It has been almost a year since I’ve done any kind of race.
The last one was a 5-mile turkey trot that left me limping and wondering if maybe it wasn’t time to stop ignoring that pain in my heel after all.
After a year of taking it easy and hoping my plantar fasciitis would just go away, only to be rewarded with a less severe dull aching sensation whenever I tried incorporating cardio or walking a lot or wearing certain shoes.
It was exactly as much fun as it sounds.
After about nine months of that, I decided to try new shoes. After all, it was new shoes that cured my shin splints problem, right?
Almost miraculously, the new shoes worked. After a single run, I started to notice a difference, including that I had less pain even when I wasn’t wearing the shoes. Running in these more supportive sneaks was repairing my foot better than almost a year of rest ever had.
Shout out to New Balance: Making long-distance dreams come true for flat footed gals everywhere.
It was around this time that my friend Diana asked me if I wanted to do the Philadelphia Half with her. I accepted the offer, excited to get back to it.
Of course, even with my healing heel, I had a lot to work back to as I started training for my first half marathon in over a year. It helped that my running partner, Diana, is always pushing her own limits, which inspired me to do the same.
By the time the race rolled around, I had cut my nine-minute-something mile down to a consistent eight or lower, and we were pacing to finish the race in about 1:45.
Exciting stuff, right?
Well, sorry to disappoint you, but my body had other ideas.
Not to get too TMI on ya, but I got my period the day before the race. And the. I started getting cramps around mile two.
I’m not going to lie — I wanted to quit. At one point, I actually thought to myself, “If I could cheat and just be done, I think I would do that.”
But by some strength I didn’t really know I had, I kept plodding along. My final time was two hours even — twenty minutes slower than planned, but still better than my first half time. Go figure, right?
Diana is an animal and finished just under 1:40. I know, right??
I’m just chalking it up as motivation to do another one in the spring. Gotta defend my rep, after all.
The rest of the weekend was lovely. We spent time with Diana’s family, all of whom I loved, and ate a bunch of great food. We’re currently on the train home, and I’m pretty excited to see a certain someone’s face after work.
Spoiler alert: It’s Joey’s face. I just like him, ok?
I’m writing this with mud still under my fingernails. (Though, for the record, I started writing it Saturday night.)
Saturday morning, I survived my first Tough Mudder.
For those not familiar, a TM is basically a half marathon with obstacles. Tough obstacles. Obstacles with names like Electric Eel, Everest, and Arctic Enema.
I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that it was happening. Here’s how it all went down.
A couple of months ago, my friend Diana asked me if I wanted to join her Tough Mudder team. I’ll be honest: My immediate answer was thanks, but no thanks. I have a few friends who have done Mudders in the past, and I could never get over the fact that there are obstacles that involved running or crawling through electrically charged strings that would actually shock you whilst you tried to scramble through.
I mean, I’m a bit of a masochist when it comes to exercise, but that seemed crazy even to me.
A couple of weeks ago, though, Diana was telling me how one of her friends had dropped out of their three-woman team, and since so many of the obstacles require some serious team effort to get through, “If only I could find someone who would take her place.”
I took a deep breath.
“Well, I guess if I could just have her entry, I could do it with you.”
Also known as the words they’ll engrave on my tombstone.
Of course, Diana quickly made the arrangements, even reaching out to a friend of hers who works for TM to get my name on the entry, and the deed was done.
Honestly, I tried not to think about the event too much in the (terribly) short weeks leading up to it. Diana and I are also doing a half marathon next month, so we were already training. We both continued with our conditioning training regimens as well. So we were preparing. We just weren’t thinking about what we were preparing for.
The morning arrived all too soon. Diana and Stephanie (our third team mate) met us at the course in New Jersey. The weather was uncharacteristically good, which actually boded well for the rest of the day.
That Arctic Enema I mentioned? It involves submersing yourself in a dumpster filled with icy water. Like, the top three to four inches of the water are just chunks of ice. It would be just swell if it wasn’t freezing outside when we got out of said dumpster.
So anyway. Around 10:45, we crossed the starting line. Around 10:46, we had to scale a sheer wood wall.
The race had begun.
Besides running about 12 miles, we also did about 12 obstacles. (I’m honestly too tired to remember exactly how many. Plus, there’s a lot of running up and over steep, muddy hills throughout, and while those don’t technically qualify as official obstacles, they should.)
You can read the descriptions of all the potential TM obstacles you could encounter here, but the ones I can remember that we did were the Electric Eel, the Cage Crawl, The Cliffhanger, Electroshock Therapy, Everest, Fire Walker, Funky Monkey, Island Hopping, Just the Tip (not as dirty as it sounds)(actually, it was really filthy), Kiss of Mud, Mud Mile (lots of mud), Walk the Plank, Boa Constrictor, the Arctic Enema, a Wheelbarrow Crawl, several Berlin Walls, and Warrior Carry.
The worst parts? Easily the Arctic Enema and the shock stations. As I said, the electrocution had always been my least favorite part about the event, and actually living it lived up to my perception. It hurt. And in a way that just made you kind of angry about it. I did not like it.
Here’s a video of it happening (the weird jerking motions we make are us reacting to the electricity):
The icy dumpster was just the most uncomfortable I’ve ever been. I mean, I’ve done a polar bear plunge, so I guess I thought I had an idea of what to expect.
I. Had. No. Idea.
The second you hit the water, your breath just leaves you. As does any sense of reason. We made the mistake of popping back up for air before swimming under the divider (yup, they make you swim through the icy water completely submerged), so we had to force ourselves to go back under just to get out. I vividly remember swimming toward the end and feeling several inches of ice move around my head as I broke the surface.
As we burst up again, Diana just screamed, “I NEVER WANT TO DO THIS AGAIN.”
There was a mad panic as we desperately just tried to fight out way out of the dumpster. I may have kicked a teammate. I honestly don’t even remember.
When you get out, you just have to keep moving. I couldn’t think. I just knew I couldn’t stop moving. You warm up again fairly quickly, but the shock to the system takes a bit to wear off.
Okay, I just made the whole thing sound pretty awful. Let’s talk about the fun parts, shalllll we?
The Warrior Carry was actually probably my best moment. We were a three people, but at the Carry you’re supposed to run down a stretch of the path carrying a partner on your back, then switch midway through. Since we needed a fourth partner, we paired up with another team of three. That was two girls and one dude.
One 6-foot-three, 200-ish pounds dude. Named Adam.
He and I made our acquaintance, and then I hopped on his back. I honestly could barely to put together a sentence because my brain was still a little frozen from the Arctic Enema, but as we approached the switch point, he asked me if I wanted to switch.
“Yeah, sure, let’s do it!” I replied without thinking. The next thing I know, I’m running down the path with him on my back. His two partners turned around one point and marveled at my Herculean strength. (Really, they shouted, “Oh my GAWD, how are you doing that?”)
When we got to the end, we high-fived, and Diana ran up to me shouting, “Justine, you carried a man!”
I felt kind of awesome.
Thinking about doing your own Mudder but not sure what to expect? Here are the four things I think you really need to know:
1. You should train for this. I know you did a Warrior Dash or a 5K without any extra training, but this is different. Even if you weren’t doing anything else, you’re going to run between 10 and 12 miles. You should probably be able to run 5-6 without stopping. It also wouldn’t hurt you to work on your upper body strength. There is a lot of lifting yourself over things or pulling yourself through things.
2. You will get dirty. Embrace it. Because you will literally get coated in mud. Mud will be in your toe nails, in your ears, in your eyes, in your belly button. At one point, Diana looked at me and said, “You have mud in your teeth.” At another point, I was looking for Diana, and I realized I had literally been staring at her for ten seconds, I just didn’t recognize her because she was completely covered in mud. You will look like a swamp monster. It’s easier to just accept it. (Plus, there’s probably a water obstacle in the next half mile to help rinse you off a bit.)
3. You will get a little hurt. But probably not too much. I have a bunch of scratches and bruises on my elbows and shins (on top of being sore as heck), and I smacked my elbow falling over the other side of the Berlin Wall. But unless you are actually a spider monkey, it’s pretty much impossible to avoid. Fortunately, you won’t really realize that you are getting beat up until the end (and even then, not really until the next morning). Adrenaline sort of just powers you through everything.
4. Believe in Tough Mudder karma. You won’t be able to get through the whole course yourself. People will pick you up, give you hand holds, pull you through tunnels, and in some cases carry you through portions of this race. Accept the help (because you need to — you will actually find yourself thanking some dude for pushing you over a mud hill by your butt), but also pay it forward. When you get over the hill, reach back to give someone a hand over. Help the 40-year-old dude get through the narrow, slippery tunnel. Carry the man on your back because it’s part of the fun.
5. And most importantly, you’d best have a sense of humor if you want this to be fun at all. It’s important to choose team members that you can joke with (or at least just make “are we really doing this” eye contact with), and it helps to be friendly with everyone else. Thank people. Cheer people on. Remember that everyone is being ridiculous, and you’re not the only one planning to go home, shower, and not jump in the mud again for at least another year. And if all else fails, remind yourself that there is free beer in the end.
Honestly, I’m glad I did it. It was extremely challenging, but I think it’s important to challenge ourselves. And I sort of had a similar thought as I did during the polar bear plunge that it’s just nice to do things that you never thought you would do. It’s nice to surprise yourself. It’s kind of fun to crawl around in the mud and get dirty, then jump into cold water from a 20-foot plank, then scramble up a muddy hill, then run a mile through the woods, then crawl on your back through cold water, then carry a tire half a mile, then crawl through mud under barbed wire, then slide down a muddy hill, and finally run up a sheer wall with only the hope that someone will grab your hand and pull you up.
No, really. It’s kind of fun.
So that’s how I survived it. Now I’m sore, scratched and bruised, and still swabbing mud out of my ears.
But also? Kind of awesome.
First things first, it’s time to announce the winner of the Printcopia giveaway!
Drum roll, please…..
I just emailed you about the prize. Congratulations, and thanks to everyone who entered!
Now, the matter at hand.
I’m pretty sure I’ve forgotten how to work a normal full work week.
Between the storm(s), our California trip, and Thanksgiving, I’ll have Gina e full month since my last complete week of work by the end of this week.
I mean, I’m not really complaining. I enjoy working for home, even just a few days a week, and obviously everyone lives vacation and time off of work. I love my job, but it still provides me with just enough stress that I look forward to days when I don’t have to worry about it.
Thins are still going well, though. A few big projects that I’ve been working on are finally coming to fruition, and I’m even interviewing a couple of people today for an assistant position under me.
My very own assistant: every girl’s dream, right?
Plus, the partial week before a holiday is always pleasant to work. Sure, there’s a but more pressure to get the same a amount of work done in a shorter period of time, but everyone is usually caught up enough in festivities that the atmosphere is pleasant and no one is overly stressed.
Though this will be my first holiday at the current job, so maybe I’m entirely wrong about that. In that case…at least it’s only a 3-day week!
In other news, I’m running a 5-mile turkey trot on Thursday, but my left heel started really aching a couple of days ago. Not cool. My plan is to take it easy until Thursday, and then I might have to take a couple of weeks off of running. I’m already miserable at the prospect, but I think it’s my only option. Sigh.
Anyway. Enough about me. How is everyone else doing?
An email exchange between Annie and me:
Want a peak into my weird brain that ends with a question for you….
So Al and I have been running in the mornings – but its pitch black, but i’m not afraid of running because I’m with someone.
You run in the mornings, and Joey doesn’t go with you….is it still pitch black? Are you all “on alert”
Then Annie brain goes to – well scary people aren’t awake at 6am so I shouldnt be worried…unless they are so crazy they dont sleep at all…or all totally nocternal so they are actually at peak time of crazying.
So….do you run alone in the morning dark?
Haha funny you should ask!
Yes, when I run in the morning it is dark. I tell myself much the same thing you say, that the crazies aren’t up yet. There’s actually a really hilarious scene from 30 Rock that I repeat to myself a lot, where Elizabeth Banks’s character gets back from an early run that goes like this:
Jack Donaghy: Where were you?
Jack: Who else is out at this hour?
EB: Almost exclusively women who look like me. God help us if the pervert community ever gets wind of morning jogging.
So that is what I TELL myself, but I also know for a fact that there is a homeless man who sleeps under a bridge I have to run over. I know this because, while he is still asleep when I start out, he is ALWAYS just waking up and shaking out his sleeping bag when I’m on my way home. We made eye contact last time I ran. Obviously, this is how I’m going to die.
At least now I’ve told someone? If I disappear on a morning jog, it was probably the homeless man under the bridge on W******* Avenue over S****** Highway. [Ed. note: See? I'm too paranoid to even tell you the roads near where I run!]
…I’m probably not helping your crazy paranoia, am I?
ummm….i almost turned around this morning because there were two weird looking people just standing in the street ahead of us……
…….kids with backpacks waiting for the bus…….
I just chortled out loud imagining that. Mostly because, this morning, when I was driving to the train station, these two girls walking to their bus stop passed in front of my car, and one made a point of waving at me until I waved back. It wouldn’t have been weird if she hadn’t been, like, 13. All I could think was, “WHAT IS SHE UP TO?”
This is why we’re friends. (Also, I’m for sure blogging this.)
So I survived my third half marathon.
Honestly, this was my best one yet. Not only did I shave about eight minutes off my last time, but I felt the best I have so far at the end of a long race. Usually my stomach bothers me, but this time I felt solid.
Only took me two years of racing. Go figure.
This course was similar to the Long Island Half Marathon, though a little less interesting because we didn’t cut through any towns, instead sticking to main roads and parkways. We started and ended in a park.
People always ask me what I do or think about while I’m running long distance. It’s a fair question: we’re talking up to two hours of time for intense self-reflection.
Sometimes I’m daydreaming, sometimes I think about things that are bothering me. A lot of the time I’m calculating my current speed an trying to figure out what time I will finish, or planning the rest of my day after the run. It’s helpful for me when the course is new or interesting because I can forget I’m running if I have other thugs to focus on.
Because yesterday’s course was fairly flat and boring, though, I found myself thinking a lot about races in general.
I decided my favorite part of a race (besides the finish, of course) is that moment right when you finally break away from the starting line crush, after bobbing and weaving between people who really shouldn’t have started in the pace bracket they did, and you have some clear road to find your pace and just enjoy the run.
Sometimes I feel like that’s the moment we’re all waiting for — when we can finally outrun the madness and the obstacles and just hit our stride.
(I know, I’m super deep, right?)
This was also the first race that I really pushed myself in terms of speed. I knew I was running faster than I normally do, but I didn’t want to check my actual pace on my iPhone app in case I would psych myself out. Instead, I just decided to let myself run until I started to feel uncomfortable or get a cramp or something, and that moment never came. (Huzzah!)
Plus they handed out tiaras and feather boas and cookies at the end. Obviously, I was a happy girl.
My future running plans include: another half in April and…a full marathon next fall.
I feel ready to take that on. The main thing I’m nervous about is fitting in all the training runs. I feel like its going to be a test of “how many runs can I skip or cut short and still finish?” Though hopefully, by then, my schedule will be as such that I can stick fairly closely to a schedule.
Speaking of which, do any of my runner friends have a training schedule to recommend? I’ve used the half schedule on MarathonRookie.com for all my half marathons, so maybe I’ll stick with that? Obviously, I’m open to suggestions.
So anyway. Today, I’m a little tired and a little sore, but overall feeling pretty good. How was your weekend?
Let’s have a little update on the state of Justine, shall we? Or, really, another blog post of topics I couldn’t flesh out into full posts. Because…well…you’ll understand by the end of this.
First (and most pressing) things first, something is wrong with my shoulder. At least, I think it’s my shoulder. Last night, something in left shoulder, upper back, left side of my neck suddenly shifted out of place, and now certain movements result in quite a bit of pain. Especially when I’m lying down. (ASK ME HOW AWESOME SLEEPING WAS!!!)(Or rather, not sleeping.)
Fortunately, I recalled that I had an Amazon Local voucher for an hour-long massage and chiropractic evaluation. SCORE. Unfortunately, they’re closed on Thursdays, so I can’t go until tomorrow. BUT A GLORIOUS DAY TOMORROW SHALL BE.
I also have a physical tomorrow, so hopefully I can talk to the doc about my sore heel and finally get a referral to a dermatologist so I can get my skin cancer check. Party.
SPEAKING of that sore heel. Welp, folks, it finally happened. Despite not having any kind of running injury for a couple of years (sigh), all is not well. It started a little over a week ago, when I began getting these little flushes of heat in my left heel at random times. It’s the weirdest feeling. One second I’m just sitting there, the next it feels like my left heel floods with warmth. It’s not uncomfortable at all, it just feels weird. But the actual heel doesn’t feel warm when I touch it. Has anyone experienced anything like that?
Anyway, then it started just feeling sore from time to time. Not good considering I have to start training for my third half in a couple of weeks. Not good at all.
So for now, I’m trying to keep up with my cardio without actually running. Last night, I got on an elliptical for the first time in literally years. Blah.
In other “Justine’s body” news? I need to get my hair did like whoa. Right now, I’m sporting what you might call “accidental ombre.” Or rather, my roots are just quite grown out. The appointment is on August 4th. Let’s DO this, remaining 16 days.
In other words, I’m falling apart. Such a great precursor to turning 25 in just over a week. Excellent.
Let’s all whine together, guys! Leave me a comment telling me something that’s bugging you. I promise to respond with RESOUNDING agreement that you don’t deserve whatever is happening to you.