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Month: November 2017

November 2017 training recap & pre-CIM thoughts

November 2017 training recap & pre-CIM thoughts

Well, that month came and went rather quickly. Between all the usual obligations and general “life stuff” that peppered the month of November — in addition to Thanksgiving break (a week long! An entire WEEK!); conference week (a week+ of shortened school days to allow the teachers to meet with parents in the early afternoon hours); and other one-off events — this month came and went, I ran a couple races, I finished the thick of my CIM training, and now we’re just a couple days out from The Big Day.

Admittedly, as I talked about in previous months’ entries, this quarter has been pretty tough. Fortunately, by the time November came (and went), a lot of the stressors began to diminish a bit: namely, my husband continued to recover from surgery, and the dust at school from A’s teacher quitting began to settle. I had mentioned in my October recap that I had felt pretty knackered but had basically attributed it to life and everything that was going on. Well, long story short, the “extreme fatigue” seemed to be sticking around. A call to my endocrinologist (whom I see yearly for a diagnosed thyroid issue) about it led to testing my TSH — all normal — which made her suggest that I take a pregnancy test. I’ve been pregnant twice, and I know pregnancy tired, and I knew this wasn’t that (plus those minor my husband just had abdominal surgery and I have a semi-permanent birth control details).

a super fancy Thanksgiving morning picture post-run

At any rate — long story short — a routine test as part of my annual physical with my GP revealed that my liver was, as we say, seemingly fucked. My liver enzyme levels were through-the-roof horrible (like, 5 times what they should have been); it looked like there was something — some thing — on my liver; and if I were a) obese and/or b) a heavy drinker, all of this would make sense … but I’m not … so it didn’t. (For reference: the last alcoholic drink I had was a single mimosa. In October. Of last year).

Fast forward through the month of November, which included:

  • another set of bloodwork;
  • going off my colitis medicine (with the thinking that it might be contributing to the liver inflammation/enlargement and other stuff) but then
    • subsequently having to deal with the fun realities that come when you have colitis but aren’t medicated for it (read: lots of QT with my bathroom and/or the great outdoors, in emergency situations, mid-run, which is always a great experience and a fantastic way to meet strangers (mortified beyond mortified));
  • an ultrasound;
  • a CT scan;
  • more bloodwork;
  • and an MRI.

I’m still waiting for the final diagnosis (diagnoses? maybe?) to put all this to bed — and did I mention we’re switching insurance in the new year, and I’ll have to find a new GI to help manage this mess? — but it seems like we’re almost out of the woods with all of this stuff. I can’t do a happy dance quite yet, but I feel like I can at least get into position. I didn’t dare Google anything that my doctor said or what the radiologists’ reports indicated because I’d surely learn that my death was imminent, but let me assure you: all of this stuff was scary shit. I am so grateful to a) have insurance; b) have a doctor who listens to my concerns; c) have gotten a physical that caught this in the first place (moral: get your yearly physical, people! And when something seems “off,” listen to your body and call a real-life professional instead of trying to fix it yourself with remedies that aren’t scientific and are deleterious to your health, at best); and d) that my sister is a real-life medical professional who talked me off the ledge and helped me make sense of everything.

sister sister. she’s the best.

I’m not a medical professional, but here’s a quick and dirty lesson about your liver. It’s important. When it’s not working as it should, that’s a problem.

All of that said, there for a while, I wasn’t even sure that CIM would come to fruition. A lot of my runs this training cycle have been okay, meh, or kinda flat, and the fatigue was pretty killer; one of the liver’s many functions is to do the detoxing in your body — the real kind, not the “I’m gonna go on a juice cleanse to detoxify my body” kind. (Sidenote: again, another quick and dirty biology lesson. Your liver and your kidneys are your built-in detoxing buddies. If you hear that you need to “cleanse” or “detox” for some reason [barring something that’d actually warrant detoxing, like drug abuse], assume that the person doling out that advice just wants your money, and do yourself a favor and go set your money on fire. Either one suffices because they achieve the same end result. There’s no scientific merit to the idea of “detoxing” diets, cleanses, anything, unless — of course — you’ve been abusing drugs. Huge pet peeve of mine. Anyway).  My GP and GI both seemed to think that all that crazy fatigue I had been feeling could be attributable to my liver’s subpar status in that it was incapable of fully or adequately doing its job. It was even as late as the Clarksburg half — mid-November — that I was fairly torn about whether running, much less trying to race, CIM was a good idea (and conversations with my doctor informed me that me running or training wouldn’t exacerbate anything; provided I wanted to run and wasn’t having horrible unmedicated colitis-related issues, I could run my little heart out).

Clarksburg-ing. (PC: Lisa)


As we rolled through November and the final handful of weeks of training — running Clarksburg and XC Champs, doing the last hard workouts, getting race ready with more GMP-focused stuff, and running a little lower mileage than usual (about 190 for the month, my lowest all year) but with specific and deliberate intensity —  eventually — fortunately — things have seemed to begin to turn around. As of a few days ago, anyway, my labs on my liver seem to be indicating the same.

XC champs-ing (PC: Wolfpack Running Club)

A note about CIM training, generally speaking: when I first decided that I’d race CIM, I had just come off racing the SF Marathon in late July and then pacing the 3:33 group at Santa Rosa a month later, so I knew I didn’t need to start from scratch with my training. I decided to try something new and enlisted the help of Lisa — gracious and humble human being; devoted Wolfpack wonder leader extraordinaire; and badass and fast runner — to coach me. I hadn’t been coached since I did this stuff for the first time, back in 2007 with Team in Training in Chicago, so it has been a lot of fun to work under someone for once and not be the one calling all the shots all the time. Working with a coach this time around has meant “doing running” differently — different workouts, different mileage volume and intensity, different everything — and honestly, it has been great. I have hesitated to work with a coach because my running is so varied all the time — between running with my kids; pushing a stroller more often than not; run-commuting 1.5 miles, four times a day, four days a week, most weeks; racing fairly frequently, be it roads or XC; or needing/wanting to have the freedom to mix in trails with roads basically whenever I want — that I have more or less thought of myself as fairly uncoachable at this time in my life. I’m super fortunate to have had the opportunity to work under Lisa because she gets it in the broad sense, and more specifically, she understands my running and how it can (or can’t) look right now for me. It’s a relationship that I plan to continue, and I’m grateful that Lisa has gotten me to the starting line on Sunday ready to rumble (bizarre liver issues be damned).

she’s great. (PC: who knows)

I’m totally stoked and honored to toe the line at my 31st marathon on Sunday morning. Marathons are tough as hell, obviously, and I could have a fantastic day, a horrible day, or something in between, regardless of what time I end up posting.

Spoiler: it will be fantastic.

from Sunday morning with Janet and Saurabh in Alum Rock. That sky!!! (PC: Janet)



Reading: You Are a Badass (eh) for Lindsey’s podcast’s book club; Kevin Hart’s Book (I Can’t Make This Up), also eh but actually fairly funny and moderately inspiring; and I’m partially through Elizabeth Warren’s book and Hillary Clinton’s book (both very good and highly recommended, especially HRC’s). Oh, and this is a great CIM-related read. Hat-tip to Mario for sharing that gem.

Listening, Watching: I should just omit this stuff because I’m a horrible consumer of entertainment and am basically eons behind the rest of humanity. How awesome was the NYC Marathon though?!!?!

Enjoying: So much in November, including our ten-year wedding anniversary, my birthday, and my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving. Oh, and this tea. (Not an affiliate link or anything; I had it for the first time on the Hoka trip and have been hooked ever since. I asked for some for my birthday because I’m weird and ask for tea for my birthday every single year).  


It’s CIM time, baby!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

2017 PA USATF Cross Country (XC) Championship – SF, CA

2017 PA USATF Cross Country (XC) Championship – SF, CA

The PA USATF cross-country season concluded with the championship meet in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park a week ago, over at Lindley Meadow, very near where we were when we ran the GGP open in September. This time around, we had just a few noticeable differences: women ran two laps of the 2 mile-ish course (for 4ish miles), whereas the men ran 3 (for 6ish); we started and finished in the grassy Lindley Meadow, which was closed and thus, off-limits for us in September; and finally, we spent very little time running on the polo fields’ track and had a slightly different course coming into and out of the woods that abut the polo fields. Having run the September course, I had an inkling of an idea about what to expect for the day, but I nonetheless went into the race without thinking too much about it. If I’ve learned anything this autumn from doing XC for the first time in my life, it’s that a) this shit’s hard, and b) it’s unpredictable. Even if you run the course as a warm-up, everything still feels so different — and so much more challenging — when you’re trying to run it fast. (Einstein realization, I know). 

Unfortunately, the ladies Wolfpack contingent has been struggling a bit this year due to the usual suspect of reasons: injuries, people relocating, scheduling constraints, and the like. Due to some weird, extenuating medical stuff that I’ve been dealing with, Lisa and I didn’t decide that I’d run until sometime the day before the race, so I was really happy to be there. I had no idea how I’d fare — hence, that aforementioned XC is so unpredictable sentiment — but I was happy to at least have the opportunity. With just a little time before our ladies’ race started, we had a complete team — hooray! — and we were ready to roll: Lisa, Claire, Megan, Lalida, and me.

I look cold! with Lisa and Lalida pre-race. (It was “California crisp,” by the way, about 50 or so). (PC: Wolfpack Running Club)


the ladies! L-R Lalida, Megan, Lisa, and Claire (PC: WRC)


The gun went off, and suddenly a sea of women began sprinting over wet (and probably muddy) grass before we left the field and picked up a dirt-path straightaway that ran parallel to the road in GGP. Just like in many of the other PA races, there aren’t chip-timed starts, so it behooves you to start as close to the starting line as possible. I hung a couple rows back at the line out of self-preservation mode more than anything else, maybe a 1 or 2 second difference, and I figured I’d go with the flow for the first lap, aiming to negative split on round two, just as Lisa had suggested. Once we were off the meadow and onto the straight, I avoided riding the downhill hard and just tried to stay put, working with the women around me and actively not passing anyone. (Shoutout to all the masters’ women around me here. For the first mile, mile and a half, I was pretty boxed-in by women who were 40+, 50+, and even 60+ years old. The only reason I knew their ages was due to the numbers they had to wear on their backs, demarcating their masters’ statuses, but hot damn: all I could think was god I hope to be kicking as much ass as they are when I’m their age).

and we’re off (PC: WRC)

Between miles .5 to 1.5, as far as I can remember, we went through the same little woods, singletrack, mud, sand, and grassy area that we did during the GGP open in September. These areas are especially tricky because of the quickly-changing terrain, and the narrow passageways, but at the same time, if you’re trying to run conservatively, getting boxed in isn’t the worst thing that can happen to you, either. Once we got close to the polo fields, we ran just a few strides on the track before hopping off and making our way into the same woods where we ran at GGP. Here, though, instead of running into the woods, making a hairpin turn, and running back down, we ran straight through, cresting the little mini-hill, and descended fast and furiously to the other side, where we then hung a hard left and began making our way back to the meadow — think running through woods, followed by running on pavement, followed by running on wet grass, thick with mud — before doing the same thing all over again for round 2, miles 3 and 4. It was a ton of fun, but shit. Cross country is hard. Trying to run fast while getting a bit “lactic,” as Robin said (perf description!), while oh yeah running through fucking mud or sand is crazy — crazy hard but crazy fun.

beginning lap 2 (PC: WRC)


finishing, praise the lord (PC: WRC)

True to form, I didn’t look at my watch during the race and barely caught my splits when my alarm sounded. I was aiming for the this should feel pretty hard sentiment for the duration of the race, but on the second lap, I tried to open things up a bit and begin to cautiously and still somewhat conservatively pick-off women around me. At the end of the day, I finished in about a 29:16 for 4.06 miles — so nothing blazing — but with a negative split that left me pretty stoked. I’m pretty sure I played it a bit too safely out there — I think I should have gone harder, earlier — but with CIM just two weeks’ out from the XC Championships, my eye was on the bigger prize.

post-race with my teammates who raced plus those who came out to cheer (CT, Julie and canine Alice, and Mona) (PC: WRC)


All told, it ended up being 12 and change for the day between the race, warm-up, and cooldown miles, and it was a lot of fun to have a little team picnic in the park after the guys’ race. Watching and cheering for them was also a ton of fun (as evidenced by the 100+ pictures I got of our team running). Abundant inspiration, friends.

cooling down with the women while the men’s masters race takes off (PC: Lisa)


our guys’ contingent (PC: WRC)


yay team! (PC: WRC)

The Championship race was only my third XC event of the season/my life — the other two being GGP and Santa Cruz — but I’m looking forward to next year’s XC season already. It’s such a different type of running — you’re inherently going to be slower than you are on roads, but it’s also not like you’re trying to sprint up something relentless and crazy steep like Monument Peak for miles on end — but the challenge is extremely gratifying. I guess you could call it a different opportunity to red-line. 🙂

I know I’ve said it before, but seriously, if you have the chance to do XC — even if you’ve never done it before in your life (hi!) — take the chance. It is such a good time.

And now, we CIM.