Posts Tagged ‘running’

I was going to write a Lent update today, but when looking at posts from Lent last year I discovered this one about J discovering how delicious peanut butter is. That actually never became a problem– he doesn’t eat it on a regular basis so my stash is still my own– but what I was floored by was how the price of peanut butter has changed. Less than one year ago, I wrote that I paid 3.50 EUR for a jar of peanut butter at the Stockmann grocery store (which, as far as I know, is the only place that sells the American brands). Do you want to know how much I paid for a jar from that same store about 2 weeks ago? 5.60 EUR.  That’s $7.50! I know it’s ridiculous, but I was desperate. Fortunately we’re going to the States again in just a few short weeks (I can’t believe we’re going again so soon!) so then I can stock up on peanut butter that isn’t absurdly overpriced.

So the price of peanut butter changing is clearly not so nice. But some change is good– like, for example, J getting a new job at an exciting Estonian company! Our everyday routine is much different now, mainly because he used to work from home so he’d pretty much always be here. Now he works long days and gets home after 7, which means I have some time to myself at home (which used to happen very rarely) plus I’ve been cooking more so that dinner will be ready when J gets home (yes, I’m such a good little soon-to-be-wife). Hopefully some of my cooking will make it onto the poor neglected blog eventually as well.

Oh, one more change just came to mind! Please don’t hate me when I say this (it kind of makes me hate myself a little bit), but I’ve become one of those people who loves exercising in the morning. I used to be a solid after-work-and-on-weekends runner and I thought that exercising before work would make me get sleepy during the day. But somehow I discovered that waking up just half an hour earlier and running before work leaves me feeling amazing for the rest of the day. I know, what an annoying thing for me to say… but it’s true! I must confess that there was also an external factor motivating me to get up in the mornings– every since the new year began it has been so hard to get a treadmill at the gym after 5 pm, but in the mornings? The place is practically deserted, and I rather like the feeling of having the gym to myself!

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Another half marathon!

Remember when I ran my first half marathon last year? J and I knew that we definitely wanted to do another one this spring/summer. It took some time to find one that fit our schedules — we didn’t want to do Helsinki again, and a half marathon-ish trail race (the distance is actually 23.4 km — random) interfered with J’s exam schedule. Then we discovered a race being held for the first time: the Rakvere Ööjooks (Night Run), which offered three distances (5k, 10k, half marathon) and was taking place the night before a big song festival in Rakvere that my choir would be participating in. Perfect!

But of course race prep doesn’t always go smoothly. My left IT band (which connects to the knee) started bothering me and I had to skip many training runs, especially longer ones. My knee would be fine up to a certain point, but after 10 km I’d start to feel tightness and then pain. I started stretching and doing exercises to strengthen my IT band. J also had some issues and had to stop training for a while. At one moment it seemed like we both might be dropping down to the 10k or even the 5k distance. A week before the race I ran 10k with no pain and decided to go for the half. J, unfortunately, decided not to run at all. However, a friend of ours was also going to be running, and just before the race started we decided we’d start off together and see how it goes.

I was worried about so many things. I worried my knee pain would get so bad I wouldn’t be able to continue, or that I’d just be too tired. The race was starting at 9:30 on a Friday night, and it had been a hot and tiring day. I’ve only even done long runs when I’m well-rested on the weekend! And what if my training hadn’t been sufficient?

Well, I needn’t have worried — we rocked it! My friend and I ended up running together the whole time, keeping a slow, even pace. We only walked at water stops. After about kilometer 15 we weren’t talking as much anymore, but I think having somebody to run with helped to motivate us both. I never once turned on my iPod, which was so surprising — I never run without music! My knees (both of them!) started to hurt around kilometer 13, but it never got so bad that I was limping. The course was full of rolling hills, which of course sucked going up but felt nice going down. The last 4 km were hard, but we just kept trudging one, and even managed a sprint at the end. He crossed the finish before me, but our official time was the same: 2:12:10. That’s 15 minutes off my time from last year!! 🙂

Overall I have to say the race was a huge confidence-booster for me. The half marathon distance still intimidates me, but even in less-than-ideal conditions I managed to do really well. I’ve clearly developed as a runner, so hopefully the next time I do a half I won’t be so scared beforehand!

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Just a quick update

Days since I last posted: 13

Number of days I’ve spent away from Tallinn: 3

Races run: 1 (the same 7k race I ran three years ago and also last year, when I failed to write about it)

Time in 7k race last year: 40:02

Time in 7k race this year: 40:02 (how weird is that??)

Number of meals eaten away from home: 9

Alcohol units consumed: no idea (first I had a 2-day team-building retreat with my department and then J’s parents were visiting, hence lots of eating and drinking out)

Number of new foods tried: 1 (Georgian dumplings called khinkali)

Average hours of sleep per night: about 6 (this is not good; I function best with 8-9 hours)

Number of days until my mother comes to visit: 8!

Number of days before I post again with pictures: hopefully just 1 🙂

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My first half marathon

This is a long post and only slightly food-related!

When J and I got off the ferry in Helsinki last Saturday, I was feeling pretty anxious. It had been cloudy and raining on and off all day on Friday, and the weather for Helsinki on race day was supposed to be about the same. I was excited about running, but the thought of being wet and cold totally discouraged me. And J hadn’t slept well the night before and wasn’t feeling great, so I was anxious for him too.

After a quick coffee in the city centre we made our way to the race office, which was located in the sports centre next to the Helsinki Olympic Stadium. We got our numbers and t-shirts around 12 and then had nothing but time to kill until the start (the race started at 3, but J was in the group starting at 3:20 and I was starting at 3:40). So we walked around, ate the sandwiches and snacks we’d packed, went and got some tea, and then around 1:30 we decided there was nothing left to do but get dressed. That hour and a half seemed like such a long time to fill. Once dressed we went to walk outside and check out the starting areas. Walking around in my running clothes I was a little chilly (it was cloudy and around 8-9 C), but I kept reassuring myself that once the race started I would feel great, not cold at all. And hey, at least it wasn’t raining! But still, the anxiety was building up and for some reason all I felt like doing was crying. I did a little, and it helped to get it out of my system. Finally, at around 2:50, J and I said good-bye and he headed to his starting area. I went inside the race office to make some final adjustments to my shoes and socks and warm up a bit, and before I knew it I was heading to the starting area myself, with the other blue number-wearers. Then the horn sounded and we were off.

Me before the race

I was surprised by how hilly the course was. Finland is an extremely flat country, but on the course that snaked around Helsinki we had some pretty decent ups and downs. We went around some ponds, along some railroad tracks (definitely the ugliest part of the course), and through some beautiful parks, which were my favorite part. It was a great way to see the city :-). When I got to kilometer 5 and my hip hadn’t started to hurt, I felt relieved and happy I had given myself some time to heal before the race. I did feel some tightness in that spot, but I stopped to stretch it at the two middle hydration stops and it helped. At kilometer 10 I was so excited– almost halfway. I planned to really celebrate at the 11-km marker, but somehow I missed it so the next one I saw was 12 km, which was even better. I knew at that point I could do it. The weather kept changing– it started to drizzle twice, then the sun came out briefly. I think around kilometer 14 was when it started to get really challenging. My feet hurt and, well, I was just getting tired. But I kept going, every once in a while walking briefly or eating a fruit-flavored glucose tab for a bit of energy (I also drank Gatorade at 2 of the 4 hydration stops). Every kilometer marker brought a burst of joy– I’m getting closer, I’m almost there. In kilometer 18 it started to rain rather hard and all I could think was you’ve got to be kidding me. Luckily it didn’t last too long, but long enough to soak my sleeves, leggings and hat (not shoes, though). After kilometer 20 I think I was fueled by the pure excitement of being so close to the finish. YES. And then I crossed the finish, scanning the crowd for J but not seeing him, and it was over. I was done. I did it (in 2:26:50).

Maali means “finish” in Finnish

At the finish they handed out bananas, cereal bars, and individual serving-size boxes of soy milk to the runners. I grabbed some snacks and a cup of water and went to the meeting point J and I had agreed on. He wasn’t there and I wondered if he was hanging around at the finish, not aware that I had already crossed it. I looked around but couldn’t spot his hat in the crowd. I stretched a bit. I was starting to get cold in my wet clothes, not to mention nervous. He hadn’t been feeling well. What if he ran too hard and collapsed? Or hurt his knee? I didn’t have my phone with me and was starting to feel a little frantic. I had just decided to wait 5 more minutes, then go inside to warm up and figure out what to do, when the race announcer began speaking in English: “This is an announcement for Marika. J is waiting for you in the first aid area”. I felt simultaneously relieved and terrified– I knew where he was, but what had happened?

It took me a few minutes to find the first aid area. I ran in and looked around but didn’t see J until he began waving at me. I hadn’t noticed him because he had changed his shirt from the one he was wearing earlier, and also, his eyes were swollen shut and he was wearing an oxygen mask. I ran over and of course burst into tears, but immediately J was pulling off the mask to choke out “I’m fine” and there was a medic beside me saying, “Don’t panic. He’s OK, he just had an allergic reaction to something in the soy milk.” OMG. I pulled myself together, but that moment– seeing him with the oxygen mask and an IV in his arm, eyes so swollen I don’t even know how he saw me, not knowing how he had actually gotten to the first aid area in the first place– was so scary. I sat down beside and rested my head on his shoulder. He took off the mask again and asked through his swollen throat, “How was the race?” “It was good,” was all I could think of to say. “How was yours?” “I rocked it.”

The medics wanted to take him to the hospital just in case, since his reaction had clearly been a very strong one, so I sprinted to the race office to grab our stuff (if you had told me that I’d be running that hard to get anywhere right after the race, I never would’ve believed you) so I could get to the hospital in the same ambulance as him. While he was getting checked out I was able to change out of my racing clothes and eat a small snack. Then I was allowed to go back into the room to hang out with him. His symptoms were getting better all the time, but they wanted to keep him until midnight to make sure everything was OK. Of course I finally got to hear the whole story– after he finished (in 2:00:23!!) he’d gulped down 2 boxes of soy milk. After that when he went to change his eyes felt incredibly itchy and his nose started running. He recognized it as an allergic reaction and had already gone to the first aid area when things started to get worse (his eyes and throat swelling). Luckily they acted quickly and managed to give him things to prevent the symptoms from getting any worse. After about 5 hours in the hospital, they let him out and we headed to our friend’s apartment, since we’d missed our ferry back to Tallinn. My body must have hated me because I hadn’t been able to eat or drink anything while sitting with him, so I was very hungry and definitely dehydrated (he, on the other hand, had been on an IV drip the whole time, which definitely helped his post-race recovery!!).

So that’s the story of our first half marathon. A day that we always would have remembered anyway was made even more memorable by an unexpected allergic reaction and a trip to a Finnish hospital. Hopefully that’s one experience we’ll never have to repeat, but as for the race– there will definitely be more of those in our future.

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It was an adventure, all right

Haha… reading the final line of my last post makes me laugh a little. I knew our first half marathon experience would make for a unique and exciting day, but as sometimes happens, life brings some unexpected twists we can’t even begin to anticipate. We were both successful in the half– me with a time of 2:26:50, and J with a time of 2:00:23 (the man is a speed demon!). It was after the end of the race that things got a little crazy– I’ll be back with the whole story tomorrow!

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I’m ready

So. It appears I’m running a half marathon in two days. Yikes? Actually, training has gone really well and I know I’m capable to running the distance (the greatest distance I did while training was 11.6 miles [18.6 km]). The only snag has been that the last few times I ran, I felt a pain on the front of my right hip that starts after about 2 miles and then just stays there. It doesn’t get worse, and it stays sore for about 12-18 hours after running, then goes away completely. Walking, using an elliptical trainer, and having to be on my feet for three days in my most professional heels don’t bother it at all. What gives? So now I haven’t run at all for nearly two weeks (and the two weeks before I ran very little, alternating runs with elliptical workouts), so I hope whatever it is has healed up so I can get through the race. I don’t want to worry about pain. Happy thoughts only.

I was kind of surprised that even during the high point of training (when I was doing 17-22 miles per week), my appetite wasn’t all that different. In the afternoon and evening after a long run, I did tend to get hungry fairly soon after eating, but since I’m one of those eat-every-two-to-three-hours people anyway, it really didn’t feel all that different. I will, however, say this: the first thing you eat after completing a long run is the best-tasting thing IN THE WORLD.

I also just realized that I never talk on the blog about what my normal eating habits actually are– I tend to only write about eating or making something special. Well, to assure you that my days do not consist entirely of cookies and fried chicken, soon I’ll do a little overview of what I eat on a daily basis. I know I complain quite a bit about the foods that I can’t get here, but there are also plenty of wonderful things available here in Estonia that I happily thrive on.

Anyway, wish me luck for Saturday! We’re getting up early (well, only a little earlier than usual) to catch the ferry to Helsinki, then we have a few hours to hang around and eat lunch. We have to be at the race area to pick up our numbers by 1:00 and the race starts at 3:00, and since I’m in the slow starting group my start isn’t until 3:40! Kinda bummed about that for some reason, but what can you do. After the race we’re going to have dinner and then hop on the ferry, which will arrive back in Tallinn at midnight. It’s gonna be an adventure for sure :-).

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Will run for food

I know I already talked about my food and blog-related resolutions for the year, but I have one more I want to share. It’s not directly food-related and it’s also not really a resolution, more like something I just decided I want to do. I decided that I want to attempt running a half-marathon, so J and I signed up for the Helsinki City Run on May 8. That’s exactly ten weeks from yesterday. I’m simultaneously excited and completely terrified.

I’ve never considered myself much of an athlete, and my race-running history has developed slowly. I ran my first 5k in October of 2006 with Siret. Training for that race made me feel like a runner– able to run for more than a few minutes at a time– for the first time in my life. While I continued to run to stay in shape, I didn’t run another race until May 2008, a 7k here in Tallinn. I signed up for a 10k in the spring of last year, but in the end I didn’t run it because it was just a few days before we left for our trip to London and I didn’t have time (I would’ve been ready for the race, though!). I actually ran my first 10k race in September of 2009, the SEB Tallinna Sügisjooks, with a time of 1:08:12. That race was so much fun… it was an incredibly warm and sunny day for September, and there were various music groups performing every kilometer or so along the route, which was very fun and entertaining.  I think my favorite was the guys beat-boxing at kilometer 3. The 10k felt really good, and after that I couldn’t help but wonder whether I could do more. I’ll never be marathon material, but a half… I could do it. I think. I don’t usually run for time, but in this race my goal is to finish in under 3 hours, because only the people finishing under 3 hours get medals. And I want that medal.

I’m not going to write about my running all the time and turn this into a fitness blog. But I’ll probably give some updates as I start building up mileage and increasing my own personal distance records. Plus with all that running, I’ll be able to allow myself a few more chocolate chip cookies!

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