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!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Best lunch date ever

I just got back from the best lunch date I could imagine... I had lunch in the school cafeteria with my six-year-old daughter.  This is the second time I have done this, and - as before - I was impressed with the level of controlled chaos that the elementary school seems to operate under.  Meeting E. for our 20-minute power lunch was a balancing act at best: get there early enough to not be late as I know the school operates on a very tight schedule but not so early that the little guy and I are wandering the halls aimlessly; pack enough food to feed a hungry belly, but not so much that it can't be consumed in the limited 20 minute time slot the first graders have.

E. normally takes lunch with her, and I am happy with that.  Being a vegetarian family, days with non-meat options are few and far between.  And, even if we did eat meat, I have to believe I'd be less than excited about the "healthy, balanced" choices the school offers: chicken nuggets, mini corn dogs, nachos, ham and cheese wrap?  I'm sorry.  Maybe I operate on a different scale, but even if I ate meat these selections seem more like treat items, not something I'd have my kids eat every day.  Just because you put "whole grain" in front of the chicken nugget doesn't make it healthy to me.  Even the vegetarian choices that they have a few times a month don't excite me - whole grain mac and cheese, cheesy quesadilla, pizza dippers, french toast sticks?  I mean ... really?

I think E. mostly opts for the cold, bring-from-home lunch option, because she is intimidated by the whole hot lunch line process, and in first grade most kids seem to pack a lunch anyway.  However, if she chose never to do the hot lunch, I'd be fine with that.  Last time E. and I had lunch together, we did get the mac and cheese, and I have to say I didn't like it.  It tasted like, well ... cafeteria food.  Today's choice was the pizza dippers, but E. didn't want to have anything to do with them either.  So, instead I packed a cold lunch for her, myself and her brother.   I wouldn't say it was the healthiest or best either, but I can certainly feel better about cold leftover homemade veggie pizza, organic go-gurts,  diced peaches and homemade vegan chocolate chip and walnut cookies than the unexciting, glorified mozzarella sticks I saw kids dipping into pizza sauce.

I am proud of my kids when it comes to their food choices so far.  Sure, they eat way more mac and cheese and grilled cheese than I would like, especially when we go out, but they also eat salad, brussels sprouts, broccoli, kohlrabi, and other "weird" things like the crazy smoothies we make.  One first grade boy was staring at the little guy eating his pizza, and told me that he just couldn't understand how a kid younger than him was eating pizza with black olives and green peppers on it. (For the record, it also had mushrooms.)  I was kind of surprised by that grown-up observation from him, and asked him if he didn't like those items.  The reply? No, he only eats pizza with sausage and pepperoni.  Ugh.  (He was also eating the pizza dippers.)

I've been reading a lot about the childhood obesity problem in the United States, and I have to admit to being confused by it.  School lunches aside, kids are kids.  They are active by nature.  After lunch today I spent the next fifteen minutes on the playground for recess and the energy out there was palpable.  I had managed a 3.5-mile run earlier in the day and wasn't too excited about extending that, but I got drawn into running with the first graders and easily spent half of recess running this way or that.

To me, it's got to be a crime for a child to become obese.  I feel you'd almost have to be hogtying them to get them not to burn energy - at least with my kids and the majority of the kids I see in our community.  I don't know, maybe that will change as they get older.  I know my husband and I try to limit their TV intake and video games and such.  Maybe at some point, they'll fight us more on that.  At this point, though, I look at my three-year-old who will literally run laps around an area if he has a plethora of energy, and it's hard to believe he would ever voluntarily slow down.

In any case, I hope that my husband and I are setting a good example that will be taken to heart as the kids get older.  I think I surprised some of the kids on the playground today by running.  A couple actually asked me what I was doing.  When I replied that I was simply running with the girls, they just responded, "Oh," and started running, too.  Maybe more kids need to see examples of adults being active.  I suppose if we're not always sitting on our butts, they won't be either.

Sucking it up

I managed to get up this morning before dawn to go to a core conditioning class I had been ditching for almost two months.  A new teacher today had us start out with three separate plank exercises for the warm-up.  At that point, I already knew I was in trouble, and I was right.  By the time we got to the cool-down exercises I had to give up and lie there like a beached whale because my abs wouldn't cooperate anymore.  I walked out of that class feeling pretty shaky in the middle, wondering if my core would actually hold me up for the rest of the day.

Not so much because of that but rather because of a severe case of delayed onset muscle soreness in my quads the past few days, I didn't really expect to go running today.  I geared myself up to do a short walk with some run intervals thrown in if I were feeling wily.  However, when I got to the coffee shop where I would later meet the Wednesday morning running group, I was put to shame.  I missed the group, which I figured I would, but I did see them in the distance.  Running with them was a lady who had just run her first 50-mile road race this past weekend.  What an inspiration!  I figured if she could run then the least I could do was give it a try myself.  Surprisingly, I took off and had a really good run for it.  I averaged a 9:15 pace for three and a half miles with no notable soreness.  I love running.  There are always lessons to be learned.

Exercise and the aging parent (um, that's me)

When it comes to me and exercise and kids, there are a lot of reasons to keep at it even if it doesn't feel the best.  I, of course, want to set a good example for my kids, so that they have the best start in life and carry that forward into their own lives.  Also, though, as an older parent of two very young children, I feel I owe it to them to at least try to stay as healthy as possible for as long as I can.  There are so many factors that I cannot control, but I'll be damned if I won't at least try to control the ones I am able to.

Run happy, be happy!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Holy DOMS, Batman!

So, I raced in the Fall 50 fifty-mile relay event this past weekend, and apparently my souvenir was a nice case of DOMS. No, that is not some weird disease or a hangover from drinking too much Dom Perignon, which of course I drink all the time - not! No, this is delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS.

If you have never experienced DOMS, consider yourself lucky. It's extremely painful and frustrating. I feel it in my quads, which makes going up and down stairs excruciating and even putting pressure on my thighs hurts. Yesterday my son went to sit down on my lap, and I almost cried out loud. DOMS is frustrating, because you usually don't experience it until about two days after the trigger event. I.e., you think you are free and clear, and then - BAM! - it hits you. I know from past experience that by day five, it will be mostly gone.

For me, the weird thing about DOMS is what triggers it. I ran a marathon a few weeks back and never experienced delayed muscle soreness after. In fact, I haven't really had a bad case of this since last summer when I was doing a crazy amount of different kinds of exercise and then topped off an especially hard week with a hike up our local state park's observation tower. I actually think it was the hike down the steps that did it.

My team.  Too early in the morning for us, I think.
Similarly, this past weekend I think the run set me up for it, but then stairs drove the final nail into the coffin. In Saturday's relay race, I had an extremely hilly first leg and by hilly, I mean hilly. The description tells you to "go up Hairpin Hill and right on Gibralter Bluff," if that gives you any idea. Follow that up with a six-miler as my second leg that I really did try to push, even if I didn't succeed one-hundred percent, and my legs were set up nicely for their fall. After my second leg, I knew I was going to be in trouble, as my problem knee was killing me. Walking down a hill after my leg, the knee really screamed in pain. (It even made dancing later that night hard!)

Anyway, combine the hard hill running with dancing, little water, and too much beer at the after-party, and I was set up nicely for what turned out to be the last straw - an easy hike in Potawatomi State Park, followed by ... drumroll, please ... yes, a jaunt up their 75-foot observation tower. I don't know what it is about me and towers. I can run a marathon and be fine, but going up and down observation towers does me in. As it was, I felt fine coming down the tower, but then when I went to get into the car, there it was - that feeling of cramping coming on in my quads. Bummer!

The reason I do this: shirt and bling.
Ah well, it was worth it. The Fall 50 was a great event - once again. This is the fourth year that I have done it, and it is a ton of fun. Running is usually such a solo sport. Even if you participate in group runs, which I do, you are still really only concerned with how you as an individual do. A team relay is a nice change of pace. 

One for all and all for one - and all that.

Saturday started bright and early for me, as I met two of my runners at the finish line in Sturgeon Bay, so that we could drive up to the start - 50 miles away - together. On the way north we picked up a fourth team member staying in Ephraim, a town around the half way point, finally meeting our final team member at the start. There we followed through on our plan to randomly draw legs out of a hat. That worked out nicely, except for the fact that we then all traded. I was originally planning on keeping the two legs I drew regardless of what they may be, but after drawing back-to-back legs, I exercised my right to change my mind. Although, to be honest, I don't know if trading my relatively easy 3.8-mile second leg was a real even trade considering the six-miler I ended up with, but oh well.

The other reason I do this: the party tent after the race!
The gun went off at 9 a.m. with our first runner on his way. The rest of us then began the day's game of leapfrogging our way to the finish. As it turns out, while I had taken my watch with me, I forgot to wear it on both my legs. So, I have no idea how fast (or slow) I was going. My feeling was that I was giving an all out effort, but I also know I got tired in the second leg. (I don't think I am fully recovered from the marathon yet.) The rest of the team was smokin', though. When our first runner came through the first exchange point, he was something like the fourth one through. We were all taken by surprise by that, and he was quite pleased to have had a good run. In fact, all of my teammates showed up that day. We finished the relay in 6:58 and change - so just under seven hours. That's way faster than we have ever done it before.

Aside from the running, part of the fun of the Fall 50 is just the creativity that people exhibit. Some folks decorate their cars elaborately, and we all have our vehicles painted. The best line I saw on a car that day?
"Your pace or mine?"
Team names are often interesting, too. There is, after all, a team name contest at the end of the race. For us folks who don't have a hope of winning the actual running event, the team name contest holds some allure. I thought we were clever with our name of 50 Miles to Beer in the Fall, but we never win. It seems to me that the winners almost always have something to do with body parts or bodily functions. I am going to have to think on that for next year.

Colors ran but looks sort of Halloween-ish, right?
All in all, it was another great weekend spent with running friends and seeing folks I know outside of running who surprised me by doing the event as well. I love the fifty-mile relay. It's just the right length somehow. Seven hours goes by relatively quickly doing something like this. I don't know if I could do one of the longer relay events. Doing this overnight doesn't hold a lot of appeal for me, but who knows? Never say never.

Have you ever done a running relay? Would you consider doing one?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

As the relay approaches

Two days until the Fall 50 relay. This will be my fourth time being on a five-person relay team for this event, and I am really excited about it. As I have mentioned in previous blogs, we're trying something new as far as leg selection is concerned. Instead of everyone speaking up for their desired legs or trying to strategize and place folks in legs that play to their strengths, we've decided to leave it all up to chance. The morning of the event we plan on drawing names from a hat to decide who's running what. We'll have two drawings: one for the first five (or difficult) legs and one for the last five (or easier legs). We'll all be dressed and ready to go at 9 a.m. when the gun goes off, but only one of us will be chosen to cross the start line based on our random selection minutes before. It should be interesting.

In preparation for the weekend, I baked some awesome vegan chocolate chip cookies today. They have little to no redeeming value health-wise, but they taste good. And, with any luck, the other eight people staying in the house with me will like them as well.  I found the original recipe on the SuperVegan blog.  This has been slightly modified from the original to suit my tastes.  

Here's the recipe:

Wet ingredients
2 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon

Dry ingredients:
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
4 TBSP ground flax seed (mixed with 6 TBSP of warm water and left to sit for three minutes)
2 sticks Earth Balance margarine, softened
2 tsp of vanilla

1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts

Sift dry ingredients together. Stir together the wet ingredients. Stir wet and dry ingredients together. Add chocolate chips and walnuts. Spoon onto cookie sheets and bake at 300 degrees for 20 minutes. YUM!

Today's attempt at exercise

Followed through on my treadmill routine today.  I wasn't sure if I would due to some general lack of interest on my part, but I got myself going and followed my own advice: act now, ask questions later.  I did this weird hill interval thing, alternating between walking at 10-percent grade and running at 0-percent.  It definitely gets the heart rate up and the sweat pouring, but strangely it almost seems a little easy to me.  Eventually, I would like to up the incline on both aspects of the exercise.  We'll see how that goes.

For the curious, I did my best to photograph what 0-percent and 10-percent grades look like on the treadmill.  Either I am making a mountain out of a molehill, or the pictures just don't do it justice.  I swear the first time you ride the treadmill up, you think it is never going to stop until it starts its engines and fires you off into space.  Looking at the picture, though, I feel like a wuss complaining about it so much.

Unfortunately, walking down the stairs after doing the treadmill, my knee sent me a little reminder that - no - my patellar tendonitis has not gone away, and - yes - I really should do something about that.  I have these exercises I need to do to make the boo-boo all better, but I have really kind of sat on them.  This is really a case of the cure being almost worse than the malady - at least initially, and with all the races I've been doing there just hasn't been a good time to fit them in.  I'll get there, though.  More on that later.

So, with exercise done and then later undone (with the cookies as well as leftover birthday cake), I feel like the day has been kind of a wash on the ol' health-o-meter.  This weekend won't be any better as my ten-mile run will no doubt be washed out by copious amounts of celebratory beer.  Oh well.  What's the good of running if you can't squeak in a celebration every now and again?

Do you have a good treadmill interval routine that you like to do? With winter coming, I need some ideas.  Share 'em if you got 'em!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

If you are a runner, is running exercise?

I started thinking about running as exercise recently and how maybe I don't get enough of it. Or maybe I am not doing it right. Because if running is exercise, I am, sure as shootin', not losing weight from it. This year alone, I have run four half marathons, one full marathon, a smattering of 5Ks, 5 Milers and 10Ks, and even a 15K. Add to that a LOT of training, and you would think I would be stick thin. However, the truth is that I am almost 10 lbs. heavier than I was a year and a half ago. Now, granted, I do tend to nullify the occasional 4-miler with a dark chocolate mocha with whip, but I don't always do that. There are a lot of runs where I don't eat much of anything afterwards. So, what's happening? Am I eating so much throughout the day that I am making up for the running, or has my body somehow gotten used to running and I just don't burn nearly as many calories doing it as I think I am?

Whatever the case may be, I think I need a change of routine. So, I have signed up for a BOSU cardio conditioning class. I wouldn't have even considered this a year ago. However, running is not taking up nearly so much of my life of late. By that, I mean that recovery has improved a lot in the past few months. Whereas before I could expect a long run to sometimes wipe me out for almost a week (if I experienced delayed onset muscle soreness), now I am ready to go again in a couple of days. I can't remember the last time I had a case of DOMS. Even after the marathon, I was back running - such as it was - within four days. Not bad considering the first marathon I ran wiped me out for weeks. In any case, maybe doing something different like the BOSU will get me feeling like I am getting some exercise again. Besides that, since I bought one of these suckers in a fit of madness last year, I am also hoping a class will actually teach me how to use it as well. That would be a bonus.

Getting ready for a relay

Speaking of exercise and nullifying it, my five-person relay team is getting ready for our 50-mile relay this weekend. I'll run two legs of the relay - approximately 10 miles - and then immediately follow that up with half a day's worth of calories in beer at the after-party. (At least it's planned for.) I think our team is very excited to be underway. We had a bit of a scare earlier this week as our five-person team threatened to downgrade itself to a four-person one. One teammate who had been in the relay for four years - since before my time - fractured her arm this past week. Since it's apparently not a good idea to run when your bone is broken in two, she had to withdraw from the event. Luckily, we were able to fill in her spot with another running friend rather quickly. As usual, it should be a lot of fun this year. I am looking forward to getting up there and trying our new experiment of drawing our leg assignments out of a hat before the start of the race. It will add an element of surprise that we've never had before!

First group run in months?

This week's runs have gotten me in the mood for the weekend ahead. After a so-so penance jog on Monday after yoga to make up for my botched eight miler on Sunday, I got out today for a group run for the first time in a long time. Two of the regulars from the Wednesday Morning group weren't there, so it was just me and a couple of other ladies out for a four miler at what turned out to be a 9:44-pace. Despite the relatively slow pace (as compared to my mid-week runs pre-marathon), I felt like I was struggling a bit - perhaps due to my inability to be in a group of people and not talk. I am so used to running alone, where any conversations I might have are with myself and in my head, that the actual act of speaking out loud while running was a bit of a challenge for me. It was worth it, though. The reward for my battle? Yep, you guessed it: a dark chocolate mocha with whipped cream at the coffee shop after. Yum. Although, now that I think of it, maybe I shouldn't really consider that a reward. After all, I have met this group after their run plenty of times for this self-same coffee treat without having run a step myself. Apparently, rewards can come rather cheaply.

Do you consider running exercise? Do you do anything else to get exercise that is not running? I want to know. Please leave a comment!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The hills are alive with the sound of music....

...oops, stop... that's Austria.

Jungfrau logo on cake
So, my husband's 40th birthday party was last night, and even though his birthday isn't for a few days yet, I gave him his main present from me early. For years now, Andy has had it as his goal to run the Jungfrau Marathon in Switzerland by the time he was 40. So, all but certain that he had given up on that idea in the face of my supreme indifference, I registered him for the 2012 event and presented that to him for his gift.

He's a lucky duck, though, because I didn't just give him the gift of a race to run himself, I gave him the gift of someone to share the experience with. Namely, I registered myself, too.

Now, I don't know much about the Jungfrau except for what I have seen online. I also know that Andy did Pikes Peak originally to see if Jungfrau would be something he could manage. The Jungfrau Marathon starts in Interlaken, Switzerland, which is at 566 meters elevation and ends in Kleine Scheidegg, Switzerland, with an elevation of 2100 meters. The first half is relatively flat, I hear, while the second half is a grueling climb up past amazing views of the Eiger, Mรถnch, and Jungfrau mountains. It's the Alps, baby! The cutoff for the event is 6.5 hours, and there is a very real possibility that I won't make it.  There's international travel involved, the kids to think about, and a thousand other considerations.  But, for now, that's the plan.

So, that is now my big goal for 2012. It's a crazy thing to do, and I am sure I'll have a lot to say about it once training gets underway.  For now, though, to find a way to work on my German...
As a footnote, I wanted to hit the trails for eight miles today, but I only managed about three before calling it a day.  Apparently, the beer I had last night affected me more than I thought.  The mild headache I experienced this morning in the aftermath of the party expanded into a head-throbbing menace once I started running.  With every other step I felt as though my pumpkin head were going to roll off my shoulders and smash to pieces on the ground.  Ah well.  I guess I am too old for this partying stuff.

So, now that my long run has been undermined, I think this upcoming week's exercise schedule will have to include a run after yoga tomorrow, a longer run on Wednesday, and then maybe my Pikes Peak treadmill interval on Thursday.  Saturday I head out for my five-wo/man team relay.  This will be the fourth year we've done this and just to mix things up a bit my team has opted not to choose our legs ahead of time.  We're going to draw them out of a hat before the start.  Should be interesting.  With my luck I'll end up with legs 2 and 3, which would mean 14 miles of hills.  Aside from the fact that that would just plain be unappealing to me, there are actually members of my team who would be bummed they weren't getting the hills.  We might have to go with a "white elephant" style selection process.  In any event, it will no doubt provide a tale to tell later.

Run happy, be happy!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Random thoughts on a busy week or How life gets in the way and rolling with it

I am still trying to get back into a groove after running the Lakefront Marathon two weeks ago. It's harder than I would have thought. The first week post-race I didn't do much in the way of exercise and running, and that is understandable. I was feeling pretty beat up after all, and a well deserved rest didn't seem amiss. This second week, though, seems to be crumbling under the pressure of scheduling conflicts - the life of a busy mom with two kids in school - and I haven't been able to set up a life-after-marathon routine yet.

With the little guy in pre-school now, my running days are going to be limited to Wednesdays and Fridays and weekends, with the possibility of running on Mondays. This Wednesday, though, I experienced running-interuptus as I was scheduled to chaperone the little folks on a field trip to a local farm. If you have never had the opportunity to chaperone two three-year-old boys with wildly disparate interests on a farm, then you don't know what you have been missing. At any given moment, they were taking off at a dead run in completely opposite directions. Getting home that afternoon, I felt as if I had run a marathon, but one that, unfortunately, didn't count for exercise.

When I finally did get back to exercise this week, both workouts proved to be a little different than the ordinary as I had to shoehorn them into an otherwise super busy schedule. I guess if nothing else they are good examples of how to roll with the punches. Thursday, my only option was to hit the treadmill for 40 minutes while the little guy played downstairs nearby. As he's pretty good at entertaining himself, this is usually not a problem. I remember when my daughter was his age, she wouldn't entertain herself to save her life. I am not proud to say that I often resorted to videos to entertain her while I snuck in a workout. (Hey, I was watching them with her!) Needless to say, she weaned me off of the treadmill pretty quickly, as I eventually got tired of blasting Dora the Explorer over the sound of the treadmill. The little guy, on the other hand, will play nicely, and sometimes he even joins me for a quick workout of his own.

For the treadmill routine, I opted to try a return to Pikes Peak training, which I apparently grew to like. (Who knew?) I did an interval workout switching between running 6.0 mph at 0% grade and walking 3.5 mph at 10% grade. I broke the whole thing up into 5-minute chunks and increased and decreased the amount of run time to walk time over the whole. I.e., first 5 minutes: 4 minutes walk to 1 minute run, second 5 minutes: 3 to 2, etc. It turned out to be a good heart-pumping, sweat-inducing workout.

Friday, life once again got in the way of my normal routine as I had a dentist appointment. I know - mundane - but that's life. So, instead of going outside to run, I ran for 30 minutes around our Y's indoor track. Normally I hate the track. The idea of running around an oval eleven times to get a mile in is mind-numbing. Yesterday, however, there was a spin class going on at the same time, so their music combined with occasional shout-outs by the instructor to the class to start sprinting, got me going as well. I took the opportunity to run some sprints along the long sides of the track. I rarely do any sort of speed work of late, so this was actually pretty challenging and fun - for the first 15 minutes or so. Then I got tired. :) Something to work on, I guess.

Both workouts worked out (pun intended) so nicely that I think I may have just added a couple of options to my running arsenal when winter comes around. I don't mind running outside in the winter. In fact, I rather enjoy it. If not the actual running outside, then at least the bragging rights afterwards, such as they are. However, there are some days when even I will not go outside. If the roads or sidewalks seem too icy, for example, the temps dip below zero, or there is a blizzard howling; I do draw the line at that. It's nice to know that the only option to miserable winter weather won't be to just sit on the couch with hot cocoa (although I am sure there will be those days, too).

Today, our running club is putting on a 5K run/walk for charity, and this is the first time I will have missed either participating or volunteering in I don't know how many years. With the kids getting older, though, it makes it a bit harder. I really don't enjoy pushing them in the stroller and they aren't quite up to a 5K yet. My husband and I could have volunteered in positions that juggled the little folk, but I knew they'd have more fun just sleeping in after a busy week. Sometimes, family does get in the way of running or run-related activities, but I wouldn't have it any other way. For the most part, I think we strike a good balance with everything, but sometimes you just have to accept that the scales are going to tip more in one direction than the other.

So, I am still struggling to find my post-marathon routine. It's not like I can completely slack off. I have a team relay next weekend and a half marathon the first weekend in November. After that, things do calm down a bit until next year. I am excited to reintroduce the treadmill hill climbs to my routine, and I hope to find a Y class to join - something completely different like bootcamp. recently had an article called "Why runners should be rowers." It waxes poetic about all the benefits of rowing to runners - how it is practically the perfect cross-training. My husband, an avid rower, agrees. So, maybe I'll give the ole rowing machine a try again. I have never been able to warm up to it for long, but maybe now is the time to try again. After all, if it is good enough for a three-year-old, it should be good enough for me.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Running with children

Tonight our local running club had a fun run on the trails of a local nature preserve. I didn't run with the group, and I only managed one and half miles of a run/walk - but I had the best time because my kids actually did it with me.

Now, children are some of the laziest creatures I have ever seen. Try to get them to do something they don't want to do and they will think of a zillion reasons why they shouldn't do it. Get them to do it anyway, and they will draw it out, drag their feet, and dawdle until you find a way to work through it or simply tear your hair out in frustration. By contrast, a child pursuing his or her passionate interest du jour is a whirlwind of energy, a veritable dynamo in action. My children are no different, and when it comes to running we walk a fine line between dynamo and "lazimo."

Images from another impromptu trail run this summer.
Tonight's run was a great example of how things can be when it all comes together. And, it was all the more sweet because of the distance and the location. One and a half miles is no mean feat for a six-year-old and a three-year-old, and add to that the fact that both have overactive imaginations when it comes to the woods, and I was really impressed that they did it at all.

I started out with every intention of just getting them to walk the .4-mile Esker Trail around the ponds. However, as we started out my three-year-old decided he was going to run it. Before I could even react he was down the trail and practically out of sight. My six-year-old - not to be outdone - then decided to take off after him. Well, why not, I thought. (Luckily, I had my trail shoes on.)

When we reached the first major trail intersection, they were doing so well I thought I might as well go for it - so I directed them down the 1.5-mile White Cedar loop. Sneaky, I know. But you know what? We had a good time. This despite the fact that both seem afraid of the woods, despite the fact that the little guy fell twice, and despite both pooping out on me halfway around the loop. Instead of getting whiny and suddenly being "too tired" to continue, they both soldiered on. When they got tired we made a game of looking for the trail markers. We'd run between some and walk between others. We finished with a good run in to try to pass some fellow runners. (We didn't make it, but that's okay. It was just part of the game.)

I guess you'd think running wouldn't be that big of a deal to my kids. After all, my husband and I have been signing them up for kids' runs since they could walk. However, it has been hit or miss with them if it goes well or not. Some days they have a blast with it; other days it all falls apart. We've tried really hard not to push running on them. If they end up enjoying it, we want it to be for its own sake, not because it makes mom and dad happy.

I think I realized tonight, though, that if they do end up loving running enough to take it further, it isn't going to be because of any of the kids' runs we've signed them up for. It'll be because of nights like tonight or days when they run around the park with their dad. Essentially, it will be because of those times we ran together and they got to see us enjoying doing what we love.

As it is, I am looking forward to many more experiences like tonight's. If this continues, I will need to enjoy it while it lasts. I am pretty sure that if they keep running, it won't be too long before they are leaving me in their dust. Otherwise, if things swing the other way, I will cherish this memory and try to remember it the next time I take them out on the trails and they suddenly sit down in the middle of the path and claim to be "too tired."

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Me and my toe shoes

A weekend so nice I had to run it twice.... I did my first back-to-back run in a while this past weekend when I headed out Sunday for a short 30-minute jaunt through High Cliff State Park again. I guess I just didn't get enough the day before, but with weather in the low 80s (in October!), you just have to take advantage, I guess.

My Vibram Bikila LS "toe shoes"
Unlike Saturday where I did a modest run/walk, Sunday I just opted to run the Red Bird Trail with no stops. I wore my toe shoes, as well. Although I have flirted with barefoot running a bit this past year, with so many race commitments on the calendar, I never did fully swing over to the dark side. The Vibrams are a nice happy medium. And, while I realize that true barefoot aficionados don't recommend running in them until you learn proper form, I have found that if I stick to 3-4 miles every now and again (and I have had some form training), I don't walk away from the run any the worse for wear - at least not yet.

So, why wear them at all? Well, basically, I like the way they feel. They are light on my feet; I don't feel like I have big clunky, clodhoppers on. And, I get to wiggle my toes around. Seriously, though, they are pretty comfortable and I find I can play around with my form more easily while wearing them. I'll switch from my mid-foot plod - which is quite possible in the Vibrams, by the way - to a more buoyant feeling forefoot step when the need arises, i.e., when dancing around roots and rocks.

Will I ever switch to purely barefoot running? I don't know. While I have simply played around with the idea a bit, a good friend of mine has embraced it whole-heartedly. Not having any luck with traditional treatment methods for a nagging foot/tendon problem, she turned to barefoot running this past summer with the hopes that it would allow her to get back into running. It has been a slow road back, but now she is up to one and a half miles running barefoot.

Surprisingly, or not so much, barefoot running has proven to be the thing she needs NOT to aggravate her injury. She is the first to say, though, that going from shod to unshod is a steep learning curve and it has taken her considerable time to build up to the point she is at now. Without serious motivation to relearn everything from scratch - essentially what she has done - I don't know if I would have the patience to do it. I really give her a lot of credit for taking this on.

Random tree shot off Red Bird Trail
In the meantime, or until that point when I am injured badly enough to want to try it (not to be discounted), I will stick to the Vibrams and occasional sessions of barefoot running. I know a lot of elite athletes and teams incorporate barefoot running into their training as a means to strengthen their feet and improve their form. If it's good enough for them, it's certainly good enough for me. And, besides, who doesn't like that feeling of being a kid again, running around the neighborhood in barefeet enjoying the summer-like days?

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Back to the trails on a beautiful fall day

Leaves on the trail

Today was one of those fall days in Northeast Wisconsin that you wish you could somehow bottle: temps reaching 80 degrees, nice breeze, sunny skies, and low humidity. In other words, it was a perfect day for my first trail run since my self-imposed trail prohibition began several weeks ago. (I get really clumsy before races and didn't want to risk tripping before the marathon.)

Fall is not typically my favorite season to hit the trails. All the leaf litter on the ground makes it hard to see rocks and roots in your path, and tripping - at least for me - isn't that uncommon. But the colors on the trees, the cool air, and just that feeling that there aren't too many more days like this left make it sweet nonetheless.

Stairs leading up the hill
Heading to High Cliff State Park, I ran the Lime Kiln trail, walking up the steps to the Red Bird Trail and then took that around to the big hill, which I then ran down. Now, when I say "run," I use that term lightly. I still really didn't feel too confident in my legs after the marathon, plus that sore ankle made me nervous. So, I set my watch at a very modest 1:1 interval: one minute running to one minute walking.

That felt really great, so once I reached the top of the hill, I upped it to a 2:1 run:walk. Add to that all the stops I made to take photos, and that one hour "run" didn't really amount to much mileage. That's okay, though. It really felt good just to get out there, get some mental clarity after a week of being housebound with a sick child, and enjoy not having any goals for the day's run. I love training for events and having things planned out, but sometimes just having nowhere to be is nice, too.
Hidden rock

Today was one of those days where I felt I could have kept doing what I was doing forever. I finished the run down by the lake where my family and some good friends were already set up for a picnic. We then spent the next few hours just hanging out and enjoying the day.

Considering how fast summer went by this year, having this day to enjoy summer-like weather was just what was needed. It was a great way to say good-bye to the "easy" running season, and somehow I feel more prepared now for the cold days that I know are ahead.

Run happy, be happy!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Where to go from here?

Today I started "running" again for the first time since the marathon on Sunday. Despite the fear I had that my feet might implode when I put on my trusty Nike Pegasus road shoes - the ones I wore race day - the workout went fine.

Now, is there a right way or a wrong way for the average runner to start back into running after a marathon?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Marathon mayhem

So, mistakes were made at this year's Lakefront Marathon, but I finished anyway. I won't shout it out too loudly this time - merely a whisper - but ... "pr."

Saturday, October 1, 2011

So, it's (soon to be) off to the races

Today's the day - the day to pack it up and head to the race expo and get ready for tomorrow's BIG DAY. The Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon is tomorrow, and I haven't chickened out yet. Although, I must say, I have had a lot of thoughts along the lines of why did I sign up for this again? I guess that is to be expected.

So, am I ready? I have asked friends and my husband that question a thousand times, and my answer is stolen from the best of all the responses I have ever gotten - it doesn't matter at this point.