Sunday, February 28, 2010

Unmotivated but Shifting my Focus - Running Streak Day 55 - Speedplay

After yesterday's new PR at Cowtown Half Marathon, I didn't feel motivated today - AT ALL.  It wasn't that I was too sore or too tired.  Even though the PR was a 3 minute improvement, and even though it was my 3rd half in 14 days, I was actually recovering nicely.  But I was just feeling a little burnt out.

Last month was my first time to ever have a month of over 100 miles.  So I thought it would be cool to have a second straight month of over 100 miles, which would feel more impressive since February's a short month.  But the last week had been hectic, so today I'd have to do 5.51 miles to hit 100 exactly.

Hubby could understand how I was feeling, and I spitballed with him (a non-runner who has learn to understand and keep up with most of what runners think and how we plan) about how to shift my training and what I wanted my goals to be.  I just didn't want to run today, but he said that the day after a PR was not the day to end my 54 day running streak.  I should decide that on another day and understand why I'm choosing that.

So at 5 pm, I pulled myself up by my bootstraps and got in my running clothes.  I went out and decided to run hard and do more of what yesterday's race had ended up being - run/walk intervals at a FAST pace for me.  I did the first 30 minutes with run 9 minutes / walk 1 minute.  I didn't pay a ton of attention to exact paces, but focused on the following... if a 10 was all-out, and 1 was the most meandering slow pace I could do, this was easily a 7-8, maybe even 9.  After 30 minutes, I moved to 7 / 1 intervals as I was getting more tired and knew I didn't really have any food (which = energy) in me.  Finally, at 5.1 miles, I walked and super-slow jogged the last 0.55 miles.  total: 5.55 miles.  That puts me at 100.04 miles for the month, and my 55th straight day of outdoor running DONE!

I'm still considering how I want to spend the next month of training.  More thoughts to come as they are formalized!

Mile 1: 10:54
Mile 2: 10:43
Mile 3: 10:54
Mile 4: 11:11
Mile 5: 11:36
Next 0.1 mi: 12:01
Final slow 0.55 mi: 13:43

Confluence of Events = Unlikely PR: Race Report for Cowtown Half Marathon

Saturday, February 27, 2010, I ran the Cowtown Half Marathon in Fort Worth, Texas.  I went into this race not feeling my best.  I had raced a half marathon 6 days prior and came within 3 minutes of a PR, and then, with an overwhelmingly busy and crazy week, I had not taken the time to get as good care of myself as I should of - not much icing, stretching, foam rolling, or resting going on!  I had pain in my left shin and my right hip was clicking with each step.  So practically, I knew I should go to this race and just enjoy the experience and not race it hard. 

Race morning I got there about 6:15 am for a 7:30 am start time and had no problem parking close.  It was about 36 degrees and it looked like it might warm up to about 42-43 by finish time, but the variable that was hard to gauge was the cold NW wind.  Fort Worth is known for being windy, and even a slight breeze would make you feel much colder.  So the front seat of my car had about half my closet sitting there as I went to choose items to form my complete outfit.  I ended up picking well it turned out - ear warmer, long sleeve shirt, throwaway gloves, sunglasses (it was a clear sky), tights with shorts over them.

Getting into the start corral was a bit of a mess.  With about 20,000 runners across the 5 events, it was chaotic.  I ended up jumping a bicycle barricade to get into the corral.  I crossed the start about 17 1/2 minutes after the gun, and I was NOT in the very back either.  I knew there were pace groups for the half marathon for 2:20 and 2:30 finishes.  I was getting the itch at the race start to really race it, so I didn't want to fall in with the 2:30 pace group, even though friend Marcie was the pace leader so that group was attractive with a familiar face.  And 2:20 was not even funny - I knew I couldn't hang with them long.  But ironically, shortly after the start, I saw the 4:50 marathon group come up.  Well, the marathon doesn't split off until mile 8, so half of 4:50 meant this was equivalent to a 2:25 finish time for the half marathon.  If I could keep with them to the split and then allow myself to slow down a little, I might barely make a new Personal Record.

I asked the pace leader some questions - he had on a vest that said Coach Joe and one of those full ski masks with sunglasses so I couldn't see his full face.  He told me they were going to do 7 minute run / 1 minute walk intervals.  The run intervals would be on an approx 10:54 pace to average out with the walk to the low 11's.  Now that's fast for me and I have not run intervals in a year or two.  I used to use intervals in all my half marathons, but I was at a point in my training that I had cut out all walk breaks.  So this was going to be interesting.  I then realized from the name and the voice, that this pace coach wasn't a stranger.  Coach Joe and I had met many times at the chiropractor's office! He's a pastor and a coach for Team in Training, and just a very motivational and positive person generally.  I knew I needed to stick with this group.  There were about 7 of us hanging with Coach Joe.

Sadly though Coach Joe ended up running us at 10-10:30 paces on the runs, so we were averaging out to about 10:45-10:55 as the miles piled on.  I questioned this and he said we were banking time for later in the race - you know, when I wouldn't be there since I was the sole half marathoner in the group. Argh.
Here's an illustration of how fast this pace was - my mile 4 split was 10:14. This is faster than my 5K PR pace of 10:20. Ack!
By mile 6, my heart rate was shooting up during each run segment and I was yelling about how stupid I was.  I shouted, "Why am I doing this? This is my speedwork pace.  I'm basically doing 7 minute speed repeats in a half marathon race! This is faster than my 15K PR pace, this is faster than my 15K PR pace!" A guy who happened to be running beside me said, "This is what happens when the adrenaline starts to wear off" and we laughed.  But I didn't want to lose this group - it was the only thing keeping that pace going.  I started leapfrogging more with the group, taking my walk breaks on the uphills and sprinting downhills to keep averaging out to their pace and catching back up to them.

At mile 8, they split off and I was on my own.  I didn't obsess over my Garmin much and just occasionally checked my average pace to make sure I was staying on track.  I would take short 30 second walk breaks when I felt like I really needed it.  There's a few miles late in the race on bricks/cobblestones.  This had been awful for me last year - bricks settle at different angles over time and slight changes can ripple from your feet through your ankles, knees, etc.  This year, I would hug the concrete curb or jump up on the sidewalk, and I gained a lot of time and passed quite a few people through these sections.

I had a decent kick at the end and finished with a 2:26:17! A new PR (previous PR was 2:29:23 set 6 weeks ago in Houston)!  I crossed the finish to see friends Sarah and Cruz waiting for me - it was great to celebrate that moment with friends!

Getting my official finish pic from the photographers.  Thanks, Cruz, for the picture!

For fun - here's my race report for this race in 2009...

All-Outdoor Running Streak: Day 54
6th Half Marathon in 2010
Third Half Marathon in 14 days
3 minute, 6 second improvement on my PR
16 minute, 23 second improvement over my finish time at this race last year (2:42:40)

Next Up:
Next weekend we have a Heels and Hills team participating in the Texas Independence Relay - a 12-person, 40 leg, 203.2 mile relay from Gonzalez, Texas to Houston, Texas.  I'll be driving one of the vans and running three of the relay legs.  Since I'm driving, I kept my mileage a little lower than the rest of the team, so my total is 14 miles over the whole weekend. 

Following weekend I'll be on vacation in Napa with my husband and our good friends.  And then my first double half marathons at Seabrook Lucky Trails Marathon on March 20-21 - run the half marathon on Saturday and then run the same course again on Sunday! Eek!

Mile 1: 11:05
Mile 2: 11:09
Mile 3: 10:51
Mile 4: 10:14
Mile 5: 11:11
Mile 6: 10:44
Mile 7: 10:58
Mile 8: 11:27
Mile 9: 11:12
Mile 10: 11:15
Mile 11: 11:04
Mile 12: 11:51
Mile 13: 11:44
Mile 13.1 (last 0.16 per Garmin): 10:04

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Running Streak Day 51 - Real-Life Evolution of a Run

The evolution of my 51st straight day of running was an interesting one.  Let me take you through the steps:
  • My legs are sore and tired.  I raced a half marathon Sunday (Stonebridge Ranch Half), and I have another half marathon 6 days later (Cowtown Half this Saturday).
  • I woke up in the morning thinking I would go out in jeans and walk a mile in the neighborhood while Marissa was in school during the AM and then walk another mile in the evening to total 2.0 miles today.
  • My required errands of my life consumed me this morning so no 1 mile this morning!
  • Okay, I'll walk two miles this evening.
  • Well, if I'm going out, let's at least put on running clothes, right? :-)
  • Let's just jog two easy miles.  I have a route that's about a mile straight out from the house down one street, I'll just do that out and back.
  • A little dip to the left on a side street for a house's length to that alley entrance, cross the street, and back through the community pool parking lot - there's an extra 0.03.
  • A little jag to the right down a side street to the next intersection, down a street, and back to the original road I was on - another extra amount, about 0.15.
  • And it continued, a dip here, a jag there, a jig here, and before I knew it, I was back to my house at 2.35 miles (note: > 2.0 miles) :-) and at not the worst jogging pace!
I need to spend more time icing and stretching the next couple days so I'll feel ready for Saturday.  But I wanted to share how one intended run transformed over the course of a day.  Happy Running!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Every Day of My Running Streak You See a Little Less of Me

Well if I keep this up, tomorrow evening I'll be celebrating 50 days of a running streak.  And upon weighing myself this morning, I saw a number I hadn't seen in 5 or 6 years.  161.5.  Which means that in the last 4 weeks or so, after the streak started, I've lost about 5-6 pounds!

And I have not changed my food for the better or worse.  Which really means, yes, I still love my junk food.  Yes, about half of the 5 half marathons I've already run this year, my hubby surprised me with Sprinkles cupcakes afterwards.  Yes, I enjoy occasional fried foods, and chocolate, and wine, and margaritas, and my daily Starbucks tall cafe mocha. :-)

And no, I don't cross-train, and yes, I know how beneficial it is.  I've just been running a little every day.  And I think the added muscle I've gained from all my running and the added calories burned on all the miles is adding up!  I went from doing 10-12 miles a week to doing 25-30 miles a week.  So considering people burn on average between 100 and 150 calories per mile dependent on their metabolism (weight, gender, etc etc etc), that's an extra roughly 1800 calories burned each week.

It's nice to have broken through the weight plateau I've been at for so many years.  I was 166 pounds in 2006 when I got injured with plantar fasciitis.  And after a year of low activity during recovery, I was still 166 pounds.  I went into 2007 recovered and was about 166 when I got pregnant with my daughter.  And within 6 weeks after she was born, I was back down to 166.  I ran my first half marathon post-baby 5 months after she was born, and did 3 halfs in 2008.  Still 166.  I then did 8 halfs and upped my mileage quite a bit in 2009.  Still 166.  So this for me is big!

Now as I recently discussed, I don't typically focus on my weight.  I've been feeling like I'm in the best shape of my life.  And while I have had people in the last couple months ask if I've lost weight, my clothes don't fit that much different.  I'm still a size 12. :-)

But this is nice icing on the cake of feeling healthy and strong.  It's not been the goal but a happy inadvertent side effect!  I'll be curious to see if the trend continues and any more of me disappears!

Happy Running!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Stonebridge Ranch Half Marathon Race Report: Awful Start leads to Some Award Bling

Sunday morning was the Stonebridge Ranch Half Marathon in McKinney, Texas.  It was a new race put on by the triathlon producers Playtri.  There were only about 180 registered and it was run all over the streets of the Stonebridge neighborhoods. 

I went into this race not in a happy place.  Reasons?
  1. I've been sporting a pretty bad cold, complete with total congestion and nasty cough and feeling so run down.
  2. Steve and I went to a comedy show the night before (Gabriel Iglesias which was awesome!) so I was not in bed race eve until midnight. 
  3. I knew this race would mean my highest mileage week (Mon. - Sun.) EVER! 32.6 miles.
  4. Plenty of pre-race anxiety... I had a slow start when the alarm went off and unfortunately, my toddler daughter woke up too.  So dogs, hubby, and sleepy girl were now all up - fun.  I had maximized my sleep so didn't have a lot of wiggle room.  I was rushing around like a crazy person.  I went to put on my timing chip (Chronotrack D-tage) and couldn't see any metal RFID strip on the back.  Oh no!  I had this happen about a year before and it had turned out I was given a faulty chip that had no reader stuck in it.  Now I was really in a hurry to get to the race and get a new bib and chip assigned!
  5. I forgot my Garmin at home.  First half marathon without a Garmin
So my thoughts were to go for an easy 12:00 min/mi pace, roughly 2:37-2:40 finish and save my energy for next weekend's half marathon.

I got to the race and headed to the registration area.  I ran into Natalie Merrill (who later went on to win 1st female overall) and told her about my chip.  Her chip looked just like mine - she was assuming that's how it was supposed to be.  We stopped another runner and his chip DID have the metal RFID strip on the back.  So now I had roped another person into thinking we had defective chips.  After some detailed discussions with race registration volunteers, we found a BUNCH didn't have the metal strip showing.  The new chips must have another layer of paper over the metal strip now, so the RFID metal isn't exposed and visible.  Crisis averted but I'm glad I was diligent to check just in case! Meantime, I had a new bib and chip and got all of it affixed and pinned. 

I ran back to my car and heard them calling for "Runners Start".  I hurried to the start, having never met up with the friends I had planned to, a couple Twitter friends (Greg Sisengrath, @asianstyleguy, and Suann Lundsberg, @smlundsberg), and not having done my usual pre-race Gu and Water.  It was only while waiting at the start that I even realized I didn't have my Garmin timing watch!  As it turned out, after the megaphone yells of impending start, we ended up starting the race late, about 8 minutes late. Grr, I hurried to the start for nothing!

All in all, it meant a stressful, high anxiety pre-race time for me.  I was able to connect with Silberia Garcia, a childhood friend who I had not seen in easily about 15 years.  She was running her first half marathon.  I also found Kelly Holmes, a neighbor who had trained with CK Sports and was doing her first half marathon.  Another neighbor, Bev Priutt, was there with her high school age son, Carl, who was running his first half marathon.  Then, Trish Wegren was right behind me in the starting line - a gal like me who loves to run lots of halfs.  The race starts and I feel naked, totally naked, without my Garmin for about the first 2 miles.  It was a small race so the field spread out quickly.  About a half mile in, I saw James Hague-Rogers walking back - I asked what was wrong and he pointed to his leg.  Disappointing, injury at the start. All runners can empathize.  I hear my name yelled and cheerleader-of-the-day Emily Wilemin is there cheering all her friends - awesome runner and supporter! Then I passed Lolita Johnson who does a lot of races and we're pretty similar paces - always has a smile when I see her! 

This was not a flat course as promised - in fact I would dare to say the hill on Virginia Parkway at Mile 4 rivaled anything the Austin Marathon would throw at you!  A few miles in it started to pour - a cold hard rain.  Big big rain drops.  I let out a big primal yell - an "oh yeah, bring it on" yell - to try to psych myself up about the awful conditions.  Rain just kept going and going and before we knew it, we're running smack down the middle of these neighborhood streets as both sides have become giant puddles.  When you pass by a storm drain, you hear the loud rushing of all the water.  Around mile 5, we see some lightning off and on for about a mile.  I'm told there was hail, but I must have narrowly missed it because people finishing before and after me talked about it.  So with all this pouring rain and running in and out of puddles at the numerous street intersections, it meant about 9 miles of soaked footwear and well, soaked everything.  But the soaked shoes were significant since it meant feeling like you were carrying an extra 20 pounds of weight on each foot.  Ugh.

So with no Garmin I came in towards the finish, opened up my stride and actually had a pretty good sprint the last tenth mile.  Crossed with a gun time of 2:32:37 (ended up being a chip time of 2:32:12, an 11:37 average pace).  And I'm shocked.  If I had my Garmin with me, my plan had been to run 12:00 min/mi pace to take it easy.  Oops.   

Meanwhile, friend Michael Henry will be proud of me.  At the Dallas Marathon expo, he had challenged me to run 2 of my 10+ planned half marathons of 2010 without my Garmin to "just see what happens".  Accidentally, I have now done one, and it's interesting to see how consistent my race pace is between when I have no watch and when I'm obsessing over every tenth-mile pace on my Garmin like I usually am.

I'm wet and cold and wait around for what feels like forever outside for the award ceremony.  Race results were not posted very clearly - athenas (women over 150 pounds) and clydesdales (men over 200 pounds) had their own award category, but we couldn't really tell how we had placed based on the overall finish list they were posting.  I knew there weren't many Athenas at the event.  I had seen the pre-reg list at packet pickup and knew only three pre-registered.  I'm glad I hung around because when they did the award ceremony, I was 1st place Athena!  Which means BLING- I brought home my first 1st place trophy - and only my fourth trophy ever!

Summary of Race:
Good race but don't come expecting anything fancy.  Bareboned and with the weather, one or two aid stations were deserted, although the water cups were poured and set out.  Stonebridge has small rolling hills and this course has one monster hill at Mile 4.  Participant shirt is a tee, logo wasn't terribly pretty, but it's nice that you have the option for a dri-fit shirt, should you want it, for $10 more.  Not much in the way of post-race festivities.  Bagel, oranges, bananas, hooters wings, and bottled water.  Again, good race, but it's not about frills, and I know some people care a lot about frills at races. :-)

Congratulations go to...
  • Natalie Merrill - female overall winner
  • Lolita Johnson - first place Athena masters
  • Mark Olateju - 9th overall male, 1st place age group
  • Greg Sisengrath - PR and 3rd place age group
  • Suann Lundsberg - met goal of sub-2 hour half, 5th place age group
  • Kelly Holmes and Silberia Garcia - finished their first halfs
Stats for this Race and this Day:
I'm an analytical person so I love crunching the numbers...
  • Day 48 of my all-outdoor running streak
  • Half Marathon #5 of 2010 (towards goal of at least "10 halfs in '10")
  • Chip time 2:32:12
  • 11:37 min/mi
  • 1st place Athena
  • Highest weekly mileage ever, meaured Monday through Sunday: 32.6 miles
  • Currently at 182.3 miles for the year on my goal to 500 miles by June 30th.

Next up:
Cowtown Half Marathon in 6 days in Fort Worth, Texas!  Cowtown will make my second month in a row of doing 3 halfs within 15 days - in January, I did Houston Half (1/17), 3M Half (1/24), and Texas Half (1/30).  In February, it will be Surfside Beach Half (2/13), Stonebridge Ranch Half (2/21), and Cowtown Half (2/27)

Happy Running All!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

When Weight Doesn't Tell the Whole Story

Today we're talking about weight.  Because it's something I reflect on regularly in my own life and had another run-in about it on Tuesday.  And it's something that I'm willing to be very honest and open in discussing.

It was a routine check-up at the doctor.  I've consistently been 165-166 pounds for years, both before and after Marissa was born.  In the last month, I had actually consistently started seeing 163 on the scale at home.  But for one reason or another (time of day, clothes, etc), compared to last year's weight on their scale of 167, I showed up a few pounds heavier at 171 that day.

The doctor came in, and she immediately pointed this out as a major concern.  She tells me that ideally she'd like to see me about 30-35 pounds lighter so there's a health concern about my current weight!  I looked her straight in the eye and said, "I don't know what to tell you.  I know what you are seeing, but I ran 8 half marathons last year.  I've already run 4 half marathons this year.  I'm consistently running about 25-27 miles per week.  I do love my junk food, but I don't go way overboard with it."  She was stunned.

"Wait, how many half marathons?" she said.

Yeah, ya heard me right.  She said, "Well, then let's not even worry about this number.  We don't need to discuss it again." 

I said, "No, really, do you think there's a problem?  I also don't understand why I'm 30-35 pounds over the "ideal weight" for someone my height. I've increased my running consistently over the last 1 1/2 years and my weight does not move.  Is there a problem?"

She said, "Are you happy with how your clothes fit?"

I said, "Well, I'm a size 12.  I'm not a size 6, but, yeah, I'm fine with it."

She said, "Good, then don't worry about it again!"

She then went on to look at my blood pressure that had just been taken and told me it looked great.  She looked at the blood test we took a year ago for cholesterol and did a double-take - turns out my cholesterol is EXCELLENT!

As we moved on, I ended the weight/health discussion with telling her how I had recently been thinking a lot about how this felt to me like I was in the best shape of my life so far.  Healthier than even back around the year 2003 where I had a personal trainer I saw once a week, regularly lifted weights in the gym, did Pilates 4-5 times a week, and was 30 pounds lighter!  I don't think I could have run a mile without keeling over and dying back then. :-) Even if I did look so much "healthier".

Yes, I know I have a less than ideal fat percentage. And I'm not abdicating responsibility - I know that if I ate healthier, I would lose more weight.  My point is that it goes to show, weight is just a number, it doesn't tell the whole story.  Yes, it can be a helpful metric towards quantifying a person's health.  But it needs to be considered along with a number of other variables and factors. 

What is Ideal Weight?
A lot of doctors and health professionals still advise people about their weight based on BMI.  This was what led my doctor to discuss that my generally ideal weight should be 130-135 pounds.  But BMI was crafted as a ratio derived from only two things: height and weight.  It doesn't take gender, physical activity level, body fat percentage, or frame/build into account.  It then categorizes ranges of the ratios into Underweight, Normal Weight, Overweight, and Obese. For me, I'm right towards the bottom, but still IN, the overweight category with a 25.5 BMI (25.0 is the bottom of the overweight category).  And to be 130-135 pounds would put me squarely in the middle of the "normal weight" range.  Want to see more about why BMI is a bogus measurement?  NPR gives you 10 reasons!

So I know this antiquated measure does not define my state of health.  And I'm very glad my doctor and I could have that conversation and talk through some of those other variables.

And if you are running more and GAINING weight?
On a related note, I've heard a lot of people who gain weight as they increase running mileage or do longer runs or train for half or full marathons.  So to close, here are a couple tips for runners to avoid weight gain (aside from the standard Eat Healthy):
  1. Don't use long runs or high miles as an excuse to eat anything and everything you see.
  2. Watch your hunger after a long run. Don't binge!
  3. Keep hydrated! Helps keep weight off and good for you as a runner anyway.
  4. Recognize that weight gain or lack of weight loss (weight plateau) could be a sign of increased muscle mass. By keeping track of body measurements and body fat %, you can confirm that's the cause.
How did you choose your ideal weight?  What methods did you use to determine that?  And how are you measuring your progress if shooting for a goal healthy weight?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

150 Miles Run in 2010 & How Many Miles That Really Is

Yesterday's run marked 150 miles run in 2010.  This is on my way to my goal of 500 miles by halfway through the year (6/30/10), when I'll then reevaluate and choose a year-end goal.  An yearly total goal is to easy to procrastinate on and miss and doesn't reflect potential positive changes in your mileage over the year, or injury.  Maybe I'll only be able to set a goal of 350 for the second half of the year, or maybe I'll be able to set a goal of 700.

Magnitude of 150 Miles in My Running Experience
I ran 457.2 miles all of last year (my best running year to date).  So I wanted to know what 150 miles really means in the scope of my running life.  My 150 miles as of February 15 (46 days into the year) is the equivalent of  the cumulative miles I was at on JUNE 11, 2009!  What a change!  I am so blessed to be able to have added mileage over time without injury.

How Many Miles is 150 Really?
In Texas, where it takes forever to get anywhere outside of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, the 150 miles is the equivalent of driving from my house in Allen, Texas, to:
  • Temple, TX to the south
  • Longview, TX to the east
  • getting close to Abilene, TX to the west
  • getting close to Oklahoma City, OK to the north. 
And I'm exactly halfway to San Antonio!

Looking forward to more runs to come!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Running Streak Day 41 - Allergic Reaction and Still Ran?

Hubby and I took the toddler and went out for an early dinner during "family hour" at a restaurant.  Right before we left, I started to feel sniffly.  By the time we pulled away from the restaurant, I was grabbing for anything resembling a kleenex or napkin in the car.  My face felt swelled and my sinuses were overly full with congestion and I was sneezing uncontrollably and loud.  We made it the 10 minute car ride home and I popped a Claritin and blew my nose for the next 10 minutes.  My face HURT.  I must have had some sort of allergic reaction to something airborne.  I have very mild seasonal allergies and I'm allergic to cats, but I don't know what happened!  I lay in the bed recovering and fell asleep.  Hubby was very kind to wake me up about 7 pm to see if I wanted to stay sleeping or keep the running streak alive.

I decided I was finally 75% recovered and should therefore not excuse myself the chance to get active and got ready and walked out the door.  And then walked back in the door.  33 degrees out, windchill of 25, North wind of 15-20 mph.  Brrr. I added a few layers and left the house.

My 1 mile recovery run turned into "I'll run and not look at my Garmin, I'll go a fair little distance from the house, and when I hear the 1 mile BEEP, I'll turn back home."  I thought that way I'd run a little over a mile.  At 1 mile, I looked at the Garmin and it said 10:16.  Well, yowza, that's a little faster than my 5K PR pace right there.  I wasn't dying, so wondered if I should change the night's goal and shoot for 3 miles. :-) I tried to continue the pace but checked after half a mile and I had done a 10:33 pace the last half-mile, so I had fallen off PR pace.  And I noticed I was feeling kinda tired.  So I walked for 1 minute, and then did another half-mile at 10:16 pace.

So my "1 mile recovery run" a day after my fourth half marathon of 2010 became a 2 mile minor speedwork run - oops.

While the allergic reaction was awful, ultimately I was glad I walked out the door!  Happy Running to All!

Live Tweeting to Enjoy a Race to its Fullest - Race Report for Surfside Beach Half Marathon, 2/13/10

On Saturday, I ran the Surfside Beach Half Marathon, about an hour outside Houston.  The race is limited to 900 and had sold out - about 650 in the half marathon and 250 in the full marathon. I had run Austin Half Marathon this weekend last year and thought it would be nice to try a new race.
Me at Mile 10 of the race - in my standard hot pink Heels and Hills gear.

Going into this race, race day was day 40 of my all-outdoor running streak.  Unfortunately, the chiropractor had noticed a little bit of rotation in my knee on Wednesday and he corrected it.  After running in the snow and playing with my daughter in it (record approx. 12" of snow in Dallas!) on Thursday and Friday, I was on the phone with the chiropractor race eve getting tips as I'd re-rotated the knee a little in the uneven snow. I drove 5 1/2 hours late Friday to arrive about 8:30 pm at the hotel.  A little stretching and icing on the knee and off to bed.

Race day morning, it's about 40 degrees with a light breeze, but I miscalculated that breeze, because it really made everything so much colder. I regretted leaving my gloves at the hotel when I thought, "Oh, it will be way too warm for that!" We all  park along the beach against the dune fence with beach houses on the other side.  A big tent is set up for pre- and post-race needs. 

The race starts on time at 8 am.

The course is literally, we run ~2.5 miles south, turn around and come back, pass by the start, go down another 6ish miles, turn around and come back to the finish.  It's a true out-and-back.  It's cloudy, but the ocean is still so pretty.  The sand is fairly packed, so it is somewhat like running on "soft asphalt" as another runner had described it.  But it's definitely a little odd with stones, debris, and shells to watch out for.  With the entire width of the beach to choose from, I know it's important not to run on a slightly sloped area or you'll feel it before the end of the race.  Those thinking like I am stick with high up near the dune fence or all the way down in the wetter sand near the waves rolling in.

My chiropractor (who is also a past college cross-country athlete, university coach, and still gifted runner) and I had discussed taking it a little easy since I had tweaked my knee and didn't know if I could rotate any more in the sand.  With a current PR at 11:27 pace, I decide to plan on a 12:00 pace for this race.  I keep the first 5 miles right around an 11:45.  In fact, my consistent splits are just plain beautiful. :-)
Mile 1: 11:54
Mile 2: 11:44
Mile 3: 11:45
Mile 4: 11:48
Mile 5: 11:43
About mile 6, I'm really struggling with stiff / sore back/neck/chest.  Runners will understand, it's like I just couldn't get my torso to relax into my hips and let the legs do the work.  I'd try to shake off my upper body but it just stayed tense.  With a recent fibromyalgia flareup and a long drive the day before, I'm guessing neither of those things helped, although I don't know if they were the cause or if it was "just one of those days." 

By mile 8, I'm just struggling.  Definitely hurting in the back and neck.  So I pull out my phone that I carry in my Amphipod pocket attached to my shorts, and I tweet the following... "8.65 mi into the half - not havin fun. Never loosened up and back/neck r stiff". (If you want to follow me, just I get some encouraging responses from some awesome running tweeps ("twitter peeps" or twitter friends).

And I realize something - I didn't set out for a PR today anyway and if I continue pushing at the slower pace I'm at when I'm not feeling my finest, I will completely miss the entire point of this race! And as a simple out-and-back race up and down a beach with no major spectators or highly distinguishable scenery, it would be so easy to go home without a lot of memories.  I came to enjoy a unique race site, beautiful scenery on a long run, and have fun.  And I'm hitting a state of miserable where I'm losing the fun. 

So I decide to find the fun again.  And decide that I'll live tweet the remaining 5ish miles of the race.  It worked out great.  It would give me plenty of walk breaks to stretch out my back while I tweeted and then I would sprint a few tenths of a mile, and I found that my sprints were faster so I didn't slow down as much as I would have expected from tweeting and taking all the pics!  So the rest of the race report is a collection of the tweets and pics I took.

10:01 am - "Aid station at mile 9.5 - surprised the volunteer when I said to say CHEESE!"

10:05 am - "Mile 10 - gal offered 2 take my pic - too sweet of her!"  This was a funny moment where I had stopped to take a pic of the 10 mile marker sign, and on this out-and-back course, a gal run/walking on the out part (I was on the back part) said, "Hey, why don't I take your picture?" I said, "Are you sure? We're in the middle of the race!" And she said it wasn't a problem.  Very very sweet of this random runner!

10:14 am - "Dude has all his fishing poles set up at mile 10.6 - sadly he's caught 0 runners so far..."

10:19 am - "Aid station at 10.9 - look at all empty boxes. View from back o the pack"

10:25 am - "Aid station volunteer ( HS girl ) asked about my cell - and I found the generation whose reaction to my live tweeting made me cooler - lol"

10:27 am - "HEED the warning: this race serves Heed at aidstations, which I've never trained with, so no sports drink for me :-("

10:32 am - "Mile 12 - white dot in distance is tent by finish area, almost there"

10:36 am - ""Tonight's going to be a good good night..." Heard thru another runner's earbuds - TURN UR VOLUME DOWN! - mile 12.3"

10:39 am - "Birdies were the race spectators... Bunch of seagulls at mile12.5"

10:43 am - "Passing my car... At mile 12.85...ugh"

And then I was done.  2:44:58 on my Garmin.  A friend Cruz was there to cheer me into the finish - very nice of him. 

The post-race was fun with Maui Wowi making real fruit smoothies (I had strawberry) and an okay BBQ meal.  Each runner also received a race plate - sorry, but I don't see the point in a finisher plate - I'm not going to display it.  I'd rather have a tech shirt or race hat or something I will use if they are going to spend the money on a finisher item.  But that's just my opinion - and it is a pretty plate so I appreciate the effort, either way. :-)

Here's the race bib, finisher medal, and decorative plate for 2010 Surfside Beach Half Marathon!

All in all, I'm glad I slowed down and let myself have some fun and soak in the beautiful scenery.  It was a race I enjoyed and would recommend to others if you aren't a runner who needs a lot of bells and whistles and frills.

Finish Time on Garmin: 2:44:58
Distance measured by Garmin as 13.23
Mile 1: 11:54
Mile 2: 11:44
Mile 3: 11:45
Mile 4: 11:48
Mile 5: 11:43
Mile 6: 12:36 (walked through aid station and took Gu slowly)
Mile 7: 12:16
Mile 8: 12:40 (tweeting begins)
Mile 9: 12:54
Mile 10: 13:08
Mile 11: 13:47
Mile 12: 13:10
Mile 13: 12:58
Mile 13.1: 11:15 (pace for last 0.23 miles per Garmin)

Next Up
Thinking about doing the new Stonebridge Half Marathon in McKinney (10 minutes from my house) that Playtri organization is putting on next Sunday, just to keep the miles up.  Then, Cowtown Half Marathon on 2/27.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

To Streak or Not to Streak

So I was debating ending my running streak.  I'm about to hit 40 days into a running streak (which I should add has included increased weekly mileage).  Thankfully, calling the streak's potential termination into question is not tied to injury.  The streak, if anything, helped me reinforce the need to stretch and ice routinely, make and attend weekly appointments with my sports chiropractor, and helped me learn to suck it up and do my first ice bath.

But a streak is only as good as it remains helpful to whatever the goal.  I inadvertently fell into the streak about 10 days into it, after the initial goal to increase my running mileage.  The goal was based on a thought that my half marathon finish time had hit a plateau because my legs were so tired in late miles.  The streak has taught my legs to adjust and adapt to a slight tiredness, while building leg strength.  My husband and I have noticed a marked difference in the leg muscle along my shin and in my calf muscles.  After completing three half marathons with a PR on one and then a fairly consistent finish time on the others, I'm feeling like my legs have caught up and are strong, but to continue getting faster I now need to get my heart and lungs back in the game.  I just don't feel right now like I can do speedwork while maintaining my health while running every day and at a pretty decent weekly mileage with half marathon races almost every weekend.

So I'm going to try a compromise and see how it goes... More speedwork and tempo runs during the week and inbetween runs will truly go down to 1 mile, max 2 miles, at a much slower speed, some days may be even just a walk.  That 1 mile will be beneficial as an active recovery exercise to help push fluid and other nasty bad things out of my muscles.

And if my body starts to tell me that I just need to take it back a notch, I'll reevaluate again and perhaps end the streak.  One big warning to newer runners is to remain flexible (literally is good too, but I'm taking figuratively) to what your body and soul needs at each moment.  But it definitely feels like it's time to change it up a little bit!

This Saturday: Surfside Beach Half Marathon - about an hour outside Houston. 650 registered in the half, another 250 in the full marathon.  Hoping the breeze coming off the ocean remains a breeze and doesn't become a cold wind.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

One New Year's Resolution Achieved - A New 1 Mile PR

Today was Day 33 of my Running Streak.  I had planned on trying to do 6-8 miles with a goal of 12 total over the weekend.  But my husband and I had family coming to visit and stay with us for the weekend and the cleaning up suddenly took over my Saturday morning.  At 11:30 am, I realized I had to get out the door or the streak would die.  We figured I only had time for 3-4 miles before the guests arrived.

This is my first time running through a fibromyalgia flare-up.  A flare-up occurs every 2-3 months for me and is most easily characterized as pain, tension, and stiffness through most of the muscles of my body coupled with sleep problems (I don't sleep well, not restorative sleep for sure).  Unfortunately, as a runner it means it's not always easy to tell what's tired and sore muscles from running or overtraining versus a flare-up.  One way to tell is when you hurt in places that could not have anything to do with running. 

I walked out the door, stretched, and as I began my walk warm-up before I start running, I absentmindedly was massaging my wrist.  It hurt, it really hurt.  An obvious sign that what I've been experiencing the last couple days is a flare-up.  I started running and I think I was feeling mad, because I went out at a 10:30 pace and it just didn't feel as bad as it normally would - I was feeling driven.  So then I thought, "Well, if I don't have time for distance, I can work on some speed," thinking I could work on feeling more comfortable at my current 5K PR of 32:00.  So I started to speed it up.  By 4/10 of a mile in, I was really going faster and on target for a 9:30 pace. 

One of my New Year's Resolutions was to break my 1 mile PR of 9:56 and achieve a 9:30 PR by June 30, 2010 and a 9:00 PR by the end of 2010.  So as I found my pace approaching that 9:30 goal, I decided to go for it.  It was 40 degrees with some wind, but I was feeling strong and I was angry, and I used that as fuel.  By 9/10 in, I realized I had sped up so much that I was close to my end of year goal, and I pushed hard but was running out of gas in the tank. 

I finished the mile with a 9:04! Not only did I break my PR of 9:56 and hit my goal of 9:30, I had shattered it!  I don't know where that speed came from.  Note that I'm not a person who cares if my PRs come from official race results or a training run where the info is captured on the Garmin - they all matter the same to me.

I walked a quarter mile and then jogged an 11:30 pace for a quarter mile and then walked the remaining 0.1 mile home.  I walked in the door with 1.6 miles at an 11:18 pace, usually a pretty good pace for me if I'd run the whole thing. :-)

So in feeling my worst, I somehow came up with my best.  And that makes for a pretty good day.  Happy Running All!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Determined or Stupid? I'm Not Sure Either Right Now

Today was Running Streak Day #31. I'm past the one-month mark, and I don't know when it will end.  Although after today, I'm questioning if it's worth it.

I knew today would be busy.  Getting ready for out of town family to come stay for the weekend, and an event dinner at one of my husband and my favorite restaurants - a 4-course Argentinian dinner at La Duni with Macallan Scotch pairings (including 18-yr!) and hand-rolled ice balls for the Scotch drinks! So exciting! I have such a hard time getting up early to run which is why I've never tried to set up that routine.  I'm a night owl, and why sabotage myself?  If it's something I know I just REALLY don't want to do, why try to train then?!?  But I thought maybe I could do it just for today, just to keep the streak alive. 

I woke up when the alarm went off and convinced myself I was being stupid as I heard the rain and knew how cold it was, that I could find a way to run later today, and so I went back to sleep.  This meant I either would have to somehow get the minimum 1 mile for the streak during the day with a 2 year old, or way late tonight at a dangerously late hour after a heavy dinner with drinking.

So 9:30 am, I plopped Marissa into the jogging stroller my husband had pulled out from where it was stored.  Background story is that I used this jogging stroller a lot in the first year after Marissa was born to get back in shape, but once I was past walking and doing mostly running, I found I really hate how it feels to run with the jogging stroller.  It's disaster on my running gait and have felt it contributed to minor leg and feet tweaks, pains, and potential injuries.  Further, let me add that Marissa is rarely put in any kind of stroller, so she's no longer used to it either.

I bundled her up in a jacket, wrapped her in a blanket, and put the rain/UV cover over the jogging stroller - out the door we headed.  It was hard getting started and about 2/10 of a mile into it, I chose to walk the mile because it just did not feel like a healthy run - I can not get injured right now!  It was 40 degrees out and misting rain.

About 3/10 of a mile in, I realize ALL THREE wheels of the jogging stroller are flat.  No wonder this was seeming so hard! It was like pushing a 30 lb kid in a 20 lb weight without wheels.  Ugh.  I was far enough from the house that I didn't want to go back and stop early and not meet the minimum.  Going back and entering the house and trying to keep a fussy toddler in the stroller while I hunted down the bike pump was not going to happen.  I knew we just wouldn't make it out of the house again.

So I pushed a stroller with flat tires, checking often to make sure I wasn't damaging the rims of the wheels.  Marissa threw fits about her "cage" off and on for most of the walk.  I was cold and wet as it started to rain a little harder.  We finished the walk at 1.32 miles in about 24 minutes.  My arms are sore and I think pushing that stroller equates to serious resistance training. ;-)

Was this all worth it? It was miserable.  I know I said I wouldn't stop the streak for anything trivial, but was this what I needed today?  I'm struggling mentally today with this streak.  Add to it that I couldn't get to the chiropractor this week and my shin's been bothering me a little, so yesterday's run was kept short to let it rest.  I know it's been so good for me so far, to make me learn to identify the excuses in my training and just get it done.  But I don't want to do another mile like today.  Here's hoping for a better run tomorrow!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

More Road Time But Less Miles Can Be Frustrating!

With the month of January complete, I compiled my January running stats and found the following...

Miles: 110.54
Time: 22 hrs, 24 min
Gear: 3 pairs of running shoes used (1 racing worthy pair of Brooks Ghosts, 1 pair Ghosts for training, 1 pair Saucony Triumph for short training runs because they are still new but I'm not lovin' them)
Maintenance: 3 chiropractor appointments, 1 ice bath (my first ever ice bath)
Races: 3 half marathons (2:29, 2:36, 2:31), 1 new half PR
Days: Ran 29 of 31 days - Running streak didn't begin until Jan. 5 (Jan. 31 was Day 27 of the streak)

So this leaves me with 389.5 miles to my goal of 500 miles by June 30th!  22% of the way there!  And I'm 3 half marathons of the way to my "10 halfs in '10" goal! 30% of the way there!

As other friends were also posting their stats on Facebook and Twitter, it reiterated something I already knew in my heart but thought I ought to consciously revisit.  For the number of miles I'm running on average, I definitely seem to be one of the slower ones out there.  I saw runners with 100-150 miles for the month but all had total running time of 3-4 hours less than my time.

I try not to compare my running pace to others - I know that I'm not genetically or biomechanically blessed to be a natural 8-9 minute per mile runner.  I may someday reach that point, but it's going to take a lot of hard work to get to that day, and so, yeah, it's frustrating sometimes when someone goes and does their first half marathon, sometimes on not too much training, and runs it at a 9 minute pace.  Grrr.  But back on topic, it's continually frustrating when I hear someone going out each morning to run 10 miles before their work because I know they run a 7 minute mile, so it's only a little more than a 1 hour workout!  Because if I'm going to go run 10, I'm basically blocking out 2 hours!

I was already proud of my biggest running month ever and of getting over 100 miles in a month. But now I realize I should be more proud of that 22 1/2 hours number than the miles run. Because as a mom of a 2 year old, this is a hard number to reach!  So here's to all the runners like me who are working hard to put in the time... and recognizing that sometimes that's just as important as the quantity of miles!