Sunday, June 28, 2009


Albert Einstein once said “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”....

Well, apparently, I have a serious case of race insanity. The number one rookie mistake in a race is going out too fast. I have done this over and over and over. My 5K and 10K PRs are the two rare races when I held back in that first mile and managed to run consistently throughout all the miles with fairly even splits. But inconsistency and positive splits (running each mile progressively slower instead of evenly or faster) have become my running trademarks.

Yesterday was no exception. On a very hot and humid day, I unwisely lined up near the front of the race, flew across the start line, actually keeping up with the faster runners.... for about a quarter mile, and had a new ONE MILE PR---8:36 (and that was even holding back a tiny bit). Unfortunately for me, this was not a ONE MILE RACE, but a 3.1 mile race. Doggone it!

I know better, but race-day adrenaline almost always gets the best of me. When I looked down at my Garmin at about the 1/2 mile point and was running at an 8:10 pace, I though briefly, "Well, maybe this IS my new 5K pace and all that speed work in recent weeks has paid off." (Yes, in my DREAMS.) I knew I should slow down, but I was stubbornly seeking a PR on a day when weather conditions were certainly not ideal. That first too-fast mile caught up to me when my energy was basically depleted by 1.5 miles. My chest was tight, I was having a hard time getting a deep breath, and I was pretty much done. Many walk breaks later, I crossed the finish line.

I won't even post my finish time on here (it was over 30 minutes and it's been over a year since I ran one that slowly, which is rather depressing...). I didn't run smart and I know that. The question is, will I do the EXACT SAME THING in the next 5K on August 22. (Probably.) No, seriously, I'm going to break the cycle of insanity NEXT TIME. I hope.

After the race, I came home and ran 4 more miles to end the week with 20 miles total. My goal for last summer was to run at least 10 miles a week and this summer is to run 15-20 miles per week. I think easing back into training with a stronger base will be helpful.

Supposedly, half-marathon training starts tomorrow for the Music City Half-Marathon on October 18. But I don't really feel ready to jump into a formal training plan at the moment. Mentally, I'm just not there yet. Half-marathon training plans don't HAVE to be 16-weeks. I think I'll go with a 12-or 14-week plan this time. It's going to be a LONG training cycle anyway culminating with the December 5 marathon (hopefully). I'm not ready to give up my "freedom" to run whenever and whatever I want just yet....

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

How to Avoid Heatstroke 101

This is my 3rd summer as a runner! Summer One was when I started running in June of 2007 and didn't really know what I was doing. I was just desperately trying to work up to one mile, then two, then three. I don't remember much about those summer runs except for two special ones: the first time I ran a whole mile without stopping and the first time I ran three miles. Those were huge days for me. I do remember a few other things, like I was running in a cotton sports bra with thick seams and it nearly sawed me in half a few times. And I was running in a cotton t-shirt which chafed my bicep-area terribly. I didn't know about technical clothing, I don't think I took water on those runs, and I went at one of the hottest parts of the day--6:00 p.m. when the pavement has absorbed all that heat all day long.

Summer Two last year was totally different. I was running longer distances. I carried my trusty Nathan Speed Belt Two filled with 10 ounces of water and 10 ounces of Gatorade. I wore technical-fabric clothes. I discovered the value of running at 6:00 a.m.

I learned a few other critical steps to running in the heat as well:

1. Slow down your pace. You just can't maintain the same pace in the heat as you can in cooler, less humid weather. If you need to do speed work, using a treadmill in an air conditioned environment is probably the best idea.
2. Take walk breaks. I admit, this always feels a bit like CHEATING, but all the experts agree that integrating walk breaks into summer runs can help avoid getting into trouble.
3. Take plenty of fluids. It seems a little silly to take water or Gatorade on a 3-mile run, but everyone sweats at different rates, and you may wish you had.
4. If you start having chills or feeling lightheaded, stop running. Walk back to your car. I had symptoms of "heat sickness" last summer on a 10-miler in August. I had lots of fluids, we were using a run/walk method, but suddenly I felt chilled. My stomach was churning. I got a little dizzy. I tried to keep going, but some veteran runners in my running club MADE me stop running. I told them I was fine, but they informed me that a person having heat sickness isn't always the best judge of how they are doing. And they walked me the three miles back to my car.
5. I guess another good idea is RUN WITH A FRIEND! Or at the very least, carry a cell phone.

Yesterday, I had a good six-mile run at a flat, paved four-mile trail in the woods.
My friend and I went at about 8:20 in the morning. I hadn't been to this trail since late February or early March, and since then, the trees and plants had sprung to life. There was a tree canopy completely covering the trail except for one area when we ran over a bridge over the river. It was quiet, cool, scenic, and EXACTLY what I needed. Other than watching for snakes and running through a couple of spider webs, it was quite relaxing. (I always start out on this trail a bit uneasy about snakes--there are definitely some there--but then forget and relax into the run. So far, I haven't encountered one there.)

We walked at the top of every mile, but maintained a good long-run pace in between. My friend is pretty amazing. She has Type 1 diabetes and wears an insulin pump attached to her tummy, but still has completed 5 or 6 half marathons and is training for her first full in December. She has to check her blood sugar during her runs. At mile two, I watched as she pricked her finger right out there in the woods. It was low, so we walked a bit while she waited for her glucose tablets to take effect. When I think of all the people in perfect health who don't run and look at my friend who has a pretty big obstacle to deal with (not to mention her husband is deployed to Iraq right now and she has two small children), and still manages to find the time and energy and run, it's just pretty darn inspiring.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The End of R and R

We learn from our mistakes. After the marathon, I hopped on the "too-much-too-soon" train and quickly derailed my running. I slipped into a little PMD (post-marathon depression), watched as my prior speed and endurance slipped away, and got left behind a bit by my training group.

Then about a week ago, I had a little surgical procedure to remove a lesion on the back of my leg and had to take a doctor-ordered week off from any type of exercise for fear of tearing any of my four stitches and bleeding out (well maybe not bleeding OUT, but bleeding, nonetheless).

That week coincided with the week before the Wilma Rudolph 5K and 10K, a race put on my my running club for which I was the registration chairperson. The week of rest couldn't have come at a better time! I spent the hours I would normally have spent running or lifting weights entering the data of the 200+ runners on a spread sheet, managing entry forms and fees, picking up donations, and working on a whole bunch of race bags. (If you've never seen a race from the other side, it's AMAZING how much work goes into one!) The race took over my life for one week, so even though I couldn't run, running was still on the forefront of my days.

On Friday morning, I got my stitches out and immediately went to the Y, since it was about 92 degrees outside. I warmed up and decided to do one of Jeff Galloway's Magic Miles. A magic mile is when, every few months, you test yourself to see how fast you can run a mile. The last time I'd done this was about 9 months ago on an outdoor flat track. I ran it in 8:40. On the treadmill after one week of nonstop rest, I ran it in 8:38. Yay! It felt like a good sign. I can put all that marathon stuff behind me and move forward now.

So, what's next, running-wise?? A LOT.

*I'm doing a 5K this coming Saturday in honor of my two-year running anniversary. (It's sometime in June, I wish I had the exact date of those first tentative jogging steps on the treadmill at the Y....)

*I'm running the R-3 Anniversary 5K for the 3rd year in a row on August 22. It was my very first race.

*On June 29, half-marathon training starts for the Music City Half-Marathon, on the course where I got my half-marathon PR in March.

*On July 11-12, I take course to become a RRCA Certified Running Coach.

*On July 13 (tentatively), I start a JOB (with pay and everything!) at the YMCA coaching a half-marathon beginners team in a 16-week program for a race on November 7.

*On August 10, I start coaching the Couch to 5K group for a race on November 7.

*On August 17, MARATHON training officially begins.

*Music City Half-Marathon on October 18.

*Clarksville Half-Marathon on November 7.

*St. Jude Memphis Marathon December 5.

The other day, a friend in my running group who is a stay-at-home mom like me joked, "Running is my job." Yep, me, too. Part hobby, part job, part obsession....

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Sports Bra as Outer Wear: A Do or a Don't?

Let me start by saying IT'S HOT down here in the South (can I get an "Amen!" from my southern buddies?). As I write, it's 84 and humidity is 61%, and this is a MILD day in our most pleasant summer month.

I went out and bought a new sports bra today. It's light purple and dark purple striped. I'm thinking the stripes give it credibility as outerwear, no? Otherwise, what's the point? My stretched out, stained, slightly discolored white running bra....not so much.

Last week in Florida, I ran on the beach in a sports bra with no self consciousness whatsoever. Of course, I also traversed that same beach in a bikini. Now that I'm back in my conservative home state, in my fairly small town, in my lovely, but rather close-knit neighborhood, I'm not so sure....

I mean, if I looked like THIS, I'd be a little more confident:

But I'm a normal person, not an elite athlete. My midsection after three pregnancies is ok, not too roly-poly, and about three shades lighter than the rest of me. (A little self-tanner can take care of that.)

Then I see THIS picture of kind of regular-looking runners, and I think, there's nothing wrong with a sports bra as outerwear.

They look very appropriate.

But can I get up the nerve to run on the road technically in my undies?? I dunno. What do ya'll think? Is it a DO or a DON'T? Would you run in your neighborhood or along the roads in your town in just your sports bra?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Speed Vs. Endurance?

I had a really good seven-mile run today. I walked a bit to warm up, then stretched, then walked some more, and it helped with the shin splints. I wasn't completely pain-free as I ran, but I wasn't limping as I have been recently, either.

I think I made peace with running today. I met my speedy friends for, you guessed it, speed work. I used to kind of like speedwork, but not so much lately. Or maybe I just don't like sucking at it. Either way....

We ran a two-mile warm up from the YMCA, two miles of alternating 400's and 800's on a straight, flat stretch of road in a residential area, and then two miles of cool down as we returned to the Y. As usual, I was bringing up the rear, but when I looked at my times, I realized that for me, they weren't that bad. Not bad at all, actually.

After we got back to the YMCA, I had a little more time before they kicked my kids out of the childcare (two-hour limit), so I hopped on the treadmill for another mile. My friend couldn't believe I was running another mile since we were all pretty spent. But I had another mile in me.

I think that's when the BIG PICTURE kind of came together for me. It's not me against anyone else when I'm running, it's me vs. me. It doesn't matter if I'm the slowest in my training group. And I also realized, I ran a FREAKIN' MARATHON six weeks ago. I may not have speed, but I've got endurance.

Endurance definitely is the less glamorous of the two. Speed gets all the glory. But there's something to be said for being able to run long (albeit slowly). It's really amazing that my almost forty-year-old body even held up through the training, much less the 26.2. So, I'm going to stop being so darn hard on myself. I may not be fast, but I can run farther than I ever dreamed I'd be able to.

I'm going to sign up for a 5K at the end of June just for fun. I'm going to try not to put pressure on myself to PR, but to just get out there and enjoy the experience.

After that, in mid-July, my training for my fall half marathons (October 18 and November 7) and full marathon (December 5) will begin. I've got to get my head on straight before then. I think today was a step in the right direction.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Peaks and Valleys

Running is such a peaks and valleys kind of sport. Coming off a great run, you can have three horrible ones. Or on a day you don't even feel like being out there at all, a great run will pull you right out of the funk you're in.

I definitely know which part I'm experiencing right now! After the marathon, which I suppose was the pinnacle of twenty-two months of running, I've been trapped in a valley. My legs are not cooperating. They are slow and tired. I'm plagued with random aches and pains as I run. Having remained mostly injury-free, constantly gaining momentum in terms of speed and distance over nearly two years, to be going in reverse is, well, a bit hard to take.

So if I'm a little quiet on here, you'll know why.