Monday, January 16, 2012

The Las Vegas Rock and Roll Half Marathon - MY FIRST!

It finally came....the day I'd been training for! The day that has been 5 MONTHS in the making!

I look back to the posts I wrote when I initially decided to do this, and I'm pretty surprised at where I'm sitting now. I went in thinking I had plenty of time. Five months of time to be exact. At least I'd hope that was enough. I was never a runner, and I didn't even know if it would be possible to get myself to the mileage level, let alone the mentality to get myself through. Ok, well that's kind of a lie. Over the last year and a half I've done a pretty good job of fixing my mental state of mind to reach some goals that were pretty far off! But running has always been this impossible hurdle for me. One I've fought to conquer my whole life.

And then not to mention after 4 months, with ONE month to go, I ran into knee problems. Problems that for awhile I figured might take me out of the race completely. BUT thanks to some amazing time with two different PTs I worked my way back to at least be good to finish the race. It may be walking, it may be run/walking, but it would be finished. SOMEHOW!

The last time I posted I told you about my PT. The hope that I'd gotten back when it came to this race. My first night after seeing her I'd run 5 miles on the treadmill. Before that my last long distance was 9 miles. BUT the whole thing had been walking. And let me tell ya....it is SO much HARDER to walk that distance than run it. Weird....I know. But when you know you can run all you want to do is run it. Walking takes longer and puts more wear and tear on the joints. So when I could start running again I was stoked.

After getting in to see my new PT, we came up with a run/walk strategy to try out as my last long run before the race. And it instilled more hope for me. The run/walk combo for my last long distance was 11 miles. I started with a walk and then rotated to a run about every other mile. We went with the following pattern 1/1/1/2/1/2/1/1/1. Starting and ending with walks. And I completed it with minimal pain to the knee, and a pretty decent pace. It was an average of 11:30 per mile. Not what I had thought it would be months ago, but the fact I could handle the distance meant everything in the world to me. I worked with my PT the week before Vegas, and I had a well laid plan going in. To go at it easy, with a run/walk combo. And just finish. After I'd finish I could work on the NEXT race. And work to get stronger and faster and have the race I'd wanted. To run it all!

Well the road to hell is paved with good intentions......but I'm getting ahead of myself


RACE DAY
The day started with me up bright and early. Even though the race wasn't until 5:30 that evening, and I'd gone out the night before. I was restless. I knew after the last two weeks long runs that I'd be able to finish the race, but I had this underlying fear that the knee would give out, that I'd get too tired, or that something would go wrong.

I spent the day relaxing for the most part. Mom and I grabbed breakfast at the Treasure Island buffet....DELICIOUS. And it was a champagne brunch....I gave mom mine since it probably wouldn't be the BEST idea to drink day of! We walked the strip a little, picked up some supplies at Walgreens and headed back to the room at Encore to get a little rest.

Tried napping but no luck. So instead I woke up and started prepping my gear for the race.....TEAM ALEX all the way!


Go Team Alex!


Waiting for the tram at the Wynn
With my energizer powered light for the night race!!
At 4pm mom and I headed down to catch the tram at the Wynn. Trams were to be running every 15 minutes so I figured getting down there an hour and a half before the race would leave us PLENTY of time. Even if the trams were running late or there were tons of people! Well I was wrong....45 minutes later not ONE tram had come....Then finally 3 came. We got on....but it took an HOUR to get from the Wynn to Mandalay Bay....which is only 3 miles away...SERIOUSLY?! Traffic was horrible, and technically we didn't even really reach the Mandalay Bay. We were going through the back roads and traffic stalled. It was 5:50 at this point. Race had started....and my corral was about 10 minutes out from start. Everyone on the tram convinced the driver to cut through a dirt lot and for us to get off in the middle of nowhere and  basically run to the start.

I had enough to time to use the restroom and hop into my corral. And then we were off....

So if you remember from before, my plan was run walk/run it....and it was supposed to start with a walk as a warm-up....well starting it walking felt...wrong....So I decided last minute to start with a light jog, and that would be my warm up in this cold weather, and then fix the rotation of my walk/run.. Well one mile in I was feeling good. No knee pain at all and so I decided to keep going and at the end of mile 2 I'd go to my walk/run plan. Because that would have been when I would've been walking next anyway. End of mile 2 came around and same thing. No knee pain, but I was like ok I'll walk....10 steps in and it felt wrong...I should be running, the walk pace was just slower than what felt good. So I started running again and decided to take it mile by mile. To assess the knee and take care of it whenever anything felt slightly painful. 

Next thing I knew it was the end of mile 5....and I was still running. With NO pain. WTF? I was pretty astounded at this point. This was pretty damn great! So I kept on keeping on. And the next thing I knew it was mile 8. My energy was still pretty good, and my legs were good. There were moments between mile 6 and mile 9 where I had moments of wanting to walk and rest a little. Where my side would hurt, or my energy levels started to drop. I pulled out my sport energy beans for a little bit of energy....but most importantly of all my mom kept me going. She was phenomenal. Throughout the ENTIRE race she sent me text messages to inspire me. "Go Amy!", "I'm so proud of you", "Go Team Alex".....she was my source of strength throughout the race. She seemed to be able to read my mind and would come through with a text whenever I was starting to drop in energy.

The other things that kept me going throughout the race were the inspiring people around me. I've heard of race day high, but I don't think there are words to describe this experience. Running with 44,000 other people. All with their own story of why they're there running. I saw so many things that made me cry throughout the race (yes I really cried....multiple times) and made me smile. A couple with the Crohn's and Colitis team....names on their backs, and the husbands with an arrow to his wife and below it said "I run for her."

There was one particular woman who was in front of me the entire race. The back of her t-shirt said "Last Chemo Treatment 11/16/2011." THAT did it for me. This woman had chemo 3 weeks before the race....and she was running. The whole thing she ran. If she could do it than I needed to suck it up and DO IT. If that isn't inspiration enough for you I don't know what is.

There were groups of girlfriends dressed up, bridal parties, Elvis costumes, people with their loved ones names on their shirts. Me with my Team Alex down my legs. Those letters inspired me throughout. Knowing I was running for my adorable little nephew. 

And then the crowds surrounding the race. Volunteers with signs to make you laugh (like "Just Keep Going....That's What She Said", people dressed up on the sidelines, kids with signs for their mom or dad that was running, students with signs for their teacher, the bands. Needless to say it was one large mix of inspirational things!

Before I knew it we were at mile 10....and at that point we were back on the strip for the last 3.1 miles!! And I was STILL running. Well once I hit the strip again I knew there was no stopping. And I have to say that the last 3 miles were extremely emotional for me. I realized that I was ACTUALLY going to do this. That my dream of finishing this race running the WHOLE thing was going to happen. That even after being sidelined for a month that I'd somehow fought back and made it. 

There were so many times in that last month that I could've said screw it. Tossed in the towel and gave up. But I didn't. And I think that's one thing I've learned most about myself in the last 2 years. My willpower and strength....things that for a long time I thought I'd lost....they were there...I just needed to believe in myself.  

At the end of mile 11 it was my music that gave me more inspiration (it had given it throughout due to my awesome mix, but the ending miles it seems that my iPod KNEW what songs to save for the end). "All I Do is Win" by DJ Khaled came on and I was SO pumped. It was this burst of energy..only TWO miles left!! PUSH IT PUSH IT PUSH IT! I seriously threw my hands up a couple times as I was running :)

The Mandalay Bay came into sight and I knew it was almost done! The big finish line signs saying "VICTORY IS YOURS!" And all I could think is HELL YES ITS MINE! This is where I pretty much lost it emotionally. Free flowing tears the last mile of the race. I was doing it. Finishing. Running. I thought back to where I was two years ago. Overweight, unhappy, in a job that made me miserable. No way two years ago would I have imagined myself finishing a half marathon. Having accomplished the goals I'd set for myself physically. 

I'd changed my life. I'd rewritten my story. No longer was I the girl who was lying in bed dreaming of what my life would be like when I took the weight off and turned things around. I WAS that girl now. Doing the things I wanted to do and achieving goals. I'd known for a very long time that I'd been doing great things for myself. Losing the weight, pushing myself physically. My friends and family have been amazing in constantly supporting me throughout and reinforcing my accomplishments. Being MY source of inspiration to KEEP going!

But there was something in this finish...THIS accomplishment....that made it so real. Maybe it was the obstacles I'd overcome, maybe it was the distance, the stories around me.....I don't know. It just was PERFECT. 

Not to mention the last half mile of my run my FAVORITE song of the moment (Jessie J - Domino) came on....it was the PERFECT way to end my run...to give me that last OOMPH to burst through the crowds and pick up my pace!

Arms up as I crossed the finish line...I DID IT.


Jenny and I...my running buddy and constant source of inspiration!

Me and Steph....Miss IronWOman


At the end of the race!
Finisher!
The medal!
Me and My Medal! I did it!

And below are some pictures from in general before the race. Me at the expo and some of the signs set up around the strip :)





My race bib! 











Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A New PT - New Hope!

Its been 4 weeks since my knee decided to crap out on me. Four weeks in which I have done a total of 3 runs. None of which were over a mile and a half. None of which did not consist of my knee flaring up and having to stop. And looking ahead to my half marathon I have to say that I was worried. What if everything I'd worked for was now impossible. I was pretty sure I could walk the whole thing, but that is NOT how I had planned this journey.

Even if I had not planned it this way, I had come to grips that the most important thing was recovering and working toward the next half marathon. But after one month of some but not much improvement I was looking for answers. So I got the name of a sports rehab specialist from a coworker and made an appointment. I felt bad. Like I was cheating on my other PT. But at the same time this is about my health and body. And I love my other PT, she is so nice and understanding and helpful, but she's not specialized in sports rehab.

And so yesterday I went to see my new PT. We went over all of my symptoms, how the pain started, she evaluated me the same as my other PT and agreed with her assessment that I had some weakness in my inner quads and butt (again I say ALWAYS a good thing to hear that your butt needs work. Thank you Dr. Quinn). What she also did is assess more of HOW my foot strikes the ground, and what she found is that my left foot collapses on the arch A LOT, which is most likely what causes the pain in my outer knee. She fixed a wedge under my insole, taped my knee up and told me to go run that night. To see if I could run 3 miles without pain, and continue if I could go further. She also showed me a few additional exercises to strengthen my butt, as well as how to reengage my fibular head (which is where my pain is), if it begins hurting during a run. Real life examples of what to do to help myself when NOT at the doctors office.

I went to the gym that night and got on a treadmill. Still going at a slower pace (5.5 on the treadmill - about 10.5min/mile). I reached 3 miles and no pain. So I kept going. Four miles passed......little to no pain. I stopped about half way through mile 5 to work on my knee for the slight pain and then kept going. And by 5 miles reached I was still good. I was in awe. WHAT?! Five miles was what was on my ORIGINAL training schedule for that night. A schedule I had revised like 5 times since I hurt my knee. So that's where I stopped.

After one hour in her office she had seemed to figure out what the root cause of my problem was. And suddenly I had hope. I didn't think I could run the whole half, but this gave me hope that I could at least do portions of it and not suffer pain. The great thing though is that it wasn't as if she said that what I'd been doing for the last month was wrong. She reaffirmed that I'd been working to fix the problem, and that obviously my gait had changed and things were getting better. BUT she gave me a solution. Not just fixes.

So here I sit. Hopeful. And for now that is all that matters.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Friendsgiving

After college I started a little tradition of Friendsgiving...or what I have entitled my Charlie Brown's Thanksgiving Feast. The holidays are all about spending time with family; but my friends are also my family and before we all head off every year I love being able to pull all of us together to enjoy the same thing we will with our family. A Thanksgiving feast! With all the trimmings.

I've been doing it now for 5 years, and every year is different. Each year has a new obstacle to overcome (typically its with one of the side dishes going awry). One year it will be not having enough space to cook all the food and transporting the turkey from one location to another (cooked - with the juices going all over the car...awesome smell afterward let me tell ya). The next year it will be the turkey not being cooked on time. THIS YEAR was the mashed potatoes. My beloved potatoes. MY FAVORITE PART of thanksgiving.

I tried a new recipe this year, and must have mismeasured or something....added to much milk to quickly and they became mushed potatoes. A somewhat runny potatoes that were not clear mush but not real potatoes.....damn it. They did settle somewhat after standing a bit....but not to MY liking. They still tasted good and everyone seemed to like them (as there were ZERO leftovers), but it was my own personal disaster.

BUT besides that it was a wonderful day. Full of friends, food, drinking, football. I find myself constantly reminded of how blessed I am. To be surrounded by such amazing people. My friends and family are the most wonderful source of love and support for me. The only thing missing from the day was my sister who was unfortunately stuck home sick. But I did send her leftovers that she was able to enjoy days later when she regained her taste for food.

Hoping everyone else is able to spend their holidays truly grateful for what they have in their lives. Because no matter how hard things may get, and how hard our lives can sometimes seem the one thing we should realize is that typically we're better off than majority of the population. We're unbelievably spoiled in our lives and if I can provide only a portion of the happiness in my life to those around me then I can feel like I've done at least something right.

Peek a boo!

My organizational skills at their best...damn I'm a nerd


Turkey - all wrapped in love and yumminess!

Mom helping with the prep work



more organization



veggies extreme!



the aftermath...yum yum delicious
Ms. Rich and I pregaming 
its as big as my FACE!


All decked out for the party!