Sunday, June 28, 2009

Heels and Hills $5 5K on June 28 - These Are My People

This morning we had a Heels and Hills 5K chip-timed race in Irving for $5. For no advertising except word of mouth, and on a Sunday no less, we had 78 runners and walkers come out. I get so giddy on mornings where I race direct. Seeing everyone so excited and happy before the race. I love to cheer people in as they finish. And it's great to see the smile and happiness of the finishers, well, most of them anyway.

I can not tell you the difference in facial expression and reaction between the top 20 finishers and the bottom 20 finishers - worlds apart! I was so sad to see the top finishers unhappy with the heat and their times and so intense in their facial expression. I know they are "real" runners, hardcore, out for the win, running their hearts out in the heat. But the focus of these low-cost events is on having fun while staying active. I'd love to have them slow down a little and have the same experience crossing the finish line that the last 20 finishers had. There's nothing like cheering on people as they cross that act like they aren't happy to be there. And I know they enjoyed the event overall but where was the fun?

The last 20 finishers celebrated with me as they crossed. They pumped fists in the air. They had broad smiles plastered across their faces. They cheered on the person behind them coming into the finish next, even if they didn't know the person. They had little mini-competitions in the last 100 feet to the finish line - a hard kick of two people side by side faux-fighting it out for the top finisher of their own little mini-race. At the end of the day, these are the people who had the most fun, got the most out of the morning's experience, and were the happiest.

And this second group, these are my people. I'll never be fast enough to be part of the first group I described, but even if I could be that fast, I don't think my personality would fit anyway. I'm the dork at each half marathon that's "just happy to be there". I celebrate each race finished and love to see others doing that.

That second group of people made my day and thank you to them for helping me remember after I got up at 4:30 am why I'm here.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Training in the Heat - An Exercise in Willpower

The goal for last night's training run was to do 3 miles in 10:30 to 10:50 range. Fast for me, the typical 12-12:30 pace runner. It's also almost 100 degrees in the evenings now when I run. And it doesn't look like that's going to end soon. I also wasn't feeling great, a hip was feeling a little tweaked, and at the last minute I was doing this run on my own because my training partner had to cancel. Not looking good...

Mile 1 felt good, doing a 10:36. I was happy that the around-10:30 pace is starting to feel easier, even in this heat. I must be getting faster.

Half a mile into mile 2 and the heat is getting to me. I'm miserable. I've been weaving up and down through the many streets in my neighborhood and realize as I'm closing in on the end of Mile 2 that I can either go left and go home....or go right and be at the entrance to the neighborhood. Our neighborhood has a 5 foot tall brick and stone wall running down the main road with the only entrances on either end of the community. So I head for the entrance, using a trick my friend Sarah had recently taught me. If there's no physical way to get home sooner, you can't wimp out on finishing the run! Mile 2 is a 10:56.

So I'm dragging myself along down the busy street with that brick wall on my left. My pace and form improve as there's more traffic here and I obviously don't want to look like someone who needs 911 called on me. I want people in their cars to pass by and think "Wow, there's a real runner". I am lucky that running speed is hard to gauge by a car going 45 mph, and I want to make this look easy, even though I'm feeling so far from that. In fact, my brain goes to that nasty place where it wants to know why we are doing something so insane as a hard run in this heat, and I'm starting to think that 5 foot tall brick wall doesn't look so bad - I could scale that - I could find a way over that wall to make this run "be over".

I approach the other entrance to the neighborhood and "uh oh" I'm getting too close to home too fast.

I don't want to stray too far away and end up lengthening my run or having a long hot sweaty walk back. So I turn it into a game. This entire run has felt like a test, wanting to quit most of the time but working on pushing myself when I'm feeling not so great anyway. So I head down the street parallel to my own, come around the corner, and come within 100 yards of my house. I can see it. I still have 0.3 miles left to make 3 miles.

And that's when I prove I have better willpower than I would have had 6 months or a year ago. I turn right around and head away from the house back up that parallel street and go finish my 0.3 miles, so I can have another 0.3 mile walk back to the house to cool down. Mile 3 finished in 11:25.

All 3 miles still ahead of the 11:30 pace I'll have to be able to do to break 2 1/2 hours this fall. So good training, even if not all perfectly in that 10:30 to 10:45 goal I was intended to do. Done in 32:56, average pace of 10:59.

I was really proud after this run for sticking with it. It's just so easy to quit. And last night I didn't. A major reason I love running - it's always an opportunity to challenge and test ourselves!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Ready to Complete One New Year's Resolution...But This Weather!

So I've been training hard the last few weeks. My big goal is to break 2 1/2 hours in the half marathon (11:30 pace, for a gal who currently runs a half at a 12:30 pace... eek!). Today the training schedule had me doing 3 miles at around a 10:45 pace. Before the run, I'm not convinced I can sustain that. I take it back - I'm definitely thinking I can't do that! My training partner for the night has a minor injury so calls me and has to cancel her participation. Great. Now I really won't have the motivation to push myself to keep the pace on target...

I head out the door at 7:30. It's around 95 degrees outside. Uck!
I nail the first mile and I actually feel really good. 10:38 on the first mile.

Halfway through the first mile, I start having that brain spasm that says "Just walk, you know you want to." This was part of the reason I could never get faster before. Because I would let myself periodically give up and walk.

I push on and hit the main big hill in my neighborhood. Up up up the hill. I finish the mile. 10:38 for the second mile. Awesome. Spot on.

Third mile I'm really wanting to give up and walk. The slight breeze that kept me feeling pretty good has completely disappeared.

I always hear other runners talk about how they feel like they can't breathe in this heat. Instead, I feel this intense heat building inside my head and feel like my whole brain is catching on fire ... but I can breathe just fine. :-)

I never take a walk break on this third and last mile, but I allow myself to slow down and trudge on. I've been trying so hard not to shuffle my feet like I tend to if I'm a little tired, but I'm occasionally hearing that whissh whissh ... whissh whissh of my soles skimming the ground. I pick up my legs and manage to stop the shuffling each time I start. I finish the third mile with an 11:11.

So 10:38, 10:38, 11:11 - total of 32:27 or a 10:49 average. While that wasn't 3 miles right around 10:45, it works out pretty close in the end.

The bigger news is the confidence boost this gives me. Another New Year's Resolution, besides breaking 2:30 on the half marathon, is to break 32 minutes at the 5K distance. I started the year with a PR of 35 1/2. I had an amazing, can't-understand-how-I-did-that 5K in February where I took more than 3 minutes off my PR and brought it down to 32:19. But it was a nice temp out (February) and an evening race (which appears to be a faster time for me than morning). Until the last couple weeks, I've consistently run 12-13 min/mi with occasional 11:30s so I have no clue where that February 5K time came from and really felt like it was a fluke... or a lucky day.

But now I'm feeling like I'm not having a fluke now. I'm actually getting faster and feeling stronger. And if I can run 3.0 in 32:27 in 95 degree heat, what can I run in 50 degree weather?

So here are my options...
  1. I have to work another month and a half and get much much faster to manage to break 32 minutes in the Texas summer heat,
  2. I can hold on to this speed level and the 32 minute time goal will probably happen on its own in the fall,
  3. Where's the coolest place we can get to within a day's drive and has a Sunday 5K coming up soon? Who's up for a roadtrip in the next few weeks? :-)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Voting on Heels and Hills and Him Shirt Done!

After the run yesterday morning, Paula and I and the two Heels-and-Hills-ers that came to run with us looked over color swatches and shirt samples that I spread over a car hood. It was time for final decisions on the Heels and Hills and Him technical ("dry-wicking") shirt that all half marathon registrants will get at packet pickup. After discussing the 4 shirt styles we were considering and the 6 color swatches, we settled on the final choices for the Heels and Hills and Him shirts! It will be a two-color tech shirt (very fancy!) available in both men's and women's sizes, and of course will feature the fun INAUGURAL Heels and Hills and Him logo!

We picked a shirt material color that we think will look flattering on both men and women. Sizing of the samples seems pretty true to form, not sized too large or too small as compared to other shirts the same "size".

We're working with the manufacturer now to get a men's and women's prototype created and printed, and we are so excited! If our runners liked the pink women's Heels and Hills tech shirts in May, then they will love these shirts for the fall. I can't wait until we have the prototype that we can show all the runners and walkers!

Here's the shirt from the May event:

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Shuffling Along

I've been noticing when I get super tired on a run my feet start shuffling along the ground. It makes it so hard to pick those feet back up if I've been shuffling for a while so it's hard to pick up the pace. I focused on the Saturday run on really lifting the legs a little when they would start to feel tired. Even motivated myself out loud with "Stop shuffling, stop shuffling".

Have you paid attention to the sound of your feet on the pavement lately? Or can you even hear it over the music on your iPod? Something to think about... Some aches, tweaks, and pains and things affecting our speed and running performance can be discovered if we listen to our bodies more!

Happy Running!

On the Chisholm Trail...

I ran 5 miles this morning with a few friends on the Chisholm Trail in Plano. It had been a while since I had run there, and I had forgotten what a nice trail it is - well-maintained, a nice amount of running traffic, casual cyclists so less risk of bike-and-pedestrian accidents, lots of people walking dogs enjoying the morning, and well-shaded woody areas.

I was really happy with the final result - I ran 5 miles straight with NO walk breaks, and at what I would consider breakneck speed. We ran the first three miles right at a slight sub 11:30 pace. And then picked up the pace in the last two miles to run 11:02 and 11:03, respectively. Including a kick at the end for the last 30 seconds to really ramp up the pace - I didn't think I had it in me but was able to get it done.

Average pace of 11:18. Which is below the 11:30 pace I will need to break a 2 1/2 hour half marathon!

Sad moment: on the road right by the trail at one point, we came upon a duckling who had been run over badly and it must have been right before we got there (his little legs were still kicking). The saddest part was another 8 ducklings and mommy and daddy ducks standing there looking at it like "I don't think he's going to get up." I cried for the next minute of the run. That just killed me, and I made us run on the other side of the creek (the less-shaded side) on the "back" portion of the run so I wouldn't have to see that again.

This run and a couple runs recently have been creating a dialogue in my head about self-motivation... but that's for a future post.

Friday, June 19, 2009

A Running Moment between Women and an Appreciation for a Good Purse

For the last month or so, I occasionally see a certain woman out running in my neighborhood when I'm going to or coming from home. Every time I see her, I wince. She swings her arms side to side HORIZONTALLY with her whole upper body twisting. It looks so uncomfortable and so inefficient and I worry that she has back pain that she can't understand where it's coming from.

How many of us feel like we are really aware of our running form? Probably not many of us. If you run in a social or training group with people you form friendships with, someone will probably tell you if something looks off. If you don't, how would you know?

But every once in a while I would think about this woman. She always was running in the middle of the day, in the heat, alone. Had anyone ever brought up her unusual gait?

About a week ago, I saw her again while out with my husband. I brought the critique up again and my husband joked that we should just pull up alongside her and tell her. I laughed it off.

Coming home from errands mid-morning yesterday, I arrived at the stop sign at the entrance to our neighborhood and she was u-turning in front of me to go up the street the same direction I was headed. The timing was too perfect, I couldn't ignore this anymore!

I pulled up alongside her and rolled down my window and said, "I'm sorry to bother you. I'm a runner also." She took off her headphones and stopped running. I told her that I do a fair amount of running and know a lot of runners and I've been dying to stop and ask her when I see her out running if she has any back pain while running. She was very cordial, not upset or appearing freaked out, and said, "No, not really". I jumped in to explain how uncomfortable she looked the way she swung her arms and I had feared she might have back or upper body pain. She laughed and said her husband had brought it up to her before, but she has no pain and it works for her. I apologized for stopping her and told her I was glad she was okay and wished her luck. Before I pulled away, she pointed at my Burberry purse (that I've had as a gift for about 3 years and justify it by using it as my everyday purse every day since it was bought to justify how expensive it is), and smiled and said, "I love your purse. I have the exact same bag!" I laughed and said "We both have good taste then!" and she laughed and I headed home.

Only a woman could possibly pull a car up alongside another woman running alone. If a guy had done that to me while I was running, I would have completely freaked.

And only a woman would have ended a total stranger interaction with a compliment about her handbag!

Did I overstep my bounds? I don't know. Maybe. But I know that if it was me, I would want someone to tell me!

Happy Running!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Big Girl Panties - Learning to Suck It Up

Today I learned what "putting on my big girl panties" and gettin' it done is all about.

Let me back up just a little... At the beginning of the year, one of my New Year's Resolution was to break 2 1/2 hours in a half marathon by the end of the 2009. That would mean a 24 minute improvement over 2008's White Rock Half. I've since taken 12 minutes off my time, so I'm halfway there. My PR as of Big D in April is now 2:42, so a 12:30 pace.

My training to break 2 1/2 hours (an 11:30 pace) this fall formally began yesterday. I met up with friend Paula in the morning and did 5 miles, 4.5 miles at 11:30 pace and a half mile walk in the middle. It brought the average pace to 12:00. It was hard to keep the even pace, especially the last mile. But I was happy when I was finished.

Tonight I really learned to "put on my big girl panties" and make it happen. It's a favorite phrase of my good friend and fellow Heels and Hills co-race director Paula Robertson, usually said with her Mississippi drawl. She's also coaching me towards this goal. And I'm in good hands. Paula used to help with the women's training clinic with Dallas Running Club "back in the day" when it was Cross Country Club of Dallas (CCCD), spent a couple years as the Dallas Galloway Training Program Director and led a training program the first two years of Heels and Hills for participants. I needed help because I recognize that on my own, training myself, I'll push too hard and get injured or not enough and not meet the goal - it's just a reality that I kinda turn stupid when it comes to my own running. :-)

I thought I had already toughened up and moved from training pants into big kid underoos this spring. I had accomplished the following:

  • Shaved a little over 3 minutes off my 5K PR, throwing up at the finish line
  • Ran the Austin Half Marathon with stomach problems the whole way and PRed
  • Enjoyed the company of 12 lovely ladies for about 40 hours on almost no sleep as we completed a 200 mile relay race
  • Dealt with nasty weather conditions and feelings of dehydration during the Oklahoma City Half Marathon
  • Completed 5 half marathons between Feb. 14 and May 17

So I thought I'd had some toughening-up experiences already this year. Nope. Tonight I learned the difference between running and training.

This new training schedule had two time goals for today's run. The paces I would have to run looked so absurd, I never run that fast. I made several plans of how to amend that night's run if I was as unprepared as I feared I was. Amazingly, to me, I met both of the time goals!

Goal 1 - first mile between 9:52 and 10:13. Ran 10:06.
Goal 2 - second mile between 10:42 and 11:05. Ran 10:59.

So I met the plan in the training schedule for the night but learned a lot more about sucking it up in the meantime. I thought I was going to die this evening but managed to run way faster than I ever thought I could. The 10:06 mile was a new PR!

I hope I can keep this up, because man, I would love to hit this half marathon time goal! 18 more weeks...

Happy Running, and thanks for letting me vent!