Monday, June 29, 2009

Back after a bit of rest

Miles: 3.1
Pace: 10:07

After the race last week, I decided to take it easy for a little while. My right knee had been hurting a bit, so I thought I should rest it. I went for a very easy 1-mile jog last Monday to loosen things up, since my calves were very tight, but besides that, I was a total couch potato last week. I freely admit that even though the rain stopped and the weather was sunny and more beautiful than it had been all spring, I sat inside watching movies while drinking tea and eating shortbread cookies. And you know what? It felt pretty good.

Today I was ready to get back to running, though. I figured that I'd take it easy; although, if I wanted to treat myself well I would have warmed up and stretched. (I didn't because it looked like it was about to rain, and I didn't want to waste time and get caught in a thunderstorm.) I felt pretty stiff and as if it had been 2 months since I ran rather than 1 week. I was also really surprised at how labored my breathing was. Sometimes I wonder if I do have exercise-induced asthma. The local family practitioner had told me in high school that I probably did, and he gave me an inhaler, but I didn't feel any different when I used it, so I stopped, and eventually, the more I ran, the easier it became to breathe, and I assumed that there was nothing wrong with me. Now I have to think that there is something out of the ordinary about my inability to breathe while running. I noticed in last week's race that I was wheezing at mile 1 the same way the runners around me were wheezing up the hill at mile 3. Yes, it gets easier for me to breathe as my fitness improves, but compared to runners of similar fitness levels, I sound like a chain smoker.

Anyway, it was still a good run. The day was beautiful and the air was not too hot or humid. If my schedule goes according to plan, I'd like to go for another short run tomorrow.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Tied my record!

Distance: 5K
Time: 26:37.0
Pace: 8:35

I didn't beat my PR, but I did equal it! This morning's run went quite well, even though I didn't make my goal pace of 8:20.

It was supposed to rain, but it held off until after the race ended. My dedicated support staff and I got there about a half hour before the race began, and I was pleased to see that the registration packet had a detailed course map, so I walked around and took a look at the start and finish lines.

When the race began, I started off feeling as if I wasn't going fast enough. I thought that maybe my legs had gotten used to running a slow pace for long runs, and that I'd finish the race and be horrified to see a 10-minute pace or something way off my goal like that. At mile 1, however, I glanced at my watch and saw that I was at 8 minutes. I was really surprised by that, and I actually tried to slow it down so I wouldn't kill myself before I was halfway through. The second mile went similarly. The split for that was slower, but still ahead of goal pace. In mile 3, I thought I was keeping up the pace, but I obviously slowed, and I know that it was on the hills. The whole race had a lot of rolling hills, but there were more in the last half than in the first, and the descents on those were shorter, until it seemed at the end that when I got to a hill, it went up and merely leveled off for a bit until the next hill. I looked at my watch, knowing that in order to keep pace I'd have to pass the 3 mile mark at 25:00. At that point it was 25:11 and no sign of mile 3. I was disappointed by that, but I kept going, trying to keep up, and right after I did finally pass it, I recognized where I was. We were funneled off the street onto the playing fields behind the town firehouse, where we had to run single file between the fence on someone's private property and the chain-link fence of a basketball court before coming to the home stretch.

When I saw that the fence was coming up, I passed two people ahead of me, then I picked up the speed through the single-file part and when I got through, made a dash to catch as many other people as I could. I almost twisted an ankle there, because the ground was uneven, but I didn't. I heard my support staff cheering me on, and I focused on the clock ahead of me. 26:32 - only a few more seconds before my chance of breaking the PR was gone! I sprinted through the finish, not knowing if I made it or not. As I made my way through the chute, I heard someone say "Now that's a nice strong finish," which made me feel great.

There were about 300 participants in this race, so I did not expect to place in my age category, but I checked the result chart anyway, and I was 2nd! I placed 92nd overall, and 18th among females.

Here's the irony: I couldn't stay for the awards ceremony! One of my co-workers was getting married at 1 PM, so after I checked out my time, I had to skedaddle out of there, go home, shower, make myself presentable, eat something, and then get to the church. Luckily I was able to do all of that and arrive on time for the wedding. I do wonder what possessed me to wear these shoes, though:

I don't know what was unhappier: my tight calves or very squished toes. I really like the shoes, though.

I sat with some other co-workers at the wedding, and one asked how the race went. Another asked how many miles 5 kilometers is. When I told him, he looked shocked and asked me if I ran the whole thing. Then he asked what place I came in, and when I told him that, he said, "I'm sorry. I have to apologize. I know that you bought that expensive mountain bike and all, but I didn't realize're an athlete. You're really an athlete. I just would have never thought." Umm...thanks?

On another note, my friend successfully completed her first half-marathon! I think that it was a little under 2 hours, which is awesome, considering she's never run in a race longer than a 5K before today! I'd like to run a 10K this year, and maybe work up to a half marathon next year. We'll see!

Ever on.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Trail dirt and only one day to go!

My favorite biking partner and I took to the trail on Wednesday for a really enjoyable - if a little muddy - ride. We took it fairly easy (except for one time when we started getting competitive and raced for a stretch), and went about 5 miles. It was sprinkling a bit, which was such an improvement over the heavy rains we've been having almost every day lately, so the trail was wet, but we had a great time. At one point, when I was standing next to the bike, I rolled one of the tires against my calf. The tread gave me some muddy marks that looked like I had grilled myself on a barbecue. I had to laugh yesterday, because when I put a pair of shorts on to go for a jog, the marks were still there - they hadn't come off in the shower. Trail dirt, as I've discovered, is very persistent in its dirtiness.

Yesterday I ran for the last time before tomorrow's race. It was just a half-mile warm-up on the treadmill, a lot of stretching, and then a mile on the road, where I took walk breaks up and down the hill.

I've been obsessing a bit about the 5K tomorrow, and I hope I haven't psyched myself up too much about PRing. I have to prepare myself for possibly getting cramps and not being able to do as well, but I also want to be optimistic. I think that the longer runs I've been going on for the past month have helped me, as have some of the other workouts, which I completed more consistently than in past training periods. Whatever happens, I'll obviously do my best, have fun, and my dedicated support staff (aka favorite biking partner) will be there to cheer me on. I have a friend who is also running her first half marathon tomorrow, so good luck to her!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

4 days to go

Miles: 6.2
Pace: 10:14
Total miles for the day: 6.7

Today I did my last long run before the race. This run was originally supposed to be on Sunday, but my cousin had a housewarming party on Sunday, so I rescheduled. I still wanted to fit in a run that night, so I decided to go with 3 miles easy on the treadmill. I warmed up and then started running at an easy 10-minute-mile pace. I say "easy" because that's what it would seem to be, but it was ridiculously hard. It was actually an effort to keep up. And then I got cramps - the PMS kind, not a side stitch. I tried to tough it out for a while, but eventually I stopped the treadmill, went to the bathroom, and came back a few minutes later when I felt better. That cured the cramps, but the pace was still pretty hard for me. I ended up slowing down after 2.5 miles, so the last half mile was a cool-down. The total for Sunday was 3.5 miles.

After my bad running day on Sunday, I rested full yesterday and got lots of sleep last night. I woke up this morning ready for my long run, and it went very well. I ran it on the road instead of the trail, as I always had done, and I'm feeling pretty good afterward. If the weather cooperates, I'd like to go for a short bike ride tomorrow and an easy 3-mile run on Thursday. Then Saturday is the race! I just hope I don't have a repeat of my April 11 race...

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Arms and abs

I was about to ride my bike yesterday when the electricity unexpectedly went out. I couldn't get my car out of the garage, so bringing the bike to the trail was out of the question, and it occurred to me that I probably should not get too grossed up in case the power did not go back on in time for me to shower and get ready for a book club meeting I had at 6 PM. So instead of riding on the road or going for a run, I worked on arms and abs. For abs, I did a few different types of crunches and other core-strengthening exercises that I remembered. For arms, I used the 2 lb. weights that came with the treadmill and either held both at the same time or did several sets of repetitions with one in each hand. I think that it was the push-ups that killed me, though. I woke up feeling very sore down the sides of my ribs underneath my arms. I think I'll hold off on any more strength/weight training until after next Saturday. I don't want to be sore for the race!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Hill workout

Miles: 3
Pace 10:00
Total miles for the day: 3.5

Today I went with the plan to change things up a bit, and I ran a long, continuous hill instead of short repeats. After the warmup, I jogged 1.5 miles downhill in 15 mintues. Then I turned around and ran back. The main hill was probably as steep as the one I do the repeats on, and a little more than three-quarters of a mile in length. At the top were a few rolling hills, which leveled off a bit until the repeats hill at the end. I finished that second half of the run in 14:54, which surprised me. I expected the uphill part to have been slower than the downhill! I finished it all with a sprint up the driveway, which has a very mild up-hill slope. All in all, it's been a good day. :-)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

This makes it all worth it

Runs like I had this morning make every blister, every sore muscle, and every gasp of breath during a hard workout worth it. I've been feeling so good that I can only think: This is why I run.

The plan for the week was to change it up a lot. Today, I would go to the track for some speed intervals, Thursday I’d run a long hill instead of short hill repeats, and Sunday, maybe I’ll do my long run on the road instead of the trail. I was all set for the track workout this morning, but when I woke up, there was a thunderstorm raging outside my window that sounded like the Almighty unleashing His wrath upon the mortal world. No going outside for me. I was immediately reminded of a story I heard about my track coach in high school. During a conversation in the locker room before practice one day, one of my teammates told me that at one track practice, some kids wanted to leave early because of a thunderstorm. The head coach replied by getting a javelin and walking out to the infield, where he stood and said “If there’s any lightning, it'll hit me.” That still cracks me up.

It turns out that about an hour after I awoke to the sounds of the apocalypse, the storm passed. I still had enough time to fit in my workout, so I warmed up and then did a mile in 8:30 on the treadmill. 8:30 per mile isn’t that great, but for some reason, everything feels like it takes more effort on the treadmill, and that felt like a hard workout. I hopped in the car, though, and drove to the track for the next part of the workout: a timed mile. All of my previous timed miles were on the road, and I was excited to see how fast I really could do it. When I got there, the water hung in the air and on the rubberized track surface. It reminded me of the time in March when I tried to run there after work, but the damp-looking areas were slushy and slippery, and my feet slid forward a little with every footstrike. Well, I didn’t have to dodge icy patches today.

The first half-lap of the mile was great, but after that I started to feel very fatigued. I figured that I had gone a little too hard on the treadmill, so I just tried to keep an even pace and not slow down. I didn’t feel as if I had it in me to push any harder. I didn’t look at my watch. At one point I thought about Roger Bannister, and how this was his event. After four laps (and those extra few meters to the finish line), I stopped the watch, and there it was: 7:25. It was beautiful. 18 seconds faster than last week’s time on the road. That really did it for me – it cemented in me the confidence that at my next 5K race, I will be able to reach my goal of an 8:20 pace and finally beat my PR. I can't even really describe how good I felt after seeing that time. I just knew that all of my training has been worth it.

I ran an 800m after that and timed in at 3:33. I would have run another and then some 400s, but I didn’t have time, so I did two cool-down laps and headed home. By the time I was leaving, the sun was breaking through, and mist rose up from the track. That and the whole workout reminded me so much of what I loved about track in high school, and how I wish I could have been on the team longer. I didn’t join until spring of my senior year, and then I only ran in one race, the 100m dash, because of knee troubles. I won that race, at least. It was my grand debut and finale all in one.

I do wish that I had run track longer, but since then I've come a long way. I don't have teammates anymore, but there is a large community of runners out there. So many times I see people I know jogging on the trail or bump into someone in the store who I had just seen at a race a few hours before. Running longer distances is also so fulfilling. I've been finding that out every week now as I extend my long runs little by little. At the end of a long race, I can still get in that burst of speed reminiscent of the 100m dash, and it feels so good to be able to do that after having already covered a few miles. I've come across a lot of bad days when I feel slow, tired, and frustrated, but there are always days like today to remind me how much I really do love it.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Troublesome knees again

Miles: 6.5
Pace: 11:00
Total miles for the day: 7

On Thursday, during my cool-down, I felt a twinge in my right knee. I stopped, let it crack, and continued slowly and without further incident until I was done. The next few days, though, I've felt the twinge again while walking or sitting with my knees bent. I've applied some ice, but this morning I was afraid to run. After warming up with no problem, though, I broke out the knee brace and headed to the trail. It actually wasn't too bad. Last week I mentioned how my body really can handle longer miles, and I thought I had jinxed myself. It went well, though. I had to stop to let the knee crack about a half-mile in, but after that, it was fine. I took it easy, with a nice slow pace. It was a really nice day, so I enjoyed myself and most of the time didn't even think about the knee. I also had prepared my feet with Dr. Scholl's moleskin pads and Body Glide cream, so my feet were very happy as well.
Since it was a little earlier than usual, there weren't as many people out and about, so I saw some more wildlife than I usually do. When I crossed over a bridge, I saw a deer and a heron wading in the river below. It would have been nice if I had a camera.
Anyway, I've been icing both of my knees since I got home. I don't want a repeat of the only season when I "ran" track: taking stats on the sidelines because of bad knees. I'm trying to allow for lots of rest and very gradual mileage build-up. I'm too excited about improving my times and running longer races to be stuck recuperating from a knee injury.

Friday, June 5, 2009


Jillian Michaels, you've let me down.

I've been thinking that a lot over the past few months, basically every time I go for a hard run and realize that my form is kind of...I guess you can say floppy. Last year I borrowed her book Making the Cut from the library. It was geared for people in good shape but struggling with those last 10 or 20 pounds. Perfect, I thought. I took a look and read through it, although I didn't follow the plans. One thing I took note of, though, was her discussion about body sculpting. Sculpting, she said, is not about becoming super muscular everywhere on your body, it's about strengthening, toning, and building muscles in strategic places for a particular effect. For example, to give herself the look of an hour-glass figure, she builds up her arms but doesn't work her obliques. I thought, "Ooh, maybe I should stop doing all of those crunches and situps and maybe, if I lose some muscle mass, my tummy will shrink a little and my waist might become more waist-like." Well, I stopped doing my ab exercises, and my tummy and waste look exactly the same, but I have no core strength! When I run, I feel kind of floppy, like I don't have the strength to run with the right posture. I noticed that yesterday on my hill repeats. I warmed up and then did a mile in 9:15 on the treadmill before heading to the hill outside. I ran 8 repeats up the hill with jog recoveries on the way down, for a total of 6:16 minutes of up-hill running. On some of the last repeats I felt like I just wasn't carrying myself right anymore. I am improving overall, as I noticed since I was able to jog all of the recoveries instead of walking, which is very encouraging, but the whole tummy/waist sculpting thing certainly didn't help me out. Maybe next time I should follow the diet and exercise plans instead of pulling a few hints here and there from them.
Anyway, for next week's hill workout, I'm thinking of running up a long, sustained hill, like the one that killed me in the last race. My 5K on June 20th is a few minutes down the road from where that race was, so I expect the terrain to be similar.
Ever on.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Hot, sticky, kind of tired -- but good!

I ran another timed mile on the road today, and my time was exactly the same as it was last week. I had prefaced the mile with a warm up and then an easy mile on the treadmill in 8:51. I was tired when I started, but on the road I concentrated on using gravity on the downhills and maintaining speed on the flats and uphill. And when I reached the mile mark, it was 7:43. I couldn't believe it was exactly the same as last week. I was very tired though, and had a little trouble catching my breath, which I assume was because of the humid weather. I took it easy on the jog back, which was 10:03.

I am really happy to see that I didn't regress too much due to the warmer weather, because I was sure I would. The last two Tuesdays it was unseasonably chilly out, and I can't expect my times to be the same in warmer conditions. In fact, I've been afraid that the goal pace I've set based on the timed miles will be beyond my reach once it gets hotter. Today's run makes me feel better about that. It will still be tough keeping a fast pace for longer than 1 mile though. The fact that I couldn't catch my breath before jogging home reminds me that I'm really not conditioned yet. I looked up some exercises for increasing lung capacity, and I'll begin practicing them. Hopefully that will be a good addition to my training.

On a different note, I used Dr. Scholl's Moleskin padding on my blisters today, and it worked well to reduce the friction. I wish that I had used it on Sunday before I got the blisters! I also think that it would feel really nice on the balls of my feet, which feel like they catch on fire after running downhill (probably because I'm a fore-foot striker). The problem with the moleskin is that it doesn't go very far. One package has three sheets in it, and I used half a sheet today just to wrap both of my little toes. If I did use it for the balls of my feet, I'd go through two or three packages a week.

This reminds me that I need to do two really important things: 1. Go to a running specialty store to have help fitting myself for sneakers, which I'm 90% sure are the culprits in this whole blister business. I've found one about 35-40 minutes away, so I'll have to take a drive over there one of these days to see what they have. 2. Get my orthodics refurbished or get a new pair. I looked at the date on them, and they're 7 years old. 7 years! Yeah, I'll be calling the podiatrist soon...