Friday, April 30, 2010

Cincinnati or bust!

Well, folks, today's the day we head to Cincinnati for the fun and festivities of Flying Pig weekend. I'm as ready as I'll ever be. The weather is probably not going to cooperate - and by that, I mean that it will be beautiful today and Monday, but Saturday and Sunday will be regular floodfests. I believe the forecast is calling for over 1.5 inches of rain over the weekend. How lovely! Well, as I've said before, I don't care if I have to run in the rain, as long as I get to finish my marathon.

This is my first time blogging from my iPad, and if this works well (and I don't see why it wouldn't) , I may be able to post blog updates from Cincy. Lucky you!

I think I can even post pictures using this App. Like this:

Hey look - is that a knight saying Ne? I have no idea, and it has nothing to do with running or the Flying Pig. I just wanted to see how easy it was to post a picture. As it turns out - very easy. Score!

Well, my friends, I need to do a few last-minute things before we leave, including getting my husband to stop dancing around the house to his "Get Pumped" playlist and actually get himself ready to go.

Catch y'all in Cincy!

Peace. Love. Train.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Double Trouble on Harmonious Hump Day

For some people, it's enough to just run a marathon. For other people, it's enough to just run a 5k. For me, neither is enough. And so this weekend I'm doing both.

Now wait. Before you wander away muttering to yourself about "freakin' crazy runners", let me explain myself! There is a method to my madness and logic to my loco. My marathon is on Sunday. I'm going to need to go for a short (3-ish miles), easy run on Saturday in order to loosen things up and get the blood flowing. Well, as it turns out, Flying Pig Weekend includes a 5k race on Saturday morning. Perfect! Even better, my good friend, Michele, will be running said 5k, so I will get to run with her. And best of all, my two other friends and my husband have also agreed to run the 5k (in addition to the other races they're already running). Does anyone have any suggestions for what we could call our 5k crew? We definitely need a name.

And in case anyone is wondering, yes, 5k finishers get a medal. So it's conceivable that I will come away from this weekend with three new medals - the 5k, the Pump N Run, and the Marathon.

And in case anyone is wondering, yes, this means I'll have to add more running gear to my packing list.


It occurred to me last night that I completely forgot about Tuesday Tunes. DOH! So, how about Harmonious Hump Day this week? Ready? Let's begin! *sets Running playlist to shuffle*

#1 Three Doors, VAST - one of many great running tunes by VAST.

#2 Girl In The Fire, Pendulum - there's a LOT of Pendulum stuff on my Running playlist, but there's a good reason: the bpm of a lot of their songs almost exactly matches my run cadence.

#3 The Nosebleed Section, Hilltop Hoods - I bet most of you have never heard Australian hip-hop before. It's actually pretty good! This is one of my favorites - very catchy and upbeat.

So there you have it, the second installment of Tuesday Tunes, on Wednesday!


Moving on to other news... last night was FAST, and the workout was basically the same as last Tuesday, but instead of doing 3 x 1000m repeats, I only had to do 2 x 1000m repeats. I felt good and it was a nice, short run. Afterward, I did a few strides with some of my teammates, to open up my legs and work on my form. Coach Brad asked if any of us were getting nervous, and several people giggled... well... nervously. So I guess that answers that question.

But I think Coach Brad is getting a little nervous himself, as he is also running a marathon this weekend. He ran past me during the warmup yelling "Oh my god, the marathon is this weekend!" And then he refused to do the backward lunges in the dynamic warmup, for fear of injuring himself. (And to be fair, the backward lunges were kind of scary, especially on that uneven pavement) He won't tell us his time goal for the marathon. Although he did mention something about "under 3 hours". Huh. Funny. That's usually my goal for a HALF marathon. (Okay, okay, I'm exaggerating slightly)

It's interesting to note that several of my FAST teammates have big races this weekend. Most of them (my coach included) are running the Illinois Marathon in Champaign. I've heard that's a great marathon, but the fact that it finishes on the University of Illinois football field automatically precludes me from ever running it. As a Purdue alumni, I'm pretty sure they would throw tomatoes at me. Which would be okay, because I would throw them right back. But I digress... I want to wish each and every one of my FAST teammates the best of luck in their races this weekend - Kick some asphalt!

Peace. Love. Train.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Marathon Week Madness

Well, folks, it's finally here. Marathon week. If you look over there ----> at the countdown clock, you'll see that it's less than 5 days now. At this moment, 5 days from now, I will be done with my marathon (if all goes well, that is).

Remember my discussion on Taper Madness? Well, Marathon Week Madness is a subset of Taper Madness - a more acute, more panicky, crazier subset of Taper Madness. See, I'm still tapering. But instead of thinking about my random aches and pains, and wondering if I'm losing my ability to run long distances, I find myself thinking, instead, about race preparation, and what-if scenarios. "Oh that's a good thing! It's good to be prepared," you say. Ha! It's one thing to be prepared. It's another thing entirely to be obsessive.

The first element of Marathon Week Madness is the packing list. There's nothing unusual about making a packing list before going on a trip, right? But what if said list looks like this:

Running Gear
  1. CW-X Shorts
  2. CW-X Capris
  3. CW-X Long tights
  4. Runner's World Challenge short-sleeve shirt
  5. Pink Nike sleeveless shirt
  6. Purple Adidas tank top
  7. Black arm sleeves
  8. Injinji rainbow toe socks
  9. Under Armour socks
  10. Green Nike shoes
  11. Grey Nike shoes
  12. Large amphipod (fanny pack)
  13. Small amphipod
  14. Road ID necklace
  15. Garmin watch
  16. iPod armband
  17. Earbuds
  18. Under Armour black sports bra
  19. Nike white sports bra
  20. black headband
  21. pink headband
  22. Adidas windbreaker
  23. sunglasses
  24. Sharkies
  25. Bonk Breaker bars
  26. Oatmeal, cinnamon, raisins, bananas, and green tea bags
  27. Lucky Harry Potter mug

Non-running stuff
  1. Clothes
  2. Toiletries

Might I mention that we'll be in Cincinnati for a whole weekend. I will be running for less than 10% of the total time we'll be there. And yet nearly 95% of my packing list is extremely detailed running-related gear. Well, in my defense, all the experts say you need to show up to the marathon prepared for all possible conditions!

And speaking of race conditions... that brings us to Marathon Week Madness element #2. The weather. Despite all of my best attempts, I cannot control the weather. Indeed, it seems as race day approaches, the weather controls me. I have been checking the extended forecast since late last week. It is not good. Not good at all. The entire weekend will be cloudy and rainy. Which, by itself, is not bad. In fact, that's decent marathon-running weather (as long as it doesn't rain hard). But for Sunday, race day, the forecast calls for thunderstorms. As we all learned in grade school, thunder is caused by lightning. And as we all learned in race director school, lightning equals a canceled race. My number one fear for this race is not that I won't be able to finish the distance. It's that's I won't even get the chance to finish the distance.

It is a rare occasion for a marathon to be canceled. But it does happen. Just last weekend the Nashville Country Music Marathon was ended early due to severe weather. Over half of the people who showed up to run the full marathon were unable to finish the distance, and were diverted to either the half-marathon course, or a 20 mile course. For anyone who poured their heart and soul into 4+ months of training and was told they couldn't finish, it must have been simply devastating. But I guess it's better to not finish a race than it is to get struck by lightning. Marginally. Maybe. Frankly, I think I'd be willing to take my chances with the lightning. I just hope Mother Nature cuts us a little slack this weekend so that I don't have to bust out my mad lightning-dodging skills. If the weather does cause race-day difficulties, I guess I can drown my sorrows in a Graeter's brownie sundae.

Which brings us to the final element of Marathon Week Madness: food. I think about food a lot under normal circumstances. But during marathon week, I must plan my food with great precision. When we get to Cincinnati, I will know where we are eating, what I am ordering, and when we are eating for pretty much every meal. Obsessive? Maybe. But food is fuel and I intend to fuel up on high-octane stuff before my race. I have mapped out all the restaurants and how to get to them from the hotel. I have looked at menus online to decide what I will be ordering. And perhaps most importantly, I have decided what indulgent and delicious meal to have for the post-race victory dinner. That particular meal is not about high-octane fuel, but about gluttony, pure and simple. After all, it wouldn't be a Flying Pig marathon without an appropriate post-race pig out. *oink oink*

But I can't really think about the post-race meal just yet, because I have a bunch more stuff I still need to add to the Running Gear section of my packing list....

Peace. Love. Train.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Bishop Hill x 2!!!

That's how I celebrated my last long run of this training cycle. By running Bishop hill twice. Yes, I may be a little crazy in the head. But Bishop hill has become a good friend to me during these 5 months of training. Constant. Challenging. Always steep. And yet, in a strange way, always welcoming.

Early on in my training, I had to walk up Bishop hill, because attempting to run it would rob me of precious energy I needed to finish the rest of my run. But as my training progressed, I grew stronger and being able to conquer Bishop hill and still be able to finish the rest of my run strong became the mark of a truly good long run. So what better way to celebrate the ending of a successful training program than with two runs up Bishop hill?

The training schedule called for a 2-hour run today. No set mileage. Simply run for time. Knowing my typical pace, I knew this would be about 10 miles for me. So my game plan was to run Grandview/Bishop twice (4 miles each), and then run up Prospect and back until I got to two hours. As soon as I got out of my car at the Tower, I knew I had overdressed (it's not the first time I'd done this - you'd think I would've learned by now). It wasn't hot, but it was very humid and sticky. My CW-X capris were fine, but my long-sleeved shirt was much too heavy for the occasion. I couldn't really do anything about it, so I pushed up my long sleeves and made the best of it.

The humidity did get to be a bit bothersome, but overall it was a good run. The rain held off, which was a blessing. (I may not be so lucky for my actual marathon, as the forecast is calling for thunderstorms on race day - let's hope that changes!) I conquered Bishop hill with just as much force on the second round as I did on the first. I maintained a pretty good pace (well, for me, at least) and actually managed to complete 10.66 miles in the allotted two hours.

So, my next long run will be the actual marathon. This is both exciting and terrifying. Even though I know I've followed the plan, and I've put in all the hard work, and theoretically, I should be ready for it... well, I still can't help but feel nervous and uncertain. I guess I won't really be sure until I cross that finish line. But getting to the starting line is 95% of the battle. And neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow will keep me from getting to the starting line. Now, lightning and tornadoes are another matter...

Peace. Love. Train.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Taper Madness

Tapering is making me crazy. I mean stick-me-in-a-straight-jacket-and-lock-me-in-a-padded-room crrrrrrazy. And word on the street (and by "the street", I mean the street with all the runners on it) is that it's perfectly normal to go crazy during a marathon taper. This makes me feel only marginally better.

I am convinced my entire body is injured. Things that never hurt during the entire five months of my training are now hurting and it must be because I've strained every muscle and have a stress fracture in every bone in my body. There's no other explanation. Well, there's the explanation that my body is repairing itself and that this repair process often leads to phantom pains. But that can't possibly be the case for me. It would be just my luck that I've strained all of my leg muscles.

I am convinced I've lost all of my endurance. All of it. It has been almost two weeks since my longest long run, and since then, all of my runs have gotten shorter. Therefore, I cannot possibly run 26 miles a week from now. My endurance is surely gone. I will get through the first seven miles of the marathon and then fall over in exhaustion. The sag wagon (the van that goes at the slowest allowed pace for the race and picks up anyone going slower than that) will have to scoop me up off the road and drive me to the finish line. Of course, there are "experts" who say that you don't lose any endurance during the taper. They say that there's no benefit to continuing super-long long runs during the taper, because it won't help your endurance, and you will only exhaust yourself before the big race. Ha! What do they know?

I'm also convinced I've turned into a slug. As all of my runs have gotten shorter (even the short ones), I am pretty sure that my speed (and I use the term "speed" loosely here) has disappeared completely. I'm sure I will arrive at the marathon starting line and be unable to run any faster than a 15:45 pace. Which I suppose would be acceptable from an avoiding-the-sag-wagon perspective, since the cutoff pace is 16:00. But it's not the 12:30 pace I'm hoping to run. (That's what I mean about using the term "speed" loosely - let's face it, my goal pace is, well, not very speedy)

I suppose it won't be long before I start having nightmares about getting to the marathon starting line and then running the WRONG WAY. That would be exceptionally bad for keeping pace. Or how about the dream where I'm late for the race start? Or the one where I show up naked? Or, the mother of all marathon nightmares (aka, nightmarathons), the one where I show up late for the start, buck naked, and then proceed to run the wrong way!

It's a good thing I have FAST to keep me sane. Barely. Since so many of our group are in the midst of tapering right now, we are all going through similar things. We are all feeling nervous, doubtful, hopeful, excited, achy, sleepy, hungry, sneezy, bashful, dopey and... no, wait... I've started naming dwarves... We are all going a little crazy. But our coaches are reassuring. It's normal, they say. We'll all be fine, they say. And then they take our minds off of our worries with an insane hill workout.

Lucky me (and everyone else who is tapering right now) - we only had to run up the Hill Of Death once last night. We then proceeded to run about 2 miles with some pickups thrown in (at about 10k pace). It was a good short workout to get the legs moving and the blood pumping. Then Coach Bekah led us through a great core-strengthening routine. Thanks to Bekah's kick-ass core workouts, I have an awesome six-pack. You can't see it because it's under an inch of flab. But I assure you, it's there!

This weekend, I have my shortest long run in a very long time - only 2 hours (about 10 miles at my pace). I should probably enjoy the short run, and the fact that I won't be tired for the rest of the day. But I'll probably just keep thinking about how everything hurts, I'm losing my endurance, and I'm turning into a slug. Ahhh, the joys of Taper Madness.

Peace. Love. Train.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

We can pee really fast

"Runners are a different breed. We swear, but it's not dirty. We spit, but it's clean. We puke, but it's necessary... And we can pee really fast." -Louisa Blanchard (aka Cool Aunt Louisa), fellow FAST teammate

These are the sorts of deep thoughts we discuss during our FAST group runs. I had the distinct privilege of running with Cool Aunt Louisa last night and we had a lot of great conversation about the sport of running, including the above discourse.

It started on the first lap of our 1000m repeats. I passed Louisa in the first half. Then, as I kept running, I realized that her footsteps weren't getting any farther behind me. She was keeping up. So I sped up a little bit. And she sped up a little bit. And I sped up a little more. And she sped up a little more. As we finished the first repeat, she told me "Wow, you really pushed me!" When we started our second repeat, we ran together, but this time Louisa set the pace, and it was faster than the first repeat. So at the end of that repeat, I was the one who said "Wow, you really pushed me!" We ended up running three repeats together (and then I did one more by myself), and I think we both ran a little faster than we would have run alone. That's the power of the running family. There are a LOT of things I do at FAST group runs that I would likely never do on my own. I suspect that's the case with several of my teammates as well - which is why so many of us have become dramatically stronger runners since joining FAST.

What was particularly interesting last night was a discussion between Louisa, Becky and me. I think Louisa started it first by telling Becky and me that we were here running heroes (or something along that line). And then I pointed out that, no, I couldn't be their hero because they were both my heroes! I mean, Louisa, who is 60 years old and achieving marathon PR's, and Becky, who is a faster runner than I will ever be are both people who inspire me. And then Becky goes on to say that she admires me and Louisa. Well, as you can see, it's just a huge circle of inspiration and admiration and, yes, perspiration (after all, we were running while having this conversation). I have a hard time imagining anyone looking to me as an inspiration in the sport of running. I'm not particularly gifted in the sport. I have great endurance, but only at tortoise-like speeds. Maybe I'm inspirational because of the fact that I run despite my lack of natural talent. All I know is I admire every single member of FAST - they are all my heroes. They are also my extended family - my sisters, brothers, aunts and uncles.

Because we are so close, we can talk about everything. I mean everything. For example, last night, one of our teammates had to take a potty break during one of the 1000m repeats. She was about 20m ahead of Louisa and me when she veered off to the port-a-potty. When I finished my 1000m repeat, she was right behind me. Louisa was quick to notice this. "Wow, you peed really fast!" she said. And that's when we started discussing speed-peeing techniques for race day.

Women are notorious for taking a long time in the bathroom. Women runners, however, can pee with great haste. We have perfected the art of the 20 second port-a-potty stop, because any longer than that can cost us precious time when we're shooting for a race PR. Even when our shorts have pesky drawstrings to untie, we can get in and out of the port-a-potty in record time. Yes, runners truly are a different breed.

Getting back to the actual workout... We had a 1 mile warmup, followed by 4 x 1000m repeats at half-marathon pace, and a 1 mile cooldown. Well, that was the workout for people who are tapering right now (which is most of us). As I started my 3rd repeat, I accidentally hit the Stop button on my Garmin instead of hitting the Lap button, so you'll notice I'm missing a repeat in my data (the other three are highlighted in blue). It wasn't an extraordinarily difficult workout - it was more difficult to hold back and not run at, say, 5k pace. But this is the taper, when the body repairs itself so it's fresh for marathon day, so it's important to not push too hard in workouts. I admit, I ran a wee bit faster than half-marathon pace, thanks to Cool Aunt Louisa. But considering all the conversation we were having, we couldn't have been running that hard. Right, Coach Brad?

Peace. Love. Train.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tuesday Tunes!

Let's start a new tradition here on SweatLikeAPig. Every Tuesday, I will randomly select three songs from the Running playlist on my iPod to share with you all. Why start now, with less than two weeks until the Big Race? Well, because I'm tapering, and tapering = not a whole lot else to talk about. But that doesn't mean I won't continue the tradition after the big race. After all, I've got the Chicago Marathon to train for after this one. So let's make it a new tradition.

Warning: I have some weird stuff on my Running playlist. Just giving y'all a heads up. Okay, ready? Here we go! *puts Running playlist on shuffle*

In A State, U.N.K.L.E. - The driving beat starts around 1:45... wait for it.

Spiral, Pendulum - Pendulum are a Drum & Bass group from Perth, Western Australia - this was their first single. Best enjoyed with the bass cranked up.

Too Much Food, Jason Mraz - A fun, upbeat song that is as much fun to sing along with as it is to listen to. Not while running, though.

So there you have it, folks. Tuesday Tunes! Come back next Tuesday for more funky music. And maybe a little bit of Funky Chicken. *flaps arms* Okay, maybe not.

Peace. Love. Train.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A simply splendid sixteen miler!

Spectacularly stupendous! (Yes, I'm being intentionally alliterative. Please forgive me. I'll stop now.)

I had the best run today! I really wasn't expecting too much out of today's run, since I'm just coming off a 22-miler and I figured I'd still be tired from that. But apparently not. In fact, I ran my strongest 16-miler ever today. Not that I've run a whole bunch of them, but I've done three 16 mile runs in the last few months. And today's was by far the best. The data shows it. My previous two 16-milers were done at an average pace of 13:08 and 13:00. Today's 16-miler I ran at an average pace of 11:44. Whoah! That's practically a sprint for me! And when you take a look at my pace for each mile, you'll see that I got progressively faster over the course of the 16 miles. Of course, the first 7 miles were the hilliest. But the more I ran, the better I felt - I got into a groove and just went with the flow.

Why was this run so awesome for me? Well, I can really only think of two things that contributed to my success. First, I didn't have to wear my stupid, annoying, uncomfortable, awful water bottle holder. I've mentioned before that I hate this thing. That's really an understatement. I LOATHE it. It's nothing against this particular water bottle holder. Water bottle belts in general just don't work well for people with big hips and small waists. But I digress... I didn't have to wear it today. For the first time in... well... as long as I've been doing my long runs outdoors. And it felt fabulous to be free of it. FABULOUS! My awesome FAST coach set up water stations along my route, so I was able to to get water every 2-3 miles without having to carry any with me.

Second, the weather was perfect. Well, except for the crazy wind. But it's always crazy windy here, so that's hardly anything new. In fact, I would like to petition Illinois to change their slogan from "Land of Lincoln" to "The Wind Tunnel State". The wind just never stops here. But I digress... the weather, aside from the wind, was beautiful. It was sunny and about 45 -50º. I was comfortable in my capri-length CW-X tights and a short-sleeved shirt.

I can't think of any other reasons for having such a great run today other than those two things - the absence of the water bottle and the perfect weather. Maybe it was just my lucky day. I'm not complaining. I ran my last mile at a sub-10:00 pace. I don't think I've ever done that on a long run during these 5 months of training. I saw a fellow FAST teammate while I was out running, and apparently she saw me toward the end of my run, because she told me "it looked like you were really moving!" That's really saying something, since this particular teammate is a pretty speedy runner (much faster than I could ever dream of being!).

After my run, I went to Panera and got myself an Asiago cheese bagel with sundried tomato cream cheese, and a strawberry smoothie. Then I drove back to Grandview Drive (I always run on Grandview Drive on my long runs) and enjoyed the beautiful view while eating my yummy post-run food. And I got a brilliant idea. Well, maybe not brilliant but definitely COOL. I decided I would take video of Grandview Drive (and Bishop Hill) to share with all of you (especially those of you who don't live in Peoria). So you can experience a small part (just 2 miles) of my awesome run with me! It was not easy trying to hold a video camera (well, iPhone) steady while driving, but I think I did okay. Here's my video. Enjoy!

Peace. Love. Train.

Friday, April 16, 2010

"Just keep turning right", he said. "It's easy", he said..

Uh huh. Right. Those were the famous last words from our fearless leader last night. And then half the team proceeded to get lost and confused.

I suppose I should provide a little background info. Thursday night was, as always, the Hill Of Death. Coach Brad started us out with a 2 mile warm-up to the cemetery and back to the bottom of the Hill Of Death. No problem. Then he told us to run the hill twice, but instead of coming back down the hill after the second time, to stop at the top to await further instruction.

The hill was torturous, scary, and painful. As usual. But, I must say, that now that we've been running the Hill Of Death for 3 weeks, I find it becoming more doable. Not easy. Never easy. But I can get up it a little bit faster now. Just a little bit. I do believe I'm *cue angels singing* getting stronger. And so continues my love-hate relationship with the Hill Of Death.

As I was instructed by fearless leader Brad, I stopped at the top of my second trek up the hill and awaited further instruction. When I say "awaited further instruction", I mean "doubled over and gasped for air while trying to hold onto consciousness long enough to understand Brad's instruction". We were to run a couple of loops in Upper Glen Oak Park, where we've never run before as a group.

Now, I pride myself on not being directionally challenged. I am actually pretty darn good with directions. So when Coach Brad explained to us where to run, and then said "It's easy, you'll figure it out", I believed him. He very clearly said (and I have witnesses), "You will only turn left twice - once at the beginning and once at the end. Everything in between, you will keep turning right!" He said it would end up being about 2 miles.

Being the obedient runner that I am, I did exactly as he said. And I realized very early on that something wasn't quite right. So I did what anyone in my situation would do: I stopped and scratched my head in utter confusion. Soon enough, some other teammates, who were familiar with Upper Glen Oak Park, caught up with me and pointed me in the right direction. I ended up making two wrong right turns before I finally figured out what it was coach wanted us to do. And after that, it was smooth sailing.

During these loops of Upper Glen Oak park, we were supposed to do a few pick-ups at about 5k pace. I don't think I really achieved that - I was too flustered from the whole "Where the hell am I supposed to be going?" fiasco. Although if you look at my speed graph below, there are a few spikes in pace during the last 2 miles. So maybe I didn't do as poorly as I thought.

When I got back down to the bottom of the hill, I found out that I was not the only one who had gotten confused about where to go in Upper Glen Oak Park. Indeed, several others had been led astray by the seemingly simple instructions of "just keep turning right", and ended up running around aimlessly in order to get to 2 miles. In the end, though, it was all good. It doesn't really matter where you run, as long as you run, right?

In other news, I got a new pair of running shoes yesterday. They got broken in on the Hill Of Death - poor things probably didn't know what hit 'em. My old LunarGlides have accumulated over 350 miles, so it's time to start phasing them out. They have served me well. The new LunarGlides are funky and fresh (just like me, right?) - perfect for springtime!

Peace. Love. Train.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Kudos to Coach Brad...

He finally made someone throw up during a FAST training run!

Okay, she didn't really throw up because of the running ("she" being super-awesome teammate Becky). Although I bet the running was a contributing factor. It was, after all, rather hot and humid outside during our run this evening. There was also a prevalence of annoying gnats flying around everywhere (including into our eyes, noses and mouths). Those factors alone would be enough to make someone hurl.

In the true spirit of FAST, Becky did not let this puking incident slow her down. No, she kept on trucking, and finished her mile repeats strong. Talk about dedication!

Indeed, everyone on Team FAST did an awesome job tonight, especially considering the warm conditions. *High fives all around*

I now present The Workout for your perusal.... a 1 mile warmup, followed by 3 x 1 mile repeats at approximately half-marathon pace with 2 minutes rest between, and a 1 mile cooldown. Considering I just came off of a 22-miler, this run went rather well. I felt pretty strong for the most part, although I was pretty tired by the end of the last mile repeat. I ran the 2nd repeat a bit too fast, but it had more downhill, so maybe that's okay. The mile repeats are highlighted in blue on the graph below.

We then concluded our workout with Coach Bekah's Five-Minute Core Workout (yeeeouch!) and a quick review of the Thriller dance. Oh, you thought I was just kidding about us doing the Thriller dance? Shows what you know! I fully intend to capture Team FAST on video performing the dance before the season is over. *insert evil laughter here*

Peace. Love. Train.

Saying goodbye to an old friend...

Goodbye Nike+. It has been fun running with you for the last 1300 miles, but alas, you no longer meet my needs. Your data is not very accurate. You have trouble finding and maintaining contact with my sensor. And it's too easy to accidentally "end" my workout before I'm actually done (case in point - when I tried to answer a call on my iPhone at Mile 19 of my 22-mile run on Saturday, you politely told me "Workout Completed!" Um... no). Not only that, but your website is just not as motivating as it used to be (no more t-shirts for 500-Mile Club, 1000-Mile Club, etc? Not cool!) For the price, you are an incredible value. And I do love the occasional messages I hear from Lance Armstrong, and Paula Radcliffe and others, informing me of a great run or a PR. But I'm sorry, but I have to move on.

Since getting my Garmin 405cx late last year, I have still used my Nike+ just to log miles and see what level I could get to (the Nike+ website has various achievement levels, based on total distance logged. I am at Blue Level - 1,000-2,499km). But the more I use my Garmin, the less I like Nike+. I rarely even look at my runs on the Nike+ website anymore, opting to go straight to the Garmin website instead. And now that I've discovered TrainingPeaks (via the Runner's World Personal Trainer), I have even more useful data at my fingertips.

So it is with a heavy heart that I retire my Nike+ sensor. It has served me well and I will never forget all the good times we had together.

To the folks at Nike - don't let this dissuade you from giving me that Nike sponsorship! I still run in Nike LunarGlide shoes (I just ordered myself another pair, in fact). And I have three pairs of Nike Frees for other activities. And I wear Nike gear. And I just ordered some prescription Nike sunglasses. Maybe, in honor of your awarding me a sponsorship, you could change your slogan to "Just Do It... slowly!"

And to Adidas, Saucony, and Under Armour, whose gear I also own plenty of, I am willing to take on multiple sponsorships at once. I'm just sayin'...

Peace. Love. Train.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The runner's high lasts all day...

...when you have a really great run. I totally nailed my 22-miler this morning. And I am still riding the high now, over 3 hours later. Despite my fear and uncertainty, everything came together to create the near-perfect run. Was it easy? Definitely not. But what differentiated this run from my 20-miler two weeks ago was that today I had the energy to go the distance and finish strong. I didn't have that two weeks ago. Two weeks ago, I was barely hanging on at Mile 15. Today, I ran negative splits and finished strong.

So what was different? How come this run sucked so much less than my 20-miler? Well, I couldn't say for sure, but I think several factors were at work:
  • Weather - today was just a beautiful day. Aside from the 15mph wind out of the SSW, it was perfect marathon-running weather. Spring has sprung - I started my run out at 45º, and finished at about 65º. I did make the mistake of wearing my long CW-X tights (the Insulator ones) - I really didn't need the insulation after the first couple of miles. But I still felt comfortable for most of the run. And now that flowers and trees are blooming, there are so many wonderful and beautiful things to look at to make the time pass more quickly. Oh how I love seeing the magnolia trees in full bloom!
  • I stuck to my fueling strategy like white on rice (or brown on brown rice). During my 20-miler, I lost my appetite early and consequently, didn't eat as much as I should have. Today, I told myself I would eat 2-4 Sharkies every 2 miles (with an appropriate amount of water) whether I wanted to or not. I did, and it helped.
  • I carbo-loaded the night before. I didn't really do this properly for my 20-miler - I had some homemade pizza, but not very much. Last night, I pigged out on Penne Rosa at Noodles & Co. Yep, pasta is the distance runner's best friend. Well, that and anti-chafing creme. Anyway, I'm happy to see that there are Noodles restaurants in Cincinnati - I know where I'll be eating the night before the marathon.
  • I don't know if this made any difference, but I added raisins to my pre-run oatmeal, for a few extra calories and carbs. '
  • I just came off of a recovery week. It may have been a half-marathon race last weekend, but 13 miles is still recovery. Before my 20-miler, I hadn't had a recovery week for 3 weeks. I was tired.
  • I didn't plan an insanely hilly route for today. Maybe that makes me a slacker. I could've run a route with 1000 feet of climb, but I decided that it was more important for me to finish this run feeling good, than to finish it feeling an inch from death. I needed a confidence boost. So I planned a route with "only" 580 feet of climb. I still think that's plenty. And I still included Bishop Hill, because a long run just isn't a long run without Bishop Ave hill!

So without further ado, here is the BIG RUN:

Isn't it nice how I planned Bishop Hill right smack dab in the middle of the run? And then I still ran negative splits. Take THAT, Awful 20-Mile Run From Two Weeks Ago! *kick punch*

I think the most important thing about today's run was that it made me feel ready for my marathon. I finally feel like I can do this. It's only 4 more miles than what I ran today. I can do that.

So now, I begin my taper. Marathon day is just over 3 weeks away. Oh, the taper won't be easy. My coaches will make sure of that. But the long runs will be shorter so I my muscles have plenty of time to recovery from today's run. Then, as the theory goes, I'll be running on fresh legs for the marathon. What I'd really like is to run on Kenyan legs for the marathon... but that would be weird, wouldn't it?

Peace. Love. Train.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Wanted: Cheering Squad For My Long Run Tomorrow

Any volunteers? *crickets chirping* Nobody? Awww, come on! I'll buy ya lunch afterward!

Here's the deal. I'm freaking out. Big time. My long run tomorrow is 22 miles. TWENTY-TWO MILES. You may remember my 20-miler from two weeks ago. It was not pretty. It was a miracle I finished at all. So I am having really hard time seeing how I will be able to do two more miles than that tomorrow. It seems like an unattainable goal.

So if I could get some people to come out and cheer for me at regular intervals throughout my run, that'd be great. Oh, and if you could also hand me water and Sharkies, that'd be great too.

You may have noticed I haven't blogged much this week. Part of it has been writer's block - I just don't know what to say. And part of it has been me stressing about this long run (which I think is the root cause of my writer's block). So really, it's all because of the stress of this run. All I want is to be done with it, so I can go back to blogging cheerfully about FAST runs and the lovely running weather we've been having and the latest new running accessories.

I will, however, take a moment now to write about our FAST runs this week.

Speedwork Tuesday was rough. Really rough. It was hot and humid outside. Coach Brad told those of us who ran the half-marathon on Saturday that we would likely be sluggish and tired from that still, so we shouldn't try to run hard. We didn't really believe him. But then we started running. We were dropping like flies. That coach is one smart cookie. The workout was (for all the people who didn't run a half-marathon the previous weekend) a 1 mile warmup, then 5-7 loops in the cemetery, running the first half of each loop at 5k-10k pace, and recovering on the second half of each loop. Then a 1 mile cooldown. I didn't even attempt to run 5k-10k pace, and this workout still nearly did me in. Now, these cemetery loops are rather hilly, so it's not like doing 800m repeats on a nice, flat track. But still. *huffs and puffs* It was rough. (Click to see it bigger)

Hillwork Thursday went a bit better. For one thing, it was COLD outside. How we managed to go from 80° to 40° in two days is one of the mysteries of Illinois weather. But I didn't bring pants to run in (only capris), so I was running fast just to get warm. Then the coaches had us run 2-3 loops of Glen Oak Hill: The *begin deep echo-y voice* Hill of Death *end deep echo-y voice*. I chose to do two. It was plenty, trust me. Then, as if that wasn't enough torture on its own, we had to run 2 miles with a negative split (so, the second mile should be faster than the first). I think I actually did pretty well with the entire workout last night. I ran my two hills consistently (see Laps 3 and 4). And I ran my final two miles at a very negative split (see Laps 5 and 6). Aside from feeling like my heart and lungs were going to explode while going up the Hill Of Death, I felt good. So I hope this means I'm sufficiently recovered from the half-marathon and now ready to tackle my long run tomorrow.

The one thing I love most about FAST is the camaraderie and team spirit. We aren't a huge group, so everyone knows everyone else. We may all have different running goals and different abilities, but we all share a common interest - the love of running. We celebrate everyone's victories - from conquering the Hill Of Death, to setting a marathon PR and everything in between. It is what keeps me coming back for more torture. Er.... I mean, training!

As I tackle my ridiculously long run tomorrow, the encouraging words of my teammates and coaches will echo in my mind. And maybe, just maybe, I will finish strong.

Peace. Love. Train.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Dude, you gotta try this!

Or not.

Running is a very individual thing. What works well for one runner might cause a different runner to get shin splints. Or chafing. Or a tummy ache. Or all three. Which could be truly disastrous in a race, to say the least. We have all seen that guy struggling at the end of a race, a look of pain and desperation on his face. It's gotta be the shin split - chafing - tummy ache triple combo. It claims millions of runners every year.* (*I completely made up this statistical fact. It is, in fact, a mythical non-truth. But I'm trying to make a point here, so humor me.) That guy probably took the advice of one of his runner buddies who very enthusiastically and convincingly said "Dude, you gotta try this! It has done amazing things for my running!"

While there's generally no harm in trying new things in your running (and some new things can, in fact, lead to increased performance, comfort, happiness, etc), there is a good time to try new things and there is a bad time to try new things. Let's start with the bad time. During a race. Never ever, ever, ever, EVER try new things during a race. I repeat, do NOT try new things during a race. Now, when is it good to try new things? Any other time besides a race, aka, during training. That's what training is for - to figure out what works for you, the individual, so that you will have an arsenal of strategies and tactics to get you through your target race.

With that said, I'm now going to list all of the things that do and do not work for me. I will not say "Dude, you gotta try this!" because I know that what works for me may not necessarily work for anybody else on the planet. But feel free to give these things a whirl in your training (NOT during a race) if you like. However, I do not claim any responsibility for any cases of shin splits, chafing or tummy aches that may result from trying these things.

Things That Work

1. Oatmeal, bananas, green tea, Sharkies, and Bonk Breakers. Not all at once, mind you. My standard pre-long-run breakfast is oatmeal, a banana and a cup of hot green tea. It has been for ages. It's easy on the tummy, provides lots of easily digested carbs (both simple and complex) and gets me going, in more ways than one (I'll let you all ponder the meaning of that) without upsetting my tummy like coffee might. Sharkies are my in-run fuel of choice. I've tried Jelly Belly Sport Beans, and while I love them for the taste, they do not contain any complex carbs. Sharkies are loaded with complex carbs for sustained energy, and they're easy to eat when nothing else is appealing (as is often the case late into a long run). Finally, after a long run, a Bonk Breaker bar is a surprisingly welcome bit of solid food with the optimal recovery ratio of carbs to protein (4:1). The peanut butter chocolate chip flavor is supremely yummy.

2. Injinji Toe Socks. They look weird. They are weird. But they are incredibly comfortable and they keep my toes from rubbing together and making big ugly blisters. Plus, the rainbow ones are made of recycled materials - how cool is that?

3. CW-X tights. You need a giant shoe horn to get them on - they're that tight. But once they're on, they feel fabulously supportive and aerodynamic. Compression speeds recovery, so I leave them on for a while after my long run.

4. The Garmin 405cx. I crave data. The Garmin gives me data. Lots of it. Maps of where I ran, charts of my pace, graphs of my heart rate, plots of elevation... I love it. But, I am an engineer, not a normal human being. I suspect that normal human beings do not need or want all this data...

5. Cross-training. Specifically, resistance and flexibility training. I do weights twice a week. Heavy weights, not wussy pink girly weights. Part of this is because I'm also training for the Pump N Run Challenge. But part of it is because lifting heavy weights works. It builds strength, power, and develops more fat-burning muscle. During marathon training, a time when the body cannibalizes muscle, weight training keeps me from losing muscle. I also incorporate plyometrics into my strength training to build power. Running and lifting heavy weights make a person tight and inflexible. When I get tight, things hurt. I gotta stretch. My new favorite way to stretch is Active Isolated Stretching. I also enjoy doing Yoga.

Things That Do Not Work

1. Frickin' frackin' water bottle holders that go around your waist. I hate these things. They are great in theory - they allow you to carry water with you without having to carry a bottle in your hands. But for people like me, who are high-waisted, and do not want to wear these things right up under their boobs, they are the most annoying thing ever invented in the entire history of running. See, I don't want to wear it around my natural waist. I want to wear it on my hips, so it doesn't cut into my stomach and lungs. But try as I might to get the thing to stay down on my hips, it always migrates up to my waist after a while. So I am constantly pushing the stupid thing down. Unfortunately, I have not found a better solution to the need for hydration, so I suffer with it. Fortunately, I will not have to suffer with it on race day, because races provide plenty of water (usually).

2. Running shorts. You know the ones. The short shorts with the revealing side slits. Yeah, I can't wear 'em. They look heinous on me, for one thing. If I had a runner's body, perhaps they would work for me. But I do not. I have stubby legs. Short shorts just make them look stubbier. And they rub between my thighs, which of course leads to chafing. I am also convinced they cause shin splints and tummy aches. Okay, maybe just tummy aches. The thought of wearing them definitely turns my stomach.

3. Running in the rain. I love the concept of running in the rain. Unfortunately, as a wearer of strong prescription eyeglasses, I find that rain just makes it very very hard to see where the heck I'm going. If someone could invent some eyeglass windshield wipers for just this purpose, I would be eternally grateful.

4. Using races as "training runs". Yeah, refer to last weekend's half-marathon "training run" for the scoop on that. I simply cannot run a race "easy". My brain won't let me.

5. Gels, Gu, Cliff Shots, etc. They cause shin splits, chafing and tummy aches. And IT band syndrome! True story. Okay, maybe it's not exactly like that. For me, it's a texture thing. The mere thought of energy gels makes me gag. So there's no way I'm consuming them during a long run when I am already adverse to food. Lots of people swear by them. Maybe you are one of those people. In that case, I have a collection of various gels that I've picked up at races and expos that I'm not going to use - do you want them?

Peace. Love. Train.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Oooo look, a penny!

If there is one thing I learned from running the Lincoln Memorial Half-Marathon this morning, it's that I am simply unable to run races as "training runs". I may start out with every great intention of taking it easy and running goal marathon pace. But there is just something about being in a race that makes it impossible for me to hold myself back. Maybe it's the excitement of all the runners. Maybe it's the cheering spectators (in this case, all 12 of them). Maybe it's the smiling volunteers at all the water stops. Or maybe it's something deeper and more profound... like the supreme feeling of awesomeness that only comes from passing other runners.

This was a small race, as half-marathons go, with just over 1,000 participants. (By contrast, the other half-marathons I have run have all had well over 25,000 participants.) But it started out as any other race - everyone milled about around the start line, trying to stay warm (the weather was cloudy and cool), and before we knew it, the gun was fired and we were off.

My husband Matt, me, and our friend (and fellow FAST member) Niki

If there's another thing I learned from today's race, it's that I really don't need to drink much water before the start of the race. Because very shortly after I started running, I realized I really needed to pee. It wasn't poor planning. I peed a good 12 or 13 times before the race. Okay, that may be a slight exaggeration. But when you gotta go, you gotta go. I knew I wouldn't be able to run 2.5 hours like that. There were two port-o-potties at about Mile 0.5. And apparently I wasn't the only one who had to go, because there was a line. So I stopped. And waited. And waited. And waited. And finally got in, did my thing, and got out.

In order to make up time from that little side trip, I sped up considerably. And I started passing people. At first it was only a few stragglers. But then I started passing more and more people. Even after I slowed down a bit, after doing my "catching up", I was still passing people. I grew hungry with power.

As the miles went by, I did a little mental math and thought I may have a chance for a PR if I could kick it up a notch toward the end of the race. However, that was certainly not my goal coming into this race. I had no intentions of coming anywhere close to a PR. And, as it turned out, I did exactly as I intended - I did not come close to a PR. The reasons for that were (1) I made the bathroom stop in the first mile which cost me time (2) after Mile 6, the course got rather hilly and (3) it also got really windy. So, I ended up being about 3.5 minutes short of a PR. Not bad, considering the circumstances, really. I had originally intended to finish in about 2:30, and I ended up finishing in 2:22:51. (My current half-marathon PR is 2:19:36)

I would like to take a moment to thank the gentleman at about Mile 12 who said "Just 1 mile to go, and it's all downhill from here!" Um. No. It was NOT all downhill from there. You big fat liar. I, of course, heard that and kicked it up a notch, thinking I would be able to sail through the last mile. Nope. There was no sailing. There were only more hills. Shorter than other hills in the race, yes, but hills all the same. And then the wind started coming at me full-force. How I managed to run a 9:49 pace in the last mile, with the wind so completely against me is anybody's guess. But I did. And then I saw my FAST teammates (there were six of us there today) on the sidelines near the finish, cheering me on. So I gave it one final kick and finished strong.

And then they bestowed upon me this most fabulous of medals:

I put a real penny beside it for comparison. And as you can see, there really is no comparison. The giant penny medal is so much cooler than an actual penny! This is by far the best half-marathon medal I've ever gotten.

Overall, this race was really nice. It was quite scenic - running through beautiful parks and historic neighborhoods. It was also cool to run past all of the Abe Lincoln historical sites, like the home he owned, the capitol building, Lincoln's tomb, and such. The race was well-run, with a good number of water stops and plenty of helpful volunteers and police keeping traffic out of our way. I usually like the bigger races for their excellent crowd support and ammenities, but this race was not really lacking in any of those areas. There weren't huge crowds of people cheering on the sidelines, but the people who were there cheering were great. The post-race ammenities were perfect too - space blankets to keep us warm, bottled water, and lots of different food (bananas, oranges, donuts, chili dogs, biscuits and gravy...). For the price ($45), it was a really good value. I would definitely run this race again.

I want to take a moment to shout out to my FAST teammates who ran today. To Coach Brad, who got lost in the cemetery and still managed to finish in 1:24 - way to go! To Tim, who set a half-marathon PR today - congrats! To Kristi, who hasn't run anything longer than 10 miles in a long time, and still kicked butt today - you rock! To Niki, who ran today's race as her first official half-marathon - woot woot! And to my husband, Matt, who isn't even training for half-marathons or marathons and still managed to set a PR by over 10 minutes today - simply amazing! Your speediness knows no bounds!

Peace. Love. Train.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Introducing the HILL OF DEATH

Do you remember me saying that FAST is made up of Speedwork Tuesdays and Hillwork Thursdays? Well, as all of my alert readers know, yesterday was Thursday.

I would like to introduce you to Glen Oak Hill, aka, The HILL OF DEATH (you have to say that with a deep, echo-y voice for the proper effect). This bad boy is about 100 feet of vertical ascent over 1/4 mile. Take a good hard look at the graph below (click it to see it larger) - the green graph is elevation. I'm sure it's not difficult to figure out where the *echo-y voice on* HILL OF DEATH *echo-y voice off* is. Although it's worth noting that even the 2 mile warm-up has a fair bit of ascent, but it's much more gradual. And it's a warm-up, so it's not like we run it all-out. When it comes to running the *echo-y voice on* HILL OF DEATH *echo-y voice off*, we are basically supposed to be running as hard and as fast as we can (well, not so hard that we can't make it to the top).

I was lucky. I only had to run the HILL OF DEATH once. The reasons for that were twofold: (1) I'm in a recovery week and (2) I'm running a half-marathon tomorrow, so in order to have fresh legs for the race, Coach Brad didn't want me running myself to exhaustion. But many of my teammates had to run the HILL OF DEATH twice or even thrice. HAHA - sucks to be them! (Sorry, Becky! ;-) )

I must say, running the HILL OF DEATH last night was a bit discouraging for me. I've lost a lot of my uphill power from Summer FAST last year. I know that this winter was about base-building and increasing endurance, and I am very pleased with how far I've come in that regard. But my power has definitely diminished in the mean time. It's also possible that yesterday's unseasonably warm temperatures came into play as well. It was 83º outside! I know I'm not acclimated to running in that sort of weather yet - I was sweating... er... like a pig! As a side note - does anyone know where the saying "Sweating like a pig" comes from? Because pigs don't actually sweat. But I digress....

The HILL OF DEATH is probably one of the most puke-worthy hills in the Greater Peoria area. It's right up there with Bishop Ave Hill. I have a love-hate relationship with these hills. Running up them hurts like crazy (I believe I gasped to Coach Bekah as I was nearing the crest of the hill, "THIS SUCKS!!!"). But they are so good for developing speed and power. And so I shall embrace the *echo-y voice on* HILL OF DEATH *echo-y voice off* with open arms and speedy feet.

Peace. Love. Train.