Saturday, December 31, 2011

Elliptical Sabbatical

Ok, so maybe the elliptical trainer isn't so bad. I really have been badmouthing the elliptical lately, and I shouldn't.  After all, it's not the elliptical's fault I am not running.  It's my fault.  Why blame a dumb machine for a problem I brought on myself?

In fact, I should be thanking the elliptical for being there to pick up the pieces of my current fitness program - for being there for me in my time of need.  It doesn't know it is sloppy seconds, that while I spend time with it, I long for another.  The elliptical can't help that it is trapped indoors on beautiful winter days, that it is lined up shoulder-to-shoulder with other ellipticals, or that it just doesn't give me the "thrill" of a good run.  It just soldiers on, putting me through my non-pounding paces, allowing me to elevate the heart rate, sweat out the negativity, and hopefully keep somewhat in shape - all without pounding the crap out of my joints, which seem to to need a break right now.

So, for all that, I should be celebrating the elliptical machine and whoever invented it.  Without it, I would be reduced to biking or - shudder - swimming or some such.

One thing I don't understand about the elliptical, however, is all the people I see hanging on to it for their dear lives.  For myself, I just let my arms swing free, but I am obviously in the minority.  I have to admit to feeling slightly superior to the death grip crowd - well, until those moments when I almost fall off and I have to quick grab on to keep myself from splatting on the gym floor.  (Luckily, a quick look around usually reveals that no one has noticed.)  It is at times like that that I wonder if I am supposed to be hanging on.  I guess I always thought letting my arms swing free copied more the motion of running and worked the smaller balancing muscles.  Maybe a mistake?  Don't know.

In any event, what has become clear is that I do need to introduce some type of cross-training activity into my routine.  I think it would make me a more well-rounded "athlete," and it would then be available for those times when I can't run.  Andy rows on his non-running days, but I can't seem to get into it.  And, while I like biking, I don't get out and do it too much in the colder weather, and I don't like being on the bikes inside.

So, as I start to develop a grudging respect for the elliptical trainer, I can't help but think that maybe introducing it into my fitness equation wouldn't be a bad idea - maybe once a week or so?  It really seems to work my quads - even more so than running - and it is a great, non-pounding workout.  Food for thought.

What is your favorite cross-training exercise?

Oh, by the way, Happy New Year!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Not running is making me a B.....

...etter person, no doubt.  (What did you think I was going to say?)  If not getting what you want builds character, then watch out.  Once I get past all the whining, I am going to be a noble person indeed.

So, I was hoping to head out on the trails today for a short run to see how life was treating my poor, sore leg.  Unfortunately, trying to crawl across the floor last night to get a toy for my kid, I realized that I am still really favoring my left leg.  So, it would appear life has other plans for me and no trails are in my future today.

I have not run since last Saturday - so six days.  Instead I have done the elliptical twice and rested on the off days.  I have been using heat on my shin twice a day instead of icing.  The results?  Well, instead of things feeling 80-percent crappy after exercise, I would say they are feeling more in the 35 to 45 percent range - so not miraculously better, but certainly not worse.  In fact, I am hopefully optimistic that I am headed in the right direction.  I only question now if I am doing enough.  Thoughts still go through my head that I should just completely take time off from everything for a week or so, but so far I cannot bring myself to take that drastic step.

Boo Hoo ... Why Me?

Sometimes I have a hard time wrapping my brain around the image I must make with my little injuries and dramas.  I mean, the title of this blog is Tales from an Average Runner, not Tales from an Elite-Hoping-to-Get-to-Boston Runner.  I keep thinking to myself, I should not be having these issues.  I am not an elite runner packing on a zillion miles a week, nor am I a beginner or weekend warrior.  To my mind, I should be in that sweet spot of running: just an average runner who runs enough to keep in shape but not so much that they are hurting themselves.  I don't get it.  I guess it just goes to show that the average runner can deal with injury, too.  Who knows, maybe it is just bad genes or mechanics.  Maybe I'll figure it out one day.

In the meantime, I am left with a lot of time to think about this, and it's hard to put into words the feelings and thoughts that I am experiencing right now.  "Frustrated, anxious, impatient, annoyed" are just a few of them.  And, you may notice not one of them is particularly positive.  I have never been a very patient person, and I have an extremely hard time taking the long view of things - especially when it comes to running.  It is KILLING me not to just head outside and do what I want to do right now, which today means a trail run (one of the first I would have done in a long time).  I have to keep reminding myself that this isn't that bad.... some folks are sidelined for months with injuries (and how I don't want to be one of them).

The only positive thing - or maybe this is adding fuel to my frustration - is that I know I could go out and run if I wanted to.  After all, my shin doesn't actually hurt while I run.  It's after running that it gets ugly.  It hurts when I press on it (I know, I know, so don't press on it), and when I kneel on the floor with my kids.  That last one bothers me the most.  When something like this gets in the way of everyday life activities, I start to get pissed off.  That's what sent me to physical therapy (finally) with my hip earlier this year.  I was having pain so bad it got in the way of everyday life.  (It was fine while I ran.)


Doing yet another search for information on the all-knowing (sic) web last night, I came across a post that most closely sounded like what I have been experiencing: tender to the touch at the top outside of the tibia, hurts when kneeling.  The "diagnosis?" Patellar tendonitis.  Gee, that is what I was diagnosed with about four months ago, given exercises for, and never followed through on.  In a way, I feel I could bang my head against the wall.  Seriously?  If that diagnosis is right, then I blew things in a big way.  So, by not following through on the exercises I was given months ago, I may have made things worse.  It's funny how that works.  At the same time, in a weird, round-about way it is comforting to know that this is not a new injury but rather the same old, same old.

Alright, I know, I know.  A self-diagnosis from the web is probably one of the worst things a person can do.  And, I guess it probably seems like I am spending a lot of time worrying about this, when in fact I could just go to a doctor or physical therapist and get a true diagnosis.  But, the problem I have with that, is that if they are just going to tell me I need to RICE it anyway, then I feel stupid if I haven't given that a try on my own yet.  So, that's where I am at.  I am giving it a try on my own ... trying VERY, VERY hard not to sabotage things by saying, "just one little run won't hurt..."

Meanwhile, my husband is out on the trails this morning for an easy, two-hour run, testing out some new shoes.  Grrrrr.  I think I need to head to the elliptical and work out some frustration.

Happy ellipticizing!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Squishable, moldable comfort

I started trying something new yesterday on the advice of a PT friend of mine - heat.  Twice a day now I am putting heat on my poor afflicted shin in the hopes of maximizing the advantage of the healing powers of increased blood circulation.  So far I can't tell if it is working - it's too soon for that - but I have to say that applying heat to my legs in winter is proving to be just cozy comfy anyway.  I could get used to this.  Of course, the downside is that it makes me feel like an old lady.  All I can think of while I am doing it is the heating pads I remember seeing at my grandparents' house as a kid.

I don't even own a heating pad, so it was suggested I use a sock filled with rice microwaved until warm.  However, before I could even give much thought as to which type (white, brown, Basmati, etc.), Andy reminded me that my souvenir Lakefront Marathon cold pack actually goes both ways - cold and heat pack.  So, I set that puppy out on the counter to thaw and then proceeded to microwave it to get warm.  Soon it was bringing its squishable, moldable comfort to my shin.  Again, probably the best "happy" you could get in a marathon goody bag.  It's a nice reminder of the race I ran, even as I can't help thinking that particular race is probably also the reason for the shin injury in the first place.  Ah well.

So, I heat my leg and think about all the races I have thought of doing in 2012, including the two marathons I have already bought and paid for.  I also think about the great running-related gifts I got for Christmas - a running skirt and top, arm warmers, and gift certificate for new shoes (yes, I cleaned up!) - and when/if I will be able to use them.  Soon, I hope.  In the meantime, I am enjoying another running gift, reading Amby Burfoot's collection of essays The Runner's Guide to the Meaning of Life.  It's a nice reminder at this time that running, like life, is a series of ups and downs and to keep my mind on the fact that I hope to be in this for the long haul.  Patience here is key.

Speaking of running-related gifts, here is a picture of one I made my husband - a medal holder.

Yes, you read that right.  I made it.  I am quite proud of that.  My actual intention was to buy one, but when the online store I was perusing sold out of its stock, rather than scrap the idea I decided to go the scrap wood route.  I went to Home Depot, got a free piece of scrap wood and then proceeded to buy over $30 in supplies to make something that would have cost me $29 plus shipping to buy.   Anyway, I think Andy actually liked the gift, especially the fact that the kids and I made it ourselves.  (My little helper elves painted the base coats.)  And, I have a new respect for products that look simple to make.  They aren't.  This project was more involved and took more time than I could have imagined.  In any case, regardless of how amateurish it might look, I am hoping that getting the medals on there will beat the pile on the shelf that we previously had.  Maybe not.  We'll see.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The art of getting injured ... and family frivolity

I am really proud of myself.  I think I have really brought injuring oneself while running to a higher level - an art form even.  Seriously, I always bemoan the fact that my running is not that good, but this part I think I am close to perfecting.  I am really good at hurting myself.  In fact, I have gotten so good that I feel there must be a breakthrough coming here soon.  I mean, isn't that what you always read - about that person who kept getting injured but then they converted to ChiRunning, Galloway, minimal shoes, barefoot running and that saved them, changed everything?  Well, if that's the case, I have got to be really close to reaching that magic point.  I am waiting for the breakthrough, waiting, waiting....

Time off or Time OFF?

So, while I wait, I have decided to take a week off from running and just try doing the elliptical instead.  I can't seem to shake off that nagging shin injury, although I have to say my maintenance efforts on the off-days (the icing, massage, etc.) have been a bit half-hearted.  After running last Wednesday, I took Thursday and Friday off and then ran six miles with the running club on Saturday morning.  The shin's been sore ever since.  I've iced regularly the past three days, but I just can't seem to make it completely go away.  Now I am (finally) starting to second guess whether running on it is wise or not.  I never know if continuing to run with an injury is just slowing recovery down or completely preventing it.  Today I got frustrated enough to throw in the towel and just do the elliptical.  I will try this for a week, and if it doesn't help things, I guess I'll go to just doing nothing for a week or so and see what that does - besides drive me crazy.  (I can't remember the last time I just completely took a week off of running, and maybe that is my problem.)

My husband never seems to understand why I never just take time off when I seem to have a running boo-boo anyway.  Aside from the insanity thing, I guess the only reason that I can think of is that I just don't really believe that time off will help. That's all.  There have been two times in my life when I have taken time off from running, once for a month due to illness and once for two months because I was tired of a knee injury I had.  Both times, the nagging aches and pains I had at the time went away, and both times they came back again in a different form.  I have this weird feeling that I just have to hold onto stress somewhere in my body, and until I can figure out how to get rid of that, I am just stuck with the issue du jour until such time as it works its way to another part of my body.

Hmm, now that I think of it, maybe it is working it's way out of my body.  Originally this year, I had a hip issue, then it became a patellar tendon issue, now it is in the shin and my right foot.  Could it be that it is literally working its way out of my body?  Ok, I think that glass of petit syrah is going to my brain.

In any event, the elliptical was fine.  Did 40 minutes and really felt it in my quads - way more than running would impact me, so we'll see how it goes.  Good stretch session afterwards, too.

Christmas Recovery Mode

So, our family is recovering well from Christmas this year.  There are not enough words to express how grateful I am for my family.  We had a great holiday.  It was a lot of fun with the kids.  Both were so hyper aware of it all, that it made it that much more fun.  This year Christmas hit the Little Guy like a Mack truck.  He was so involved in the new toys and games he got yesterday that by evening I felt I had hardly seen him at all.  E. was much more circumspect and seemed to have a hard time taking it all in.  Today both were much recovered from their crazy day of overload, but L.G. was still wiped out.  Early to bed for both of them, which was kind of nice.  Of course, for E. early to bed has taken on a new meaning.  After learning that she was reading to herself before sleep by the light of her clock, mom and dad got her a small lamp for her room to read by.  Now the battle of "turn off your light" begins.

A Hike Well Played

I took the kids out to the local state park for a walk today, and that turned out to be great!  We walked for about a half hour or so - if not more - before heading back to the car for an impromptu picnic of hard rolls, cheese, fruit and ginger cookies.  The kids did great on the walk, and the bonus came later in the day when E. wrote in her scrap book, "I love hiking."  This is the kid who we had to drag kicking and screaming (okay, not "literally" kicking and screaming; more like dragging heels and whining) on two hikes in Colorado.  Either she is maturing a bit, or she just prefers winter to summer hikes.  In either case, I will take it.  Score one for the fitness-fanatic mom.  Yay!

E. has also said she wants to do a two-mile run now that she has successfully conquered the one-miler a month ago.  I hope she means it because Andy and I jumped on that one.  There just so happens to be a two-miler in three weeks at an area zoo.  If she didn't mean it, I guess it's never too early to learn the value of the phrase "careful what you wish for."

A New Year's Wish

On a final note, I have to say, as the new year approaches, I will not be setting a New Year's Resolution.  I know a lot of folks do, but I never have.  I don't feel important goals benefit from having a start date.... To me start dates imply end dates, and that's not what I want.  That being said, I do have a fervent wish for the New Year (aside from world peace, of course, which is always hoped for) and that is to get my body into injury-free shape so that I can start piling on some miles.  Aside from the fact that I just miss running with abandon (i.e., not worrying about hurting myself), I got a boatload of chocolate in my Christmas stocking (thanks, Andy!), and if I can't run those calories off, it ain't going to be pretty.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Fa la la la la, la la la la

So, it's been a while since I have been out here to write something, and, no, I have not thrown in the towel on the whole blogging experience. Rather, with the holidays it has been hard to find time to write.  As my husband is fond of saying, every time you add a new hobby/thing to do, something has to give way.  Happily, for me this holiday season, what has given way has been the writing.  I say "happily" because at least it hasn't been the running - which has always been the case in the past.

Everywhere I look lately magazines and online sources are telling me not to give up my exercise or diet routine during the holiday season - that that will guarantee I skate through these few weeks stress-free and with my health relatively intact.  Hmm, I don't know if that is true or not, but for the first year ever I am actually not abandoning my running routine due to holiday obligations.  I don't know if this is a good thing or a bad thing, as my legs still do not feel great.  My left shin still is unhappy after almost every run, so I am left with icing it and doing cross-friction massage on my off days.  My right foot, too, has decided to whine, so I have started icing that as well.  I recently went to see my physical therapist for a consult, and so far no red flags have appeared, so I will continue running through it for the time being.  I guess the good news is that running doesn't bother either leg or foot.  Like most things with me, it's mostly afterwards that they complain.  As my PT noted, I do have a tendency towards "itises" (i.e., tendonitis), so I guess maybe this is just the cross I have to bear if I want to continue running.

In any case, after my last great whine-post, I had an epiphany of sorts.  I realized that in all the long-distance training leading up to the marathon, I had followed a Galloway run/walk method.  I further realized that directly after the marathon, I threw caution to the wind and decided to scrap the "walk" portion of the run/walk.  So, all in all, I am not surprised that I might have hurt myself, seeing as not only was I no longer taking walk breaks, but I had also increased the speed of most of my runs - and my weekly distance.  Duh!  I guess that is the problem with following your gut - well, at least my gut.  My gut is not very smart and will lead me into trouble every time.

So, it's been back to the run/walk for me, and that has been enjoyable.  I have really liked the group runs, but with the run/walk I have been able to get my runs in, spend some time thinking, just cruising around looking at the holiday lights.  That's not to say I haven't done ANY group runs, because I have managed some.  I ran the NilleB - backwards Bellin on December 10.  The Bellin 10K is one of the country's largest and I have run it a couple of times.  The NilleB, which of course follows the Bellin course backwards is simply a fun run put on by a local running store and running club.  I had a lot of fun running it, despite the fact that it was one of the coldest days of the year so far.  (It took about two miles for my fingers to warm up and three for my toes - ouch.)  I did the run/walk for that and forced myself to go slow. For me, that meant four-minute-run and one-minute-walk intervals.  I came upon a trio of runners doing about a 10:30 pace in the first mile, so I decided I would run with them on the running portions.  So, basically, I would walk, run to catch up with them, and then tuck in behind them to maintain a slower pace while running, walk, catch up, run.... over and over again.  I think that could have been considered pretty obnoxious, but I started chatting and joking with them early on and we seemed to get along famously.  What a kick that was!  I mean, when did 10:30 pace become "easy" for me?

Other group runs included the wine run last week - a three-mile run followed by a glass of wine at a wine bar - and yesterday's Wednesday morning group run.  Yesterday's run took me a bit out of my current comfort zone actually, but it was good.  I really just intended to do my run/walk for an hour and catch up with the group later for coffee.  However, when I got to the coffee shop they happened to still be standing around, so I decided why not and ran with them.  We took it a bit slower, but we did do 6.3 miles - a bit more than I would have thought to go originally.  It was a lot of fun, though, and I am glad I had the chance to run with my friends before Christmas.

So, the holidays have been hectic around here - in a good way. I have always loved this holiday and I make no apologies for it.  Having the young 'uns now just makes it that much better.  They are so excited it is hard not to catch their excitement.  Two days until Christmas and it is hard to believe I still have things to do.....cookies to bake, a card to buy, a couple little gifts yet to buy.  Despite best efforts, I can never seem to get everything done ahead of time.  Of course, I figure even if I did get everything done ahead of time, that would just be an excuse to find other unnecessary things to do.  So, I'll take things as they are, I guess.

To wrap up, I will wish the few of you who actually read my blog Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year!  Hope you all are keeping to your health-promoting routines, and if you aren't - no worries!  That's what the new year is for.  Everyone needs downtime sometime.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Boo hoo for me. Or, why I want to either quit or run myself into the ground.

Well, there have been several times this week when I have seriously considered throwing in the towel on running.  After an amazing year of running experiences, I feel ready to say I am done with this fine sport.  It's been fun.  Better luck next time.  You see, I think I am too stupid to continue running.  No, really.  I think I lack the brains it takes to figure out how to make running a lifelong, working commitment for myself.  Why so harsh?  Well, it appears I am injured - again.  And, although I know this happens to everyone every once in a while, this would be about the fourth time it has happened to me this year alone.  I am finally coming across even to myself as someone who is in serious need of intervention, like a drug addict in rehab once again.  I seem incapable of helping myself.

It all started about five weeks ago when I went for an eight-mile run without compression socks on. (I only mention the compression socks because since training for the marathon, which I ran on October 2, I had gotten used to using them for long runs.)  While the run itself felt great, I noticed right after that something wasn't right with my left shin.  A point along the shin bone - about where my patellar tendon would connect - was really sore to the touch.  I didn't think too much about it; I iced and stretched and it went away.  A half marathon the following week (with compression socks) didn't exacerbate the problem. In fact, if it bothered me at all in the next week, it did so without much fanfare; I barely noticed it.  Six days after the half marathon, though, I ran a seven-miler faster than I am used to without walk breaks, and five days after that another 6.5-miler also faster than normal.  It was after that last run that I really started noticing the shin.  In fact, it's been bothering me for the two and a half weeks since.  Oh, it's not every day, and it is not while I run.  No, that would be too easy.  My problem is that the running is more or less fine.  If anything, my calves are a little tight.  However, later on the day of the run and the next day or so, it really bugs me - to the point that I cannot kneel on the floor with my kids.  It feels inflamed and irritated.  So, I stretch and I ice and I use the foam roller.  By the time the next scheduled run rolls around, though, it generally feels better, so I am lulled into thinking running again wouldn't be so bad.  And then the whole cycle starts over.

Now, what's so irritating about this situation is that whenever I talk to anyone who has had true running injuries, they always say that whatever hurt them hurt really badly WHILE THEY WERE RUNNING.  That doesn't happen to me.  It's always afterward.  How am I supposed to interpret that?  When I had my hip injury earlier this year (the one that sent me to PT for almost two months), it wasn't because it was bothering me while running, it was because it was tightening up to such an extent when I wasn't running that it became excruciating.  My physical therapist at the time actually told me that if I weren't athletic (such as it is), I probably wouldn't have this problem.  Sedentary people don't have to deal with such things.  (Of course there would be other problems to deal with, to be sure.)

So, where does that leave me - besides frustrated?  I am not sure.  Unfortunately, I am not a very organized individual.  If the devil is in the details, then I must be fairly pious-minded, because things for me tend to be black and white, all or nothing, there are no gradients.  For me, the clear solution is to either scrap running altogether in complete and utter disgust or to keep running despite the pain and discomfort until I eventually injure myself to the point of needing professional help.  In the past, I have been known to do one or the other of those.  This time around is different.  I don't really want to play to the extremes.  So, I guess all that means is that I need to collect myself somewhere in the middle and figure out - methodically - how to solve this problem.

That's where the "too stupid to" part comes in.  I don't think I have the wits or the patience to work this out - seriously.  So, let the waffling ensue, ... and... to be continued, I guess,.... once I figure it out.

Monday, November 28, 2011

"Is it Christmas Yet?"

"Is it Christmas yet?"  That is what the Little Guy keeps asking lately.  Every time now we do anything even remotely related to that festive holiday, I get that question.  Okay, he's only four years old.  I realize that Christmas is still a fuzzy concept - and time an even fuzzier one - but it is already getting old.  For the first time ever I find myself NOT wanting to do anything even slightly Christmas-related after Thanksgiving.  That means no tree for four weeks while we anticipate the holiday, no decorations inside quite yet, and I am even dreading bringing out the Christmas calendar on December 1.  I just don't think I can deal with a whole month of "Is it Christmas yet?"

In the meantime, E. is walking around singing Christmas music non-stop.  She loves to sing, and she has two groups she is practicing for: her school Christmas concert in a couple of weeks and church, where she's actually been singled out (along with three other children) to sing a verse with microphones next week. It's all very exciting.  For someone so young, she really can belt out the tunes when she wants to, and it comes across even to me as curmudgeonly when I have to ask her not to sing so loudly.  In my defense, however, she sings her best and brightest (i.e., loudest) as she is supposed to be going to sleep at night.  Sigh.

Yes, I have the tacky plastic candy canes.  If I
could decorate our house a la Clark Griswold, I would.
Even though I am trying not to play up the Christmas season yet, we did get our Christmas lights up outside.  I have to admit that when we first moved to Wisconsin I didn't quite understand why it was an accepted practice here to put up outdoor Christmas decorations in mid-November.  At first, I thought people were just really into the holidays.  It took me a couple of years to realize that they were just being smart.  Putting up Christmas lights embarrassingly early when it is still in the 40s is so much more enjoyable than putting them up in a more reasonable timeframe when it is in the 20s.  I get it now.  So, now I too am out there during the last bit of mild weather decorating the house six weeks before Christmas.  It will be the same story after the holidays, too.  Christmas decorations will remain up well into the new year until a decent "warm" spell comes along.  At least I no longer put staked-in decorations into the ground.  One year, I literally was unable to take down a plastic tree decoration until April because it was so completely frozen into the ground.  Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Santa Scamper One-Miler - 2011 
Start of a Christmas Tradition?

Santa Scamper 2011 - Ready to go!
Last week, Andy and I ran our town's one-mile Santa Scamper with the kids for the first time ever.  That was quite an experience!  A good one!  We started the evening with dinner at one of the kids' favorite play-cafes.  That gave us a chance to find some decent parking, have food, and wait someplace warm for the run to start.  Andy and I had decided early that he would run with E. and I would run with the Little Guy.  E. was really excited to run.  She was pretty motivated by the idea of the dilly bar afterward.  The Little Guy said he was excited, too, but then on the walk to the start, he really dragged his heels and got grumpy on me.  He claimed he kept having to yawn and whenever he yawned he had to stop - because he couldn't walk and yawn at the same time.  Trying to move him along only made him more mad.  As it was, though, we did make it to the start with about two minutes to spare.  Then the gun went off.  Andy and E. were off and running.  The story I got later is that it went great for them.  E. ran the first half mile straight through and then had to take a short walk break.  All told, she only took two short walk breaks, and they finished the mile in about 11 minutes.  Very exciting since this was her first mile race.  E. told me later she found it really cool to be passing adults along the course, and now she claims she's ready to try a two-mile run.

The Little Guy did great, too.  He did continue his yawning trend, though.  Every time I looked over at him it seemed his mouth was hanging open in a great gaping yawn.  I don't know if it was that he was really that tired, or if - like a dog - he has a tendency to yawn when he is nervous.  I'll have to keep an eye on that.  In any case, he trotted along for most of the mile, taking walk breaks here and there as he needed.  We finished up with a great burst of speed at the finish and came in at around 15 minutes.  Not bad for a newly minted four-year-old!  I am so proud of both of my kids for doing the run with us.  I know it was so special for Andy and me to share something with them that we have loved doing for many years now.   I hope we continue this tradition for years to come!  I know E. is already looking forward to next year.  The jury's still out on the Little Guy.

Parade Time

After the Santa Scamper, we crowbarred ourselves into a spot along the Christmas Parade route.  The kids finished their dilly bars, put on their snow pants to keep warm, and settled in to enjoy that tradition as well.  Grandma was actually in the parade for the first time ever as part of a group she volunteers with, and they were the first float that went by.  The kids got a kick out of seeing her there, and then it seems we spent the next half hour looking for "E.'s" high school band.  I am not quite sure why, but she was very keen on keeping an eye out for her future school.  As it turns out, they were one of the last bands, so we had a bit of a wait.  In the meantime, though, we saw a lot of neat floats, including the huge hot air balloon basket truck that shoots flames into the air.  A huge hit at the parade, this beast warms up all who are around and knocks out the automatic street lights for a few minutes because it is so bright.

Running - Sort Of

Unfortunately, I haven't done too much in regards to running since last week's Santa Scamper.  Andy and I did the Wednesday morning run once again last week the day after the one-miler, but unlike the week before, it was a crappy run - honestly speaking.  I think the "awesome" run from the week before really set off my shin splints - or whatever they are, because I have been dealing with that issue ever since.  With last Wednesday's run, it's hard for me to know if I was just hurting that badly or I was just not digging having my 41st birthday - probably a little of both.  (It's a weird feeling to admit now that I am in my 40s.)  I didn't run again until Sunday when I ran with the Sunday morning group.  That went pretty well, although I was definitely slower than normal.  I wore my compression socks and tried to keep my form good.  There was a little bit of fall-out with my left shin, but it wasn't as bad as it had been.

Today I managed to get out for a four-mile run, and it went pretty well.  I got smart this time and ran the first mile and a half into the wind, then was able to enjoy the push back towards home when I looped back.  I ran the whole way and probably did about a ten-minute pace.  I was trying not to do anything stupid.  After getting home, I stretched really well and then did an ice massage on my shin for five minutes.  I'll be curious to see what the fall-out is with my shin later.  I am getting to the point where if I don't start to see improvement, I'll have to switch to the elliptical for a week or so.  I need to get this under control.  I am supposed to be feeling good between training "seasons."  Right now, it's a bit of a downer, because I was hoping to build off of the marathon training and keep up some good off-season mileage during November and December.  Instead, I am nursing an injury and looking at starting marathon training in January with very little base.  Ah well.  One day at a time.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Queen of the World and the Green Slime Run

Sorry about being MIA this past week, but the past seven days have been crazy.  My little guy turned four years old, and it seems that most of the week has been consumed with that noble event.  Leading up to his birthday, it was all about getting ready for it.  Following his birthday, it's been about the post-birthday letdown, putting together and playing with the new toys, and cleaning up the mess.  As an adult, I still embrace each birthday with something akin to joy.  As my dad always says when I complain about getting older, it's better than the alternative.  But, there is nothing like the pure happiness that comes from a young kid on their birthday.  It's almost as if they live the entire year just for this day.  So, we try to make the most of it.

For the past couple of years I have wanted one of my children to have a party outside of the house. It's not so much about impressing other people with an extravagant birthday celebration as it is about not wanting to do all the work of having a party at home (clean up beforehand for the guests, cook and entertain, clean up afterwards.)  Each time, though, I have been thwarted, because my kids have always wanted to celebrate at home.  Finally, this year, though, the little guy decided a birthday at a local bouncy place would be okay.  And it was!  We had eight kids as guests and they had a blast bouncing around and playing arcade games.  The place took care of providing pizza and drinks and cleaning up the mess afterward.  The little guy had a great time, and that is the important thing.  Would I do it again?  Sure!  Would I do it every time?  No.  Who could afford to?  

Finding time for a run leads to the Queen of the World

Anyway, even with the entire week centering around the little guy's birthday, I did manage to get some runs in.  On Wednesday, my hubby took the day off and that was nice.  It gave him a chance to follow along on our typical routine, which on Wednesdays of late includes my group run.  So, after dropping the little guy off with his popsicle birthday treat for his preschool class, Andy and I headed over to the coffee shop where the run starts.  Meeting the group was a lot of fun; they are all people that Andy knows, of course, but he has never run with this particular group.  Typically, Andy is a lot faster than what the Wednesday group runs, but everyone in the group is fast, so I thought he would just split off with someone and take off.  No go.  Andy ran the whole time at the back of the pack, which was surprising, as he normally is at the front of any run.  When asked why he was hanging back there so much, he said he didn't want to be accused of pushing the pace.  That was nice .... I suppose.  In any case, it's one of the few times you will ever (EVER) find me running ahead of my husband.  

There were six of us for the Wednesday group, and for some reason, instead of doing the typical four miles that I am used to, we ended up going a lot further. There was no real plan in heading out the door.  We just took off, and as we came to intersections and corners, group consensus took us one way or another.  When we reached 3.7 miles at one juncture, we pushed on rather than turn back.  I didn't voice my opinion too much.  I was feeling pretty good and was game with anything.  The run turned out to be a lot of fun.  How can you not enjoy a run that takes you past a house that always puts on a holiday lights-to-music type of show (I am really excited to have found that and will take the kids there at some point), over hills, on trails, past what is called the pteranodon nest tree, and the local high school.  It was all quite varied.  

For me, the pace was comfortably fast for most of the run.  There were a few times where I was breathing hard and everyone slowed down for me.  (At one point, we were apparently running an 8:45 pace, which had me floored.)  And, when we reached the trail, which had a couple of significant hills, I did opt to walk up the last half of those.  Towards the end of the run, I could really feel all of my common trigger points complaining, including my knees and ankles.  Just another reminder that I have to get back to strength and flexibility exercises.

By the end of the run, we had gone 6.6 miles in one hour exactly.  That works out to a 9:05 average pace.  That's nuts, but it made me feel like the Queen of the World.  It felt really good to see that I could manage that - that my runs are (finally!) improving to a point where I am more or less consistent in the 9-minute range.  It's been a long time coming, but hurray!  I was on top of the world.  Unfortunately, that feeling lasted only so long as to my next run.

The Green Slime Run

Friday's run has been dubbed the Green Slime Run, because as I was running all I could think was it felt like I was trying to run through that green slime toy I used to have as a kid.  I have to say I wasn't 100-percent going into it.  The Wednesday run was longer AND faster than I was used to, so it left me feeling pretty sore.  In fact, I wore my calf compression sleeves all day Thursday, because the shin splints - or whatever they are - on my left leg were so bad.  I had to ice a lot Wednesday and Thursday, too.  By Friday, though, my legs felt game enough to give an easy run a go.  As I headed out, I already knew I was in trouble.  I had chosen to do a point-to-point run, as I was going to meet my mom for a shopping excursion.  Unfortunately, that point-to-point had me running into a serious headwind for all but a half mile or so of my run.  And, as it turned out, I wasn't ready to deal with that on top of just not feeling into it.  I ended up walking probably close to half of the "run."  Not one of my more stellar performances.  After Wednesday's awesome run, it was a hard pill to swallow that, no, I am not some super running stud - just me, doing the best I can on any given day.

Start of a Holiday Tradition?

Ah well.  Today I hope to get back into the strength exercises that I seem to be missing so much lately, and tomorrow I will aim for a decent run with the Sunday group.  On Tuesday, the kids will be running our town's one-mile Santa Scamper for the first time ever, and I am really excited to be able to share that with them.  Andy and I have done the Santa Scamper for years.  Now, I realize they are only doing it for the Dilly Bar they hand out afterward.  But, good traditions have to start somewhere, and if a pre-holiday one-mile run tradition starts out based on a Dilly Bar, so be it.  And, that means, too, that this year I don't have to give up my Dilly Bar to one of my children.  I can eat it myself.  Yeah!

Happy Running!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

On a Scale of 1 to 10, 11-11-11 Run is an 11

An organized 11K run at 11 o'clock at night?  I didn't think it could be done, but I was proven wrong.

Two nights ago, our running club hosted a "once in a lifetime" event called the 11-11-11 Run - a follow up to last year's wildly popular 10-10-10 Run.  The 10-10-10 Run was an unofficial 10-miler/10K event, which started at 10 a.m. or 10:10 a.m., respectively, and cost $10.  For a simple sawbuck, people got a neon yellow technical shirt, a good run on what turned out to be a beautiful day, and bragging rights.

That run was so successful that when talk of 11-11-11 came around, of course we wanted to try to recreate the magic.  I am the first to admit that I was probably the biggest naysayer of this event.  Although on a Friday night, the run would still have to start at 11 p.m., and I just didn't think you'd get enough people interested in interrupting their weekend plans - or their sleep - to do this.  In fact, I was surprised when Hubby said he wanted to do it.  This is the man who goes to sleep every night at 8:45 p.m., so he can get up to exercise.  Reluctantly, I agreed to go along, and I am glad I did.  The event was a lot of fun!


With what turned out to be close to 150 people, this event was as big, if not bigger, than the 10-10-10 Run had been.  For me, the night started out early as I got there by 9:30 p.m. to offer any help with registration.  Mainly, I needed to get out of the house, lest I fall asleep while waiting to go.  Registration went about as smoothly as you can expect when you are not expecting a huge crowd, but we got through it.

The run itself was awesome.  Starting out along the main street of our little town, our crowd got a lot of curious looks from the smokers hanging out on the sidewalks of the neighborhood's local taverns.  They quickly recognized the fun of the event, though, and started cheering, offering encouragement and high-fives as we streamed past.  Once past the main drag, the streets quickly became quieter and darker.  I started out running by myself as I tried to find a pace to settle into.  Coming up behind a group of friends I decided to tuck in behind them and run their pace - a tad slower than I had been going.  Getting drawn into the conversation, though, it wasn't long before I and another lady pulled away from the group and set our own pace.  I didn't have my watch, but L.'s watch reported an average 9:30 pace, which is not too shabby for me.  The best part - I ran the whole time! I can't remember when the last time was I ran that distance with no walk breaks.  Now, I am not necessarily looking to be a run-only type of gal.  I do like my walk breaks, after all.  But, it feels good to know they can be optional on group runs like this.  If there is one disadvantage to the run/walk, it's that it makes group runs difficult for obvious reasons.

The route mapped out for us was a nice one. We wended our way through residential neighborhoods and past parks.  Somewhere off to our left was Lake Winnebago, but we couldn't see it.  The full moon that was out helped light our way a bit, but I was grateful for the headlamp I had borrowed from a friend earlier in the week for this purpose.  Without it, I think I might have taken a few missteps as there were a couple of stretches of roadway that were not well lit and where the trees blocked the moon a bit. I had a map in my hand, but that proved unnecessary as there were so many of us; the steady stream of LED-lit runners ahead stretched out into the night leading the way towards the finish.  I guess the only worry would have been if someone up ahead had made a wrong turn, but luckily that didn't happen.

Finishing up the run, we headed into the tavern where the run was being staged and enjoyed some beer and cake, of all things.  (There was apparently a sale on cake, so we had a lot of it.)  A good part of the crowd stuck around talking and hanging out, and it was nice to see so many new faces.  11-11-11 was advertised as a members-only event, and that helped garner a couple dozen new members for the club.  And, I think they are already finding out one of the reasons I love our local running club so much: it's not just about the running; it's about the friendships, too.  

Aftermath of the Late Night

The only downside to the run is that it made for a very late night.  I didn't get home until nearly 3 a.m. that night, and that made for a zombie-like Saturday.  This morning, I managed to pull myself out of bed at 5 a.m. to go run five miles with the Sunday running group.  That was nice and the motivation I needed to do something.  I think I must still be tired, though, because they didn't take nearly enough walk breaks for me today.  I was pooped.

Birthday Ahoy!

So, all in all, a good weekend.  Now to prepare for another type of endurance event, the days leading up to the Little Guy's birthday.  Party planning is not my strong suit, so I'll have to buckle down and take care of all that.  So far, we have eight kids coming to a local bouncy place, where pizza and cake will be served.  Most gifts are bought, and I am happy I finished the blanket I made for his bed.  (It's just a simple no-sew blanket.  The only crafty skill I have.)  I think he'll like it.  This year, he wanted everything Cars, so hopefully this will fit the bill a bit.


Happy Running!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Fair Weather Runner No More

Well, I experienced a bit of a first today.  I intentionally headed out into some really foul weather for a run.  Now, I don't mind the heat (too much) and I do run in the cold of winter for the most part.  However, one thing I have always avoided was running in a cold rain.  Under the best of circumstances I am not much of a water person.  That's why, though I have flirted with the idea of doing a triathlon, I have never actually entered one.  Aside from the fact that I just can't swim too well, I really don't enjoy getting wet.  And, I can't think of anything worse than having to get wet in a bathing suit, unless - of course - it's having to get wet with clothes on.  So, confession time, I have never really been an "all weather" runner.  I come close, but cold, rainy conditions drive me to the treadmill or indoor track - or couch - every time.

So, what happened today?  No idea, except that I was feeling pretty guilty about the three days of relative inactivity I have had.  I knew that our running club's Wednesday morning group - small though it is - is pretty hardcore, and I could count on them to be out there running in just about anything.  So, after a quick electronic exchange with the group's fearless leader confirmed that running would be braved, I headed to my closet to see what I had for "cold, rainy."

The selection of gear was not really great.  As it turns out - surprise, surprise - I don't really have anything that qualifies as "cold, rainy gear."  In fact, my selection of cold weather gear was a bit slim, as I had yet to make the transition to winter clothes.  Digging around in a storage box of said items turned up a pair of insulated tights.  That paired with my Mizuno Breathe Thermo shirt, Patagonia breathable/wicking jacket, a Brooks beanie, Pearl Izumi glove/mitts, and just my regular running shoes with SmartWool socks would have to do.

So, how did it go?  Well, as you might imagine, it was miserable.  If it weren't for the company and just the fact that running in mid-30 degree weather with precipitation was patently ridiculous, I would have really hated it.  As it turns out, though, it was kind of fun.  Starting out, the debate cropped up right away which way to go.  Examining the wind direction, we opted to head out for a loop that would take us about four miles, backs to the wind.  To be honest, it wasn't too bad starting out.  Granted, we were being pelted by sleet for the first two miles or so, and that kind of stung, but jokes of exfoliation aside, it was infinitely better than the freezing rain we experienced in the last two miles.  It didn't take too long once the sleet turned to rain to start feeling pretty soaked.

By the time we got into the last mile, I think all three of us were looking forward to hitting the second tunnel we'd have to go through.  We had walked through the first tunnel, and the consensus seemed to be a walk through the second tunnel would be a welcome respite from the rain.  Well, that worked to a point.  What didn't work was that the north wind that was blowing seemed to be perfectly funneled through the tunnel.  I am sure the three of us made a funny picture as we all without discussion turned to walk backwards into the wind through the tunnel.  Coming up the last hill, the little strip mall where the coffee shop is located was a welcome sight. And, there was absolutely no guilt about the dark chocolate mocha I ordered.  Thankfully, I had thought to bring a change of clothes, so enjoying the coffee was no problem either.

Would I do such a run again?  Probably.  Never say never, I guess.  I would have to find some other alternatives for clothes, though.  Finishing the run, I was soaked to the skin.  The tights, shirt, and jacket were just so-so.  I know the Mizuno Breathe Thermo is supposed to warm up as it gets wet, but I don't think it is intended for rainy - more just sweating in the cold.  My arms and core were pretty chilled by the time I finished.

As a further note, when a jacket's claim to fame is that it is breathable and wicking, that does not mean it is a decent rain coat.  I think the key words I needed were "water repellent." What I was happy with were my SmartWool socks, which kept my feet warm despite the squishy feeling in my shoes, and my Pearl Izumi mitts and Brooks beanie, which kept my hands and head toasty, respectfully.

So, there you have it.  I am a fair weather runner no more.  I won't exactly rush out into these conditions again, and I might look into some appropriate gear for cold rain, but I wouldn't hesitate to head out again if I felt I had to - especially if there is a really good coffee to be had afterward.  Happy Running!

A shiny house = calories burned, baby!

I wonder if housecleaning can legitimately be called exercise.  Not too long ago, I read Louisa May Alcott's book Little Women, and I remember a passage in there where the girls' mother advises her oldest daughter (who has recently started her own household and had children) to have someone watch the kids so she can clean house and get some exercise.  Now, she didn't mean to clean the house and then go for a walk or hit the gym or even run.  No, she meant that cleaning the house would give her some exercise.

Generally speaking, I am not a big calorie counter, but the reason I wonder about the housework/exercise connection is that it seems it may be the only exercise I get this week.  You see, after Saturday's half marathon, I seem to have taken a bit of a vacation from running.  Sunday, to be sure, I did not do anything.  That's not all bad since it seems when I do exercise the day after a race I hurt myself.  And, indeed, my knee did bother me Sunday.  So, no exercise there. I did go to my yoga class on Monday, and that felt really good.  And, while I kind of, sort of did already feel like running a bit, I opted to give myself another day of rest - just in case, you know.  In fact, I didn't even consider going to my BOSU class on the assumption that all that jumping around would probably not be a good thing.

Yesterday, I meant to start up my leg exercises again (finally), but after running a bunch of errands and cleaning the house a bit, I opted not to.  And, well, for today - it's still early, but I have already skipped my core class.  Even after staying up way too late reading last night, I still intended to go.  However, then a 2:30 a.m. wake-up call from the little dude had me turning off my alarm.  In a way, that is too bad for me, because I ended up waking up at 5:25 anyway.  I could have gotten up to my alarm (set 25 minutes earlier) and made it to my 5:30 class after all.  Doh!

Finally, today's group run is already looking a bit dubious as it is 39 degrees and raining outside.  I might still consider it, though, as I really need to do something.  (And, I really want an excuse for a dark chocolate mocha afterwards.)

So, how many calories might I have burned doing housework yesterday?  (She asks hopefully.)  Well, let's see, ...  I did laundry, made the beds, cooked, washed dishes, and just generally picked up around the house.  So, let's look at the calorie counts. According to WikiAnswers, for every half hour spent doing laundry, I could burn 73 calories.  Now, our washing machine is in the basement, so I'll bump that up to 100 calories on account of the stairs.  A half hour spent making the bed is worth 68 calories.  Since it took all of 3 minutes to make the beds, I'll call that a wash and say zero calories burned.  Cooking for a half hour is worth 85 calories (and no taste testing, too, so I'll take the whole 85 calories burned there, thank you very much).  Washing the dishes is worth 78 calories.  According to Lisa Daniel's Healthy Blog (which I have never actually read but rather just turned up in a Google search on the topic),  you can burn about 175 calories an hour doing general housework/picking up. Since I only did that for about a half hour, I'll estimate I burned about 87 calories.  

Running errands is, of course, a bit of a misnomer, since I didn't run at all, but rather drove everywhere.  I'll have to call that zero calories burned there, although I am sure it wasn't a total waste with all the walking from car to door, etc. 

So, putting that altogether, I guess I burned about 350 calories yesterday.  That's equivalent to a 3.5-mile run!  So, if that is the case, tell me, why do I run again?  I mean part of the excuse I use for my house being a pit is that I use my time to exercise instead.  Here I could just be combining the two and having the best of both worlds.  I could have a clean house and get my exercise, too.  Now, only to find out if there is any such thing as a vacuumer's high?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Tyranena Beer Run Recap

My hubby thinks I'm a dork for
posting pictures of the race
medals.  But this is what it's all about!
Well, I did it.  My fifth half marathon of the year is in the books, and now I feel I can officially rest for a bit.  So, how did it go?  It was a blast!

In the days leading up to the event, I wasn't exactly enthused.  In fact, I was feeling kind of burned out.  I had decided that I would just see how I felt on race day to decide if I would go through with the half, wimp out and do the 4-mile event, or completely wimp out and just head to the beer tent to start using up my beer tickets.  Well, sometimes I think I am all bark and no bite, because I almost never wimp out on anything.  So, even though I wasn't that excited to be running yet another long distance event this year, I did it anyway.

Mentally, Saturday, I was definitely not in the game.  However, having rested both Thursday and Friday, my body at least felt ready to try to take this on.  So, I did what I said I would.  I plugged in my music, got out there and just determined to enjoy the scenery.

(One thing I will say about not being in the game mentally is that there are no pre-race jitters that way.  With nothing to lose, there is nothing to fret about, and that is kind of nice.)

Saturday morning's 11:30 a.m. event started a bit earlier for us, as we had to meet our running club's bus at 8 a.m.  This is the second bus trip for the year that the club has put on and, strangely, they both have had to do with beer.  Go figure.  We got to the running store where we were to meet the bus, grabbed our gear and the coolers we had promised to bring the bus trip organizers, and waited.  The bus was a few minutes late, but that just gave us more time to chat with friends and wake up a bit.

Once the bus got there, we loaded up, grabbed some coffee and bagels that the club had been kind enough to get for us, and then sat back and enjoyed our hour and a half drive down to the race.  The bus trip was uneventful, but enjoyable.  I always bring a book, magazine, or crossword puzzles to do on these things, and Andy thinks I am nuts.  Rightfully so, apparently, because I rarely do them.  Mostly, I talk.  And I talk.  And I talk.

Getting to the event, we were allowed to park our bus within spitting distance of the event tent.  We took a quick group photo, and then it was off to packet pickup.

So, the event....

What's to say?  It was great.  Really well organized and thought out.  Packet pickup was a breeze, although I was required to show ID.  A short-sleeved cotton t-shirt was almost an oddity given the wave of technical shirts I have received lately, but who cares when you have food and drink tickets in your packet.  I was really excited to try the Tyranena Beer after the race as I had never really had it before.  With names like Bitter Woman IPA, Sheep Shagger Scottish Ale, and Hop Whore (whatever it was), I wasn't sure what to think.  Either these folks are extremely irreverent, or they have an incredible sense of humor.  In either case, the beer would have to wait until after the run.

In a previous blog, I had bemoaned the elevation chart for the race, and - as it turns out - with good reason.  The course was hilly!  The half marathon starts out wending its way through Lake Mills' scenic streets and residential areas, past small farms, up some rolling and not-so-rolling (read: significant) hills, before making its way around Rock Lake.  Views of the lake are pleasant and there are a ton of trees with leaves still falling along the streets.  Somewhere around mile 5 or 6, the course veers onto the Glacial Drumlin State Trail, a crushed rock trail that follows an old train track for several miles.  The scenery there is fantastic as the trail goes through trees, over a neck of Rock Lake, and past fields.  This part is relatively flat and easy to enjoy.  Coming off the trail around mile 10, you enter what is arguably the least exciting part of the course, as you make your way past business parks and along busier city streets to the finish.

Overall, I really liked the course and the race.  The hills were challenging but I tried to take them on anyway.  I won some; I lost some.  The steeper ones I mostly ran up about halfway and then had to walk to the top.  I don't feel too bad about that, because they were steep.  The lower-grade hills I ran, so I am happy about that.  I stumbled once when we got on the trail.  Failing to take off my sunglasses going through a tunnel proved to be a mistake, as I misstepped into a shallow depression turning my ankle a bit. That didn't prove detrimental, though, so I got over it.

There was great support on the course.  A lot of spectators cheering us on.  Four water stations along the route had Gatorade, water, and smiling volunteers.  Each water station had porta-potties.  Signage along the course was excellent with every corner being marked with clear directions on where to go.  The only downside was that there wasn't a lot of traffic control along the course.  Most roads were not busy, but a couple of crossings could have used an official of some sort.  As it was, though, the drivers seemed polite and no one (as far as I know) got run over.

For myself, I decided I would not do my run/walk this race.  Why?  I don't know.  I just didn't feel like it.  I started out with the intention of doing it.  I thought I would follow my plan for my PR half marathon a month and a half ago: run three miles and then go to the run/walk until the finish where I could see how I felt.  But, as it turns out, I was really feeling pretty good, so I thought I would just see what I could do.  Of course, I did end up walking a bit here and there.  I walked through the water stations, up the last half of some hills, and towards the end when I pooped out.  I crossed the finish line in 2:08:35 - almost two minutes slower than my PR.  I am really excited about that time, though.  It's still faster than my next best time after the PR and on a hilly course, too!  What befuddles me, though, is that the run/walk race was faster than this.  So, I do wonder why should I bother just trying to run an event if the run/walk goes faster for me... I'll have to think about that.

Crossing the finish line, I was really happy to see my husband waiting for me to see me finish.  (He finished in 1:31.)  After heading to the bus to change clothes and gather my food and drink tickets, it was off to the tent.

Andy in the beer tent before the race.
The tent was huge - and heated!
A plate of vegetable lasagna and bread sticks and a couple of beers later, and I was a happy camper.  I had found my husband and running friends at a table near the beer - big surprise there! - and we had a good time talking and enjoying the after party.  By 4 p.m. it was time to get back on the bus and head out.  So, all in all, a great event.  Would I do it again?  Yes, definitely.  Especially if someone else drives....

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Half Marathon Saturday and Really Not Ready for It

Oh why, oh why, oh why did I sign up for a half marathon this Saturday?  Waaaaaaaa! I don't want to do it now.

This really is madness.  I know now that my body needs rest.  Today, more than any time, it is telling me that.  Okay, okay, so I only got five-some hours of sleep last night and I imagine that is coloring my normally good humor this morning, but seriously.... the idea of running 13.1 this weekend is not sounding too good right now.  Add to that the fact that the elevation chart I got a glimpse of earlier this week shows hills, hills, and more hills, and I am not a happy camper.

So, let's take inventory...
  • Legs - tight from the new exercises I have thrown in this week.  Aside from adding the BOSU class on Monday, I attempted to get back into my lower body strength routine yesterday.  I couldn't even finish it because everything was so done in from BOSU the previous day.
  • Shins - Notably better than a couple of days ago, but still not 100%.   Thinking about it, I realized what the problem may be.  I had gotten into the habit of wearing compression calf sleeves for my long runs, but I didn't wear them Sunday for my eight miler.  Is it possible, they just can't handle more than six miles now without support?  I wonder...
  • Knees - sore from the eccentric squats I did yesterday
  • Arms and shoulders - Very sore from the sun salutations, weight exercises in BOSU, and the planks I did this morning
  • Abs - actually not bad, but I predict they'll start barking at me tomorrow.  (Core conditioning was this a.m.)
  • Head - Mentally tired and ready for an excuse to step back and slow down a bit.

So, where does that leave me?  Really just waiting until Saturday morning to see how I feel.  I am hoping to get in a four mile run today - something nice and slow to get me loosened up again - and then I'll take it easy tomorrow and Friday.
Look at how happy the Tyranena Beer Run
beer bottles are.   This must be a fun event!

If I show up ready to race mentally on Saturday, then I'll put on the compression socks, plug in some music and go for it - probably doing the run/walk routine I did at Fox Cities Half Marathon in September (recapped in "Post-Mortem of a Half Marathon").

If I don't show up mentally, then I will just plan on taking it really slowly, take the run/walk down a few notches and just try to enjoy the scenery.

If everything is really in the proverbial crapper, then I always have the option of running the 4-mile event (I think I have that option anyway) or just doing a no show.  I am really not excited about chalking up my first DNF ever, but I will if it all hurts too badly.  After all, this race is really more about the experience anyway: taking a bus down with the running club, doing the event, and then enjoying the beer tent afterwards.  Most of that I can enjoy even without having had a good run.

What do you do to get ready for an event that you just don't feel mentally ready for?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Shin splints, BOSU, and Halloween

So, I am sitting here this morning wondering if the pain on the front of my left shin is in fact shin splints, a malady I haven't suffered since I started running eight years ago or so. (Well, at least as far as I can remember.)

It's nice when a marathon hands out
ice packs in their goody bags.
Sure beats my frozen peas,
 and it's a nice, if not ironic
reminder of the race.
I've kind of had this pain off and on over the course of this crazy past summer.  It comes and it goes, and - frankly - because it mostly goes again, I haven't really given it much thought.  This latest resurgence came on after my eight-miler on Sunday.  I felt fine during the run, but when I finished and started stretching I could feel it.  I spent several minutes poking at the sore spot to figure out exactly where the irritation was coming from and it's been bothering me ever since.  Now, I don't know if it is the "poking at the wound" part that actually made it as bad as it is, or if it was bound to be that way anyway.  In any case, I am trying to ice my shin regularly and hoping for the best.  I know I haven't done the best job of keeping up with calf exercises or stretching, so I hope that adding those back into my regimen will help out.

In other news, I finally made it to my yoga/BOSU double feature at the Y.  I've been doing the yoga class for about a year now, and it was great as usual.  The BOSU cardio conditioning is new, and - holy man - was that a disaster!  First of all, I lack all coordination necessary to do these types of aerobic-set-to-music-step-pattern type classes.  Secondly, adding a bouncy BOSU to the mix I have decided is just malicious and sadistic.  Even when I managed to follow along with the instructor for those 2.5 seconds at a time, that
blue !@#$%& BOSU conspired to throw me off every time.  Talk about adding insult to injury.  I was so disgusted by the class that when we went into the storage room to get jump ropes halfway through, I had to ask my fellow torturees how long did the class go again?  Much to my relief they responded 45 minutes.  I had feared it was an hour.

As for the exercise value of the class, I imagine it would be a great, heart-pumping workout.  The instructor sure seemed to be working up a sweat and could hardly breathe.  For myself, I spent a lot time just marching in place trying to figure out the pattern of the moves.  I guess I'll give the class another shot.  Next week I won't wear my huge Nike Pegasus shoes, though.  I think I'll wear my Vibrams.  At least that will take away some of the bouncy element, and maybe being a little closer to the BOSU will allow me to feel my way a bit better.  I am a little concerned about hurting myself in this class, what with all the jumping involved. With any luck, though, this all will strengthen my legs, not cause more grievous injury.

Halloween 2011

Yesterday was Halloween, and we had a great time with the kids this year trick-or-treating.  Once again, I made their costumes, and I keep wondering when that will end.  As it is, this is the one time of year I allow myself to be creative. I imagine at some point, though, what I manage to put together will not be as cool as what can be bought in a store.  As it was, we had a great time with everything this year.  As the kids get older, it does get easier.... We hit three different Halloween events this past weekend, allowing the kids to get more use out of their costumes.  The little guy won second place in the pre-k/k costume contest at one.

And, both had a blast trick-or-treating.  They literally RAN the whole distance and came home with way more candy than we need.  I foresee a couple of days of gorging, and then we'll send what's left off to Andy's work for his co-workers to enjoy - because they don't get enough candy of their own.

And, to add to my enjoyment value of the holiday, I actually won a chili cook off at one event.  Granted, it was the vegetarian category, and there weren't too many entrants, but still!  Not bad considering I decided to do this the day of the event.  Yes, I am a nerd, but I'll take what I can get.

Monday, October 31, 2011

May Marathon = Sunday A.M. Group Run ... Oh So Early

Alright. I have now settled on a spring race goal and it's a little more ambitious than I originally intended.  I signed up to run the Kalamazoo Marathon in May.

This is definitely more than I was planning on.  Originally, I really only intended to do a couple of half marathons.  At my nuttiest vision of how I saw things unfolding, I considered what my husband referred to as a Trifecta of Halves, where I would run three half marathons, each a week apart from the other, so essentially three half marathons in fifteen days.  I was really excited about this goal until I found out that the one race out of the three I hadn't done was axing its key feature in 2012.  That put a damper on that plan.  The Green Bay Half Marathon usually goes through Lambeau Field - Home of the Packers, thank you very much - but due to construction, they won't be able to do that next year.  Since I have never done this event, I really want the run through Lambeau to be part of the race when I do end up doing it.  So, I decided to shelve that race for 2012, leaving the same two half marathons I had done earlier this year, and that just didn't hold as much allure.

So, why Kalamazoo, and why a marathon?  Well, I credit my mom with giving me the idea for Kalamazoo.  I was in research mode trying to find something new to try when she sent me the link for the Kalamazoo Run for the Health of It runs.  Their festival of races is in its 33rd year, but the marathon is still new - just in its second year.  There are a lot of reasons I ended up choosing this one:  I have family in Kalamazoo, which makes where to stay easier, not to mention I get to visit everyone; I had the opportunity to run with the Kalamazoo area running club on a previous visit to the city earlier this year, and they were a really nice bunch of folks; and - of course - it is new for me.  As to why I chose the marathon over the half marathon?  I don't know.  I guess because I enjoyed Lakefront more than I thought.  It definitely didn't wipe me out like I had feared it would, and instead left me with a feeling of wanting to do a better job of it.  I am really excited about the marathon goal.  The only reservation I have is that I know Kalamazoo to be pretty hilly.  What are the odds that they would find the one flat route through their town to hold a marathon?  Slim to none, I would guess.  Oh well.  I'll think about that part later.

So, what's my goal for this marathon?  Well, I am not quite sure yet.  I finished Lakefront in about 4:55, so I have a lot of room for improvement. I started wondering about the possibilities after my group run yesterday.

The Sunday morning running group is a fun group to run with.  Aside from the fact that I have to get up way too early to make the 6 a.m. meet up, or even - gasp - the 5:30 a.m. meet-up spot, they are a really entertaining bunch of folks.  Yesterday being the day before Halloween, for example, most of them were in costume - some quite elaborate.  (Luckily, I knew enough to anticipate that and grabbed my daughter's Mickey Mouse ears on the way out of the house.)  The Sunday morning group is nice for me for another reason: they average out to a pretty slow pace.  When they are running, the pace isn't bad, but they do take some longer walk breaks.  Yesterday's five-mile run averaged out to a 12-minute per mile pace.  That's slow, even for me, but I am not going to criticize.   Any one of these people could leave me in their dust if they decided to pick up the pace.  It just so happens that the Sunday group run isn't about speed, it's about having fun, talking, hanging out, and - oh yeah - getting a little run in.  They just aren't in a hurry Sunday mornings, and that suits me fine.

The slower pace did get me thinking, though. Jeff Galloway advocates running your long runs about two minutes per mile slower than race pace.  If that is the case, then if I run with the Sunday group and we average about a 12-minute pace, then I should be able to shoot for a 10-minute per mile pace during the race, right? That would mean a 4:20 finish.

Is that crazy?  My husband thinks maybe I should aim for taking my time down in steps.  While cleaning our desk area yesterday my husband dug out an old temporary tattoo pace chart that he never used for a 4:35 finish.  This is something that he doesn't need anymore, so he suggested that maybe I could use it instead.  Hmmm, probably sensible, but 4:20..... It sounds so much better.  :)

Anyway, in the meantime, I am glad I got back to the Sunday morning group.  I hope to make this part of my regular routine.  They have both a five-mile loop that you can meet them for, or if you want to do the whole shebang, it is about eleven miles.  Both are great distances to work from.  Even yesterday, I didn't stop at five miles.  After running together, I added on three miles more for eight total.  The first five were rather slow with the walk breaks.  I picked up the pace for the last three miles.  If I can keep that up for marathon training, I should be set up nicely for negative splits, right? Right?  LOL

Friday, October 28, 2011

So many races, so little time...

It feels like it is post-birthday and I have money to spend.... It's not post-birthday, and I don't have money to spend, but when it comes to consideration for next year's race goals, that's how I feel. Like a kid who has received money for their birthday and now doesn't know what to buy, I look at next year's race schedule and there are so many options from which to choose, I don't know what to pick.

This year was a busy year for me race-wise. Some might say I went a little overboard, and while my knee would certainly agree, I feel it was a busy, good year for running for me. Big goals were, of course, the Door County Half Marathon, Ice Age Trail Half Marathon, Pikes Peak Ascent, and the Lakefront Marathon. Mentally and physically, I had no way of knowing if I could do all of these until I did them. It was a year of some of my best (and worst) running, and I wouldn't change it for anything. And, while I do have a half marathon beer run coming up next weekend, which is more just for fun, this year is done race-wise. Now, it's time to concentrate on next year.

I already have signed up for a crazy Swiss marathon for the fall, so that is taken care of. As for the spring, I am considering doing the Ice Age Trail Half again if they hold it. I ran that while burned out and sick this year and finished in around 3:15. I need to redeem myself. Plus, it is just hands down the prettiest course I have ever raced on. Two other races I had considered - the Door County Half again and the Green Bay Half - will open registration in a few days, but I am still not sure if I want to do them. Door County is awesome, but my family has gone there in one way or another for the past three years. Now, there is a reason for that; we always have a great time and the race is a lot of fun. But, three years is three years, and I don't know that we want to do a fourth. We had talked about possibly doing something new in that same timeframe, but so far no research has been done. As for Green Bay, I have never done it and was really looking forward to it. However, due to construction at Lambeau Field, they won't be running through the stadium this year, which is a bummer. That's the whole reason I wanted to do it, so now I am thinking I might wait until 2013 when they add that feature again.

So, where does that leave me for spring races? Thinking, I guess. My hubby wants to run the Trailbreaker Marathon in March, and they do have a Half. Maybe I'll shoot for that. It would be nice to have a goal that is set a bit earlier in the spring than usual, I suppose.

Some might think my lack of determination is stemming from a general burnout. I did do a lot this year, so maybe my waffling is a sign that I don't really feel up for doing anything. I don't think so, though. I tend to think that this is more indicative of the "too much" syndrome. I have a limited amount of funds to spend on races, and there are too many to choose from. What to do, what to do? Sign up is soon. Must start thinking...

What elements influence you in the races you choose to do? Please leave a comment! I'd like to know!