had no hope at all. And yet she was a real trooper cause she didn’t give up. Meghan ended up shouting her instructions about the tasting notes for each of the three beers we tried. Whenever she could, she did make some snide remarks about the yahoos in the room (none of whom were listening, because they were too busy chugging their tastings and having belching competitions).

We opted out of the free trolley service to nearby Doyle's cafe/pub, where we could have picked up a free “perfect pint” glass (created especially for the brewery by Boston-based scientists). We were eager to get back to the city because we had free tickets to a Motorcycle Expo (with bikers, their chicks and all the trimmings).

Yep, you heard me. More to come.