Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Magnificent Seven

Sunday's long run was scheduled to be seven miles. It was easy to choose a route - I drove to Davenport and ran on the Bix course. Hey, if I lived in Boston and needed to run a 26.2 training run (admittedly unlikely), I know where I'd run then, too.

The weather had warmed up to the low 30s, which felt lovely and warm, and it was raining, which during the winter just feels like a refreshing change of pace. The course, as always, was hilly and challenging, but I was really in the mood to tackle something like that. I even saw a pair of fellow runners who seemed to be doing the very same thing. We waved enthusiastically at each other from across the street.

When the run was over, I felt great... except for one thing. I did a road test of a new sports bra and tried it with no Body Glide. Big mistake. A spot on my chest was completely chafed. The feeling when I stepped into the shower and the water hit me was absolute agony. Running seven miles in the rain over steep hills? No big deal. Tiny spot on my chest with no Body Glide? Totally laid me out.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Five to Survive

On Saturday, Steve and I accomplished a feat that many of my peers described as brave: we hosted a birthday party for Jack at our house.

Honestly, it didn't seem that big of a deal to me. We planned exactly the kind of party that I remember from when I was a kid. Birthday parties were not outings to Chuck E. Cheese or the Family Museum. They were games, presents, and birthday cake at someone's house.

Steve and I planned the party carefully. We created a schedule, in ten minute increments, of all of the games and activities. Jack helped us clear all of his toys out of the family room and into the basement. Experience has shown me that otherwise, the other kids will descend upon our house and start dumping bins of action figures onto the floor, making both Jack - and me - cranky. And creating automatic fun, Jack decided it would be a costume party.

And the party was only scheduled for two hours; in running terms, that's just a half marathon. Not so much to endure!

The kids arrived and proceeded to run around the house like maniacs, which was exactly what was on the schedule. Then, we played games. First up was hot potato, in which we passed around a stuffed Spider-Man, with an emphasis on silliness - act like bunnies while passing Spidey, for example. Then, we had the kids toss balls into a laundry basket. After that, I switched to a quiet activity and the kids decorated masks with stick-on jewels. The kids loved the masks and worked on them for quite a while.

When all of them were finished, Jack led everyone in a costume parade. I gave away prizes for all of the costumes - also known as treat bags. Jack decided way back in November that his party would be a costume one, so we were able to pack the treat bags accordingly, with two different kinds of masks that I bought for a song in a post-Halloween clearance sale at Michaels, along with the standard noise maker, candy, and dinosaur pencil. They went over huge.

Then, it was time for birthday cake and presents. Hooray, party successful... except that we still had an entire hour to kill.

Steve and I brainstormed quickly for more games to keep the kids occupied. Luckily, the two of us had plenty of silliness left. We played Simon Says, then Musical Pillows. Musical Pillows was a huge hit last year; pillows instead of chairs because they're easier to manipulate. And again, the focus wasn't so much on being out or not as it was on having the kids circle the pillows pretending to be cats, or ducks, or ballerinas. And finally, did you know that kids still love to play Duck, Duck, Goose? Well, thank goodness, they do.

Once the kids took off, all three of us crashed. Jack was thrilled with how everything went.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Badass 800s

Bart Yasso, step aside: I have invented a new speed workout.

Bart invented the Yasso 800, in which a runner does a series of 800 meter track repeats which miraculously predict their marathon finishing time. Nice.

But the workout I've invented is much tougher: Badass 800s.

Yesterday (the day which running history will note as the dawn of this new test of mettle), I drove to a nearby park and did a short warmup. Then, I went to the top of a long hill, set Paula Garmin, and had at it.

A Badass 800 consists of running down that steep hill, around a pond (the icy patches are optional to the workout), then finishing by running up that same steep hill, a total of 800 meters.

Badass 800s help a runner build fast twitch muscles, practice running downhill without killing your quads or falling flat on your face, navigate an undulating path that's far from track-flat, then handle a steep uphill when you're fatigued.

In short, they make you totally badass.

Yesterday, I did 4 Badass 800 repeats and went home feeling pretty much invincible. As I look ahead to the 2010 racing season, I am going to conquer every hill that I see.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Making the team

One of my goals for 2009 was to get more involved in my local running community. Recently, I got some news that proves that I accomplished that mission.

In 2008, I applied for the Cornbelt Running Club Racing Team. I knew it was a long shot; I was new to the club and didn't really know anybody yet. But I loved the idea so I figured it was worth a try and sent in my application, along with an impassioned essay.

No such luck. In fact, I found out I didn't make the team on the very same day that I lost my job. Bummer, right?

This year, I applied again. I was hoping that the time I'd spend attending club events, getting to know my fellow runners, training with the club, and volunteering at a couple of races would make the difference. And, if not, I'd try again for the 2011 team - eventually, they'd have to cave and let me in.

It looks like they caved: I made the team!

We had our first meeting yesterday, and I am not exaggerating when I say that I was honored to be part of such a fantastic group of runners. The Cornbelt Running Club Racing Team is made up of runners of all age groups and abilities. They are people who I've watched get trophies at races, but also people who I've seen volunteering time and time again, supporting our fellow runners any way we can. Our team's goals are goals that are important to me as well - to promote the sport of running.

As a member of the team, I am going to enjoy some amazing benefits. I was issued a uniform, which I will wear every time I race: a singlet, shorts (which I may replace with a skirt), a sports bra, warm-up pants, a windbreaker, and a technical t-shirt to wear either when volunteering or when it's too chilly for the singlet. Best of all, it's my favorite color, red! I will also get a 20% discount at Running Wild, our fabulous local running store, and free or reduced entry to several local races. One of those local races is the Bix 7, and not only that, but our team gets elite entry. As in, "Hey, there, Meb and Joanie! Good morning, and I hope you enjoy kicking my ass in this race."

Our team does, of course, have to earn our keep. We are required to volunteer at at least six events a year. In particular, if we are running in a race for a free or reduced entry, the race director asks that we volunteer either before or after the race. I am more than happy to pitch in. Last year, I volunteered for two races, and I've been planning to do more. This sport has given a lot to me, and I want to make sure I give back as well.

I left the meeting feeling inspired, both to run my best and to promote my sport to everyone. I am proud of this accomplishment and everything that it represents.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Race Report: Frostbite Footrace 8K

Where we last left off, I was taking an unplanned rest day thanks to an achy knee, but still determined to run the 8K Frostbite Footrace to see how it felt.

I took some Advil and headed for the race, hoping for the best. The place was buzzing with runner friends of mine, including Sara and Jen, who I hadn't seen in months. I think everyone was excited about the first local race of the year - and the fact that the weather was so nice. Several people enthused about how warm it was, and that the weather should not be a factor at all in anyone's performance.

For those of you who don't live in the midwest, the temperature was about 20 degrees. Only a cold weather runner could look at a day like that and be happy to be running outside.

I lined up with Sara and Jen. "Are you ready for this?" they asked. I said that honestly, I probably wasn't. Because of my knee problems, I planned to run a relaxed race and see how I felt. I figured chances were pretty good that I'd end up having to take off another several days. I put my Garmin in my pocket so that I wouldn't be distracted by my pace, which I figured wout be slow.

And, bang! We were off! Jen, Sara, and I leapfrogged back and forth for the first 2 and a half miles - the two of them running together and me by myself (they're sisters and tend to stick together). The two of them stopped for water, and as I passed them, Jen said, "See, Sara? That's what you get for stopping. Now she's ahead of us."

Not for long, though, and the two of them passed me again.

I'll be honest: a huge part of me wanted to beat them. No matter what, it's hard to shut down that competitive spirit. But an even bigger part of me wanted my knee to not be hurt. The months I took off for my injured shin really bummed me out. So, I relaxed and tried my best to run my own race.

At about the halfway point, Jen pulled ahead of Sara and I caught up to her. Sara said she was okay and told me to go after Jen. I did my best, but it wasn't meant to be this time around. Sara was close behind me for quite a while, so I warned her about some of the big hills.

After a while, she was too far behind me... and Jen was too far in front of me. I was on my own. The race ends with a climb up a long, not too steep hill. I pushed it hard to the top, remembering how windy that same climb was last year.

Finally, I kicked it past another runner and into the chute. My finishing time astonished me - just shy of 45 minutes! That was far faster than I'd thought I was going; I guess keeping my Garmin in my pocket paid off, because otherwise, I might have slowed down.

Best of all? My knee is totally fine. On to the next run!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Slip sliding away

Bad news: my knee hurts.

I have been devoted to the 10% rule, so I don't think it's overuse. In fact, it seems pretty clear that running on the uneven and slippery terrain we have outside was the cause. Somehow, I must have slid too much and put too much strain on my knee.

Regardless, I'm taking an unplanned day off today. I have an 8K to run on Saturday, and we'll see how it goes.

Think positive for me!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Frozen

Ellen: Clark, Audrey's frozen from the waist down.
Clark: That's all part of the experience, honey.


Last night, the temperature was in the 20s, and compared to where it's been for the past few weeks, that felt positively balmy. So, when I went out for my 4 mile tempo run, I put on fewer layers than usual - a long sleeved shirt, sweatshirt, and windbreaker, with a pair of tights rather than my fleece pants.

The terrain outside is still pretty uneven. Moving from nicely shoveled sidewalks to loose snow to packed snow to ice patches is a challenge (and tweaked my right knee a little bit). I made an effort not to look at my pace on Paula Garmin, but just to go for that all-important "comfortably hard" feeling. It felt good to open up, and between the increased effort and the music of Lady Gaga on my iPod, my run was over before I knew it.

It was pretty easy to ignore the tingling feeling in my legs.

I got inside, and without those distractions, that tingling feeling demanded a lot more attention. I got undressed to get in the shower and discovered that my legs, from my waist to my knees was bright red (I guess my Recovery Socks kept my calves warmer). Uh-oh.

I quickly got in the shower, careful not to keep the temperature too warm for fear it'd warm me up too fast. Then I put on warm jammies and a robe, covered my lower half with a blanket, and drank a lovely glass of lukewarm water. One bowl of hot soup later, and I seemed to be okay.

The moral of the story is, just because it feels warmer than usual, if that "usual" is 20 below, doesn't mean it's suddenly warm outside.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Recovery

Running conditions update: still ridiculously cold. Trying to navigate between patches of ice, packed snow, and powder snow is no picnic. This winter, I've had just a handful of runs that made me feel exhilarated and amazing when I finished. More of them have been a slog. I'm proud to have gone out in the cold and done something challenging, but the running itself was not the fun part.

In cases like that, the best part of my cold weather run is being done. My recovery routine can actually create a runner's high in a way that the run itself can't always do.

The very first thing I do when I get home is take off my sweaty clothes. I have a nice warm sweatshirt right at the back door, ready to go. Time is of the essence - if I wait too long, my body temperature drops too rapidly and I spend the next couple of hours shivering.

Then, while I do some gentle stretching, I heat up a mug of hot chocolate. If chocolate milk is an ideal recovery drink, surely it has the same properties when you heat it up, right? Let's just call the marshmallows extra carbs.

The hot chocolate tastes better than any hot chocolate I've ever had, and the warm, dry shirt becomes the most comfortable thing that I own. It probably goes without saying that the hot shower I enjoy afterward is pure bliss.

But the best thing of all is the way I feel for the rest of the day. I walk around knowing that I did something challenging, something that most people would never consider doing. Even if it wasn't fun and easy, I did it.

What about you? How do you recover?

Monday, January 11, 2010

10 for 2010

Yes, everybody's doing it, so let's all join hands, jump off this bridge together, and ponder our goals for 2010.

1. Run at least two half marathons in the spring and two in the fall. Last year, I did three in the spring and one in the fall. 13.1 is my favorite distance to race, and I'm going to continue to devote myself to it in 2010.

2. Set a PR in the half marathon. I don't care if it's one second; I want a new PR.

3. Set a PR in the 5K. I'm going to keep running this distance and want to keep shedding seconds as I go.

4. Run at least three new races. Yes, I said this last year and ran considerably more than three new races, but I'm keeping the number at 3 figuring that eventually I'll run out of new local races to tackle!

5. Strength training and core training at least twice a week. I am such a slacker about this, and for no good reason. It really doesn't take long, and I have everything I need at home to keep up a minimal routine.

6. Drink more water. Not so much while I'm running as during my day to day life. I really need to work on this one, just to be healthier overall.

7. Eat like an athlete. That doesn't mean that every single thing I eat will be healthy, but most of what I eat will be, and I want to think about the effects food has on my body and determine what makes the best fuel. And if I do that, I can eat the occasional homemade cookie with no guilt.

8. Incorporate more hills into training. When I go out for a run, I tend to keep it flat. No more. I'm going to come up with some standard 3 and 4 mile loops that include hills at different points in the route. I know that this will make me stronger.

9. Remember to actually wear my Road ID when I go out. In 2009, I was probably at about 75%, and that's not good enough.

10. Keep a training log. I'm devising my own training routine this spring based on FIRST and my race goals, very carefully following the 10% rule. The log will add even more structure and accountability to what I'm doing.

It's going to be a great year. What about you, Internet? What are you doing in 2010?

Monday, January 04, 2010

Seven

Seven. It's not the number of miles I ran yesterday, or even the number of dwarfs in the movie I watched with Jack. Instead, it was the high temperature for the day, a day when I needed to go for a run.

Under those circumstances, many runners would do something foolish, namely run on a treadmill.

Pfft.

Instead, I layered up: red knee-high Oxysox, fleece pants, long-sleeved t-shirt with thumb holes, red fleece vest (which I forgot that I had on and surprised me when I got changed later), red windbreaker, black vest (see, forgot I had the red one on), hat, buff, thin running gloves, Steve's wooly glove/mitten hybrid "glittens."

And you know, after maybe 3/4 of a mile, I didn't feel cold any more. The main evidence of the cold was the frost that formed on my hat... and the fact that my watery eyes produced an ice clump in my eyelashes.

On a beautiful spring day, the streets are crowded with runners. Yesterday, I didn't see a single fellow runner out. I can only hope a few of my brethern spotted me and decided to go out later.

When the weather is as cold as it is here on the ice planet Hoth, you hear a lot of people griping about it. I believe those people should go outside. If you only experience winter through your window or your car, yes, it sucks. But if you're outside, you get an invigorating experience that gets your blood pumping. And the post-run hot chocolate is the most delicious thing there is.