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.