Sunday, May 31, 2009

Wish You Were Here....

Here's my official postcard from Orange Beach. Wish you were here....

I'm sending it a little early since we haven't technically left yet. We leave in about 10 hours. However, I don't know how great Internet service will be on the beach, so I thought I'd post it today.

Last year I was so excited to try this on my beach vacation:
But you know how you expect something to be kind of awesome, but the reality is it's kind of not? That's how I felt about beach running. It's hot. The sand isn't your friend. The waves could possibly ruin your $100 shoes. The list goes on....

So I did a little research online and found a nice 7-mile paved trail at Gulf State Park to run. Check it out---

Beautiful, huh? I couldn't wait to plan a long run there.

But then I read this on the website:

WATCH OUT FOR ALLIGATORS - THEY ARE DANGEROUS! It is reckless to approach alligators closely. Even though they may appear to be tame, alligators and other wildlife may suddenly turn and inflict serious injury.

Maybe NOT. Have a great week!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Welcome to Summer

Our summer vacation has officially begun. Last Friday was the kids' last day of school. Managing three kiddos and running this summer will be a challenge, but I'm up for it.

On Tuesday, I got in 4.5 miles while a friend watched the kids. A few of us met and warmed up for a couple of miles then did 3 hill repeats on this 1/4 mile hill in the neighborhood where we run. I felt like I was going in slow motion, but I didn't stop once on the three repeats up the hill, so I was happy. I was, as usual, bringing up the rear. That was my first real session of hill repeats and it think they will make a big difference in my running.

Today, the kids and I met some other running moms and their kids at a park with a 1/4 mile track around the outside of the play area. We had snacks and juice boxes and playground equipment, so the kids played and we ran a few 800's. The oldest child there, an 11-year-old, kept track of my 3-year-old for me while I ran laps. The kids had fun and we accomplished speedwork, so it was a good day! My daughter Annabeth even ran a lap with us.

So, it may take some creativity, some babysitters, some getting up at 5:45 a.m., but I think I'll be able to get my runs in this summer just fine.

I'm reading a book that may actually CHANGE my running significantly--Alberto Salazar's Guide to Road Racing: Championship Advice for Faster Times from 5K to Marathons. Sounds like the perfect book for me, no?

There are two BIG differences in his training methods from what I've been doing:

1. RUN MORE. He believes that just running more miles will result in faster running. He wants a base of 20-25 miles a week, no matter what distance you are training for. I really only run 20 mile weeks when I'm in half-marathon or marathon training. I think I probably need a bigger base of mileage. (And he's not talking about junk miles--each run has a specific function.) He recommends that "recreational racers" (that's me!) run at least 4, preferably 5 days per week. My marathon training plan only had me running 3 days per week!

2. Speedwork is done TWICE a week. Ideally, you should have two "easy" days between speedwork sessions. Speedwork can be 400's, 800's, 1200's, 1600's or hill sprints or tempo runs. And you shouldn't do the same thing on your two days in the same week, or even the same two workouts over and over. Variety...

He points out, though, that at least once a year, you should have a month or two "off," when you don't log this kind of mileage and take a break from speedwork. Mentally and physically, the break is important.

I'm really liking this book and I'm only on chapter two.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Marathon Recovery is Officially Over!

It is four weeks post-marathon, so my best EXCUSES why my running has stunk lately can no longer be used: "I'm still recovering from the marathon, I don't usually run this slowly." "My toenails are infected and/or falling off." "My muscles are rebuilding." "My body is still tired." I guess I'll have to think of some new ones....

It's been a very running-oriented weekend. On Friday night, the Vice President of my running club got married. It was one of the most fun, laid back, coolest weddings Hubby and I have been to. When we arrived, the bar was already open. The bride wore a long white dress and .... flip flops. (I love that!) They got married under the trees outside the reception hall. The bride and groom's parting song was "Rocky Top" (this IS Tennessee and we love us some "Rocky Top"). Then we all ate barbeque. It was so much fun to see some of my running buddies tearing up the dance floor. We all knew we had a 6-8 mile run at 7:00 the next morning, but we had quite a good time anyway. (Oh, and by the way, my husband stepped on my big toenail during the wedding reception and when I looked down, it was flapping in the wind. I smushed it back on, went back out on the dance floor, and later took it off when I got home. I guess if you are going to lose a toenail at a wedding, it might as well be at a RUNNER'S wedding. Now I'm down to 7 nails with one soon to go. Sheesh.)

I did find out that dancing for about 2.5 hours in high heels, eating barbeque, and staying up until 1:00 a.m. don't work all that well for me the next morning for a longish run. I went with the six-mile option. (uh oh... are those excuses? Or as I like to call them -- factors affecting my running...in a bad way)

I started out the run as if I was BACK. Back to where I was before the marathon, back to where I was two months ago. My first two miles were 9:29/pace and 9:39/pace. Awesome! (for me) Then I slowed to 10:15 and beyond on the last four. I never even caught up to any of the usual gals I run with. I could see them in the distance, but I couldn't catch up to them. I still managed to average about a 10:25 for the whole run, but I was hoping for faster.

Today I decided to do another run in the afternoon to see if --

A. I still got it. (Or some form of "it." For me "it" means 9-10 minute miles or on a GLORIOUS DAY, a sub-9 minute mile or two) OR

B. I got nuthin'. (Still. Despite the four weeks of recovery.)

My plan calls for speedwork this Thursday with 4 X 800's in 4:24 with recovery in between. I was curious if I could even run 1/2 mile in 4:24, so after a brief warm up, I took off for a quick 800. It was tough, but I did it in 4:16. That was the only one I did, but at least on Thursday, I'll have some confidence that I can do them! (or at least one of them!) I finished the 2-mile run slowly because today was my "run easy" day.

I'll be totally honest. I'm fighting getting discouraged over the state of my running lately. I had a heart-to-heart with myself during this run. I reminded myself that I have got to run my own race, to run my own RUNS period. It's not about what anybody else can do. It's just about me and the road.

Two lessons I can't seem to get after almost two years of running: Don't go out too fast. and Don't compare yourself to other runners.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Running ADDICTION?

As I was casually perusing this month's Runner's World magazine (and by that I mean obsessively reading it cover to cover), I came across a couple of startling quotes.

In an article called "Footsteps," John Brant chronicles the life of Darren Brown, the son of a running-obsessed father. Brown's mother says of her husband, "Most people go through cycles. You do something for a time---you run 100 miles a week-- and then your enthusiasm wanes. But Barry got stuck on his passion for running. It was really the only thing that gave his life meaning." As an adult, Brown chose "the same powerfully addictive sport as his father."

Wow, I'd never really thought of running as "powerfully addictive." Aren't those the words people use to describe things like.... crack? And the thought of a husband and father having RUNNING as the thing that gives his life meaning. Well, that's just sad.

I know some people think of me as running obsessed, maybe even running addicted. I Googled "running addiction." There is quite a bit of information out there on the subject. Most of it referred to it as a positive addiction. (I know, that sounds like an oxymoron.)

Having found running a little late in life, I guess I'm trying to make up for lost time. However, running isn't what gives meaning to my life. It ADDS a measure of fun, adventure, happiness, disappointment (sometimes), and challenge to my life. But it isn't the "be-all, end-all" in my life.

So I think I'm ok.

Are you a RUNNING ADDICT? On the Road Runners Clubs of America website, I found this self test.

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the strongest, weight each of the following statements as they apply to you and your running. Then total your numbers and check the interpretations at the end of the test. Fill out the test in pencil, or make photocopies so you can retake it periodically.

___Running is extremely important to me. I'm positive I'll be running for the rest of my life.
___A day without a run is a day without sunshine.
___If it becomes downright impossible to get my workout in today, I can always double up tomorrow.
___Until I get my workout in, I'm a real bear, as in unbearable.
___A little pain indicates there's serious progress being made.
___If two aspirin/ibuprofen are good, four are twice as good.
___Warm-up and cool-down are important, but it's what comes in the middle of a workout that counts.
___As far as running goes, more is always better.
___A string of running days must remain unbroken.
___Quality without quantity is impossible.
___Of course I know how many miles I ran last month.
___Unless you've run a marathon, you're not a real runner.
___The more marathons you've run, the more serious a runner you are.
___Rest is for the weary, not for the strong.
___Discomfort exists to run through, not to be an insurmountable barrier.
___All my friends are runners, and I wouldn't consider befriending a nonrunner.
___Many running-related pains can be gotten rid of by running through them.
___If a shirt doesn't boast a race logo, it isn't one I want to wear.
___It exhibits their inbred weakness if people don't want to hear my step-by-step re-creations of races I've run.
___If I have a piddling injury and a sports medicine expert says I shouldn't run, it's obviously time for a second (or third) opinion.

Where does your total fall? (I got 110.)

161-200: Running addiction personified. Get help quickly.
121-160: Leaning toward running addiction; beware.
81-120: Neutral.
41-80: Fitness with a mellow bent.
20-40: Approaching terminal mellow; better sign up for a race.

As a former librarian, I must give credit to the author: Richard Benyo is editor of a new running publication, Marathon & Beyond, which debuts in January as a bimonthly published by Human Kinetics .

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Taking It Down a Notch or Two...

Yesterday, I was supposed to do my first longish run since the marathon--a six miler. Due to circumstances out of my control, I didn't get out there until 4:00 p.m. when it was 80 degrees.

It was like I had never run more than three miles in my life! My legs were heavy, I kept getting aches and twinges, and at the three-mile point, it was like I hit a wall. At. Three. Miles. What on Earth???

I had some good thinking time as I was walking a mile back to my house. The first week after the marathon, I did well. I rested and only ran two miles. The next week I jumped into the Body for Life program, including lower body weights, which I hadn't done before. The past two weeks, I've been hitting the gym nearly every day doing weights, speedwork, yoga, Pilates, crosstraining, and even had a poor showing in a 5K race.

I don't think the mileage is the problem, it's been fairly low. (Two miles, eleven miles, and nine miles in the three weeks since the marathon.) I think the addition of weight training on muscles that were not nearly recovered from the marathon and the added stress of speedwork and crosstraining instead of resting are the problems.

I had a marathon training plan. I didn't have a post-marathon recovery plan. So, I looked one up and found I was doing this all wrong. Hal Higdon says no speedwork for at least 30 days post-marathon. Running a few miles per week is fine, but rest on the rest days. It was too soon to begin weight training. Instead of crosstraining on non-running days, I should have been resting.

So, this week, I'm going to listen to my body and take it down a notch or two. (My husband loves that expression. However when he tells ME to "take it down a notch or two" I get kind of mad!) No leg weight training this week. I'm only going to run twice, maybe three miles one day and a long run of 7 or 8 on the weekend. I might swim or bike gently once or twice with my kiddos, but only for short periods. I'm going to take at least two or three total rest days.

Silly me, I had already started on a program to try to shave time off my 5K because two of my running buddies had started one. They ran the half-marathon the same day I ran the full, though. I should have waited just a bit longer. I guess I just didn't want to get left behind. We stay-at-home tanning bed moms like to stick together! :-)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

WHAT Have I Gotten Myself Into?

Do you ever feel like you are digging yourself into a deep hole?

Last week, I was at the local YMCA chatting with one of the directors. We started talking about my experience in the marathon and how I was going to get my running coach certification this summer. As it turns out, our local YMCA has been looking for someone to coach a BEGINNER HALF-MARATHON group and a Couch to 5K group starting in August. There is a big race here in Clarksville on November 7, so it will be a 12-week program. It will involve weekly Weight-Watcher-like meetings and weekly group runs. The coach or coaches would design individual training programs, hold the weekly meetings, and all of this is going to be sold as a training package at the YMCA. Anyway, she asked me if it would be something I'd be interested in. Hmmm, getting PAID to run? Not a difficult decision. But then it got more complicated....

The interesting twist is that a local DJ is participating and will promote the race by talking about his experiences on the air. There will be lots of local media coverage (it's a small town--our DJ's are definitely local celebrities). We had a meeting the other night. He's a former college basketball player--6'7" tall. He doesn't currently exercise at all and has never run outside of when he played basketball. He's going to go from zero miles to 13 miles in six months. It's not going to be easy, but he's being a good sport about it. Here's his publicity shot from the radio station's website.
The rest of the half-marathoners will sign up on or before the class starts on August 10. All of the half-marathoners should have a 5-mile base minimum at the start of the 12-week program, so at least they are not starting from scratch. On the same night, the Couch to 5Kers will also begin their program.

I'm excited to be re-entering the workforce (fun money, if nothing else!) and integrating my passion with my (part-time, temporary)vocation. But I'm really nervous. I've only been doing this running thing for 23 months, and I'm definitely the slowest in my group of running mommas. (Photo removed.)
I know I'm not an especially talented runner (I heart 10-minute miles!), but I'm a teacher at heart and I love to read anything and everything about running and encourage others. Hopefully, it will all work out.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Stupid Toenails

I have an infection under my big toenail on my right foot. I guess when I punctured the blister from the marathon, I allowed some bacteria access to the nail bed. It's painful, very discolored, and I thought I might have gangrene when I took the polish off today. Needless to say, I freaked out, left my lovely family on Mother's Day and went immediately to the walk-in clinic. The toenail is definitely coming off, but hopefully the TOE will remain intact after my 10-day round of antibiotics.

Marathon or not, I didn't sign up for THIS! I still think I'm going to give one more marathon a try with larger shoes, but if this is "normal" for marathoning, I'm O-U-T. Like they say, "13.1--- half as painful, twice as fun." Or something like that....

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Honeymoon with Running Is Over

And let me just say, "Thank God!" Today, for the first time in my 23-month running career, I didn't PR. And I'm soooo ok with it. The pressure is finally OFF!

I got up at 5:15 this morning, woke up three sleeping children at 6:00, and we headed out to my mom and dad's house at 6:20 a.m., leaving my hubby home to work on man stuff. It is an hour drive, and it was pouring rain the entire way. I was prepared to run 3.1 miles in the rain--after my 13.1 miles in the rain in March, three didn't seem like such a big deal. My parents had never come to one of my races, but this one came to THEM. It started and stopped right across the street from their house!

I got there in plenty of time to unload the kids, go get my packet, and warm up for 1/2 mile before the start. There was about 100 people there. It's a small town and a small race. This was their biggest year yet. Something like 120 were pre-registered, but the rain kept many at home. There was a walker's division and a runner's division, and we were divided pretty equally.

Amazingly, after a week of rain, about three minutes before the start, it just stopped. It was about 70 degrees and 100% humidity though. I was feeling pretty good at the start. I ran that first mile--right by my parents' house with both of them and the 3 kids waving at me-- in about 8:55, right at my goal pace for the day, if not a tad bit fast. I remember thinking, "Good grief, why does the first mile of a 5K have to always be so HARD??" At around that one-mile mark, I realized both of my big toenails, which are still having major issues, were hurting, as was my shin. And I was quickly running out of energy.

I realized at that point that marathon recovery was not quite complete. I had known it wasn't. All the books say it takes at least 26 days (one day per mile) for your body and muscles to rebuild and recover from the trauma of a 5+ hour run (especially for a marathon newbie like me). Many of YOU had also commented that it took you a while to regain speed after the marathon. Eternal optimist that I am, I was hoping for a different result.

So, I settled in and decided to just try to enjoy the race. I lived in that little town for 18 years, and in mile 2, I went down a road I'd never gone down before. I ran past my elementary school and the route I used to take when I walked to school and right through the town square. It was sort of a run down memory lane. In mile two, I backed off a bit and finished it in 9:18.

By mile three, my energy was lagging. I realized I needed a sub-9 minute mile to PR and that wasn't happening. In my fatigue, I automatically defaulted to my marathon pace, around 10:18. I really like that pace for a MARATHON, but it's not at all what I wanted for the last mile in a 5K! Oh, well. The finish line snuck up on me. I was expecting one more turn, but there it was in the distance. To the right of it was my mom and three kids. (My dad was watching from his permanent perch on their front porch.) I hadn't checked my watch in a while and the clock was on 29:49 as I neared. Ouch. I kicked it in a little and finished in 29:57. I actually won 2nd in my age group. (Like I said--small race!)

It was my 3rd fastest 5K---I beat that time in both June and August of 2008. Since the August PR, I've run 3 half-marathons and 1 full marathon. I am more fit, certainly, but not as fast, apparently.

But, you know, it was time for the HONEYMOON to be over. A runner can't expect to PR forever. Now running and I can settle into our stable, long-term relationship. It's not all new and shiny and amazing, but it's a part of me now. It's ingrained into who I am. And that's the most important thing.

P.S. My son also got 2nd place in his age group in the one mile run. I ran it with him, and his 2nd place finish was despite his shoe FALLING OFF during the race. It was double knotted tightly, but laced too loosely. We had to stop and I had to UNTIE IT WITH MY TEETH (eeeewww, eight-year-old boy shoe in my mouth!) and get it back on.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

A 5K and an End to the Streak of PRs?

Uh-oh. I think I've lost the ability to run fast. (And that's not even fast-fast, that's me-fast, which is about a 9:00 minute mile.) Since the marathon, I ran one mile on Friday to see what it felt like to have my toes in enclosed shoes again (it hurt) and two miles today to see if I can maintain a 9:00-minute pace for two miles (not so much). I know my muscles are still healing and may still be fatigued. But I do remember an awful lot of long-run-paced miles, where I comfortably settled in at a 10:00 to 10:30 pace. I think my fast-twitch muscles went dormant.

Well, they need to WAKE UP!!! I have a 5K on Saturday. In every race I've run in my brief two years of racing, I've always gotten a PR. Every. Single. Time. (I don't count the race I did with my little boy in April--I stayed with him so he didn't get lost! I ran his pace, not mine.)

But I think that PR streak might come to a screeching halt on Saturday. I'm just not sure how it all works---Does marathon training improve overall running and make you run faster in short distances? Or does running slow just make you run slow?

So, I've run a total of three miles since the marathon. The books say take it easy that first week, so I did! I have been doing a little exercise though. Yesterday, I took family yoga at the Y with my six-year-old. (You can imagine how strenuous that was!) It was funny. She kept falling over in tree pose. The other little kids in the room would actually bark during downward dog, meow during cat, and hiss during cobra. If you haven't taken yoga in a room with a bunch of 3-6 year olds, you should try it! Then I took twenty minutes of zumba. It's nice to have exercise that's not centered around running.

Tomorrow, some friends and I are starting Body for Life. We are not trying to lose weight, per se, but to build muscle and eat healthier. Interestingly, the Body for Life program involves only 20 minutes of INTENSE cardio three times a week. That's why I ran my two miles earlier. Of course, six miles per week isn't really going to maintain the base of mileage I want to maintain, so I'll run extra miles at some point in the week. But maybe I will see some speed improvement from hard effort in short runs. I'm also hoping that doing leg weight training might help in the speed arena. We'll be doing that once or twice per week, too, depending on the week.

I'm glad to be starting a new training program. One week without a program, and I was feeling lost already!