Saturday, March 20, 2010

Confidence Kept Me From Running in This Nasty Cold Weather

Yesterday: 70 degrees and sunny, Today: Mid-30s with windchills in the high-20s, 20 mph cold wind, snow flurries in some areas - YEP, Welcome to Texas ya'll!

How funny that during my 60ish day running streak, I would have been out in this weather.  Now, with the streak over, I easily decided, "nah, I'll run long another day, even if I just need to make it a two-a-day during the week."  Why?
  • Because 6 months ago I would not have known that I could, if needed or called upon, run at all in that weather. 
  • Because I was not mentally tough about my running.
  • Because I lacked confidence in my ability to imitate Nike and "just do it".
But during the running streak, I ran and walked in all sorts of weather conditions.  I did a little in the snow.  I did a half marathon in pouring cold rain, lightning, and a little hail sprinkled in for effect.  I ran on days when it was going to rain all day, so to keep a streak alive, why fight it? I ran in hard rain at night - something I later regretted because I could indeed have twisted my ankle in a puddle where I couldn't determine its depth, and I'm smarter about it in hindsight. 

And this was the purpose, the goal, of the running streak.  I didn't have a number of days or number of miles to tell me when to end this unintentional streak.  At some point, I knew it was important to continue because it was making me a physically and mentally stronger runner.  And at the end of day 63, I was able to look inside myself and decide to wave the giant banner of "Mission Accomplished".

So now I know I can do it.  And the biggest piece is I DON'T HAVE TO REPROVE IT TO MYSELF.  So when I thought I could just sleep in and stay inside and keep warm and not completely wreck my running, oh yeah it was an easy decision.

Congrats to all who went out and ran in this weather today.  And if you decided not to run in it, and are not sure you could have if you needed to, think about that and maybe one day you'll go out in it anyway because it pays bigger mental dividends than physical you know realize.  And if you decided not to run in it for the reasons I also felt, I salute you too!  No one is better or worse for choosing to run in this weather, we're all just in different places in our running. :-)

Happy Running!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Good Thing I Chose to Stop My Running Streak

...Before this week hit. It was a nice 5-day vacation in Napa Valley with my husband and another couple who are good friends.  I needed the rest and needed the break.

But the trip was interrupted Saturday night with a report from the grandparents that our toddler daughter had ANOTHER ear infection. The ENT doctor decided to push up her tube insertion surgery that was a couple weeks away to the immediate Wednesday.  But after we got home, we found she was just getting sicker - the antibiotics they had called in to get us by until the surgery weren't helping.  By this afternoon, her fever was out of control even on rotating doses of Motrin and Tylenol.  Another call to the doctor followed by a visit to the kids' urgent care clinic revealed that my toddler had strep throat on top of her ear infection!

Now the surgery is postponed to next week while we make sure she recovers from strep (and hopefully from the current ear infection).

Add to it that, while I was running the daughter to the urgent care clinic, hubby had to run one of our dogs back to our vet (where they were boarded during vacation), to find out the dog was indeed also sick and I wasn't crazy and just projecting my daughter's sickness onto the dog. :-) Dog has an upper respiratory infection.

Needless to say, I'm glad I stopped my running streak last week purposely. Because who knew all this was about to go down?!?

I wish I had gotten to run tonight, but hopefully I can start back up tomorrow night.  I had already decided to stay home this weekend to be with our poor little girl and not go run my first back-to-back halfs, and I think it's still a good decision with how sick she's been the last few days.

Nice thing about running - it's always there waiting for me when I'm ready for it. :-)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Texas Independence Relay - 200 miles ahead to Great Friendships

The weekend of March 5-7, 2010, I participated and captained a team for the Texas Independence Relay for the second year in a row.  This is a 203.2 mile relay race from Gonzales, TX east to Houston, TX, that you tackle with 2 big white vans and a team of 12.  Our Heels and Hills team was created from various friends of mine and general lovers of the Heels and Hills events - it was the second year to form a Heels and Hills team.  We were one of seven non-competitive teams at this year's event.  Our team's theme was "Ladies and the Tramp" because our team was composed of 11 women runners, an additional woman volunteer driver, and ONE guy!  So you can guess who the tramp was. The race started at 6:10 am Saturday and we finished at 4 pm Sunday - that's one long weekend!

What is a Non-Competitive Team in a Relay RACE?
Last year, the Heels and Hills team had been ground-breaking in the world of running relays.  A relay of this length is hard to complete in the two weekend days - you have to be a 10 minute pace or faster. After last year's trial run, the Texas Independence Relay became the only relay I know of in the nation that allows teams with an average pace slower than 10 minute miles by having a non-competitive division.  Basically, you do a normal relay handoff and then at some point mid-race you change to sending your next relay runner out before the previous leg's runner has finished, to catch up time to finish at a decent hour Sunday.  While we thought we would switch from regular handoffs to non-competitive mode around 5 pm Saturday, we actually were averaging faster paces than we expected, so we were able to continue handoffs until about 2 am.

A Wonderful Team of People
Here's an introduction to the awesome Heels and Hills Team "Ladies and the Tramp":
  • Marcie Adame
  • Kay Barbour - a returning Heels and Hills teammate from last year, Kay recently had spinal surgery so she volunteered to drive van #2.
  • Cat Burdette
  • Daniel Burdette - Cat's husband, he was our official "Tramp".  I don't think he really minded being the only guy on the team!
  • Kathy Calkins - The true TIR veteran, this was Kathy's third year but the first year with Heels and Hills. 
  • Allison Duensing - returning Heels and Hills team member, also a member of the Heels and Hills Run Team!
  • Leslie Horowitz
  • Cindy Hunter
  • Mel Kincaid - returning Heels and Hills teammate
  • Kathy Phelps
  • Bernice Terregrossa
  • Tabetha Wade
Friday, March 5 - The Road to Gonzales
10 team members met up at the DFW airport Friday morning at 10 am (the other 3, Allison, Kay, and Bernice, live in the Houston area).  We loaded up the big white 12-seater van, and I drove us down to Gonzales.  We stopped for lunch along the way.

Once down there, we checked into our hotel and then over to team check-in and the party.  About half the team went to the party and then rest of us went across the street to a cute dinky little Mexican restaurant for dinner.  After eating, we started the work of decorating our van.  All the teams decorate their vans - it's a pride thing, but it's also easier for teammates to find the van when you arrive at a relay exchange point with 50 other vans already parked there!

Kay had done a great job making pink girl runners (and a blue guy runner) with each of our initials to put on the side of the van.  We saved some of the decorating for during the day the next day.  We received a lot of compliments on our van's look and with the hot pink, people said it made it very recognizable when we were at a relay exchange point when another team would pull in!

And We're Off!
Saturday morning, we're all up about 4:30 am - ugh. Teams are slotted to start based on their speed, so non-competitive teams start at the very beginning.  We're the 5th or so team to start at 6:10 am. 

Most team captains get to hit a big gong with a mallet to announce their team's start, but I was lucky to get to be one of the occasional team captains given the chance to light a REAL CANNON to fire.  Boy, it was louder than I was expecting! The entire team runs their first lap of the town square area of Gonzales together in what's called the "Prologue".  It's 1.12 miles to kick off the team camaraderie.

Then, Marcie headed off as we cheered to begin Leg 1, the first several miles of the 203.2-mile adventure!

A Long But Fun Saturday
There's no point in talking about all the legs, they all start to blur together.  Although it's funny that when I was at each relay exchange point, I could remember who had run that leg last year! So I'll just highlight bits here and there.

Leg 3 was significant because it is ranked as THE hardest relay leg of the whole race.  Tabetha is a strong runner and assigned that leg. She had an amazing pace and made it look so easy.  The leg is 8.78 miles and has the description "Hilly country dirt roads and distance makes this a challenging, but picturesque leg."  Here are pictures from the end of leg 3 as we waited for Tabetha to come in and hand off to Leslie to start.

Kathy, Mel, and Leslie

Me, Mel, and Marcie

Tabetha hands off to Leslie!

At the end of Leg 5, we all find ourselves waiting for Allison to come in and hand off to Daniel at the Spoetzel Brewery in Shiner,TX!  We took advantage of our time while we were waiting to snap some fun pictures.

And then here comes Allison, moving fast!

End of Leg 10... we're making progress!

I ran Leg 12. Ahem, it was...interesting. This was my first time of the race to run a leg.  Kathy was supposed to hand off to me and had told us she would probably be about a 10 minute mile pace.  So we made all our plans around that.  We got to the exchange point and I got out of the car with many minutes, I thought, to spare and headed to the portapotty.  I come out of the potty to hear a teammate yelling, "She already came in, and Daniel was standing there so he took the baton and ran." What?!? It turned out Kathy had run much more like an 8 min/mi pace!

So I hop in the van, Allison drives us up the course about 3/10 of a mile to Daniel, I throw open the door, jump out, and Daniel hops into the van. Yeah, not stressful at all.  Of course, at this time, I don't know how far along Daniel was in the leg, and I suck at estimating, so that further stressed me out.  The leg was described as rolling hills - definitely not lying.  I pushed hard and was extremely surprised when I finished 3.37 miles at a 10:47 min/mi pace.

Nightfall and Time for a Few Hours Sleep
So the way the two vans work at night is that our van would be "off" from 10 pm to 3 am while van #2 ran 6 relay legs, and then van #2 would be "off" from 3 am to 7:30 am while we ran 6 relay legs.  So at 10 pm, we hurried ahead of that section of the course to Sealy, TX to the hotel.  The goal was to get a shower and maximize sleep! Everyone got three hours and then it was time to get back on the road!

I had the second leg back after the sleep "break".  Leg 26.  It was 4.93 miles at 4 am on country highway.  Pitch dark, so I was outfitted with a headlamp, 2 blinky lights, and 1 reflective belt.  This is where we noticed the super fast teams who had stared the race much later than us started to catch up and pass our team.  I kept the pace at a pretty standard 11:30 average for me.

And Then a Long Sunday
We ran to McDonalds and grabbed some breakfast during our van's break from 7:30 to 10:00 am.  About 11:15 am, I headed off on Leg 35 after a hand off from Leslie.  This was the Team Captain's leg, a reward given to all team captains to have the privilege to take this leg if we wanted to.  It was a picturesque 5.23-mile leg through Memorial Park in Houston, along the Buffalo Bayou Walk with all the public art sculptures, a great view of downtown, and then you enter the downtown streets and go a few blocks to the exchange point.  I pushed the pace hard on this and only took two walk breaks.  I had some fast runners passing me and I used them as rabbits to keep my pace strong.  For the 5.23 mile distance, it was a definite personal record style pace for me.  Finished tired but happy with a 10:46 pace!

Our van ran a couple more legs and then rushed to the San Jacinto Monument to find a good parking spot and relax until Marcie would finish Leg 40 about 4 pm.  I went to the back bench of the van and grabbed an hour's nap after having raced 2 of my legs harder than I had originally intended, slept only 3 hours since 4:30 am the previous morning, and had driven our white van hundreds of miles.

The Finish!
Marcie came in at 4 pm, and the team together jogged/walked the last 0.30 mile up to the monument.  There we received our finisher medals, took a bunch of pictures, and picked up our free pizzas.

Heavy sturdy finisher medal!
2 Years of Heels and Hills Team Fun at TIR - Me, Allison, Kay, and Mel

Yay! Pizza! Daniel and Allison arrive back from the most important mission of the weekend

Van #1 - Cat, Leslie, Me (Driver), Allison, Daniel, Kathy

Van #2 - Kay (Driver), Marcie, Mel, Tabetha, Cindy, Kathy, and Bernice
Home Again
We arrived back at the DFW airport and unloaded the van about 10 pm. After returning the van, driving Marcie home, I finally got home about 11:30 pm.  What a long but fun weekend!  These relays are so unlike other races to me.  You make actual strong connections with other runners during it that would be such brief interludes at a standard race! These teammates are all people that I would count as dear friends after this event. 

I already have a team registered for next year.  So if you want to come join the adventure, let me know ASAP because there are only 11 spots available!!!

The Day The Running Streak Died

As of yesterday, I had ran or walked at least a mile (usually running, usually more than a mile) outdoors for 63 days.  During this time I had taken 6 minutes off my half marathon PR, run 6 half marathons, accrued mileage of over half of my 2009 total already (235.7 miles vs 460 in 2009 TOTAL), and last weekend I participated in the Texas Independence Relay, a 200-mile 12-person 40-leg relay.  In fact, I captained a team for the relay and drove one of the 12-seater big white vans over 800 miles.

Since returning from the relay, I've been completely exhausted.  And I'm trying to get ready to head off on vacation to Napa Valley on Thursday.  So last night, hubby and I needed to run a lot of errands in the evening and I was saying I'd do my run late in the evening then (like 8:30-9:30 pm).  Meanwhile, right after dinner and before errands, I almost fell asleep on the floor - and it's 7 pm! We ran our errands and then towards the end my stomach was feeling really sick.  And I just continued to feel more and more drained.

So about 8:45, the streak died when I consciously chose not to run that night. And don't think that I entered into that decision lightly.  My husband is so sweet and didn't want me to regret the decision later so we talked about it for 5-10 minutes before arriving at the decision.  I had been feeling like I'd already gotten the most out of the streak about 3 weeks ago and wasn't seeing as much benefit in it now.  Plus I was wanting to do more speedwork that meant my "off days" were literally just 1 mile walks.  And finally, my body was just telling me to rest.  That's the nail in the coffin - that I was as mentally and physically exhausted as I was.

So, RIP Running Streak, you will be missed.  You made my legs so much stronger and provided me with heaping spoonfuls of mental toughness.  I received tremendous benefits that have helped me be in the best shape of my life.  But it's time for a change... and some rest.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

What Makes a Personal Record?

I had recently written an entry about setting a personal record on the 10K based on the timing mat split at a half marathon, and I asked people to chime in with their personal rules and regulations for PRs, as I've noticed different people have different views on the whole PR thing.  And at the end of this post, I want to bring it all together about how great the PR is, regardless of how you measure it.  But first...

Below are what seem to be the different styles of how to count a PR, and some comments and thoughts I gathered from others and a few of my own.
  1. In a Race
    1. At the Finish Line - This is the most common way people define a PR, and my far the most popular response to my blog entry
    2. At a Timing Mat Split - Bryan (@bryanjd) was willing to count this but not a split measured by a Garmin only.  This one is nice because it's published in the results so it's a public PR.
    3. As measured by Garmin for any split - no one came to the defense of this tactic
  2. On a Training Run
    • Keith brought up a good point that typically he only uses official finish times for PR unless it's a distance like 1 mile PR where he would never ever tend to enter a 1 Mile race.  My response was that no wonder I count my 5K and 10K PRs from training runs because I rarely race anything shorter than a 15K!  And Jeremy's in the position where he's run an ultramarathon but not a marathon race, so his MARATHON PR is from a training run.  So your treatment of PRs is relative to the distances you race I think too.
    • This was a timely topic to Karen who remarked, "Speaking as someone who just set a PR for a 5K time in a training run. I count it. I say anytime you do it, count it. I will try again at my next 5K actual race and see if I can duplicate it. I have been trying to break a 35 minute 5K for something like 8 months. I am very pleased."
    • Jeremy (@jldrunner) added the caveat to the training run PR that a treadmill run does not count. Yes, very different conditions.  Although you could have your "treadmill PR" for different distances as well!
  3. BOTH! Some people, like Leah (@quixotique) and Bryan (@bryanjd) commented that they keep track separately of official race PRs and "anytime" or training run PRs.  This led Erica (@celluloidcinema) to decide she's going to start tracking her training run PRs additionally too!  Michelle K. adds "I only count PRs at races, but I do keep track of my neighborhood training runs and note to myself when it is a "course record." A course record is almost like a PR in my mind. I love to have something to strive for when I am training."
There were some additional comments about things I didn't think to include as part of the discussion originally.

Andy said "In my humble opinion, true PRs are only with respect to the same course - i.e., "my (new) PR for the Cowtown Half-Marathon course is ..." Otherwise there is too much difference between courses, elevation changes, terrain, etc. for as fair comparison. (Even on the same course there are weather differences and other factors, but c'est la vie). So you can PR on anything - race, training run, or treadmill - but its just with respect to the same course, route, or treadmill settings."

Allie (@alliebear) said that all her PRs were in races because she really pushes herself and runs faster at races.  Which was interesting since I think I'm prouder sometimes of my training run PRs because there's no aid stations, cheering crowds, race day adrenaline, and no finish line (i.e. you really can just put on the brakes and stop any time).  Although Leah (@quixotique) brings up a good point that there's a lot more opportunities for training run PRs than race PRs!

And Jeremy (@jldrunner) brought up that your treatment of PRs will be very based on your motivation behind tracking PRs in the first place - elite athlete? running resume? motivation? tracking own's improvement?

No matter how you count a PR, I just have to say that I love the concept of the PR.  Because it has nothing to do with being 4th place or 400th place!  It's a competition between you and, well, just you!  It's about the trek towards self-improvement and for striving to be our best and not about how that compares to the running populace.  And regardless for how you measure that, it's a good thing!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A New 10K Personal Record... at a Half Marathon?

Before Saturday, my 10K Personal Record was a 1:11:04 on a Training Run on December 30.  Yes, I count training runs towards PRs.  If I did it, I did it.  I don't need race results on a website to know I did it. 

And then Saturday I ran the Cowtown Half Marathon in Fort Worth, Texas.  A day later, Twitter friend @bryanjd pointed out here that he had PRed his 10K distance as well as PRing his half marathon time!  I had achieved a 3 minute improvement on my PR in the overall half marathon, but I was kinda disappointed that I hadn't taken the time to hit the lap split on 6.2 and 9.3 because I thought both had to be PRs.  So after he mentioned this I went and looked up the official race results for myself again, and lo and behold, a new 10K PR! They had actually measured a 10K split - so glad they did!  My new 10K PR is now 1:07:56, a 3 minute improvement!!!

And then today a Twitter friend @theburnster commented here that he had PRed his 5K time but on a training run on a treadmill so it wasn't "official".  I just told him that I think it's official - I'd count it as my new OFFICIAL PR.

So it raises a question that I'm curious how everyone will answer: what requirements do you have to count a run as your new Personal Record? Does it have to be a finish time in a race? Do split times measured by an official timing company count during a race? Does any split measured by your Garmin or watch during a race count? Does the watch have to have the ability to download the data (so you could "prove" your PR, like anyone would care or question it)? Does a training run count?  Can't wait to see your comments.  I think I'll sum them up in another post later in the week!

Monday, March 1, 2010

February 2010 Running Stats - Looking Forward to Another Great Running Month

Here are my running statistics for February 2010:
  • Miles: 100.04
  • Time: 20 hours, 41 minutes
  • Second month of 100+ miles (Jan. & Feb. 2010)
  • Total mileage for year - 210.58 (ran 460 miles in ALL of 2009!) - great progress towards goal of 500 miles by 6/30!
  • 3 half marathons run this month (Surfside Beach Half, Stonebridge Ranch Half, Cowtown Half)
  • 6 half marathons run in 2010
  • Took 3 minutes, 6 seconds off my half marathon PR this month
  • Reached one of my New Year's Resolutions by logging a 9:04 mile (goal was to run a 9:30 mile by 6/30)
  • Had my largest running mileage week ever - 32.6 miles!
Looking forward to another great running month while feeling like I'm in the best shape of my life!