Friday, June 18, 2010

Pulled pork and a notebook

All I wanted in the world was a pulled pork sandwich. I had just gone for a 10-miler after work and was running some errands before I went home and had dinner, when I passed the local barbecue restaurant. I thought that I could really go for some barbecue. Then I passed it again on my way to another stop, and I became obsessed with the need to eat a pulled pork sandwich. I was so focused on my memory of the smell and texture that I could almost taste it as I drove along. There was nothing that I wanted more than a pulled pork sandwich. I would have even forgone eating off of the cute pig-shaped plates at the restaurant if I could only devour some barbecue goodness. And I guess that is why it is necessary to properly refuel after a run.

I made my way home and ate some left-over London broil slathered in barbecue sauce, which wasn't nearly the same, but it turned off the crazy craving. The run had been a very good one. I met the support staff at the half-way point of an out-and back route on the trail, and he rode his bike with me for the last 5 miles. I really appreciated the company and felt as if I was keeping the pace up better than if I had been alone. I also surprised myself by pushing for a stronger finish than usual. Having him biking alongside certainly helped. With about 1/4 miles to go, I started picking up the pace. At first I thought that I wouldn't be able to hold it, but once the end of the trail, down a bit of a straightaway, was in sight, I pushed harder and picked up the pace again. Half-way down that last stretch, I pushed even harder. And a little before the end of the trail, I reached my top speed before letting up and coasting in to the finish.

As I mentioned before, I had some errands to do, so I didn't get a chance to eat anything for about an hour after the end of the run (it was 8:45 p.m. by the time I drank my recovery drink), and I think that inhibited my recovery a bit. After I finally ate dinner, I took a cold-water bath for my legs. I don't know how anyone can take an ice-bath, because 15 minutes in moderately-cold water turns my toes blue. I actually had to get up in the middle of the night last night to put woolen socks on because my feet still hadn't warmed up after the bath. I feel good now, though, so it must have done some good.

So where was I going with that? Did I just feel like complaining about my toes turning blue? Do I want to record my cold-water bath experience to refer to as my training progresses? I'm not really sure. I'm actually wondering what this blog is doing for me in terms of training and writing. When I started it, I had been keeping a private journal that I thought of as a kind of travelogue of my life's journey. It was a record of everyday events that focused on a theme intertwining my running and academics into my personal life - the road that goes ever on. And I wanted to continue that here, although I don't really think that I've succeeded.

Sometimes on this blog, I just record stats, but I often put a lot of thought into my posts, and even then, there's something that isn't there. Somewhere the ability to weave events together to bring about a greater meaning and symbolism got lost, and I think that it's back in my private notebook. In that notebook, I could record things that no one else would read. I didn't hold back anything for fear of the audience getting bored or thinking that it was trivial or that the language was too flowery. Most of it was unoriginal and trite, and honestly, garbage -- in terms of literary merit -- but it had me thinking in ways that I don't think anymore. I had more potential then to grow into a writer.

So, for a while, I might be focusing more on my pencil and notebook than on this blog. I'm sure that I'll come back, but I think that I need to get back to basics for a little while.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

"We ran the race, the race was won by running slowly"

And apparently the theme of this week's posts is Jethro Tull lyrics that mention running.

There's actually a lot to say about running slowly in order to achieve a goal. For me, I'm going to take my time training month by month to improve my 5K time, and then hopefully run another half marathon in the fall.

Here's my race schedule for the foreseeable future:

June 25th: Summer Solstice 5mi Trail Run
I just sent the registration in for this race, and I'm getting more and more excited about it. It will be on a mix of single track and rail trails in a local state park.

July 14: XC Series 5K
This is just a maybe. If I really feel the need to race, I'll try out this 5K, which is part of a series of races every Wednesday all summer long.

July 24: Ole Towne Festival 5K
This is a race I've never run before, but my co-worker's husband will be running in it, too, so they'll both be there. Not only does it look like a nice annual event, but there will be extra company both on the course and at the finish line.

August 5: Christmas in August 5K
This isn't the easiest course, but I've PRed every time I've run it, so it's time to give it another try!

September 18: 5K Spirit Run
This run is held at my former high school, so I really want to do my best. The course is hilly, and there are a lot of very speedy people running it, so it will be a challenge, but I definitely want my return to the track there to be fulfilling (if not gloriously triumphant).

September 25: Fall Foliage 5K
This run is held in the town where I work. I walk around town during my lunch breaks and run there in the winter. Now it's time to race there, too!

October 10: Hot Chili Challenge 8mi Trail Run
This is held along the same trails as the Summer Solstice run and will definitely be a lot cooler than the summer run. And there's chili afterward. Yum.

November 7: Thunder Run Trail Half-Marathon
I think that I'm going to try another half-marathon! This is also held along the same trails as the Summer Solstice run. I plan on keeping my long runs between 8 and 10 miles all summer and fall, so I should be ready for the distance. I just have to get out on more technical trails.

November ?: A Turkey Trot
What is Thanksgiving without a turkey trot?

December ?: Beach Blast 5K
This is the race where you can get your registration refunded if you run in a swim suit. I will not be one of the bathing beauties, but I am looking forward to running this race again.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

"I think she was a middle-distance runner"

Since last fall, almost all of my runs have been slow and easy -- which is not a bad thing -- but now that 5K season is here, it's time to crank up the intensity, so last Friday I went to the track. I didn't really know what kind of intervals to run or at what speeds, so I used an extremely handy VDOT calculator suggested by Mrs. CJ. It gave me paces for various types of training, and I used the easy and interval paces. As I said, I didn't really have a plan, but this is what I ended up doing:

1-mi warm up - 11:30
200m - 0:57
200m - 0:61
400m - 2:06
800m - 4:45
400m - 2:08
400m - 2:06
200m - 0:57
200m - 0:58
200m - 0:56
200m - 0:56
1-mile cool down - 11:32

Afterwards I thought that it seemed too easy. I thought that I might have given myself too much rest in between intervals, or maybe the pace was too slow. But the next morning I was sore and felt as if I had just done a hard workout, so it must not have been too light after all.

On Sunday, my running buddy, who has not been running since last summer because of a foot injury, called and asked if I wanted to go for a run. We met up at 10 a.m., which was a little late, considering it was almost 80 degrees and 90% humidity, and headed out for a hilly 6 miler. I am in awe of how she can not run for a year and then go and run 6 miles with hills. She did it though, which is a testament to her awesomeness. We ran a loop starting at her home, which covered a lot of roads that I was not familiar with. I like exploring new routes, and it was great running with her again, although I'm not used to talking while running. In the end, it was too hot to run the whole way, so we started our cool-down walk early and ended up running a total of 5.2 miles. Not too bad, considering I had only anticipated doing 2 or 3.

I didn't feel tired afterwards, which is good, because I needed to stay awake for a concert that night. The support staff and I were going to get a blast from the past seeing Procol Harum and Jethro Tull. According to my co-workers, I'm too young to even know who those groups are, let alone see them in concert, but it was a really good show.

I was really only familiar with Procol Harum's Whiter Shade of Pale, but everything they played that night was amazing, and I will soon be purchasing some of their albums.

Jethro Tull was the main act, and they didn't disappoint. In addition to their concert staples, they played a madrigal written by Henry the VIII, two songs from their folk-y "Songs From the Wood" album, as well as this one: Budapest, from the infamous album that denied Metallica a Grammy award in 1989. I love the melody, and the first line is "I think she was a middle-distance runner." !

This isn't my video, but it's really close to what I saw, considering it was filmed at another concert only 2 days before!

After Sunday's run, my shins were pretty sore, so I've been icing them and resting. This morning I biked 10 miles on the trail instead of running 10 miles, as I wanted to. Maybe tomorrow or Thursday the shins will feel good enough for me to get my long run in.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

My first energy gel

At the half-marathon expo, I picked up a sample PowerBar energy gel from the Team in Training table. I thought that if I continue going for runs longer than 2 hours, especially in hot weather, I might need to try out some other types of fuel. I gave it a try on an 8-mile run last week. (Coincidentally, that was the getting-dive-bombed-by-psychotic-bugs-run, so I forgot to mention the whole gel experience in my last post.)

For this run, I ran an out and back on the trail, and my first problem was when to take the gel so that I could benefit from it and also have a trash receptacle to put the left-over packet. I had stashed the packet in the key pocket of my shorts and did not want to put the gooey package back. I decided on a spot at about mile 3 where there was a parking area and trash can, but I really think that I should look into getting a belt that will allow me to carry more stuff - just to have room for an extra plastic baggie to put the left-over packet would be better than jamming keys, phone, and fuel into one tiny key pocket.

When I got near the spot with the trash can, I pulled the gel out, tore off the top, and tasted it. Was it just the apple flavor, or are all energy gels that disgusting? Really. It tasted like apple-flavored amoxicillin - the same texture, too. I washed the initial amount down with some water and swallowed some more. Wow. Now I know why the companies have come out with so many other fuel products, like sport beans and gummies and water supplements. Energy gels are just gross. But I finished it, deposited the trash in the appropriate receptacle, and continued on my run. I did not feel like I had to take massive amounts of water to go with it, which I did encounter when I experimented with some household foods, so the gel did serve its purpose.

Besides the dive-bombing bugs, the run went very well after that. I didn't feel that drained, even though it was my first long run since the half-marathon and I was expending massive amounts of energy by flailing my arms wildly around my head. I also did not have any GI problems at all, which I know is an issue with energy gels. So dispite the gross taste and texture, energy gels are a fuel option for me. I'd prefer to stick to things like raisins, but it's good to know.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Mental recovery, a few adventures, and I'm back!

Over the last few weeks I didn't get out to run that much. 4 miles here, 2 miles there, a slow 5K, and that was it. It was a bit of a physical and mental recovery, though, after my (fairly) steady training for 5 months before the half-marathon.

I had a few adventures in the past week and a half, including "The Skunk Run" and "The Dive-Bombing Bugs Run". The skunk run happened on a night when something snapped in me and I thought that I would go crazy if I didn't go for a run at that exact moment. The sun had already set, so I wore my reflective vest and carried a flashlight. It was the first time that I intentionally ran in the dark, and I have to admit that I was pretty scared the whole time. I ran on the road in my neighborhood, but the area is pretty heavily wooded, and I know that there are a lot of animals in those woods that I don't want to run into. Every time I heard a noise (probably just squirrels), I started talking to myself, hoping that the sound of my voice would scare whatever it was away. I was almost home when I started to relax a little. I saw a cute little bunny in the grass on my left and shined my flashlight on it, only to find that it was a skunk, NOT a cute little bunny. I shifted to the other side of the street and almost had a heart attack when it lifted its tail. I was at the base of a hill and sprinted up it so fast that I probably could have rivaled my high-school 100m record. When I got to the top, I was relieved to find myself not skunky. I don't think that I'm going to do much more night-time running in my neighborhood, though...

On Memorial Day my dad and I went kayaking in the morning, but I was getting the itch to run again, so I hit the trail in the afternoon. I wore a new pink sweatband and brought water and took it easy since it was hot and humid out. I was doing well for about half a mile when bugs started attacking my head. They'd fly in circles and dive-bomb, causing me to flail my arms wildly trying to swat them away. I'm sure it was quite the spectacle. After a little while of this, I realized that my cute new sweatband was probably the culprit. That had happened to me once before when I wore a red bandanna. When I took the bandanna off, the bugs left me alone. When I put it back on, they dive-bombed my head again. I haven't seen the movie Furry Vengeance, but I imagine that between the skunk and the bugs, I was experiencing my own real-life version of it.

I didn't know it at the time, but June 2nd was National Running Day. That must be why I was inexplicably drawn to the local high school track to run a few laps before dinner that day. I ran some errands and happened to be wearing athletic gear, and I just couldn't pass by without going to the track. I ran 6 laps and timed a few 400s. I realize that I don't have much of a concept of my pacing, and I would really like to do some more work on the track. I'm thinking of alternating between going to that track and the one near the library after work. It would keep things a little varied, and I think it would help me push myself to run at a harder intensity, which I have to do if I want to improve my speed.

I'm feeling more excited about running than I have since I finished the half-marathon last month. I'm working on putting together a training schedule to get me back in 5K shape and a list of races for the rest of the year. It should be fun!