World’s Okayest Runner

I’m so behind on my race recaps, but then again, I don’t think I have that many captivated readers who have been waiting with baited breath for my marathon recap. (If you do read these exercises in word vomit of mine, leave a comment! Until then, I’m going to believe I’m typing into the void.)

I celebrated my birthday one week before the Pittsburgh marathon. Dave took me to breakfast and then we saw Avengers: Endgame. It was exactly what I wanted to do for my birthday. Afterwards, we parted ways and I went grocery shopping to complete my weekly meal prep. I placed one grocery bag in my trunk, and then a second. I leaned forward to push the second bag back a bit when I felt a muscle pull in my left shoulder.

That’s right. I pulled a muscle in my shoulder on my 39th birthday putting groceries away in my car. It hurt so bad that I yelped loudly. Really? I injure myself putting groceries away? Come on.

For the week leading up to the marathon, I refrained from running or anything physical really. I iced my shoulder and rested. I also worried like a crazy person, filled with anxiety, like, “Am I even going to be able to run the marathon?” I could barely rotate my left arm without pain radiating throughout my shoulder, and I’m going to run 26.2 miles? I kept thinking, “I may be cursed to never run this fucking race. Unreal.”

The night before the race, I still didn’t feel remotely good but I decided to go for it anyway. I figured that I would try and if it got to be too much, I’d stop and do a Do Not Finish. I wanted to try because this is The Race I have been wanting to conquer since 2015, 2016.

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I may be smiling but I was thinking, “If anyone bumps into my shoulder, I will probably cry.”

I did make a crucial error the morning of the race. It was raining, and I did not lube up my feet. I had vaseline with me, but Race Day excitement means I’m more forgetful than my normal. You’d think I haven’t been running since 2013, but sigh… welcome to my brain.

During the first 16 miles of the race, my friend Emily stayed with me. She and I trained together a good portion leading up to the marathon. Throughout the race, I had a couple of close calls where I came close to someone colliding with my shoulder. As a result, Emily stayed on my left to prevent anyone from getting near my left side. I am so grateful to her.

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She was ahead of me on the hill but I wasn’t that far behind!

Mother Nature was not kind to us runners that day. It rained a bit during the race, and so I formed a gnarly blister on my right foot. I was feeling it bad. I also kept having to stop and clear my glasses off so I could, you know, see. When we were approaching 16 miles together, I could tell the wheels were starting to fall off for me, and my friend was holding back for me.

My shoulder hurt, and because my shoulder hurt, I wasn’t rotating the way I normally do when I run. On top of that, the blister on my foot was killing me and for the first time in years, I felt IT band. Before I pulled the muscle in my shoulder, my training was pretty solid and consistent. My 20 mile runs were each around 4 hours. I thought I could get 5:15 or thereabouts.  I knew that wasn’t going to happen for me, and I will be damned if I hold anyone back.

I told Emily to go chase her PR and I would be fine running by myself. Besides, if something bad happened to me, I was never truly alone. I’d be fine. I appreciate that she wanted to make sure I’d be okay before she went chasing her PR (spoiler: she got it!).

During the last 10 miles, once I accepted that I wasn’t going to hit my time goal, I just focused on enjoying the beauty of the marathon. I looked to see if I recognized anyone, and I thanked the volunteers who braved standing in the cold, rainy weather to help crazy people like me. When I hit mile 18 (aka the greyhound mile), the rain was coming down pretty hard, so the greyhounds who normally like to run with the runners, were all taking refuge under a bridge. I didn’t blame them!

The last couple of miles were a real struggle. My shoulder hurt, the blister was taunting me at that point, and I was overcompensating all over the place. I later saw a video of me close to mile 26, and I was run/limping, hop a long Huffman.

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Yeah, take a closer look. I’m in a lot of pain here. My foot is really not supposed to be turned in that direction.

For no reason other than pride, I was hustling as much as I could the last couple of miles because I wanted to come in before the 5:30 pacer. My first marathon in Columbus, I was at 5:00:58. For my second marathon in Indy, I was 5:28. I wanted to beat 5:30, so I can still stay this is my range.

I CROSSED THE FINISH LINE AT 5:28:58. That’s right! Pittsburgh is much harder than Columbus or Indianapolis, and I ran that sucker all banged up and still managed the same time I did for Indy. (Granted, I didn’t cross train at all before Indy, and that murdered me.)  That still shows how much I really worked hard for this race.

Now, if my health does a nose dive into the crapper again, I’m not going to be haunted by the race I never got to do. I did it, y’all. [Redacted] can never take that from me. If I find myself in the chemo chair again, and given [redacted], it could very well happen, I’ll tell everyone who’ll listen to me about that one time I ran a marathon a week after I pulled a muscle in my shoulder.

Stayed tune for the next post, where I provide my Glacier Ridge Trail recap. Why yes, I ran a 30K trail race 6 days after running a marathon.

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Pittsburgh is my White Whale

On May 5, 2019, I am finally going to catch my White Whale. I’m going to give it everything I have physically and mentally, and I am going to attempt to run the Pittsburgh Full marathon. This will be my third marathon, but it will be my first time attempting the entire full marathon course in Pittsburgh.

I have wanted to give this race a shot several times but life got in the way.  I have signed up for the full once before–forget which year–but dropped down to the half when I realized I couldn’t do the full marathon. One year, I decided to put the Pittsburgh full off until next year when I started a new job as a consultant. The following year, I ended up doing the Columbus full as my first marathon.

The following year, I put the Pittsburgh full off until new year when I had surgery on my abdomen. That surgery reset me to zero but I still tried to do a marathon that year. I ran the Indianapolis full in 2017 and added a half hour to my previous marathon time.

I wanted to do the Pittsburgh full marathon in 2018, but at the end of 2017, I tripped and face planted, breaking my nose and pride. By the time I recovered from that, bronchitis came roaring into my lungs and hung out there for a solid month.  Last year, I put the Pittsburgh full off until this year.

This is my mother-fracking year. I am going to do this. I had a couple of challenges, namely bronchitis yet again.  My umpteenth bout with bronchitis and my one billionth sinus infection during this recent training cycle actually led me to installing an internal french drain in my basement. I am tired of getting sick, damnit.

 For the first time ever, I am actually consistently cross-training during a training cycle. I have been seeing a trainer once a week, and I’ve been working on weights and core. Friends, I actually have a bicep muscle. Squee! The other day, the trainer referred to me as Quadzilla. Other people can actually see the progress I’ve made since I decided to accomplish this goal of mine and get this White Whale. I am giving it everything that I can.

Pittsburgh, in all its hills and pot holes, is my White Whale. Just even thinking about running the  Pittsburgh fullmade me think I could be more than a sickie, that I could be a runner. That I could actually be an athlete. Growing up, I was the weirdo kid who you did not want on your team during gym class, so for me to even be considered athletic is mind boggling.

Pittsburgh is my white whale because if I end up not being able to do any marathons after this, I will be okay because I did the race I have always wanted to do.

I’m fundraising for the Cystic Fibrosis foundation, which does amazing work for those living with Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. My cousin Kathryn’s children, Andrew and Cece, have Cystic Fibrosis. I want these little ones to grow up as strong and healthy as they can be, and the CFF is the foundation making that happen. Whatever you can donate, I appreciate it, and if you can’t donate,  please share!

https://www.crowdrise.com/o/en/campaign/runtocurecf2019/lkhuffman

 

Half Marathon #15 – Richmond

The race that I have been training for has come and gone. Shortly after my [redacted] diagnosis and the depression that followed, I thought it would be best to drop down from the marathon to the half marathon. I was under a lot of stress, and the last thing I needed was self-inflicted stress while I dealt with medical issues.

Frankly, it was the best decision I have made recently. I felt a weight lifted off me, and I could start training again and focus on having fun.

Beloved boyfriend and I arrived at Richmond on Friday where we picked up my half marathon packet. When I had signed up for the full marathon, I had paid for them to pay for my bib and shirt to be mailed to my house. As such, I had a Richmond marathon shirt, not a half marathon shirt.

I brought it into the expo, and when I went to get my half marathon shirt, I tried explaining to two volunteers why I was giving back a shirt. “You … can keep the shirt,” the man responded after I explained why I was trying to give it back.

“I can’t wear a shirt of a race I didn’t do,” I said aloud, slowly feeling like a crazy person.

Another volunteer laughed and took the shirt. “I get it,” he promised me. I heard him say to the other guy, “Runners, man.”

On race day, I woke up feeling ready and confident. I began putting on the race outfit I laid out the day before… only to realize I had packed yoga pants, not running tights. What the hell, Huffman! I went through a momentary bout of panic because I hadn’t run in yoga pants since I started a couch to 5k.

I also thought I’d look like a total running hobbyist by running a half marathon in frickin’ yoga pants. Why do I own so many black running tights that I confuse them with my black yoga pants? Also, why don’t I separate yoga and running pants? Argh. Given that I had no other choice, I put my big girl pants on figuratively and put my actual pants on literally. I looked and felt like a jagoff, but I had nothing else to wear.

During the run, y’all, I felt mostly great. The weather was perfect running weather, and the course elevation was tame compared to Pittsburgh. During the 5th mile, I had to stop and adjust my right sock twice because it felt off. (Turns out, I was right because I had a giant blister on my big right toe. Guess I didn’t fix the sock problem.)

Throughout the run, I focused on my breathing, not shrugging my shoulders, and lifting my damn legs. I had to fight the urge to shuffle my feet and shrug my shoulders. I stopped at every water stop and drank water, or I stopped to eat the Gu chews. Hell, I walked a couple of spots just to get my heart rate back down.

The best part of the race had to be downhill finish. I know when I came to the end, I probably had a huge grin on my face. I hyped myself up and said, “Let’s do this, Huffman,” and I went flying down that hill. The first part of my final mile, I had to walk for 30 seconds. That makes that 10:17 mile at the end even more fist bump worthy.

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I’m happy with my time! I can’t remember the last time I had so many miles in the 10-minute pace. I didn’t have an overall time goal, only just to finish and have fun. Mission freaking accomplished.  I finished, and I’m proud of my time.

I went through a lot to get to this mindset and place. It took me awhile but I have stopped comparing myself now to what I used to be able to do. That never helped me and just made me feel angry at myself.  I’m looking at each training cycle in the present, and keeping the past (especially results before a 5-inch incision in my abdomen) in the past.

For my 15th half marathon, I listened to my coach and checked my pride at the door. I knew what I had been doing was wrong with a capital W, so I listened to the coaching and advice from Coach Dan. I’m glad I did because this is one of the best results I have had in a while.

Looking forward to half marathon #16 – maybe I”ll see the 2:10-19 range again…. that’s the beauty of running. There’s always the next race. [Redacted] will take a lot from me, but it cannot and will not take my running from me. I may have [redacted] but I am a mother-fucking runner.

Pittsburgh Dick’s Half Marathon 2015: my fourth half marathon

When I began my training season for the Pittsburgh Half 2015, I had lofty goals and ambitions.  “I’m going to run the 15 mile race for Spring Thaw.”  “I’m going to run the Pittsburgh half under two hours.”  Boy, I thought highly of myself and greatly underestimated how much free time I actually had.  Neither of my goals happened and yet, I’m okay with it.

Given the sub-zero weather in February and its affect on my training, I only felt prepared to run the 10-mile race for the Spring Thaw.  If I had attempted to run 15 when my weekly mileage was as low as it was, then I would have injured myself.  When I crossed the finish line for the Spring Thaw and receive my 10-miler finisher’s medal, I vowed, “Next year, I’ll run the 15 mile race.”

For the half marathon for Just a Short Run in March, I treated it like a training run and not something I should attempt to PR (i.e., achieving a personal record).  The weather that morning was 15 degrees, and like everyone else, I was shivering and shaking.

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If it wasn’t for the fact I was running with a friend, I probably would have bowed out after the 8.1 mile mark.  My total time for Just a Short Run was 2:28, a minute longer than my first half marathon time, aka my worst time.  Even though I know the freezing weather played a huge part, I still felt disappointed at my time.

In the days leading up to the Pittsburgh Half, I was convinced that I was going to be lucky if I even beat my 2:27 time from last year.  I never made it to any speed workouts, and if you want to get faster, then a runner has to make it to the track.  I didn’t.  Life kept getting in the way.  I was beating myself up – figuratively, of course.

I ended up heading to the half marathon by my lonesome self since I hadn’t been in contact with my fellow West View Fleet Feet’er.  By the time I got downtown and my bag checked, I had missed my charity team’s group picture (boo).  I also didn’t make it to the Steel City Road Runners’ hospitality tent prior to the race.  Nothing really went as planned.

Before the race began, I only ran into one other person I know in my assigned corral.  Thanks to her, I had a before picture of me.  I was there!  (I have looked through many photographers’ marathon pictures and alas, I didn’t find me anywhere.)

Who wears short shorts?  I wear short shorts.

Who wears short shorts? I wear short shorts.

It was around mile 9 when I realized, “Holy shit, I’m going to beat my time.”  I couldn’t believe it!  I was maintaining a pace of around 10:10 comfortably.  I made sure I took water at every fluid station and even took two water cups at a later station.  I took my Guu (aka Gewwww) every four miles.  The hotter temperature wore me down around mile 11, and I had to walk for about 15 seconds to get my hear rate back down.

I crossed the finish line at 2:14:02, beating my previous time by 13 minutes!

b03944a802a40aedce01c6dab24f7a6fNow I’ll definitely be making it to track workouts in the near future.  I’m signed up for three more half marathons, and come hell or high water, I will run a half marathon under two hours.  Just you wait.