Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Half-Marathon Recovery

Recovery is going well. Today, the soreness is gone. I noticed yesterday it was greatly improved. I can actually squat to pick up something off the floor without wincing!

I went for an ambitious 5 mile run, starting out too fast. My body just isn't there yet. I took miles 2-5 much slower and easier. I was glad to get back out there, though.

My friend ran the Country Music Half-Marathon last year and told me a couple of weeks ago that she hasn't run once since! I don't know how you do that. By the time you are trained well for a half marathon, I'd imagine being a runner would be ingrained into who you are--- not something you could just stop. Anyway, it has bothered me since she told me. I worried that I'd feel like I was somehow "done" with running after the half and just quit like she did. But, that's not the case, thank goodness. I think being a runner is part of who I am now. :-)

Monday, April 28, 2008

Half-Marathon Race Report

Where to begin? Race day started with about four hours of sleep---10:30 to 2:30 a.m. At 2:30, a storm came through and woke me up, and there was no way I was going back to sleep. I was just hoping the weather would hurry up and pass and not greet me at the starting line. I got up at 4:00 and had a bowl of cereal and a cup of coffee, got dressed, and woke my husband at 4:30 (he was thrilled).

My running buddy arrived at 4:50 and we left at 4:55 for our 50-minute drive to Nashville. We found the starting line easily and my husband dropped us literally at the barrier to the start. Thousands of people milled around. There were 30,000 runners overall, about 25 thousand in the half and 5 thousand in the full. It was sprinkling rain. Our shoes and socks got wet as we walked around the starting area through the grass. I though, "Great! Running in wet socks is sure to cause many blisters." But it didn't. Talked to some nice people.

Then, in a long line at the port-o-potties, we heard the gun for the first corral-- and the rain suddenly stopped! (Thank you, God.) We were supposed to be in corral 14 for the wave start---one corral released every 2 minutes. Well, when we jumped into the sea of people, we found ourselves shoulder-to-shoulder with the folks in corral 17 and no real way to make our way up. So, that's where we started---unfortunately. Within ONE mile, people were stopping to walk, leading us to bob and weave all over the place for the first three miles. If I had the energy expended with all that ziz-zagging, I'd have finished faster. How much ziz-zagging? My Garmin says I ran 13.28 miles, instead of 13.1. While I welcome walkers out there to get a great workout, they shouldn't have lined up in the early corrals.

The first 2 miles, I found myself out of breath as my body was warming up. Overall, the first 4 miles went by quickly and I took a gel and an orange slice around 4.1 miles. Then at 8 miles, I took some Jelly Belly Sports beans and also stopped at a port-o-potty. Had to wait briefly in line.

I was feeling great from 8-10 miles, and kept having to slow myself down because I was speeding up over the pace I'd calculated I should run. Then, a huge hill hit at mile 11 and my legs just died. It became an issue of mind over body. I knew I could run 13.1 since I did two weeks prior to the race, but that mile 11 hill was tough. (Who puts a hill in mile 11 of a half-marathon---that's just mean!) I walked twice during that rough climb. At 12.1, I knew I only had one more mile, and adrenaline kicked in (or maybe it was the caffeinated gel from mile 10?). I lost Kelle, with whom I'd been running for the whole 12 miles, about then.

It was DOWNHILL most of the way from 12.1-13.1. I was thrilled. I sped up and started picking people off. I saw people walking on the downhill in that last mile and couldn't fathom that! It was a time to run! I passed many people and it felt great. Absolutely my favorite part was that sprint to the finish, passing all those other runners.

I felt great afterwards, though my legs hurt. I refueled at the post-race pavillion and found my hubby.

Fuel: Jelly Belly Sports Beans (watermelon, caffeinated) randomly, 1 and 1/2 gels, Accelerade at various water stops, one orange slice (let me say the orange peels and banana peels all over the course were a bit treacherous!)

Mood: Serious, determined, occasionally light-hearted. I really felt like I was RACING this, not just running it. I had a goal and I worked hard to meet it. I didn't have as much fun as if I'd taken it lightly and enjoyed the sights and spectators more.

Best pre-race advice: Bring your own toilet tissue. Yep, the port-o-potty at the start and at the finish were both out. Glad I brought my own.

Surprising part: Not one other runner talked to us at any time (except the 2:15 pacer, just briefly, which we initiated). I thought people would be chatting. (Maybe the serious look on our faces scared them off!)

Painful part: Mile 11. Seriously, my legs didn't really hurt until that hill at 11. I was surprised my knees held up that far pain-free.

Fun part: I put my name on the front of my shirt. I heard a ton of "Go, Donna!", "Way to go, Donna", "Looking good, Donna!" It was almost embarassing at times. I always smiled and said thanks. Also fun was hearing my name called as I crossed the finish line.

Best part of the day: Finishing strong. Sprinting that last mile. My Garmin clocked me at 8:30/mile pace the last .2. "Chicking" all these men at the finish was fun. I passed maybe 50 people in that last mile and only two passed me. I felt strong and amazing.

Totally hooked now. I'm definitely doing another half and the CMM half again! I went into it well-prepared and was having one of those amazing running days (which are fairly rare) where everything goes right. The only changes I'd make are to start in an earlier corral and maybe include more hill training so that last hill is more manageable. Oh, and to drink less pre-race to eliminate the port-o-potty stop. Or wear Depends. That just ate up valuable time!

It was just a blessed day and I'm so glad I did it. This time last year I could NOT run even 1/2 mile. This has been an incredible journey. And I'm not stopping anytime soon! However, the idea of a full marathon----based on how my legs felt at the end---NEVER HAPPENING.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Proud of my 2:19:01

My first half-marathon went really well this morning and was a great experience. I was hoping to finish under 2:30, so I was thrilled with 2:19:01. I was number 10,178 to finish out of 25,062 half-marathoners (big race!). As a normal back-of-the pack runner, it was nice to be in the top half for once.

I'll share what went right, what went wrong, and a full race-report later.

Thanks to everyone who commented to wish me luck.

A few pictures.....

Before the race-- 6:00 a.m. in the rain lovin' my one-size-fits-all poncho (which I ditched at the starting line)

My big finish-- somehow out of 25,000 runners, my hubby managed to catch me going across the finish line.

Post-race picture. Cool medal.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Goodbye, Half-Marathon Training!

Dear Half-Marathon Training,

It's time to say goodbye. I finished you this morning with a slow, easy two-mile run. Now it's time to rest until Saturday's race.

You have been good to me. No toenails turned black or fell off. You only gave me one blister throughout training. I'm stronger and fitter than ever before. I'm in a pant size I vaguely remember from high school. Through you, I've bonded with old friends and forged strong new friendships.

For the first time in my life, I feel a little like an athlete, and I owe it all to you.

I'll miss you. See you again in August. Take care.


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Thirteen Miles in a Thunderstorm?

One of the many forecasts I've obsessively consulted for race day calls for temps between 65 and 80 with a 50% chance of rain and thunderstorms. Good stuff.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

6 Days!

Yikes! My nerves are getting the best of me. The fatigue has lifted, but I had a terrible run on Friday---4 miles struggling for a 10:03 pace, and I turned my Garmin off during my walk break! That terrible run, the fatigue, and not doing all my training runs last week didn't do anything for my confidence level. I feel like I may have lost some fitness last week. (Is that possible? I have no idea.)

Now, the two race plans I'm loosely following offer extremely divergent training plans for the week. One says to do 3 easy miles, 3 easy miles, and a 5-mile run with the three middle miles at race pace. (Seems like a bit much.) The other says to do one mile of speed work at the track (total!) and a 2-mile tempo run. That's it for the whole week! (Seems like too little running.) I feel like I need to make up last week's missed runs, but that may not be the best idea. At this point (as my hubby is fond of saying), "it is what it is."

I watched some clips from the "Half-Marathon Challenge" at the Runner's World website. It was a 10-week training program for three runners, and there was a woman on there I could relate to--- she was a new runner, first-time half-marathoner, mom, about my pace, and in her thirties. She had a 2:25 finish, which is around my goal. It made me feel a little better. It was also good to see a half-marathon in action---now I know what the start and finish look like, etc.

Post half marathon, I'm just looking forward to keeping a mileage base of about 10 miles a week with a long 6 or 7-miler every week or two weeks. Mostly, I want to focus on getting faster.

But I have to get through this week first!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Crash and Burnout?

I think I might be in dangerous territory here. Since my 13-mile run on Saturday, I've had no energy. I'm sleepy all the time and just TIRED, so tired, kind of moody (if you ask my husband), even a bit depressed.

In a New York Times article called "Crash and Burnout" on overtraining, I read this:

“I work with a lot of runners and distance athletes,” says Ralph Reiff, a certified athletic trainer who's the director of the St. Vincent Sports Performance Center in Indianapolis and a leading expert on the symptoms and treatment of overtraining. “In my experience, a large percentage of the people who train for 10Ks, half-marathons and marathons are overtrained by the time they reach the starting line. Same with cyclists and cross-country skiers. A very high percentage get into a state of fatigue that they just cannot get out of.”

Maybe that 25 miles last week was overdoing it a bit. I was following a plan (sort of), but modified the long run from 12 miles to 13.1 so I'd know what it felt like before race day.

I did the elliptical yesterday for 20 minutes to help with tight and sore muscles. Then, today speedwork was on the training plan. I managed 2.25 miles, but it wasn't terribly speedy.

I'm due to run 9 more miles this week, but I'm a little alarmed at my body's slow recovery. I think I'd better take it easy the rest of the week. I've got to recover by April 26!

Also from the article---

How to Tell If You’re Overtraining

Fatigue that persists for more than 72 hours after a workout, often accompanied by insomnia.

Muscle pain and weakness that persist for more than three days.

Irritability, anxiety, depression. Unsure if you’re being extra-moody? Ask your significant other.

A rise in resting heart rate. Track yours by wearing a heart-rate monitor to bed.

A dramatic drop-off in performance for no obvious reason.

“Heavy legs,” or the feeling that your lower limbs, once springy and quick, have turned to stone.

I'm at the 72-hour mark today. If I don't feel better by tomorrow, I'm going to be freaking out.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

2 hours, 27 minutes, 27 seconds

That's how long it took me to run 13.1 miles this morning---my last long training run! I'll take it and hope for the same result on race day in exactly two weeks. My running buddy and I headed out at 8:30 a.m. for Rails to Trails again and enjoyed a nice, flat 13.1 miles. We kept up an average pace in the 10:30's and finished strong with two 10-minute miles. For me, that's 5K race pace (sadly!).

I'm having a few post-run tummy issues, but nothing severe. I should have drank more water and less Accelerade and eaten fewer Clif Bloks. I tried to eat some Jelly Belly Sports Beans, but after snacking on four, I must have dropped the package. And they were so good! (Orange flavor). I didn't eat a gel this time. I missed the caffeine kick (25 mg) the tropical fruit flavor Hammer Gel usually gives me. But I was saving it for race day!

I was very anxious about this morning's run. I wasn't excited before going. I was having mommy-guilt because I ran instead of going to my daughter's soccer game. I hadn't missed one this season. And I sent all three kids to soccer with one brave husband. But, he knew this was something I needed to do. Thanks, Honey!

Splits and such:
Mile 1-- 10:05 pace
Mile 2-- 10:13
Mile 3-- 10:32
Mile 4-- 10:36
4-minute, 26-second break to stop by port-o-potty, hydrate, take Bloks, and unfortunately talk to a nice, but bored and lonely Park Ranger who was feeling VERY chatty
Mile 5-- 11:00
Mile 6-- 10:35
Mile 7-- 10:40
Mile 8--10:37
3-4 minute break to hydrate, take Bloks, and S-T-R-E-T-C-H
Mile 9--10:58
Mile 10--10:38
One-minute walk break at a turn-around and to wrap our minds around 5K more
Mile 11--10:50
Mile 12--10:02 Ready to be done!
Mile 13--10:00
.12 -- 9:36 (Yea! There's my car!)

1,442 calories burned. Oh, yeah, I'm goin' out tonight!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Three Reasons to Run

In Runner's World each month, John Bingham writes a column called "No Need for Speed." I pulled some quotes from his April column that translate into three great reasons to run:

1. See the world differently.

He describes "running on a forested trail on a cool morning and seeing a field of grass crystalized by the dew." He says, "It's in those moments that I understand that being a runner brings me closer to a world of calm, beauty, and harmony-- a world that I can only experience on my own two feet."

2. Running changes how you see yourself. (in a good way)

He describes "seeing the joy in the eyes of a middle-aged woman who, by crossing the finish line of her first 5-K, had liberated herself from a lifetime of self-imposed limitations." It really IS EMPOWERING to cross a finish line.

3. Running may be hard, sweaty work, but you'll be glad you did.

He concludes the article, "I know that on the day I run the final time, I will be able to look back and say it was worth it."

Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Other Side of the Finish Line

Today, my friend and I (plus about 27 incredible volunteers) put on a road race for 256 people. We had about 176 in the 5K and the rest in a one-mile fun run. Actually many people ran both.

Seeing the finish line from the other side gave me a lot of insight into my own running, especially since I'm usually finishing near the back of the pack. The looks on the faces of the first finishers, the competitive runners, really made me evaluate how I race (or lack thereof). They looked tense, strained, red-faced or pale, PAINED EVEN. You could see how much they wanted it. My husband commented later that I never look like that when I cross the finish line. They even looked serious at the start, where I'm usually goofing around, chatting and laughing.

I guess I'm more of a social runner than a serious one. Serious runners don't chat in 5K's. Apparently if you can chat, you're not really at race pace. Serious runners push themselves to the limit, leaving nothing out there. They're the ones who throw up at the finish line or at least feel like they might. I've felt like that once back when I had that running coach for 8 weeks--- he pushed me in a training run one day to the point I really thought I was going to lose my cookies. And that was the first time I had a sub-30 minute 5K---29:59.

Anyway, I saw all the work that goes into planning a racing event---hours and hours and hours of taking care of minute details. At the next race, I'll appreciate all that behind-the-scenes work.

I didn't get to run the 5K today. Too busy. I ran the One Mile Fun Run with my daughter Annabeth, who finished with a 12-minute mile. Pretty impressive for a 5-year-old! There was a 5-year-old named Faith she was determined to beat. Faith stayed with us until the half-way point, then Annabeth lost her just after the turn around. She finished strong and purple-faced. She said, "Mommy, I think I might vomit."

Oh, wait. I guess she's one of those serious runners!

I came home and got my race on, just me and my Garmin. Wouldn't you know I PR'd my private 5K with 28:53? Nothing like a little motivation.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Hills Are Not My Friend--UPDATED!

I'm in recovery from a super-hilly 10 miles that looked like this--(It was out and back, so I did it TWICE):

I kept hearing how hilly the Country Music Half-Marathon course is, and according to the elevation looks like this:

That mile 7 hill is notorious!

I think I'll be ready. We kept up a peppy 10:20 pace (excluding two walk/hydration breaks), which was a bit of a struggle for me! Next week is my last long run. I'm going to a nice flat place and knock out 11 or 12 for the last time before the race. Thank God.

Hills are not my friend. My running buddies Kelle and Melissa who kept me going today ARE my friends. Accelerade is my friend. Bags of frozen vegetables on my knees and ankles are my friends. Aleve is also a very good friend. And, as of tomorrow, a NEW pair of Brooks Radius 7 shoes will be my friend!

My current ones have approximately 250 running miles on them since December, plus a tiny bit of cross training (I really don't cross train much), some shopping miles, and some general post-work out errand miles. I've been really achy in my legs and I read on (also a friend of mine!):

"If your legs are more tired or sore than usual, the first thing to think about is how long you've been running in your current shoes. We recommend that you replace trainers every 300 to 500 miles. "

It's good to have friends. Who (what) are your friends, running or otherwise?