Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Random Thoughts - Seattle Weekend of Fun

My Seattle Rock & Roll weekend was one of my favorite running vacations! I had so much fun and checked everything off my Seattle to-do list. It was a jam-packed 4 days and I'm tired. But in a good way. These are just some random thoughts from the race and the weekend:

*While the Rock & Roll was fun, I probably won't do another one. I think I like smaller, less crowded runs. I didn't get to see as much as I would like since I had to make sure I didn't run into anyone.
*I did feel a little jealous/bitter when I saw the other marathoners before the start. Just a little. Then I gave myself a little kick in the backside and told myself to move on. I never looked back after that.
*This was the first time I followed a pacer and I didn't really like it. She didn't run even splits and it was too hard dodging the other people running with the pacer. I think I could have run a little faster or a little easier if I hadn't had to dodge so many people, especially around the aid stations.
*I carried Gu Brew with me and had a gel right before we started so I didn't have to use any of the aid stations. I like this a lot and it's what I've done the last few halfs that I've done. Definitely going this way in the future. Added bonus: it also means I didn't contribute to the trash along the route!
*I enjoyed the bands along the route and could have stopped to listen to a few of them. I thought the cheerleaders did a great job. I especially liked the zombie cheerleaders near the finish. They cracked me up. So appropriate.
*I really like the zen-ness of running a marathon and training for one. But I have to say that running a half marathon is a total kick. You feel like you put in a great effort but you aren't so spent after that you can't do other fun stuff.
*27,000 people ran the marathon and half marathon and everything went like clockwork for me. I was in and out of the registration fast, gear check in was quick and picking up my bag after was even quicker. There was plenty of food and water both before and after (even if it was a little plain). Probably the longest I had to wait was for the photo with my medal. Should have skipped that though – I blinked!
*People complained about the hills afterward. I didn't think it was very hilly. A few small ones and some really good downhills (which my quads reminded me of the next day) but mostly flatish. This was the least hilly race I've done so far this year. It makes me happy to know that I am doing so well with hills. I kind of like them. :)
*I think I pissed some people off because when they asked if I ran, I would say “just the half” or “only the half”. I need to stop doing that. But hey, the half marathon is a fun run for me!
*My 10K split during the half was 55:28 which is a PR for that as well. Does that count? My best 10K time was 55:56 which I did just last November. And I ran my little heart out in that Turkey Trot! That's pretty cool, eh? So fun to see how much I'm improving in such a short time. Thanks Jason! Can't thank you enough for all the help you've given me.

One last thing...Things don't always turn out the way you plan but if you can accept what happens and go with the flow, you may find yourself having an amazing adventure. Life works in mysterious ways sometimes.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Rock & Roll Half Report - Run Easy & PR

How do you run a PR at a Half Marathon you aren't "racing"? I don't know, but I did it!

I signed up for the Seattle Rock & Roll Marathon last November. I had the first 6 months of 2011 all planned out and the R&R Marathon was going to be the icing on the cake for a spectacular 1st half of the year. Everything was going as planned until I tweaked my calf at the beginning of June. After talking it over with my coach, Jason, I decided to drop to the half marathon and run it for fun. I'd just taken time off, missed key long runs, and I wanted to make sure my calf didn't have any more issues so no running hard. And honestly, after taking 10 days off, when I started running again, I thought I'd lost my speed and I felt sluggish.

Anyway, I went into this weekend really relaxed. I didn't taper. I didn't rest the day before. I didn't worry about carbo loading. This was basically going to be a medium long run on my way back to building up for the Santa Rosa Marathon in August.

The Day Before

I flew up to Seattle on Friday morning. My flight arrived a little after 1 and I went to my hotel first to check in and drop off my bag and then headed to the expo. I wandered around the expo for a couple of hours to check things out. I shopped and picked up some samples, met Scott Jurek (He signed my bib! Woo!), and then headed back to the hotel. Then I walked down to the corner deli and got a turkey sandwich and ate it while I laid out my clothes, bib, chip, etc. I went to bed about 9 and set my alarm for 4.

I woke up before my alarm and ate my breakfast: orange juice, a banana and 2 mini bagels. I watched a little TV, got ready and headed down to the lobby to catch the shuttle to the start. I was on the first shuttle that left at 5 and the shuttle took us as close to the start as he could get. Turns out that was a little more than a mile from the Start so we had a little walk to get there.

Once there, I waited around for a while then dropped off my gear bag and started my warm-up. The plan from Jason called for a 14 mile run so I did a standard warm up and then ran for a mile. When I finished, everyone was heading into the corrals and I headed for the 2hr half corral which happened to be corral 15. The corrals went off 1 at a time with about 45 seconds between them so by the time we actually started I was starting to cool down. But the excitement was building. There was a lot of energy around me and a lot of it was nervous energy. But not for me. Since I had no expectations, I wasn't nervous at all. Just raring to go so I could experience my first Rock & Roll!

The Half Marathon
Finally, our corral was ready to go and they counted us down and then we were off. And there was just a mass of people everywhere. I'm not sure how anyone can go out too fast with so many people around.

I'd decided to stay with the 2 hr pacer for this race. I'd run a 1:59:23 half in April on a really hilly course so I thought I could do a 9:10 pace for this run. But if I wasn't feeling it, I could slow if I wanted to. I was going to go by feel and listen to my breath. No heavy breathing!

The first 8 miles went by in a blur. There were some great bands and some very enthusiastic cheerleaders and spectators. But mostly I just worked on holding myself back and staying behind that pink 2:00 sign. I had noticed the pacer wasn't running even paces and when she dropped behind me after mile 8, I gave up on her and just kept going at the pace/effort I was at. I never saw her again. I think it was kind of frustrating running with the pacer because of the group around her. It felt crowded and I kept having to dodge people in the aid stations as they dodged left and right to get water or cytomax. I was carrying my own Gu Brew so I never used the aid stations. Once I dropped the pace group, it was much more relaxing and easier. I don't think I will do that again! Well, maybe in a smaller race. But I think I would have been more evenly paced on my own.

Back to the race...There was some hill in mile 9 and my calf did twinge a little on the steep part but nothing to worry about. I still felt really good so I decided to treat this like a fast finish long run. I picked it up a little but still not so I was running as hard as 10K pace or my tempo pace. I was still trying to run relatively easyish. Miles 10-12 were at a good effort. The biggest thing that happened was that they tried to send me on the marathon course because of my bib color so I lost a few seconds figuring out which way to go. Finally, for the last mile I thought "oh hell, I'm going for it" and picked it up to tempo effort. And then once we hit the .1, I picked it up a little more til I saw the finish line. Then it was all out, baby. I gotta say, I love that feeling.

I crossed the line and remembered to stop my Garmin and looked at my time - 1:57:32! A PR! Woo!

I got my medal, went thru the photo line, then got some grub and a cape. Went over to the UPS trucks and picked up my gear bag to get my jacket, then I sat down to eat and just watch everything. The Seahawks/Sounders band gave a great performance on the steps of Qwest Field so I watched them for a while. But then I started to get really cold and hungry so I decided to head to the train and back to the hotel. When I got to the Tukwila station, I headed over to the Pancake Chef and had some eggs, bacon, and pancakes. So very yummy! And they had Boysenberry, Strawberry, and Maple syrup. Score! So of course I had to have a pancake w/each. The perfect breakfast after a half marathon. :) Then I went back to the hotel to put my feet up and warm up.

Racing was done for the weekend. Bring on the sightseeing!

Here are the official results. My official time was 1:57:26 so a 1 min 57 sec PR.

Both my coach and I are really curious to see what I could do if I really raced a 1/2 marathon. I know I have a faster one in me. But that wasn't the goal for this one. I didn't want to run hard and then have to take time off to recover since I'd already missed almost 2 weeks of running this month. I am happy with the way I ran it. I am ecstatic that I still got a PR! And I'm really excited to see what I can do at the Santa Rosa Marathon! Big things are coming. Jason's Year of the PR is happening for me. I hope it's happening for you too.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Making Lemonade

The Rock & Roll Seattle Marathon is in 5 days. I will not be racing it. Instead I will be switching to the half marathon and running it for fun.

I am a little disappointed. I had such high hopes for this marathon. Sigh. But it wasn't meant to be I guess. My calf decided that for me. Sure, I could run the marathon and I’m pretty sure I would finish. Mostly sure. I mean, I've done 3 already and nothing could be as bad as the first when I was having cramps in both calves! But I think I will be smarter to not push my calf. Live to run another day. Because I’m not just in this for a race but for life!

So instead of being bitter and walking around like I'm sucking on a lemon, I've decided to make lemonade! Here’s what’s positive about this change:
*I'll get to spend as much time at the expo as I want.
*I'll get to sample any food/nutrition they have there.
*I don't have to worry so much about nutrition and carbo loading before it.
*I'll be good to go for some sightseeing on Saturday.
*I'll be much more open for adventure/hiking/cycling on Sunday.
*I'll be able to run right away so I can look for a trail to run on Monday and do some exploring.
*I'll still get a medal and a shirt.
*I'll be able to take pictures along the course since I'm not worried about time.
*If I find something cute to wear at the expo, like green compression socks or a sweet skirt, I can wear it for the half.
*Scott Jurek is going to be at the expo and I hope I get to meet him!
*My friend Toni won't have to wait so long for me if she can get off work to come watch the race.

So basically, I can break all the rules about pre-race rest & nutrition and race day nutrition and clothing. It’s kind of freeing. :) And I'll have more time for and be in a better place for checking out the Seattle area! I've never been there before so I can’t wait.

I would not have chosen this path. But since I had to take this detour, I'm going to enjoy all the sights and sounds that Seattle has to offer. The thing I love most about running is what an adventure it is. You can't do much better than that for a hobby that lets you explore your world in the best way possible…by foot.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

3 Legs - No Limits

I have been running on Tuesdays and Thursdays forever. Ok, just the past 2 years or so. Someday, I will be able to say forever and it will be true! Anyway, back to the story…

Every Tuesday & Thursday, I would see a man and his little brown dog running on the trail. Sometimes we would be going in same direction but usually we would be running in opposite directions. The little brown dog was never on the leash when I met them on the trail and he would run back and forth chasing rabbits or stopping to smell stuff. Normal dog stuff. When I would go running by him, he would often run with me a little. I’d look down and see him smiling up at me as if to say “Hey, this is fun!”

Now, I usually do tempo runs on Tuesdays or Thursdays and sometimes fartleks. So there would be days when I would be flying down the trail (at least in my head) and then this little dog would go zipping by me and look over his shoulder at me and I could swear he was encouraging me to run faster. I saw the challenge in those big brown eyes! I would laugh at how effortless he ran and how hard I was working and couldn't keep up with him. He'd definitely put me in my place but yeah, I would pick it up a little after seeing him.

But then a few months ago, I stopped seeing them. No dog and no owner. Then a couple months ago, I started seeing the owner but not the dog. I would wave to the owner or say good morning but I didn't ask him about his dog. I almost didn't want to know why he wasn't running with him anymore.

Well, today I saw the little brown dog out with his mom. Not where I usually see him. But he was running around checking things out and since it was dark, I didn't recognize him til he was a few feet from me. Then I saw that he was running with just 3 legs. He'd lost one! But he was still grinning and I think he was happy to see me. :)

I asked his mom what had happened and she said they'd found a cancerous tumor in his front leg and they'd had to remove it two months ago. I told her I was glad to see he was out and about and she laughed. Probably wondered how I knew her dog! But she was also probably laughing because I don't think that little dog knew he shouldn't be running and having fun. It's just what he does and who he is. He’s a dog. He runs. He enjoys a little freedom. He doesn't know anything else. So he has no limits. Missing a leg is not going to stop him from doing what he does best: being a happy dog.

I thought about him for the rest of my run. What would it be like to go thru life without putting limits on what you can do? To be so happy to just be and do what you love no matter what? I have to think it would be amazing.

Last week, I talked about how you might be influencing people you aren't even aware of. That little brown dog certainly gave me something to think about today and he'll never know.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Best Laid Plans

I finally ran on Saturday. I ran 3 miles. Not much but it felt so good to be running again. I was relieved. Not just because I have a race in 12 days but also because I really missed it. As much as I love cycling and it feels like second nature to me, I love running more. Maybe because it’s something I really have to work at. Maybe because I feel like I’m running toward a goal where when I am cycling it’s more like play time. Whatever it is, I’m just glad it’s back!

I also ran 6 miles on Sunday. Both runs went pretty well, if a little boring. I chose a quarter mile section of the bike trail near my apartment and just ran back and forth on it. That way if I felt like my calf was having issues, I would be close to home and not have to walk a ways. I felt a little like a hamster but still that was a whole lot more fun than running on a dreadmill would be! I’ll take it. :)

I spent a lot of time on the bike this weekend and only a little time running but I did a lot of thinking and planning ahead on both. I had only planned the 1st half of the year as far as races go. I was hoping to hit 4 hours for the Seattle Rock & Roll (or close to it) but how I did there would determine the rest of the year. If I hit 4 hours, then the rest of the year would be spent on trails and running up mountains in preparation for a 50K by the end of the year. I would have been happy coming close to 4. But if I didn't come close, then I would run another marathon in November and go for 4 then and push back the 50K to January or February 2012.

The first scenario would have been ideal. It would have fit into my goals for the year quite nicely. However, things don’t always work out the way we want them to. So…

Change in plans!

I’m going to switch to the half marathon for the Seattle Rock & Roll. The info packet I just received said it’s not a problem. I talked it over with my coach, Jason, and we both agreed that I could run the marathon but would have to run it easy and we still don’t know if my calf will like the 26.2 miles. It’s untested. I know I can do the half marathon easily. Ha! Do you know what a kick it is to say that? That you know you could pop out a half marathon at any time? What a trip!

Sorry, back to the business.

Anyway, I also decided to run this one for fun and not worry about time either. I already hit my half marathon goal for the year so I am okay with just relaxing, seeing the sights, and enjoying the music. Plus, I’ll be able to enjoy Seattle that much more without the sore legs!

Am I disappointed? Hell yeah! I really, really think I was on track to get another PR. But the reason I run in the first place is because it brings me joy and makes me feel alive. I would rather take it easy in Seattle and keep running than risk more time off. You don’t even want to know how cranky I was last week! Trust me. ;)

I’m also a little disappointed because I was hoping to sign up for the Harpeth Hills Flying Monkey Marathon in November. It’s supposed to be one tough monkey of a race. Registration is August 1st and I already had it on my calendar. I guess I will have to try for it next year.

Right now I’m looking for a marathon at the end of August or beginning of September. Because, honestly, I’m still hoping to do a 50K before the end of the year. I’m not sure if that would be enough time but I would like to try. I still need another state to mark off for the year. I am hoping to run in one of these states in the fall: Texas, New Mexico, Utah, or maybe somewhere further north like Wyoming, Montana or Idaho. It doesn't have to be flat or big. I don’t care if there are spectators, just great views, coolish, and fastish. I will do the rest. :)

So that’s my plan now. Of course, I’ll probably be second guessing myself all the way up to the line next Saturday. Could I have run the full? Did I make the right decision? Did I let fear get in the way or am I being smart? It’s hard to let a goal go. Sometimes you have to.

What do you think?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Silver Lining

I haven't run in a week now. I am a little cranky and a little nervous. It could be worse, of course. I can still ride so that's keeping me sane. I've been getting extra sleep since I don't have to get up so early to run. And best of all...I'm still eating properly!

In the past, when I was overwhelmed by my feelings, the first thing I would turn to was comfort food - donuts, cookies, candy, pizza, cheeseburgers, etc. All the stuff that is bad for you. I'd eat until I was way past full and then end up feeling worse than before. Which meant I'd reach for more food. It was vicious cycle and it's why I gained so much weight.

Running, more than riding, helped me control my eating. It's much, much harder to run after a bad meal than it is to ride. You can get away with it on the bike. It ain't pretty but it's not going to cause a problem. Usually. The thing about running for me is that my stomach does not like to have food in it when I run. It sorta makes it way out pretty fast if I've had any. For me, nutrition is one of the more frustrating aspects of getting the long run nailed down. But the benefit is that I'm always thinking about what my next run is going to be and do I want it to be hard or easy on my stomach. So I choose the sensible meal and watch my calories. Both to make sure I get enough and to make sure I don't eat too much.

Anyway, since I haven't been running this week and I haven't had to watch what I eat, I wondered what would happen with my food intake. After all, I was anxious. Maybe a little mad. Maybe a little depressed. The emotions that were most likely to trigger an "episode". Would I reach for that donut in the lunch room? Would I stop at Legends on the way home? Would I polish off the rest of the Grasshopper cookies?

Well, I am happy to report that I didn't do any of that. Not once. And it hasn't even crossed my mind! That's probably the part I am most happiest about. It means I've finally learned not to use food to solve my problems! (seeing as how it never did and only made them worse). I think I may even be a little leaner this week. Today I was able to pull my skirt on without unzipping it or undoing the button (good thing it has a belt...oh darn, more shopping ;) )

So no running but happy with how I dealt with it. And of course, I've had lots of extra bike time. I should hit 200 miles this week thanks to a 3 1/2 hour ride on Sunday. That will be the highest bike week for me ever!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

That Girl

Did you know that people are paying attention to what you are doing? Did you know that you are influencing people every time you run or ride outside? You may not think you are. You might think that you are just going about your own business. But that would be false!

When you make a habit of something like running or cycling or bike commuting…people notice, whether they are your friends or neighbors or complete strangers. I can’t tell you how many times people on the street have stopped me to tell me they've seen me here or there. They tell me how great I’m doing. They ask me how far I run or ride. They ask me if I’m training for something or if I’m nervous being out there by myself. They ask me about my gear. They stop me on the bike path or at a stoplight, even at the store or REI. They tell my mom and my friends they've seen me out and about.

I've always thought of myself as incognito when I ride and run because I always wear a hat or helmet and I don’t wear my glasses when I run and usually sunglasses when I ride. It amazes me how many people recognize me. Sometimes it’s a little weird but mostly it’s fun. It makes me feel like I’m part of community. That I’m not alone out there even if I’m running or riding by myself. Sure, there are the regulars I see every day out walking or in their yards. I just never thought about the cars going by me noticing too.

One day, I was on my bike at a red light and the truck next to me rolled down his window. I braced myself for a rude comment (which is what most cyclists hear from motorists) and to my surprise, he first gave me a caution (that he was letting the car in the left hand lane make a right in front of him so he would be going in front of me too) and then to tell me that he was impressed with how committed I was to bike commuting and with how much weight I’d lost.

Then, just this past weekend, I had another “encounter”. I was out on a 20 mile run with about 1 mile to go and as I was waiting for a light, a woman came up running to wait as well. She asked me how far I had run and when I told her she said “oh, because I saw you early this morning out on Baseline as I was taking my son to the airport. I work in the Lewis buildings (the company that I work for but other companies rent space as well) and I see you all the time. You are doing great.”

It made me feel like I had become “that girl”. You know “that girl who’s always riding” or “that girl you see running all over the place”. Like a character in the neighborhood. But in a good way. Who knows, maybe one of them will lace up their shoes or hop on a bike after seeing me!

So the next time you head out the door, remember…you are probably setting a great example for someone you may never meet!