Friday, October 31, 2008

Pace Setter of the Week!

My blog buddies at 26point2ers interviewed me as their Pace Setter of the Week!

Today I'm taking it easy in my one day "taper" for the 10K race tomorrow. In the race, I'll be competing with an old friend in my age group who ALWAYS beats me in every race, by at least a minute or two. However the finish line works out this time, it'll be good motivation AND I'll most likely have someone to run with (or play cat and mouse with) for the full 6.2 miles! And if she finishes first, I can always use the excuse she's been running one year longer than me.

I actually owe my running to this girl. Watching her start from a nonathlete and train for the Country Music Half-Marathon made me think, "WELL, IF SHE CAN DO IT, I CAN DO IT!" And she got really skinny and buff.

Inspiration can come from the strangest places.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Fun Songs I'm Adding to my MP-3

I'm downloading these before Saturday. Some bring back memories (high school in the late 80's!) and some I just discovered. All are good for running motivation. Check them out on You Tube!

Animal by Def Leppard
You Shook Me All Night Long AD/DC totally classic!
You Give Love a Bad Name Bon Jovi
Paralyzer Finger Eleven
Stronger Kanye West (I'm overdue adding this one. Everyone runs to it.)
Boom Boom Boom Outhere Brothers (apparently from the 90's, but I missed it somehow!)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

New Stuff!!

I spent about 3 hours shopping today. It was so frustrating! $100 doesn't go very far.

I did get these running tights/pants at the local running store for $59 (OUCH!). Of all the tights I tried on, these were the only ones that worked (mine are actually trimmed in sage instead of light blue). They are fairly thick with a soft, fuzzy inside. Some of the really thin tights like the Under Armour ones felt like they needed another layer---not for warmth, but for coverage! And the thick Nike ones I found at TJ Maxx for only 19.99 didn't fit---the mediums were too big in the waist but good everywhere else. The smalls were so tight that it hurt to bend my knees. I figured bending was important, so I had to put them back even though they were SUCH a bargain.

I ordered this Varitherm shirt from Champion Sports online. I have it in pink from last year, so I ordered it in "pearl" (white) to go with the above pants. It's warm, but not hot. ($23 and shipping was free for creating an account.)

Then, after trying it on at Hibbett Sports at the mall for $55, I came home and ordered this Nike dry-fit half-zip in sage (to match the trim on the tights) from Road Runner Sports for a bargain of $47 with free shipping.
Last but not least, I found a super-thick black Nike mock turtleneck at TJ Maxx for $16.99. It is fleece-lined and dry-fit. I can't imagine ever needing another layer with that. It will be for the coldest of the cold days. Sorry, I couldn't find a picture. I had to get it in large. That Nike stuff runs small. I can't run in something that is squeezing me to death!
It looks like I was a bit closer to $150. I honestly feel guilty. (I'm a stay-at-home mom with no income. But I can't imagine my hubby would want me to be cold!)
And I'm not even counting the two shirts I'm RETURNING to TJ Maxx. I bought them before deciding on the tights and they just don't match anything I own.

Running Is Cheap?

I've got $100 in my pocket and I'm off to the mall to look for warm running clothes! I'm also $16 poorer from registering for this Saturday's 10K race (actually, with the long-sleeved t-shirt--non technical though--they have promised, that's a relative bargain).

Who said running is an inexpensive sport??

Today, I'm going to attempt to run 4 miles at 9:40 race pace. If it doesn't go well, I'm going to adjust my time goal. I want to challenge myself but NOT set myself up for failure!! I want to continue to feel good about my sport/hobby/self. :-)

I'm on quite the exercise kick this week. On Sunday evening, I did crunches, arm work with free weights, push ups, and Pilates during the commercials on Desperate Housewives. (Usually just Tivo it, but commercials do have their uses....). I ran Monday, Pilated and ellipticalled yesterday (yes, I know those probably aren't real words), and hope to run today. Is that four days in a row? What's wrong with me??

On a side note, when I did the 100 push up challenge, I could do 25 or 30 in a row and even got up to 103 (done in sets of 25-30) total push ups (boy style). That was in July, I think. Yesterday, I barely squeaked out 12! If you don't use 'em, you really do lose 'em!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Just Run

As a runner of one year and four months, I have discovered that I'm still a little behind the learning curve when it comes to running.

Over the weekend I got out some old Runner's World magazines and looked at an article, "How to Run Any Race Faster" or something like that. The author pointed out that to run a race a certain pace, you have to actually run some of your training runs at that pace. Well, you would think that would be obvious, but looking back, I haven't been doing that. And the author didn't say anything about taking walk breaks!

Today, I met my friend Amy for my first run of the week. For months, I've had an easy two-miler scheduled on Mondays as a recovery run from the weekend's long run. Today, I could just run. I could make it up as I went along. It felt really freeing. We decided to do three miles. I decided to run the middle mile at my projected 10K pace for Saturday to see how comfortable it felt. We warmed up at about a 10:20 pace for the first mile, then ran a 9:18 pace for the middle (too fast---race pace is 9:40), then cooled down with a 10:30 mile. I didn't have any walk breaks again. Maybe I've broken the "mental" aspect of that habit or maybe we just weren't pushing that hard. I'm hopeful, though.

It was about 45 degrees with a strong, cold wind. I hadn't been that cold on a run in about 7 months. I even got out my ear warmer band. I realized something today---I NEED COLD GEAR!

I'd love a pair of those fuzzy, fleece-lined tights and a warm, but breathable jacket. ANY SUGGESTIONS???

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Saturday Six

For the next several weeks my running club is going to have six-mile Saturdays to maintain our base of mileage until we start training for the Country Music Half-Marathon in January. I waffled on whether to go this morning or just run in my neighborhood alone. At 7:45, I decided to throw on clothes and go. I was actually the only ONE to show up at 8:00 a.m. However, I lucked upon two other runners I knew who wanted to run the 10K course for next weekend's race called the Sango Scamper.

I've been in the bad habit of running at an inconsistent pace and taking walk breaks lately. What seems to be happening is that I am running too fast (for me), and my heart rate goes up too high. Then I feel like I have to have a walk break to let my heart rate go back down. Then I do it all over again.

Today, running with these women, I ran my first true tempo run in a while--- a slightly uncomfortable, but manageable pace with no walking. About mile 3, I was ready for my usual walk break. (Part of it is mental, I think.) I wasn't dying or anything, so the lead runner suggested we just slow down a little, but not walk. I kept going, and you know what? After that few minutes of tiredness, I got over it and was feeling just fine.

So, for the first time since maybe February or March (if ever), I ran 6.22 miles WITHOUT A WALK BREAK!! I was so proud. I kept a consistent pace and a consistent heart rate (I assume). My time was about two minutes slower than I hope to do in the race next weekend. That means shaving 20 seconds off per mile, which could be tough--9:40/ per mile for six miles. Yikes!! But, I will have so much more confidence next week when my energy is flagging since I was able to run the whole course without walking this week.

Today's run was exactly what I needed! And to think I almost didn't go!

I didn't plan to have a good run today. There was wine at my bunco group last night..... I was up late and didn't sleep well..... I was a little, um, dehydrated this morning.... I didn't eat a special breakfast or have Gatorade or a gel or anything. But somehow everything fell into place. (About a week too late??)

Thursday, October 23, 2008


I’m done beating myself up about not making my goal finish time by 49 seconds. Why is it that we are so hard on ourselves sometimes?? I was ready to quit running, quit exercising in general, and basically give up on MYSELF. Pretty dramatic, huh? I’m such a goal-oriented person (that’s why I like running and doing races) that I was kind of devastated to pour four months of my life into something and come up short---even 49 seconds short.

Then my husband and some good friends talked some sense into me. They reminded me that I ran 13 miles on Saturday. Not everyone can say they’ve done that. (My husband says there is no way in the world he could ever finish 13, but I disagree.) I actually ran 13.1 miles three times in the last 6 weeks, that’s three half-marathons in two months! And hello, I got a PR! Just what the heck was I whining about? I think I’ll blame it all on the FEMALE CATCH-ALL FOR INSANE BEHAVIOR: HORMONES!

One thing that caught me off guard on Saturday was that I really was in pain and struggling some in the last three miles. Maybe running three half-marathon distances that close together wasn’t the smartest move I ever made. Maybe I shouldn’t have tried to stay with my pace group when they were running faster than we were supposed to go in the first 6 miles. Maybe I should have done a little more (ok, any AT ALL) cross-training on my days off of running just to build up my endurance levels a bit more.

Looking ahead: For the next couple of months, I’ll be running mostly six-milers or less. I’ll hit some pilates and yoga classes. Maybe do a little more strength training. In January it all starts over again. The Country Music Half-Marathon is April 25, 2009 and I’m going to run a 2:10 if it kills me.

Bob Glover, author of The Competitive Runner's Handbook, writes, "Feeling worthwhile as an athlete doesn't come easily. Whether you run a 5-minute or a 10-minute mile, are twenty years old or sixty. You strive to do your best just like the Elites up front. Feel proud of yourself as a runner. Don't compare yourself to others and feel substandard." Thanks, Bob. I needed to hear that.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Race Report!

Short version:
I PR'd by 3 minutes, 12 seconds! I finished in 2:15:49. But it wasn't all rosy. They were out of Gatorade at the last 3 water stops (and I hadn't taken any in the first two because it sometimes upsets my stomach) so I wound up with gluteus maximus cramps after my finish line sprint--- horrible, I-can't-walk, charlie-horse-style cramps on both sides of my butt from salt depletion. Not fun.

Long version:
I had run 13.1 miles twice in the 5 weeks before the race. I felt ready. I drank plenty of fluids on Thursday and Friday before the Saturday morning race. I even watched the movie Spirit of the Marathon for extra inspiration! I slept ok on Thursday night, but I woke up in the wee hours on Saturday---around 3:30 a.m. and couldn't go back to sleep. I had to get up at 5:15 anyway, so it wasn't so bad.

The usual breakfast (coffee and Special K) at 5:30 a.m. was followed by 1/2 a bagel on the way to the race for extra carbs. My friend and I picked up our chips, did a short warm up, maybe .25 mile, visited the port-o-potty twice and it was race time! I was feeling ok at this point, but a little nervous about making my goal.

About 115 of us lined up at the start and the strangest thing happened---I was near the back and never even heard the start. I didn't hear a count down, a gun, or even a "go." The people near the front just started moving. I was in no hurry because it was a chip-timed race, but then I noticed there was no start mat to cross. I guess to save money on mats and the timing system, we all got the same starting time. I know I lost precious seconds in my journey to actually cross the starting line. (If I had realized there was no mat there, I would have lined up further ahead!)

The race started and I wound up running with with two first-time half-marathoners for the first six miles. We had the same finish goal-- 2:15-- so we were a mini "pace-group." We set a fairly challenging pace, but tried to make sure we didn't start out too fast. I was able to talk, but it was a little bit of a struggle, so I was probably at the right "race pace."

All three of us stopped at the two port o potties at mile 6 (I had to wait because they got there first). At that point, I was glad for a little break from running! I was finding I wasn't having a great running day (actually I knew by mile four that it wasn't a great day. Not an awful day, either, but everything wasn't quite coming together.)

Maybe I set my goal too high, but I was having to push harder than expected to maintain the needed pace. (Training Mistake #1: Not doing the tempo runs called for in my plan at a fast enough pace to get me used to pushing. Too many of my training runs were at a comfortable pace due to the heat we've had here in Tennessee, even the "tempo" runs.)

The men stationed at the half-way point told me I was at 1 hour, 7 minutes and I didn't hear the seconds. I was on pace for a 2:15 finish, but just barely. Since my energy was flagging a bit at around 6 and a half miles, I put on my music for the first time of the day. I knew it would give me a burst of energy. It really did! Mile 7 was my fastest of the day at 9:33 pace. I passed my pace group and one or two more runners. I felt pretty strong around 8 and 9, too.

Then I ran into the most difficult part of the course. Mile 10 was hill after hill. I had trained on hills a little (perhaps not enough?). I remember thinking in mile 10 "I need to find a new sport. I hate running." I was running alone, really low on energy, and the hills were not my friend. People I had passed earlier were now passing me, including both of my pace group friends! I did have the pleasure of passing a couple of new folks there, but then I was walking, too. I felt like I needed to save some energy for the finish, so I thought it best to conserve by walking the steepest part of the hills. Plus, I was running so slowly up the steep hills, that walking wasn't that much of a change! (Training Mistake #2: If at all possible, run the EXACT course prior to race day. I would have known more of what to expect, how much energy to conserve if I'd done that.)

Finally, I was off the hills and somewhat on the home stretch. I had "fallen apart" on the hills, fallen way behind my little pace group, and was just ready to be done. (They finished in 2:08 and 2:13---dang first timers!) During all of this, so many negative thoughts pulsed through my brain. I decided to never run a marathon, never run another half-marathon, and that maybe running more than 5 miles was just plain awful. I was actually mad at running. My left leg hurt from the hip to the knee and my right ankle hurt. My gluteus maximus on the left side was so tight, but I never stopped to stretch. I didn't have anyone to talk to, nothing interesting to look at, and I was just pretty miserable.

In the last two miles, no one passed me. I overtook one man and one woman. I could see the finish line. Yet I was still struggling physically and mentally. I tried mind over matter. I was willing my legs to move faster and would think I was running maybe 9:30/pace, then look at my Garmin and was at a 10:35 pace. Slow felt fast at that point. I needed to average a sub 10-minute pace in that last mile, and I just didn't have it in me. With 1/2 mile to go, I took a final walk break! (I was just done at that point and realized my goal was out of reach.) I bucked up a little after a few seconds, decided I would come in under 2:17, and I started running again.

Then I saw a little kid in a red jacket running toward me. It was my son Nathaniel. His friend joined him and my friend Rebecca ran out, too, to run me in. I ran with them until I was close enough to see the finish clock. It was on something like 2:15:30 and knew I could make it under 2:16 if I really pushed. I ran faster than I have ever run in my life. My Garmin clocked me at a 6:01/pace at some point in that last little bit. I crossed at 2:15:49 with my seven-year-old son by my side.

I got my medal, they took my chip, and then I stopped moving for a second as they handed me a bottle of water and a Gatorade. Suddenly, both muscles in my booty CLENCHED UP. I have never had that happen before. I couldn't believe the pain. I tried to walk out the cramps, but the muscles were so tightly clenched, that I could only hobble. I looked like those people at the end of a marathon who have hit a major wall. I quickly drained the Gatorade because I figured the cramps were related to salt-loss from everything I've read (add in the hills, too). I had eaten two gels, but had not had any fluids other than water throughout the race. I kept walking and after a very long 6 or 7 minutes, the muscle cramps subsided.

I never got around to stretching after the cramp episode, so I paid the price the rest of the day and on Sunday. All of my leg muscles, my knees, and my ankles hurt.

In summary, the race just wasn't fun. I didn't really enjoy any of it, it was hard, and I wasn't as prepared as I thought I was. I'm just being honest. We all know some days on the road everything comes together and some days things don't. I guess you take the good with the bad.

I'm less mad at running today and might do the Country Music Half again in the spring. Now THAT was a fun race with thousands of runners, a palpable energy, the huge crowd support--- ringing cow bells, people calling out my name (from my shirt), live music playing. I hadn't realized how much all those distractions kept me from focusing on the running. The crowd almost carries you forward in a big race. You don't even see the hills, you just see long stretches of people, you hardly feel your own pain.

I don't think I ever have a marathon in me. For a while, I'm sticking to short runs and maybe a short, fun race or two. Or not. I've got to recover from this race in more ways than one!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

"Are You Gonna Win This Time, Momma?"

My five-year-old asked me that the other day when she heard me talking about the half-marathon. She asks me that before every race.

As you can see from yesterday's post, I'm a little race-obsessed. I love to do races. Of course I have NO CHANCE of ever winning one, but there's something magical about that starting line. And every single time I cross a finish line, I feel such a sense of accomplishment. Bringing home the occasional age-group award feels like winning the lottery.

So, no, Annabeth. Mommy is not going to win this time, either. But I will start and I will finish and that's good enough for me.

Some neat quotes I recently read in Running for Mortals by John Bingham and Jenny Hadfield:

What's the difference between being a jogger and a runner? Signing your name on the entry form.

George Sheehan, a running philosopher, once said that we are all athletes. Some of us are just in training and some of us are not.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

What's Next?

To avoid that post-race let down feeling of "What's next?" I've been trying to decide which fall races to do. There are so many coming up, but with two of my children having birthdays, my husband's 40th, MOVING, my 11th anniversary, and general $$$, I don't think I can do them all. Here's what I'm trying to decide between:

October 25-- my college alma mater's 5K Scholarship run. I did it last year. It's a small, very hilly race. I came in last in my age group and 3rd from last overall. (It was only my 2nd 5K race and I'd been running about 4 months.) I'd like to think I'll do much better this year which is one reason I'm considering it. I was a scholarship kid, so that also makes me want to do it. BUT, it's one week after the half, and I may not be fully race-ready. I'd love to PR. (I'm still in the honeymoon phase where every race is a PR.) However, spending $35 on the half one week and $20 or 25 the next week seems extravagant. I may let this one go.

November 1-- Sango Scamper. I didn't do this race last year, but I could choose between a 10K or a 5K. And it's right down the street practically! I would like to do a 10K under 1 hour (that's been my goal for a while, but I haven't done any 10K's lately). I came so close in May two weeks after the half in 1:00:10 (9:42 pace). But I honestly don't know if I can run that fast anytime soon! Or I could do the 5K and have a good time for Vanilla's Shave My 5K Challenge. (Vanilla is a blogger who challenged us to post a 5K time from a race in Dec 07-March 08, then to race in the latter part of 08 to see how much we could shave off.) I'm running out of time on that one, and this is a relatively flat course---great for a PR.

November 15-- Turkey Trot 8K. I loved this race last year. Five flat miles. I like five better than 6.2 It's hard to maintain a fast pace for 6.2 miles. Five is a little easier.

December 4 (I think)-- Jingle Bell Jog. My worst race ever. (also the "stubble" time to beat in the challenge). There was freezing rain, hills, little kids passing me. It was demoralizing. I want to redeem this race. Plus, it's the last race in "race season."

That's $100 worth of races, practically back to back, in a period of 6 weeks when EVERYTHING ELSE is going on. But, it does sound kind of fun, doesn't it?

Any suggestions?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Race Week

Today started my half-marathon race week. It's not a total big deal this time since I've done one before and have run 13.1 twice in the last 5 weeks. I'm as ready as I'm going to be! I wish I were a bit faster, but with the hot weather we've had throughout training, I've had to put lots of walking into my runs. That isn't going to work to my advantage on race day, but I had to train in the conditions I was given. This past weekend the weather was back in the mid-eighties and I had a terrible run on Saturday (only made it 5 of my 7 prescribed miles).

Still, I'm very excited about the race. I know at least 10-15 other runners doing the half-marathon. Hopefully, they won't ALL beat me, but they actually might! I'm just going to run my own race. It's about me doing my personal best, shooting for that PR, not about what anyone else is doing. The time I hope to beat is 2:19:01. The course is a little easier than the one in the Country-Music Half Marathon, so that will work to my advantage. I also won't be ziz-zagging around tons of walkers, nor elbow-to-elbow with 25,000 other runners. This is a tiny race. I also won't have to get up at 4:00 a.m. since the race is right in my hometown. I hope this is all a recipe for success.

Here are my goals:

1. I'll be happy with matching my 2:19:01 or beating it slightly.
2. Hoping for 2:15 or less
3. Finishing in 2:10 would be phenomenal, but is probably not gonna happen.

I took it totally easy last week because of that ankle issue, and now this week is taper. I hope these two easy weeks of running let my body rest, heal, and get ready for Saturday!

P.S. The conference was wonderful. I came back with such a contentedness in my spirit.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Packing My Bags....

I'm packing my bags for two different reasons!

Tomorrow Chris and I leave for Catalyst Conference in Atlanta, which was amazing last year. It's a conference for church leaders, but it's not boring and sedate. It's rocking. There are nationally known speakers, great music. It's a great time of spiritual renewal. I need renewal because.....

We sold our house! I'm not only packing my bags, I've got to start packing EVERYTHING. It was a whirlwind sale. We were on the market for 10 days. A month ago I wasn't even looking for a new house. Now, we found a house we want, have sold our house, and are moving in six weeks. Phew! I'm glad I'm not cramming marathon training in there, too. Letting the Rocket City Marathon go for this year was a good move. The timing just wasn't right.

Speaking of running, after my 13.1 miles on Saturday, I've been having some old trouble spots flare up. My right ankle especially has been bothering me. I have got to take it easy between now and the half on Saturday, Oct. 18! I don't want to go into it injured. What a great excuse to back off the running!

So, I'm off to get some mental, physical, and spiritual renewal for the rest of the week. Plus, I'll get some quality time with the hubby, which is always a good thing. (And with 3 kids, it's surprisingly RARE!)

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Rave Run

You know that page in each month's Runner's World that has the Rave Run? It's usually someone running somewhere exotic or beautiful like in the mountains at sunrise. I had a different kind of rave run today.

Today was my last long run in preparation for the half-marathon. I was totally dreading it. I had planned to run 13.1 miles on the course of the half-marathon with my buddy Kelle and the running club. Well, as it turns out, ALL of my running friends were on injured reserve this week for various reasons. I knew I'd be on my own on this long run for the FIRST TIME in my running career.

But as it turns out the run was actually pretty great for several reasons!

1. Three words: Mocha Cliff Shot. OMG!!! Those are the best gels ever. It was like squirting Hershey's Syrup into my mouth in the middle of the run. Plus, it had 50 mg. of caffeine, so when I was slowing waaay down in the middle, it gave me a little pleasure and a little boost.

2. I did briefly have one of the running club folks with me for the first two miles, and we ran those miles in 9:36 each! That's 10K pace for me. Yes, it was starting out too fast, but it felt good.

3. Running among farms and fields, barns with smoking tobacco (we Southerners love that smell--it's not at all like cigarette smoke), fog lifting, sun rising..... it was actually kind of amazing. I didn't even have any music on for most of it. I didn't run the exact course---just the beginning and end of it, so I had to be creative and journey down a few new roads to get to 13.1.

4. I remember what it's like to run in cool weather! It's nice. I think that's why I was running faster. I was trying to get warm. It was only 45 degrees when I started and 65 when I finished. I have to remember to dress for 65 next time and just tough it out the first mile.

5. Dare I say, running alone isn't so bad. That 11-mile stretch alone with my thoughts, amusing myself, talking to God, writing this entry in my head actually felt right. I was out there in the middle of nowhere for two hours by myself. I didn't focus on pace, I just kept moving, kept putting one front in front of the other. It reminded me of my very first few long runs last winter when I was first discovering how peaceful this sport can be.

So, expectations were LOW before today's run, but I was pleasantly surprised enough to rave about it! I love it when that happens. (Isn't it usually the other way around? You feel good, expect to have a GREAT run, then it goes down the tubes.....) Not today!

10 Years of Running: Confessions of a Declining Runner

Two months ago, I hit a pretty significant milestone:  ten years of running.  I began in June of 2007 at the age of 36 .   On day one, I tho...