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.