zubeneschamali: (chicago flowers)
[personal profile] zubeneschamali
Hi, LJ! This is the first of at least three posts that I've been meaning to make for a couple of months now. I traveled to Kentucky in February, and I have some interesting pics from that. Then I went to New York in March, where I got to hang out with [livejournal.com profile] bewaretheides15 and [livejournal.com profile] tebtosca, both of whom are as awesome in person as online (not that you had any doubts, right?). Next week, it's up to Chicago for my annual super-sized academic conference (6,700 papers are being presented in 5 days), and then the semester will be almost over, whee!

As I've been telling everyone, I expected that my knees would start giving me trouble once I got over 40. I just didn't expect it to happen THE WEEK AFTER I TURNED 40. In early January, I was training for the New York Half Marathon, which I had gotten into by lottery, pounding out 10 miles for the first time since Detroit in early November. My knee was bothering me, this kind of dull pain right above the kneecap, but I ran pretty gingerly and finished the whole 10 miles.

Which I probably shouldn't have done. It hurt even worse the next day, and the Internet in the form of Runner's World told me that I had the symptoms of runner's knee. (And that I've now knocked off 4 of the 7 most common running injuries; only 3 to go!) Prescription: rest, ice, exercises to strengthen the hips and thighs because that's the most common cause of runner's knee. And I do run like a girl, meaning I use my calves and ankles more than the big muscles of my upper legs, so when I started to do some of these exercises (like leg lifts) where you're meant to do something like 10 reps, 3 times each, and I could barely manage 8 reps, it was pretty good confirmation that yep, my hip and thigh muscles are that weak.

So I didn't really run for a month or so, just used one of the good ellipticals at the gym. Then I slowly, slowly started running on the treadmill, and then the track, and once I managed 9 miles I thought, heck, I can do 13.1 even if I have to walk a bit. So I went to New York, figuring I would honestly be happy just to finish. I didn't look at my time the whole way, just took it easy at the start. It was a really nice course, starting in the southeast corner of Central Park and going up to the top of the park and back down, then down 7th Ave. right into Times Square, which was freaking awesome. The only other time they close Times Square to traffic is for New Year's Eve, so this was pretty special. I had this huge dumbass grin on my face running right through it, and when I looked at my Garmin watch after the race, that mile was the fastest I ran on the whole course. Totally worth it just for that.

But that was only the first half of the course, and the second half was kinda boring, down the West Side Highway, under Battery Park at the very tip of the penis Manhattan, and then ending on Wall Street. My knee hardly hurt the whole time, but my foot on the opposite leg was killing me, and around mile 12, just for variety, my Achilles started to hurt. I told it very firmly to shut up, and it grudgingly subsided. I finished the race and almost started crying right then and there, because in January and February, I'd really been thinking that I wasn't going to be able to do it, and what if I couldn't run again anymore ever, and maybe this is the beginning of the inevitable decline of my body, and I was generally a grump about the whole thing. So when I got my finisher's medal (which was absolutely amazing; see below) handed to me, I really had to bite back tears.

The kicker? This was indeed my slowest half out of the six (six!) I've done so far--but only by 30 seconds.

One of my good friends from college who now lives in Boston just started running, too (hey, it's better than buying a midlife-crisis car), and we met up the day before and then he waited for me after the race. Both of us were pretty round when we started college, and we agreed that if you'd told us that we'd end up running a half marathon someday, we'd've said you were nuts. But we did!

My knee hardly bothered me at all. My foot, though, bore the brunt of my odd gait meant to keep my knee from hurting. So I'm only now starting to run again, a full month later, and going 3 miles is a chore. I've lost a lot of fitness, my knee twinges most days, and while I can feel that my hips and thighs are stronger, everything's not all better. I'm as slow as I was when I started running three years ago, so I really feel like I'm starting all over. :( It's really frustrating, especially when my college friend managed to go 20 MINUTES FASTER than his first half last fall, and I get slower almost every time I run a half. I feel like the only way I can get faster is to lose some weight, and we all know how hard that is to do.

But I signed up for a half in Seattle in July, which I'll do after visiting some fangirls in Vancouver, so we'll see how that goes...

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