Monday, April 26, 2010

Race Report: Steve's Old Time Tap Chaser

This year, like last year, I ran the Steve's Old Time Tap Chaser knowing it would not be a good time to go for a PR. The race is held the Saturday before my running club has a training run for the Quad Cities Distance Classic Pikermi (half marathon) the very next morning. Making sure that run goes well is more important to me than a random 5K.

Said random 5K makes it extra easy for you to look upon it as a good time when, at packet pickup, they ask, "Do you want a wristband for free beer?" Friends, I did not go to college for four years and not know the correct answer to that one.

I arrived for the race and immediately found a friend/fellow racing team member to hang out with. She, too, was looking to just have an enjoyable run, as she is tapering for the Flying Pig Marathon. I also ran into a bunch of women who had run the Boston Marathon earlier in the week and weren't feeling their speediest... but like me, figured they might as well get in a 5K, especially since it counted as points towards the club's circuit (award which totals up race participation throughout the year). My sentiments exactly! So, we relaxed, talked about upcoming races, and compared outfits until it was time to start.

I cranked Lady Gaga and engaged in a mix between running, people watching, and trying to think of what kind of outfit Lady Gaga would wear to go running. I think it would be a ridiculous amount of spandex in an attempt to make herself as aerodynamic as possible and might cover her entire head.

Last year when I ran this race, the short but steep hill right after the first mile threw me, but this time I knew it was coming and zipped over it, passing a bunch of runners in the process and increasing my lead using the long downhill that followed it. I love knowing the course - and knowing that there was a straightaway for about half a mile leading up to the finish line where I could begin a nice, steady surge. Last year, I missed out on an age group award by literally one second. The other woman kicked past me to the finish line and I didn't fight her. I didn't know if I was in contention for an age group award this time around, but I did not want a repeat of that performance. I focused on every single woman in the field of vision in front of me and took them down in that last half mile. Looking at the results later, none of them were in my age group (the next woman was over a minute behind me), but hey - that kind of effort never hurts, right?

Finishing time: 25:44, two seconds faster than my 5K time from the previous week at Run for Renewal. Since Run for Renewal was hill-tastic and this one was pretty flat, I was definitely running more relaxed.

I met up with some friends after the race. Although I'd grabbed the wrist band the day before, I really didn't plan on having a beer at 9:30 in the morning. But then one of them said, "Come on, let's go get a beer." How could I stand up to such a persuasive argument as that? I am not made of stone, people.

Beer early in the morning after a run is good fun and leads to your listening to a couple of fellow runners discussing their upcoming plans to get boob jobs. Fascinating stuff, and a mystery to me as to why any female runner would want bigger boobs, which would just get in the way.

Better still, last year's race was redeemed when I found out that I came in third for my age group - and scored a pint glass for my efforts. What a good way to spend a Saturday!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Race Report: Run for Renewal

Saturday morning was race day at Stately Wasser Manor, with my running a 5K and Jack running the 1/2 mile kids' race for Run for Renewal, a fundraiser for a charity called Project Renewal that helps at-risk kids. The Cub and I fueled up with a carb-tastic breakfast of doughnuts, then crew leader Steve drove us to the race. It was a beautiful day - cool, with not a cloud in the sky.

Jack's race was first, and he could not have been more excited. Steve asked if they could please run together, since Jack got to run with me at his last race. I grabbed the video camera and found a spot along the course with fellow race crew members Grandma and Grandpa so we could cheer. Steve reported that Jack followed his surge/relent/surge pattern throughout the entire 1/2 mile. Apparently even splits are not a goal that a five year old aspires to. When the race was over, Jack scored a frisbee and a coloring book. He was absolutely thrilled with himself, and I was proud of him too, especially seeing the big smile on his face as he sprinted to the finish.

I had never done Run for Renewal before, but saw the course described as "a couple of hills, but mostly flat." No problem, especially because I've been training on hills. I took off, with the goal of running comfortably hard and besting my most recent 5K time of 26:20 at the St. Patrick's Day 5K.

About half a mile into the race, we hit a wicked hill, just ridiculously steep. Spectators stood at the top, encouraging us, and saying that with this hill, the hardest part was over. Good, because that? Was not easy. Then I looked ahead and saw that those spectators had a different idea of what the hardest part might be than I did: another hill, not quite as vertically steep, but probably a quarter of a mile long. I powered through it.

The course wove through some more neighborhoods. Entertainment was provided by two women who lived on the course and yelled back and forth across the street together wondering what the hell all of these people were doing running down their road and that if it didn't stop soon, they would be calling the police.

I knew that the course formed a big loop, so I figured that the uphill would be followed at some point by a really sweet downhill. Sure enough, there was one, but then about half a mile from the finish line, inexplicably, there was another uphill. Gah!

Finally, I turned a corner. In my sights were not only the finish line, but also my race crew - and a guy I could potentially pass. We all know that no matter what, I would have done my best to chick that dude into the finish line, but with my family watching? That guy had no chance. I zipped past him for a strong finish of 25:45.

My splits were pretty good:

Mile 1: 8:25
Mile 2: 8:46 (apparently I was tired from those hills)
Mile 3: 8:07
Last little .1: 0:27 (5:44 pace, baby)

I will definitely run this race again. 5Ks are usually pancake flat, so I liked having the challenge of the hills. And I'm sure Jack would be happy to run for another frisbee.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Advice for the allergic runner

I've heard it on the news several times: this spring is one of the worst seasons for allergies in recent memory. But if you suffer from seasonal allergies like I do, you didn't need a news broadcast to tell you this. It has been horrible... and being a runner makes it all the more challenging. After fighting winter weather for so long, I'm not about to shut myself in the house with the air conditioning on.

So, what is the allergic runner to do?

First and foremost, I am a big believer in the power of drugs. The first day the snow starts thinking about melting, that's when you need to start hitting the allergy pills. Claritin helps me a lot, but it does seem to take time for it to work its magic. For really bad days, I have back-up drugs that I take in addition to the Claritin. The key is that it has to be non-drowsy. If it says, "may cause drowsiness," that basically means, "will knock Betsy out." That doesn't work for my normal life, much less if I'm trying to run.

I also make sure I wash my hair as soon as possible after being outside. On heavy pollen days, I feel like my hair is a big Swiffer picking up as much of that muck as possible. I need to get clean to survive.

Usually, this is enough to save me, but this season, it hasn't been enough. I drugged up, de-Swiffered my hair, and was still in agony. I went through box after box of tissues and blew my nose so many times that my skin chapped. I couldn't sleep, and I just felt crappy all the time. I know it affected my time in Springfield. How could it not have?

Desperation led me to try something new. I got a NeilMed Sinus Rinse Kit. What's that? Well, it's not for the faint of heart. It's basically a squirt bottle that you fill with a salt water solution. Then, you lean over the sink, shoot the water out one nostril and feel it flow through the other, then repeat. It's not pretty, but you know? Damned if it doesn't work. If it seems weird, that's because it is. But I can't argue with results.

What about you? How do you survive seasonal allergies?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Inspiration is everywhere

Running my personal worst time for a pikermi (also known as a half marathon) should have me feeling down. But the fact of the matter is, it felt great to get out there and race hard, no matter what the end result.

The experience has inspired me to train harder for my next pikermi, which is on May 9. I'm adding more speedwork, plus hills every other week. Predictably, this has been kicking my butt... though in a good way! Then on Sunday, I ran with my running club and totally rocked out a ten miler.

I'm being realistic - I know that a PR might not be in the cards for me this spring... but it could happen in the fall. I am just happy to be training hard.

In the meantime, I have a 5K to run on Saturday, one I haven't done before. There is a kids' race as well. I signed Jack up, since not only does my boy love to race, but it's free for kids. Can't say no to that. Jack's race is a half mile, which will be the longest he's raced before.

When I registered Jack, I had every confidence that he could run 1/2 a mile... but that it might not be pretty. Like any kid, Jack isn't exactly the best at pacing himself. He likes to go out running like a maniac, arms waving wildly, which is not your best long distance strategy.

So, last night, Jack and I went to the track together so that he could see what half a mile feels like. Sure enough, he raced out as fast as he could, then slowed down a lot after the first 100 meters. He'd slow down, then surge over and over again. At the end, I think he understood that for a distance that long, a bit of strategy is important.

We took a water break, then Jack begged me to let him run another half mile. I said okay, but only if he'd run my pace, then kick it in when I told him to, no sooner. Jack ran with me at a more comfortable speed, with a few reminders to run relaxed and strong. With 100 meters to go, Jack kicked it around the final curve, happily crossing the finish line.

Living with someone who takes such joy in running, how can I not feel excited about hitting the track myself? That's my plan for tonight, and I am going to love every minute of it.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Race Report: Lincoln Memorial Half Marathon

Let's get this out of the way first of all: I ran the Lincoln Memorial Half Marathon (Pikermi/Trisko/13.1) in 2:10:31, scoring a new official Personal Worst at the distance... and am very happy with how I ran.

From the beginning, I knew this race wasn't going to be a PR. My stress fracture last fall scared me, and I've been very cautious about easing my way back into training. Not only have I been devoted to the 10% rule, but I have also been careful about not upping the intensity too much. I want to run faster, but more than anything, I want to run. If it takes a while to get back into the shape that let me PR last spring, so be it.

The week prior to the race, I hit another stumbling block: the first beautiful days of spring. You'd think this would be good news, but not for me. Those first beautiful days of spring mean my allergies are at their absolute worst. Despite drugging myself within an inch of my life, I couldn't breathe, couldn't sleep, and felt dry headed and miserable for the four days before the race. It was to the point that I was blowing my nose so often, it started to chafe. (FYI: Body Glide helps with this, too.)

So, let's just say that when I toed the line, I wasn't feeling like a million bucks. I felt like about a buck fifty. Instead of having a time goal, I decided to have an effort goal. And that goal was based on my new hat. Check it out:

It's from Endorphin Warrior (not compensating me in any way for promoting them, not that I'd mind if they did!) and I love it. The message is RELENTLESS but because of the colors of the letters, it also tells you to RELENT LESS. I was determined in this race to give it everything I had and to relent less.

So, the race is in Springfield, Illinois, and pretty much everything is all about Abraham Lincoln. The race course goes past a number of Lincoln sites - the Lincoln home, the new library and museum, the old and new State Capitol buildings, and Lincoln's tomb. An actor portraying Lincoln started us off with an in-character speech, then a group dressed as Union soldiers fired their rifles to start. The course was very pretty and well marked. It got challenging at the end as the formerly flat course turned hilly. I started to get worn out, but I kept remembering my goal: RELENT LESS.

When I crossed the finish line, I knew I'd left everything I had on the course. 2:10:31 was my slowest ever time, but it was also the absolute best I could have done on that day, and that is an accomplishment I can be proud of.

To mark my accomplishment? A finisher's medal shaped like a giant penny. What better momento could you ask for?

Friday, April 02, 2010

Runner Girl - Yoga Girl Team-Up

It all started with a dare.

My friend Daina is a yoga instructor. She posted a Facebook status update enthusing about how she helped someone in one of her classes get into a downward facing dog. I loved her excitement about it, but said that no way could I do it – my body does not bend.

Daina confidently said that with her help and some hard work, I could do it… but that she could never run like I do. I responded that with my help and some hard work, she could run a 5K.

“All right,” Daina said. “You’re on.”

And with that, the Runner Girl – Yoga Girl Team-up was born.

Last night, Daina took the first step and went running with me. She lives about a mile away from me, so I ran over to her house to pick her up. Daina, dressed in shorts and a skull t-shirt, looked absolutely adorable… and nervous. The last time she’d done any running at all was in high school, when they forced us to run a mile for time – and she hated it. I said that she probably hated it because she tried to go too fast. Since we were just starting out, we didn’t need to go fast; we just needed to go. We’d run relaxed and easy, and if she needed to take a walk break, we would.

And with that, we were off! The two of us ran through her neighborhood, enjoying a beautiful night and talking about our kids. My Garmin chirped, and I gave her the good news: “Guess what, Daina? You just ran a mile.”

She could not believe it. “I did? That didn’t feel like a mile!” I assured her that it was, and that she was doing great. With a big smile on her face, she ran with me another ½ mile, back to her house. I showed her how far we’d run (1.58 miles) and how fast (19:11). She was absolutely thrilled and gave me a big hug before I took off back to my house. We made plans to get together again soon for another run.

I don’t think my feet touched the ground the whole way home. I was incredibly happy for my friend and loved seeing how proud she was – and rightly so – of her accomplishment. It was the best 1.58 miles I’ve run in a long time.

Very few people have the guts to go outside of their comfort zone and attempt something that’s really challenging. Last night, Daina did just that. Her strength and confidence inspired me and will be in my head the next time I’m struggling with a workout or race.

I’m looking forward to our next run together – and to her pushing me out of my comfort zone to do some yoga.