Half marathon aftermath

28 Sep

If the shiny new medal and T-shirt didn’t give it away, you could easily tell who just ran the Richmond Marathon or Half by the way they were climbing the Tube stairs. I should have anticipated it, but nobody told me just how much running a half HURTS. Not so much during — I’m actually surprised by my lack of blisters — but after. Oh, after. It didn’t really hit me until after I got home, took a shower, went to Chinatown to stuff my face with dim sum, then came back and took a nap. When I woke up from that nap I couldn’t move. Everything hurt. It hurt to stand up, to walk, to sit on the toilet, to bend my knees, to straighten them.

everything hurts running.gif
“My knees hurt so bad,” I remember some girl saying right after the race. “Oh my god, is this what it feels like to be old?” If that’s true, I am not looking forward to it one bit. Stephen couldn’t help but laugh at the way I was hobbling around.

“I can’t even complain,” I said. “I totally did this to myself.”

The best way I can describe the pain is jetlag mixed with the flu — the kind of flu where your whole body just aches. I felt tired and exhausted, but not sleepy. I just laid in bed staring into space. I didn’t have the energy to work or even to browse Facebook on my phone. It took everything I had just to put frozen chicken wings into the oven for dinner. And about that — I’m realizing now that I probably should have taken post-run nutrition a little more seriously. I went the “I just burned 1,200 calories and am gonna eat all the bad things!” route instead of “I’m going to fill my body up with goods things to help it heal.” The dim sum, chicken wings, and cake could have been another reason I felt like crap. Eventually I was able to pass out and after 9 hours of sleep I felt much better. I was still sore, but it was a functioning sore. I definitely took the bus to my hair appointment instead of walking 2 miles though.

We went to China a couple days later, because there’s nothing better for sore knees than cramming them in an economy plane seat for 12 hours. Though I was feeling better by then. We were only there for a few days for a friend’s wedding. It’s funny that pre-race me was debating whether I wanted to bring my running gear on the trip. It didn’t even occur to me that I’d be too sore to even think about hopping on a treadmill! Today was my first day back running after 9 days off. I took it slow with lots of walking and Pokemon breaks, but it felt good. Though it’s nice to have a goal you’re training towards, it’s also nice just to run for the sake of running (and hatching Pokemon eggs, of course).

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Richmond Runfest Richmond Half Marathon recap

19 Sep

I stood by the baggage drop van taking last minute puffs of my inhaler.

“Um, are you OK to run 13 miles?” The nice lady manning the van asked me, genuine concern in her voice.

“Yeah, of course,” I replied, much more confidently than I felt. I was about to run the Richmond Half through Kew Gardens — my first half marathon.

During my training runs I questioned why I was doing this, but when my alarm went off at 6:30am, I really started to doubt my silly before-I-turn-30 goal. But I suited up, downed my overnight oats, and hopped on the tube to Richmond. The train was filled with other runners boasting their half or 10K bibs. And like true sheeple, when we got off at the Kew Gardens stop, each of thought “I’ll just follow the other runners, they’ll know where they’re going,” and we all started walking in the complete opposite direction of Kew Gardens, despite the fact that we all had GPS on our phones. After a couple blocks the runner in front pulled out the map and realized we were going the wrong way. Just what I wanted to do before running 13.1 miles — walk an extra mile. It was good warm up I guess. I still arrived with plenty of time to use the loo, and then immediately join the queue for the loo again because there was no way I was stopping along the course to use a porta-potty. I dropped off my bag and made my way to the start just as they were calling for my wave. Could not have timed it better.

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We all started in a giant group, which made it hard to pick up speed or pass anyone. We moved as a giant amoeba through the scenic garden.

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Then before I knew it, I was on my own — where had the rest of my amoeba gone?

The thing I love about running is that it can be either a solo or group sport. I was surprised to see more runners running the race by themselves than with groups of friends. Yet there was this subtle “we’re all in this together” spirit in the air as we powered towards the same finish line. At times running can be lonely though. At mile 5 we were back in the woods dodging sticks, rocks and whatever a pothole is called when it’s in the woods. To get the full experience (and because I read they were banned) I ran without headphones, so I only had the jukebox in my head. Which for some inexplicable reason was playing Jim Steinman’s Left in the Dark on repeat. It’s a sad song about an unfaithful lover. It is the furthest thing from a pump up running song. But I went with it. The only thing I had to focus on was not tripping, and even that wasn’t going well — I tried to dodge a rock and almost wiped out, but luckily caught myself without getting injured.

Around mile 5.5 we went through a cheering tunnel, which was encouraging. I felt ready to sprint towards the finish. But then I realized the cheering was meant for those doubling back on mile 11.5. There were people already 6 miles ahead of me. I still had 7.5 miles to go. I ate a Jelly Baby and buckled down for the long haul.

I always assumed I would walk a portion of the race. Besides my 10K race last November, I never run non-stop. There are always stoplights and stop signs along my routes, and even when I’m only doing 4 miles, I often have to take a walking break just to blow my nose and catch my breath (and most recently, catch a Pokemon). So it was just a matter of when my walking break would be. Around mile 7 my knee started to hurt. Just make it to mile 8, I told myself. That’s a respectable, even number. You can say you ran 8 miles non-stop. But then at mile 8 I ate a Jelly Baby and didn’t feel a desire to stop. So I pushed on. Slowly, mind you, but at a pace faster than walking. “You only have 5K left!” I told myself, then quickly realized it was 5 miles, not 5K (3 miles). Bollocks. Cue more Left in the Dark.

At mile 9 something weird came over me. I expected to be feeling like death, alternating a minute of walking with a minute of running. But instead this inner voice piped up: “What if you did it? What if you actually ran this entire half marathon? You only have 4 miles left. That’s a literal walk (run) in the park.” So I ran, getting a little boost each time I passed a runner who had thrown in the towel and started walking.

At mile 10 I decided to reward myself. Since I had made it 10 whole miles without a walking break, I opened up Pokemon Go and hatched my 10K egg (which was at 9.1K so I only had to run 0.9K). (I got a Pinsir in case you were wondering. I did not have him. It made me momentarily happy, which is what I hoped it would do). At mile 11.5 I ran through the cheering tunnel again and got a boost from all the charity volunteers. I was actually doing this! I was running — RUNNING — a half marathon! And I only had 2 miles left! At mile 12 volunteers rang bells and cheered us on. “One more mile!” They shouted. I spotted a photographer and gave him a thumbs up — thumbs up at mile 12. Who am I?

And then I remembered what I overheard a runner say around mile 10: “I hate the finish line of this race. You get into the park and everyone’s cheering and then you think you’re done, but they make you weave around.”

She was right. I was hurting, sure, but I had this fire inside me and was ready to finish. I ran into the park, high-fiving the crowds of supporters. I was on cloud nine! I could see the finish line! I looked at MapMyRun and saw my time — 2 hours and 10 minutes. I said I didn’t have a goal for this half aside from finishing, but my farfetched goal was 2:15. I couldn’t believe there was a chance I could attain that. I just had to go 100m, turn right, and sprint towards the finish. …but then I realized there was a sign after that 100m. “Half Marathon turn left, 10K turn right.” Turning right took you right to the finish. Turning left took you alllll around the park. I wanted to cry. I suddenly was emotionally and physically drained. It was the longest half mile of my life. Every runner around me was either walking or making “I want to die” huffing noises. There were no supporters around us — just grass, barriers and runners running out of gas.

I want to say I powered through, dug deep, gave an inspirational speech to those around me, and shot towards the finish. But I feel like I need to be honest with you, dear readers. I walked. Only for about 10 seconds, just to blow my nose, but at mile 12.8 of my first half marathon I took my first walking break. “You don’t get near the finish line and stop!” Jillian Michaels used to scream at me while I did her exercise DVDs. Well, apparently I do.

But this part happened for real — when I rounded the bend and saw the finish line straight ahead, I dug deep. I sprinted like it was a 200m race. I like to think the other runners plodding along gazed on in amazement as I shot past them. And then, like a scene from a cheesy movie, I actually threw my arms up in the air and crossed the finish line in that pose, victorious. (I can’t wait to see the photo, though I doubt it’s as magnificent as it is in my head). A volunteer handed me a medal, I put it on and held it up proudly for the photographer, and then my eyes started to water as the mental and physical exhaustion started to hit me. I ran a half marathon. And I actually RAN it, aside from that tiny infraction close to the finish line that we won’t talk about. My time ended up being 2:16 — 1 minute from my goal. By no means fast, but a solid first effort.

When I texted my runner friend the news she asked me if I was ready for a full now. As I write this Jim Steinman’s What Part of My Body Hurts the Most is playing in my head, so the thought of putting my body through 26.2 miles seems insane. I think I’d rather focus on improving my 5K, 10K and (maybe) half times. But then again, when I finished my first 10K race I thought there was no way I could run twice that distance, so in the words of (ugh) Justin Bieber — never say never.

The time is nigh

16 Sep

Last night as I was planning my tube journey to Kew Gardens and researching tapering, it happened. Amidst the panic and fear, I felt a pang of excitement for this half marathon. Of course it was fleeting and I went right back to “What if the train is delayed? What if my knee or hip starts hurting in the middle of the race? How am I going to get up at 6:30, I’m going to be so tired!” — but it was there. I hope it comes back when I’m standing at the start line.

There’s not much I can do now though. I’m not even sure I tapered correctly — maybe doing my longest run ever only 6 days before the race wasn’t the best plan? I think I’ve had enough time to recover. Nobody seems to agree about tapering though. Some sites say you don’t even need to taper for a half. Some say don’t run at all 2 days before the race. Others say do a short “shake out” run either the day before or 2 days before. I did a Pokerun yesterday and walked a bit today, but I’m on the fence about whether I want to do my usual 4-mile run tomorrow. I’m leaning towards no, since I want to be as fresh and not-sore as possible Sunday morning, but I also know it’s sometimes hard to do a long run after too many days off. The struggle, man, the struggle.

Since this is my first half marathon, I haven’t set a time goal for myself. My primary goal is just to finish and not take too many walking breaks. I want to be able to say I ran a half marathon, not just that I finished one. I’m a little concerned about the running 13.1 miles nonstop bit though — my 10 miles I ran earlier this week was punctuated with stoplight breather breaks. I really wish they had those during races. Hopefully the excitement will carry me through!

Here’s to 13.1 and before-I-turn-30 goals that seemed like a good idea at the time!

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Walking, running and catching Pidgeys in the park

11 Sep

I think I’ve been walking too much lately. And that’s really saying something because I walk a lot on a regular basis. I made it my goal this year to walk at least 10,000 steps a day. So far the only 2 days I haven’t met that goal were the days I lost while traveling to China, which involved waking up at 5am, sitting on a plane for 14 hours, then all of a sudden realizing it’s dinner time the next day and almost two entire days of my life were gone. Shower thought I had while jetlagged last month: if you moved to China from the U.S. and for whatever reason never went back to the U.S. to visit, you would lose 12 hours of your life (from the time change, not the plane ride. Though the plane ride could be seen as a waste of life too). Although on the flip side, if a Chinese person moved to America they’d be adding 12 hours to their life (13 if it wasn’t daylight savings time).

I was talking about walking, wasn’t I? Earlier this year I was averaging about 15,000 steps a day, but lately I’ve been doing 19,000 or 20,000. It’s a combination of half marathon training, Pokemon Go hunting, and just general weekend nice weather post-lunch strolling. I keep telling myself to take it easy so I can be at my best for my long runs, but there are a plethora of Pidgeys to be caught! (Another side note: I often find myself singing “Catching Pidgeys, catching Pidgeys in the park” to the tune of Spunge’s song Kicking Pigeons.  If I were better at singing, songwriting and Youtubing I could probably be making bank off this spoof song)

This half marathon has really snuck up on me! It hasn’t fully hit me that it’s a week from now. I did a 9-mile long run last week, my longest run to date, which was filled with excitement when I hit Constitution Hill and was told by a police officer to run through Green Park because there was an active crime scene ahead. When I came upon Buckingham Palace I saw an air ambulance helicopter!

buckingham palace helicopter.png

I can’t imagine the tourist hubbub when that landed. People were speculating about the health of the royals (obviously not remembering that the queen isn’t there in the summer, which is why the state rooms are open to tourists). It turns out there was a collision between a taxi and cyclist on Constitution Hill and the cyclist was being treated for life-threatening injuries. I don’t think they took him away in the helicopter though because it was still there when I circled back 30 minutes later. My 9 miles were relatively slow thanks to the hubbub and resulting “buckingham palace helicopter” googling (and OK, I may have also played a bit of Pokemon), but I did it! And I wasn’t too sore the next day either — I think I walked 18,000 steps. Today was supposed to be my last long run before the race, but I’m probably one of the few runners who doesn’t do her long runs on the weekend, so it’s 10 miles tomorrow. Then it’s grocery shopping and complaining about the heat on Tuesday (seriously, how is the high for Tuesday 88 F/ 31 C, it’s September, London!) and generally taking it easy until Sunday, September 18 (which in all likelihood means walking too much trying to hatch Pokemon eggs). Wish me luck!

Everybody wants you in Regents Park

30 Aug

The other day I was running in Regents Park. I use the term “running” loosely, as it was my one weekly Poke-run that I have allowed myself, in which I run while playing Pokemon Go, which usually translates to run for 20 seconds, stop to catch Pokemon, run for 5 seconds, stop to catch said escaped Pokemon, run to next Pokegym, stop to battle, etc. I had been playing for a good hour, my phone battery was on its last legs, as were my, well, legs. I was hot and irritable and Pokemon Go had randomly stopped working. I decided there was only one thing that could get me through the last mile: I had to listen to the song that had been playing nonstop in my head. There was just one problem: I didn’t know the song’s name or artist. I only knew one line, which I kept singing over and over again: “Everybody wants you.”

So I typed that into Spotify. Do you know how many songs are called Everybody Wants You? A lot. Usually when I don’t know the name of a song I just google some of the lyrics. But I didn’t know what line came before or after “Everybody wants you.” It was definitely an upbeat, older song. I tried googling “Everybody wants you 80s song,” but that only brought up Billy Squier, and that was not the song in my head. I wasn’t even sure how this song got in my head — was it playing at the restaurant I passed in the park? Does the restaurant in the park even play music? Was the heat making me delusional? Why was it so important that I listen to this song right now?

And then a girl approached me as I was sitting on the bench in Regents Park having this Pokemon and music crisis.

“How do I get to Regent Street?” she asked.

“Regent Street? The shopping street next to Oxford Street?” I replied.

“I don’t know,” she said. “I just want to buy a tent. There’s a camping store on Regent Street.” I had so many questions — why did she need to buy a tent — was she planning on living in the park? Why did she not look at a map before she left, did she think Regent Street was in Regents Park? And what 20-something-year-old these days doesn’t have a phone with GPS maps? But I kept my questions to myself and opened up Google Maps.

“You can get on the Tube at Baker Street and get off at Piccadilly Circus,” I told her.

“I don’t want to take the Tube,” she said.

“Oh. Then you can take the bus 13.” I told her.

“Hmm. The bus might be hot,” she said. I agreed.

“You can walk 2 miles then. I do it all the time,” I told her.

“I don’t know if I want to walk that far.” She stood there contemplating her options. I stood there wondering if “Everybody Wants You” was even the name of the song, and since I spent a good 5 minutes giving travel advice to this girl, if it would be out of line to start singing and ask her if she knew the song. I snapped out of it, though, and the girl was still just standing there. Did she want me to walk the 2 miles with her? Her simple request for directions was almost turning into a stop and chat. Good thing I wasn’t timing this run.

“So basically you can take the tube, ride the bus or walk. Those are your options,” I said in a hint-hint PokemonGo is back up and running and I need to go manner.

“OK,” she said, and wandered off. I wonder if she ever got her tent or figured out that Regent Street and Regents Park are not the same thing. I did what I could to help, but I still had my own problem. As I walked I continued to search Spotify, playing every “Everybody Wants You” song one by one, but none of them were the one. I was getting way too frustrated. I remember when I was at university my basic how to build a website class visited the computer science lab. A team there was working on a program like Shazam that could identify a song just by you humming a few bars of it. This would have been the perfect moment for that service, I wonder if they ever got it off the ground.

I got home, took a shower, ate lunch and then played some SongPop 2, the other mobile game I am hopelessly addicted to. And there — in the Top Hits 1983 playlist selected by the Australian chick I’ve been playing for the past 3 weeks — was the answer to my musical conundrum and the answer to the round: Give It Up by KC and the Sunshine Band. I couldn’t find the song because it isn’t called Everybody Wants You — that’s just one of the lines — one of the lines that SongPop 2 frequently uses, which is likely where I first heard the song that caused it to get stuck in my head in the first place. Problem solved. I am still grossly underprepared for my half marathon in less than 3 weeks (!) and utterly addicted to PokemonGo, but…
Na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na / Baby give it up / Give it up / Baby give it up / Everybody wants you / Everybody wants your love….

kc sunshine band dance.gif

I think I might be in love with a kitchen appliance

24 Aug

For years now I’ve been lusting after a Vitamix blender. This blog post from 2013 proves it. Last month I convinced my friend to take me to Costco so I could buy their Quest Bar rip-offs (they’re amazing!), but also because I wanted to eat so many samples I didn’t need to eat lunch (mission accomplished). There was a nice girl doing a Vitamix demo so my friend and I parked our cart and did nothing but eat her delicious blender creations for an hour (I’m not exaggerating. We were pretty much best friends with the Vitamix girl by the end). Watching her make tasty smoothies, soups, ice creams and dips in minutes renewed my longing for a professional-grade blender. So I went home and immediately started looking for Vitamixes for sale in the UK.

For those of you who don’t know, Vitamix is the Rolls Royce of blenders. Every professional food blogger (and chef, likely) uses one. They are amazing, high-powered machines. But they are also stupidly expensive. In the U.S. they’ll cost you an arm and a leg, but in the UK they’ll cost you an arm, leg and a foot. Even a used or refurbished one is pricey. I was reading reviews on Amazon, trying to convince myself that I should throw down £399 ($500+) on a small kitchen appliance, when one of the reviews mentioned the Vitamix competitor — the Electriq iQMix. I thought I knew of all the professional blender brands, like Blendtec and Ninja. I had never heard of this Electriq iQMix. So I looked it up.

Electriq iQMix
“Vitamix is a great blender but why spend £400 when you can get the same results from the iQMix for under £100?” The website asked. Good question. I studied the specs and read all the reviews and was sold. I ordered my iQMix blender on Sunday and spent the next three days obsessively refreshing my email waiting for shipment confirmation. I am almost embarrassed to admit how excited I was at the prospect of a new Vitamix-like blender. (I’m actually devoting an entire blog post to it now, aren’t I?)

It arrived early this morning, so I spent my whole run thinking about the chocolate avocado ice cream I was going to make when I got home. Of all the creations we tasted at Costco, the chocolate avocado ice cream was my favorite. It legit tasted like a Wendy’s Frostie, even though the movie Mr. Deeds taught us it isn’t possible to make one at home. But I was going to try! I used the recipe the Costco Vitamix girl gave me (I told you we were buddies!), but realized I was missing one key ingredient — a buttload of ice. In what may come as a shock to my American readers (like my dad), I never have ice in my freezer. I don’t use it for drinks and I’ve never had a blender that can properly handle ice in a smoothie. So I filled one tiny ice tray last night, not realizing the recipe called for 2 to 3 cups of ice. So my chocolate avocado ice cream came out more like a smoothie, but it was still everything I dreamed it would be. And based off this one experience and this one recipe, I would highly recommend the Electriq iQMix to any of my UK readers who don’t want to spring for a Vitamix.

I have a pokeproblem

18 Aug

It just dawned on me that I’m scheduled to run a half marathon in a month. One month! It feels like ages ago that I signed up for the Richmond Half, still bitter about not getting a spot in the Royal Parks Half (side note: my doctor in Kentucky ran the Royal Parks Half years ago. She said even then it was tough to get a ballot spot!). I can’t believe it’s a month away now. I felt more ready to run it in May than I do now. That’s partly because I’ve been traveling for 2 months now, and although I tried to run frequently, I wasn’t doing many long runs because this was the forecast every day:

hot as balls forecast

There’s also another reason my training has been slacking. And it’s name is Pokemon Go.

For people like my brother who spend most of their day on a computer inside an office or at home on the couch playing video games, it really encouraged him to get outside and exercise. But for people like me who were already Fitbit-obsessed, it turned my usual long runs into stop-every-2-minute gotta-catch-em-all walk-runs. Not part of the Hansons half marathon training plan.

I started playing Pokemon Go in early July, right after I got back from my Milwaukee and Chicago adventure. So for the first month I only played in suburban Kentucky, which it turns out is actually the worst place to play. There was only 1 Pokestop near me, and by “near me” I mean I still had to run over a mile to reach it. In London I am surrounded by Pokestops — my actual flat itself is a Pokestop. (For those unfamiliar with the game, a Pokestop is where you can collect free items like pokeballs. You need pokeballs to catch Pokemon. So if you don’t live near any stops, you won’t get many balls, and you won’t be able to catch many Pokemon. This was my life last month). The few times I went into downtown Cincinnati I went a little nuts hitting up Pokestops and catching Pokemon. It was like I was used to getting one bowl of rice a day and suddenly I was at an all you can eat buffet.

And then I went to China, where Pokemon Go has been banned because it uses Google Maps, which is also banned. I couldn’t play at all for 10 days. To continue with the analogy, I was starving. And then we landed in Hong Kong and had 8 hours to kill before our flight to London, so naturally we went to Hong Kong Disneyland. And suddenly I went from starving to eating at the midnight buffet on a cruise ship. I couldn’t contain myself. Every few feet there was a Pokestop or Pokemon. My finger couldn’t swipe fast enough.

pokemon go hong kong disneyland

Screenshot I took at the entrance of Hong Kong Disneyland. The 75% battery was already causing me anxiety.

“Wow, you’re catching a lot!” Stephen said. At first he was amused by it, cheering me on as I caught a wild Dewgong by the Jungle Cruise. But then he started getting annoyed. “Just one more,” I told him. “I know I need to stop, my phone battery is dying.” But I couldn’t stop. My proverbial stomach was full at the buffet, but I couldn’t stop eating. I had been depraved for so long.

“Stop playing Pokemon!” Stephen shouted at me as we tried to leave the park during the Paint the Night Parade. There were people everywhere and it was tough enough to walk through without staring at the screen.

I definitely have a problem.

And while I’d like to say I’ve learned my lesson and am now “eating” or playing Pokemon Go a sensible amount, I’m afraid it’s only gotten worse since I’ve gotten back to London. My flat is a Pokestop! There’s a gym just steps away! Regents and Hyde Parks are teeming with Pokemon! I’ve gotta catch ’em all!

….

Dear god, how am I going to run 13.1 miles in 30 days?

….

How am I going to go 2+ hours without playing Pokemon?