Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Running After My Mojo

I've got to get back on track. Ever since the Race the Runways half marathon, my training has been nearly non-existent. First off, the week following the half I didn't run to heal blisters and chafing. I ran eight miles a week later and tweaked something in my foot. So I took the following week off from running to prevent further injury. I'm happy to report that I am feeling zero discomfort. I was itching to run during these two weeks and it was torture because I knew I couldn't.

I had to cut my long run with the girls on Sunday short, because I had volunteered to take pictures of the Habitat for Humanity Home Run and Walk 5K in Bath for Maine Running Photos. My photos are far from professional with my old, crappy point-and-shoot, but it felt good to volunteer for Maine Running Photos, a group of volunteer photographers that have been to nearly every single race that I have done. They don't get paid (hence volunteers) and provide runners with FREE race photos that are posted to Facebook and Flickr. Who doesn't love seeing their race photos? It was freezing with drizzle and I was shivering in between photos and tried to keep my hands from shaking. It was a fairly decent turnout with nearly 100 runners, including my first barefoot runner sighting and a bride and her bridesmaids who ran and donated money to Habitat for Humanity in lieu of a bachelorette party and wedding favors. 

I decided that today I'd get back on track with training, but I really wasn't feeling it. Tuesday is my track/speed workout, but I wasn't up in time to go to the high school. Finn has been doing better with sleeping and last night slept through the night without a peep, so I've been lingering in bed relishing in the extra sleep. It's making me soft. I also wasn't feeling up to a run on the treadmill. Since I am trying to ease back into training, I really needed to just go for a run, not worry about my pace and just go by feel. It wasn't raining this morning and temps were in the high 40s and it was perfect. I decided to run across the bridge into Edgecomb, a run Stacy does on a regular basis and the girls have done the last two times they have come to Wiscasset, but I have never done it. 

I was running at a moderate pace, though I wasn't looking at my watch. I was focusing on my form and footfalls. I wore my Pure Connects for the first time since the half. I love those shoes. They make a mid-foot/fore-foot strike effortless. I'm still loving my Ghosts for long runs, but I really have to concentrate on not heel-striking in them. Out of curiousity, I counted my steps to check my cadence. Professionals say for the best running form, your cadence (or stride rate) should equal 180 steps per minute regardless of pace. I've honestly never counted before, but I hit 180 on the dot! Yay! I could tell that my breathing was slightly labored, but that has to be expected after practically taking two weeks off. I ended up running 3.4 miles at an 8:55 pace. It was a great run. A happy run. And I'm looking forward to my next one on Thursday.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I will not get injured...I will not get injured...

I think the greatest fear that runners have is injury, myself included. In the past year I've been lucky (or have run smart) and haven't been hurt. Other than a little IT band discomfort from time to time or a slight shin splint, I've been injury free. 

I'm hoping my luck hasn't run out. After the half marathon, I might have felt a twinge of something in the outside of my left foot. Not a pain, just some discomfort - like a strain. I took the week off to heal the blisters I got (for the first time) and the chafing (also for the first time) and to just overall recover even though my legs felt awesome. Well, it was a recovery from running, but I still worked six nights last week on my feet. 

Anyway, I did an eight-miler with Kim and Meredith and felt fine. We were running harder than we usually do (Meredith is super speedy), but I didn't have any discomfort until we were done and I went to take off my shoes. Stabbing pain in my left foot and it felt like a serious charley-horse.

I put weight on my foot, particuarly the ball with no pain, but walking heel-to-toe was very uncomfortable. I'd get a shooting pain every once in a while especially when I did any sort of twisting movement. I laid low for the day until I had to go walk limp around at work for six hours.

Yesterday, we had plans to take the boys and dogs for a hike and swim, but I relaxed instead other than weeding out the gardens and raking the lawn. I did put up my foot and iced which felt better. 


It hurts right where the bottom arrow is pointing. In my non-professional opinion, I'm thinking it is peroneal tendonitis. Resting, icing my foot, and massaging my calf should make the difference. I've been wearing my Tommie Copper ankle sleeve and this morning it feels a lot better. 

Coming into racing season (even though I've raced year-round), I really don't want to be hurt and will take this time to rest. I have a 5K in a couple of weeks and then the Reach the Beach relay in mid-May that I can not miss. I'll see how it goes this week (another six-day work week) and play it by ear for next Sunday's long run.

In other news, congrats to all the Boston marathoners who ran in the heat. I followed many of you online and got all excited thinking of my first marathon this fall and dreaming of the time when I will qualify for Boston myself.

Also, Ian ran two miles yesterday and ran the whole way, even on the steepest hill in town. Props to my husband!

Friday, April 13, 2012

More Thoughts on My 21K.

In rereading, and reading again, my recap of my first half marathon, parts of it seem very pessimistic. In all honesty, I don't think of it that way, but it might have come across as such. 

A few months ago, I was talking to a customer at work who happens to also be a great runner. I told him I was going to be running my first half marathon in April. He immediately corrected me by telling me he only calls that race a 21K. His reasoning? 

It is not half, it is a whole race. 
It's a challenging distance that should not be downplayed by thinking you only ran half of something.

I am very proud that I accomplished such a feat. I don't want to trivialize that. Not everyone can run long distance or even run at all. The fact that I accomplished two out of three of my goals is a win. The goal of running a sub-1:50 was entirely possible and within my reach. I made a few mistakes, there was strong wind, and all the pieces didn't fall into place for that goal. No biggie. It was my first race at that distance, and like with everything there is a learning curve. The fact of the matter is, I am taking those mistakes and learning from them and will apply them to my next race. 

Try as I might not to, I compare myself to previous performances (such as my stellar 10-mile race in February) and I expect to at least do as well, if not better. I forget to take into account that it is a different race, a different course, under different weather conditions, on a different day. So much can affect a race performance and I can't really compare the two. 

One thing I meant to mention in my recap post was the significance of running this particular race as my first half...21K...whatever you want to call it. Last year I ran the Race the Runways 5K as my very first race in well over a decade. I felt it very fitting that I would run it as my first half. 

Okay, I'm going to do a little more comparing, but only to illustrate how far I've come so far in my running in just a year. Last year I finished the 5K in 27:12 or an 8:46 pace. This year, I ran the 21K in 1:52:03 or an 8:33 pace. And I've already established, I'm sure I could have done it even faster. But as it stands, I ran a race that is a full 10 miles longer at 13 seconds faster per mile. That's pretty sweet. How much faster will I be next year? I'm excited to find out!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Race the Runways Half Marathon Race Recap

I'm an official half marathoner. Very cool. Sometimes when I think of it, it's a great accomplishment. Other times, it's not a big deal. One thing is for certain, I learned a lot during that race - what to do and not to do - and I'm looking forward to tackling another one. 

I woke up race morning ready to go. I got a fairly good night of sleep. I got dressed and had two slices of peanut butter toast for breakfast. I arrived at the race venue with plenty of time and met up with my Rail Trail Chicks. It was so windy and cold, but there was nothing we could do about that, we just hope that we dressed semi-appropriately. 

We tried to perfectly time the last port-o-potty trip, but ending up having plenty of time. After heading to the starting line and doing a short warm-up with Jen, the race started nearly 20 minutes late! Ugh...freezing in the wind on the runway.

Jen, Stacy, Jill and me
Soon we were off and fast considering we were running into a stiff headwind. The plan, which was immediately thrown out the window, was to run around a 8:15-8:20 pace and try to negative split.

Mile 1 - 7:56 (oops...okay, we were excited at the start)

This part of the course was the start of the first out-and-back portion that we would repeat twice. It was flat, like most of the course, with one aid station that we would run past three times. I skipped it the first time being only 1.5 miles into the race. We reached the second mile marker - 7:45. CRAP! Why are we running so fast...and why does it feel so easy? Mile three is where we turned around the first time - 7:53. This is when negative thoughts started creeping in...I need to slow down for fear of blowing up later on, even though I felt really good. I was still hanging on with Jen when we reached mile four in 7:56. Soon after was the aid station and turn around. I stopped to grabbed a cup of water and told Jen to keep going. She was wearing her Camelbak, and if you read my last post, I decided not to wear mine. 

Result - walk through the aid stations. And the result of walking through the aid stations? My legs had a very difficult time getting moving again and my pace started to suffer. One word popped into my head - SURVIVAL. Christy posted this quote on her blog today:

"The number one reason why people give up so fast is because they tend to look at how how far they still have to go, instead of how far they have gotten."

I was freaking out a little about the numbers and the distance I still had to go that I feel like I gave up a little. I was pissed that my legs felt like bricks. The one awesome thing was the fact that since we did this out-and-back twice, we saw so many people that we knew, it was very encouraging to keep going. 

Mile 5 - 8:24
Mile 6 - 8:43
Mile 7 - 8:12

All I remember thinking is to reach the next aid station. The only one time that I really needed water was coming back out of this portion the second time since I had eaten a couple of Shot Blok's and my lips were all sticky. I was also hoping hydrating would help my legs feel better. I didn't notice the difference though, my legs still felt like crap. 

Then my feet, which were frozen at the start, now felt like they were on fire. I thought I felt blisters forming between my toes. I tried not to think about it and focus on running with a girl right in front of me. 

Mile 8 - 9:12

Now the shorts of my skirt were starting to annoy me - the left leg in particular. Ugh...chafing. My first experience with it. Now I know why Body Glide is a runner's BFF.
Mile 9 - 8:33 (surprising split as I walked through an aid station here)

As I was reaching the spot on the course that would take us on the final out-and-back, I saw Ian and the boys on sitting on the curb. Seeing them at this point could not have been more perfect. I wanted to rush over an give them a hug, but focused on the final four miles and shouted, "I love you guys!"

Seeing my handsome boys

Then I saw Ward, Wade and their kids. They yelled to me to catch the group in front of me...those I lost through the last aid station. More words of encouragement that could not have been better timed. 

(Photo Courtesy Running with the Girls)
Mile 10 - 8:56

Another aid station with music playing. Mentally, I was so ready to be done. I was bummed that I was three minutes slower for the ten miles than at the Mid-Winter Classic. But in that race, everything fell into place for me. 

As I was going down the only hill in the course, cursing that I would soon have to turn around and go up and into the wind, I saw Jen coming towards me (almost a whole mile ahead!) "Kick ass PR, baby!" I yelled. And she did - 1:44, a five-minute personal best!

Mile 11 - 8:55

Now to battle the wind. Up the hill...crawling. Swearing out loud to Jill who was coming down it towards me. "Who put this F'ing hill here?!?" Aid station one more time...just go, you are almost there.

Mile 12 - 9:18

Straight up the runway into the wind. I was following a woman in orange...just keep with her. I could see the finish. I passed her. Turn to the finish. There is a guy ahead of me. I might be able to catch him. Jen and family cheering. I can't catch this guy. I came close, but I could not get my legs to change gears. 

(Photo Courtesy Maine Running Photos by Penta)
GO TEAM TOUGH CHIK! (Photo Courtesy of Running with the Girls)
Done. 1:52:03

Goal A - finish a half marathon: check.
Goal B - finish in less than two hours: check.
Goal C - finish in less than 1:50: very close.

Lessons I learned from this race:
  • If I wore my Camelbak, I would have had it. Lesson learned. 
  • If I hadn't gotten caught up with the excitement of the start and running with someone faster than me, I would have had it. Lesson learned.
  • If I didn't fiddle with my shorts or wear new socks that created this blister, I would have had it. Lesson learned.
  • If I had hydrated/fueled better/differently prior to the race, I might have had it. My dead legs appeared at last years Beach to Beacon when I had peanut butter toast for breakfast. Coincidence? Maybe. Could have just been the time of the month, too. Or just an off day.
  • If I hadn't screwed up the training schedule in the last two weeks leading up to the race, maybe things would have been different. Who knows?
Needless to say, my legs felt great afterward. Once I got home, I put them in full compression, rested on the couch, and it was as if I never ran. What the? Stupid legs. Now I'm ready to get back out there, but I want to let my blisters heal.

It was a PR regardless and now I can just work towards improving my time and long distance race strategy. 

I was not the only one who ran in my family. Zeke ran his very first race in the kid's quarter-mile fun run.

(Photo Courtesy Running with the Girls)
Ian said he ran the whole thing. I am more proud of him than anything else.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Almost here!

There's now only a few hours until the Race the Runways Half Marathon!

I was definitely feeling nervous earlier today. Driving on to the old base/new airport to pick up my race bib and tee shirt brought the anxiety level up even further. It was a nice sunny day, but windy...pretty much the exact conditions they are calling for tomorrow morning too. And of course the wind is going to be hitting us square in the face right in the last couple of miles. Oh well, nothing we can do about that.

Later, we headed over to Stacy's to have a pasta dinner with all my Rail Trail Chicks and families. Delicious! And now after seeing and talking to all of them (who I haven't seen in nearly two weeks!), I'm not really nervous at all. Maybe a little, and I'm sure it's going to surface again on the drive to the race in the morning, but whatever happens, happens. 

Now I'm sipping on some nuun and will be heading to bed soon. I do have my outfit all ready to go, I can't wait to wear it!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

To Be a Camel?

Okay, with less than three days until the half marathon I'm feeling prepared. I opted to skip my easy three miles this morning since my legs are still a tad fatigued from Monday's run. I'm not worried about it. I'm hoping to do a short shake-out run tomorrow or Friday morning just to get the legs moving. The three miles I missed are not going to make or break my race performance, but I think resting up as much as possible (read: sleep) is what I need. 

I've got my race outfit all planned out. I'll give a preview in the next couple of days. But one question remains. 

Do I wear my Camelbak for the race? I've only run in it once during a slow training run. While I love being able to take a sip whenever I want and it is much easier to drink with it than from a cup while on the move, I'm not sure I want it with me. Before on long runs I would rarely drink anything. Granted it's been cold and I haven't really been sweating. The weather on Saturday is calling for temps in the mid-50s and sun and the course is all out in the open. Is the Camelbak going to be necessary? Will slowing at the aid stations to drink when I need to really slow me down a lot? Note: I usually have to walk to drink or I will either spill it all or choke or both.

Oh, and from a purely fashion standpoint, my Team Tough Chik running singlet has an awesome phrase on the back that would be covered up if I did wear it. 

In all honesty, this is pretty crazy. It's going to be a PR regardless since it is my first half, but the competitor in me wants to be the fastest I can. I really shouldn't be stressing about it, but I'd like to get some of your input. What do you think I should do?

Monday, April 2, 2012

T-Minus 5 Days.

Actually, in just over four days I will be toeing the line at my first half marathon. I am a mix of emotions - nervous, excited, happy, freaking out (just a little). While I accidentally have run the distance (read about it here), it's going to be different on race day. I'll be going a bit faster than our training runs. I'll be surrounded by hundreds of other runners, including my lovely Rail Trail Chicks and a few ladies I work with, though some are doing different events. As of today, over 1100 people have registered for Race the Runways! Last year there were 800 competitors in all three events combined!

Only one more training run stands between me and the half, just an easy three miles on Wednesday. Today was my last long run and I pretty much nailed it - eight miles at half marathon pace plus twenty seconds. I don't consider eight miles being long anymore. It is so weird how before last year I had never run that distance and now it's a drop in the hat. 

When thinking about which route I wanted to take today, I wanted it to be challenging, but not too challenging. Even though I haven't run many out-and-backs on my road in a while, I'm finding it pretty boring. So, I decided to shorten the route the girls and I did a few weeks ago. Hilly? Yes, but there's a good downhill within miles six and seven and it's a nice change of scenery.

The run felt really good. I had to keep reminding myself to slow down and take it easy. The weather was all over the place. It was cloudy, then the sun came out. Just as I am starting to get really warm, it starts to snow. Then it stops. More sun. Then some sprinkles of rain. Clouds...sun... And then hail when I get back to the house. Nuts!

Anyway, I finished the 7.96 mile route in 1:11 on the dot which translates to a 8:55 pace. According to my training program, Run Less, Run Faster, and my 5K PR, my half marathon pace is 8:29. 8:29 + 20 seconds = 8:49 target pace. Pretty darn close. For me, I consider that a success.

Given Race the Runways is a pancake flat course, I'm thinking I've got this, no problem. The Mid-Winter Classic 10-Miler was hilly and I pulled off a 8:08 pace. I know I gained speed on the downhills on that run and the half being flat will have none, but I'm confident I'll be able to at least meet the 8:29 pace. Honestly, I'm actually aiming for an 8:15-8:20 pace. Last time I talked to Jen, she was hoping for around the same, so hopefully we'll be able to push each other, though I'm sure she's going to crush it!

Now comes the crazy studying of the course map, constant check of the weather (which as of now is calling for sun and a high in the 50s - praying for no wind), and carbo loading. Oh, and trying to relax!