Sunday, September 26, 2010

Women's Half Marathon Race Report

Yesterday was a wonderful day. I think out of the 8 half-marathons I have now completed, it was my FAVORITE. It was also my slowest time. Funny how those two go hand in hand.

My overall time was 2:21:32, which averages out to a 10:47 pace. My longest training run was 9 miles at an 11:18 pace, which just goes to show that race-day adrenaline really works. You can (and should!) train at a much slower, easier pace than you will run on race day. Going up to 13 miles in training is not always necessary. Good to know! (Of course, if you are going for a PR, training up to 13 or 14 miles and doing some mid-week speed work is helpful!)

My day started at 3:56 a.m., whenI awoke four minutes prior to my 4:00 a.m. alarm. I got up and got ready and was on the road to meet friends at 4:45 a.m. We were on the road to Nashville by 4:55. We easily found parking and walked to meet our YMCA training group. Only 17 of our 21 made it to our 6:15 a.m. pre-race picture and prayer due to parking issues, but those of us who did shared hugs and well wishes. We got into a big circle, joined hands, and our RESTORE ministry leader led us in a prayer. It was a really, really neat way to start a race. We found our corrals and it was time to go! Jo Dee Messina sang the National Anthem beautifully, and we found ourselves tearing up. I was glad I was not the only one.

I started in corral 2 with several people I know from my training group, my running club, and my church. Overall, I probably knew at least 50 women on the course. THAT is what made the day special. I ran the first 2 miles with 3 running buddies, but I lost them shortly after. I knew I needed to take it easy and stick to my race plan---baby the calf and walk the hills. When I chose to walk a portion of the hill in mile 2, they went ahead. That was fine with me. I really like to run my own race. I often saw women I knew and chatted with them a bit, but then went my own way. My favorite portion of the race was an out-and-back portion where you could see people ahead of you before the turnaround and people behind you after you passed the turnaround. I am very nearsighted without my glasses and slightly oblivious when I run, so people from my running club and Y group kept yelling "Donna!" from the other side of the road as they passed. I'd see them just in time to yell, "Hey! You look great!" or something similar. They encouraged me and I encouraged them. It made my race to just see so many familiar, friendly faces.

The course was TOUGH. The whole first half was hill after hill. And not little hills, long drawn out ones. I walked a portion of the each of the worst ones, and I tried to make up time a little on the downhills. I had saved my MP-3 player for the 2nd half, but it only played one song and then died, despite being fully charged. (That thing ALWAYS gives me trouble.) At the 9.25 point, I had reached my longest training distance and was feeling it. Then I saw a familiar face running toward me--which was unusual--you rarely see people running in the wrong direction on a race course! It was my running club President. He was there to support his wife and all the running club members. He fell into step with me and before I knew it, I was running at a 9:30 pace. (His normal pace is like a 7:30 mile or something!) After about a 1/4 mile, I said, "You're killing me!" and he went on to find our next club member on the course.

I knew I had wanted to run the last 5K of the race hard. I did fairly well on the downhills. I have been taught how to run them without "putting on the brakes" with every step. (Forward lean, quick foot turnover, relax and pretend you are a little kid running down a hill again.)

Then there was the final long uphill over the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Bridge. I didn't have a hill left in me at that point, so I walked for 2 light posts, then ran for 2 light posts all the way to the top. After that, the finish was all downhill. I didn't plan to sprint for fear the calf would lock up, but about the last .1, I kicked into high gear.

I teared up a little at the end because this race brought me JOY. It was hard, but it reminded me why I love running and racing. I got to see several of my training group finish, and that was so inspiring as well. Unfortunately, I saw a woman collapse just steps from the finish. She didn't just faint, her heart stopped. I watched as paramedics fought for her life performing CPR. After 20 minutes, she still had not revived. I cried and prayed for her as she was cared for. I've been scouring the news for updates on her. I believe that she lived since it has not been in the news. I will continue to pray for her recovery.

I'm reminded of how blessed I am to be able to participate in this sport and to be healthy.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Fun Race!

Wow, running with 6,000 women is really fun! I was surprised to finish the Women's Half Marathon in somewhere around 2:21! I was happy. It was a very hilly course. I'll post a full race report soon. Half-Marathon #8: done!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Ready-ish for the Women's Half Marathon

I just returned from the Women's Running Magazine Women's Half Marathon expo. It was a great female-centric expo with tons of cute shirts, shoes, bracelets, hats, etc. The pink runneth over in the Nashville Convention Center. Other than vendors, I think I saw one man. Maybe two.

The hilarious thing is that I got my bib number and corral number. I'm in corral 1. (Insert laughter here.) Even on my best of days in my best of races, I'm pretty sure I'm not corral 1 material! I'm wondering what on earth I put as my potential finish time?? I'm positive I didn't put less than 2 hours. My best one last October was 2:09-something. Back when I registered, the focus of the summer was going to be speed, speed, speed, not recovery-reinjury-recovery-reinjury.

I'm hoping to have fun, enjoy the race, and finish with a smile. (Preferably without re-injuring my calf.) My legs are feeling pretty good these days, but my breathing and my endurance are still in recovery mode. In terms of a long run, I went ALL the way up to 9 miles twice. I walked 9 miles about 2 weeks ago. Last weekend, I ran/walked it. What about weekly mileage? I think I got up to 18 miles one week, but then my leg started hurting. This was not a typical training cycle to say the least....

Though this race-preparation experience has not been what I expected, a lot of good has still come from it. I have made at least 15 new friends in my training group (I already knew the other 6). I have had a goal to keep striving for this summer when I felt like my leg was NEVER going to get better. I have a cute new hot pink race shirt. And I get to run a no-performance pressure race tomorrow with 6,000 other women. Worth the $50 I spent, I think!

The goal is to run some, walk a little, run some, walk a little. Or vice versa.

13.1 miles. Bring it.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

(Mis)Adventures in Running

I had quite the misadventure on my 4-miler this morning. Correction: 4 miler that wound up being 5.36 miles.

My run started with an encounter with an aggressive dog...... OWNER. I was semi-happily jogging along at my new 11 to 12-minute pace when a medium-sized dog comes barrelling out from behind a house barking at me in what appeared to be an aggressive manner. My immediate reaction was to say "Go Home!" in a firm voice. Ok, I kind of yelled it (twice), but I was slightly panicked. He was about 2 feet away from me before he stopped. I slowed to a walk and kept going, but kept him in my peripheral vision. I was already a house away when I hear, "Ma-am! Ma-am!" I turned around and saw a woman emerging from behind the house of the dog.
"Yes?"
"He's wearing a shock collar. He won't hurt you."
"Oh, ok, thank you! He just scared me for a minute. Thanks for letting me know!"
and I begin to move on thinking, "Wow, the people are SO NICE here!"
"Yes, I heard you YELLING at him." This time her voice had changed a bit.
"Well, whenever a dog comes at me, I always say 'Go home' and it works every time."
(in a really snotty voice) She replied, "He WAS HOME!" Ouch.

I'm thinking: Oh, so this is how you want to play it. I have offended you and your lovely animal. How dare I run on this public street and how dare I yell at your precious mongrel who was running at approximately 100 mph toward me while greeting me with loud, vicious barking!

So I said, "I'm sorry if I inconvenienced you in any way" in a rather snotty, sarcastic tone (I'm not proud of it---not my best moment!) forever coloring her judgement of runners everywhere. (Sorry, guys!)

She said, "I KNOW," in an equally snotty tone.

Good stuff. I could have just apologized for offending her doggy, I guess, with ACTUAL SINCERITY. But, I don't feel totally in the wrong. If she had been out front, I wouldn't have spoken so sharply to the dog.

I spent the next several miles thinking about her. Maybe God was working on my heart because I felt bad. Where did I get off being rude to her, even if she started it? "Turn the other cheek," hel--lo?? She was probably feeling like I accosted her "baby." I suppose if my children were in my own front yard and someone yelled at them to "Go home," I might take it badly, too. Of course people generally wouldn't feel threatened by my children playing in the yard. (Well, maybe the 9-year old. Especially if he had a big stick....) So I prayed for her. (I probably should have prayed for me, too, to know when to keep my BIG mouth shut!)

Then I got lost. I have run in this neighborhood behind my daughter's preschool for the past 3 years. I guess I was so deep in thought that I lost my bearings. I finished my 4 miles and thought I was near the car. Then I looked up at street signs with unfamiliar names. Hmmmm.... I was out of water and needed to hurry home to start on some chores, but I had only a vague idea where I was. This is a neighborhood with no less than 20 side streets. I kept dead-ending or running into a busy road with no potential for running on. I kind of knew where I was and where I needed to be, just not how to combine the two. So I called my friend Amy. No answer. Left her a fun message: "Hey, Amy. I'm freaking lost. Talk to you later!" Then I called my husband. No answer: "Hi, Honey. I'm out on a run and I'm lost and out of water. Bye." (A little more dramatic.) Finally, after a mile of wandering around, I finally recognized where I was. My four-mile run had a nice little 1.36 mile cool down. It's all good.

P.S. I'm renaming my blog with this entry's title. I never write about my kiddos on here anyway! For my running right now, "(Mis)Adventures" fits!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

117 Days of Recovery

I just got out the old calendar recently and counted up the days since my calf strain injury. At the time, it was 112 days. Wow. That number astounded me. It doesn't seem like it has been that long. At that moment, I decided it should be well by now. It wasn't a tear. The MRI was clean. In my mind, I tried to "will" it well.

The Women's Half Marathon is this coming Saturday. I had decided to run/walk it. Then about 3 weeks ago, I ran/walked 9 miles and my leg hurt for days afterward. So I decided to walk it. Then I walked 9 miles and saw how THAT felt. (Shin splints and hip pain--different muscles used when walking!) Then I decided to go with a run/walk combination or just hang it up altogether and become a middle-distance runner (5K's and 10K's) for a while. I even e-mailed my 3rd and final physical therapist and asked him if I should do the race at all. I was certain he'd tell me to sit this one out. Then, yesterday, I got his response: Go for it! Just go easy and run/walk 4:1 or 5:1. Good luck!

So, one week before the race, I tried it out this morning. I ran/walked 4:1 for 9 miles. It was actually great. The walk breaks broke it up, so what I'm lacking in endurance was less noticeable. There was enough walking to alleviate fatigue and stress on the calf, but not so much that I had hip or shin pain afterward. Now, I still have to see how I feel tomorrow and Monday, but I think I'm really close to recovery..... if not "close," I'm at least heading in the right direction.

What does 117 days of injury do to a runner? I have to say IT CHANGES YOU.
  • It makes you run slower. What used to be my comfortable marathon pace takes a bit of effort.
  • It makes you re-evaluate your priorities. When something extremely consuming of your time and energy goes away, you have a chance to regain the balance that was missing.
  • It makes you appreciate running... at all. Slow, short, fast for about 10 seconds---any kind of runninig that doesn't cause pain is a good thing.
  • It makes you lower your usual race-day expectations. If I can finish under 2:45 or 3 hours on Saturday, I will be pretty darn happy. I have never tried a half-marathon on just two 9-milers!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

To Bicycle or Not to Bicycle

The past month, I've been flirting with cycling. Not a full immersion into cycling culture, more like just a toe in the water. I have been enjoying spinning on the indoor bikes at the Y. I've taken my mountain bike and a friend's road bike out for a few miles. I bought padded shorts. I read lots of things on cycling forums I don't understand about Shimano gear packages (Tiagra is better than Sora, but 105 is the best--I think) and derailleurs, whatever they are. I've been maintaining mileage in the 25-30 miles per week range, but most of that has been cycling, not running.

I wish cycling were as simple as running. Got shoes? GO! But buying a road bike also means buying clip-in pedals, clip in shoes, a bike computer, an under-the-seat pack, a tire repair kit, a pump, gloves, MORE padded shorts, psychedelic jerseys, and probably even more. For an entry level bike of $599 to 699, you wind up spending closer to $1000. It's INSANE. I had no idea. And honestly, those smug little cyclists with their tight little shorts and color-coordinating jerseys with brand names splashed all over them riding their $5000 bikes in their $200 shoes make me a little sick. And they won't wave or say "Good morning." What's up with that? I guess they are too fancy to say hello to a lowly runner. But I digress....

I have test driven more bikes in the past week than I test drove before my last car purchase. I found a close out '09 model at an ok price ($650), but I just can't seem to pull the trigger. I thought about going with cage pedals and just my regular shoes, but all the stores said you've got to have clip in pedals. I thought my current helmet would be ok, but at the speeds at which I will be riding these road bikes, I apparently need to upgrade to a safer (read more expensive) helmet, too. Riding them on roads with cars was a bit terrifying. I would definitely need a small mirror so I could see cars about to mow me down.

My mountain bike is a piece of junk. I've had it for 13 years, and I bought it used out of the paper, so who knows how old it is. I see how awful it rides after riding better bikes. But last night, I had an idea. I hopped on my husband's Trek mountain bike (a very respectable brand) and it rode 10 times better than mine. I took it out on a paved, but rough trail (bumpy wooden bridge crossings, broken pavement in places) and had a ball! That trail might be a bit rough for those skinny little road bike tires. The mountain bike felt sturdy and fun, though not fast. Maybe I don't need a new bike at all.... I can just steal my husband's! On the other hand, I would not be able to keep up with my friends on their road bikes on a mountain bike....

Right now, while I'm injured, cycling is very appealing. I ran 2 miles today, then mountain biked 5. The bike portion was way more fun, but I'm not sure if I'm ready to immerse myself in a new hobby.

It's new and shiny and exciting now, but will I REALLY ride on the road? With actual cars? Running is one thing, but riding with traffic is much scarier. If the shiny does, indeed, wear off, I'll be left with a $1000 mistake. (I work approximately 4-5 hours a week at the YMCA, and that means about $200 per month in take-home pay. It would take 5 months of my salary to pay for a bike!)

I rested my calf most of the week. The two miles today didn't hurt. I'm starting back at square one with a few 2-mile runs. In a week or so, I'll try 3. And so on. AGAIN. It's nice to be excited about something again (and I don't mean running). Maybe that alone is worth the money.