Monday, September 20, 2010

CVS Downtown 5k Weekend, Part 2

When I last left you, Jordan had just finished a solid race at the CVS Downtown 5k and I had just jogged for six minutes. Naturally, this meant that I was hungry for an early afternoon breakfast. Fortunately Jeff and Jordan were amenable to this, so without further ado we set off in the direction of their former stomping grounds near Brown. We enjoyed a tasty, if alarmingly inexpensive, meal of flapjacks and eggs and other hallmark breakfast products at the infamous Louie's diner (home of the grilled muffin, which I'm told really hits the spot for a post-drinking pre-hangover early morning snack). Next on the agenda: a walking tour of Brown University, in which we reminisced every memory that Jeff and Jordan had ever experienced whilst walking those hallowed halls. (Most of this portion of the day consisted of me smiling and nodding and saying non-specific things like, "Oh, cool" or "Okay" or "Is that right" after one of them said something completely insignificant to me like, "And THIS is where one time that really weird janitor told us he killed a guy" or whatever. Good times.)

Me, Jeff and--most importantly--my sweet shoes

But seriously though, it was a fun day. As always, I enjoyed spending some QT with Jeffrey and was sad to see him go later in the afternoon. This meant that Jordan and I had time to relax and chill at Kim's until our new friends Molly and Roisin came over. Basically we decided to throw ourselves a little mini-party at Kim's while awaiting her seemingly endless arrival from the airport. We knew it's what she would've wanted us to do. Molly brought over a bottle of wine brilliantly named "The Crusher," which naturally was the sole reason for her purchase. That pretty much set the tone for the rest of the evening, which was tame by most people's standards but a fun way to finish out the day. (Oh, and we did manage to save a glass or two that Kim enjoyed once she did finally arrive home. We're thoughtful that way.)

Monday morning was cool and breezy and crisp with a hint of fall in the air--in short, weather that made it virtually impossible not to go for a run. Surprisingly, Jordan permitted me a brief outing of no more than two miles, which I eagerly accepted. After all, it's not every day that one gets to run with two national record holders (Roisin, who claims the Irish steeplechase record) and Kim (who holds, well, pretty much every distance record in New Zealand except the steeple). And, of course, don't forget we also had a Thunder Marathon winner in our midst as well. Gotta celebrate greatness on all scales, am I right?

Eat an entire loaf of bread minutes before the morning run? Why not.

At this point I'm going to take a brief tangent to discuss an idea that I think most of us runners can relate to. And that is this: it's all relative. Training is relative, talent is relative, and certainly being "fast" is relative. I bring this up, of course, because of the highly distinguished company I found myself among this weekend. In addition to Kim and Roisin, there's Molly (who, as I mentioned in yesterday's post, is the new US 5k record holder) and the rest of the elite field at CVS. Back in Charlotte, where Jordan and I live and train, most people consider us to be pretty fast. Even collegiately, at the D2 level, most people would categorize me as not that bad. But then we come here and find ourselves surrounded by people who are an entire level--or, as Jordan expressed when we were discussing this over coffee, multiple levels--above us. Like, we're almost quite literally not in the same race. Now, the thing is, he and I already know this. We are students of the sport and we fully grasp our own inadequacies. But I would venture to say that 99% of recreational runners and maybe even "competitive" local runners have no idea of the orders of magnitude separating, say, someone like Jordan who runs a 15-minute 5k and someone like Molly who is a girl who runs a sub-15-minute 5k. To put it another way, consider this: in Sunday's Philly Half, Kim split 31:53 through 10k en route to her 1:08:3x finish. I would sell my hypothetical firstborn to run one 10k, downhill, wind at my back at that pace. And here's the kicker: she didn't even win. So as many light years as someone like Kim is ahead of me, she still wasn't the best on that day and in that particular race. Frankly, it boggles the mind. And I think that sometimes we elevate these extraordinarily talented people in our heads to a status that is almost non-human, because it's so hard to wrap our brains around the times that they run. We see them as so far removed from our own lowly running lifestyles that we can't even picture what they might do on a day to day basis.

And then you spend time with them and realize that Kim is just a normal person who runs two times a day and always loses her house key and almost hits parked cars withou
t her glasses on, who also happens to have this extraordinary talent and who works exceptionally hard to maximize it. And you realize that every race, every win, every record starts out the same way: with waking up and going for a run. And that, my friends, is what I set out to do today.

So how's that for a transition back to the run at present? We cruised downhill from Roisin's house and onto the crushed gravel boulevard where Jordan and all the Brownies did much of their training. Fortunately Kim and Jordan were tired from yesterday's effort and Roisin is just getting over her own injury, so no one was itching to push the pace. Had they done so, I would've swiftly and without so much as a whimper fallen straight off the back and no doubt gotten lost forever. Instead, they were all gracious enough to run me back to Roisin's after slightly less than two miles before finishing their own run. As for my foot, while I wouldn't say it was painful, I also wouldn't say things felt quite right. Regardless, this was a great benchmark for me to establish and also confirmation that I need to wait another week before really getting back into it. Overall I'm taking it as an encouraging sign.

However, the thing about going for coffee at 9 and running at 10:30 means the day is pretty much over with before it's begun. Within a few hours of returning to Kim's it was time for me to take Jordan to the airport. I'll be staying over with Kim another night (did I mention she's the best hostess ever??) before heading to Boston to officially begin my position with Craft and Karhu tomorrow. While I was sad to see Jordan go--I feel like I just started spending time with him for the first time in weeks, and now I won't see him again for quite a few more days--I'm incredibly excited about beginning a new phase of my life and my career tomorrow. The fun and relaxed weekend here in Providence was the perfect way to ease into this transition. And, as promised, it was a great opportunity to catch up with old friends and make some new ones. I'm already looking forward to our next visit for Campus Dance '11. Until next time, PVD.

From Brown Bear to Karhu Sisu

Sunday, September 19, 2010

CVS Downtown 5k Weekend, Part 1

At long last, the CVS Downtown 5k (and US 5k Championships) has finally arrived. Though I was understandably bummed about not being able to compete this morning, the circumstances afforded me the unusual (for me) opportunity to spectate; more specifically, to spectate an elite race in which Jordan was participating. This was his third time to compete in the Downtown 5k but my first time to attend, and I was looking forward to experiencing the buzz surrounding an event of this magnitude.

The trip started early on Saturday morning with our flight to PVD. Jordan and I were on the same flight with Pezz, who was also competing. She ran 17:02 for around 20th place at this event last year but was hoping to improve upon both her place and her finish this time around. Our northbound flight was unev
entful, and before we knew it we were hitching a ride on the race shuttle to the elite athletes' hotel downtown. After spending a few hours enjoying the familiar downtown sights we cabbed it over to our weekend accomodations at the home of our friend Kim Smith. Kim was not only gracious enough to offer us a place to stay for the weekend, but she didn't even mind us making ourselves at home on Saturday while she was out of town preparing to beat up on some girls at the Philly Half-Marathon. Her friend and fellow Providence grad Richie Yeates and his girlfriend were also taking advantage of Chez Kim for the night, which further solidifies Kim's position as the most gracious hostess ever.

Checking out the action before the start of the race

Race morning dawned sunny and clear and surprisingly warm. The warmth would become even more noticeable as race time approached considering that the gun would not be fired until after 11am. I can't remember the last time I've run or witnessed a 5k road race that started this late. So late, in fact, that we had time to wake up and drink coffee while watching the online feed of the Philly Half-Marathon in its entirety before even thinking about departing for our own race. (Naturally, the Philly coverage was spotty at best and only followed the male runners, which meant we didn't get to see a step of Kim's race. We found out later that she totally rocked it and finished 5th despite being in the middle of marathon training, and made up over 10 seconds over the last 5k to almost overtake Shalane Flanagan.)

Jordan, Jeff and the legendary Johnny G

Just before 10am we hopped in the car with Richie and Corrine and made our way back into downtown. I wasn't quite sure what to do with myself for the seemingly endless hour until the race start, but fortunately I passed the time meeting new people (like Jordan's former college coach and mentor John Gregorek) and catching up with old (my friend Jennie from Atlanta and the one and only Jeffrey "G-Unit" Gaudette, both spectating the race). The final minutes before the race were spent strategizing how best to maximize our time on the course, as we wanted to see the start and the finish and as many mile markers as possible in between. Fortunately Jeff was quite familiar with the course and was ready with sound instructions. I must admit I was a bit apprehensive because I realized that in order to truly watch the race unfold, I would have to run--and not slowly--from point to point. I haven't run a step in three weeks and didn't plan for my tester jog to take place today, but I didn't have much choice. Sometimes you have to man up on game day, even if you have a concussion. (How's that for an metaphor, Jilane?)

At 11:15 sharp the race commenced, and before we knew it a veritable throng of athletes were descending down the first hill. I have no doubt that all of them were relishing the downhill, just as I know they were already dreading the return trip up a few miles later. As the athletes rounded the first corner, the spectating contingent (consisting mostly of myself, Jennie, Corinne, Jeff, and the Brown and Providence College xc teams) made a mad dash to the mile marker. My first steps out of the gate felt a bit awkward and clunky for sure, but to my relief there was no pain, just mild discomfort. At this point I'll take it. We reached the mile marker just in time to see the lead group come through under 4:30. Jordan was off the back of this group but not far behind in 4:35, the fastest he's gone out in a 5k all year. I yelled at him that he looked great and immediately began praying that he wouldn't die an agonizing death late in the race. The lead female, newly crowned 5k American record holder Molly Huddle, came through right around five minutes. This also made me happy, because I'd told Jordan beforehand that if Molly beat him he most definitely was not allowed to come home. (And, to be honest, it wasn't completely out of the realm of possibility. Molly just ran 14:44 on the track a few weeks ago, which is identical to Jordan's 5k PR on the road. Yikes.)

The lead pack mid-race. Jordan is somewhere in the vicinity.

As soon as the elites passed by we took off again to the second mile marker, then had a few minutes to hurry up and wait for the runners to approach. Jordan split right around five minutes for this mile, still well off the lead pack but well ahead of Molly (whew). It was cool to see all the Brown team members, most of whom don't even know Jordan because they're much younger than him, yelling his name and cheering him on. I'm sure it gave him a much-needed boost at the point when he was starting to fatigue. I only caught a brief glimpse of Pezz as she sped by, but it looked as though she was holding her own and putting together a phenomenal race. I shouted her name over my shoulder before darting off again.

View of the uphill finish

Onward toward the finish line! I'm a bit embarrassed to say I was breathing way more heavily than anyone should after six total minutes of running, but at least my foot wasn't cracking in half. It's all about the small victories. We reached the bottom of the hill just in time to see the leaders rounding the final bend several strides ahead of the chase pack. Unfortunately, the home stretch consisted entirely of the aforementioned uphill, which meant that only the strongest person would win out. We found out later that the strongest man would be Robert Cheseret, who powered up the final incline to take his first national title as a US citizen. I barely noticed who else passed except to count their positions, straining my neck every few seconds to see if I could spot the familiar Karhu/Craft singlet. Jordan rounded the final bend in 24th position, looking strong but definitely laboring. Jeff clocked his three-mile split at just over 14:25, which meant he would have to hustle to crack 15 minutes and best his performance from last year.

In the end, Jordan would miss this marker by one elusive se
cond, but it barely mattered. He managed to pull off his fastest race of the season despite a few crazy weeks of traveling and sluggish legs. And, more importantly, he had the chance to run on his home turf with his friends and coach cheering him on. Though I would be lying if I denied feeling a few pangs of longing as I stood by on the sidelines, for the most part I was just grateful to be outside enjoying the gorgeous early autumn day and watching a fantastic race. Speaking of fantastic races, I couldn't be prouder to share that Pezz finished in fifth place and set a new road PR of 16:29. She has struggled with her share of injuries during her short running career and deserves to finally reap the benefits of her patience and persistence.

And that, my friends, is my recap of the CVS Downtown 5k. And now that the serious business is out of the way, it's time to make the most of our remaining hours in Providence. Post-race celebration details to foll

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Following the Sport

Weezy checking out her favorite blog...The Ok Runner

Clearly this entry caught her attention

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Moving Forward

This blog post will not be about running, since I've been doing none of that lately (unless you count miles of the aquatic variety). Instead, it will be about some significant life changes that are about to begin unfolding in rapid succession. (And no, before you get all excited, Jordan and I are not engaged and I am not even remotely pregnant. Just thought I would clarify that up front so as not to cruelly tease you the way Jordan did when he text messaged both of his parents with the deliberately misleading "Big news in the Kinley/Nedlo household!" So mean.)

No, the lifestyle change in question does not involve altering my relationship status on Facebook. (Although, now that I think about it, Jordan still to this day refuses to be "in a relationship" with me on Facebook at all. So now we have established that he is both mean and rude.) Rather, it involves a change of employment. As of next Monday, September 20th, I will henceforth be referred to as the North American Field Marketing Manager for Craft and Karhu. Sounds impressive, right? Basically it means that I will be Jordan's boss. (Not really, but I will at the very least parlay the title into some badass business cards.) What it really means is that I will be traveling far and wide and high and low and over hill and dale to spread the word about Craft and Karhu to the masses. One weekend I might be in Atlanta, the next weekend in Los Angeles. I might work an event in Boulder on a Saturday and then visit a store in DC the following Tuesday. Oh, and let's not forget Canada. Craft is huge time up there, which means j'ai besoin de recommencer etudier la francais maintenant. (The mere fact that I don't even know how to begin conjugating the previous sentence only reinforces my point.)

To say I'm excited is a gross understatement. I've worked in similar roles before with Brooks and Mizuno, but to have the opportunity to build a program from the ground up is a unique challenge. I will be meeting a ton of new faces, reconnecting with old ones, racking up the frequent flier miles and (soon, hopefully) running in diverse and unfamiliar locations, all while promoting a product line that I believe in 100%. And hey, if nothing else, it means you won't have to read 30 blogs in a row about me running a medium loop in Freedom Park. We all win here.

Needless to say, this recent development has distracted me a bit from the woes of my injured foot. (Although, as a side note, if you ever have the opportunity to navigate through an airport and travel by plane while wearing a walking boot, I can't stress enough how much I would discourage you from doing so. Even if it means limping around at your job interview and making everyone in the office question whether you are solely an affirmative action hire.) To be honest, though I'm still bummed about missing the US 10 Mile Champs and Caitlin's marathon debut at Twin Cities, I would've probably had to back out anyway on account of working the 13.1 race expo in Atlanta. Once again, life has shown me that things have a funny way of working out for the best even when that thought seems inconceivable in the throes of the moment.

It's time to move forward.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Injury Update

I hope you'll forgive me for last week's hiatus, but there wasn't much to report. It's a bit depressing to type "60 minutes pool jogging" or some variation thereof for every single entry, not to mention it doesn't exactly make for scintillating reading. During injuries past I've doggedly continued to update this thing every day, as though the act of typing out my cross-training activities would somehow translate into fitness gains, but this time I don't feel compelled to do so. Unfortunately for those of you who read my blog as a diversion from your workday minutiae, this means you'll have to find other ways to pass the time. But, as someone who tries to maintain a relentlessly optimistic attitude when it comes to my own injuries, I'm hoping this will only last for a few more weeks.

So, here's what I know so far: I know that it could be a stress fracture. Or that it might not. It could be soft tissue. Or, alternatively, it's just as likely to be something else. Got it? Are we clear? Good. Glad we're all on the same page. Seriously though, right now my diagnosis is a bit nebulous. My initial instinct was to label it a stress fracture, but as my condition has progressed during the past week I'm not so sure. For starters, my x-ray at Dr. Greenapple's revealed nothing. Or, to be more precise, it revealed nothing conclusive. There were a few abnormalities on the third metatarsal, but with my level of training it's hard to say whether they are recent developments or just lingering remnants of injuries that never quite crept up to the surface. To be fair, a brand new stress fracture would not be likely to show up on an x-ray anyway, so this was hardly an unexpected development. The only way to get a more definitive answer with imaging is to go the route of an MRI, but I've learned from previous experience that even a great insurance policy can leave you with bills upwards of $500. And for what? To continue doing--or not doing--what I'm doing already? The only time I've gotten one was with my first stress fracture, in my left tibia, almost five years ago. I naively agreed to get the MRI, which came back positive, and then the doctor said, "Well, just stay off of it for six more weeks like you've been doing already. Have a nice day." Thanks, but I'll pass this time.

The other reason we're hesitant to label it as a fracture is because my foot also failed (or passed?) the tried and true blue-collar stress fracture test: the tuning fork. Dr. G said that 90% of the time the tuning fork will accurately detect the presence of a fracture. On Monday, just two days after I felt that fateful pop at Greek Fest, he enacted the tuning fork test on my foot and I felt nothing. No pain, no discomfort, no indicator that the sound waves pulsing through my foot were vibrating against a broken and battered bone.

So, what does all this mean? To paraphrase the doctor from a few years ago, it basically means I should keep on staying off of it. So I'm wearing the boot when I'm at work or out and about during the day, which seems to help. I'm also submerging my foot in an icy trash can for three 10-minute cycles every night. And, for good measure, I'm sleeping in a compression sock. Beyond that there doesn't seem to be much that I can do in the way of treatment besides resting and thinking positive thoughts. And, to be honest, I'm already feeling much better. Anyone who witnessed me trying to hobble around under my own power late last weekend can attest to the fact that I was a mess. Today, though I'm still limping noticeably, I no longer feel the sharp pain under the ball of my foot every time I try to bear weight. I'm able to distribute the impact more or less evenly throughout my foot (as opposed to last weekend, when I was trying to stand entirely on the outside edge). So, while I still have a long way to go, it is encouraging to see how much progress I've made.

With that in mind, and with a moratorium on pity parties firmly in place, I've decided to use the next few weeks to try and build up strength in areas I've previously been neglecting. I'm going to make my core workouts more intense and more frequent, striving to strengthen parts of my body that I don't always focus on enough. I'm going to increase my iron consumption (both supplemental and natural) in hopes of raising my levels to their highest possible point when I begin training again. I've also finally started taking a calcium citrate supplement, which was much needed even before this latest incident. And, in what is probably the easiest part of this whole process, I'm getting caught up on my sleep. No more 6am runs (sorry, Caitlin) means no more 5am alarms, which means I can easily nab eight to 10 hours of sleep on any given night. This may not be helping my fitness, but I'm confident it will work wonders in helping my body heal and grow stronger for when I finally get back out there.

So that's where I'm at. It's not necessarily where I'd like to be, but things could definitely be worse. I'm going to try my hardest to be patient and to allow my foot all the time it needs to heal. And, in the meantime, maybe I'll surprise you with a few blogs that are not training-related. Stay tuned.