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bash head against (om) wall

See this wall at my yoga studio? I was supposed to look at it upside down today. Took a two-hour inversions workshop, but didn't once make it into a headstand or a handstand. (I did fall on my face, though.) I was so frustrated I almost cried.

But I did run three miles today. Pain free. So at least there's that.

a suspicious fellow

Sometimes I wish I were a fat orange cat whose one major concern in life was breaking into the cupboard and finding the container of freeze-dried fish treats.

think of holding pee

That's what my physical therapist said to me today.

Apparently, my knee pain is due to misalignment. I guess your big toe is connected to your knee somehow, and my big toe lacks flexibility, which affects my knee. Also, my lower abs are weak, so my hips and glutes aren't engaging the way they should. All of this combined means my legs tend to roll in (in fact, I got my SF Half pics today, and I'm so knock-kneed in them that I look like I have to go to the bathroom -- no wonder I hurt myself).

How to solve this problem? My PT sent me home with several ab- and butt-strengthening exercises, as well as some big toe stretches. And she told me I'm supposed to "think of holding pee" while I'm doing these exercises so that I activate the right muscles. I did my first set of them tonight. Let's hope they do the trick!


Feeling pretty craptacular at the moment. I spent three hours at Kaiser today, trying to find out what is wrong with my knee.

First, I had to wait forever to see my general practitioner, who thinks I have a mild case of patellofemoral pain syndrome (ugh -- just as I suspected) and is sending me to physical therapy. Then I had to wait even longer to get an x-ray. Then, right when I was about to get in my car and drive off, I realized I had forgotten to pick up a prescription for ibuprofen, so I once again went and stood in line.

I waited around so much today that I read two chapters of my new book, Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals. Let me just tell you: This is not the book to read if you are already feeling down. I'm surprised I didn't either (a) vomit in the middle of the waiting room or (b) start bawling and snotting all over myself.

In fact, I am so disturbed by this book that I am finding it difficult to eat. I was supposed to have dinner with some chef friends tonight who are testing their new wood-fired oven, but I know there will be meat, and I don't want to have to explain why I am suddenly and shockingly vegetarian, so I skipped out on dinner.

Pretty much all I've really ingested today is a LaraBar and a curried vegetable, mustard greens and spinach burrito from Avatar's Punjabi Burrito, which recently opened a new location here in Chickenland, has been one of the must-eats on my list and has a sign advertising vegan options in the window.

I wish the burrito photographed a little better because it was good -- messy, but good. I loved the punjabi flat bread "tortilla," and the potatoes in the vegetable mix were delicious. (The carrots were slightly undercooked -- still a little hard, but not inedible.) I will definitely go back to sample some of the other vegetarian combinations, which included pumpkin, sweet potatoes and blackened vegetables.

Anyway, I am trying really hard to snap out of this funk. Unfortunately, the situation is not helped by the fact that Mari just chewed holes into my favorite Splits59 running shorts.

Maybe I should call it a day and just start again tomorrow.

I left my knee in san francisco

Made it to the finish line, where they were serving up some Irish coffee, which I clearly really enjoyed!

Today's race was interesting. I did something I've never done before: I walked -- not because I needed to, but because I wanted to. (I've walked before out of sheer pain, but I've never purposely just walked.) I was worried about my knee and didn't want to push myself too hard and burn out on the hills, so I took a lot of walk breaks, walked through every aid station and basically just tried to go as easy as possible. Even with this, I was moving along at a good clip -- when I ran, I held a 9:30 pace pretty comfortably.

Everything was fine -- great even -- until about Mile 10, when we started the descent down a really large hill in the Presidio into the Seacliff neighborhood. (Very cool to run this, by the way -- back in the day, when I was still living in SF, I would drive this route home from work. Who would've known that one day I'd be crazy enough to run it?) My left knee -- the one that's been bugging me this past week -- suddenly decided it was done behaving. It started to hurt pretty badly. I ended up walking a good portion of the last few miles, run-limping across the finish line (my stride probably looked like Frankenstein in short-shorts) and went straight to the medi tent for some ice.

So I've been icing and elevating since. The pain isn't so bad now, but the knee is definitely swollen. I suspect patellofemoral pain syndrome (a.k.a. "Runner's Knee" -- fitting, huh?), and I've got a doctor's appointment tomorrow to get it checked out. I'm really hoping I won't be sidelined for a long time. This race -- the energy of thousands of runners converging in one city -- made me even more excited for Portland, and overall, I feel really good -- I'm definitely a much stronger runner now than I was at this time a year ago. I can't wait for another shot at 26.2!

Anyway, my time was 2:16:24. Not my best, but I'm just glad I finished. (Also, there was Pirate's Booty at the finish line. I think I grabbed like six bags.)

at last, race weekend is here

Starting to get really excited for race day -- largely because I haven't run since Tuesday, and I'm feeling antsy as hell. I just want to get out there! (And as you can see, I've started my pasta feed a day early -- tonight's dinner was whole wheat spaghetti with some tomatoes from our little garden patch out back.)

It's funny -- hadn't planned on tapering this week because I was looking at the SF Half as a training run. Apparently, my body thought otherwise, and it's been freaking out on me non-stop. I've basically been forced to taper.

The knee/thigh pain and swelling have calmed down, but tonight I found a random bruise on my foot (seriously, no clue where this came from -- like I said, I haven't done any running since Tuesday, and I don't remember anyone stepping on me in stilettos), and I keep noticing little aches in my legs and ankles, even when I'm not moving at all. I don't know why this seems to happen to me before races (right before the Avenue of the Giants half I suddenly had what felt like a sprained ankle -- even though I hadn't actually sprained my ankle). Maybe my mind is playing tricks on me? Can a person imagine pain?

Anyway, I'm just happy this weekend is finally here. It will be a fun time -- and the course actually goes past our old apartment in SF. I already know I'm going to feel nostalgic! (And maybe that nostalgia will distract me a little from the all those hills ... )

where can I get a tortoise?

It's pretty ridiculous how much I want to try to recreate this video with Meep and Mari.

s.o.s. signals

Apparently, my body is trying to tell me something.

And it's not a happy message.

One of the muscles in my inner thigh, just above my left knee, is swollen and extremely sore. I spent the day icing and elevating, and instead of running, I went swimming. (More on that in another post -- there's definitely a reason I'm a runner and not a swimmer!)

I'm not sure what's causing this. I just switched to a new pair of shoes (I usually go about 225 to 250 miles, and then I start to get a little achey, which is how I know it's time for new kicks), and I didn't change the type of shoes I've been wearing (still in the LunarGlides), so I don't think that's the issue. I haven't done anything different form-wise, either.

My suspicion is overuse. I've been running five days a week, and I recently added speedwork. I think it's just too much, what with the ever-increasing mileage.

Anyway, I'm scaling it back. Changed up the training plan so it only has four days of running, plus one day of yoga and another day of low impact cross-training (which will most likely be swimming).

And I'm trying hard not to think about Sunday. I keep reminding myself I was viewing this as a training run and not planning to race it, so if worse comes to worse and I can't run, the world isn't going to end.

Although it will screw up my attempt at becoming a Half Fanatic!

eat better, run stronger

We did a tough, hilly 12-miler here in Chickenland this morning -- lots of butt-burning climbs, winding country roads and grazing cows. That's Neveia and me slogging up one of the final hills on our route.

My last few long runs have been pretty strong (slow, but steady and without issues), but for some reason, I was off today. I felt sluggish, tired, heavy -- even though I'd gotten plenty of sleep last night and rested on both Friday and Saturday.

I suspect diet is the culprit. My stomach was not happy even before the run started (let's just say I was pretty much running on empty because my system decided to expel all food). As a result, during the workout, I was simultaneously starving and cramping. (Really glad we only went 12 miles -- can't imagine what might have happened if we were out there longer.) I'm trying to remember what I ate yesterday, and I'm realizing that I succumbed to a lot of "mall food" -- a frittata from A.G. Ferrari, a hot dog from Stang's (at least it was Niman Ranch beef and not mystery meat from an undisclosed location), a pizzette from Cheesecake Factory (I know, right? I never go there). I had thought I was making good decisions at the time, but apparently, my GI tract thought otherwise.

The plan moving forward: Cut down on the rich foods -- especially dairy -- 48 hours before a long run.

coming clean

Clearly, I have a problem.

Went to Lucy and lululemon today. Both stores had sales. I left the former with three tops, two bras and two pairs of yoga pants. I left the latter with four tops and a pair of running shorts.

I am trying to justify all of this by telling myself that because of marathon training, I am working out more than ever, therefore I need new clothes for said activities. (And did I mention I'm racing next weekend? Can't be running the SF Half looking raggedy.) Also, when spandex gets old and starts to wear out, it becomes see-through, and the world does not want to see my butt through my pants, therefore I should get new clothes. Also, and perhaps more importantly, there was a sale.

Makes perfect sense. Completely and totally logical.

edible souvenir

The best gifts are the ones that can be eaten, like this ramen "kit" that Julie brought back for us from her recent trip to Japan. We had fun trying to decipher the cooking instructions, which were written in kanji, and guess what flavor the ramen was going to be.

End result: Super-spicy ramen (still not sure exactly what the broth was), a little on the soupy side, but felt good in the belly.

a valiant attempt

I tried to turn the forgotten produce in our refrigerator into something semi-edible before it went bad.

The result was pretty -- and god knows my new obsession is putting anything and everything on top of these spinach pizzas from Trader Joe's and eating them like open-faced sandwiches. But this time, things turned out sort of bitter. I guess squash reaches a point where it can't be salvaged. Also, I think I overdid it on the salt.

Well. I suppose you can't win every time.

scattered thoughts

Today I remembered how much I love corn dogs. These are minis from Gott's Roadside Tray Gourmet (formerly Taylor's Automatic Refresher). They use chicken for the dog, and the batter is crispy and not too bready -- just the way I like it.


Starting to get more excited about my new training group. This morning's run went well and wasn't competitive, which was a relief. We ran 10 miles in Sonoma, and our route took us right through Gundlach Bundschu -- past the entrance to their caves, past the crushpad, past their colorful mural and then down through their vineyards.

But perhaps more importantly: One of the runners in our group is a culinary student who brings cakes, cupcakes and other goodies to each Sunday run.


Little people make a big difference! Go, Spain!

runs well with others -- sometimes

Last Sunday, I ran the Kenwood Footrace 10K with Neveia and Ulysses. (Don't worry -- we didn't make the cat run with us.) The course was hilly as hell -- to the point where Ulysses was muttering four-letter expletives mid-way into the first climb -- and I was definitely far from a PR (finished in 1:02:07 and really couldn't have tried any harder -- my legs were maxed out), but we still had so much fun and celebrated with beer and a dip in the pool afterward.

Kenwood was just one example of how much I enjoy running with friends. Portland will not only be the second marathon for Neveia and me, but the second one we are running together. (And neither of us will ever forget the adventure that was CIM.) We started training together a few weeks ago and have been meeting on the weekends for long runs and even longer conversations. It's been absolutely wonderful. The miles go so much faster when you are chatting with a friend.

To get additional support and coaching for Portland, we recently signed up for a training group with Heart & Sole. The head coach is an ultramarathoner who has run Comrades and considers 10-milers to be "short runs." We figured we'd learn something from him!

Our first group run was tonight -- 3 x 3-minute intervals, with a 4-minute rest in between. The workout was good -- and I wasn't the slowest person in the bunch, which is a minor miracle -- but I have to say that the vibe is definitely different from the duo runs I've been doing with Neveia. Part of me feels like people are marking their territory -- trying to establish where they are speed-wise and experience-wise and make that known to the rest of the group. Since I am naturally competitive, I feel like I have to belly up too. It's a little weird, and I'm not sure I really like it.

Anyway, we'll be doing a 10-miler with the group Sunday morning. Hopefully I'll feel more comfortable and be able to tune out some of the swagger and focus on getting what I personally need out of the workout.

differing philosophies

Jeff Galloway -- former Olympian and creator of the Galloway method, a run-walk-run training program that many people swear by -- spoke at Fleet Feet tonight.

Maybe it was his Atlanta accent, but something about Galloway's presentation reminded me of church. There we were, a group of about 70 runners or so, sitting in rows of chairs in front of a man who spoke very passionately about his beliefs.

And I felt like I had to decide if I wanted to become a disciple, to convert from my current "faith" in Hal Higdon and Danny Dreyer and start incorporating walk breaks into my running.

To be honest, this is a tough concept for me. I feel like if I start walking, I'll just want to keep walking and not run anymore. But Galloway said people have cut their marathon times by as much as 20 minutes using his method; apparently, the walk breaks -- when incorporated from the start and at regular intervals -- allow the muscles to recover before they become fully fatigued, and therefore you remain fresh as the race progresses. He said many Galloway runners can actually increase speed in the final miles while the competition slows down and starts bonking. The philosophy is interesting -- and I was intrigued enough to buy one of Galloway's books.

But there were quite a few things about his talk tonight that I questioned. (Of course, right? After all, we are using religion as the analogy here, and if you know me, you know how I feel about that subject.) Someone in the audience asked about stretching, and Galloway basically said don't stretch. Flat out: Don't stretch. This is the first time I've ever heard this. I know you're not supposed to stretch before a run, when your muscles are cold, because you can injure yourself. But not stretching at all? Not even after a run? That seems slightly insane to me -- and like a path to injury and soreness.

But according to Galloway, the body is supposed to be tight because a tight body is better built for distance running. He even cautioned against yoga, which made me raise yet another eyebrow. I personally recover faster and feel better when I incorporate stretching and yoga into my training regimen. Plus, I can't imagine giving up yoga -- the spiritual satisfaction and stress relief it gives me is pretty unparalleled.

So I'm a little confused here -- and a little pessimistic. But I'm still going to read Galloway's book and ask other runners for their thoughts on and experiences with the Galloway plan before I make any judgments. In the meantime, I'm sticking with my pal Higdon.

up, up and awake

Saw hot air balloons launching this morning as Neveia and I warmed up for our 11-miler. The sound of their burners is just like waves crashing on the beach.