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Archive for June, 2013

Marathon Training Week #3 – Going the extra mile…or 2.5…

Marathon Training Week #3

Marathon Training Week #3

It was a rather trying week this past week.  I went in for my procedure for my skin cancer and came out of that feeling good, but drained.  I was given the okay by the doctor to start running again the day after I went in for it, so that was at least uplifting.  I don’t like being down for the count and I wasn’t going to let anything slow me down.  Not even a little pain in my head.

That being said, the procedure went well, and despite the weather’s best efforts, I was able to modify my training program to fit in between storms, life, and just an overall hectic schedule.  And, my favorite moment of the week was my Saturday run, which I did with my group in Louisville.  A good friend of mine, Matthew, ran with me for the entire way.  We are both pretty directionally challenged, and we took what we call the “scenic route” on our run to the pedestrian bridge in Louisville.  My long run turned into an even longer run…taking me above and beyond the furthest distance I have ever run in my entire 2 year running career.  SO proud of myself.   It was accidental, but I was still feeling good at the end of it.  Just really hungry…but that was easily remedied.

Week three in the books…still going strong.

Sunday is my easy run or rest day.  As I knew I was having my skin cancer procedure on Wednesday, the day of my 7 mile run with negative splits, I opted to do this on Sunday, where I didn’t have to add any stress to an already stressful day on Wednesday.  It was a very humid morning, despite setting out just as the sun was coming out.  I made sure I hydrated and fueled and what happened was I totally nailed my negative splits.  Just the confidence boost I needed at the beginning of a draining and tiring week.

Monday, as always, takes me back to running in the wee hours of the morning when it is still dark.  Despite the sun not being up at that point, it is always muggy and humid these days.  So, I always have my water with me, even on shorter runs.  This Monday was six miles easy, which I did.  Oddest thing though…when I finished up the two miles I did on the street, a runner wearing no reflective gear came tearing out of the 4-H Fairgrounds and heading up ahead of where I run to turn around and head back.  Not sure what to make of it, and being a little bit paranoid about that sort of stuff happening, I unhooked my pepper spray from my fuel belt and held onto it as I made my way up to my turn around point.  He had stopped at the sidewalk and I turned around faster than usual.  I thought he was behind me…but when I turned into my apartment complex and ducked around the parking lot to pause my Garmin and wait it out…nothing came of it.  Thank goodness.  Call me paranoid, but I just wanted to make sure I was taking every precaution to keep safe out there in the dark.  I finished up my remaining 2 miles and headed inside to get clean, make breakfast, and get ready for the day.  Monday also means that it’s fun run day, so I went that evening out to my running store and hit the hills of Cherokee Park with no time goal in mind.  Just having a fun run, as is the entire point.  As it was my second run of the day, I made sure I slowed it down and took it easy on the hills, as much as I wanted to push up them.  No time for injuries while training for something as important as a marathon.  My Monday daily double ended with me, my roommate, and two of my good friends from the running group going out for frozen yogurt to cool down after a warm afternoon run.

Tuesday is the usual cross training day.  This week I was scheduled for 40-50 minutes of cross training.  No problem.  I hit up the gym and did 45 minutes on the Arc Trainer on the Pike’s Peak setting.  Training for the hills I’m encountering in my upcoming 15K in Upstate New York.  I had it set for Level 5 and totally rocked it out.  I was so pleased when that cardio session came to an end.  I was still feeling good.  Then it was on to 10 minutes on the stationary bike.  I absolutely HATE the stationary bike.  HATE.  I hate it more than I hate the treadmill.  Seriously.  But I rocked it out, then went down to the weight room for a little bit and got in a bit of strength training as well.

Wednesday normally would be my speed work and pacing day…but not this time.  As I stated, I did my speed work on Sunday and it was a good thing too.  I woke up to thunderstorms.  Lightning, wind, rain, the works.  I got up and got dressed to go out to run and as I was opening the door, lightning flashed and reality came back to me.  Running in rain is fine.  Running in lightning…not so fine.  Not safe.  So, I took off my gear, kept on my workout clothes, and headed to the gym.  I had my skin cancer procedure this morning at 7 a.m., so I didn’t have long to get my run done.  I managed 5 minutes on the treadmill at the gym, hating every single moment of it.  Finished it up, made it home in enough time to eat breakfast and then get to my dermatologist’s office for my appointment.  It was not a good morning.  But the procedure went fine and that’s the important part.

Thursday called for another easy run.  This one was supposed to be for 5 miles.  Easy pace.  I ended up going for 7 miles.  I think, for me, it was my way of taking back my body from the skin cancer.  It was me showing that I run my body, nothing else does.  It was liberating.  And it was just what I needed that morning.  I even ran it with negative splits, without even trying or needing to focus on pace or anything.  I was out there because I could be and it really just made all the difference.  Afterwards, I hit up the gym for another cardio and strength training session.  I had a great workout there, hitting up the elliptical and then the Cardio Wave machine.  Later that night, it was the second BlueMile Brew Mile, so I went out for that and rocked out a mile for charity.  No free beer for me.  This girl wanted water.  I got to hang out two of my favorite running peeps who turned out for the mile run as well.  Just an overall good day…feeling strong.  During the mile run, I also tried on some Saucony Kinvara 4 shoes.  They were very light.  Not sure if I liked them or not, but I could totally tell the 3 ounce difference between those and my Nike’s.  Hmmm…

Friday…the rest day.  Also known as the day that drives me crazy.  I hate not being able to even clock a few miles.  As I said before, I get antsy and fidgety.  But, I do continue to remind myself that these days are built into training plans for a reason.  The body needs to heal itself from the hard, strenuous activity that I inflict on it during the week.  In doing so, my body also gets stronger.  Stronger means…I get faster.  I’m fitter.  I’m doing it.  So, I went on a walk at lunch, kept it easy, just getting out and being active.  And that was that.  I was ready for my long run on Saturday now.

Saturday was my Long Slow Distance (LSD) pace long run for a scheduled 13 miles, per my marathon training.  I met up with my group of runners, and there were some faces I hadn’t seen yet.  So that was good.  I promised them as we were planning out when to meet that I would bring goodies.  I did.  Gluten-free zucchini muffins, which I baked the night before using fresh zucchini from my CSA bin.  Loving it.  Anyway, the route was planned and we headed out at 6:30 a.m. to get the run in before the heat of the day.  I ran all of this run with Matthew, who is a super-speedy, super great runner, and one that I met (and ran with) during the Mile 2 Mile run I did back in December.  We talked the entire time, detoured through U of L’s campus when he and I failed to notice the Sidewalk Closed signs, got lost on our way to the pedestrian bridge, found the pedestrian bridge.  Ran to the end.  Hung out there, ran back across, spotted more of our group, so we turned around and ran back across the bridge.  Then, headed back with two other runners, Harry and John, who were showing us a new route.  Another sidewalk closure was ahead, but we hopped into the grass.  I tripped on a piece of concrete, but caught myself.  Matthew kept asking me if I was okay and if I had twisted an ankle…but I was fine.  Didn’t slow me down any.  We continued on down the waterfront to an area I had never been through, then we hit up a trail I ran part of one Monday with my fun run group.  I powered through that trail and waited for everyone at the end of it.  Harry sent Matthew and I on after we stood around for a moment.  He was going to make it back with John.  Matthew and I struck out to get back to the store.  I was leading and missed the turn, so we turned off somewhere else, went up a hill, and hoped we’d end up where we needed to be.  We just kept going straight until he noticed that we were near where he used to live while he was in college.  YAY!  We now knew where we were.  We ran through the neighborhood and finally ended up on Bardstown Road.  The humidity was really starting to suck, so we decided to hit the afterburners at the end and make an all-out sprint toward the “finish,” at the coffee shop.  We made it.  15.5 miles in the books.  It was the furthest distance I have run to date.  And I was on cloud nine because I felt good.  I felt great.  That’s how I want to feel at that point, honestly.  I think running with people can really just make all the difference.  Anyway…strong finish in the humidity.  I went to meet up with Cathy and went out for breakfast because, despite fueling along the way, I was starving and actually ready for food.

Not a bad week for my training.  This week tapers back the miles a bit, which is fine.  It’s also a holiday weekend, so that actually works out really well.  I’ll be out of town and intend to meet up with a group of people so I can get my scheduled Saturday long run in.  I just need to get the details on where to meet everyone.  I’ll be sure to do that very soon.

So, despite having gone extra miles 2 days in a row…this week really made me feel strong and good as a runner.  I feel my running is improving.  And next week I am definitely getting back into my cardio circuits and my yoga.  I slacked this past week on them due to my procedure, but no excuses this coming week.  None.

Getting stronger…getting better…

And I’m healing up perfectly too.  Loving it still!



The sun will come out tomorrow…

Skin Cancer Awareness

Skin Cancer Awareness

Tomorrow.

It all happens tomorrow.  Bright and early.

7:00 a.m. at my dermatologist’s office.

I will get the basal cell carcinoma removed.  Hopefully for good.  Once they are sure they have it all, they will schedule me for a follow up appointment in a few months.  I’m nervous…I’m stressed…but a part of me just wants this to be done with.

They are also going to look to make sure they don’t see any other spots.  Here’s hoping I walk out of there free and clear of skin cancer.

Tomorrow.

Good thoughts are appreciated.  Ice cream too.  Ice cream is always appreciated.

And once again, I offer this friendly reminder to all my friends who spend a lot of time outdoors.  Wear sunscreen.  Wear a hat.  Cover up.  A little bit of prevention takes a whole lot of worry out of life.  And a life with less worries and less stress is a much happier one.  Be careful out there in the sun, my friends.

((HUGS))



Running a marathon for a cause…an important cause…

Action For Healthy Kids - Chicago Marathon

Action For Healthy Kids – Chicago Marathon

Back when the Chicago Marathon first opened up for people to register, I got in with no problem.  In and out.  All before the Active.com collapse happened and many people were left to the mercy of the Chicago Marathon’s first ever lottery system.  But…I got to thinking.  Sure, it’s great that I felt compelled to take on a longer distance and really test my endurance, my stamina, my body, my mind, my entire soul for that matter.  But why just run for myself?  Why not run for a cause?

So…I chose to join a charity team.

My chosen charity – Action For Healthy Kids.

Never heard of it?  Well, let me tell you, this is a cause that is near and dear to my heart.  And I am proud to be a member of Team Healthy Kids.

Simply put, the childhood obesity epidemic has sparked alarm among parents, educators, health professionals and others in recent years.  More than 30% of American children are obese or overweight.  This is triple the number than in 1980.  Believe it or not, only 8% of elementary school students and 6% of middle school and high school students have daily PE at school.  My gym class used to be a requirement when I was in school.  This statistic is shocking.

Are you aware that 35% of school-age children watch an average of 5 or more hours of TV on a school day?  My parents wouldn’t let us watch television on school nights unless it was PBS, and only after homework was complete.

And, the kicker in all this is that overweight kids miss school 4 times as much as normal weight kids.  The result is that if children are not in school, they can’t learn.

Childhood obesity is a scary thing, and in this age of technology, video games, television shows, movies, and computer time keep kids sedentary more than ever.  But there are so many risks that come with childhood obesity.

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Asthma
  • Sleep apnea
  • Type 2 diabetes

So what does Action for Healthy Kids do to help prevent the growing number of children who are considered obese in America?  Simply put…they educate them and and help teach them the importance of activity, exercise, and nutrition.  Action for Healthy Kids was founded in 2002 by the 16th US Surgeon General David Satcher, M.D., Ph.D, with the goal to address the childhood obesity epidemic by transforming schools into healthier places.  By working with schools, this organization is giving kids the keys to health and academic success by providing them with fun physical activity and nutrition programs that make it possible for them to eat nutritiously and play every day.

Action for Healthy Kids educates school leaders, public health officials, parents, students and other network members to increase their knowledge of nutrition and wellness in schools.  They work to mobilize schools, parents, and volunteers to install programs and services which will promote a healthy lifestyle and wellness policies for children in schools.  And they help transform schools to provide healthy foods, quality healthy, physical education and comprehensive physical activity for all students.

Please join me in supporting Action for Healthy Kids to provide even more of these programs in schools throughout the United States next year.  With your help, Action for Healthy Kids will provide necessary resources, programs, and volunteers to help schools build wellness programs that succeed.  Childhood obesity can end…and it starts with your support.

Please take a moment to visit my First Giving donation page and donate today.  A gift of any size will make a difference.

http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/KarenBrady/2013-bank-of-america-chicago-marathon

And if you want to know more about Action for Healthy Kids, visit their Web site: http://www.actionforhealthykids.org/

Thank you so much for your support and all you do to make our youth healthy and active.

Love,
Karen J. Brady



Marathon Training Week #2 – From speed work to slowing down…

Chicago Marathon Training Week #2

Chicago Marathon Training Week #2

It’s amazing the lessons you learn through life.  Every day brings a new discovery, a new chance to improve on something, a lesson that needed to be learned, and everything in between.

Last week, I revealed that I was diagnosed with (granted) the most common form of skin cancer.  And while it is “common”…the fact that I had a nurse tell me I had any form of cancer broke my spirit.  It hurt.  It bothered me.  I didn’t let on…but when the reality of it struck…it really threw me off my game.  I no longer felt centered.  I was no longer focused.

What I had to do was strive to regain my equilibrium.  And I worked on doing that, staying positive, and focusing on something that truly made me happy.  My running.  Thank goodness for my training plan because it is keeping me accountable and keeping my mind off of things.

This was my second official week of marathon training and I was already looking forward to some of the scheduled days I had in front of me.

Sunday I went out for an easy run.  It was Father’s Day, so I dedicated 7 miles to my dad.  I called him later to tell him that, and that, ironically, I managed my fastest 7 miles to date without even trying.  And that the last mile of it was spent carrying a bag that had some almonds and an avocado in it, as I stopped by the grocery store while I was out.  Yes…I am that runner.

Monday morning meant I was back to the running in the dark.  I am continuing to fuel and hydrate according to the instructions that my sports nutritionist laid out for me and have been quite successful with that.  I have, however, discovered that I hate my hand-held water bottle.  I carried it with me on the shorter runs and just found it annoying.  But I don’t feel like wearing my fuel belt with water bottles on the shorter distances either.  But I need the hydration in order to follow the plan that she has laid out for me to guarantee my body will function right and properly under race conditions when I get to my marathon.  So…I carry the handheld bottle.  And hate it.  Monday morning was a scheduled 5 miles at an easy pace.  I keep reminding myself that I don’t have to race every run I do, which is a huge problem for me.  So, I often have to remind myself to slow down and take it easy.  It really is important.  So, I did the scheduled miles…then later that evening did an even easier run through the hills of Cherokee Park with my Monday fun run group.  It was good.  And I had a great conversation about my marathon from someone who has run it 6 times as well as other marathons I might want to look at in the future.  It was a good Monday.

Tuesday was the scheduled cross training day.  I’m so not used to waking up without going running, so this day usually throws me off.  I did 45 minutes on the Arc Trainer with hill intervals and on Level 5 and really rocked it out.  I was proud of myself.  Then I hit up the Cardio Wave machine for 10 minutes, which is like an elliptical machine, except that your feet move from side-to-side and instead of moving forward and back.  It is a welcome change for the legs.  While it is only 10 minutes, I worked it hard, upping my resistance and speed every minute.  It really works up a sweat.

Wednesday is the speed work and pacing day.  And this week was fartlek week.  Five miles worth.  Now, I attempted fartleks once before…but didn’t properly warm up and ended up with a nagging pain in my ankle/calf muscle for about 2 weeks.  This time, I used my first mile as a warm up and ran the fartleks the remaining 4 miles.  For those of you not familiar with the term, fartleks are where you alternate irregular fast and slow intervals, either by time or by markers on the course you choose to run.  As I run in the early morning when it is dark out, I couldn’t really keep track on my watch, so I chose different places to speed up and run through and then other places to ease back into an easy pace.  I ended up breaking a 5 mile PR by an entire minute.  Maybe there is something to this speed play stuff.  I had a great and fun run that morning.  It was nice to change things up.

Thursday rolled around and that was another easy run day.  This time it called for 6 miles.  So, I went out and logged those, once again reminding myself that I don’t need to race on these runs.  I took it easy, and ran at a decent pace for me…and finished strong.  I’m trying to work on that finishing kick…but I still usually don’t have the ooomph at the end of a run, no matter the distance, to really kick it into high gear.  I’m hoping my speed work days will help with that in the end.  After that, I hit up the gym for some cardio and strength training.  I felt strong that morning.  It was a good feeling.

Friday…the day of rest.  I dread Friday for this reason.  It is not easy for me to take a day off of running.  I get antsy and fidgety.  But, rest days are important for the muslces, the body, and the soul.  Honestly, it gives the body a chance to repair itself.  These days are vital when in training because these days help the muscles build up strength.  I know that sounds weird, but with each workout you fatigue your muscles and giving them a day off means they repair themselves and grow stronger.  And I definitely want to be a stronger runner.  So, once again, I respected the rest day and kept it holy.  I did opt for an easy walk at the gym on my lunch hour.  Nothing strenuous.

Saturday is the day of the long run at the Long Slow Distance (LSD) pace.  I am so lucky to have fallen in with a group of runners who have taken me in and are able to take me on new routes and new runs on these longer running days.  I was really getting tired of looping my neighborhood.  BORING!  I met up with a great group of people on Saturday morning and we logged my 11 mile training run in 1:36:10.  I was talking with one of the runners, someone who has just logged his 32nd marathon in his life, and he was telling me the importance of these runs being taken at a slower, easier pace.  It does help build up strength and speed in the end.  Just like rest days.  There will be those days where my training calls for Marathon Pace…but on these LSD days…I try to honor that longer slower distance.  I was so happy to have the company and the conversation on the long run.  It made the time fly by and the effort feel effortless.  Loving it.  I finished strong too.  Already looking forward to doing it again next weekend.

So, overall, not a bad training week at all.  I already see in the next few weeks, due to events and appointments, where I will need to tweak my training schedule, but I’m so happy with how this week went.  I am definitely focusing more on feel and my body.  I used to put so much emphasis on time, and a part of me still does, but through the training and through learning from other seasoned runners, I am discovering that the pace will find you at the race itself…you train right, and you’ll be ready to run one of the best races of your life.  Train too hard…and you get burnt out or injured.  And that is the last thing I want to have happen.  So, training smart and keeping my mileage and my pace in proper check.

Loving every run.  So that means I must be doing something right.

I am not sure if or how my procedure will affect my program, but I will find out on Wednesday when I go in.  The most important thing right now is to remain positive and do what is right for me and my body.  And right now…it’s getting rid of the basal cell carcinoma, healing, and having that weight lifted off my shoulders.  I’m going to keep on smiling.



The C-Word…

Wear Sunscreen!

Wear Sunscreen!

If I may have your attention for a moment for this sobering…serious…and rather important blog.  Please.  I’ll only take up a moment of your time.  And I will start by butchering the first part of a famous advice dispensed by Mary Schmich, published in 1997 in the Chicago Tribune.  It goes something like this:

Ladies and Gentlemen…Readers of my blog…

Wear sunscreen.  If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience…I will dispense this advice now…

Wait for it…

I have skin cancer.

I was diagnosed with the most common form of skin cancer – Basal cell carcinoma.

Basal cell carcinoma is a slow-growing form of skin cancer.  Skin cancer falls into two categories – nonmelanoma and melanoma.  This particular form is a type of nonmelanoma skin cancer.  It is also the most common form of cancer in the United States.

Basal cell carcinoma starts in the top layer of the skin, normally in an area that is regularly exposed to sunlight or other ultraviolet light.  Mine…appeared on my right temple.  And to be honest…I have had it for a long, long time.

For years now, I have had this pink bump on my right temple, which I can’t even remember when it first appeared, but I have honestly had it for ages.  It looked like a zit.  And that’s what I thought it was.  Every now and again, I’d scratch it and it would open up…then heal.  So it never really went away.  And, for some reason, I never found this to be odd.  Not once did I question it.  Why should I?  I’m 32 years old.  I’m good about wearing hats and putting on sunscreen.

But…that’s the thing.  I wasn’t always good about it. Growing up, I had quite a few bad sunburns…all of which were of my own error…like swimming for six hours in the heat of the day without sunscreen.  Forgetting to reapply sunscreen after toweling off at the pool, lake, or ocean.  Those happened so long ago.  As I got older, I got better about it…because sunburns hurt.

But this form of cancer is very common in people with light-colored or freckled skin (I have both); people with blue, green or gray eyes (I have green), people with blond or red hair (I’m a blond); and people who had many severe sunburns early in life (raises hand).  Among others…but I fit the bill with all of those.

So…what made me decide to get this spot checked out?

An article.  A simple article about skin cancer in a recent issue of Family Circle, a magazine that randomly started showing up in my mailbox.  I almost threw it away, but decided to page through it, in case it had some good recipes inside or something.  I stopped at a few articles, and the one on skin cancer caught my attention.  It described the different types of skin cancer and the ways you can tell if you are at risk or might need to get checked out.  The description of the Basal cell carcinoma sounded just like the spot that was on my right temple.  I decided to be proactive about it and ask about it when I went in to see my doctor that following week to get a physical checkup and an okay to start training for my first marathon.  After getting a clean bill of health and the okay to proceed with training, I asked about the spot.  My doctor said it looked like a cyst, but to be safe she’d get me set up with a local dermatologist and have him look at it.

On June 11th, I went into the dermatologists office for my appointment.  He took one look at it and said it looked like it was a small Basal cell carcinoma, but he’d do a biopsy on it just to be certain.  They numbed me and performed the biopsy right there.  Bandaged me up.  Sent me on my way saying they would have the results in 10 days.

They called me back that Friday and confirmed that the biopsy results came back as a positive for Basal cell carcinoma.  I was assured that this was very treatable and that I would be coming in in two weeks to have a procedure performed that would remove the cancerous cells.  Then, in three months, I’ll come back and they will make sure nothing is has returned.

I think I went into a bit of shock that morning with the news.  It was early, so very few people were at my office.  I held it together, surprisingly.  I didn’t say a word of it to anyone, except my roommate.  And for the rest of the day, I tried not to focus on it, worry about it, or think too much about it.  I got through the day, surprisingly well.

But the weight of it hit me on Saturday morning at my race in Frankfort, Kentucky.  I cried twice before the race even began.  Then I cried again at the finish line.  I used the race as a chance to clear my head…to leave my demons behind and focus on the next step…defeating it.  I wasn’t going to let cancer run this body.  Only I run this body.  It was an emotionally draining time in Frankfort, but I managed to keep it together after those three breakdowns.

So…when I say…wear sunscreen…please take my advice.

I religiously wear sunscreen.  If I am going out for a run, not only am I slapping on sunscreen, but I’m donning a hat with a brim.  I’m wearing sunglasses with UV protection.  I’ve done this from the very start.  But…here I sit…telling my friends, my family, my fellow readers that I…a girl who hides from the sun, who runs early to avoid it, who hasn’t had a bad sunburn since high school…that I have skin cancer.  It hurts.  It stings.  It confuses me because I hide from the sunlight.  I try to take every step to prevent this.  And then…it hits me anyway.

Cancer.

But…the most treatable form.  And that…is the blessing…the silver lining in all of this.

On June 26th, I return to my dermatologist office to get treated for this cancer.  If all goes well, they’ll get it cleaned out and me on the road to recovery in no time.  I’m hoping for that.  It’s not an easy place for me right now.  I’m scared…which I hate…because no one likes to hear the word “cancer” when it comes to their body.  This diagnosis comes with demons that I am now trying to shake off, leave behind, and never have darken my doorstep again.  I am lucky to have people who are supporting me with good thoughts, prayers, and a whole lot of understanding.

My dearest family, friends, and readers…please…wear sunscreen.  Don’t just stop at sunscreen.  If you are going to be out in the sun, prevention has to go further than that.  Even if you don’t intend to be outside for a long time, put that sunscreen on.  Even if it is overcast…put that sunscreen on.  Make sure you apply a good amount to all exposed areas, including your ears.  Do NOT miss your temples near your hairline.  Make sure your sunscreen blocks both UVA and UVB light.  Make sure it is waterproof…all you runners, swimmers, walkers and hot-weather haters.  Apply the sunscreen 30 minutes before you go outside and make sure you reapply.  Do this even in the winter time.  The dangers of UVA and UVB lights do not disappear when cold weather creeps in.  Wear hats to keep the top of your head and your face protected from sunlight.  Cover up.  Most running clothes do come with some sun protection, but in those hot summer months, sometimes putting on an extra layer of clothing doesn’t sound good.  I run in my sports bra…so I make sure I slather on sunscreen.

What it comes down to is…you can be so careful about sun exposure…and still wind up in a situation from me.  I’m asking you to take this experience…this advice…and make sure that this doesn’t happen to you as well.  If you are out in the sun a lot…if you have spots on your skin that are of some concern…go to a dermatologist.  Do not put it off for years like I did.  I didn’t know…but I’m hoping my story will help you become more aware…maybe take actions of your own to prevent this from happening to you.

What you do with any of this advice is up to you.  Keep it in the back of your mind.  Start to apply it to your own life.  You can do whatever you wish…but as the speech says at the very end…

“…trust me on the sunscreen.”



Marathon Training Week #1 – In the beginning…

Chicago Marathon Training Week #1

Chicago Marathon Training Week #1

It has been a long, crazy, hectic, and draining week for me as I started my official training program for the Chicago Marathon.  But I was totally excited to get it underway.  It officially started last week…exactly…on Sunday, June 9th.  It was…a rest day.  Naturally.  But I used that time wisely and started taking some steps that I hope will only better my training and my running in the long run.

That morning, I met up with a sports nutritionist.  After getting a good physical report back from my check-up at the doctor and the okay to start marathon training as I was in very good health…I had inquired about talking with a sports nutritionist because…well…I am horrible when it comes to fueling and hydrating while on the run.  And I wanted to go into this training doing everything possible to do right by my body.  And that meant learning to fuel it properly before, during, and after running.

The problem was…we couldn’t find a sports nutritionist in this area.  Strange, as we have the University of Louisville, which has a great sports program, right here.  But…nope.  Nothing.  On a whim, I contacted Ken Combs Running Store and they put me in touch with one.  Her name is Donna…and she’s awesome.  She’s just like me – a gluten-free, vegetarian, long distance runner.  She said she wasn’t taking on new clients at the time, but given my circumstances, she would definitely take me on.

In our first meeting she spoke to me about the importance of fueling my body correctly…not just on race day, but during the entire time I’m in training.  This meant changing the way I looked at food…nutrition info…and changing up how I ate.  We laid out a plan, which involved me drinking 16 ounces of water before heading out for a run, and getting something in my stomach.  Prior to that, I would run my mornings on an empty stomach and not even bring water with me.  I’d just go run.  Worry about the rest when I got back.  She emphasized how important it was to get something in my stomach so that my body is feeding off of the fuel rather than taking away from my muscle strength.  It made sense.  She’s moving me more towards a clean eating diet as well, which means less processed foods (aka: bad carbs) and more natural foods (aka: good carbs).  And she is having me hydrate and fuel while out on every training run.  This means not just water…but Gatorade to with giving my body electrolytes, sodium, and potassium that is lost while running…and giving an energy boost to the muscles with the carbohydrates it offers too.  Fuel.  I am also to take a GU or Sports Beans packet every 3-4 miles (about every 30 minutes) to really train my body to take in fuel while I’m on the run.  It all made sense…so I vowed to start doing it.

I learned a lot from her and we’ll be meeting up again in a couple of months to see how I am progressing.

My charity group that I am running the Chicago Marathon with, Team Healthy Kids – part of Action For Healthy Kids, sent me a training program for my marathon training.  I had one originally, but after looking at it, I felt that the mileage was too low.  I’d been running 35-40 miles a week, and was being dropped down to half that.  I contacted them to see about getting it changed up.  They said that since this was my first marathon, they put me on the beginner plan, but they saw my point and moved me to the intermediate one.  That being said, my first run happened on Monday morning.

Five miles…and it was raining.  I heard the rain when I woke up that morning.  But I didn’t make plans to head to the gym to hit the treadmill.  I got dressed, laced up my shoes, grabbed my reflective gear and headed out the door.  Marathons happen in all sorts of weather and as long as there was no lightning…I was hitting the roads.  I noticed that Cathy had placed a sign up on the door.  It had words of encouragement on it.  And in marker she wrote me a message.  I love that she is so supportive of my running and really is making sure I do my training as well.  It means less time to do other things, but she seems willing to take on the sacrifice as well at times.  The sign was the encouragement I needed.  Monday morning…5 miles at an easy pace completed…in the rain.  I felt really badass!  I hated my time, but as the run specifically was meant to be done at an easy pace, I focused more on the pacing than the time.

Tuesday was my Cross Training day.  I hit up the gym for a 45 minute session on the Arc Trainer, set to the hill setting.  That was tough, but I got through it.  Then I put myself through 10 minutes on the rowing machine.  My arms were tired and sore from doing a yoga DVD on Sunday night…but I got through it and moved down to the weight room for some strength training.

Wednesday was supposed to be my 6 mile run in the morning, but…I was running a 10K on Saturday…when I was supposed to be running 9 miles long.  So, I flip-flopped those days.  On Wednesday, I spent my wee morning hours knocking out 9 miles in some pretty crazy humidity.  I fueled every three miles and took Gatorade for hydration for the first time…since the Chicago Half Marathon.  It all settled fine in my stomach and I finished the run feeling good.  I was proud of myself.

Thursday meant it was Speed/Pacing day.  And the schedule called for a 4 mile tempo run.  A tempo run, for those of you who might not be familiar with the term, is simply running at a quicker pace than the easy pace, but at about 15 seconds slower than your 10K time.  I managed to actually hold a rather steady tempo on my run, despite throwing in some hills to make it a bit tougher.  I came out of that one surprised.  Especially since I was also dealing with 15 mph winds that morning as well.

Friday…was the day of rest.  I respected it and kept it holy.

Saturday was race day.  I was participating in the Capital City Stampede 10K…which is why I moved my 6 mile run to Saturday.  It just sort of…worked out that way.  I went to the race, knocked it out with a new PR, and had a great time running.  Races make me happy…but they are about to take a back seat to my training sessions.

And that rounded out my first official week of training for the Chicago Marathon.  At the end of it…I feel good.  I’m ready for this coming week where I work on my fueling, rehydration, and pace/speed as well.  I have a goal…and I’m working hard to reach it.  And…I have to say, I am very proud of myself for going out there on my first official day of training in the rain.

All-in-all…a draining, but very exciting week for me.  On to the next…



Capital City Stampede 10K – Frankfort, KY (June 15, 2013)

Me crossing the finish line of the Capital City Stampede 10K - Frankfort, Kentucky

Me crossing the finish line of the Capital City Stampede 10K – Frankfort, Kentucky

Race: Capital City Stampede 10K

Place: Frankfort, Kentucky

Date: June 15, 2013

Time: 45:31

Welcome to the third and final race of the Frankfort Trifecta Run/Walk Series for 2013.  And…it’s new.  Yep…new.  Prior to this, the final race was the Activate America 5 Miler.  Well, that changed this year.  Frankfort, Kentucky hasn’t had a 10K race since the 1980s.  And I was just really excited that the miles were expanded.  I love a good 10K race.  It’s a fun, yet still challenging distance to run.

I won’t lie.  During the week prior to this, I wasn’t on a training program, so I was just running some miles in the morning at whatever distance and pace I felt like.  For much of that week, I focused on the 10K distance (6.2 miles…for you non-runners reading this), hoping to turn in a better time than my current PR, which I set at the Rodes City Run in Louisville back in March…while battling bronchitis.  You might remember that blog.

But, I digress.  The fact of the matter was, I was pushing myself as hard as I dared and coming up short each time.  My PR of 47:40 for a 10K distance stood…and my practice runs were frustrating the hell out of me as I tried to best it.  I gave in.  I was running in the early morning while it was dark and humid and flat.  And I just couldn’t best it.  The following week I was adhering to my first week of Chicago Marathon Training, so I was content with the fact that I would just have to go into this race with a clear head and just focus on the run itself.  So, marathon training began, and I was more focused on my pace, my distance, my speed work than the upcoming 10K.  Although I knew it was there.  I flip-flopped two training days to make them fit the schedule better.  The long run of 9 miles I would have clocked on Saturday was moved to Wednesday, and my 6 mile run was bumped to Saturday, as that would be my 10K race day.  It worked.  It fit.  I was pleased.

Fast forward to Saturday morning.  My head was definitely not in the game.  I had a lot going on and my mind was just not focusing on one thing.  I found myself starting something that morning, then moving onto something else without finishing what I had started.  Not just once…but numerous times.  I had to go through a mental checklist in my head as I dressed for the race (it was going to be in the 60s that morning, so I thought a running skirt and a singlet would be perfect), got snacks, water and Gatorade together for afterwards.  I had to remember to grab my banana to eat closer to race time so I wouldn’t be starving, since my breakfast would be consumed before 6 a.m. and the race was to start at 8 a.m.  I had to make coffee, and got halfway through that before I started doing something else…then went back to it…then got distracted…then finally got the pot brewing…and it finished up just as my roommate was getting up for breakfast.  Which, doesn’t work, as she can’t drink hot coffee but doesn’t like cold coffee.  So, really, ideally, her coffee needs to be sitting out for a good 15-20 minutes in order for it to be perfect for her.  I failed to do that on race morning, which is not the morning to screw that up.  I finished packing my change of clothes and regular shoes, downed my breakfast, and then we hit the road.

For some reason, we underestimated the time it would take to get to Frankfort from our apartment.  Which…is weird as we have made this drive so many times we could probably do it in our sleep.  I had one request, and that was to stop off at the Kroger in Frankfort so that I could use the bathroom before we got to the race.  We pulled into that Kroger at 7:15 a.m.  I already should have been eating my banana at this point, but I hadn’t even touched it yet.  Cathy dropped me off and I hurried inside to use a flushing toilet (I am a princess!), then hustled back out to the car to climb in and make our way to the new Capitol building.  I started to finally eat my banana while Cathy took to noshing on one of the protein bars we brought as she drove.  Except, unknown to us at the time, there was a bike race going on and we had to wait for some bikers to clear the way before we could make the turn to head toward the Capitol.  Cathy was aggravated as now we were really behind, and that just stressed me out more than I already was.  So…I started crying.  No help, but it happened.

We finally made the turn and got the car parked.  Cathy grabbed the sign and we headed down to the new Capitol building, where at the bottom of the stairs, volunteers were working Packet Pick-up and on the other side Registration for anyone who waited to sign up or just felt like running or walking that morning.  The 10K race also had an offered 2 mile walk.

I went to get my packet.  That was easy and stress-free.  Thank goodness.  Moving up the steps, I got my bib pinned on and tucked the rest of the stuff in the bag into Cathy’s clear backpack.  We walked back down the steps and started to move around some to loosen up the limbs.  We had less time to stretch and warmup now that we were running behind, but it didn’t mean it couldn’t get done.  I noticed that Cool Comfort had their tent up and remembered that an announcement was sent out that Cool Comfort would have the Frankfort Trifecta series shirts at the race…so I went to pick mine up.  They handed it over and I tucked that one into Cathy’s backpack as well.

It was then I realized I didn’t have my phone, so we made our way back to the car to retrieve it.  While walking that way, I had my Garmin start looking for satellites because it sometimes takes awhile in Frankfort to locate them.  By the time I retrieved my phone, I had already started crying about being so forgetful that day and then managed to calm myself down some.  I was a complete mess that morning.

Doing my best to get my head where it needed to be, I began doing some of my usual stretches.  I needed to let my demons go and focus on something I was passionate about.  Something that always made me feel free.  No matter what happened out on that course, I was just going to go out for a run.  I was coming into this race as the third female overall in the open category for the entire racing series.  While that did put a little bit of pressure on me, at that point, I was even thinking about that.  As I said…my mind was elsewhere, and I was just going to have fun.  That’s why I run anyway.  If I set out to PR and run hard at every race, I would burn myself out.  I get up every morning and I participate in races because I love to run.  Not because I feel I need to…or because I want to lose weight…but because I want to.  And I think that separates me from a lot of my peers in the running community at times.

The start time was getting close, so Cathy gave me a hug and told me to have fun.  I gave her a nod, took a breath, and went to stand with the runners who were beginning to line up with the pace signs.  I stood between the 6 minute mile and the 8 minute mile as I normally do.  As I was standing there, Linda Word, the woman who was behind me at the Pro.Active For Life 5K, came over to talk with me.  We joked about all of the speed demons who were up at the front of the start.  It was just the conversation I needed to get my head where I needed to be.  So, thank you, Linda.  You helped without even knowing it.  She said she was going to slide back further in the pace groups and I noticed that we were being shuffled forward.  I inched up slowly…and could hear very, very muffled announcements going on.  Then I heard the starting gun guy say something about being ready.  And without any sort of notice, the starting horn went off and we runners were caught unaware and unprepared for the most part.  Suddenly, I was running.

Linda was just ahead of me as we came down the hill from the Capitol building.  I ran next to her for a moment and heard her say that she forgot to start her music.  It didn’t seem to hurt her any though.  I love running with people like Linda…because as we were making our turns and our run through the streets, she took a moment to thank the police officers who were out there diverting traffic and keeping us safe on the course.  These volunteers should be thanked and I know I do it every now and again, but I should be more conscious of it.  It’s a great reminder to take a moment and thank those who help make these races possible.  Linda did it every chance she had.  And that…is awesome.

As this was a new race distance for Frankfort…this was also a relatively new race course.  There were parts of it that were definitely familiar, but much of it was different.  I made it through the first mile and reminded myself to slow the pace down just a little…without sacrificing too much, because I still had a long way to go…and I know that Frankfort has these long, slow hills.  I also knew that there was one massive hill at the very end of the race, and I hoped to be able to get up that without being slowed down too much.

At around Mile 2.5, the runners were able to run past the Capitol building again.  This was very fun because this meant the spectators were down there cheering you on.  I saw Cathy holding my sign and heard her screaming at me, “GO TWIN!  YOU’RE KILLING IT!  GO MY SON!”  The last line there is something we joke about thanks to Jamie Oliver.  Chef jokes, for the win!  I breezed past, laughing now and turned onto the route that we used for the 5 mile run that this race previously did.  Nice.  So, with that uplifting cheering, I headed onto the long stretch of road that would eventually take us to the turn around point.  We now were encountering walkers out on the 2 mile walk, which was good because a lot of them would send out words of encouragement as we ran by.  And the race volunteers at the mile markers…they were awesome as well.

I hit Mile 3 at what I felt was a good pace, making some strides to pass a few people as I went along.  I was feeling really good here.  My pace felt nice, challenging, but not too hard.  I still had half the distance to cover and I wanted to really finish strong.  As I was making it down to the 4 mile mark, which was about where we would turn around and head back, I saw the race leader run past, followed by quite a few other runners.  Not too far behind them was the first female, and to my surprise, it wasn’t Kendall Hayes, the 11 year-old wonder runner who bests every female in these races in Frankfort.  It was someone else.  Kendall was a bit further back.  But as I made the turn, I realized that I was currently standing in the third place overall female position for the 10K race.  Now with just 2.2 miles remaining.

Me about to start up the steady, steep incline to go around the Capitol and finish the Capital City Stampede 10K - Frankfort, Kentucky

Me about to start up the steady, steep incline to go around the Capitol and finish the Capital City Stampede 10K – Frankfort, Kentucky

Where we had to run downhill on the way to the turn around, we now had to run uphill.  I passed up a guy who has been ahead of me for awhile.  He said, “Good job!” as I passed.  It made me smile again.  I had another guy ahead of me, blaring music in his earbuds so loudly that I could hear it.  He and I made it to Mile 5 around the same time.  The volunteer at the station said, “Good job, Karen!” as I went by.  I loved that he personalized that encouragement for me.  I don’t even live in Frankfort and there they were, recognizing me as I ran through their beautiful city.  I did pass the earbud-music-blaring guy on the uphill, determined that I was going to attack these hills.  I made it up that one feeling strong and was directed to run down to the woman in the red shirt before we were now sent up the steepest climb in the race.  Yes.  At around mile 5.5.  I kid you not.  EVIL!

Cathy was standing near the point where we really started to hit the incline.  She saw me coming and was shouting again, “GO TWIN!!  YOU’RE KILLING IT!  IT’S JUST A HILL…GET OVER IT!”  It once again made me laugh and I picked up the pace to really attack that hill.  The first small incline I managed.  But that second one…that one slowed me down.  It hit back.  And it hit hard.  My legs were tired…and they really just didn’t want to work that hard.  But, I pressed on.  The hill might have slowed me down, but it wasn’t going to best me.  Not that day.

When I finally managed to reach the crest, I rounded the corner to run behind the Capitol building.  It was a long stretch and I kept thinking that Mile 6 should be beeping in on my Garmin any moment.  But it didn’t.  I ran down to the volunteer who said just to head down the hill and straight on into the finish line.  And as I was running, he said, “You’re a third female.  Good job.  Keep going!”  Keep going.  I had every intention to keep going.

While it was evil to make us climb a mountain (okay…a hill) so near the end of the race, at least that meant the sprint to the finish line was downhill on the other side.  That more than made up for it.  So, as my feet hit the pavement and I hit that final stretch, I put whatever power and energy I had into each rapid footfall and made my way toward that finish line.  I could see the clock ticking and that clock wasn’t as far along in the time as I anticipated.  I could hear Cathy screaming to “GO!”  I could hear Ronald McDonald making donkey noises.  There’s a story there…trust me.  So, with that sort of motivation…it was just pushing myself to sprint into that finish line and finish strong.  I did.  The volunteers there stopped me at the end, and went to tear the tag on my bib off, managing to rip my entire race bib in the process.  I didn’t care.

I turned around and Cathy immediately gave me a hug, telling me how I killed this race.  I turned back into the mess I was at the beginning of the race and just became this blubbering fool.  It was the first time I ever broke down at the end of a race at the finish line.  And at a 10K of all things.  Cathy moved me to the side and told me to go and grab some water.  So, I did that.  And felt better.  We started walking, moving up the hill that runners were climbing to round the Capitol and make their way to the finish.  We shouted some encouragement to them as we walked around.  We paused to get my victory shot in front of a beautiful backdrop of flowers and water…which was awesome.  Then I retrieved my Gatorade from the cooler in her backpack and began my post-race nutrition plan as it has been laid out for me.  It was a rather warm morning, and I needed to rehydrate from running that race.  Hydration is key to recovery and I’m all about bouncing back quickly.

As I sipped on my Gatorade, we decided to make our way back down toward the recovery area.  Runners were still streaming up the hill, so we shouted more words of encouragement to them, letting them know it was all downhill from there.  I don’t know if we helped any.  When we came back to the recovery area, I went to grab a couple of waters because we were going to go settle in on the steps for a little bit and wait for the awards.  While sitting, we had our snack that we packed…Cathy a Luna Bar and for me a thinkThin bar of delicious awesomeness.  We munched and drank some water.  Then I got up and did a few stretches…high kicks…and then settled back down in the shade.  While we were waiting, another runner headed up the steps carrying a pint glass saying that they got it for running in the entire Trifecta.  So, I went down to the table and retrieved mine.  It was a beautiful glass, actually.  After posing with it for a moment, Cathy rolled it up in my race shirt and tucked it into her backpack.

It took about 40 more minutes before results started to get posted at the Packet Pick-Up Tent.  But soon, the papers were being taped down.  I hopped up to go and check on my placement.  And…BAM…confirmed…third female to finish the race.  Awesome!!  I was thrilled.  My chip time didn’t register, however, so my finishing time was based solely on gun time…which sucks because it took me a few seconds to get across that start line.  But this isn’t the first race this has happened on.  They had the sensors pointed one way for walkers, but runners started coming in at the same time and they didn’t have time to flip them the other way for the runners, apparently, so some have chip time…most are just off gun time.  I’d say there is something to fix for next year’s race.  Still, I had a new PR…I was third overall…and I was at least third female in the open women’s category for the entire racing series.  That’s simply amazing.  Afterwards, I found Linda sitting with the Cool Comfort running group.  She introduced me to everyone and they commented on how some of their race bibs got shredded just like mine.  I made a joke about having a Velociraptor jump out on the course at me and they all got a kick out of it.

After a rather long wait…the awards ceremony finally got underway.  Cathy and I moved off the stairs to stand with the other runners who were waiting around.  They did the awards for the Capital City Stampede 10K first.  And they started with the overall men’s winners.  It was the same rogues gallery from the previous races…in the same order, I think.  We had a new female winner at the 10K race…an Erin Harper, who apparently runs trail marathons and ultras too.  Kendall was 2nd.  And I was called for third female overall.  Awesome.  I received this beautiful plaque which is already hanging on the wall.  We all stayed and cheered for the age division winners and were told that the Trifecta awards would be handed out soon.

Me with my awards for finishing Third Overall Women in the Capital City Stampede 10K (plaque) and for finishing the 2013 Trifecta Series as the First Overall Woman in the Open category.

Me with my awards for finishing Third Overall Women in the Capital City Stampede 10K (plaque) and for finishing the 2013 Trifecta Series as the First Overall Woman in the Open category.

Soon took a little longer than expected.  In fact, the tents and booths at the finish area were being broken down by the time the microphone was back in hand and the trophies for the entire Frankfort Trifecta were going to be given out.  They decided to start with the Trifecta Overall Female…and the winner for the women was Kendall Hayes.  That brilliant little 11-year-old girl.  She’s going to go to the Olympics one day…and I’m going to be able to say…”I ran with her!”

However, this put a big surprise on me because they moved on to the Open Women’s Division for the entire Frankfort Trifecta…and first place was…ME!  Yes.  They called my name and I stood their stupidly for a moment because I wasn’t expecting that.  But sure enough…me.  I finally moved to retrieve my beautiful trophy, a rearing horse that has a clock built into it.  Gorgeous.  I was in shock.  I couldn’t believe it.

Afterwards, once all the awards were handed out…Cathy and I went to find the Trifecta 2nd and 3rd women open winners and take pictures.  They were in the group of runners I chatted with before the Stampede awards.  Very nice women, all of them.  Very talented runners too.  And with everything wrapping up…it was time to head back to Louisville.

So…the official results of the Capital City Stampede 10K are that I finished with a new 10K PR of 45:31.  WOOHOO!!  That means I took a full 2 minutes off my previous 10K time.  NICE!  I was 20/287 finishers of the 10K run overall.  And, I was the 3rd female finisher overall for that race.  Awesome.

Moving on to the Frankfort Trifecta series itself…I was the winner of the 2013 Trifecta Women’s Open Division.  Which is…awesome.  They stated my time when I went up for my award…but I don’t remember it.  I’ll post the cumulative time whenever that gets posted on the site.  For now…I am just really proud of myself for pushing myself in this series and accomplishing a lot.  I improved by leaps and bounds from the previous year and am very, very proud of this.

I am already looking forward to taking part in this series once again…next year.  Frankfort is one of my favorite places to run.  It does involve a bit of a drive, but the crowds, the other runners, and the atmosphere always make the journey worth it.

Thank you, Frankfort…for giving me the race I needed on Saturday.  You helped me more than you can even imagine.