Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Running The Numbers - 2014

I am obsessed with both math and running.  I keep tons of data on my training and racing.  Here are a lot more numerical details than you probably want about my running in 2014. :-)

Miles Run: 1,111.26
Increase Over Previous Annual Mileage High: 864.78 mi., 28.5% increase
Bedford Half, 10/4
Runs: 141
Hours Run: 179.32
Average Run Distance: 7.88 mi.
Average Run Pace: 9:40.92
Average Run Duration: 1:16:18.4
Miles Walked: 126
Walks: 84
Average Walk Distance: 1.50
Visits to the Gym: 56
Personal Training Sessions: 49
Personal Training Hours: 24.5
Miles On Elliptical: 18.0
Miles On Scooter: 19.2
Races Run: 9
PRs Set: 3 (Mile, Half Marathon, Marathon)
Falls: 0
Injuries: 2 (shin splints and a stress fracture)
Toenails Lost: 7
Surgeries: 1 (vocal cord, unrelated to running)
Pairs of Shoes Retired: 3
Pairs of Shoes Purchased: 5
States Where I Ran: 2, Indiana and Kentucky
Longest Run: 26.20 mi., November 1
Shortest Run: 1.01 mi., March 3
Week With Most Running: July 13-19, 36.82 mi.
Month With Most Running: August, 140.33 mi.
Month With Least Running: December, 0.00 mi.
Favorite Run (Tie): January 17, 11.16 mi.; August 2, 16.13 mi.; October 4, 13.14 mi.; October 11, 20.01 mi.; November 1, 26.20 mi.
Least Favorite Run: August 23, 18.03 mi.
Percentage of Goals Reached: 77.8% (7/9, see below)
Weight Range in Pounds: 10.0 (post surgical weight loss)
Total Lifetime Mileage: 4,064.00
Percent of Lifetime Mileage Run in 2014: 27.34%

Mileage By The Month
Monumental, 11/1
January: 59.29
February: 65.57
March: 55.87
April: 88.88
May: 100.10
June: 125.46
July: 137.60
August: 140.33
September: 135.52
October: 118.17
November: 84.47
December: 0.00

1. Remain injury-free
Failed. Incurred shin splints in January and a stress fracture in November.
2. Surpass 1,000 mi. in annual mileage
Succeeded. 1,111.26 mi.
3. PR in the Mini (under 1:54:19)
Succeeded. 1:53:35
4. Break 1:50 in the Mini
5. Run the Red Eye Relay
Succeeded. (2 blog posts: 1, 2)
6. Break 4:30 in Monumental (and run the whole thing without passing out)
Succeeded. 4:12:53
7. Work on the committee to stage the BMS 5K
Succeeded, and beat the boss.
8. Encourage another person or people to become more focused on fitness
9. Build more muscle
Succeeded. Thanks, Sam!

Year In Review Video
Here is my Running Year in Review video for 2014.

Thanks to Ed, Mom, Dad, Wendy, and all my running buds for 11/12ths of a great year. ;-)

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Broken Again

The "tendinitis" I had in my left ankle just didn't feel like tendinitis to me.  It hurt(s) considerably more than past cases of tendinitis, so I went to see my orthopedist. He ordered an MRI.

My fibula is fractured.


It's a distal fibular stress fracture that my doctor describes as both unusual and "not as bad as the last time." I don't know if he means the pelvic fracture of 2013 (probably not, because it was nearly runnable), the femoral fracture of 2012, or the higher fibular fracture of 2008. Likely, he's referencing the latter two. A femoral fracture is always all kinds of bad, and the 2008 fibular fracture was wide.

2012 Fracture Healing
Because I didn't rest enough after the marathon.

Because I did a hard workout on snow.

Because I have Crohn's disease.

Because it's what my body seems to do in response to stress.

Probably more the first two than the last two.

Now What?
I'm in a boot for six weeks. I can't do any physical exercise for two weeks. I was told, "Don't even think about running for eight weeks." My doctor told me I might use crutches for the first two weeks to help it heal faster. I've chosen a hybrid crutches/boot plan. I mostly crutched today.

How Do You Feel?
I'm angry. I'm really angry. I will make peace with it all in a few days, but since 11:42 A.M. yesterday, when my doctor called and told me to stop walking, I have been dealing with a storm of emotions that has not yet settled. I just have to have a few days to deal with those emotions and accept the situation before I can... I don't know... think properly.

Let me rundown the "I Knows" for you.

1. I know that I'm lucky this didn't happen during Monumental Marathon training.
Extremely lucky. I was uninjured on my training cycle. I got to run my race and experience everything that happened on 11/1. If someone had said, "Hey, would you like to fracture your leg in October or November?" you know how I would've answered. November, please.

2. I know that I don't have any major running events in the next few months.
Just like the vocal issues, this fracture is very timely.

3. I know that I should've taken a longer break after the marathon.
My body isn't like everyone else's. Check. Learned. Again.

4. I know that I have one tiny fracture in one bone.
Certainly, lots of people deal with much more difficult situations every day.

5. I know that my life is so much more than running, and I have a lot for which to be thankful.
Of course it is. Of course I do.

6. I know that it's just a couple months. This, too, shall pass.
Yes. But see, right now, it hasn't passed. It's a fresh open wound. All of this stuff will be a learning experience, an eventual distant memory, something that will make me stronger, and something that will make success sweeter. Yes, it will; yes, it will.


Currently? Isn't.

Currently, my leg is broken. And. I'm. ANGRY.

Why Are You So Upset?
Life is beautiful, and life is pain. That's not a profound statement. Everyone knows it, and that's why everyone has his or her own coping mechanism for the pain. My coping mechanism is running. Running helps me control emotional pain, mental pain/stress, and above all, the almighty Crohn's pain. Therefore, being without running is a very scary prospect for me.

Luckily, I have other outlets I can use like singing (yay for the healed voice), quilting (already did a little of that), BNL basketball watching (three cheers for Coach Cobb), and writing (typing this blog is actually helping a lot), among others. My eggs aren't all in one basket. There are just an awful lot of eggs in that running basket.

There are also other little things that sting. Wendy (who is part of my active and wonderful support group including Ed, Mom, Dad, many other friends, and all of BMS), is venturing back into the running world just as I'm exiting. Folks have already approached her to join them on their runs "since Jo is injured." That's very nice of them, as I wouldn't want her to be alone, but it still hurts not to be a part of "the scene."

Just Stop.
This moment is when people say, "This is what happens when you run. You did this to yourself. You should just stop running. It would save you the pain."

No. As I mentioned above, it's just the opposite. It controls the pain. I guess the penance of using running as pain control is the occasional pain of running's loss. "Running is a fickle mistress," says the father of a friend.

So, there it is. Matched with tons of other little this-es and that-s, it's been a heckuva week or two.

Those of you who know me well (and likely those of you who don't), know me as a very positive, "look on the bright side" person. I promise she's still in there. I've seen her a bit today. She will soon work on a "Good Things That Happened Because I Broke My Fibula Again" list. She just has to find her way through all of these feelings over the next few hours and days. Until then... at least I can do a push-up. ;-)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

I've Got The Post-Marathon Ankle Blues

It's a thing. A real thing. If you've ever thrown yourself fully into a project or event, you know the feeling. You've given tons of focus to a goal, counted the days until its culmination, and ultimately experienced a wonderful success... or at least, learned a lot on the journey. And...

...then what? I've got the low down, no good, post-marathon blues!

Actually, I don't, but I do feel a trace amount of "What now?" I dedicated hours and hours and hours to my marathon goal. For a whole year, every running step I took was aimed at helping me successfully complete the 2014 Indianapolis Monumental Marathon. I finished in record time, basked in the glow of success, took a week (-ish) off running, and...

...Set A New Goal
I'm very lucky that my marathon of choice is always held the first Saturday in November.  When the low down, no good, post-marathon blues hit me, it's always the holiday season, which brings things I love: family, Christmas decorations and music, colder temperatures, and the Give Thanks 4-Miler.

Give Thanks is a race I've finished every year since its inception.  It's held in Mitchell, Indiana, on Thanksgiving morning, and the race director is a friend of mine.  The course is fun, the people are nice, and there are always snacks and prizes after the race concludes.

Since the Give Thanks 4-Miler is held nearly four weeks after the marathon, I thought it would be a great idea to set a mini-goal to finish it under 32 minutes, a sub-8:00 min./mi. pace. Wendy and I shifted our focus from enduring over distance to withstanding a faster pace for a shorter time.

The Workouts
Wendy gave me three key workouts, and I completed them as planned.

Workout #1, Intervals. I ran 10x300m at planned race pace with a 200m jog recovery.

Workout #2, Mile Repeats. The plan was to run 3x1600m at 8:30/8:15/8:00 with a three minute stopped recovery. I ran 8:20/8:01/7:42.

Workout #3, Progression Run. I planned to run six miles on the track with each mile 15 sec faster than the first, ending at race pace. I was forced to run elsewhere because the track was too icy. Wendy and I opted for Beech Grove Cemetery loops so she could jump in and out of the workout. My GPS went crazy, but Wendy's GPS and my effort level convinced us both that I hit the paces.

The Ankle
I did the mile repeats in the snow, and the outside of my left ankle felt a little sore afterward.  After the progression run, I could hardly walk.  In fact, I started using crutches around my house to give it rest.  The pain has decreased significantly over the last four days, and I'm no longer limping. Nevertheless, it's clear.
Laser Treatment on Ailin' Ankle

I won't be running the Thanksgiving race tomorrow.

Could I run it? Sure. However, there's no reason for me to push through pain and set myself back a week. I'm under doctors' care (diagnosis: really bad tendinitis), and none of them advise even jogging four miles let alone racing four miles. I'm disappointed that I won't be able to take part in the race, especially since I was poised to post the time I was hoping to achieve.

Also, isn't it about right that I get hurt as soon as Wendy starts running after her summer and fall injury saga?

However, in the true spirit of Thanksgiving, this situation makes me thankful for two things. First, this tendinitis graciously waited to rear its painful little head until after the marathon. Second, I should be back to running in two weeks, which is no time when you've been down for months with a femoral fracture.

So, happy Thanksgiving to all my friends and family! May your "blues" be few and your thankfulness be much!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Monumental Marathon 2014 - Race Report - I DID IT!

The title says it all. I did it. I designed an entire year of running around one goal: running a marathon without stopping to walk, and doing so in a goal time that kept migrating northward (4:30, 4:22, 4:15, etc.). Here's the story of the day I did it.

(Note: If you'd just like to get to the gist of it, scroll to the heading The Finish, and read from there.)

Race Eve
I spent the days leading up to the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon literally counting the hours until the race start. I was tenaciously awaiting the moment I could slay the course that had slain me in 2013. On Monumental Eve, Mom, Wendy, Wes, and I enjoyed the race atmosphere at the expo and at dinner. However, somewhere around 11 hours to go, while Mom and I were playing games of Crazy 8's in our room at the Westin, I quit counting the hours.

The feelings in my gut made a shift from tenacious to tentative.

I was worried about the distance. I was worried about my tummy. I was worried about my heels. I was worried about the weather, particularly the wind and it's accompanying 18°F chill. I didn't want anyone to know about my sudden anxieties, so I kept them to myself, except for occasionally saying things like, "Twenty-six miles is a long way," or, "Boy, it's going to be cold tomorrow."

I slept about 45 minutes that night.

Race Morning
Before the start
My little group grew as we met Sam, who was running her first half, and my husband Ed, who was spectating. Those of us running dressed in many throwaway layers. Wendy kept reminding me of the plan, which was to start slow, and cut down the pace every six to seven miles.

All of the sudden, we were outside walking toward the start. All of the sudden, Sam, Wes, and I were in the corral. All of the sudden, we heard the gun. All of the sudden, we were moving forward. I started my Road ID GPS app on my phone so Dad could follow me at home.

And then we crossed the start line.

Miles 1-7ish
The first two miles were all space management because half and full runners were crowded together on Indy's downtown streets. Wes, who was charged by Wendy with task of preventing me from starting too fast, kept telling me to slow down. Our first two miles clicked off at 9:54 apiece. We lost information on the third mile because we ran under a long overpass, but it felt the same effort-wise. If you had told me then that those three miles would've been the slowest of my race, I'd have never believed you.

Sam told us to go ahead in mile three due to some hip pain she was experiencing. Wes and I continued navigating Indy's downtown. My friend and former student, Zach, who was running the half, happened upon us at mile 4. Later, we hit the 10K mats at 1:00:01, at which point my phone began pinging with texts from Wendy that I did not consult, but I knew what they said, anyway.


I knew the trap of "going out too hard." I knew that too much now meant misery later. However, I also genuinely felt that I was being conservative, so I pressed onward.

Miles 7ish-14ish
When the full marathon course splits from the half course, the "protection" of the downtown architecture is eliminated. Suddenly, we were vulnerable to the 15mph winds and 30mph gusts that were coming directly from the north. Wes let me draft, but I had difficulty managing the unpredictable gusts.

On the ninth mile, something strange happened. My left leg went numb. I couldn't feel it moving nor hitting the ground. My muscles didn't know when to fire without sensation information, and I started to stumble a bit. It was the only time in the race Wes seemed concerned. I tried not to panic. After about a half mile, I regained sensation, and let out a big, "Whew!" That mile was my fourth slowest at 9:51.

The subsequent miles into the cold wind were very discouraging. Also unsure if the leg numbness would come back, I started to feel very downcast. We crossed mile marker 10, and a spectator tried to give me his coat. Last year I felt great at mile 10, I thought, and I passed out during mile 23. Does that mean I'll die sooner this year?

Wes detected my distress. "Nothing is lost," he said. Let's just run the next three miles around 9:40, and see how we feel at the half."

9:40, 9:40, 9:37. I hit the half mats in 2:06:51. A few meters later, we turned out of that Godforsaken wind, and everything changed.

Miles 14ish-19ish
What I remember most about these miles is how good I felt. How strong. Wes presented a constant string of encouragement. "You're killing this... your form looks strong... Wendy will be here soon." (Wendy had planned to run the last six miles with us.) I looked at my watch at 15.5 mi. and told Wes, "Ha, I thought we were at 14.5," evidence of miles slipping away quicker than I could register them.

Together again
Our pace slid into the mid- and low-9:30s, and I didn't notice. We passed the eventual above-the-knee-amputee female marathon world record holder while she was setting the record. Then I beheld a fuzzy, mirage-like vision at the entrance to a park at the beginning of the 19th mile.



"I am upset!" she yelled, but she was smiling. So was I. "How do you feel? What is happening?" I told her I felt wonderful, and Wes informed her of the details. She understood why we had be going "so fast." We hit the 30K timing mats in 3:00:06.

Miles 19ish-23ish
Wendy told me the bits of news I had missed while running—race winners, details about friends in other races, what she and my family had been doing. When we hit mile marker 20, Wendy took a video to send to my family that was markedly different from last year's 20-mile video.

Mile 20
I started to become very conscious of all the people we were passing. Folks who had used too much energy on the first 75% of the race were beginning to slow. Occasionally, I would hear Wendy quietly ask Wes, "What was that split?" and I tried not to listen to the reply. When we hit mile marker 22, I looked at my watch and noted aloud that if I ran in at a 10:00 min./mi. pace, I would bag 4:15. "And you're going quite a bit faster than that," Wes replied.

The race took a poignant turn in these miles, because I was covering all the places where I self-destructed last year. Here's where Wendy wiped my drool... here's where I started walking... here's where I passed out. Those places were hard to see, but they empowered me.


Miles 23ish-26
When we turned onto Meridian, I started to feel the wear and tear on my body, but I still felt strong. Every time I felt tired, I smiled. It reminded me that I chose to complete this race, that it was my most ambitious goal to date, and that I was thrilled to be here. I thought about Mom's and Ed's faces, waiting at the finish line, yearning for a better experience for me than last year's. I thought about my Dad at home, fretfully watching what Wendy called "my little dot" on his GPS screen, urging it to keep moving. And I kept moving.

Mile 24
Meridian is usually a drag because it's a long straightaway. However, I savored each step. I pointed out sites to Wendy. I enjoyed the wind at my back. I passed and passed and passed people. Our original plan was for me to push hard on the final mile, but I had run faster than planned during the entire race. At mile marker 25, I told Wendy, "I'm not interested in running any faster than this," which elicited a laugh.

We turned off Meridian at 25.5 mi., and the spectators multiplied. I heard screams of support everywhere. I started to get extremely emotional because the climax of all my hard work and fun was about to be realized. My legs flew down New York Street, then onto West Street. One more turn. We passed mile marker 26 (9:24, faster after all). Wendy was right in my ear, talking about my family. "Your Dad," she said,"he's watching your little dot. He's on his feet. He's pacing. You're doing this, Jo. You're doing this."

The Finish
I turned onto Robert D. Orr Plaza, and was met with the most welcoming sites. Tons of people. The clock. The line!
Steps from the finish


Mom, I'm going to do it! I'm doing it!

Dad, I know you're watching my little dot!

Ed, I know you're right on the line with your camera! Oh, what would I do without you?

I heard Wes tell Wendy she would have to cross the line, that there was no way out because of the barricades. (She wasn't chipped, anyway.)  I heard Wendy say to me, "Enjoy it. Remember it. You've earned it!"

I crossed the line in 4:12:53.

I did it.

Finish scenes

The Aftermath
With Ed and Mom (hidden) afterward
I did it. I was sore and tired, but strangely also comfortable and energetic. I couldn't wait to hug Ed and Mom, and call Dad. I walked in a dreamlike state through medals, pictures, goodies, and back to the hotel.

Here are the results and stats 'n' such. My splits were solid throughout the race.  Here are the official timing splits:

10K - 1:00:01, 9:40.81 overall pace
Half - 2:06:51, 9:40.99 overall pace
30K - 3:00:06, 9:40.97 overall pace
Finish - 4:12:53, 9:39.12 overall pace

I am proud of that consistency, and of the negative splits (2:06:51/2:06:02). Also, I passed 749 people in the second half of the race—over 20% of the field.

In the days since the race, I've wondered, "How did I do that?" but I've figured out the answer. I was extremely well prepared, my mental state (with one slight lapse), remained strong, and I have the best support system in the entire world.

Thank you, family and friends, for your encouragement and your belief in me. This freshly minted 4:12 marathoner would not have near this fun or success without you.

More Pictures
Throwaway clothes
The start
Near the finish
With Wendy after the finish... Wes gave her his finish jacket.
Neat pic!
Official pic

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The One

I've been staring at the blinking cursor for several minutes, wondering how to start this blog. A gal of many words, I don't often find myself at a loss for them. Nonetheless, here I am, stunned.

Monumental '14 training is done.


The eerily empty Pull-Tab Chart, just before my final training run

Every run that was scheduled? I ran it.

Every mileage that was planned? I reached it.

Every pace that was set? I hit it.


Terrific Training
I have never had a training cycle that wasn't at least temporarily derailed by injury, illness, or just plain malaise. Over four months and 500 miles of training, one would expect a missed or aborted run somewhere, but I have been incredibly fortunate... or stubborn, take your pick.

Every run, ran. Every mileage, reached. Every pace, hit.

I still can't believe it.

For my Crohn's-y body to make it to a starting line healthy, doing all I've done in training, is truly remarkable. The training experience has me absolutely brimming with confidence and tenacity. I want that course. I NEED that course. I have a score to settle with that course. Never have I been in a better position to perform.

As previously mentioned, my goal with this marathon is to run the whole thing without stopping to walk. I originally wanted to finish sub-4:30, but I adjusted that goal to sub-4:22 after a reassessment of my current fitness. Truthfully, I want a sub-4:15, and also truthfully, I could probably run much closer to 4:00. However, I don't want too much, too soon. I just need a good, well run marathon.

The Plan, Man
My plan is to start the race extremely conservatively, a 10:00 min./mi. pace. Every 6-7 miles, I will accelerate gently. I will take fuel every five miles. I will sip water or a sports drink at every water station. I will be paced by Wendy's brother, Wes. Sam Rightmyer will run with us for the first seven miles, until she takes the half marathon exit. Wendy will join us at mile marker 20.

And then I'll run 6.2 more miles to the finish, where Ed and Mom (and Dad in spirit, and maybe Sam Cobb), will be waiting for me.  Collapsing into Ed's arms will be a splendid reward.

Now in taper ("Tapertober" just doesn't have the same ring as "Tapril"), I am taking every precaution to make sure my body is primed for the purpose. I'm hydrating. I'm monitoring sodium intake. I'm eating Vitamin C tabs. I'm staying off my feet. I'm visualizing success. I'm even doing the silly things like knocking on wood, avoiding walks under ladders, and calling shooting stars "good omens."

I've done the work, I've attended to the details, I've memorized the plan. All I must do is execute the plan that will carry me the last 26.2 miles of this story.

This is the one.

This is finally the one.

Follow me and other Monumental participants on Nov. 1 through Athlete Tracking.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

My "First" Marathon

Fall Marathon Training
I am running a marathon in nine days. Nine days. It's difficult for me to explain what a strange feeling that is. I started official training when everything was green, it was hot and humid, and "fall marathon" sounded like a distant dream. Now, everything is colorful, I wore arm warmers for the first time in months on a training run recently, and the calendar says the number of days until this marathon is in the single digits. Nine. Nine days. Did I mention that? Sorry. (Not sorry.)

I'm not scared. I am, however, apprehensive, because this is my first marathon.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa. Wait a minute. You've run marathons before!" says you.

"Yes, I have," reply I. However, this marathon is a first of a different sort.

Allow me to explain.

Kona Marathon - June 28, 2009 - My First First Marathon
One summer in Hawaii, I completed what was truly my first marathon. (You can read about it here, but be warned: I had not yet learned to write succinctly.) I was awarded a Lilly Teacher Creativity Endowment to complete that race, which happened to be the Crohn's and Colitis of America's Team Challenge marathon that year, and happened to be on Ed's and my third wedding anniversary, and happened to be run on the World Championship Ironman marathon course, and happened to be in HAWAII.

Kona Finish Line
This race was held in a time long before I cared about core strength, injury prevention, and the like. I had already endured one stress fracture, but I thought it was a fluke. However, because I was hazily aware of my Crohn's-y fragility, I decided to train to run/walk the Kona Marathon. I got hurt anyway. Tendinitis in my hip. Shocker.

My longest training run for my first marathon was 14 measly miles. However, unless I seriously scaled back training, there was no way I'd be able to participate in this once in a lifetime race. So I kept my mileage laughably low, flew to Hawaii, and still had a blast.  I ran/walked the Kona Marathon in 5:53:27 with my husband as my cheering section. The last 10 miles were brutal. Through that experience, my life was changed forever.

Success. I crossed the finish line.

Monumental Marathon - November 2, 2013 - My Second First Marathon
Monumental - Pre-Collapse
Fast forward to Nov. 2012, right after I was hot off a huge, post-major-injury half marathon PR at MonumentalWendy suggested that I train to run the full marathon the following year. Kona was an achievement of which I was proud, but it always goaded me a bit. I wanted to properly train to run an entire marathon. Wendy set up a training program for my second marathon that was safe but effective.

I started calling this marathon my first marathon, because it was the first I planned to run entirely, and the first for which I would I have a complete training program. Well, almost. All was well with the exception of some nagging hip pain that caused me to miss a chunk of my last three weeks of training. We toed the 2013 Monumental start line with high hopes.

You know what happened there. Digestive peristalsis failure. Collapse on mile 23. Ambulance. Telling some EMTs what was up, then apologizing. Leaving the ambulance. Walking—nay, limping—the last 3.7ish miles on what we later learned was not a hernia, but a fractured pelvis. (No wonder my hip hurt.) I finished in 5:26. I don't know the seconds because I never cared to look.

Successful failure. Like Apollo 13, things didn't happen the way we'd planned, but I finished in spite of tremendous adversity.

Monumental Marathon - November 1, 2014 - My Third First Marathon
See why I'm calling it my "first" marathon now?  This marathon is the first that I will start running and not stop until I cross the finish line. Of course, that was the plan last year. However, I am in much better shape this year. Sam's training has my strength high, and Wendy's training has my endurance and confidence high. Also, nothing is broken or severly injured. The only pain I'm experiencing is some minor plantar fasciitis in my heels. Everything is aligning for me to run the whole race and meet other goals about which I'll write later. I just need a good marathon day to realize success.

So, this is my first marathon, meaning the first marathon I'm going to whip in the rear.


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Bedford Half Marathon - Race Report

I have run lots of half marathons. Prior to October 2014, I had run nine organized road half marathons and countless training runs of 13.1 miles or more. In those nine races, I've run alone, with friends, for fun, for time, with good results, and with rough results. However, no race was quite like my tenth organized road half marathon, the Bedford Half Marathon.

Hometown Race
In November 2013, my hometown, the city of Bedford, Indiana, received some exciting news: we would be hosting a half marathon on October 4, 2014. Local runners rejoiced. We embraced the opportunity to share our sport and our town all in one event.

Bedford-born Chris Galloway was at the helm of the planning. As the months progressed, so did plans for the race. The challenging, hilly course map was released. Folks started registering. Volunteers joined the effort. Bedford was abuzz with running talk. However, one question was on the mind of every Lawrence County dweller: can Bedford pull off this event?

Race Weekend
Welcome to the Fitness Expo!

Wendy and I signed up to volunteer at the Fitness Expo, held the night before the race, where we were charged with the task of greeting folks who entered the expo. I've been to a myriad of race expos in big cities. Though this expo was small, it did not lack big-city energy.  Participants and volunteers were all smiles, jittery with excited energy, and looking forward to the race. The final count reported about 750 people registered for the three races (half marathon, 5K, and 1-mile walk).

Still... could Bedford pull off this event?

Pre-race support from my favorites
Race Day
Race morning dawned cool and breezy. I was able to walk with Wendy to a start line that was only a half mile from my home. Once in the "race village" (Bedford's downtown square), I was immediately impressed with the area. The finish line and chute were organized and professional. Boxes of post-race necessities were prepared for finishers. A stage promised a band and an impressive awards ceremony. Volunteers were ready to assist runners and spectators. As time passed, the downtown area became a hub of activity. It was later reported that Bedford's downtown had not seen that volume of people since the 1920s.

So far, so good, Bedford.

Times-Mail photo of the start by Garet Cobb
The Race
The start was a rush of energy as we headed west on 16th Street. Bedford citizens lined the streets to cheer on the runners. Instantly, I knew that this race was something special to the city of Bedford. As we continued on the course, I became even more aware that the Bedford Half Marathon was more than just a race. Droves of people came to support the event, whether they were participants, volunteers, or roadside cheerleaders. People were coming together.

Nearly every cheer I heard was accompanied by my name. "Go, Jo!" "Get it, Mrs. Cobb!" "C'mon, JoAnna, run!" People here knew me.  I usually thank policemen and volunteers when I run an organized race. This day, they answered, "No problem, Jo!" When I finished, the announcer didn't need to look up my number before he announced, "Look folks, it's JoAnna Cobb!" In the chute, familiar faces offered a medal and hydration.

Everyone was happy. Every. One. Was. HAPPY. It was a beautiful day. Runners inspired the volunteers and the crowds on the streets.  The crowds and volunteers inspired the runners. My facebook was full of photos my friends took of the race. My phone pinged all day with messages from friends, all of them excited about the Bedford Half Marathon.

Bedford, it seems, pulled it off.

Mile 11 with Jon, Mary, & Zach
The Race, Again
Oh, you wanted some of the usual info? :-)  Here it is...

I paired with Zach, a former student of mine who was running his third half marathon and looking to PR. My plan was to run comfortably hard, but not race. I didn't want to jeopardize my performance in the upcoming Monumental Marathon. I figured I would hang with Zach around a 9:00 pace and see where it took me. We were joined off and on by Mary, a friend of mine who was trying to break two hours.

Near the finish
This race story is better told holistically. We managed to nail very consistent miles in the 8:50 range, faster than I had planned, but oh well. The hills were challenging, but very nearly fun. The long trip up Mitchell Road wasn't as hard as I thought, but the rolling hills in the last 5K made up for it. Zach and I talked the whole time. He asked the age old question, "Why does the blacktop on John Williams Blvd. stay black when all the other pavement goes gray?" We saw a guy lose his lunch (breakfast?) early in the race. We talked about school. We talked about how we liked the cold (39°), but not the wind. I gave advice when I thought he needed it. Ed, Mom, and Wendy kept tabs on us, Ed and Wendy on bikes and Mom via car. Wendy kept us informed about our racing friends. We sped up at the end, and Zach and I separated with about a half mile to go. He finished in 1:55:33, and I was six seconds behind him. Mary joined us less than a minute later.

Let me just say that again: I finished a half marathon, without racing, with challenging hills, talking the whole time, in just two minutes above my PR. I could not be more thrilled with my fitness.

Here are the results and the stats 'n' such. Hooray to my friends Becky and Kyle for being the first Lawrence Countians, and to all my friends and neighbors for their great races.

...and what an afterglow it is. Bedford did it. We did it. We ALL did it. It took everyone coming together to make the Bedford Half Marathon what it was. What was it? It was an event that made every single person in attendance appreciate something about someone else. It built and strengthened relationships and community pride. It was everything I love about Bedford, Indiana, and running.

Some More Pics
A finish line with Bedford on it!

Starting with Yancy and Zach

With Mary and Zach on Mitchell Road


Did it!

In the chute with Zach

Got it done!

PS - September
Here are my September running stats:

Miles Run: 135.52
Runs: 13
Hours Run: 21:54:26.2
Average Run Distance: 10.42 mi.
Average Run Pace: 9:42.0
Average Run Duration: 1:41:06.6
Average Temperature: 54.25°F
Longest Run: 7.00 mi., September 1
Shortest Run: 20.10 mi., September 20
Favorite Run: September 13, 15.01 mi.
Trips To Gym: 6
Total 2014 Mileage: 908.62
Total Lifetime Mileage: 3,861.36

(Current 2014 total is 929.27 mi., and current lifetime total is 3,882.01.)

Sunday, September 7, 2014

A Monumental Blog Entry - JoAnna Kai Cobb

Note: This blog was written to be featured in the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon's launch of the Monumental Blog.

"I am a runner."

That simple sentence, only four words, conveys a great deal of significance. It reveals to others a hobby I enjoy. It reminds me of who I am. It explains my often ravenous hunger. However, its impact in my life moves much more deeply and has been extremely varied.

From Compulsory To Curative
Jo in a 2011 race
Prior to 2006, running was an unenjoyable activity forced upon me in PE classes. That long-held opinion changed when I discovered that the act of running could temporarily erase some of my symptoms of Crohn's disease, a chronic and painful autoimmune disease that affects my digestive system. Running freed me from the constant abdominal discomfort I had experienced for years.

Suddenly, I couldn't get enough of this new and effective method of pain-control. Even after experiencing a series of running-related injuries due to Crohn's-weakened bones, I continued to return to running, often starting back at "square one," in order to regain my moments of liberation from hurting.

Building for better running
...And Competitive
A few frustrating injurious years gave me an impetus both to focus on nutrition and to gain core strength that would allow my body to withstand longer, faster running. I began working with a trainer and eating foods that acted as good fuel for my body. Able to withstand more training miles, I had a strong base that allowed me to finally break two hours in the half marathon, a longstanding goal.

Though becoming a more robust runner was a dream come true, I recognized that something was still missing in my running life. Setting and reaching goals was thrilling, and sharing the fun with my family at the finish line was icing on the cake. However, all the training and racing miles were awfully lonely.

...And Social
IMM 2013 - Wendy & Jo
I had always been too timid to run with others for fear of being "too slow." However, teaming with ultrarunner Wendy Miller proved to be a perfect match. The slower training pace required in preparation for her 50-mile races paired perfectly with my half marathon training, and we began enjoying many miles together. Her suggestion to run the 2013 Monumental Marathon together was met with my accord.

Running with Wendy brought new excitement to the sport for me, and I found myself eagerly anticipating every long run. After a wonderful training cycle, health issues limited my performance at the 2013 IMM, but Wendy and I still had a wonderful time on a beautiful fall day in Indy. We left with good memories and a score to settle with the racecourse.

Motivational pull-tab chart
...And Now
The 2014 IMM looms on the horizon. I've spent the spring and summer working with my trainer Sam to become physically strong enough to withstand training miles. My dear friend and training partner Wendy is now also my coach through Limestone Distance Training. Though she will be unable to join me on the IMM course due to injury, she still keeps a close eye on my training as she bikes beside me on long runs. I keep track of my progress toward my marathon goal with a silly pull-tab chart that isn't so silly when I feel the satisfaction of pulling off a tab after a run. Every day, I feel more excited, more tenacious, and hungrier for that IMM course and the wonderful weekend that accompanies it.

Running has given my life new perspective. It has allowed me the chance to appreciate everything—even the support of my wonderful husband, Mom, and Dad—with new perception.  My running is curative. My running is competitive. My running is social. My running is now.

I am a runner.

Mile 18 of an early morning 20-miler

JoAnna Kai Cobb
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Thursday, September 4, 2014

Awesome August, Awful August

August. August gets a bad rep in the running world because of its weather. Hot. Humid. Muggy. Pop up thunderstorms. However, running a fall marathon demands August training, so it is a necessary evil. August had its share of awful moments for me, but I had some really great August moments, as well. Here's a summary.

The Stats
My August stats boast the highest monthly mileage and training hours I've ever accrued. Check it out:

Miles Run: 140.33
Runs: 15
Hours Run: 22:01:11.2
Average Run Distance: 9.36 mi.
Average Run Pace: 9:24.9
Average Run Duration: 1:28:04.7
Average Temperature: 68.7°F
Longest Run: 18.03 mi., August 23
Shortest Run: 3.00 mi., August 6
Favorite Run: August 2, 16.13 mi.
Trips To Gym: 4
Total 2014 Mileage: 773.10
Total Lifetime Mileage: 3,725.84

I ran over 140 miles, much of it before sunrise and in super muggy conditions, without getting injured in any way. Do you know me? Have we met? One hundred forty miles, UNINJURED. It's amazing. Awesome August.

The Injury
I didn't get injured, but dear Wendy did. On August 7, our orthopedist (yes, we share a doctor), put her on crutches due to a broken femur. Awful August. Three weeks later, tests revealed that Wendy's leg was not broken after all. Her "fracture" was a substantial nutrient vessel (haha), and she was cleared to run. Awesome August. However, the three weeks of rest did nothing to heal her or curb her pain, and doctors surmised and later confirmed that she has obturator nerve entrapment. She will need surgery and will not be able to run the entire Monumental Marathon course with me. Awful August.

The Long Lone Ranger
Post-Run Coffee with "Whitney"
When Wendy's injury took her out of the training game, I lost a running partner. Many of our friends have run with me; however, with the exception of Wendy's brother Wes, no one wants to run at o'dark thirty, and not even Wes likes to run that early on the weekend. That meant I would have to do two and three hour runs alone. It's not terrible to run long by oneself, but it's certainly more fun with a friend.

However, I've found that I enjoy listening to lectures and books on tape while running long. I've also had great success with my long runs, especially  a 16-miler on August 2 where I felt like I could run forever. Also, Wendy has made it a habit to be involved in my long runs, whether she takes me to a destination starting point or drives beside me while I run. We also get lunch/coffee afterward. Awesome August.

Back To School
School started. Awesome August. It's been hard on my voice. Awful August. My students are great, and I couldn't be more thrilled to be paired with them for a school year. Awesome August.

Cobbs +2
The Claude
Every year, Dad, Ed, Sam, Mac, Mike, and I play as a team in Otis Park's famous Claude Akins Classic Labor Day Scramble. (Mom is cheerleader.) It absolutely poured rain on us ALL DAY, and we didn't win. Awesome August. Hey-o, orange you glad I didn't say, "Awful August"? I truly had a good time losing in that monsoon. I love playing with my guys in The Claude every year. I recorded the stats from The Claude, too, and they're pretty funny to see.

August had lots of highs and lows, but I feel like it was mostly a positive month. I'm so happy with my running right now. Wendy is coaching me through a great training cycle, and Sam continues to keep my body in shape to endure the pavement (or trail) pounding. I look forward to every run, and tear off each run on my pull-tab chart with a good feeling of accomplishment. School is great, family is great, and all the other "Awful August" stuff will eventually resolve and become a memory. I can hardly wait for Super September and the fall days that will follow.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Summer That Was 2014

Summer is an interesting time for me, because I suddenly find myself without a job. Many people would consider that situation awesome, but it's not for me. I became a teacher because I like to interact with middle school students. I dearly miss my students when I have to "give them up" in May. I spend the summer counting the days until school starts.

However, not one to wish away a period of time, I always try to make the most of the 10 or so weeks that I am "unemployed." This year, my corporation's summer break lasted 67 days for teachers.  Here are some of the cool bits that went down during Summer Break 2014.

Boot Camp
I joined an 18-session boot camp with my trainer, Sam, at Anytime Fitness. Though I got a total body workout, Sam and I focused on my core, hamstrings, and glutes—the muscles that needed the most attention in order to make me a better runner. I can actually feel the strength Sam has given me.

Every summer, I try to learn something completely new. This summer, Ed, Mom, Dad, and I took bridge lessons.  I know that a card game doesn't sound like momentous learning, but this bridge stuff is super involved. We have had four two-hour sessions, and we still aren't done learning. The game is growing on me with each class.

Headlamp Trail Run - Wendy's Bday
Milwaukee Trail
I've run this topic into the ground, but really, what a great thing that trail is. The temps are cool, the scenery is great, the folks are friendly. I spent a lot of time on that trail with Wendy and other friends this summer.

Surgery/Vocal Therapy
I had surgery to repair a damaged vocal cord and completed the subsequent therapy at the IU School of Music. Believe it or not, the therapy was a lot of work. I had to strengthen all the laryngeal muscles and retrain my cords to speak and sing properly. What a great feeling it was to get back the voice that I didn't appreciate until I lost it.

No Speaking
This item is similar to the note above, but really, not making a sound (except for that Chicken Fat incident), was a pretty significant thing for me. It's the longest I've gone in my life without vocalizing.

No Grooming
I've also broken a personal "no makeup" record (as an adult). All 67 days of summer were makeup and flatiron free. I loved it.

Using the Ginger Threads Longarm
Jelly Roll Quilt
I made a jelly roll quilt in less than a week using the longarm and techniques learned from Jessica at Ginger Threads. I gave the quilt to Mamaw, and she loves it. That was fun.

Fun Events
There were a lot of other little events that are worth mentioning, like our fireworks, the Monumental Mile, golf tournaments, trips to French Lick/West Baden, sitting on the porch with Ed, running the Red Eye Relay with the Zoooomin' Cabbits, taking walks with Ed, working in my classroom at a leisurely pace, etc.

The accomplishment about which I'm most proud this summer is my running mileage. 300. Did you hear that? THREE HUNDRED MILES. I ran three hundred miles this summer. That wasn't a goal when summer began; it just happened. To have run that many miles and still have pain-free legs is a first for me. I know I owe a lot of those miles to the Milwaukee Trail's soft surface. I'm very proud of that statistic because it shows that my training, including my work with Sam, is producing positive results. Here are my summer stats, which include 67 days: June 1-August 6:

Miles Run: 300.35
Runs: 40
Hours Run: 48:27:56
Average Run Distance: 7.51 mi.
Average Run Pace: 9:40.91
Average Run Duration: 1:15:41.9
Average Temperature: 66.0°F
Trips To Gym: 18
2014 Mileage: 670.06
Total Lifetime Mileage: 3,622.80

What a great summer it has been! As wonderful as it was, I'm thrilled to be headed back to school tomorrow, and to meet my new students who will come on Friday. Here's to a great 2014-2015!

Go, Cutters!

I don't think I ever posted July stats. Here they are:

Miles Run: 137.60
Runs: 17
Hours Run: 21:51:18.5
Average Run Distance: 8.09 mi.
Average Run Pace: 9:31.79
Average Run Duration: 1:17:08.15
Average Temperature: 63.6°F
Longest Run: 16.11 mi., one, two, three legs at Red Eye Relay on July 19-20
Shortest Run: 2.50, July 29
Favorite Run: July 19-20, one, two, three Red Eye Runs
Trips To Gym: 12

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Red Eye Relay 2014 - Race Report

(There is a prologue to this blog here. Is a blog prologue, a problog?)

After I run Red Eye, people always say two things:
  1. That sounds awful!
  2. What's it like?
My replies are always the same:
  1. No, it's actually a lot of fun, but it isn't for everyone.
  2. I wish I could explain it well, but I can't.
The Red Eye Relay has an almost magical quality that cannot be explained; it can only be experienced. The best way that I can try to describe it is to say the whole thing is like a dream. The odd combinations of unusual locations and foreign situations is difficult for my brain to handle. So difficult, that after the event, I find myself wondering if the Red Eye Relay really even happened. My brain recalls the incongruous details, and files them under "must've been a dream."

Who, What, When, & Where
The Zoooomin' Cabbits
The Red Eye Relay is an event where teams of seven runners relay through the night to run 110 miles through the hilly country roads of Monroe County. The course, two 55-mile loops, is broken into 21 legs of varying distance and elevation, and each team member runs three legs totaling about 16 miles. My team, The Zoooomin' Cabbits, included Wendy, Tim, Becky, Doug, Elise, and Quigley, all experienced runners and great people.

On Saturday, we all met at Upland West to pack our two vehicles with food, dry clothes, and night running gear. We reviewed the legs our fearless leader Wendy had assigned to us, and we posed for a picture. I was our team's kick-off runner, so at 5:00 P.M., I donned the slap bracelet (Red Eye's form of the relay baton), and toed the line.

First exchange
Leg 1
Am I an experienced runner? Of course. However, that doesn't stop me from making the same mistake over and over. I started my first leg—an easy 5.2-mile, mostly downhill jaunt along the bypass—with a 7:42 mile. Luckily, it didn't adversely affect the rest of my run. With the exception of a long climb in the middle of the leg, the miles clicked off quickly. Entering a wooded area near completion brought some nice coolness, and I was thrilled to post my fastest ever 5-mile split (41:40). Shortly after that, I slapped the RER bracelet on Doug's wrist for Leg 2.

Here's my Leg 1 data.

"Down Time"
There really is no down time in the Red Eye Relay, especially if you are a driver. The next five hours went quickly as I shuttled runners to the next exchange point while our other vehicle followed the current runner. Once I noted exchanges for our team data, I helped the just finished runner recover with food, drink, and "senseless Wet Ones." (I kept mixing up "scentless" and "senseless.") There is still a lot to do, even if you aren't running.

Becky on Leg 6
These crewing moments are just as fun as the running portions of the relay. As we would drive by runners on our way to the next exchange, we lowered our windows and cheered for them... loudest for the Cabbits, though, of course. We chatted with teams at checkpoints. We listened to the stories our runners told as they finished a leg. We rocked out to the Pop Love 2013 remix. We even saw some fireworks on Lake Lemon.

Around 10:30 P.M., it was time for my next, and most challenging, leg. I suited up in my night gear and took off after getting the bracelet from Elise.

Leg 9
Because Tim wanted more mileage than Wendy assigned him, he joined me for this 6.5-mi. leg, and I was thankful for his company. On our third mile, a course directional sign was turned incorrectly, and we made a wrong turn. We lost four minutes as a result of that mistake (that amount of time is important later), but we were allowed to get in our crew vehicle and return to the course. Surprisingly, I was not enraged by the tampered-with sign. I was actually happy to have gotten some extra mileage.

Boltinghouse, a monstrous hill with an 18% grade, loomed ahead, and I hiked most of it. The decision to hike was a good one, because my heart rate stayed at a steady running rate throughout the hike portion. Following Boltinghouse, there were many rolling hills that were steep, but short. On each one, I could feel my strong core (made by Sam), engage to carry me up and over the hill. The last half mile of the leg dropped steeply into Lake Griffy, and we bombed the hill to pass the bracelet to Doug.

My strongest memories of this leg include seeing, "Shut up, legs!" spray painted on the pavement on Boltinghouse, watching my running shadow in the bright headlights of the crew vehicle behind me, and making shadow shapes and puppets with Tim while we ran. Tim's company made this leg pass quickly, both mentally and physically. I wouldn't have run as fast as I did without him.

Here is the Leg 9 data.

The funniest moment of the night happened close to 1:00 A.M. We had been waiting for Doug at the end of the first loop, and he was taking a lot longer than we thought he would. (He was racing well, but we thought his leg was 5.2 mi. It was actually 6.4 mi.) Due to some information from another team's runner, we had reason to believe that Doug had been caught by a train.

When Doug finally got to the checkpoint just ahead of a group of several runners, we had a funny exchange:

Jo: It's OK! We know what happened!
Doug: What do you mean?
Jo: We know about the train!
Doug: What train?
Jo: There was no train?
Doug: No!
Jo: Then what happened?
Doug: What do you mean what happened?! I ran hard! (pointing) I PASSED ALL THOSE PEOPLE!

Indeed he had! Of course, we quickly learned he ran 1.2 mi. farther than we thought he did.

Late night RER selfie
Bizarre RER
After 1:00 A.M. is when things start to get interesting. Your body is fatigued. Your appetite is strange. The locations you saw in the daytime look eerily different in the night. Your brain starts to take sensory information and distort it into information that isn't quite real. Luckily, Wendy and Quigley helped me do the driving on the second loop so I could rest my brain for a bit, though not sleep. With all of the exhaustion and almost supernatural strangeness, one can't forget that a run awaits. I took off again at about 3:30 A.M. after getting the bracelet from Quigley.

Leg 15
Leg 15—advertised as 3.8 mi, but really more like 4 mi.—is a fun one to run because it's a downhill bomb. However, that doesn't mean easy. There are plenty of uphills, too, and the road is potholed and mostly graveled. Plus, the downhills can be almost as difficult as uphills if you don't manage them well. I focused on staying in a steady rhythm with my cadence. Within a mile, I was passed by a member of Team 105, a team with whom we'd been jockeying for position all night. I made it my goal to catch him by the time I finished my leg.

Little by little, I reeled him in. When we were side by side, he surged to match my pace. Reasoning that the experience would be a lot more pleasant if I weren't running alone, I said, "Want to work together?" He replied breathlessly, "YES!" We ran the last two miles together, chatting about the RER experience and our families. Where else can you run the backroads of Monroe County at 3:30 A.M. with a total stranger you'll never see again and finish with a big high five? Red Eye Relay. It's the stuff of dreams.

Here's the Leg 15 data. I ran the third mile sub-8 while having conversation. That statistic and my whole performance at RER make me very encouraged about my current fitness.

I was thrilled to have only support and encouragement as my focus for the remainder of the race. It felt great to put on some dry clothes, too. Luckily, I brought flip-flops, because those downhills created a terrible toe problem. (Only click the link if you're OK with yuck-pics.) I spent the rest of the night shuttling my friends to their exchanges and cheering like a fool for all the runners. We all watched the sunrise together. We celebrated and lamented about the impending finish. Then we watched as Elise crossed the finish line for The Zoooomin' Cabbits in 15:39.

We learned later that we earned second place, something difficult to know during the running of RER, because teams can choose start times. We were second by three minutes and nine seconds. Remember the four minutes I lost when I made a wrong turn on Leg 9? Yeah. Bummer.

However—and this might be the magic of the Red Eye Relay—I didn't care. We could've finished last, and I wouldn't have cared. Running is often a solitary sport, even when you run with friends. Your goals and training are individual. Running for a team fulfills me in a way that individual running doesn't. Everything is more: the motivation, the encouragement, the fun.

Writing this blog was necessary because it convinces my brain that the fantastic experience I had was real. It was a privilege to be a Zoooomin' Cabbit for one crazy night in the middle of a southern Indiana summer.

Red-ribboned Cabbits (minus Doug and Quigley)