Tuesday, March 31, 2009

How the Mighty Have Fallen

Not so long ago, I was at the top of my game. I was blazing out tempo runs and track workouts, then turning around and rocking out 10 miles at sub-9:00 pace. I was amazing, Kenyan-fast, invincible!

Then, it turned out that I was very much... vincible.

My fall from grace started with a 4 mile tempo run. To put it succinctly, I sucked. I felt slow, heavy, and leaden. I couldn't step things up to save my life. What should have been a relatively easy run turned into a slog.

I tried to shake it off. We are all allowed one bad run, right? I resolved to make my next run as fun as possible. I was scheduled to do a 5 x 1K track workout, so to mix things up, I ran on the path by the river, rather than on the track. That way I'd have beautiful scenery to admire, geese to dodge... all that good stuff.

It turned out that run sucked, too.

It was ridiculously cold out, and within minutes, my frozen paws were shoved into my gloves and my butt felt numb. The wind was so strong that I had to bend my head forward to drive into it. 5 x 1K turned into 5 x "Okay, I can run to that tree up there and then stop."

I have said a million times that everyone can have a bad run every now and again, and I mean it. But two in a row really felt lousy. I was in a bad mood all day, and on Sunday, I decided to skip my long run. It was still cold and windy out, and I wanted no part of yet another discouraging workout.

I really need to get my running mojo back. Complicating matters is the fact that I am in Minnesota for three days this week, so my normal routine is thrown off. My plan is to get in two runs while I'm here and to just make them fun. To hell with distance, pace, all of that. I need to get out there and feel good about it, period.

Today was the first attempt, and I can only give it a C-. Cold weather and wind are still plotting against me, and rather than face my kryptonite, I headed for the treadmill in the hotel gym. Running on the treadmill is un-fun by definition, but I really needed to get my legs moving. I mixed it up a bit by throwing in some fact quarter miles.

It felt okay. Not great, not strong, not invicible, but okay. Which is at least better than lousy.

Hopefully tomorrow will be better.

What about you? How do you regain your running mojo?

Your Mother

So, a couple of weeks ago, I participated in a Runner’s Lounge podcast all about Running Moms, which you can check out right catlicking here.

It could be argued that I am a giant slacker for not getting around to promoting this on my blog until now, but I prefer to think that I am working to sustain the fabulous buzz already surrounding this endeavor. Did that sound convincing?

Anyway, it was supercool to talk to a bunch of my fellow running moms about the perils of Mommy Guilt, why there is apparently no such thing as Daddy Guilt, how to bribe our children into letting us go running, and our dream jogging stroller, which would include a built-in DVD player to quiet down the kiddies so we could keep on going.

In related news, during Jack’s and my weekly trip to the library, we found a book called My Mom is a Runner by Mary Gallagher Reimold. I found this synopsis of the book on Amazon:

The rigorous training involved in long distance running is depicted in sharp, well-reproduced color photographs of the lifestyle of a family of four. Although the mother is dedicated to the sport and works at it daily, she does not isolate herself from her husband and young sons. She is shown caring for the boys, running with them on a track, sharing her tee shirts and other prizes, and celebrating the end of a race with a visit to the ice cream parlor. In turn, her husband and sons are her enthusiastic and supportive fans.

As I read the book to Jack, I found myself doing some selective editing. I chose not to point out to him that the cotton t-shirt that the mom was wearing out on her long run would cause chafing, since that would require more explanation than I was willing to provide. But the part about how sometimes the mom lets her kids wear her race t-shirts to school the next day? Or how the mom actually gives her finishers’ medals to them?

Hell no!

If Jack wants a race t-shirt or a finishers’ medal, then he needs to hit the pavement and earn it his own damned self.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Power of the Group Run

For the most part, I love the solitary aspects of distance running. It's my favorite time to de-stress, work out problems, or even just hang out and listen to music and podcasts.

But at the same time, it's good to have friends. I adore each and every one of my BRF's (seriously), but I recognize the benefit of having some running friends who I can go out with not just in spirit, but in reality. That's why one of my 2009 running goals was to get to know some local runners. And guys, it's working.

I joined my local running club and started going to events. That was a good start, but even better was joining in the training runs that the club is having for the upcoming Quad Cities Distance Classic trisko ("half marathon").

Bright and surly every Sunday morning, a large group of runners descends upon McDonald's, standing out in the crowd with our brightly colored jackets, tights, and low percentage of body fat.

This week, I ran at my own pace and found myself smack dab in the middle of two packs - one running a bit faster than I was, the other a bit slower. But at the turnaround, I ended up running with John, a guy I met at a previous training run. Since John and I are both, you know, runners, it wasn't exactly hard to find things to talk about.

The miles flew by, and our conversation turned to our goal times for the upcoming race. I said that I wanted to run it in two hours or less. John said that, with the pace we were running, I'd surely be able to do it.

I laughed and said, "You are really making me work right now." Then, he admitted that he kept expecting me to drop him and take off.

Neither of us slowed our pace. Instead, we pushed a little faster up the final hill to the parking lot, where a jug of water and our fellow runners waited. I was rewarded for my efforts with a chance to hang out and talk about running - just what I wanted.

My average pace for that ten mile run? 8:47. That may be a walk in the park for some of you Speedy McSpeedersons, but for me, it is Kenyan fast. I feel amazing... and I can't wait for the next group run so I can do it again.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Runners Report

Seeing as how it's been a shameful number of weeks since I have contributed to Take It and Run Thursday, I'm going to dive right in:

Spring is one of the four most glorious seasons of the year for running. After months of layering up, trying to avoid icy patches, or worse, running indoors, it is wonderful to be out among the singing birds and new flowers.

It is so wonderful that all of a sudden, everybody's a runner. I've heard gym devotees complain about the influx of new people joining up, using the equipment and taking all the good lockers right after making New Year's resolutions in January. The same is true for runners in the spring.

The new runners are, of course, welcome to join us out on the road, and I hope they stick around (unless they are women in my age group who are faster than I am). I want to make a good first impression.

This brings me to my most valuable spring training tip:

Start taking allergy pills before you think you'll need them.

If I hit the Claritin a week before it gets good and gorgeous outside, then I will avoid the portion of my run where I am sneezing with such intensity that it knocks down those new runners, trying to see through my watery eyes how to get home so I can get a shower and some kleenex as fast as possible.

With a little prevention, I can just skip that.

What about you? How do you train in the spring?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

On the Road Again

Devoted (and therefore sexy) CoffeeBetsy readers will recall that New Job is causing me to spend quite a bit of time traveling. Two weeks ago found me in exotic Chanhassen, Minnesota, where I got up in the wee hours of the morning and ran on a trail around a frozen lake. It was astonishly beautiful.

Right now, I am traveling again, this time in Seattle (which thus increased the population of runners named Betsy in the city to two). I spent a pivotal summer here living with Steve, and this is the first time I've been back. I knew that, thanks to work, there'd be little time for sightseeing, but there was one easy solution to that.

I got up early, laced up my shoes, and hit the road.

I started off at my hotel, which by sheer coincidence is connected to the mall where I worked that summer. Then, I headed to the Space Needle. The Space Needle is surrounded by museums that we could not afford to go to because we were incredibly poor, so I paid tribute to that by not going in any of them (that and it was 6:00 in the morning). I also visited the carnival area where Steve and I used to walk and eat cotton candy. There is a wee little roller coaster there that we dubbed The Pissy Mouse, because that was about how threatening it was.

From there, I headed back towards the hotel, running past Pike Place Market. Most of the booths weren't set up yet, but the smells of freshly baked bread and hot coffee filled the air. In fact, I regret that I didn't keep an ongoing tally of espresso places that I passed along the way. It verged on parody.

Next, I ran to Pioneer Square, more great coffee places and bookstores, and a bunch of bars that are probably now teeming with people drinking green beer.

Back to the hotel with a few added twists and turns, I was filled with memories. I felt completely connected to the city again - and to Steve, far away though he may have been.

Race Report: St. Patrick's Day 5K

Dawg, I don't know. You went up there, you did your thing, but it was just all right for me. It was kinda weird, dawg; I don't know. I'm not mad atcha, but I'm not jumping out of my chair, either. You know?

--Randy Jackson

Okay, Randy Jackson might not have said those exact words, at least not in that order (and has anyone else noticed that if Randy is forced to give an opinion first and can't just agree with one of the other judges that he's reduced to a lot of stammering, "dawg," and "How do you think you did"?), but the point is that he could have. And I could have said that about my experience at the St. Patrick's Day 5K.

The St. Patrick's Day 5K is not a race I've run before, but I figured, what the heck. For one thing, as I've discussed before, it's only 5 kilometers long. And in perhaps the most kick-ass job benefit of all time, New Workplace has a program in which they sponsor 50% of all of my race fees. Yes, seriously: I run a race, they pay for half of it. Yes, it is awesome. I know. Yeah, I know: awesome.

Anyway, I arrived in plenty of time for the 9:00 AM start... only to find out that the giant 9:00 AM on the entry fee and on the website referred to the children's races, and that my race did not start until 10:00. That kind of sucked, because I could have either slept for another hour or done some work around the house. But whatever; I hung out with my running buddies and watched the kids run.

When it was time to line up at the start, I discovered some weirdness about the course. It was an out-and-back... kind of. We had to walk about 200 meters away from the finish line to start the race. We then ran to a turn-around, and about 100 meters away from that turn-around was the actual half-way point of the race. It wasn't a huge deal, but it was a tad disconcerting. The course had some rolling hills, which made it more challenging. I followed my usual technique of running up the hills saying to myself, "I am really strong on hills, and I tend to catch up with a lot of people on them," which I swear to Yoda makes it true.

Also annoying was the fact that after the finish line, you had to walk about a quarter of a mile (up a really steep hill, by the way) before you could get to the water and post-race food. True, I hadn't exhausted myself to the point where I couldn't go that far, but it seems not only inconvenient but potentially hazardous for a beginner who might really need a water and a banana quickly after the race.

And you guys, the t-shirt was LAME. It's a long-sleeved white cotton tee with a little shamrock on the front where a pocket would be. On the back is nothing but sponsor logos in black. Bo-ring.

The positive? I freaking rocked this one out, you guys. I finished in 23:44. At first I thought that was exactly my previous PR, down to the second... but then I looked more closely and saw that I shaved a full minute off of that time. It was good enough for third place in my age group. I need to investigate how I can pick up my trophy, because I believe that it is actually a beer mug. Kind of makes up for the lameness of the t-shirt.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Running Like Crazy

So, yeah. It has officially been forever since I have posted anything. I have been so catlicking busy that although there is plenty to report, I just haven’t managed to find a second to sit down and write anything. Clearly, this situation calls for some bullet points.
• The new job is going well, but it’s keeping me very busy. I am learning a lot, as evidenced by my getting on a plane my second week of work and flying to Minneapolis, coming home for the weekend, then flying out again.
• I didn’t get to go to the Mall of America, nor did I run into Prince.
• However, one morning I got up early and went for a run. I discovered a park near my hotel where there was a running path that surrounded a beautiful frozen lake. Running around a frozen lake felt very Minnesota to me. I’m sure if I’d gone for another mile or two, I’d have run into Garrison Keillor.
• The boys and I went out for dinner the other night and Jack, with no preamble, picked up a crayon and wrote his name, all by himself, for the very first time. I am incredibly proud of him. He now has a Spider-Man notebook that he calls his sketchbook where he practices drawing and writing.
• Jack has also taken a step into kid-dom in that he is willing to help me clean the house for money. He will gladly accept any coin for any job and keeps them all in a bowl in his room. He thinks he is totally rich, though the amount of money he has amassed in his four years is about six bucks.
• Jack’s class at school has a new pet guinea pig, and I am delighted to report that her name is Miss Piggy. The teacher read them all a book about guinea pigs, and Jack pretty much committed it to memory. Steve and I have now deemed him The World’s Foremost Expert on Guinea Pigs. Jack will be delighted to bust out a number of facts about guinea pigs, such as that they need to chew on hard things to keep their teeth from getting too long, that when they are excited, they bounce up and down, which is called “popcorning,” and that celery is dangerous for them to eat because of the strings.
• Two new catch-phrases have entered the lexicon at Stately Wasser Manor. Instead of making sure, we are “make suring,” and if you want to tell someone you’re being honest, you’ll say, “I’m really true.” Jack’s turns of phrase really tickle me.
• I’ve decided not to run the half marathon I was planning on in early April. With the new job, I’ve been getting in decent miles in my weekend long runs, but I haven’t been as consistent in speed work. So, then new plan is to just train for the Quad Cities Distance Classic in May. I will have plenty of time to train for that, buying me time to miss a few training sessions as I need to.
• As part of that goal, I went on my first group training run on Sunday. We all met bright and surly in the morning, despite Daylight Savings Time and the fact that it was pouring rain. It’s nice to be with a group of people who are also crazy enough to think that’s a good idea. I hung with some nice people for the first 3.5 miles, but they were ready to turn around before I was , so I kept on going. Trouble was, the people ahead of me were WAY ahead of me, and the people running slower than me had turned around earlier, so I got a little lost. I was trying out the “return to start” feature on Paula Garmin when one of the faster runners joined me and helped me find my way back.
• After the training run, we all hung out at McDonald’s. Let me tell you, a group of runners really stands out in the crowd there. It was a lot of fun, and everyone was really friendly. Internet, if you are reluctant to join a running group because you don’t know anybody, don’t be. Runners are really nice people and are always willing to welcome another into the fold. Seriously.
• The day before that training run, I went to my Local Running Store and got a new pair of shoes (Asics 2140’s, if you care). My husband went with me because he was curious about what the store was like. He followed me in and listened for a few minutes while I chatted with the guy there. About one minute in, Steve realized that he had no clue what running store guy and I were talking about. All kinds of Asics serial numbers, discussion of “hot spots” on the feet, and he decided to wait for me outside instead!

Those are the highlights of what's going on here. I'll try not to be such a stranger!