Sunday, March 5, 2023

Race Recap: The 10-Mile Challenge

 At the beginning of January I signed up for  a 10-mile race that took place at the end of February. I wasn't sure if that gave me enough time to train, but I found an 8-week training plan so I figured if that piece of paper thought I could do it, I could probably do it.

Past Stimey strikes again.

I knew I could get to 10 miles in my 8 weeks, but I also know that I am a person who can use a longer training plan and work up more slowly. I knew that my pace at that time was slower than usual. However, the race was an RRCA running club challenge and my local club sent out an email saying you could be slow and still participate. It was scored cross-country style and after reading the runners' guide I knew that I wouldn't be a drag on the team.

I was, however, a little concerned by the very stern paragraph on page 3 of the runners' guide that said:

"You have seen it repeated often: website, during registration, and multiple times in this guide. You must be trained and able to run 10 hilly miles in the winter within a 13mpm pace. There is a strict time limit on the course of 2h10m from the gun."

It was followed on page 6 with:

"The 10 Mile Club Challenge course is not for the faint of heart. It is a very hilly, challenging route that winds through Columbia, MD."

Complicating this vaguely threatening language was the fact that last year at almost this exact same time, I tried to train for a half marathon and couldn't do it. My body, most specifically my right leg, said no. That said, I'd spent the past year building my base and started going to physical therapy, with great results. I got custom orthotics to offset the weirdness of my foot and started running in them in mid-February.

Training was going really well. And then. A few weeks before race day, my left leg starting bothering me. Two weeks before the race, when I started running in my orthotics, I got giant, full foot arch blisters because of the different way they touched my feet. These were not good omens for this particular race.

Once that leg started hurting, I let go of any pace goals and slowed way down. I just wanted to baby my leg through the race and then let it rest and do some rehab and strength work. I did long runs, including up to 9 miles, but the last miles were slow and I took untimed breaks that I knew I wouldn't have on the course.

I knew I could at the very least run/walk ten miles. I didn't know if I could do it in under 2 hours and 10 minutes. I hadn't been so nervous before a race for a really long time. I showed up on race day with the race map on my phone so if they closed up shop before I finished, I could still complete the course. My goal was to finish; my stretch goal was to finish under the course time limit. My method was to be slow and steady and work really hard to have fun.

Selfie of me at a start line in a shirt that says "MoCo Road Runners" I have necklaces on and sunglasses on top of my head.
You probably can't read it, but the very apropos word on my necklace is "concerned."

I wore a shirt repping my run club even though I don't know anyone in my run club and my social anxiety was super freaked out by the possibility that someone would pay attention to me because of it. But Ten-Mile-Stimey decided to fuck it and embrace the experience.

I even struck up a conversation in line for the porta-potty where a guy who'd run the race a bunch of times before was complaining about the hills.

"I like rolling hills," I said, which was perhaps the dumbest thing I could have said, especially once I remembered saying it when I was running those hills.

I set off cheerfully with a few people behind me. I said hello to all the volunteers and thanked them for being there. I waved to the people on the sideline who were cheering. I greeted dogs. One runner dropped her bandanna so I picked it up and sprinted to return it to her. I passed one runner. I was really enjoying the first couple miles of the race. Related: Those first couple miles were mostly downhill.

Here I am right near the start line. You can see the oh-shit-we're-really-doing-this look on my face, can't you?

Photo of me in a group of runners. My pony tail has swung up so it's standing nearly straight up.
Why doesn't anyone else's hair do this?

I was glad I'd worn my MoCo shirt because I got some cheers from other MoCo runners and some spectators. I continued to have fun, even when it got hard -- and it did get hard. I took the whole race at what felt like an easy(ish) run and just kept chugging it out.

Empirically I ran exactly the wrong race strategy. What you're supposed to do is start easy and slow and pick up pace as you go. I did not do this. Every single one of my miles, except the last, was slower than the one before it. My first mile was 11 minutes, which was a pace I knew I couldn't maintain. I'm chalking that one up to the downhills at the beginning. 

Then I hit some hills.

Graph showing the elevation which is shaped in a V and has little jagged hills the whole way.
Hills upon hills upon hills.

I finished the first half of the race in slightly under an hour. "Banking time" is a thing you are really not supposed to do (see paragraph about race strategy), but in this case, I was so glad to do the math and realize that even if I ran every one of the last five miles at a 14 minute mile pace, I would hit the time limit. I knew I wasn't trained enough to speed up, so I was okay with the positive splits. 

I kept on grinding through the hills as people who had raced smarter kept passing me. I walked for a couple of short stretches in miles 8 and 9. Honestly I spent most of mile 8 fighting my Flipbelt to get my water bottle out and back in, but at least it kept me busy.

By mile 10, I was back in a slow, steady run that I kept up until the end. The hills eased up and I cruised into the finish line where I was handed gloves as a prize for finishing. I watched the woman that I passed way back in the first couple miles come in with the sweeper bike.

Screenshot of the results of the last five finishers. I am in the middle, #633 out of 635.
These were the last five finishers.

The people behind me were close enough that they got official finish times, but I would like to point out that I was literally the last person to come in under the course time limit of 2 hours ten minutes.

People always worry about being the last person to finish, but I'm here to tell you that the people who finish last are really fucking proud of themselves. We ran the same ten miles and we spent twice as long on the course. Back of the packers are tough and I am proud to be one of them.

Photo of me smiling after finishing.
See? Proud. And bright red.
I have plans and schemes and goals for future races and distances but before then I'm taking some time to work on my knees. Until then, I can rest knowing that I can do hard things -- things not for the faint of heart.

Saturday, February 11, 2023

Prune and Purge

I rarely go on Facebook anymore. I spend most of my social media time on Instagram and even then, it's mostly looking at stories. I post pretty much only on stories, but I have them feed over to Facebook as well. Because my mom lives there. But in terms of posting or reading updates, I almost never do. If I have a notification, I'll open the app and usually read the top post, check my notifications, and leave. 

Since I'm barely there, Facebook has a hard time finding things to notify me of. For a while it was notifying me when a friend posted, but that felt like overkill to me. I mean, if you have your dumb algorithm, at least let me be victim to it. So I started marking those notifications as "Turn off notifications about XXX's updates." I still let myself be notified of about four people. One of them is, yes, my mom.

Eventually Facebook ran out of people I know and started sending me notifications for people I am "friends" with but have no idea who they are. I turned off notifications for all of them. I have 743 Facebook friends. Honestly, in my life, I have maybe ten friends and fifty acquaintances. I'm a solitary person.

I recently got a spate of new friend requests from people who are friends of friends and accepted most of them, the exceptions being when the friend that connects us is someone who is a total mystery to me. But then I started thinking about how I post stories about my life and my kids and maybe complete strangers aren't the best audience for that. So I am going to go through my friends list and unfriend anyone who's name I don't recognize.

I feel a little bad about this. I mean, most of these people are in the autistic community and are nice folks and the last time I sort of halfheartedly did this, I got a couple messages from people asking why I unfriended them, which was sort of mortifying because I had no real good reason.

But this time I will be strong. And let's be honest, how many of these people will even notice I'm gone? And if they notice, how many will give a shit?


Well that was a thing. I have 605 friends now which is way more than I really have, but eliminates people whose names I do not recognize at all. Some of these people I friended after maybe one interaction and the relationship didn't continue. Some are bloggers from the days of old who I never interact with and maybe don't even remember who exactly they are. Some are folks from my Peloton community who have fallen off my radar.

It is entirely possible that I deleted someone without meaning to, but for the most part, if I could connect a name with a face and an interaction, I kept them. That said, I am faceblind and have a terrible memory for names, so if you hear from someone who is really offended that I unfriended them on Facebook, just tell them that I am a dingbat.


Feeling motivated. Now that the purge is over, I might go back through and prune a little bit.

Sunday, February 5, 2023

Good News?

Well, the knee seems to have held. It's a little sore, but since I ran 3+ miles on Friday and 8 miles today, I'm not that concerned about it. Great news, right? Except now it's looking like I HAVE to run my 10-mile race and a thing I learned during my eight miles today is that it made me very tired and I'm not sure I want to run ten miles all in a row just two weeks from now.

Here's something I've said a lot in life and on Instagram in the past two years that I haven't been writing here: Fuck Past Stimey. Why did she think running long distances was such a great idea? And as long as we're at it, let's give a fuck you to Future Stimey as well because I'm pretty sure she's going to sign up for long races in the future.

Fingers crossed that getting back to my normal training schedule keeps all my parts working smoothly and I can hate Past and Future versions of me without pain or interruption.

Friday, February 3, 2023

Run Recap/Kneecap

I have been really excited about running recently. Over the summer, I was having significant right leg pain and stiffness during and after my runs, but I didn't want to go to my orthopedist because I had a feeling he would just tell me (again) not to run longer than a couple of miles. 

Instead I started going to a physical therapist whom I loved starting on day one because that is when she told me that it is okay to run, but maybe slow to a walk when the pain starts. Things started improving almost immediately and soon I didn't need those walk breaks. I decided to do a run streak of at least one mile a day from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day, which I successfully completed.

Katie, on stopping running every day on January 2: "That's not how resolutions work."

I ran a ton of races in December, including a 12k, which was my longest in quite a while and signed up for a 10-miler at the end of February. When I told my PT, she was enthusiastic. She was excited to get me back to marathon distances, but then I had to tell her I hadn't run a marathon for at least five years so she suggested a fall half marathon instead. 

A medical professional that is encouraging me to run? Where has this woman been all my life?

I've now moved on from knee work with her to shoulder work because I have no shortage of body parts that don't work like they're supposed to.

Which brings me to my left kneecap, which did something wonky a couple of weeks ago. It was during a cutback week in my training, so I slowed way down on running and just did a couple long runs, but the knee hurt after each run. So I took this week and acted like a grown-ass, responsible adult and didn't run on it at all even though my training plan tells me to. Who even am I? The knee feels awesome right now, so I'm hoping the break is helping. I'm willing to not run my 10-miler if I need more time, but I don't want to back out.

Fortunately, I'm doing more than just resting to help. My PT sent me to a podiatrist. The one she suggested is next door to the PT office and when I arrived for my appointment, I was put in a room with marathon posters on the wall. I mean, come on. I am finally seeing the right doctors.

I also got this fun photo of the inside of my body.

Photo of a screen showing an x-ray of my right foot.
If you're a podiatrist, I bet you can find at least three problems.

I didn't get a single bit of "you shouldn't run" talk, just four options to fix the myriad problems my right foot features, starting with custom orthotics, which I'm pretty sure are going to fix all of my problems and not require steps two, three, and four, at least one of which involves surgery.

I'm breaking in my orthotics now but I can't run in them for two more weeks. However the doctor told me to buy new running shoes immediately because mine were worn down in just the place that causes stress injuries and I was like, "Well, if the doctor says I HAVE to buy new shoes..." and two days later these amazing beauties arrived at my door.

Photo of Hoka running shoes that are blue, pink, and at least two kinds of orange.
Aren't they snazzy?

I haven't run in them yet, because of my status as a responsible grownup, but I have looked at them a lot. They are the exact same model as my disappointingly bland current pair that I loved right up until I opened my shoe box and saw the multi colored version.

Photo of my feet wearing beat-up bright pink Hokas.
They look ready to be replaced. And boring.
I can't wait to try to run. I hope my kneecap likes my new shoes as much as I do!


 Hi, friends! I am thinking of starting to blog again. (Don't make a big deal out of this--or really mention it at all; I'm skittish.)

A friend that I hadn't seen in a long time stopped by a while back. We were catching up and he asked if I was writing much. I'm not so I said so, but I've been thinking about it since.

I really like to write. I miss it. At this point, I'm pretty sure it's just me reading what I'm writing here, so I'm not all that concerned about boring people if all I write about is the great new running shoes I just bought. (Seriously. See next post.)

So we'll see. It's possible you'll never hear from me again. Or maybe this is my comeback.