Give a little more

We don’t always run the “best” parts of town.


Though, ask my running group, and they’d tell you that the whole city is the best:  from the history of the “Over the Rhine” districts, to the overlooks beyond, to the downtown high rises, to the sights across the river in Kentucky (where we tend to start most of our runs anyway).

Some parts of our normal route have a bad rep, all too truly earned of late. The rise in violence and shootings or attacks on the streets has even begun to reroute our haphazard loops through those areas…  But it hasn’t stopped us running there.


Over the years of us racing, training, hill climbing, and sight-seeing the area we’ve felt the people living there welcoming us. From sleepy well wishes of “good morning” to jogging beside us and cheering and clapping.  We took to the streets there and the people on them love us.  As a sociologist I have often remarked on the welcoming and supportive nature of communities that have less, hurt more, but still value neighbors and being “close-nit”, supportive.  And that kindness inherent in them extends to everyone who comes through the community and means no harm.


We were always running safe, even as the news-media out-poured stories that indicated otherwise… That we were anything but safe.

We didn’t see the violence we knew was there.  But we did see the “invisible and forgotten”… The ignored.

The homeless.


Every place has its share of down-trodden or broken people….  Its share of folk who just ran out of luck, saw too much hatred and death, got too addicted, or lost something important (a job, a loved one, their mind).

Each morning throughout the year the running group would silently plod past figures huddled asleep in doorways.

Hot mornings.


Frozen mornings.


There was always someone making do and trying to live with nothing, in the worst our climate could throw at them.

The year we made an impact, 2013:

It was a bitter winter when Cincinnati’s unofficially official, “mayor of running”, and one of the founding members of the running group, asked us all, “how can we help?”   It was after a particularly cold run.  Icicles dangled from beards and eyelashes, and we huddled over our coffees, desperately trying to get our fingers and toes to warm up.  The temps had dipped below zero, even after the sun was up.

It was gut-wrenching and almost criminal that people were bundled up and tucking into corners, trying to survive this cold world, yet they always rose a cheerful, “Hallo” to us as we ran past.  They cheered and were joyous to see us out. They commiserated happily about the frost with us as we huddled at crosswalks, our run paused for traffic.

The Mayor’s simple question, “what can we do?”  Coming at the tail end of our conversation about exactly how cold it was, and would continue to be. “Imagine, all those people we’re running past….  They’re stuck out in that.”  He mused.


The sad fact is that there are limitations to how many nights a person gets a bed in a shelter.  There is limited space, all around. More homeless than shelter space means someone will sleep under the stars… And likely die of exposure, if not careful.  Some people would rather be out… Some feel safer staying out of the shelters. Some won’t qualify to get in to start with.


For Cincinnati, approximately 25,000 people experience homelessness each year.   12% report domestic violence as the reason (cincihomeless.org).  Homeless doesnt mean unemployed.  60% men and 45% of homeless women work.  One quarter of the homeless population are children. In ohio, the minimum wage today is 10 cents lower than it was in 1979. Affordable housing costs have gone up while minimum incomes have stalled out – this is believed to be a main contributer to homelessness

Back at the coffee shop, the Mayor’s musings started the ideas rolling… And then the “giving run” was developed.

giving run, year one

Today marks our third year.

Christmas Eve morning the group gathered with donated goods – mostly snacks, clothing, and hygiene items- and we ran before anyone was awake. Tucking our care packages beside sleeping figures and handing them to the ones waiting to get into a shower house or free food locale.

It was moving.

But, mostly, it was humbling.

We are all one bad week, one bad month, or one life event away from loosing our worldly possessions.

It is said that one should pay attention to how someone treats those around them that can do nothing for them.

The most humbling act that first year was a runner (and mother) giving her own gloves and a hat to the children who’s mother had nothing more to give to keep them warm against the bitter cold as they walked the early morning streets.

My running group is made up of the best people possible, and I am always so proud of them. It is a great thing that they give to the community they run in. That they inspire greatness and community care in others – runners and non-runners alike.

Pain by Numbers runners are the best people out there. And I count myself so very lucky to know them and call them friends.

 

year two, giving run

Merry Christmas all of you. And well done.

Giving Run, year three 


Special notes:

Thanks to Christina L. For the use of her photos in this post.

We teamed specifically with established charity and homelessness awareness groups to determine best practices for what to donate and how to approach people.

We consult with and utilize police officers in the group to help ensure the safety of everyone involved.

At all times the group was aware of their surroundings and acted as safeties for each other.

That said, our group did a wonderful thing for a collection of people who could use some kindness and good deeds pointed their way.  Its not the overall answer, but it is kindness, and we all need kindness to create hope.  Hope is a gift that lasts.

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2 weeks to start line

“Which direction do you want to go?”  I asked him over my shoulder.  The air was cold, and my breath condensed to fog on the air.  My husband glanced along the road in front of our home before turning and pointing back to the front door.  Our dog wiggled like he would explode, thinking the attention was back to him.  I laughed hard, started the GPS, and led my husband across the street, past the lake, and uphill.  He was not amused.

IMG_2867
Check out that run outfit coordination!  Air Force Marathon and MCM Marathon.  Adorable.  I know.
podim photo REAL
2014 Pistol Ultra

Two weeks from today I will (hopefully) be lining up at the start of my second 50k.  I ran the race last year as my first venture into ultra running – and managed to snag a 3rd place overall finish.  I have been putting in the speed work and hard workouts, hoping to have the energy to finish well and to finish faster than last year.

After a few days off, thinking I was over-trained, I started back up – running.  I was stress running.  Feeling fat from taking time off, stressed out of my mind from various things, and I was eating terribly…following cravings.  I needed to run.  So I did.  Hard.  Fast.   I ran myself straight to an injury.

My husband decided he wanted to run again.  He did the Flying Pig Marathon back in May and then pretty much stopped running entirely.  It’s not his thing…  running just for the heck of it.  But he wants his cardio health back.  So last Sunday we went out for an easy 30minute run.   Later that night at work my foot exploded in pain.

plantar

One minute I was just sitting there, thinking about going home and getting some serious sleep (I was looking forward to the sleeping in part of my Monday – my schedule has Mondays as no running days…so I would catch up on sleep and ride my bike on the trainer a little bit before work).  The next thing I know, the moment my foot hit the ground as I stood up everything was fire and lightning and pain…from the ball of my foot to the heel…especially the heel.  I’m talking FIRE, people.  I couldn’t walk.

I hobbled through the next six hours of work… stretching my calf, which was about all I could really do at the time.  It was too late though.  My plantar was at full-blown tendinitis.

I ended up icing the foot for two days.  And I rode my bike for an hour at a time for four days straight.  By day two it was epic boring… like running on a treadmill, really.  I was also bumming out because the weather was perfect for running !  Temperature varied in the high 40s to mid 60s…  My ideal running temps!  No.  I couldn’t walk…. running was completely out.  It was beyond just too stiff and sore to walk in the mornings…that was part of it, but it lasted all day.  I was stretching my calf, rolling the foot out on a rolling pin (which hurt immensely), and icing.

IMG_2766

Riding my bike really made a difference.  It helped so much.  After the ride, I would roll it out on a golf ball, and roll my legs out with the foam roller.  After all that, I could make it through the night at work without issues.

My running friends had all kinds of advice:  “Change your shoes – you need more cushioning for the distances!”  “Epson salt soaks!”  “Ice baths are GOD!” “Take the red pill.”

Granted, some things that were recommended really did help (a calf and plantar strengthening move one friend told me to use has been working really well, actually), while others are obvious snake oil (epson salt, if you’re wondering, does nothing more than keep your skin from getting all prune-y while you’re soaking in water.  It’s the warm soak that helps).

This is where a great running store comes in handy.  The staff at my go-to store, Tri-State Running Company, are all brilliant runners and coaches.  A quick chat and it was obvious that changing from my Brooks Ghost to a shoe with a zero-drop this close to race day was a bad idea.  Instead, I was sat down and Chris went to work with one of the many injury recovery tools…  this thing, actually:

footwheel
It’s called a ‘foot wheel’…as  in thefootwheel.com

Lemme tell you about this thing…
I hate this thing.
I do not like it.
I didn’t like it when Chris was using on me to show me how to use it properly.
I still bought it.
Because damn-it, after four days of just riding the bike and one whole day off everything – I felt fatter than jabba the hut.  I felt like I was watching all of my running fitness disappear.  And above all, I didn’t want to get 10k into my 50k, and be looking at a long, awful, slog as I hobbled myself to the finish and broke myself beyond repair.

This thing worked.

After a day of breaking up the scar tissue with this thing and I’m waking up without pain now!  Walking is fine.  Things feel a little tight still, near the ball of my foot and around the ankle and calf.  But they’re better than they were.

Yesterday my Husband got up and ran with me for 12 minutes.  Good enough for a little over a mile at his pace.  I didn’t have any pain.  Not at the start of the run, and not after.  And not that evening.  I’m keeping up on the injury treatment and rolling out everything now.

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Thunder thigh, anyone?

Which leads to this morning.  And taking my Husband up the near-by hill for a 14 minute easy run.  I’m sure he thought I was just being a jerk… but  I wanted to see if my foot would handle the ascent and descent.  (It did).  And I wanted to be able to do a little more “my pace” and not loose my man too badly.

Things are looking good for me to be able to jump back into my training plan for the ultra…. I think.  It’s week two of the three week taper, so the running isn’t as bulky as it was before this injury came up.  I’m assured that I haven’t lost any of my running fitness, that I may be “a bit slower” on race day, but if I play it well, I shouldn’t suffer-fest the race.  And that’s really all I want.

Here’s hoping!

 

Cheers!

Three weeks to start line


I’m at that point in long distance training where desire to run and keep running is there, but motivation and nutrition aren’t. I dropped the ball on nutrition, and three weeks to race day, I am paying the price. Hard training and eating right are a long game, and done wrong, it can end your race aspirations before the gun goes off.  
I call that head game of not really wanting to go and do what needs to be done, combined with “sluggish” feeling overall, the “don’t wannas”.  As in, “I don’t wanna do this”.   This whole week has been a struggle with the “don’t wannas”.

I would be lying if I said the DNF at last week’s marathon isn’t still on my mind.
I am worried. I’m worried that since I didn’t meet the long distance set by the training plan (26 miles) that I’m going to be incapable of doing 31 miles in three weeks.  I look back on the day and really, I made a good call.  I know with all the logic I’m capable of that I made a good call dropping out at 13 miles….I know it.  Between illness, effort, stress, bad nutrition, and lack of race aid – I would’ve been in serious health trouble if I had continued.

But the plan said I needed 26.

But I didn’t do 26…
But… the plan….
But….
UGH!

My body said I needed sleep and water and more sleep.

After that day, I took three days off running.  Sure, I went out on the third day, intending to do about 45 minutes of “easy” running, but I got about a half mile out and said, “fuck it”.  I felt sluggish and uninterested…and weak.  But, largely, just not interested.  So I bailed, went back home, and did more core work.  I can’t seem to get myself really going this week.  But three days all-stop on running was a terrible idea for me mentally.

971673_539372909457724_83323781_nAll my work stress, plus the all-over grief I’ve been slowly (but healthily) getting through over the loss of my Mom, and the feeling that all my career goals are shattered and dead (hence the stress) just blew me up.  I knew I needed to suck it up and run when I blew up at the dog for being in my space, and then followed that up with a bruising and fantastically violent session on the heavy bag in my workout space.  And then the three minutes of just screaming.  Because.  … Just because.

I changed into my running gear, blew my nose a billion times so I could pretend to breathe while running, and went out for an hour of running.  7.5 miles later, and I was back to “normal” mentally.  The spiral into self-loathing and failure-ship was a deep one, and it only took being out on a run to fix it.  I stopped a bunch.  Physically, it wasn’t hard to run, but mentally it was like I was running through a thick gu and it wore on me.  But an hour of it fixed everything else.

I may need the time off running, but I think just backing down and slowing my pace is going to be all I can really do.  For my well-being.  For my dog’s as well.

A quick chat with a friend about how I’m feeling running this week has me thinking hard about my nutrition.  I skipped meals for a few weeks…not out of any belief that I was going to loose weight doing so, but more a matter of time constraints and a lack of hunger.  Hell.  I ran 10 miles today and almost skipped food because I wasn’t hungry after again.  Don’t worry folks.  I grabbed a high-protein snack and forced it down.  I’m just not sure what’s happening with all that.  Shouldn’t I be hungrier?  After all?  Going from marathon distance training to ultra training?  Bumping from 30 mile weeks up to 40-50 miles weeks?

I’m hoping I can recover and have this, all of this: the nutrition, the motivation, the sluggishness, fixed so i can do well at my second 50k.

Thoughts?  Suggestions more than welcome.  How did you break out of your slump?  What’s your nutrition fix? 

Oh.  And don’t worry about the pup.  He forgave me by the end of the day and got plenty of love and treats.

Tricks Half Freeze

Cheers!

D. N. F.

 D.N.F.  “Did.  Not.  Finish.”   – It’s almost at cuss word status among runners…  It’s almost like a death notice.  Which, I guess it could be…seeing as it’s technically the death of your race.

After 3 years of long distance running, and a little more than 4 years of running races at all, I DNF’ed my first race yesterday.

12 marathons behind me. Numerous other half marathons, 10ks, 5ks, various distances, and various race types…  I dropped out of my attempt at a 13th marathon.

The race?   The Topo Trail Marathon.  I ran this race last year, but due to… stuff… it was a different course and, really after yesterday’s experience, it felt like a different race.

 

frost and fog marked the start of race day

I stressed a lot leading up to the start because the temperature change for the four hours I expected to be running the race was a 30+ degree change.  Temps at 33F for the start, expected to turn up to 50 before the four hour mark, found me shivvering at the start line in a pair of shorts, tall socks, and wearing arm sleeves under my jacket.  My fingers and thighs were so cold they burned.  During the first mile I asked a few people around me if they wanted to run a little differently and hold my thighs to keep them warm.  I offered money, but got no takers.

The race started us on a first loop-only treat of a little over a mile on the roadway before dumping us into the woods.


The morning, along with its chill, was also foggy, with a brilliant-bright sun trying to break through.  So when we first entered the woods and got a glimpse of the lake through the trees, fog rising above… it was just … beautiful.

I tried to strike up a conversation with a couple of runners, but no one was biting.  There was a series of catch-up and drop between me and two other runners by the half-way point of this loop.  Eventually, we fell into pace and ran the remaining loop (and the start of the second loop) together.

The race said they would have three aid stations… containing water, some electrolyte stuff, and “salty snacks”.  These, the race promised, would be about 2 or so miles apart.  There were two.  The aid station at the start/finish/check in and one un-maned around mile 2.  This was no good.


Pre-race morning for me was ugly.  I had some race jitters the likes of which I had not experienced since my first couple of marathons.  I even described this feeling to a friend of mine as a “dread” of the marathon.  I dreaded going the longer distance and the amount of time I would have to run it.  This feeling of dread is important to remeber later.

I also realized that I forgot my hand-held water bottle.  Which, I figured wouldn’t be a big deal.  After all, the race had aid stations throughout, right?   Nope.  Like i said, the race dropped the ball on aid stations, and that would ruin me, it seems.  I take responsibiliy for forgetting my gear, but the race forgot thiers too.

My race jitters turned into stomach queasiness.  A horror-filled visit to the portta-potties before the start meeting, found me downing two Imodium tabs.  By the time the gun went off my stomach was more settled.

 During the first loop the discovery that there were no other aid stations pissed me off before it made me miserable.  I was getting thirsty, sure, but I was also hungry, and I needed water to take in the cliff shots I brought with me.  At the aid station after the check in, I stopped and downed six tiny, tiny paper cups of water.  The two runners I was pretty much sticking with also stopped for a while, complaining to the volunteers that the lack of aid station was noted and seriously problematic.  Good to know I wasn’t the only one to note the lack, or be bothered about it. The staff sounded shocked that there wasn’t a third station.


As we set off on the second loop, my stomach started to protest.  It wasn’t bad enough that something needed to happen then, but it did make me wonder if I was actually sick and not just nervous

By mile 9 on my watch I had dropped too far back from those two runners to ever catch back up, and I was being passed by half marathoners.

Around mile 10 I was forced to sneak off the trail to find a “private space”.  Things got seriously ugly.  I staggered back to the trail feeling more awful than I ever have during a race.  Some walking and light jogging later and I was sending messages to my ultra running friend asking if I was going to seriously hamper my ability to run a 50k in three weeks if I didn’t get 26 miles completed today.

Some advice from her, and serious thought (Hell, I had 4 miles of thinking to do before I could get to the next aid station anyway) I opted to drop out.

  I really worried about it just being me wanting to quit.  That happens, you know, in races.  A thought that “I just don’t want to do this today” will hit me.  But usually I also feel no doubts that I could finish and that I just need to suck it up.

I was already dehydrated just from lack of water stations.  Add in that now I was loosing fluids in more than one way…. I was walking a dangerous road.  I felt sickly.  Physically sick.  Muscle-wise…running… I felt like I could keep going if only my stomach didn’t feel the way it did.

I trudged on, running until the trail hit a slick spot or my stomach started to bother me too much with the jostling.  At one point I was caught behind this guy who ran an okay-ish pace on the flats and tore off on the hills, but all but stopped when the trail went downhill.  By the fifth time I almost ran him over, and asked if I could get past (only to get shut down by him again), I was ready to go Sparta on him.

this-is-sparta

That’s right.  I was about to just plant a foot on his back and push him down the hillside so I could, I dunno, just not be stuck like that anymore.

Hey.  I wasn’t feeling well.  Don’t judge.

Also.  To be fair.  I’m not a trail runner.  I’m a road runner.  And we handle people who hog the line a little differently than those trail folks seem to.

I did manage to get around him eventually.  As I struggled the last portion of the trail toward the check point / finish line, I chatted with another girl who was also peeved over the lack of promised water stations.  She too, was dropping out at the halfway point… because of the aid stations.

I crossed the line and was greeted by a small group of friends from Team RWB running club.  They agreed that I was making a good choice based on how I was feeling.  Some hugs and congratulations for making it through two of the four loops, and I was left to square things up with the race staff.  Gawd, I felt awful.  Once I was no longer in a position where I needed to keep going I was able to fully experience exactly how sickly I was feeling.

 

I found all the mud.

I dropped to the half, turned in my timing chip, and was handed a medal with congratulations for finishing the half.

I don’t know for sure what my problem was.  My theory right now is that I was starting to hit over-training syndrome.   I have quite a few of the symptoms, actually….  specifically the weight loss (Which I was celebrating, to be honest…), loss of appetite (I had to admit to my husband that I wasn’t eating lunch because I just wasn’t hungry then and forcing myself to eat dinner because I knew I needed to), I had the GI issues (As extremely proven during the race) and I was seriously lethargic.  Remember that dread about racing I mentioned earlier?   That’s part of the symptoms as well.

On race day,  I felt so awful that I didn’t have any regrets about dropping out.  Hell.  I got home, showered, and fell asleep for almost three hours, waking up because I was so damn hungry.

Of course, once I was rested, fed and hydrated I felt like a dummy for dropping out.  Of course.

And lets not forget this overwhelming negativity that hangs over the idea of being a quitter. After all, image search “did not finish” and you’ll find a ton of stuff that reads like this:


I don’t regret dropping.  I did finish a half marathon, even if that wasn’t the plan.  This wasn’t my ultimate race.   As a friend mentioned, “the stakes here aren’t high”.  My race is in 3 weeks. I have to do whats best for that goal.

I’m taking a few days off running, and reading my reference book (The Lore of Running) in order to better understand what’s going on and how to fix and prevent it.  Hopefully I’m not in full-blown over-training syndrome, because that sounds like a very, very long recovery time needed….  And I have a 50k in just three weeks.

But hey, isn’t running all about being adaptable in the first place?  Seeing and preventing things from derailing you?  Moving on when you have to make a call like taking a DNF?


Here’s hoping my run isn’t completely thwarted.
And thanks to my ultra friend who responded super fast when I needed her advice.  And to my RWB and running group friends at the race who supported me when I was feeling shitty and indecisive.
Cheers.

Sun Dogs

When the whips of clouds

Sundog-over-Heyworth
actual “sun dog”

Shine back the brightness of the sun,
It’s called a “sun dog“.

 

I think all dogs are sun dogs.
They soak up the sun
And though they don’t shine as bright
As the clouds to the sun
They still reflect the warmth
Of the sun
Onto their owners.

 

Beagle Face VI
My “sun dog”