Wednesday, April 28, 2010

You never can tell

Wow. Just 1 week ago I would have never thought that I might not be able to finish the half marathon. You never can tell what's going to happen, though. I had been trying to come up with goals for this race, and now I know that I just want to cross the finish line with a smile, no matter what the clock says.

Luckily, whatever is wrong isn't that major. My hip hurts, and that will heal. I'm a little confused as to what is making it hurt, though, since it didn't happen until after my major training was over. It started with a fast 2-miler last Wednesday morning. (I didn't realize it was as fast as it was until I came home and looked at the clock. I wasn't intentionally pushing the pace.) That night, my hip hurt. I put some ice on it, and by Thursday afternoon, it was gone. Friday I did another 2-miler, slower, with no pain, and then I ran 5 easy miles on Sunday. It was the 5 miles that really did it. I had warmed up and stretched thoroughly, but stopped and stretched my IT band at mile 1.5 because my hip/upper thigh felt tight. I stopped and walked a few times, too. By the end of the run, though, it hurt to walk. The pain traveled down my thigh, into my knee, and then down my lower leg. I'm sure that whatever it is will heal with rest. I can't believe how frustrating it is to have this happen so close to the race, though.

On Monday night and all day Tuesday, I went to the library conference held in the same location as the race. I walked through the exhibit hall and talked to book vendors, thinking to myself, "In a few days, the vendors here will be selling me GU and sneakers instead of audio books and book-display shelving." I had intended to run on the boardwalk where the start/finish line will be, but I didn't, figuring that total rest is the best thing for me until Sunday. It was comforting to be there, feeling familiar with the place, already having memories of it and knowing that I'll be making more.

The race is only 4 days away, with a weather forecast of sunny with a high of 81*. Both my dad and my dedicated support staff will be coming to cheer me on. I'm really excited about it, to the point that I'm dreaming about it. Let's hope that my hip feels better in time!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Last long run before the race

I felt great from the moment I stepped on the trail today for my second 10-miler. I was not feeling the greatest before the run (cramps - not an injury) and, fearing that I might end up stranded at the farthest end of the out-and-back route barely being able to walk, I seriously debated whether or not I should postpone until Monday or Tuesday.

Thankfully, that was definitely not the case. I started up at a faster pace than usual, but I was comfortable, so I decided to hold that pace as long as I could. The first mile was about 10:25, and as far as I could tell, I held that pace, give or take a little, for the whole run. It got a lot more difficult once I hit 8.5 miles, because my legs were starting to tire and the wind picked up, but I definitely was consistent. I think that's a good sign. All of my long runs so far have been in the 11:45-12:45 minute-mile range, and I was beginning to think that I wouldn't ever be able to pick up the pace.

This was the last long run before the half-marathon, which is now only 2 weeks away. Now that I'm basically finished with training, I'm starting to think about time goals, and I'm not really sure what my expectations are for myself. I pushed myself today to hold the pace for the last two and a half miles, and it took some of the fun away from the run. My favorite thing about long runs is how leisurely they are, and how I can be amused by seeing turtles sunning themselves on rocks in the river or by stopping to pet a horse. At the same time, I felt so proud of myself for pushing through and not slowing down at the end, and I know that once I'm racing, my competitive nature will come out. I'll probably I know I'll end up wishing that I could have run it under 2 hours. Which is ridiculous, because I didn't train for that. I trained to finish the distance of 13.1 miles, regardless of time.

On my registration form, I estimated that my finishing time would be around 2:20:00. That is a reasonable goal, considering that's the pace I ran today. I just hope I don't get too attached to my stopwatch to enjoy the experience! I'll give it some more thought and probably post again about it as the big day draws nearer...

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Fishing permitted, but please don't heckle the runners!

So today was it, my first 10-mile run, and the longest distance I'll be running until the half-marathon in (only!) three weeks. It was a beautiful day, with temperatures in the mid 60s and a mix of sun and clouds. The route was an out and back on the trail, and it went really well -- better, even, than the 9.5 miles I ran last week.

It took a while for me to feel loosened up, so the first few miles were pretty slow. By mile 3 I was still keeping a very easy pace, which prompted some comments from fishermen who were sitting on the trail at the river's edge. One said hello, one nodded, and the last said, in low undertones, "faster!". That's not the first time I've been told I'm too slow by an old man. On two occasions I've run by a house near my neighborhood and been told "I could have run faster than that when I was your age!", or "Come on, can't you go any faster than that?". I'll be doing some speedwork soon enough... :-)

About half a mile after the fishermen, I stepped to the side of the trail to let a horse and rider by. This isn't mandatory, but it's a safe way to ensure than I'm not kicked or stepped on by a startled horse. To my surprise, instead of walking past me, the horse came right up to me and put its head down to be rubbed and petted. So cute! He was dark brown with a little white star on his forehead. I rubbed his face and the mane by his forehead and chatted with the rider a bit. When she was ready to ride off, the horse didn't want to go and kept pulling his head in my direction. I made a new friend. :-) I had been a little antsy to get back to my run, but it was a really pleasant break.

A lot of people who live in my area own horses. Some have horse farms, like the one pictured here. Many of those farms offer trail rides, so I always meet up with horses on my runs and bike rides.

I was timing today's run so that I'll have a realistic expectation for my finish time for the race, but I didn't stop my watch at all during the run. There was a time when I stopped to loosen my shoelaces, and then I had to stop several times to let horses go by -- but I'm sure that there will be just as many times when I'll be held up during the race, such as at water stations, so I think that my timing today was fairly accurate.

When I began running again after my break with the horse, I felt really refreshed and full of energy. I picked up the pace and felt really good for the next 4 miles. At the turnaround point, I snacked on some raisins. I tried a pretzel nugget last week, which was an instant failure (much, much too dry without a large supply of water), but the raisins were great. They were easy to store, handle, and to eat. I congratulated myself on finding a good fuel supplement to bring with me and started on the final 5 miles.

Once I started on the way back, I picked up the speed even more. The miles started flying by, and when I reached the fishermen again, I was going at a nice strong pace. One of them asked how I was doing. I said "7 miles down, 3 to go!", to a reply of "Good God!", and then I was out of earshot. I kept up the pace until about mile 8. By then my legs started to feel heavy, and, to keep my motivation going, I started thinking about people I wanted to beat in races. I wonder if my pace was a little too fast or if the raisins gave me a spike of energy that fell after 3 miles. I have another 10-miler next week, so I can try snacking at the 7-mile mark to see if it has any effect.

I finished my run in 1:59:17, which isn't the fastest, but it's a start. I've been running for years, but in terms of weekly mileage, I've never actually run very much. I think that once I've got a good mileage base, I'll see more results with speed and hill workouts. This half-marathon is just the beginning.

On a somewhat related but different topic, a friend of mine asked me to do a 25-mile bike tour with her on April 25th. That's 1 week before the half-marathon. I'd like to do it, but I don't have a road bike, and I'm not sure if my legs will be very happy with me after 25 miles. I've only ever biked 25 miles once before, and I remember being pretty tired afterwards. I don't want to be sore for my big day! If anyone is reading this and has any comments about how much exercise is good to do in the week before a half-marathon, feel free to leave a little wisdom. :-)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Community walk for Parkinson's and the 5k I didn't run

I've known about this local 5K for Parkinson's research for at least 2 1/2 months, but I never had any intention of running in it, because my main priority is the long runs to train for the half marathon, now only 3 weeks away. I've had my first 10-miler scheduled for this weekend, and I didn't want a 5k to interfere with it. My dad became a sponsor of this event, though, so I decided to participate by walking in the 1 mile community walk.

When I saw everyone else racing, I really wished that I was a part of it, but I went with my plan and walked, and I'm glad I did. I noticed that there was an elderly gentleman, who is a frequent library patron, walking and falling behind the group. He didn't have anyone with him, and I knew that soon he would fall so far behind that he would lose sight of the group. He was walking because he has Parkinson's disease, and I didn't want to see him not finish the walk, so I left the group to walk with him.

He did a great job walking at a much faster pace than he is used to. I told him that if we were going too fast, that I'd happily slow down, but he was determined that walking fast was good for him. His neurologist tells him to walk every day, and he listens.

We lost sight of the group several times, but when we did, I ran forward until I could see them and where they were turning and then ran back to him and kept walking. When we finally reached the finish, we were welcomed by the race director, who was very pleased to see that my friend was able to finish.

I watched a lot of the racers finish, and again I wished that I was sprinting to the chute, but my time for that will come soon enough, and there are plenty of other opportunities for 5Ks this year. After the half-marathon, I intend to start on speedwork so I can get fast again!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Speed bump - literal and figurative

This week was a speed bump for me - literally and figuratively speaking. My two short, easy runs just didn't feel good. I felt slow, tired, and kind of burned out. Part of that was a heat wave, since, for a few days this week, it felt more like mid-summer than early spring. Part of it could also have been that I needed more sleep. Today and tomorrow are rest days, so I hope to be refreshed by Sunday. If not refreshed, I should at least be enlivened with anticipation: Sunday is my first double-digit run! I really am excited about it. So hopefully Tuesday and Thursday's runs were just speed bumps. :-)

Friday, April 2, 2010

One month away

I keep ticking off the weeks on my training schedule and I'm into the home stretch now - only a month away from my first half-marathon. I haven't been as consistent lately as I had hoped, but I think that I'm still prepared. This weekend I have 9.5 miles scheduled, and the following two long runs after that are 10 milers. Then there's a rest week, and then the race.

Now that it's coming up, I'm getting excited. I'm getting pickier about how I spend my rest days so that I'm prepared for my long runs, and I've begun looking at the clock at the beginning and end of runs to gauge a reasonable pace expectation for the race.

Today was a rest day with perfect weather, so the support staff and I went for a bike ride on the trail. We had lunch in the park, and instead of going home afterwards, we went exploring, looking for an old railroad station. It was a perfect spring day, and I'm excited to continue my training with equally beautiful weather this spring.