Sunday, August 29, 2010

Oooo, another shiny medal!

Yesterday I ran a surprise 5k race. It wasn't a surprise to me, because I had been planning to run it for several weeks. But it was a surprise to everyone else because I never told anyone that I was planning to run it. I'm sneaky like that. I like racing "under the radar" every now and then - nobody expects anything from me, and so I put less pressure on myself, and if I have a bad race, I don't even have to tell anyone about it.

The problem with trying to run races under the radar around here is that I now have a lot of local runner friends and they are everywhere. And as it happened, one of my fellow FASTies, Kristi, had the exact same plan as I did: to race under the radar at the same race I was racing. Imagine my surprise when I saw her easily-recognizable curly blonde hair. Imagine her surprise when she saw... whatever feature about me that is easily-identifiable (my loud mouth shouting "Ohmigod, it's Kristi!", probably).

Kristi and I are both training for the Chicago Marathon, doing our long runs with the Stashies. Frank Stash, our leader, has mentioned to us many times that he thinks it's a good idea to race a 5k about once a month during marathon training, just to keep one's speed up and get out of the long-slow mode. It had been a while since my last 5k race (about a month, actually), and since this weekend had a shorter long run, I thought it would be a good time to put on my 5k legs.

I chose the Lacon Old Settlers 5k for several reasons. (1) A coworker was running it and had been telling me about his training, and I wanted to give him a little moral support (2) It's far away enough from Peoria that I might not run into anyone else I knew and (3) It's a small enough race that I might be able to win an age group award. Call me greedy, but I will not pass up a chance to earn more hardware for my yet-to-be-built trophy room. I know, I know - it's not all about the awards. Coach Brad always tells us to "run for fun and personal bests". But you know what's fun? Winning awards!

The race itself was very nice. It was well-organized - the pre-race registration process was quick and easy. It would've been nice to see a map of the course prior to the race, but the course was easy enough to follow with green arrows painted on the ground (well, I pretty much just followed everyone else and hoped they were going the right way). The course was not flat - there were a lot of gentle rolling hills, and the first 1/2 mile was entirely uphill, which caused some runners to bitch and moan. Personally, I didn't mind it, and I really appreciated the fact that the last 1/4 mile was entirely downhill. It made for an excellent finishing kick.

We really lucked out in that the weather was spectacular for the morning of this race: crisp, cool and not humid. We could not have asked for better race conditions, and it was such a wonderful change from every other race I've run in the last 3 months.

The weather definitely worked in everyone's favor. My coworker, Kristi and I all ran PR's. With a time of 25:11, I beat my previous best by over 40 seconds, which may not sound like much, but for a 5k, it's huge.

And as an added bonus, Kristi and I both placed 2nd in our respective age groups! Yes, winning hardware is definitely fun. Don't we look like we're having fun???

It's hard work setting a PR, though. Although this race was far less torturous than the hot, humid and wet Washington Cherry Festival 5k (where I had my previous PR), it was still not easy. The voices in my head were at war between pushing harder and pulling back. Pushing harder meant more pain. Pulling back meant increasing my finish time. My lungs were burning, my legs felt heavy, but when I passed the 2nd mile marker and the timing-guy called out 16:02, I though "Hey, I really have a chance to PR here, if I keep up my pace!" It was just what I needed to hear to keep me going. I wore my Garmin, but I never looked at it during the race. I wanted to run by feel.

As it turned out, I think I did a pretty good job of pacing by feel. I slowed down each mile, as I tend to do in short races like this, but not by a lot. Considering the last mile was mostly uphill (and that hill never seemed to end!), you would expect that mile to be slower anyway. I was able to have a nice finishing kick on that last downhill. The timer-guy at the 3 mile mark called out something around 24:40 and I knew I was going to run a PR. Part of me wished I could've pushed just a little more so I could come in under 25:00, but a larger part of me realizes that probably would have involved inheriting the Puke Crown. I am quite satisfied with my 25:11 finish time.

I also need to mention the post-race smorgasbord. It was incredible! Here is just part of it. What you can't see are the bazillion Subway sandwiches in the boxes on the other table. There were bananas, grapes, cookies, brownies, muffins, donuts, and probably a bunch of other things I'm forgetting.

For a small-town race, this is a very nice spread. Heck, this would be a nice spread for a big-city race. I was particularly fond of the large selection of cookies.

So all-in-all, the Lacon Old Settlers 5k was an excellent race. Why? Because I ran a PR, and because I won a 2nd place medal, and because there were lots of cookies. Oh yeah, and because it was well-organized and a nice course too, blah blah blah. But mostly because of the winning and the cookies.

Peace. Love. Train.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Extreme Makeover: FAST Edition

Do you remember when I was telling you all about that workout that Coach Brad dubbed "The FAST"? Remember how I predicted that it would become a signature workout for us, because why else would he give it a name like that?

Well, my prediction became reality last night.

Told you so. *sticks tongue out*

There was a difference, though. You see, "The FAST" has gotten a bit of a makeover. Particularly in the area of length. Meaning: it got longer. A lot longer.

Let's review "The FAST", shall we? In its original incarnation, it consisted of about a 1 mile warmup, a 2 mile interval on the track (8 laps), one Hill of Death, and another 2 mile interval on the track (another 8 laps). Altogether, it was about 6 miles of "fun". Personally, I think that's plenty long. But our coaches disagreed.

Indeed, they took "The FAST" to a whole new level of "fun". And by "fun", of course I mean "torture". The warmup was lengthened, and the coup de grâce (if you can call it that, because there was no mercy in this workout) was the addition of a second Hill of Death. Yep, that pretty much ensured a hasty demise for us all. It ended up being over 7 miles - easily our longest FAST workout ever.

Coach Brad instructed us marathoners to run our 2-mile track repeats at marathon pace or slightly faster. I opted for slightly faster, since my marathon pace is... well... slow. My first two miles were about a 10:30 pace, which is 30 seconds faster than my goal marathon pace. It felt pretty easy, actually. *shhhhh don't tell my coaches I said that!* When I returned to the track after my first Hill of Death (huffing and puffing and generally dying), Coach Brad advised me to pick up the pace for the last 2 miles and run about a 10:00 - 10:15 pace. Okay, I think I can do that. Then he challenged me to catch up to and pass several other FASTies who were on the track.

A challenge, eh? I can't pass up a good challenge!

I passed the first two people in the first lap. No problem. I passed the second two people in the next lap. And I passed the last person about 4 laps in. I ended up running my second 2 miles at about a 9:30 pace, a wee bit faster than the 10:00-10:15 pace Coach Brad told me to shoot for.

How's that, Coach Brad?

He told me I was an animal. I asked him "Which animal?" Because it makes a difference, you know. It's one thing to be a cheetah or a gazelle. It's another thing entirely to be a walrus or a buffalo or a chicken.

He never did specify which animal... *looks worried*

And as if that over-7-mile workout wasn't enough "fun" (torture) for one night, we then had to endure Coach Maggie's core workout, which was focused entirely on the posterior chain (back, glutes, hamstrings). She had us rolling around on the ground like flipped-over beetles trying to right themselves, and bending our legs back over our heads in pretzel-like fashion. At one point, fellow FASTie Sue asked if it was possible to earn the Puke Crown from the core workout.

Oh yeah. It's possible.

Nobody puked though. *hears collective sigh of disappointment from readers*

So what will the next episode of "The FAST" have in store for us? Will it get another makeover? Will we run even farther? How soon will it be? Only time will tell. In the mean time, I need to figure out what kind of animal I am. Does anyone know how fast chickens can run?

*wanders off aimlessly, clucking and flapping arms*

Peace. Love. Train.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Look kids, Big Ben!... Look kids, Big Ben!... Hey kids...

We know. *rolling eyes* Big Ben.

I'm sure we all remember that scene from National Lampoon's European Vacation - you know, the one where they get stuck driving in a roundabout in England?

Well, that's a lot like how my 18-mile long run went on Sunday. Except the dialogue (um, monologue?) was more like: Look, the newspaper delivery man! ... Look, the newspaper delivery man! ...

You see, I took a little trip to visit my parents this weekend and not being terribly familiar with the area, I wanted to keep my run confined to a reasonably small area in order to avoid getting lost, kidnapped, or having to carry water with me. I stashed water and Sharkies at my parents' house and ran a 3-mile loop through their subdivision a total of six times, like running laps on a very convoluted track.

I began my run before the break of dawn, at 5:30am. The neighborhood was quiet and peaceful - it was very serene. As the sun started to break over the horizon, more people came out of their homes to walk their dogs, water their flowers, and get in their cars to go to church. Everyone waved a friendly hello. This subdivision is a gated community and they don't like nonresidents roaming about the streets unsupervised, so I was a little concerned that someone might call security on me. Fortunately, nobody seemed very worried by my presence on the streets. Over and over and over.

Look kids, the crazy runner girl!... Look kids, the crazy runner girl!... Hey kids...

Most of the people I saw on my run, I only saw once. But I saw the newspaper delivery man at least four times (I lost count). I'm not sure if he thought I was stalking him... or if he thought that I thought that he was stalking me. I did get the feeling that at one point he was going to pull over, hand me a bag of newspapers and ask me to help him deliver them. Which I would've been happy to do, for a small fee.

Despite the fact my run was filled with moments of déjà vu, it ended up being a very good run. The route was essentially flat, which was a nice change from my usual hilly routes. (The graph makes it look a lot hillier than it was - the difference between the low and high point is only about 35 feet.)

I was able to finish strong, even as the summer sun got higher in the sky. I was hoping to finish my 18 miles in under 3:30, and indeed, I did. In fact, I finished in under 3:20. I was very pleased with that.

And I'm pretty sure I could've finished in under 3:30 even if I had to deliver newspapers. Because I'm a good multi-tasker like that.

*happily tosses newspapers into everyone's driveways while running and chewing Sharkies*

*trips and falls, newspapers flying everywhere*

Uhhhh... Okay, maybe not.

Peace. Love. Train.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

It's just 3 miles to the pizza and beer!

...Three hot, concrete-laden, pothole-filled, unscenic, unshaded, boring, industrial miles with far too many hairpin turns. But runners will endure just about anything for an awesome post-race party... and so Team FAST slogged through the three endless miles of the Maui Jim Maka Maka Run on Thursday evening so that they could enjoy endless Old Chicago pizza and beer and a live band afterward. It wasn't such a bad deal in the end. But for 27 minutes, I found myself wondering if it was really worth it.

You may recall from my last posting that Team FAST was doing the Maka Maka run as a prediction run. I predicted a time of 27:45 for myself. I made this prediction long before I knew how hot it would be for the actual event. As soon as I arrived at the starting line, I wished I could change my prediction time... to something much slower. Say, 36:00. Alas, I was stuck - there was no backing out.

Team FAST showed up all decked out in matching red FAST shirts. We looked like a team. And we looked fast. And not just because our shirts said FAST on them, although I'm sure there were plenty of people thinking that we were just bragging about ourselves.

Just a few of the FASTies at the Maka Maka Run

The course, which runs through an industrial park area of town, was roughly in the shape of a tuning fork (see map below), and we basically had to run up each fork, turn around and run back down. This meant there were several about-face turnarounds, which are quite tricky to navigate at a fast pace. Additionally, the roads are concrete (as opposed to asphalt) and loaded with huge ankle-breaking potholes. It's a good thing this race wasn't really a race, because it was just not a good race course.

The air horn went off right at 6pm and the toasty trot began. As I am known to do in short races, I went out way too fast. I looked at my Garmin and saw I was running something like an 8:15 pace. I gradually slowed down, although I knew I was still going a bit fast. I didn't feel too uncomfortable (yet), so I just stayed steady. When I hit the first mile marker, the volunteer was calling out splits and even though my Garmin showed my first mile at an 8:36 pace, the volunteer said I had just run an 8:11 mile. Huh. That's quite a discrepancy. Knowing that, I slowed waaaaaay down for the next two miles.

As it turned out, I didn't slow down enough. I finished in 26:49, nearly a minute faster than my predicted time. Needless to say, I didn't win the $20 gift card. That honor went to my very own husband... and fellow FASTie Niki. Yes, there was a tie! But only because they had the same prediction time and ran together. They came within 1 second of their prediction time. ONE SECOND! Hmmmm... seems kind of fishy to me... They will have to split the $20 gift card... maybe they can each buy a pair of socks and a Clif bar.

As you can see from the chart, it looks like the Garmin discrepancy was in the distance (which of course, affected the pace readout). I only logged 2.94 miles. The elevation chart makes the course look a lot hillier than it was. It was nearly pancake flat, with just a few gentle rolls. You can also see the hairpin turns, where my pace drops considerably.

Once I crossed the finish line, I waited for the rest of my teammates to cross, and then it was time for the real fun: food and beer and friends! As an interesting side note, maka maka is Hawaiian for "friend".

The post-run party was excellent. There was an abundance of Old Chicago pizza (cheese, pepperoni and sausage), brownies, scones, and beer. It was all-you-can-eat-and-drink for everyone who ran. There was also a pretty decent live band providing entertainment. Team FAST sat around and chatted during the post-race festivities. We were joined by a few non-FASTies and one of them mentioned that he was going to be running a 51k (31 mile) race this weekend. Upon further discussion, we learned that he's running the E.T. Full Moon Midnight Marathon (say that three times fast!). If it sounds intriguing, that's because it is.

And I simply must run this race.


Let me explain: It consists of several events (51k ultramarathon, marathon, half-marathon, and 10k) which run along Extraterrestrial Highway near the infamous and mysterious Area 51 in the Nevada dessert. (Get it? 51k at Area 51!) And if that isn't cool enough (because who doesn't love aliens and UFOs?), the race begins at midnight - the perfect time to spot UFOs on the horizon. And on top of that, the finisher's medal has an alien on it. And after reading this race report, complete with awesome photos of glowing things, I am completely sold.

Where can I sign up???

I obviously won't be able to run it this year, since the race is in less than 24 hours and, well, I'm nowhere near Nevada. But it's definitely going on my race bucket list (see link above for my race bucket list!).

So, who wants to run it with me?

*watches lots of hands shoot up*

Excellent! Did I mention I want to do the 51k?

*watches hands quickly go back down*

Hmph. Suit yourselves. The mothership will remember this when it comes to pick us all up and take us back to our home planet. I'll get to ride shotgun and you all won't!

Peace. Love. Train.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

You might be a marathoner if... think a 12-mile run is short

...running at 10k pace feels blazingly fast keep Gu/SportBeans/Sharkies in your purse/briefcase - you know, just in case

...running out of bananas is a crisis situation in your home consider yourself a connoisseur of Gatorade and have a strong preference for orange over lemon-lime think 5k races are harder than marathons struggle to get out of bed at 6 am to get ready for work, but have no problem getting up at 4 am for a long run

The list could go on indefinitely, no doubt about it. I'd like to hear your "You might be a marathoner if..." quips - post them in the comments and I'll pick my favorite to add to this blog post (and you'll get credit for it too!).

I was mulling these things over the other day, thinking about how marathoners (and runners in general, really) are different from other people. Normal people. All of those above "ifs" apply to me. I had a 12 mile run this past Sunday and it was a breeze. But the thought of racing a 5k makes me more than a little nervous - sure, it may be shorter, but it's not necessarily easier. People say that the marathon is mostly mental. I would argue that the 5k is largely mental too. Running 3 miles in and of itself isn't particularly difficult for the average fit person. Running 3 miles as fast as possible, however, it very difficult. There is a very fine line between setting a personal record and have to stop to throw up.

I've also realized that I can't live without bananas. They are the perfect pre-long run food. When I run out of bananas, I panic. If I run out of bananas and then go to the grocery store only to find that the bananas there are all green, I panic even more.

And last night while I was blazing around the track at 5k pace during FAST (well, blazing by my standards), I asked myself, "Self, why is this so much tougher than running 16 miles at a slower pace?" Don't worry, I didn't answer myself. I'm not that crazy. *cackles like a lunatic* But the truth is, I don't really know why it seems so much more difficult. It just does.

So what was the workout, you ask? Why was I blazing around the track at 5k pace?

Because Coach Maggie told me to.

If Coach Maggie told me to jump off a bridge, would I do it?

Well, um... no. (Sorry, Maggie!)

But that's beside the point. Coach Maggie has all the power this week because Coach Brad is out of town. That means she gets to tell us what to do. And what she told us to do was the following: ~1 mile warmup to the cemetery and back to the track, 1 mile at 5k-10k pace on the track, 2 mile tempo run through cemetery, 1 mile at 5k-10k pace on the track. Got all that?

Normally, the summer heat and humidity would have made this workout absolutely miserable. But something amazing has happened here in Central Illinois: the weather has gotten cooler! We had the pleasure of doing our run last night in 68° overcast and lightly-drizzly conditions with hardly a trace of humidity. It was almost - dare I say it - chilly! These ideal running conditions allowed us to run faster and happier than we have in a long, long time.

I was able to run my track miles (laps 3 and 7 below) right at 5k pace, and though it was challenging, I never once felt like like throwing up. I had a little help at the end of my last mile - fellow FASTie Niki pushed me just a little more for that strong finish. She asked me, as I was huffing and puffing toward the final 100m, "How fast can ya run?" I believe my exact response was "Not *huff* as *puff* fast *huff* as *puff* you!" She sped up, so then I sped up, and then she sped up some more, so I sped up some more... I was running at a 6:02 pace when I crossed the finish of that final mile!

I gotta hand it to Coach Maggie. She comes up with some doozie workouts. They're tough, but the variety of them makes them seem not-quite-as-bad. Last night's workout was more like three mini-workouts. Mentally, it was a lot easier to get through it, than if we were doing, say 8 x 800m repeats (which would have netted about the same distance).

Our workout on Thursday will be a little different... we will be running a race-that's-not-really-a-race! It's actually a 3-mile fun run and it isn't officially timed and there are no awards or anything of that sort. But the coaches have presented us with a challenge: to predict our time for the 3-mile run. And whoever comes the closest to their predicted time will win a $20 gift card to the local running store. Oooooo - I loves me some gift cards!

So what's my prediction for myself? 27:45. And I will let you all know how I fare. I think Coach Maggie is going to keep a close eye on us to make sure we don't stand around at the finish line waiting to put our toe over the line right at our predicted time. But she can't possibly watch all of us at once... *cackles like a lunatic and runs away*

Peace. Love. Train.

Friday, August 13, 2010

What happens at FAST stays at FAST....

So if you want to know about my discussion with two of the elder members of FAST regarding blackened sausages and Slim Jims, you'll just have to come to FAST sometime and find out for yourself. These FAST members, whose minds are lodged firmly in the gutter, have asked to remain anonymous, so I won't tell you that one of them is a cute little Asian woman and the other is running the Pikes Peak Marathon soon. *looks shifty*

It was good to be back at FAST last night. It's been a rather interesting week. First of all, I didn't go to FAST on Tuesday night. *gasp* I know, I know - inconceivable!!! There were several reasons: I wasn't feeling so great, the heat index was 104° and I needed to get home early to pack for a business trip. So I took my workout indoors to the treadmill and I got a fabulous workout from my other coach, Coach Sean O'Malley. I don't think I've ever mentioned Cardio Coach in my blog before and it's high time I do. Cardio Coach provides guided cardio workouts via MP3, which you just load onto your iPod and listen to as you work out. They can be used on the treadmill, elliptical, spin bike, stairstepper, or even outdoors. Anyone who finds the treadmill boring (pretty much everyone) needs to try a Cardio Coach workout - it makes the time fly right by. I did Volume 7, which is about an hour long, and it was over before I knew it. Coach Sean is motivating and down-to-earth, and the music, which is made especially for these workouts by composer Todd Washburn, is incredible. As an added bonus for the ladies (and maybe for some guys too), Coach Sean is dreamy. So there's my shameless Cardio Coach plug - just go to the website, download a workout and try it. Trust me. You'll love it.

Now, onto that business trip I mentioned. I don't travel for work very frequently, which I consider a good thing. But sometimes it's nice to get away from the office and visit a customer or a supplier. In this case, it was a supplier visit. And this supplier is located in the town of Pigeon, Michigan, which is in the "thumb" of the lower peninsula. We actually stayed overnight in the nearby town of Bad Axe since Pigeon doesn't really have any hotels. As you can imagine, both towns are pretty much in the middle of nowhere. However, Bad Axe has a cool name and their high school mascot, The Hatchets, is equally cool. Naturally, I bought myself a Bad Axe Hatchets t-shirt, and got t-shirts for my husband and Coach Brad. I also got this picture:

Oh yeah, and we had a good meeting with our supplier too, working on cost reduction stuff, blah blah blah.

I got home from Pigeon/Bad Axe (or should I say Bad Axe/Pigeon? because it almost sounds like Bad-Ass Pigeon, which would be a good name for a band) on Thursday afternoon, just in time to go home, change my clothes and head to FAST. It was 106° outside and I was a bit dehydrated from my day of traveling, so I knew I wasn't going to be pushing my limits. But I at least wanted to get my legs moving after a long day of sitting in a car and on a plane. Little did I know I would also end up laughing my ass off during a discussion of composite meat products.

Even if I could tell you why it was so funny, it probably wouldn't sound nearly as funny in a blog post. It was one of those "you had to be there" things. The end result of all the hilarity was that we ran nearly 5.5 miles in 106° heat without even realizing it. And that is one of the best things about FAST. Sure we get expert coaching and customized training plans. But we also get a team, who is like an extended family. We laugh together, we cry together, we get angry together, and we celebrate victories together. We are a team.

There is no "I" in TEAM... but there is MEAT. And if anyone cares to join us, we will be continuing our discussion of blackened sausages and Slim Jims next week.

Peace. Love. Train.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Weekend of Awesome Feats™

*cue Chariots of Fire theme song*

Everybody sing along!

dun dundundun dun dunnnnn
dun dundundun dunnnnnn
dun dundundun dun du
dun dundundundu

That was the Official Theme Song™ for this past weekend. And not just for me. No, my contribution to the Weekend of Awesome Feats™ was but a small and insignificant one. We'll talk about that last. I want to talk about the important ones first.

The annual St. Jude Memphis-to-Peoria run took place last week. This dedicated group of runners, some of whom are fellow FASTies and Stashies, take turns running along the 465 miles between the two cities in order to raise money and awareness for St Jude Children's Research Hospital. There are several satellite runs as well, originating from points a little closer to home, such as Chicago, Pekin, St. Louis, Springfield, and more. They run tirelessly, in sometimes brutal conditions (the heat index in Memphis last week topped 130°... and they ran anyway), seeking out the shelter of their RV caravan when they need to rest their feet, grab a bite to eat, or take a nap. The event culminated in a mass descent of the run groups on downtown Peoria Saturday night. They should have been exhausted from running in such extreme conditions, but you couldn't tell it from looking at them, their bright eyes and smiling faces greeting the cheering spectators. Of course, it's not really about the running. It's about the kids of St Jude. And this year, the runners raised over $2.5 million for St Jude. If that's not an Awesome Feat™, I don't know what is.

St Jude runners make their way through Germantown Hills

On Saturday morning, I had the unique opportunity to witness another Awesome Feat™. I attended my first duathlon/triathlon event. My husband, fellow FASTie Niki, and her husband were entered in the duathlon and I tagged along to play event photographer and see what this thing was all about.

Turns out, it was very cool. The duathlon consisted of a 3 mile run, 12 mile bike, and 3 mile run. For anyone who's never done biking and running back-to-back, it is a very strange sensation - particularly the switch from biking to running. Simply put, it's not easy. So, I was truly impressed by the displays of sheer athleticism, strength, endurance, and...


Okay, maybe "impressed" isn't the right word for how I feel about that. Although I am impressed by anyone of any age who gets out there to compete and gives it their all. And with a speedo like that, how could he not give it his all? So kudos, old man in the funky shorts!

But moving on to the main focus of my camera... my hubby and friends. It was the first duathlon for all of them and they all did fabulously. It turned into a very toasty morning and I know the going got pretty tough toward the end, but they all finished strong. And Niki and her husband both won age group awards - how awesome is that?

Niki finishes up the 12 mile bike

Matt sprints for the finish

Niki and Jeff show off their age-group medals

The Weekend of Awesome Feats™ concluded on Sunday with my best-ever 16 mile training run performance. Like I said earlier, my Awesome Feat™ pales in comparison to those of the St Jude runners and the duathletes. But for the first time ever, I ran 16 miles in under 3 hours, and for me, that's a pretty Awesome Feat™.

My average pace was 10:51 and it really wasn't a struggle (although I did feel fatigued toward the end of the run because it was starting to get hot and I was running faster). Now, my alert readers will realize that this is quite a bit faster than my goal marathon pace. In order to run a 5 hour marathon, I need to run an 11:25 pace. I suspect as the long runs get longer, my average pace will slow down a bit, but I also suspect that I will be able to run quite a bit better than a 5:00 marathon come race day (assuming the weather cooperates). The truth is, I would like to shoot for a 4:45 marathon.

I am feeling the effects of my speedy sixteen today. I'm stiff-legged and a teeny bit sore. Perhaps I overdid it a little bit yesterday. Or perhaps that's just the small price one must pay to be a part of the Weekend of Awesome Feats™.

*cue Chariots of Fire theme music again*

Peace. Love. Train. ™

Friday, August 6, 2010

I'll be signing autographs this weekend...

...if anyone wants one.

*crickets chirping*

Okay. Fine. Suit yourselves. But when I finally get my Nike sponsorship and move to Oregon to train with the big dogs, you'll all be sorry you missed your chance!

*readers fall out of their chairs with laughter*


Alright, alright, so I'm not exactly a world-famous celebrity like, say, Angelina Jolie or Bob Ross (RIP). But I did make the local newspaper this morning! And I'm on their website too. That's gotta count for something, right? Here's the article, which I would like to emphasize is on the FRONT page of the sports section. If that's not fame, I don't know what is. I'd also like to point out that the very first words of the article happen to be my name.

So, maybe I am on my way to achieving a level fame that rivals Bob Ross'. And maybe you really do want an autograph. It's okay to admit it. Really.

Although, the truth is that the ones who are truly famous are our coaches. They are the ones that make this group happen and push us beyond what we ever thought we could achieve. Never in my wildest dreams would I have done a workout like the one we did last night without the expert guidance (*ahem* torture?) of the FAST coaches.

This workout was - and there's really no other way to put it - evil. Coach Brad has gone so far as to name this workout "The FAST", implying that this workout will become a sort of signature workout for us. This terrifies me to my very core.

I'd like to point out that it was last night that the newspaper photographer came to shoot our group (*pew pew pew!*). And boy did he pick a good one. He easily took a couple hundred photos of us... and only six made it on the website. In those six photos, we looked pretty good (i.e. no puking, no pained grimaces, etc). My theory is that in all the other 194 photos, we looked like death. You will soon understand why when I describe our workout.

Here's the rundown: 1 mile warmup, 2-mile tempo run on track, 1 Hill of Death loop, 2 mile tempo run on track, collapse in a heap on track.

Yes. That's right. The track and the Hill of Death all in the same workout. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

I aimed to keep my tempo runs at about a 9:00 pace. It was definitely challenging. The first two miles averaged 8:56. The Hill of Death was brutal. The second two miles averaged 8:48. I was pleased with that. For the final lap of the second two miles, I wasn't sure I would be able to hold onto my pace - I was really tired. But both coaches started running with me. They were crowding around me on the track, with Maggie beside me and Brad behind me. I could see fellow FASTie Cathy ahead of me on the track and I was slowly gaining on her. Coach Brad told me to reel her in. About halfway through the lap, I passed her. I thought I was golden. But in the last 50 yards I heard some commotion behind me and I looked back to find that Cathy had caught back up to me. Not wanting to be outdone, I shifted gears and sprinted toward the finish, filled with a sense of accomplishment. And also a sense of nausea.

And then I collapsed.

Okay, not really. I wanted to collapse. But I managed to remain upright long enough to walk a cooldown lap. To my fellow FASTies who also completed "The FAST" last night, I must give you all big high fives, because that was not easy. Not that FAST ever is easy... but this particular workout was in a league of its own.

Kind of like me. And Bob Ross.

Peace. Love. Train.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

You had to be there...

Seriously. You just had to be there. There was so much going on at FAST last night that I am not sure I can adequately capture it all in one lousy blog post. Where do I even begin? Well, at the beginning, I suppose.

And the beginning is a confession: I wasn't even going to go to FAST last night.

*collective gasp from readers*

Yes, yes, I know - how could I even think about missing out on a fun-filled FAST adventure? Well, the heat index was, and I am not making this up, 108°F. ONE HUNDRED AND *insert swear words* EIGHT! I emailed Coach Brad to see if he could tell me what the workout would be so I could go and do it in air-conditioned comfort on the treadmill. He emailed me back and said I would miss out on the newspaper reporter who was coming to do a story on FAST.

Hold the phone.

A chance for fame and glory??? Suddenly 108° didn't seem that bad after all. Surely I could endure a little heatstroke for a moment of fame. I put on one of my cutest running outfits and showed up to the park ready for my big interview.

As it turned out, the reporter showed up sans photographer, so my cute outfit was for naught. But I did get interviewed, and of course I said all sorts of wonderful things about FAST and how it's helped me reach new heights in my running. Apparently the photographer will be showing up to a yet-to-be-determined FAST practice, which means I'll have to always have cute outfits ready to go. This may require some shopping. Pity.

The reporter interviewed several FASTies, and then the coaches sent us off on our workout. The good news: it would be short due to the excessive heat. The bad news: it would involve the Hill of Death. Given the fact that I was sweating buckets just standing around, I was concerned the Hill of Death might live up to its name.

The 2 mile warmup wasn't so awful. Oh, don't get me wrong - it was miserably humid and hot, but at least I was able to maintain forward motion without passing out. I got to the base of the Hill of Death and grabbed a drink of water. Well, more like a half-gallon of water. And then I proceeded to do the Hill Of Death march. I gave a few words of encouragement to fellow FASTies Nikki and Tim, who looked a little uneasy about running the hill (I believe my actual words were "Come on, you pansies!"). Trust me, if you knew Nikki and Tim, you'd understand why this approach works on them. They took off and passed me on the way up the hill. They may be pansies, but they're speedy pansies.

We all finished the Hill of Death successfully. And nobody puked! I could tell Brad was a little bummed about that. After the hill, we were instructed to run a 1-mile pseudo-cooldown... "pseudo" because we were supposed to throw in a couple of pickups, and also because it just wasn't possible to get cool in 108° weather. So the workout ended up being about 3.5 miles which is fairly short for a FAST workout. Believe me, I'm not complaining. And I'm sure the coaches will make up for it soon enough... like Thursday.

After I returned from my cooldown, imagine my surprise when none other than Coach Bekah showed up! She had hip surgery back in June and is just now getting back to weight-bearing activity. Here she is with her good friend, Mr. Crutch. Also pictured are Tim's legs - nice, aren't they?

Bekah has been spending her recovery time watching lots of movies. Not being able to move much and basically being confined to a recliner for weeks and weeks has turned her into quite the movie aficionado. She was telling us about some of the movies she's watched...

And that's when Nikki decided to tell us all about a movie that she recently watched. *insert scary music* I captured most of her description on video, but this is a family blog and I think the subject matter is highly... um... nauseating. So I will simply tell you the name of the movie, and you are free to Google it... or not (and I would highly recommend NOT Googling it - consider yourself warned). It's called The Human Centipede. Nikki launched into a 10-minute narrative describing this movie in painstaking detail. The video footage I took alternates between Nikki's animated description, and the horrified expressions on the faces of the FASTies. But what I found most alarming was that she said, and I quote, "It was like $6.99 on OnDemand and we were like, why is it so expensive? Is it porn? So we totally ordered it!" Interesting. Well I think we all learned something new about Nikki last night. If there is enough demand for it, I may post my video on YouTube. But I will not embed it here.

While we were standing around chatting about exceptionally disturbing movies, Coach Brad made a new friend. See it? There, on his head?

Why it's a cute little butterfly! In true Snow White fashion, Coach Brad can call wildlife to himself with just a song. As you may recall, Coach Brad witnessed the rare pooping deer, which is something that only someone who is truly one with nature could ever experience. Last night was no different, as this butterfly fluttered onto Brad's shoulder, and then onto his hat, and sat there for quite some time. It probably didn't intend to sit on Brad's head for so long, but was weakened by the stench of sweat and Gatorade. Poor thing.

So that was Tuesday night FAST in a nutshell. Whew. I'm exhausted from all this story-telling. Now, if you'll all excuse me, I need to go shopping for more cute running clothes because I have to be ready for the newspaper photographer!

Peace. Love. Train.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

There's nothing like the smell of oil refinery during a long run...

It really opens up the sinuses and clears the mind. It also induces gagging and wheezing, but that's beside the point. And really, it makes the run more effective because if you can run well while inhaling noxious petroleum fumes, imagine how well you can run in fresh air!

As I mentioned in my last entry, the hubby and I took a little trip down south to visit family, most notably, our adorable little nephew (more on him later). The town we were in isn't terribly runner-friendly - there are no sidewalks, and the entire town population drives huge pickup trucks at breakneck speeds (I think it's a requirement for getting a driver's license there). Nevertheless, when you gotta run, you gotta run. I make do with the roads I am given.

The last time I did a long run in this town, I made the mistake of wearing my godforsaken water bottle holder, a frustration which made me want to perform Chinese Water Torture on whoever invented it. Although, really, it's not their fault that I have big hips and a small waist. But still, you'd think they could design something for people like me who don't want to wear their water bottle belts just under their chests. Anyway, getting back to the point... In order to avoid having to use that irritating contraption, I decided I would just stash water and Sharkies at my in-laws house, and do short little out-and-back runs from there. It worked well - I was able to get water every 3-4 miles. To keep myself from getting bored, I ran in a different direction each time I left the water stop.

For one leg of the route, I had to run past the beautiful and scenic oil refinery. It was a treat for the eyes and the nose. But as I said earlier, anyone who can run strong while inhaling petroleum gas fumes can certainly run strong in clean air. And since I averaged a 10:33 pace for my 10 methane-scented miles, I would say that holds much promise for a fresh-air run.

I was surprised to come across, during my run, several other runners. It wasn't so much the fact that there were other runners out, but the fact that more than half of them were running on the wrong side of the road. Maybe I should have said something to them. It is, after all, a safety issue and can quite literally be a life-or-death issue.

So, boys and girls, it's time for today's Running Safety Lesson: If you are running on the road, always run facing oncoming traffic! In most of the world, this is the left-hand side of the road. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule, such as running around blind curves, or up a blind hill. But these instances are generally rare. The idea is to be able to see the vehicles that are coming at you, so you can make sure they see you.

So there. I've gotten that off my chest. Be safe out there - you may think you own the road at your blazing 10:33 pace (well, at least that's how I feel at a 10:33 pace), but the truth is, the cars, trucks, SUV's, Hummers and semis own the road and can squash you like a bug.

And now, without further ado, it's time for the Cute Baby Show. I haven't seen my nephew since March, and now he's 8 months old and is like a completely different baby. He's almost twice as big, and much more interactive. He's also a devious little troublemaker. Case in point: he nailed me with a spit-up bomb on Monday morning, forcing me to change my pants. Then, an hour later, I picked him from his nap, and he got me again, forcing me to change my shirt! I had to do a complete wardrobe change before lunchtime! See the photo below for photographic evidence of spit-up bomb #2 - my oh-so-helpful husband took that picture. Note the look of complete and utter pride on that child's goo-covered face.

I'm hoping he'll be past this spit-up phase next time we visit him. Of course, then he'll probably be in a whole new and more worrisome phase - crawling. Not too far behind that will be walking, which inevitably leads to running. And that means time to go shopping for baby running shoes. Do you suppose they perform gait analysis on babies?

Peace. Love. Train.