Thursday, May 31, 2012

Corral WHAT?! Holy smokes, I have [almost] arrived!

So, a while back I signed up for the Bellin 10K Run to be held in Green Bay in a little over a week.  I've run this race a handful of times because I like the energy of the event.  I wouldn't say I am in love with the course for its scenic value or my chances of putting in a smoking performance.  I do like it because it is practically in our backyard and it is the 7th largest 10K in the country (according to Running USA).  It's hard not to get excited when a local race's success goes viral. Last year, there was a record 18,398 participants registered with over 15,000 finishers.  Yeah, it's big.

The only problem with this race, as far as I can see - besides the crowds that is - is the corral system.  Or, more accurately, how I always seem to without fail end up in the nosebleed section of said starting corrals.

Okay, so corral assignment is based on your predicted performance, and - let's face it - I have always been on the slower side.  For example, a couple of years ago, I was one corral ahead of the walkers (in fact, some of them may have passed me as we started out...)

Last year, I moved up a corral or two and ended up starting in Corral 4, I believe.  Although this improved my situation immensely, it still put me heading out over the start line as the winners of the event were finishing up.  In a way, that was nice.  After all, it's not often you get to see the lead runners finishing up when you are participating in the same event.

This year, though, is going to be different.  Check it out....

Just noticed how the 2s in 2012 are doing double duty and also acting as the Ns in Bellin and Run.  Slick!
Corral 2! I have arrived!  Little did I know when I signed up for the race and I proudly put my predicted pace of 8:45 per mile (based on my own recent improved performances) that it would lead to this little bit of elitism.  Okay, okay, I know that I am not elite - OBVIOUSLY - but now that I am starting behind the speedsters, I, at least, shouldn't have to worry about competition from the walkers.  Right? Right?!?

Happy Running!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The heat wave that wasn't and my training plan revisited

This past Memorial Day weekend, I had my first good, post-race long run, and that made me happy.  This was shoehorned into the middle of a very busy, albeit nothing-special sort of weekend. Oh, we packed a lot in: a race, runs (of course), yardwork, house work, lots of games played, a cookout and visit with the GPs, and even a couple of short bike rides.  But we didn't have any big, huge thing we did for the holiday weekend.  The weather for two of the days could easily be classified as stinking hot, and that - combined with the threat of storms (that never really materialized) - seemed to put the kibosh on any fancy plans.  Anyway, it was good.

As to the long run...

I woke up bright and early Sunday morning with the hopes of at least partially beating the heat.  After all, it was supposed to reach 90 degrees and they had canceled Sunday's Madison Marathon prior because of the forecast.  I thought I was in for a load of hurt.  

I filled up my water bottles, got my Gatorade squared away in little baggies, grabbed my Clif Blocks and a cooling neck thingy that I got for free at the Kazoo expo and had yet to try, and headed out to High Cliff State Park to run a mix of road and trails - hoping once again to maximize the shade potential of the wooded park.

Well, I got to the parking area, got myself ready as best I could before leaving the car, stepped out, and ....  brrrr..... It was CHILLY!  What the ...?  So, in a slightly confused state, I began my thirteen-mile long run.  In the end, I don't know what happened with the weather.  It was never that bad.  Although warm towards the end, the bulk of the run was pleasant with a cooling breeze sweeping through the area.  The shade, of course, helped, but I was out in the open a fair amount, too, trying to add miles by taking advantage of the park's bridle trails, but it never got that bad.  In fact, I never even got the chance to try out that cooling neck thingy.  I guess that will have to wait until later in the summer.

The run itself was great.  It was the first long run I have had since Kalamazoo that actually felt good.  I was a little worried about my achilles, but that hung in there just fine.  In fact, I probably overstressed about it a little too much.  Overall, though, I felt refreshed and ready to run, and that was a good feeling.  So, I am curious what that means.  Does it take me three weeks to really recover from a race, or should I not draw any conclusions from that?  I'll be interested to see exactly how the the next race recovery goes.

I ran five miles on road in my Cortanas, then I switched to the New Balance 101s to run the last eight miles on trail.  I know I am supposed to be wearing mild support, and the NB shoes offer none.  I also know I am supposed to be getting used to lower heel stack height and the NB shoes offer some (14 mm, I think), but they just feel right to me.  The 101s are over a year old, but I love that I can feel the trails under my feet when I run in them.  I probably do need some new trail shoes, but I dread starting the whole shoe buying process again.  Ugh.

My average pace for the run turned out to be 10:50, which I think was just where I needed to be.  I walked the hills for the most part in deference to my achilles, but mostly I felt good.  Around mile 11, I noticed I was getting a little tired, but that's okay.  It was mile 11, after all.  If I can run 11 miles before feeling pooped, I consider that a good thing.  My plan was to eat 3 Cliff Blocks every three miles, and that worked out well.  I don't know if I need that many that often, but it gave me something to do/look forward to.  

A training plan revisited...

As promised, I ran my training plan by Hubby, and I got the seal of approval from him with a couple of tweaks here and there. I am really happy with how this plan looks, so we'll see how it goes.  Generally speaking, I am starting at this point with a long-run base of 13 miles.  I will now start building up two weeks, then step it back one week for the long runs...So:

Week 1 - 13 miles
Week 2 - 14 miles
Week 3 - 7 miles
Week 4 - 15 miles
Week 5 - 16 miles
Week 6 - 8 miles

And so on.  Based on this schedule, I will fit in two 20-mile training runs before the Jungfrau Marathon.  I like this for two reasons: one, it is more advanced than any other schedule I have done, but more importantly it allows me some wiggle room.  If for any reason, things don't go as planned (and that NEVER happens, right?), I can drop one 20 miler and buy myself two weeks of time.

During the week, the schedule will look like this for the most part:

Monday: 6K row
Tuesday: track workout (a class I signed up for)
Wednesday: 4-6 mile group run
Thursday: 6K row
Friday: 6-mile run
Saturday: REST
Sunday: long run

Now, every third week (when I drop the long run mileage in half), I also drop the mid-week workouts to about 70 percent, so hopefully I will get a bit of a break there.  Also, the Friday before my longest long run in any three-week cycle, I will be doing a 3-4 mile walk on the treadmill at incline instead of a run.  These will probably be done at 12-15 percent incline.  Finally, the Fridays before my shortest long run in any three-week cycle will be at an increased mileage - to match the long run.  So, for example, in Week 6 when I run only eight miles on Sunday, I will be running eight miles on Friday, too (instead of the scaled back 4.5).  This is to give me some longer tempo runs, which Hubby deems important.  Yeah, we'll see how that works out for me.  

Changes may come, of course.  Hubby was a little concerned about the track workout Tuesday evenings, followed by a group run Wednesday mornings, and I would be lying if I said I wasn't worried about that a bit, too.  Speed work - after all - seems to be my achilles heel (pun totally intended).  But, I am hoping, that if I take the Wednesday run slowly and not really worry about keeping up with the group - and drop the mileage if I need to - then maybe I'll be able to pull it off.  We'll see. I am ready to ditch this plan for something else at the first sign it isn't working.

Anyway, I am very excited about the training plan, and I hope it goes well.  Don't ask me where the training plan is from, because it is sort of a mix of what our running club does for its summer training runs, what has worked for me in the past, as well as what has worked for Hubby.  

So, that's about it for now.  Beyond my own running, Hubby is about to enter an unknown world as he attempts to run his first 100-mile race event this weekend.  We have a lot of excitement in our household because of that, and I can't wait to see where this adventure leads.    

Some random pix for you to enjoy...

What my kids did over the weekend...

What my feet did over the new meaning to cooling your heels.

What my tummy did for lunch,....the best black bean, corn, sweet potato, kale burrito ever!

Happy Running!

By the way, had to edit this to tell you about a giveaway by Yo Momma, ..... well, not YO momma .... Yo Momma Runs actually.  Check it out for a chance to win a pair of Aspaeris Compression Shorts! I am shouting this out far and wide, because I really want to win.  :)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Finally, a training plan?

Source - This is how I know I am at least partially
crazy. I see pix like this and still think it's a
 good idea to sign up  for the event.
Well, I did it.... I finally came up with a training plan for the Jungfrau Marathon, which I'll be running at the end of the summer.  It was a bit hard coming up with something for a race of this nature, seeing as the first half will be on roads with a slight uphill grade and the second half will be on trails on a significant "upmountain" grade, but I did it.  I won't go into details yet, because I plan on running this by Distance Dude to get his take.

I can already see that he'll spot one element that is missing - the treadmill hill work, but I'll let him figure out where to shoehorn that into the schedule.  (I have an idea of where I would put it, but I want to see if he thinks that makes sense.)  In the meantime, I am pretty pleased with how I managed to fit in all the key elements I need, including allowing for a couple of mid-summer races,  all while having the kids off of school.  It ain't easy being a running mom....

My high-tech training plan in progress...
In fact, the only blips on the horizon that I can see have to do with how to fit in long runs on those few occasions we go out of town, but I guess I'll cross those bridges when I come to them.

The Week So Far

Workouts this week have started out well enough.  I am back to full distance/workout time, after two weeks of taking it relatively easy after the Half Marathon.  Both yoga classes have been great, and I've managed to ramp back up to six miles for my mid-week runs and 6K for my mid-week rows.  Tomorrow I am scheduled for another six-mile run, so we'll see how that goes... With the Little Guy's pre-school year coming to an end, I've had to get up early to fit in my workouts, and it is starting to take a toll.  Tomorrow's 5 a.m. wake-up call will not be easy.  At least living in the North, the sun rises before any sane person would be out of bed.  That makes the early reveille easier to take.

Totally Random - Food for Thought

Reading through a Facebook posting by Stern Magazine, I found this blog called Never Seconds that I think is brilliant.  It's so simple but really very intriguing to read through.  A primary school student in the UK is documenting her school lunch.  Simple, right?  I think I like it because it brings up all sorts of thoughts I have on the situation, especially now that E. has started grade school.  The cafeteria lunches leave something to be desired, and I am appalled by how "healthy food" looks a lot like the crap I "treat" my family to once in a while.  (Corn dogs? Really?) Anyway, E. has packed a lunch for all but one or two days all year.  Mostly, I think she is worried that on those rare occasions that they do offer a vegetarian option that they'll run out and she'd have to take the meat option.  To play it safe, she'd rather pack lunch in.  That's a far cry from LG who vacillates between announcing to anyone who will listen in restaurants, "Yuck, that's meat!" and bemoaning the fact that he can't try ham.  Why he's picked ham, I don't know.  Anyway, check it out if you are interested.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

In Non-Running, Running Related News...

What type of learner are you?  Some people learn best by reading about something, some are learning-by-doing types, I - on the other hand - am clearly a learning-by-being-spoonfed-information-from-an-authorized-person type.  And that is why I have decided that to improve my speed, I needed to sign up for a track session course this summer.  This is guaranteed - I am sure - to make me a better, badder, faster runner...........

............Yeah, right.  Well, it can't hurt, can it?  That is, unless it can.  It seems every time I try to incorporate speed work on my own, I get injured.  I guess with this I am hoping that running around in circles on a track with a coaching type watching me, I will be spared that.  We'll see.

In other non-running, running-related news, I have also signed up for a running evaluation and mini-ChiRunning lesson from an awesome personal trainer and coaching type in the area.  I am very excited to see what she has to say about my running form.  I took a half-day ChiRunning workshop from her about a year ago, so having a bit of feedback on where I am at now will be nice.  (I.e., did any of the information stick at all?)

Finally, my last bit of news,....I have joined a third running club.  Does that make me a traitor?

Apparently, I collect running clubs like other people collect race shirts or running shoes.  It's not that my heart is not fully engaged with my home running club!  However, if I can get a bit of news and perhaps a discount or two from the other clubs, what can it hurt?  Also, the third club gave me a free running hat for joining.  So, perhaps I just really like collecting running hats?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Sweaty Summer(-like) Running and Race Course Closures Due to Heat

I had a great long run yesterday despite high temperatures, and I am thankful for that.  I have to say, when I started out, I was a little nervous about what my body would do.  Although I had gotten through the Kalamazoo Half Marathon two weeks ago with no major aches or pains, I did manage to tack on some during my two-week post-race recovery phase.  Jumping right back into my regular routine - with elliptical, power yoga, rowing, and running - as well as adding some harder runs in the second week - two-hour Devil's Lake Run and my twofer last Wednesday - all seemed to take their toll.  As a result, I was left this past week nursing a tender achilles and knee (both on the left leg).  To add insult to injury, weekend-warrior-type gardening left my back and right hip sore (I guess from the way I was shoveling).
Anyway, I took it easy leading up to Sunday's run, and it seems to have payed off.  I got in the ten miles I had planned with no real body grumpiness.  My achilles did seem to act up a bit around Mile 8, but nothing too major.  (Walking the hills helped with that.)  So, it was all good.

Actually, the hardest part of the day was the heat.  It was in the 70s when I started out and in the mid-80s by the time I wrapped it up.  I haven't run much in heat yet this year, so I didn't quite know what to expect.  As it turned out, though, it wasn't so bad.  

I ended up going out to High Cliff State Park and running a mix of road and trails, knowing this would maximize the shade potential.  The first five miles were on roads...  Some looked like this:
Nicely shaded....
But some looked like this...

Full sun! Ugh!
Running the roads at High Cliff is fun, because it takes you right past all the campers.  It's always amusing to me to be running past them in the morning hours, because for the most part they look like they are just waking up... A lot of groggy faces peering at you as you dash by, looking like they think you are from another planet.  The downside is that the cook fires are going, and by then breakfast is smelling kind of good.  I wonder what they would think if I just plopped myself down and asked for a handout...

Once I hit the trails, I was pretty much guaranteed full shade. As an added bonus, too, the woods also offered me extra motivation to keep running, as slowing down to a walk magically seemed to turn me into a mosquito magnet.

Sweaty Self Portrait Post-Run 
During the run, I managed to eat 6 Clif Bloks - so did better than at my Half Marathon two weeks previously.  I also drank a crazy amount of liquid, as shown by my myriad water bottles.

While running, I kept thinking of another run going on - the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon.  Most of my running peeps from the Wednesday group run were doing that event, as well as other friends from the running club.  I knew how hot I was in the shaded woods, and I was having a hard time imagining life on the race course at that point.  (I don't think it is that well shaded.)  Given other circumstances, I would have been out there on the course with them.  I was all geared up to run Green Bay this year, but then they announced due to construction on Lambeau Field, the key element of running through the stadium would not be happening this year.  Snob that I am, I decided I wouldn't do the race until I could run through the stadium.  I guess as it turns out, no one would have been running through the stadium anyway.  

The expo inside the Lambeau Field Atrium - sweet!
I had text alerts for several friends being sent to my phone, because my plan was to wrap up my run and head to the finish line to cheer them on.  As I got back to my car, though, I got one final text message saying the course was closed due to heat and runners who had not yet finished were being shuttled back to the start/finish.  What a blow! I can't even imagine that happening during a race.  I can understand the medical need that drove them to close the course, but as a runner it's hard to imagine what I would do.... I have several friends who followed the officials' directions and took the shuttle back to the start, and I also have several who said Screw it and kept running.  They received medals and know their finish time from their watches.  But, from the race's standpoint, they are "unofficial" finishers and will not have an "official" time.  

So, what would I do?  I really don't know.  Although I have never been in a race where the course was closed, I am not completely unfamiliar with such things.  Distance Dude actually had the bad luck to have the course closed not once, not twice, but THREE times during marathons - and they happened to be his first three marathons.  We all joked that the third time was the charm and it seems to have been.  He's now done 21 marathons with no further course closures beyond those first three.  (In his case, he was able to finish all the races.)  So, for myself, I guess, like most runs, it would depend on how I felt on that given day and where I assessed my abilities at.  I don't think there is a right or wrong answer.    

Although, it's a hard decision to make, I believe all my friends made the right decision FOR THEM THAT DAY.  They did great!  No regrets necessary.  Now, it's just a question of where to go from here.... 

Happy Running!

Have you ever experienced a course closure?

What would you do in this situation?

Picture of the day:

Lilacs in bloom!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Getting back to normal

Actually, that title should read getting back to some semblance of normalcy, because I don't know if I will ever be able to classify myself as normal ... and I am okay with that.

The past two weeks have been crazy busy.  After getting back from the Kalamazoo Half Marathon last week, we barely had time to catch our breath before we were off to the Ice Age Trail 50-Mile, 50K, and Half Marathon in the Southern Unit of the Kettle Morainne.  Hubby was running the 50-Miler, while I had signed up to spend the day volunteering.

This was a fantastic experience, and I had a lot of fun doing it.  I worked the main aid station at the start/finish, which is also where the runners all looped through at least once during their events.  My shift started at 5:30 a.m. and ran until 2 p.m.  It was a long day of setup, replenishing supplies, handing out water and Heed, and cheering people on to their finishes, but it was so amazingly rewarding.  I was told while working that there is a "rule" that this year's volunteers are next year's participants.  I don't know how true that is, but I am intrigued.  If I can run the two to three marathons I have in my head between now and then, I might sign up for the 50K next year.  It would be a phenomenal challenge.

My aid station before setup
After setup
50 Miles? Easy. Just follow the arrows
to the finish.
Waking up is hard to do, especially
when the alarm goes off at 3:55 a.m.
so I can work all day
Start line ... very informal somehow.  I love it!
Finish line and clocks.... Building in the back provided
a great veggie lasagna, bbq, and more after the event!
Post-race fire pit and one very happy chair.
Awards and food tent with approach to finish on right.
Watching the empty bend in the trail
for hubby to appear.
Yay! Third 50-Miler in the books!
Yes, this is why I want to do an ultra. I want to
look like this at the end of a race.  Uh-huh...
After the race, we headed to the Wisconsin Dells to meet up with the GPs and kids for a couple of nights of water park fun.  It's hard to top a water park with young kids, so we all had a great time.  I even sucked it up enough to go on the Howling Tornado slide, which I had refused to do last time we were there.  It's hard to refuse when your six-year-old daughter is begging you to join her on it.  Anyway, I survived, and it was actually kind of fun!

This past week, has had its own adventures.  On the ride back from the Dells, we stopped at Devil's Lake State Park, so that I could do a one hour run.  Long story short, instead of doing a simple out and back, I decided I would try to loop around the lake.  Well, I got lost.  I mean, really lost.  I ended up off trail, back on trail and then off again.  The route back took me up, up, up to the nosebleed East Bluff trail.  The views were amazing, but when I reached the end of the trail it just dried up.  Another trail headed down over rocks and ledges, which required strong tricep-dip action.  After edging my way around a ledge (look at your feet, look at your feet, do NOT look down), I determined I couldn't actually see where the trail was going.  So, back around the ledge and up again, only to backtrack on the East Bluff.  Shortly after doing that I found another trail down, which hadn't been clearly marked (to my mind).  A couple coming up the trail assured me it would get me down to where I wanted to go and it was traversable.  A short third of a mile jaunt straight down on rock steps led me indeed to my finish.

I have to say that mistakes were made on this run.  One, I should have done the out and back.  Two, I should have taken more water and my cell phone.  Three, I should have looked for the map when I determined at the start that I had dropped it.  Aside from causing unnecessary delay when we all really wanted to be getting back home, I know I caused Hubby some worry.  I feel bad about that.

Family at Devil's Lake
Thank goodness for caterpillars,
otherwise the kiddos might have been bored.
Additionally, I don't know what to think when a park site has as a major heading on their webpage - Ticks.  Ever since, I have felt the tickle of imaginary (I hope) tick feet dancing over my body at odd moments.  Eww, I can't think of anything grosser.

On the positive side, the views from the trail were fantastic, and I feel I discovered a new awesome place to visit.  I know they host a Dances with Dirt race there, and I have to say I am intrigued by it now.  I have heard it is extremely tough, and I believe it.  But the toughness of the course rarely factors into it when I sign up for a race.  (No wonder I never do that well!)

After Devil's Lake, it was back towards home - with a quick stop at a travel center to buy a huge bottle of Gatorade and some Dairy Queen.  It's funny how the vegan thing never seems to quite work out for me, even though I really like the idea of it.  Sigh.

Tuesday and Thursday of this week I have managed not to do any rowing.  Tuesday, I was just too pooped out and doing too much around the house.  Yesterday, I spent the whole day gardening, and I thought that should count for something.  See the results?  Pretty bare, huh?   Hopefully, the flowers will grow in.

Wednesday's run is a different story, I ran not once, but twice.   I can't remember the last time I did that.  I can't say either run was that comfortable, as I think I am paying for Monday's adventure still.  However, I made it through a four-mile group run with the Wednesday morning folks, and then headed out with the same friends for a 3.5-mile run that evening.  The first run was rewarded with a coffee; the second with wine.  What a great day of running!  Aches and pains-wise, my left achilles area is feeling pretty tender still today after those runs.  So, I am icing and massaging and, generally speaking, heading into semi-cautious mode.  I say semi-cautious, because if I get the chance today, I will try to run on it and see what I've got.  If that fails, then I will row.  And, if that fails, I will mentally cuss myself out and then RICE it.

See?  As I said, things are getting back to normal!

Happy Running!

Picture of the day: Long line of windmills marching down the landscape.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Kalamazoo Half Marathon Race Report - and Cryocup Winners!

Okay, so it has been a week and a half since the Kalamazoo Half Marathon, and I still owe myself and anyone else who cares a decent race report.  So, much has happened since then it is almost hard to get back to this, so I realize now - whether a race goes well or not - spit it out.  Sitting on a race report doesn't make it any easier to write, especially when the race didn't go your way.  Of course, on the positive side of things, I have mostly sorted through my feelings on the whole thing, so this probably won't sound quite as whiny as I originally had it.

So, the Kalamazoo Half Marathon... The short version is that I ran it, I got a new Half PR of 2:05:22, and I wish I could have done better.  You see, I had hoped beyond hope that I would come in under two hours.  I dreamed, I went for it, I failed.  I really wasn't ready for sub-2:00, but that's another story and you can read about it here.  On to the report...

Kalamazoo Half Marathon Race Report

First, I will start out by saying the Kalamazoo Marathon and Half Marathon are AMAZINGLY well put on events.  From the expo, to the race, to the post-race hoopla, this was FUN and WELL ORGANIZED. Really, I can't say enough about it.  So, my own disappointment aside, I really had a good time doing this race.

For us, everything started with a long drive to Kalamazoo on Friday.  Without traffic in Chicago, the trip should take about six hours.  With traffic, potty breaks, lunch break, etc., it took closer to eight.  The kids were happy as clams with about a week's worth of snacks and videos to watch.  Hubby, my mom and I were happy rotating the driving and reading.  For the most part, the trip was uneventful, albeit long.  A prolonged lunch break in Chicago at a vegetarian restaurant called Victory's Banner was delicious (highly recommend!), however traffic heading out of Chicago caused much internal cussing and teeth gritting.  Eventually, though, we made it.

The race stuff for us started on Saturday with a trip to the race expo, which was located downtown at the Radisson Hotel.  Although on the smaller side, the expo was well-organized, had a ton of freebies, and a lot of race excitement going on.

After the expo, some lunch, and window shopping downtown, it was on to visit with family for the day.

Race day dawned cloudy and cool, for which I was grateful.  For 10 days, like a nerd, I had been watching as the weather forecast flip-flopped from 66 and dry to 76 and t-storms.  What we ended up with was somewhere in the middle.  The high for the day was to be 77 with t-storms later.  However, the morning was mostly cloudy and cooler with temps mainly in the 50s to low 60s - at least for the Half. In other words, darn near perfect.

We got to the Nazareth College campus an hour before the start, so that we could do the gear-check, warm-up, coffee drinking thing.  The start/finish area had everything a runner could need, and it truly lived up to its name of Tent City.  There were tents for everything: gear check, massages, results, post-race food, anytime food to purchase, beer tent, and then - sans tent: a ton of porta-potties.

Parking was easy, as the venue had parking lots galore and attendants with flags made choosing the perfect spot easy.  (It was perfect, because you didn't have to think about it.)

Gear check was seamless with a tear tag from our bibs.  Coffee was free at the table next door.  Volunteers were cheerful and helpful.

Right on time, the marathon started at 8 a.m.  Immediately after their start, they started announcing for the half marathoners to line up for our 8:20 start.  There was no corral system, but runners were encouraged to find their spot in the crowd by lining up near the appropriate pace group. Wending my way through 2,200 runners to sidle up to the 2:00 pace group was no easy feat, but with a lot of "excuse me, pardon me's," I eventually made it.  From there my plan was to stick like glue to the chick holding the sign.

The pacers were well outfitted with super bright pink and orange shirts (pink for the gal, orange for the guy), so it was easy to keep them in sight.  Of course, it was easier still because - as stated - I insisted on running right on their heels.  In fact, I am pleasantly surprised that I didn't trip one of them up in the first couple of miles; I really was determined not to lose them.

As I have never run with a pace group, I didn't know what to expect.  I have to say that the hardest part of running with them for me was the crowd.  There were a LOT of people on this course, and seeing as I was trying to stick with the pacers, there wasn't a lot of wiggle room to just move out on my own and find my own holes.  The pacers would see a hole in the crowd and then dodge through it.  Then the hole would close and those of us following would find ourselves cut off.  So, then we'd have to find a hole and catch up.  To be honest, I found that fairly stressful.  The other challenging part of following the pace group is that we ran through the water stations.  I have never done this before.  I won't go through the details of the mess I created, but suffice it to say that there was a mess.  To be honest, I don't know if I would do a pace group again.  I guess I would have to see what their strategy was beforehand and decide from there.  Our pacers weren't particular chatty or personable with the group - actually not really at all - so that didn't help.  Aside from a cheerleader type, "who's going to come in under two hours?  Rah!" to which a couple of us responded with a nervous, half-hearted "Maybe," they really didn't invest a lot of time in talking to the group.

Being as close to the pacers as I was, of course, I could hear them talking back and forth to each other comparing pace times.  I know that for those first three miles we went back and forth between 8:55 and 9:09 pace.  They sounded pretty happy with that and seemed determined to come in to the finish line about a minute ahead of 2 hours.

So, my race...

Mile 1: 9:07
Mile 2: 9:01
Mile 3: 9:02

So, the first few miles flew by fairly quickly.  As I said, I was holding a pretty decent pace with the group, and it felt comfortably hard.  I found it difficult to dodge through holes on their heels and run through the water stations, but I was doing it.  The first couple of miles were on regular road with there being an ever-so-slight downhill in the first mile.  Somewhere around mile 3, we got into downtown Kalamazoo, and with that came the red-brick road.  That was a bit tough to run on, because the brick wasn't too tightly packed together - a lot of ankle turning potential.  But check out this cool billboard:

Mile 4: 9:17
Mile 5: 9:15
Mile 6: 9:15

Somewhere around mile 4 is I believe the start of my personal downfall.  Listening to the chit-chat between the two pacers, I gather that they somehow fell off pace a bit.  That is supported by the split times on my Garmin.  Pacer #1 had the GPS watch, while Pacer #2 had just a regular watch, and at one point Pacer #1 mentioned that she had lost the satellite.  At least that is what it sounded like they said.  In any case, it is apparent that we weren't going quite the 9:09 we needed to maintain for two hours.  This is pure speculation on my part - to soothe the part of my ego that needs to be soothed - but since I started fading from the pace group around mile 6, I am assuming they picked up the pace a bit to make up for lost time.

So, I managed to stick with the pace group for six miles, and I am happy with that.  I would have thought I could stay a bit longer, but I guess it just wasn't my day.

Some highlights from this part of the race: Around mile 5 a couple of things happened, one is we cut over onto a paved trail that ran alongside the river.  This was a very beautiful part that involved a bridge or two.  (See how memory fades when you don't write the race report right away?)  Also, still hanging with the pace group, we ran through a GU station.  Since I hadn't taken any GU until now, I decided to snag one as we went through, and - yes - I did try to ingest it while running - another new thing for me.  That went better than the liquid refreshment, but it still didn't make a pretty sight as I bobbled the GU and my water bottle around.

Around Mile 6, I had a first, as we went over a shaky wooden foot bridge.  Picture running on a trampoline for a couple hundred feet.  The only thing that made that worthwhile at all was the collective Whoa that went up from all the runners around me.

Mile 7: 9:32
Mile 8: 9:31

Miles 7-8 saw me giving up a bit.  I was feeling sorry for myself for losing the pace group, and I was getting tired.  I decided to walk through the water stations, as I had nothing to prove anymore.  Seeing my family at this point did a lot to recharge me but then I was faced with The Hill.

Mile 9: 10:34

Big slow down here, as the first of the two only really big hills presented itself.  I ended up walking the first half of it, mostly again because I was pooped and a bit down on myself (yes, I can be that childish apparently).

Mile 10: 9:58
Mile 11: 9:37

Whew, reached the top!  The next couple of miles were uneventful, as we wended our way through some nice residential neighborhoods.  I was happy that we were getting close to the end, but - again - feeling really tired.  The only nice thing was that I was actually passing people at this point.  Hey, maybe it's not all bad!

Mile 12: 10:01 
Mile 13: 10:03
.1: 9:19

Miles 12 and 13 presented me with the expected fade as I ran into uncharted territory (having only run 12 miles in training).  Really, I am happy with my split times here, as they are a lot more modest of a loss than what I normally see.  Right towards the end, too, there was - insult to injury - the last massive hill.  By then I was annoyed that I had given up so easily on the first hill, so I decided to take this one on.  With folks cheering me on, I pumped up the hill as fast as my tired legs could carry me, and then - once that was done - I rewarded myself with a walk break, just so I could choke back the lung that was threatening to come up.  The fact that that all averaged out to a 10-minute pace makes me feel pretty smug.

Then it was just through one more very scenic residential area and on to the finish.  Lined with spectators, the last half mile was something to remember.

So, that's basically the race.  Afterwards, I headed straight to gear check to get my bag and then on to the massage tent.  There, I got not so much a massage as a compression and stretching session.  That was nice, although I would have preferred getting one of the folks doing more of a traditional massage. After that, I headed to the finish line to catch my husband finish the marathon.  I cheered finishers on for over an hour before I got a call saying he was already done and waiting for me near the reggae band.  (Apparently, he had crushed his previous marathon PR and I had missed him while I was being compressed.)  Oops.  We always seem to miss each other at the finish line.

So, other random thoughts from the race

Nutritionally speaking, I think I had a brilliant plan for carrying my Clif Bloks for "quick release."  What I ended up doing was cutting the Block packets in half and then storing them upright in my compression short pockets as is.  That way I could just pull them out and pop them into my mouth mid-run like tic-tacs.  The unfortunate part of this system is that it doesn't work if you don't utilize it.  Running with the pace group, I don't know if I was breathing too hard to contemplate chewing, or just concentrating so hard on following their lead (and they weren't doing GUs or anything until closer to mile 6), but I never took the time to eat the Clif Bloks until much later in the race.  I ended up taking a GU around mile 5.5, and then two Clif Bloks at around Mile 10.  That's it.  Not exactly what I had planned.

Aches and pains speaking, I did great!  This is the first longer race I have done in a while where I didn't feel like I had to nurse one pain or another throughout the event.  I take that as a huge positive.  Unfortunately, I still have a lot to learn about race recovery, because I now feel I am nursing aches and pains incurred during post-event exercise this past week.  Ah well, I'll figure it out someday.

Really random observations on the event, in addition to what was already stated

1) There seems to be a huge support for minimal running in Kalamazoo, because I have never seen so many people run minimally in a race before.
2) I saw a ton of people in Vibrams.
3) I saw one man finish the marathon barefoot.
4) I saw one lady RUN across the finish (either the half or full event) wearing a boot (like from a stress fracture), and she had a decent time so she wasn't walking the whole race only to run the finish.
5) I saw one man run into a lamp post (honest!).  He came away with a bloody nose.
6) I saw one person being supported on both sides around Mile 7 heading to the med tent - completely exhausted.
7) There were a ton of bands on the course, which made things festive
8) Volunteers were amazing
9) Crowd support was phenomenal too.

Overall, my impression of this race was super positive.  Bottom line:  This is a race put on by runners for runners, and there is a ton of community support and input.  You can tell that the whole community has bought into this event.  There are plenty of water stations and friendly volunteers.  Porta-potties and signage on the course were well represented.  And the spectators were great.  It's been a while since I have run a race that was so well cheered by folks.  The course wasn't the most scenic I have run, but it wasn't the worst either.  In the end it was a nice, urban race, and I would definitely consider doing it again.

Cryocup Winners

Congrats to Yo Momma (you're right; that joke doesn't get old) and Running on Cloud Nine for winning the cryocup giveaway!  Contact me at to arrange delivery!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

How can I be disappointed in a PR?

I am offering up this brief post as a way of saying, I am still alive!  I still am working on the Kalamazoo Half Marathon race report, which I started writing almost before I crossed the finish line.  As a result, at this point, it is filled with a lot of disappointment, self-pity, and whining.  Before I present it here, that will change.  I spent the first couple of days after the event pouting and licking my wounds, but now I am ready to suck it up and put things in perspective.

So, I am sure with that lead in you are curious about how the race went.  If you follow me on Facebook, you already know that I did PR the event with a 2:05:22 (chip time).  And, that is AMAZING!  I am happy about that.  The disappointment comes in simply because I really wanted to get under 2:00.  But, you might be thinking, wasn't that her pie-in-the-sky goal?  Well, yes, indeed it was.  That's why it has taken me a couple of days to figure out why I was so bummed out that I missed it.

And, I think, the bottom line is this....Aside from the fact that I had built up the anticipation and excitement to stratospheric proportions (meaning that the drop to disappointment-world was that much greater), I realized that I was bummed out that I couldn't be one of those crazy success stories - you know, the ones where someone isn't adequately trained for something, but still comes from behind (or, in my case, a training deficit) to pull off something phenomenal?  In other words, one of those crazy stories that hardly ever happens but you really wish it would?

So, once I worked through this a bit - knowing that I wasn't trained for a sub-2:00 goal specifically - I realized that, as it turns out, I was really just disappointed that this race wasn't handed to me.  Childish, no?  I am a little ashamed to even be typing these words.  Part of the charm of the PRs of the past couple of months, what I have been writing about, is the realization I have had that hard work DOES pay off.  I have trained harder and seen improvements.  So, why get disappointed now when I don't work hard enough for something, and it doesn't pay off?  Right.

So, now it is back to the drawing board.  Time to sharpen my next training plan, put some work in, and try again next time.  In the meantime, my next big goal is a mountain marathon in September, so the sub-2:00 PR is going to have to wait for a while. Eventually, I'll need to work for it, but I'll get there, I think.

Okay, so race report coming soon.  In the meantime, enjoy these couple of pictures I managed to take.  It's not much, that's for sure.

Also, don't forget the Cryocup Giveaway!  Seriously, folks, these things are the best thing since sliced bread (tried to think of a running-related metaphor, but after two wake-up calls in the middle of the night, I am not thinking too cleverly.)

Happy Running!

Hubby and I before going into the expo.  Not bad for a
Not sure what's happening with the hand-flip wave, but
my smile was because I saw my family here.  This was
at mile 8.5, right before the start of the first of two
very rudely placed hills.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Cryocup Giveaway!

So, in the past couple of months, I have tried to come up with a new name for my blog.

I have failed.

Well, that is not entirely true.  I have come up with a bunch of names that I don't like, or that other people don't like.  But, so far, I haven't hit upon anything that makes me happy, speaks to who I am and what I am trying to accomplish (better than Tales anyway), is original enough, and is pleasing to other people's ears.

Why change the name?  Well, it's a long story, and maybe I'll get into that another time.  What's pertinent here, however, is that it has crossed my mind on several occasions to somehow work "injury" into the title.  You know, something like:  The Injury-Prone Runner; The Wounded Runner; Tripping Down the Trails; or Run, Injure, Recover, Repeat....

Cryocup - Cryo Therapy, Inc.
The fact is that I have suffered from more than my fair share of injuries over the past couple of years.  No doubt there are many clear reasons for that, and maybe I'll even figure them out one day, but in the meantime, I have learned a LOT about how to manage my boo-boos.  One tool that I now find indispensable is the Cryocup.  And, I happen to be giving two away.

When you hurt and you need to ice something, there are a couple of ways to go about it.  One way is the typical ice pack.  They sell them in stores, you can use frozen peas, you can make your own (by mixing water and rubbing alcohol in a sturdy bag), or you can even get one as a freebie in a marathon goodie bag - like this one:

These are good, of course, but their downside is they take time.  You need to have the time to sit for fifteen to twenty minutes to let the icing take effect.

On the other hand, what I prefer (especially if time is short), is the ice massage.  By rubbing the injured area directly with ice for five minutes or as long as you can stand, (you don't want to give yourself frostbite!) you can get a nice icing of the area and a self-massage all at the same time.  With the types of soft-tissue/tendon injuries that I seem prone to, this works really well for me.

So, how to go about doing an ice massage?  Well, up until a month or so ago, I always either used an ice cube wrapped in tissue (so I didn't freeze my fingers) or a dixie cup of frozen water (peel top half of cup down and use).

The problem with these two options is that they are messy, and it's not long before the ice melts away and you are left with nothing.

Then, one day in my PT's office, PT #1 pulled out a Cryocup to ice my patellar tendon area.  Immediately, my eyes lit up, my mouth said "Ooooooooo," and my brain said "Must have."

I ended up buying myself two from my PT's office.  (I don't know why, because - as it turns out - one of these lasts forever.)  And, due to the extreme generosity of the office, they have given me two to give away.

Seriously, I love the folks at Peak Performance Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine.  If you are local to Northeast Wisconsin and have a sports-related - or other injury - I highly recommend them!  (They also do running clinics!)  If you're not local, check them out anyway.  They have some cool videos linked from their website demonstrating various strength exercises every runner should be doing.  They're so easy to follow, even I can do them!

So, back to the Cryocup.  I know you are just sitting on pins and needles wondering how it works.  Well, it's simple really. The Cryocup comes in two parts.  You stack them together.

Fill with water.

And freeze.

Easy.  When you want to use it, you pull it out of the freezer, remove the top half (with the ice on it) and use it.
You might need to run it under water to
loosen and pull apart.
Here's mine after a good month of use.
Like the way it has shaped itself to my
shin area - where my injury was?

When done, you stick it back in the cup and put back in the freezer.  There is no paper mess.  The ice doesn't all melt away to a nubby nothing during your ice massage session.  And, you can use it over and over again before needing to redo it.  I am in love.

If you happen to be the superstitious sort and think that winning something like this will suddenly make you get an injury requiring its immediate use - well, then don't enter.  I will say, however, that these things work well for all sorts of icing-requiring injuries.  They don't have to be running-related.  So, you can always just tell yourself you are entering in order to win another useful tool for the family's first aid preparedness kit.

So, how does the giveaway work?  Well, like the usual ones, except this time I shamelessly stole some ideas from some other bloggers, so there will be ways for you to enter more than once.

To enter for a chance to win:

- Leave a comment here telling me why you think this might be useful for you.

For additional entries to win:

- Like Peak Performance's Facebook page and leave a comment telling me you did
- Follow this blog and leave a comment telling me you did (If you already follow, then - what the heck - tell me that and I'll throw in another entry just for that)
- Like my Facebook page and leave a comment here telling me you did
- Let people know about the contest via blog, Facebook, Twitter, any other cool sites I don't know about and let me know you did.

That's it!  The contest will close on Monday, May 14.  I will pick two lucky winners via, and I will announce them here on Tuesday, May 15.

In the meantime, happy running!

Picture of the day:

We celebrated E.'s "un-birthday" at school this week
with these beautiful little cupcakes made up by Festival.
Cute, huh?