Thursday, July 31, 2008

Report Card

It's time for Take It and Run Thursday, and Runner's Lounge has challenged us to "look back, look ahead" at our running in 2008. Sounds like time for a report card.

My goal for running in 2008 was to take my running to the next level. My non-running friends didn't get it. "You ran a marathon," they said. "What else is there?" To me, the main differences were in training - and in attitude.

For the first time since high school, I incorporated speedwork into my training. I love my track workouts and look forward to them. I have to admit, I am not such a fan of my tempo runs. They're really hard for me, but I understand their benefit, so I'm going to keep at it. For my last tempo run, I broke from form and listened to a podcast instead of music, and it really helped. I was so engaged in the story that I was able to distract myself effectively from the fact that it was blazing hot, horrifically humid, and I was running pretty fast. That might be my plan moving forward.

I am also proud to say that I've kept up my running during the winter better than I ever have before. I've never been a fair weather only runner, I do tend to slack off when the weather gets cold. But this year, I kept at it - in rain, in snow, and most recently, in hail. Honestly, it's not about suffering for me. I suffer more, mentally, at least, when I don't go running.

I added a new distance to my resume - the trisko (half marathon, if you're still calling it that). I can find something to love about any distance, but I am a big fan of the trisko. It's long enough to be challenging, but short enough such that the training doesn't take up quite as much of my life. I will definitely be running the trisko at the Quad Cities Distance Classic every Mother's Day from now on. I am also hoping to find an earlier trisko to run, maybe in April, next year.

I'm paying closer attention to my diet - or, to be more accurate, I am not seeing my running as an all-access pass to eat whatever I want whenever I want. I didn't gain any weight during my training last year, but I made frequent trips to the coffee place down the street from my office that, according to my extensive research offers the finest chocolate chip cookies in all of downtown Davenport. I haven't had one of those cookies in ages, snacking instead on almonds, fresh fruit, and other annoyingly virtuous items. I don't think I've lost any pounds, but I can see a difference in how my stomach looks, which is always a good thing for those of us who've given birth.

I've added weight training to my regimen, but I have to admit that I've been slacking off lately. Work has been ridiculous and... well... this entry is about looking ahead as well as looking back, so Internet, I promise - I am going to go lift at lunch today.

Then there's the mental aspect of things, which I suppose goes hand in hand with the rest. When I saw a doctor over the winter for a nagging knee problem, he repeatedly described me as an athlete. I was immensely flattered, but the more I thought about it, the more I felt like the description fit. I may not be ready to win any age group awards yet, and I'm not fast enough to qualify for Boston, but my running is a huge part of who I am and is very important to me. That makes it easier for me to go to bed early, eat good foods, and generally take care of myself. It gives me the ability to tell the very nice race director who I met at the track on Tuesday that his 5K sounds like fun, but that it doesn't fit in with my training program right now.

Looking ahead, I have tremendous confidence about my upcoming marathon. Last year, I was thinking, "I'm pretty sure I can do it," but this year, I know I can. I already feel like I am mentally and physically able to turn in a solid performance and get a PR. Remind me of that when I start in on the taper madness, okay?

After the marathon is over, I am declaring the rest of the fall to be cross country season. After the Bix, Tom and I reminisced about how much fun cross country season was. It brought back great memories of the cool weather, the feeling of running on dirt, the beautiful scenery in the woods, the challenges of the hills. I am going to seek out as many cross country style races as possible, culminating, of course, in the most fun race of all time, Living History Farms.

Sure, it'll be tough, but I can handle it. I'm an athlete.

Especially if I lift today.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

What the hail?

As soon as I set foot outside yesterday, headed home for a track workout, I knew I'd be in for some challenging weather. It was hot and so ridiculously humid that my hair immediately switched itself to afro.

"Okay," I thought to myself, "I can do this. I'll just drink extra water, wear lightweight clothes, and extend my rest periods if I need to."

Little did I know that while I would have trouble with the weather, that trouble would be of a totally different nature.

I ran to the track (and can I say again how fabulously convenient it is that the track is exactly a mile and a half warm-up away from my house), and as soon as I got there, the sky ripped open and it started pouring down rain.

I was immediately soaked when the high winds kicked in. And then, I swear, even though it had been hot, it started hailing. I can't prove it, but I suspect that Ming the Merciless was responsible.

What's a girl to do? That's right, Internet: I kept running. Two sets of six 400 meter repeats at a 2:00 pace.

I was totally drenched, with that squishing noise in my shoes as I headed home. It had been so hot outside that when a car drove by and re-drenched me with water (nice), it actually felt like bath water.

At last, toughness points achieved, I reached Stately Wasser Manor. I expected to be greeted with, "I can't believe you actually went running in this weather. Woman, you are crazy," from Steve.

Instead, there were two fluffy, clean towels waiting for me.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Race Report: 2008 Bix 7

As I've mentioned before, the Bix 7 is my hometown race, and one that I'm extremely proud of. Incredible turnout, elite runners, and a course packed with spectators. Every once in a while, someone will find out that I'm a runner and will ask if I'm going to run the Bix. Please: there is no way I could live in the Quad Cities, call myself a runner, and not run this race.

Looking back on this year's run, I have admittedly mixed feelings. I finished it in 1:06:58, which is a PR for me (as far as I know - I have no idea how fast I ran the race back in high school). But honestly, I know I could have done better. My times for a 10K and a trisko definitely indicate that I can keep up a faster pace than I did. But I started in a slower pace group than I could have (which I'll explain), and that definitely cost me. I looked at my Garmin splits after the race and discovered that I ran the first mile in 12:something and the last mile in 7:40. That's not what I call a negative split, that's what I call clear evidence that I wasn't running hard enough in that first mile. Next year, my goal will be to finish in an hour or less. My goal for this minute is to keep my race experience in perspective.

My Bix experience started on Friday afternoon. Several of my co-workers were also running the race, so we walked over to the race expo to pick up our packets and check out the expo. I ended up buying a Bondi band, which I think I like, and a totally cute t-shirt. It's brown and says Marathon Girl in pink. The buzz and excitement were definitely building.

Friday night, Steve and I took Jack to run the Junior Bix, which for him is a 70 yard run. Jack was really, really excited about the race. He was excited to run his fastest, to see the other kids, to wear his race number, and on and on - the kid talked non-stop about how cool it was going to be.

Because Jack's mommy is a runner, unlike most of the other kids there, he was not wearing his 2008 Junior Bix t-shirt. We runners all know that not only would that be lame, but it's bad luck to wear a t-shirt for a race you have not yet finished. Instead, he had the cachet of wearing his 2007 Junior Bix shirt, making it clear that he is a sophisticated veteran runner. I won't go completely crazy and have him wear a technical fabric until he graduates to the half mile distance.

Jack opted to have Steve be his race support, so I waited on the sidelines to get pictures. There were more people crossing the finish line in tears in the two-year-old division than you'll probably see in any marathon. When it was finally Jack's turn, he tore off down the street, leaving Steve in his dust. He had a look of absolute joy on his face that made me incredibly proud. Jack spent the rest of the night showing off his finisher's medal. There's no doubt about it: my boy is a runner.

My other boy - that is, my husband - is less emphatically a runner. Steve likes running, but it's something that he doesn't have a lot of time for, thanks to his many other interests. Leading up to the race, he really didn't feel adequately prepared. In the two days prior, he must have changed his mind a dozen times about whether he'd go the full seven miles or just do the Quick Bix, a two mile version of the course. On Saturday morning, minutes before the start, he made his decision: he was going for it. As Steve explained later, "I'm not a devoted runner, but I love the Bix."

I am at the (obnoxious) point in my running where a seven mile run - even on a hilly course - is not a big deal to me. It is a big deal to Steve, and it makes me proud (a word I seem to be using a lot in this post) to know that even though it was going to be difficult, he wanted to go for it.

So, on race morning, I was feeling good. The streets were packed with runners. Steve was ready to make a bold move. And what could make me feel even better? Meeting up with Amy and Tom of Runners' Lounge, of course. The four of us chatted, enjoying that delicious pre-race anticipation.

When it was time to line up for the start, I opted to join Steve, even though he was in the start group behind the one I was slated for. He made the tough decision to run a really challenging race; the least I could so was start with him. And as a bonus, Amy started with us, too! (Tom left us in his dust to hang with the Kenyans and Ethiopians, I think.)

The gun went of and... nothing happened. It was probably a good 10 minutes before we actually made it to the starting line. But there were so many people there that I lost both Amy and Steve before the race even started.

My first mile, as I said, was slow. I was stuck in a giant wall of humanity making its way up the very steep Brady Street hill. I couldn't have run faster if I tried (and I did). By the time I hit the second mile, I'd woven around enough people that I was able to pretty much hit my stride.

Mile three brought with it some of the worst hills. But I was also able to engage in some excellent people watching as I saw other, faster runners headed back to the finish. It gave me quite a lift to see Tom, huge smile on his face, give me an encouraging wave. On the way back, I was happy to see Steve in around the same place where I saw Tom. He and I cheered for each other and gave each other a high five.

In miles four and five, the hills, of course, continued. I was still feeling pretty fresh, so I started picking off runners who were more tired. In the last two miles, I was able to really turn it on. I'd focus on a runner about 100 meters ahead of me and take her down. As in, "I'm coming for you, Pink Hat." I kicked it to the end for a strong finish.

And then, it was time for the post-race party! First things first: I grabbed a popsicle, root beer flavored, and among the finest creations on God's earth. Then, I headed to our designated meeting spot, the flag pole. The first to join me was Tom. I was happy to see that the smile I saw before hadn't left his face, and he vowed to never miss another Bix again. Yay, a new convert!

A few minutes later, a tired looking Amy joined us. She glared at me at first, but once she got talking about the crowds, the great running t-shirts she saw along the way, and the ample junk food, she perked right up. Steve joined us next, drooping at our feet and eating chips for energy, followed by fellow Lounger Dennis and his brother Devin.

Running the race was fun, but hanging out afterwards with friends was even better. We all took advantage of the post-race junk food buffet. I went to get a second popsicle and learned that they were all out of root beer, so I had to settle for grape. "It's a motivation to run faster next year," explained the volunteeer. "We had a new flavor this year, raspberry, but those went fast." I now have a fabulous mental image of all of the Kenyans and Ethiopians crowded around the truck scarfing down raspberry popsicles. And then there was this.

Amy: Do you know what they have here? Twinkies! When was the last time you had a Twinkie?
Tom: About ten minutes ago.

Amy and Tom promised to come back for more Bixes in the future, which made me very happy. And I told them before, and I'll say it again so the whole Internet can hear me: if you guys do a Runners' Lounge booth at the expo, I'll take the day off work to help.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Tough All Over

Runners are the kindest, most supportive, most helpful, sexiest people in the entire world. That is, with each other. When you are the one who's struggling, you aren't nearly as good to yourself.

There have been many times that I've struggled with a run. It's hot out, or I have a cold, or I have to be on the treadmill, or I'm a little sore, or I'm just not in the mood. Whatever the reason, I have just suffered through a workout.

That is when the nagging and self-doubt come in. As I gasp through my run, my thoughts turn dark.

What is wrong with me? I should be able to do this, no problem. I suck. If I can't finish this run, then how the hell am I supposed to run a marathon? There's no way I'm going to get that PR I want. Why am I even doing this to myself? I should just quit.

It's that negative self talk, rather than the cause of the bad run (the heat, my sniffles, whatever) that really make things tough for me. Hot weather will cool off, but bad feelings can linger.

My number one piece of advice for the topic of "The Tough Stuff" on this Take It and Run Thursday is simple:

Everybody is allowed to have a bad run.

When I have a bad run, any time that negative self talk starts to creep in, I remind myself of those words and change my thoughts to something else. I have also found that reading the blogs of my BRF's helps a lot - if all those runners listed on my blogroll and hanging out at Runners' Lounge, people whom I respect - can have a bad run, then so can I.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Accidental Brick

On Saturday, I believe I attained all of the qualifications needed for the title of Total Bad-Ass. Never mind that some of them I did unintentionally.

I began with a 20 mile training run, which included some delicious hills. It was once again so hot and humid that I was able to literally wring sweat out of my running skirt (sexy). I found out later that, despite working hard to stay hydrated, I lost four pounds in the process. Yikes.

At mile 18, I was near my mom's house. I have been enlisting her as course aid in these training runs, and as usual, she had a bottle of water waiting for me. Yay, Mom! I had the genius idea that I would finish up my run in her neighborhood. Then, she'd give me some kind of delicious post-run fruit, a glass of cold, cold water, lots of adoration and compliments, and a ride home - by way of Starbucks, where I'd get one of their new protein shakes.

The only problem with this great idea was that I didn't actually tell anyone about it in advance. Which meant that there was nobody home when I went knocking on the door looking for adoration, compliments, snacks, etc. I was about three miles away from home and in no mood to do any more running - or walking - if I could avoid it.

So, I went into their garage, grabbed my step-dad Doug's bike and helmet, happy to see that his water bottle was full. I found a piece of Jack's sidewalk chalk and wrote a quick note:

I took your bike. Thanks.

Mom and Doug came home and thought their bike had been stolen by someone very polite. Then they figured out that B stood not for Burglar, but rather for Betsy.

I survived the experience and figured I did not need to do any cross-training on Sunday.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Fuel for Thought

There was a time not so long ago when I pretended not to have any responsibility for what I ate. Unfortunately, I'm not talking about when I was pregnant (in that case, I maintain that a force greater than I insisted on my eating ham sandwiches, ice cream, and gummy worms). I'm talking about those months post-baby, in which I'd go to Starbucks three or four times a week, order a latte and a scone, and tell myself, "Well, that's not such a healthy choice, tee hee, but how bad can it be?"

The dual combination of Weight Watchers and gettng serious about my running forced me to acknowledge exactly how bad it could be. And, in the case of those scones, it was very bad indeed. If you're using their Points system (which I loved and highly recommend), you are allotted a certain number of Points a day, which are based on calorie, fat, and fiber counts in your food. And one of those scones represented over 90% of the points I was given for an entire day. They're good, but they're not that good.

My primary rule for what I do and don't eat is very simple:

It has to be worth it.

On one side of things, that rule points me to food that will make me strong and healthy for running. It draws me to our good friend the carbohydrate and causes me to snack on things like almonds and fresh fruit. It makes me choose lean sources of protein and encourages me to look at the labels on the food I buy to make sure that my bagels have a decent amount of fiber in them.

That rule also keeps me from suffering in the name of eating healthy. Fat free cream cheese can go to hell - that stuff sucks, and I'm not going to eat it. I'm not going to eat a salad made with iceberg lettuce because it's bland and flavorless. I am not going to eat rice cakes, which I don't like, when what I really want is chips. Because you know what? I would eat the rice cakes, but it sure would not make me stop thinking about the chips, so I'd wind up eating them anyway. Wouldn't it have been better to just buy a small bag of chips, feed the beast, and be done with it?

I scoff at the diet advice that tells you that if you want chocolate to just eat a "fun size candy bar." As far as I'm concerned, those little candy bars are just big enough to make you mad. If I eat those, what, three bites of Snickers, it does not really satisfy me. Instead, it makes me want three MORE bites. I'm better off not having any at all.

And when I do indulge in something less healthy, babies, I am going to do it right. If I want a chocolate chip cookie, I'm not going to eat a cardboard-flavored Chips Ahoy cookie; I'm going to bake one of my famous Job Interview Cookies. That's right - these cookies are so good that they once got me a job. It's worth the effort and it's definitely worth the calories.

If food is fuel that keeps me running, I'm using high-octane all the way.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Next Challenge

I'm happy to say that Jack is starting to figure some things out. For example, there are foods out there besides french fries and ice cream that not only will not cause his death, but might, in fact, be tasty. On Sunday alone, he tried three new foods. We got some fresh apricots at the grocery store and because they were "so cute," Jack agreed to taste them. Then he ate all five. I gave him some red pepper strips with his dinner, and he informed me that, "I don't yike red peppers," but after I told him he did not have to eat them, he did without complaint. Even better, Steve convinced him to try one of the world's greatest foods, ribs. "I yike ribs," Jack said happily, and I had him call my dad with the good news.

Now if only we could get him to try something completely off the wall, such as CEREAL, we'd really have something.

Last night, Jack informed me that he was not going to sleep in a Pull-Up. The kid has been successfully potty-trained during the day for quite a while, and I have to admit that 99% of the time, he wakes up in the morning completely dry. But I also really like not having to change sheets in the middle of the night, so I was prepared to do Pull-Ups indefinitely. Jack informed me politely and reasonably that his body is indeed ready to go all night and that he would not be needing a Pull-Up any more.

"But what if you go in the middle of the night," I asked. Jack said that he would get up, go to the bathroom, and go back to bed. Um, okay. If you say so. Sure enough, last night was successful. "I am all done with Pull-Ups," Jack informed me triumphantly. Too bad that happened immediately after I spent ten bucks on a new bag of them, but whatever.

The little man is also expressing more and more of an interest in learning to read and write. Last night, he and I spent a long time practicing writing the letter J. It is unfortunate that the kid happens to have his name start with a letter that is kind of hard to draw, but we kept on working on the line on top with a hook at the bottom. He definitely doesn't have it yet, but the desire is there.

Yes, I know those are numbers, but you get the idea.

As he and I were working on letters, then making a mixed media collage (ie coloring book page involving crayons, colored pencils, and marker with stickers on it), he'd occasionally grab a carrot stick to munch on. I looked like the greatest mom the world has ever known. I will have to remember that moment the next time I hit the Hell With It button and give him a bowl of marshmallows and put him in front of the TV.

Still, we don't have everything quite figured out yet. Jack decided a while back that he doesn't need to take a nap anymore. However, all evidence points to the contrary, particularly when he is tired to the point where he has screaming fits and attempts to hit me and throw shoes at Steve. The kid needs to take a nap, and we all need to work a little harder to make it happen.

Last night after work, Steve and I had a Team Meeting with my mom and Doug, who take care of Jack on Mondays and Tuesdays. We agreed to attempt a nap at 12:30 and keep trying for 40 minutes. Jack is to stay in his room for 90 minutes, at which time his alarm will go off. We aren't going to make him sleep - if he wants to stay in a darkened room and play with Roary and Susie, so be it, but we are hoping he will get bored and give in to the urge to nap.

Starting today, his sticker chart will no longer be for staying in bed at night, but rather for staying in bed at naptime. He's down with the plan and is eager to earn enough stickers to get his Superman and Krypto action figure set. Here's hoping that The Great Nap Crackdown of 2008 is successful.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Bringing Sweaty Back

I woke up bright and surly on Saturday morning, hoping to get my 18 miler in before it got too hot and humid - and to leave plenty of time to shower before Jack's swimming lesson. I dosed myself liberally with Body Glide, hydrated well, and took off.

Three hours, 22 minutes later, it became apparent that really, there wasn't anything I could have done to avoid that humidity. My clothes were so soaked in sweat that I could literally wring them out. It looked like I'd been swimming, and my skirt clung to my legs. I had painful chafing on my chest and back from my sports bra and on my thigh from my (still awesome) new Amphipod.

This incredibly sexy result aside, it was a really good run and left me feeling strong. Even though I'm a member of Club 26.2, the fact that I can run 18 miles at all makes me really proud. I also did an experiment to see if I could keep up a solid average pace and still walk at water stops. When I was approaching my house and my mom's (my two designated places), I picked up the pace for about a 1/4 mile, stopped and walked while I drank and refueled, then picked up the pace again for that 1/4 mile back. My pace for the miles including breaks is definitely slower, but other splits are faster. I don't know; I think it works for me.

My focus has improved, too. I only took two walk breaks beyond those for water, one of which was because I gave myself a gigantic hill at mile 17. I definitely want to include some hills in my training, especially in anticipation of the Bix, but my marathon is not a hilly one, so there is no need for me to force myself to run hills while fatigued. When I do my next 20 miler on Sunday, that loop is going to be one of the first ones, not the last.

And now for those splits. The goal pace for this run was 10:46. Here's how I did:

Mile 1: 10:13
Mile 2: 10:24
Mile 3: 10:21
Mile 4: 10:31
Mile 5: 10:44
Mile 6: 10:24
Mile 7: 12:24 (walk/water/Gu break)
Mile 8: 10:24
Mile 9: 10:07
Mile 10: 11:55 (walk/water/Sport Bean break)
Mile 11: 10:48
Mile 12: 10:54
Mile 13: 13:09 (walk/water/Gu break)
Mile 14: 10:37
Mile 15: 10:51
Mile 16: 10:46
Mile 17: 13:30 (the aforementioned hill)
Mile 18: 11:08

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Advanced Overtraining

The topic of this week's Take It and Run Thursday is he perils of overtraining. I have become something of an expert on overtraining.

If you read about running and training, you know the basic, easiest way to overtrain: too great an increase in mileage. If you ran 30 miles last week and ramp up the mileage this week to 50 - or even 40 - chances are good you are overtraining and are at risk of injury or burnout.

Pfft. Everyone knows that. I have learned advanced ways to overtrain.

For example, if you've been carefully planning all of your runs to be on flat courses, suddenly throwing yourself a bunch of really challenging hills - especially at race pace - is an excellent, more creative way to overtrain. The achilles injury that had me limping for a week last year can attest to that.

Speedwork also poses an opportunity to overtrain. Let's say you're trying to run 400 meter repeats at 2:00 pace. Why stop there? If you can, push that to 1:47 or so, because you can, and you are an amazing, lightning fast Kenyan, not a 30something American mom. You know, for example.

Those incredibly fast workouts felt amazing. That is, until I developed shin splints in my left leg that I was afraid meant a stress fracture.

There are many ways to overtrain, but the key is to tell yourself that the rules do not apply to you. Because you are so awesome, you can crank up the miles, race up hills, and sustain too fast a pace with no consequences whatsoever.

Here's the thing: the rules do apply to you. They apply to all of us. And by running too much, unprepared, or too fast, you could be trading short-term pleasure for long-term problems. Because you decided the rules didn't apply to you, you put yourself at risk of losing an entire season of training, of not being able to run that race that you overtrained for.

Remember: just because you can doesn't mean you should.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Race Karma

The internet is full of advice for running races. Stay hydrated, don't eat anything weird beforehand, don't wear new clothes, don't go out too fast, start off in the right pace group, and so on. But I believe there's a smaller way you can improve your race performance - or at least your enjoyment.

The key is creating good race karma.

Good race karma might not get you across the finish line first, but maybe it can keep you from losing your chip, tripping over your shoelaces, bumping into a pothole, or looking like an idiot in all of the race pictures. It certainly won't hurt. Here's how to bump up your race karma.

  • At the beginning of the race, make an effort to actually look at the flag, not your Garmin. And take your damned hat off.

  • Give the volunteers your appreciation. At the very least smile and nod at them.

  • Wave at the spectators. Yes, they may be sitting in their front yard drinking beer while you run your butt off, but they can also give you a boost when you need it most.

  • If there's a kid spectator looking for a high five, don't leave 'em hanging!

  • Police officers taking care of the course need extra special love. Smile at them and say thank you.

  • At water stations, get your cup from a kid if at all possible. If there are no kids there, pick that person all the way at the end of the water line who is getting no customers whatsoever.

  • If you're going to pour some of that water on yourself or dump some out of the cup, pay attention to the people around you so that you don't accidentally drench a fellow runner.

  • When you're finished, either throw your cup in the trash or at least toss it carefully on a pile of other cups so it's less of a hassle to clean up later. The same goes for Gu packets.

  • Is there a band playing? Clap for them - even if you're wearing your iPod.

  • Have fun and enjoy the food at the post-race party, but just eat and drink whatever you're going to enjoy there. I have actually seen people fill up bags with bananas and granola bars and such. You are not at the grocery store.

What about you? How do you practice good race karma?

Goin' on a Bear Hunt

When I was in Girl Scouts, there was a song we used to sing called "Goin' on a Bear Hunt." In the song, you go looking for a bear and encounter a bunch of obstacles along the way - lake, cave, stuff like that. One verse went like this:

Ooh, looky!
What is that?
It's a swamp-a!
Can't go over it.
Can't go under it.
Can't go around it.
We gotta go through it!

When I headed out for last night's track workout, it was so horrendously humid, I immediately thought, "It's a swamp-a!" And that workout wasn't going away, so... "We gotta go through it!"

After running to the track, I did 3 x 1600, with a goal pace between 8:20 and 8:30 a mile. I was supposed to do 1 minute rest intervals, but I did bump that up a bit because I needed a bit of extra time to recover and drink from my water bottle.

I was completely drenched in sweat, and my hair curled up like Will Ferrel's in Semi-Pro. It was so nasty out that I did something I do not usually do - I took my shirt off. Luckily the black sports bra and black skirt looked like an actual outfit.

Here are my swamp splits:

That second mile was a bit of an experiment. I picked up my pace a bit on the straightaways, then slowed a bit on the curves. My main goal in doing this was to break things up a bit and help me resist the urge to just sit in the shade. Obviously, it worked better than just that!

Monday, July 07, 2008

The Benefit of Experience

I'm starting to repeat experiences from last year's marathon training, and I am struck by how much better things are going now than they were before.

On Friday, I ran the Firecracker 10K, just like I did last year. Only this time, my experience was worlds better. The race has a 5K and a 10K, which start together. After about a mile, the courses split up, and there's a volunteer with a bullhorn whose job it is to repeat over and over, "10K, up the hill!" (which honestly would be kind of a fun job). The 5K is "fast and flat," but the 10K is described as "hilly and challenging." Last year, I remember going up that first hill, and thinking, "Man, that was a bitch. Good thing that's over!" only to discover hill after hill after hill. Just when I thought I was finished, bam! Another scary steep hill. It wore me out mentally.

Worse, when I ran that 10K last year, I was in the "Wow, I am so strong and amazing that I can just run whatever I want to!" phase. The day I ran that 10K last year, I was supposed to do an easy 3, but I figured, "Why not run twice that distance on a difficult course? And race it?"

Well, the reason why not was that I injured my Achilles tendon and limped for a week, that was why.

This time around, I was ready for the hills. I'd done plenty of hill training, and I knew when to expect each one. I skipped my scheduled 7 mile tempo run for the week and did this one instead.I did not injure myself, and even better, I got a PR! There were also improvements to the race itself, such as the fact that they didn't run out of t-shirts (though they did only have XXL, which fits me like a dress), and, even better, they had ICE CREAM at the finish line. Awesome!

On Sunday, I once again felt like a seasoned veteran. It was the day of my first 20 mile training run of this marathon training time. Last year, 20 miles was the longest I'd ever run, and I was nervous as all get out. Could I really do it? Would it take me all day? Would I get sick or hungry? I was so freaked out about it that I barely slept the night before. Then, I proceded to have a terrible run. My mind was not in the right place at all, I got lost, it was hot, and I had to hurl myself along for the last two miles.

This time, I was confident that I could do it, knowing that I had a great 17 mile run the week before and that I have successfully run farther than 20 miles before. I plotted a fun course for myself and had some good podcasts to listen to along the way. I also enlisted the aid of my mom as a water station, saying I'd be by her house at mile 13 and again at mile 17. My water bottle and packets of Gu were waiting for me, and on the way back, Mom had not only refilled the bottle, but even added ice. It was the greatest tasting thing ever. She even took my picture:

I'm walking, so it's not too bad-ass, but you can at least admire my cute running outfit. And my legs look good.

I finished the run in 3:36, which I was very happy with. And, after some food and an ice bath, I felt just fine for the rest of the day (and today), with the exception of a couple of blisters. Not bad!

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Have It Your Way

If, like me, you have the glamorous job of being mother to a three-year-old, you spend a tremendous amount of time in public bathrooms. Take today, for example. One trip to Burger King, two trips to the bathroom. The second time, Steve offered to take him, but Jack insisted that I have the honor. I am awesome.

The lid to the wastebasket was broken, a source of endless fascination to Jack. He kept asking me about it - how it happend, who would fix it, and so on. As is often my strategy when barraged with his random questions, I turned it back on him - "Jack, how do you think it got broken?"

He gave the matter some thought, and in the car on the way home, he theorized:

Membe, after everyone was asleep, a monster or a nightmare had a key to Burger King. And then they got in and they sat on the trash can and it broke!

Steve and I agreed that this was a logical explanation, and that was undoubtedly how it happened. Then, we got this exchange:

Roary: Maybe, after Burger King was closed, a monkey and an elephant decided to go in. The monkey used the key to open the door and let the elephant in. Then, the elephant sat on the trash can and broke it.

Jack: That makes no sense, Roary.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Suits Me to a Tee

Take it and Run Thursday this week addresses an issue near and dear to the hearts of all runners: t-shirts. We run in them, and we all have boatloads of them in our dresser drawers from races. And there's nothing like a good running related t-shirt to put a smile on our faces.

My favorite running-related t-shirt is one that I don't wear for running at all, since it is (shudder) cotton. But I love to put it on after a tough run. It's from Life is Good, which is a sentiment that makes me smile, and it has a simple image and message.

When I wear that shirt, I feel like a runner - and like everyone who sees me knows it, too.

It's not a t-shirt, but I also love my running hat, which I bought at One More Mile, which is an excellent source for running slogans. It proudly proclaims:

And see? They have it on a shirt. The hat was a reward I bought myself after a long run in last year's marathon training. It helps me remember that the time I spend runnning is even better than hanging out at a bar drinking margaritas. Yes, I know that sounds crazy, but it's really true.

The running shirts that Amy and Tom at Runner's Lounge have created over the past week have inspired me. I think I'm going to need a custom t-shirt for my marathon in September. One that includes my new mantra and will show all of the spectators what I'm made of. What do you guys think?

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

These Kids Today

Last night was a track workout for me, and let me tell you, the Moline High School Track is a totally hopping place on a Tuesday night. No, really. There was a group of runners training together who seem to hit the track every Tuesday at around the same time as I do. And as an added bonus, there was a group of high school kids - members of the high school cross country team, judging by their t-shirts - who were also working out on the track.

In my years of high school cross country and track, I spent many, many hours on that track. It was the home of the 16 x 400 workout that was, for quite a while, the most physically difficult thing I'd ever done. The place where we'd have home track meets. The place where I learned to appreciate the smell of wet pavement. And, thanks to its incredibly poor surface, the place that gave me a stress fracture in each leg.

Ah, memories.

The track has since been resurfaced. Not only is it as spongy as running on a beautiful fluffy cloud of cotton candy, it's even a school-spirit inducing maroon. Every time I run on it, I appreciate how nice it is and think about my teenaged self hobbling over to the pool to do some water running because of the injured legs.

So, imagine my surprise when I saw two of the girls toting yoga mats "so it doesn't hurt my hands when I stretch." I immediately wanted to go into an Old Lady Rant.

You kids today! You have no idea how good you have it. When I was your age, our track was made out of the same concrete as the highway and was covered in broken glass. I still have pebbles embedded in my palms from stretching on it. And that's the way it was, and we liked it!

In other news, the workout was 5 x 1K repeats with 400 meter rest intervals. My goal was a 5:08 pace. Here's how it shook out:

Even without the benefit of a yoga mat.