2014 Wrap-up and Racing Resolutions

I know, I know.  It’s almost February 2015 and I am just getting around to posting my 2014 wrap-up.  If you go by the lunar calendar, then this post is just-in-time.  The tardiness of this post pretty much sums up the year — 2014 was insanely busy.

On the home front, my poor boys were constantly sick.  I think my 18-month-old had a fever every other week!  My 4-year-old started pre-school and brought home all kinds of germs.  Also, I think I can sum up pre-school with two words: Birthday Parties.  Holy cow.  For a period there, we had a birthday party EVERY weekend.  I should stock up on pre-schooler birthday gifts just to have it handy!

On the work front, it was a great year.  It took me a couple of years but I stood up an awesome team at work and things were just starting to come together and getting some serious recognition.  Just in time for managers to move me to lead another project!  Now, the move did come with a nice promotion to a senior position and a nice raise, so no complaints.

Running, Racing, Resolutions

On the running front – this has been an epic year for me as a runner.  Starting in March 2014 with meeting my goal of running a Marathon within a year of having my second baby.  Not only did I complete the Marathon (prior to the course time limit), I achieved a personal record by shaving off 36 minutes from my previous personal best.  Then again in November 2014, I was able to slim down my marathon time by 12 more minutes when I completed the Richmond Marathon (new PR: 5:26).

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What I Have Learned In 2014

I don’t know if it is easy for anyone to run a marathon.  It is a mental and physical challenge, one that I have fallen in love with.  What I want to celebrate as a result of my running in 2014 isn’t the PRs but what I have learned from racing:

1. Do Not Let Others Define Your Limits.  People don’t say negative things out of meanness.  In fact, the most discouraging comments about my running have been uttered by close family and friends with the best of intentions. You know yourself best.  Don’t give away the power to define your own limits.

2. If Your Goals Don’t Scare You Just A Little, Then It Is Not Set High Enough. Do what scares you. Just a little.    It is a wonderful feeling to know you conquered your fears.

3. Celebrate Your Achievements. It’s OK.  It’s not self indulgent to do it. Now, I’m not talking here just buying new gear (though I am known to do that…).  I found myself minimizing my achievements.  “You ran a marathon?!  That is amazing” “oh, yeah, I did.  But I’m so slow…”  Can you imagine if your best friend or family just ran a marathon after training for it all winter long and you say to them “yeah, I guess you finished, but man were you slow!”   I would never say that or feel that way so why should I tell myself that?

Looking To 2015

I don’t usually set “new year’s” resolutions.  I guess I usually set goals all throughout the year. But this year, I decided to do things a little differently.  In fact, I am not setting any racing goals… I am setting anti-racing goals.

1. No Marathons for 12 months.  I want to focus on getting faster.  Focus on shorter races, nothing longer than 13.1 miles. Do more speed workouts.  Incorporating strength training and swimming.

2. Incorporate My Family Into More Runs.  The shorter runs will allow me to achieve this goal.  In the fall, my son started riding his bike.  We went on many family runs and it was so much fun, and challenging keeping up with him on his bike, that I resolve to do more of it this year!

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I hope this belated post finds everyone happy and healthy.  I wish all of you an awesome New Year 🙂

Be fearless and run on.

Race Review: 2014 Anthem Richmond Marathon

Overall: Good Race. I probably won’t do it again… but never say never.

Expo:  I did not make it in time for the Expo, so can’t comment on that.  It is GREAT that the race mails your bib to you ahead of time.  Take advantage of that if you won’t make it to the expo.  I also heard from my friends that did go the expo that they met Bart Yasso and sat through his pep talk…I was jealous of that!

Race Tips: You will not need to pack your own hydration for this race.  This race had the BEST organized support stations that I have ever seen.  Water and Powerade ever 2 miles until Mile 20, then EVERY MILE after that.  They were well stocked and never ran out of anything.  There is dry and wet towel stations at two mile markers toward the end of the race.  “Junk Food” stations at Mile 17 and 22.  Also Gu along the way.  That said, you may want to train with the nutrition they use if you choose to shed the fuel belt.

Course / Elevation:  Someone told me that Richmond was relatively flat… I should have asked “relative to WHAT?”  It. Was. NOT. Flat!  No giant hills but rolling hills.  Then of course there’s the infamous “hill” at Mile 19.  I think to call it a hill is being generous – it’s nothing but a slight incline onto an overpass but at Mile 19, it might as well have been Mount Everest.  I was well prepared for it so I ran up it, no prob… but everyone I passed was walking.  I lost my running partner on this hill…  Bottom Line: DO HILL WORKOUTS.

One more thing.  The finish line is at the bottom of a pretty steep hill.  I guess it’s good to finish down hill – but DANG, it was a sharp decline for Mile 26…  My knees actually hated that downhill finish.  BE CAREFUL if it’s the same course.  You will be inclined to spring down that hill but you may risk injury.  I had to slow myself down about halfway down the finish stretch.

Logistics:  BOOK THE HOTELS EARLY!  I tried to book the hotels 6 to 7 months in advance and the hotels were completely booked.  I ended up in a hotel about 7 miles from the start line.  It actually worked out well because the parking wasn’t too terrible at the start.  A couple of tips:

  • HOTELS: Check a week or two before the race.  A running friend did and booked the hotel right at the start line – which was great.  We hung out in her room until 10 mins before the start and used the nice, warm restroom in her room instead of porta-potties.
  • PARKING: If you stay a little ways from the race, do not fear.  Race day morning, drive in and park in garages about 3 blocks NORTH of the starting line.  We did that and had no problems but saw the traffic jam of cars completely stuck in the road about 1 block or so from the starting race route.

Anything Else? This Marathon is termed the “Friendliest” Marathon.  And it was friendly.  But I was told by another runner that had ran previously in Richmond that the spectators weren’t out in full force because it was freakishly cold (read: Polar Vortex) this time around.

They put the runners in “waves” but it’s all one start.  Meaning, no separate gun starts for each of the waves – which was great because you didn’t have to wait, standing around in the cold, to start 50 mins after the actual start time.

The stretch along the River… Gorgeous.  If you do run this race, enjoy that stretch 🙂

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Am I A Runner?

I overheard my husband describe me to someone as an “avid runner” last week. My first reaction was – I was flattered. But that reaction was immediately followed by self doubt… “Am I really a runner?”

What a stupid question, right? I describe myself here and on twitter as a “runner.” Why am I questioning it? I don’t know. But I do. I have always thought of running as something I DID, not who I am. A distinction that probably makes no sense to people reading this.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I have ALWAYS wanted to be a runner. I just never thought I would ever be one. I’m not fast enough. I’m not skinny enough. I don’t run far enough. This isn’t all in my head either. I remember when my husband used to make fun of me: you can’t call that running, that’s more like jogging! (Whatever that means)

I got so used to the slow comments that I even came with the phrase, “oh, I don’t run, I just walk in a running motion.” That usually gets an obligatory chuckle from the receiving end.

But now my hubby thinks I’m an “avid runner”?! What changed?

What changed is precisely the distinction I made earlier. Running isn’t just something I do, it defines a part of me. Being a runner isn’t about how fast you run, how far you run, how you look doing it. Runners run with heart. Runners are mentally tough. Runners constantly challenge themselves to be better. And runners are supportive and encourage other runners. These traits belong to all the runners I know.

Today I proudly allow myself to wear that label.

I am a runner.

(This post is a shout out to one of my fav runner and blogger Kimberly Westrich #believeinyourself @KimberWestrich, kimruns.blogspot.com)

Running and Blood Sugar Control – Lessons Learned

“Prediabetes means you have blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels that are higher than normal but not high enough to be called diabetes…  If you have prediabetes, you are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.” (Source: NIH)

The week before Boston Marathon 2014, I was diagnosed as “prediabetic.”  I had failed the 2 hour glucose test and my A1C test results came back elevated.

My doctor: Eat less carbs, lose some weight.  Oh and start an exercise program

Me: Um…Does marathon training count?

I wasn’t surprised at the diagnosis.  With both of my pregnancies, I had gestational diabetes and was informed that it raised my risk for type 2 diabetes.  Knowing the risks, I started running as soon as I was medically cleared after having my second baby.  In the year after my second son was born, I ran a 5K, 10-miler, two half marathons, and a marathon — and even with losing all the baby weight within 4 months of giving birth, I could not escape prediabetes. (I know, I’m whining).

So I did what every normal, rational person would do – I Googled “prediabetes.”  There is a lot of information on the Internet for managing blood sugar, preventing type 2 diabetes.  However.  I was not able to find much information on prediabetes and endurance sports (perhaps I have not found the right key words to search).

I’m not going to lie. Part of the reason I run is so that I can eat cupcakes, ice cream, all the fun, sugary stuff.  And I love carb-loading before a big race.  I love pasta, rice. Now with my new diagnosis, I had to find a new balance with the amount of carbs I *think* I need for running.  The following is a list of lessons I have learned SO FAR from my research and experiences.  I hope to share future lessons with all the prediabetic and diabetic endurance athletes and invite your input!

[DISCLAIMER: I am not a medical or nutritional professional.  Just a fellow prediabetic runner trying to figure out what to eat and when to eat in order to best manage my blood sugar levels.]

1.  Everyone is Different. 

One message I found to be consistent in most of the literature is that different foods’ effect on blood sugar levels can vary drastically in each person.  For example, when I eat pineapples, it spikes my blood sugar but when a diabetic friend eats pineapples, the rise in her blood sugar level is not as drastic.  Also, the time of day matters as well.  I find that my blood sugar is the most sensitive in the morning.  Some of articles online recommend people to eat the carbs early on during the day so you can burn off the sugar all day – well, it doesn’t work for me. I can only eat small amount of carbs (less than 25 grams) in the morning, unless I’m going out for a run.

2.  Not JUST About Cutting Carbs.

One mistake that I made initially was just cutting carbs.  I didn’t go fully Atkin’s diet, but I significantly reduced the amount of carbs I consumed.  This did manage to help me lose weight… initially.  After two weeks of carb-cutting, I went out for a 10-mile run.  About 8 miles in, I started to feel dizzy, my muscles tightened and cramped.  My blood sugar had dropped to such a low-level that it was not only hurting my performance but extremely dangerous!  I quickly took 2 Gu’s and sat down.  Diabetes is not just about lowering blood sugar, it is about controlling and managing it.

3.  Get a Blood Glucose Meter

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The previous lesson leads me to this: bottom line, I need to carefully monitor blood sugar levels with a meter.  But this is tricky.  Prediabetes is not a “covered” condition under some health insurances (mine).  So the test strips for these devices can be very expensive.  Luckily I have some left over from my gestational diabetes days and plan to use that until I run out.  This is worth it to me to make sure I stay healthy, I consider it an investment.

4.  Keep a Log

I have decided to meet with a nutritionist and having data helps tremendously.  I JUST started to keep track of my blood glucose level for the following times in a spreadsheet for my weekend long runs (runs that take more than 1 hour).  I try to write down the amount of carbs consumed before, during and after a run and WHAT food was eaten.  Hopefully this will eventually help me determine what works best for me to optimize my performance.

Time/When Carbs (grams) Blood Glucose (mg/dL) Comments
Fasting (wake up) 0 Eat breakfast after taking blood glucose and at least 1 hour before run
Before Run (breakfast carbs amount) Taken just before the long run
1 Hr Into Run (Gu or Sport Bean taken) I have started to try different foods to test how my blood sugar is affected
2 Hr Into Run (Gu or Sport Bean taken)
1 Hr After Run (Food eaten immediately after run) I try to eat within 30 mins of completing a run

5. Plan Ahead

Running and taking blood glucose levels can be challenging.  Planning ahead helps.  Trial and error helps too.  If you’re like me, especially in the summer, I am a sweaty mess when I’m running.  If you use a blood glucose meter, you know that sweat on your finger tips will mess with your reading.  I try to keep a towel at a convenient point on the trail and I make sure that roughly every hour I run by that point to take my readings.

It is a pain in the butt to have to do this during a run but it is temporary.  Hopefully after I have taken quite a few of these readings, I will get to a point where I know exactly what to eat and when to eat it on my run that I don’t need to continue to take my blood glucose levels.

These are just some of the lessons I have learned so far.  I’m sure there will be many, many more.  I hope whom ever reads this post will benefit from this and please do leave me any suggestions if you’re an experienced diabetic, endurance athlete, I would love to learn from you as well.

Stay Healthy.  Stay Strong.  Run.