Thursday, December 31, 2009
2009 also marked the year I ran my fastest 5K in 28:11. A proud feat for me since my year long training focus has been running long, not necessarily fast and short. My previous 5K record was 30:05.
This year also came with a cross country relocation, which took me away from my running circle. I had to develop a new group of running friends (and I’m still working on that one). A new job threatened my ability to fit in runs during the work week but I’m doing a little better now. I plan to adjust my work hours in the new year to better accommodate my training.
Running has continued to be good for my health. In 2009 my cholesterol level fell 20 points and my blood pressure is on the low side of normal. Plus I made it through the year without getting a cold or the flu.
And I finished 2009 with 1,000 miles under my belt. An amazing accomplishment for me since I had no clue I would get there when I started the year. All in all, running has been good to me. How did running treat you in 2009?
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Normally I would say life can wait for my run. I usually plan activities around my workouts, ensuring I get them in. If that meant getting up early to run before work or making sure I have an afternoon snack so I have the energy to run after work, I did it. Now I’m trying to see how I’m going to work out this new wrench in my running routine.
I’m not a morning person plus it’s cold in the morning now so early weekday runs are out of the question. Some people run on their lunch hour but if I did that, it would require bringing a change of clothes and toiletries to work, which I don’t have the energy or motivation to do right now. So that leaves running after I get home from work. That’s what I did last night and it went well – a 4 mile run on the treadmill. I also plan to run tonight.
My one hang up about running after work is I feel guilty asking my husband to cook dinner so we’re not eating at 8 o’clock at night. Now don’t get me wrong, I love when he cooks. I’m so glad I married a man who can handle his own in the kitchen because I don’t want to cook every day. I just start to feel bad when he does it all the time. I mean he works too and I’m sure he would appreciate dinner being done when he comes home from time to time. So I’m going to have to balance my schedule with days where I’ll cook dinner so he doesn’t get burned out. Not sure if that’s going to happen this week but we’ll see.
It’s great to have his support in the kitchen. Now if I could only turn him into a runner…
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
The Merrian – Webster Dictionary defines a marathon as an endurance contest. They are grueling 26.2 mile races that push runners to their limit. People spend months getting ready for race day. I’m told finishing is part physical and part mental and people look at you different when you tell them you’ve done one.
Marathons rank up there with triathlons and century rides – those amazing feats crazy people accomplish. But the definition of amazing varies depending on the person. Amazing for you may be walking or running a charity 5K or training with friends for a local 10K – putting one foot in front of the other and pushing yourself to keep going when you really want to stop. Whatever the distance, it’s amazing, it’s a marathon and you did it. Be proud.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Unfortunately I won’t be part of the turkey trot action this year for several reasons. My husband and I are traveling to spend the day with family. Either I’d have to get up early and drive 2.5 hours to trot in our destination city or I’d have to run in my city and delay our trip. Given the fact that my hubby has been extremely supportive of my running – going to races, being awaken at 4:30 a.m. when my alarm clocks went off for my early runs – I’m giving him a break and making it a family day.
But by all means, trot if you can. I did a 5K turkey trot last year and had a blast. While distances vary depending on where you live or will be visiting, fun will be had by all. The Running in the USA website lists races all over the country. Hopefully you’ll be able to find a turkey trot near you.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
The key thing to look for when shopping for running tops is moisture wicking. Seek out shirts, short and long sleeve, that pull moisture away from the skin as you run. It makes for a more pleasant experience, helps prevent breakouts, etc. Target and Wal-Mart both carry inexpensive moisture wicking workout shirts. Expect to spend less than $20 for each top depending on sleeve length.
Road Runner Sports is a good resource for shorts, tights and capris. A friend turned me on to the company when she gave me a gift certificate. I became a RRSports VIP for an additional 10 percent savings. So far I’ve purchased RRS compression shorts, capris and tights and paid less than $30 each. They fit and wear well. I especially like that they carry tall sizes since I’m 5’10”.
Your feet are important so don’t skimp too much in this department. I suggest supporting your local running store because it supports local runners. They’ll help you figure out what type of running shoes you need – neutral, stability or motion control. If those stores are budget breakers, retailers like Sports Authority and Dick’s Sporting Goods often sell the same shoes or have older versions of those shoes on sale or clearance. RRSports lets you try shoes out for 60 days and seems to always have something on sale. Race expos are also great places to get deals on running shoes. A friend got a great deal on a pair of Nike Pegasus at an expo.
Nike, Puma, Adidas, Under Armour, and Reebok are among the brands that have outlet stores where you can purchase discounted clothing and shoes. You can find some good deals in these stores.
Where do you purchase your running gear?
Monday, November 9, 2009
Just last week, my running schedule was interrupted for a last minute trip out of town. That meant my second tempo workout for the week was cut. I still ran 18 miles but I was planning to do about 25 miles so I fell short. This week I’ll be traveling as well so I am adjusting my schedule to run the next five days straight since I won’t have time to run during a weekend trip to the East coast. And when I return it may be a day or two before I can hit the streets so I want to get my miles in before my trip.
People often ask me how I fit in my runs and workouts. I just establish a schedule and stick with it. Whenever possible, I plan activities and outings around my workouts. For example, a year ago I went to a workout class, rushed home to shower and get dressed with about five minutes to spare before heading to see a musical. Other times, I travel with running shoes and workout gear and use a friend’s gym guest pass or run laps around a relative’s home to get my miles in. This probably sounds a little crazy but my runs and workouts are important to me.
I realize everyone isn’t able to do this. Family, work and life often get in the way. But I encourage you to give it a try. Just like work, sleep and cooking for the family are important, you’re health is important too. Make you a priority and stick with it. And let me know how it goes.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Monday, November 2, 2009
If you’re like me, you probably don’t like running on the treadmill. When you’re use to running outdoors, it’s hard to run in place. Funny thing is when I started running it was on the treadmill. It was the only place I would run and I didn’t mind it. Now I dread hopping on the thing but it’s a necessary evil for me during the winter. When it’s dark outside or the weather is too cold or snowy, that’s just where you’ll find me.
Over the years, I’ve discovered a few ways to push through those tedious treadmill runs. From beginners to experienced runners, here are some things you can try:
Starting slow is the key when it comes to beginning runners. I would listen to music or watch television and use them as distractions to get me through short periods of running. For example, I would walk at a 3.5 mph pace during the verse of a song and then run at a 5 mph pace during the chorus or I would walk at the same pace during whatever show I was watching and then run during the commercial breaks. I would continue to do this until the show went off – 30 or 60 minutes. Over time I would reverse the pattern and run during the verse or show and walk during the chorus or commercials. Using music or a television program is a great way to set small running goals that you can build upon over time. And as you become stronger, you can gradually increase the run pace.
The treadmill can be great for tempo and speed workouts. Lately when I run on the treadmill, I do a two mile warm up at a 6 mph pace. If it’s a tempo workout day, I run half a mile at a 7 mph pace with a .10 mile recovery walk. I repeat this for two miles. If it’s a speed workout day, I run a quarter mile at 7.5 mph pace with a .10 mile recovery walk. I repeat this for two miles, gradually increasing my run pace .10 mph each time. Whether it's a tempo or a speed workout day, I do a one mile cool down at a 6 mph pace. Sometimes to mix things up and to hit different leg muscles, I put the treadmill on a 15 incline and a 2 mph pace and walk backwards for 5 to 10 minutes. This really hits the quadriceps. I still like to watch television or listen to music because it gives me something to do during the workout.
How do you push through your treadmill workouts? Share your tips.
Sunday, November 1, 2009
It’s getting colder. It’s dark when you get off work. There’s snow and ice on the ground. The wind is really whipping out there. My bed is really warm right now. These are just some of the possible excuses you will use to convince yourself not to run. The challenge is not to give in to them.
Winter is a tricky time for runners. All of the above is true, especially the part about your bed being really warm. But you’ve worked too hard all spring and summer long training for your fall race to let it all go to waste. I have listened to several friends complain about how hard it was to start running again after taking three months off after a half or full marathon. They felt like they were starting over. Why do that to yourself? It makes no sense to let the elements keep you from progressing as a runner.
I will admit I’m not a big fan of running in the cold or in the dark. I especially don’t run in the dark alone for safety reasons. So with the weather getting colder, I am forced to wear more layers when running outdoors. And with the time change, I’ll be doing more workouts indoors.
I refuse to stop running and neither should you. Soon I’ll share how I get through treadmill workouts and offer ideas for running outdoors in the winter. How will you get through the winter months?
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
So I was on a real high last week after setting a new half marathon personal record during the Nationwide Better Health Columbus Marathon. Friends from all over the country congratulated me and it made me feel good. But now what? Do I sign up for another half marathon? Do I set my sights on a PR in a different distance? What’s a diva to do?
When I walked through the race expo, I picked up brochures for several races in the Midwest next year. I spent some time looking through the materials towards the end of last week to see which races peaked my interest. A few sounded pretty cool. The OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon in Indianapolis includes a lap around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Participants in the Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon receive a $10 Dick’s Sporting Goods gift card and Nike technical shirt and socks. The Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon course takes you through historic Churchill Downs and runners and a guest receive complimentary Churchill Downs admission plus it’s during Derby Week – can you say par-ty. And I’ve wanted to do a Rock ‘n’ Roll race for a while – Nashville or Chicago. But I’ve also had my sights set on running the Surf City USA Half Marathon in California in February. So again I say what’s a diva to do?
Right now I think I’m going to focus on speed and endurance training. Starting in November, I plan to do speed and tempo runs on a regular basis to lower my average mile pace. I’ll also continue to do a weekly 8 – 10 mile long run. Hopefully I’ll know by December if I’ll make it to Surf City. If not, there are hundreds of races in 2010 I could run. What are your 2010 racing plans?
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Okay, I think I’m about to embark on something major here, or at least major for me. I’ve been talking about it for months. I’m sure my friends are tired of me by now. I think I’m finally ready to do it. I’m going to become a flexitarian! There I said it.
What finally pushed me over the edge? An article in the October issue of “Runner’s World.” In “Simply Good” Mark Bittman discussed the health benefits of eating more fruits and vegetables and less meat and how eating this way is good for runners. He presented his case in a way that made it seem doable. I know it will take some work and I’ll have to get creative with meals so I’m not just eating lettuce all the time but I’m going to give it a try.
Getting to this point was hard for me for some reason. Yes, I try to eat organic about 80 percent of the time and I limit fatty, junk food but I felt like it wasn’t enough. Part of my motivation to do more is my family health history. Heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and glaucoma run in my family. Running and eating better has already helped lower my cholesterol by 20 points. I want to do all I can to prevent the health challenges my father and aunts and uncles struggle with.
So my plan is to start with limiting meat to one meal a day, most likely dinner. I’m three days into the new eating regime and I can’t wait to go grocery shopping so I can buy more foods to support my cause. Now I need your encouragement to keep it up. Please share your recipes and eating tips and when I develop some, I’ll share mine and we’ll embark on this journey together.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
One of the joys of running outdoors is that you get to experience the great outdoors – fresh air and the sights and sounds of nature. With that comes the excitement of running past docile deer and the fear of running past a dog that is not on its leash or scary wild animals like foxes, coyotes and snakes. And you are bound to spot a few unpleasant things on a run like road kill i.e. dead animals.
For some reason I tend to spot a few dead animals every month. The first time it happened I was running a 1.5 mile loop near my home. I noticed a cat lying in the grass and it didn’t move at all as I ran by. The second time I ran by, it was in the same position and it was wet from the sprinklers. I’m a little slow but I finally put two and two together and realized it was dead. Ugh! - Sad and gross at the same time. Other road kill sightings include squirrels, possum and deer. It’s always visually jarring and slightly disturbing but I keep on running.
I’m not quite sure why I wanted to share this because it may seem gross but I can’t be the only one running by road kill. Sometimes I want to say “Guess what I saw today?” and have someone to relate to. What have you ran by lately?
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
I was watching an episode of “Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team” (yes, I find the show very entertaining and inspiring) during which the director asks the cheerleader hopefuls if the uniform makes them or do they make the uniform. Most answered the uniform makes them but one candidate answered she makes the uniform. The directors seemed appalled by her response but the question got me thinking. I would hate to say a uniform made me. I understand the legacy of the squad and what it stands for but it took a group of talented individuals to create that legacy and it will take talented individuals to continue it and a uniform can’t do that.
I think the same goes for running. There is a lot of running gear out there at all price points. From shoes and watches to shirts and jackets, a person could spend a lot of money getting road ready. When I first started running, I got a great deal on a pair of sneakers at DSW and wore old oversized t-shirts and men’s basketball shorts. It wasn’t about what I was wearing but what I was doing. When I transitioned from running alone to running with a running club, I started to feel a little self conscious about how I dressed. I didn’t think I looked like a runner and I wanted to look the part. I invested in proper running shoes and moisture wicking clothing and received running related gifts to support my cause. A few months later - mission accomplished – I looked like a runner.
But looking like a runner didn’t make me a better runner – the running uniform didn’t make me faster, give me endurance or make me stronger. That took months of training and hard work and it will never end. There will always be new races and new distances and new personal records. I’ve started something I don’t a uniform could ever finish and I like it that way.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
So I completed my third half marathon on Sunday and set a new personal record. Yay! I’m excited and hyped to get back on my feet. I usually try to run a few miles two days later to get my legs moving again but wait a week to get up to my prerace weekly mileage. So this week I take the same approach. I headed out this morning to run 4 miles but was barely able to run a quarter of a mile. My legs were so tight it hurt to run. I struggled through the run finally opting to walk most of it. This is the first time I’ve felt this way and I’m trying to figure out why.
There are a few things I noticed about my body after this race compared to previous races. Usually my hip flexors are sore/tight with a little of the same in my quadriceps. This time the soreness is mainly in my quads. My previous races have had more hills – Santa Cruz and San Francisco, while Columbus was pretty flat except for a few gradual inclines. I wonder if that’s the key. Either way, I’m still sore and plan to continue stretching. Not sure if I’m a glutton for punishment but I plan to run another 4 miles on Wednesday and run 4-5 miles on Saturday. I’ll let you know how my advantageous recovery plan goes.
How do you recover after a race? What’s your post race training plan?
Friday, October 16, 2009
Some runners have specific things they do before a race or wear during a race and I’m still trying to figure out what mine are. One friend always wears that particular race’s freebie technical shirt. A few other friends always wear their Race Ready tights (I still have to get a pair). Some down nothing but water or an energy gel before the race, while others seem to eat a lot – bananas, bagels, cereal – whatever they can get their hands on.
This weekend when I head to Columbus to run the Nationwide Better Health Columbus Half Marathon, I’m not quite sure what I’ll do. Before my first half marathon I ate a small bowl of cereal and half a banana. I didn’t own much running gear at the time so I wore basketball shorts and a moisture wicking t-shirt. For my second half marathon, I ate half a Clif bar the morning of the race and wore black capri running tights, a black moisture wicking t-shirt and the race’s technical tee. This weekend, I’ll probably wear black capri running tights again but I’m not sure what kind of top and I plan to eat half a Clif bar with a banana.
The question begs to be asked – what difference does it make? Well for me routines breed comfort. I’m not very superstitious but if something worked before and I ran well, why not do it again? Plus even if it’s a new race, I’ll have something familiar to get me through. The challenge for me is that all my races have been in different climates – 80s, 50s and now 30s. So I’ll have to develop warm, cool and cold weather routines so I’ll always be ready. My race rituals are still in their infancy stages but I’m sure they’ll mature in time as I continue to run.
Do you have a race ritual? What do you usually wear or eat?
Saturday, October 10, 2009
I have come to the realization that I suffer from race envy – the desire to run the races my friends are able to run. I believe my battle with race envy began more than a year ago. I started running with a few ladies and when I say running, I mean struggling to keep up while they ran ahead of me. All the while, in between gasps for air and painful side stitches, I would think “I wanna run like them.” Each week I would continue to run, pushing harder and harder building speed and endurance. These workouts and runs were coupled with words of encouragement from my friends to sign up for a local half marathon (of course, they were running the full marathon) but I wasn’t ready to push it just yet. My diabolical plan, i.e. training, would take more time. I let that local marathon pass me by but the race bug had already bit me something hard.
So at the beginning of this year, I decided would finally run a half marathon. I had a few 2-milers and 5Ks under my belt but I wanted to experience the high of running long and collecting race swag (something I’ll cover in a future post). My friends were running the Santa Cruz Half Marathon in April and I didn’t want to be left behind. I registered for the race and trained hard. When race weekend arrived, I was ready for our road trip which included lots of girl talk, running talk and eating. I ran my first half meeting my modest goal of 2:15. On the ride back home, I thought “This is what I was missing. I want to do this again. When can I do this again?” Right then 2009 became my year of half marathons. Our next race was the San Francisco Marathon (just the first half), which goes across the Golden Gate Bridge. Yet another great race experience. I set a new PR of 2:10 on an extremely hilly course. My husband even surprised me by coming to the race.
My high dampened two weeks later when I learned I would be moving to another region of the country derailing our great race plans (or at least my immediateability to participate in them). This weekend I should be running the Long Beach International City Bank Half Marathon with my girls. Instead I’ll be cheering them on from afar. Thanking them for the gift they gave me – race envy.
For me, my bout with race envy has been inspirational. I didn’t wish my friends harm or want them to fail. Instead my envy pushed me to run harder and longer and develop friendships that will last despite the miles that now separate us. I know we will run together again one day so I won’t let my race envy die. I gotta keep running and training until we meet again.
Race envy is truly a gift. Do you suffer from race envy? How has it impacted your running?
Monday, October 5, 2009
A few weeks ago I read an article in the “New York Times” about the benefits of running with a group. The gist of the article or what I took from it was that running with a group will help you train harder and therefore perform better. The article made me reflect on my running club experiences and how they have shaped my relationship with running.
When I first started running about two years ago, I was training to run in my city’s Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure 5K. A friend from church had talked about participating and after some thought, I figured why not. It benefits a great cause and I’ve always wanted to give running a try. The six to eight weeks of training for the race and the high I felt when I crossed the finish line had me hooked. A runner was born. After several months of running on my own, an acquaintance (who later became a good running friend) encouraged me to check out her running club. At first I was a little intimidated about going. I wasn’t a hard core runner. At that time I was probably running about six to eight miles a week, a very slow six to eight miles. But I decided to give it a shot and brought a friend along for support.
We arrived at the park bright and early at 7:30 a.m. that Saturday and found a bunch of people in running gear stretching and joking around. The club’s coach had us introduce ourselves and then the workout began. We probably ran for about 20 minutes with the coach guiding us around the park. We watched the fast guys whiz by us and were relieved when we stopped. People were stretching and getting water and we thought to ourselves. We did it. Little did we know we weren’t done yet. That was just the warm up. As we ran and sometimes walked during the actual workout, we kept asking each other, “How much longer are we going to run?” When we stopped again 20 minutes later, we knew it had to be over but no, we still had to cool down. That was another 10 to 15 minutes of running. I remember feeling like I just got my butt kicked. I was exhausted and took a long nap when I got home. But that experience had me hooked. I continued to come out to get my butt kicked during weekend, weekday, and speed workouts. The people I met were extremely encouraging, yelling “good job” as they ran past me each week.
One of my running highs during my time with the club was completing my first 10K, Wharf to Wharf in Santa Cruz. I was scared and didn’t think I could do it. My friends encouraged me to compete in the race and it turned out to be a positive experience. I ran the entire race and was overjoyed when I crossed the finish line. I was really, really hooked. That first year with the club, I went on to run a 2 mile race and another 5K while I watched my new friends run marathons and half marathons. I figured with their encouragement and the training with the coach, I could do it too. Now I have two half marathons under my belt and I’m training for my third. I run faster, longer and stronger and I’m in the best shape of my life.
A month ago I relocated to another region of the country. I didn’t want to lose what I started with my first club so I sought out a new running club. Running with this new club has been different. There are no coached workouts, just group runs. And there’s no telling who will show up to the group runs. Most of the time, I am the only female, which has taken some getting used to. Also I average a nine to 10 minute mile pace and sometimes I feel like I’m slowing the rest of the guys down. But they have all been very friendly and introduced me to places to run in my new city. Plus since they’re faster than me, over time I’ll get faster because I’ll have keep up with them.
Living in a different region of the country also means I have to find new people to run with. With my old club when I couldn’t make a coached workout I had friends to train with. Now when there’s not a group run, I run on my own, exploring new areas or on the treadmill. I find when run by myself, I run slower and I have to push myself more. But I’m sure that will change as I meet more people.
Even with my varied club experiences, I wouldn’t give up running with a group for anything. It’s made me the runner I am today and I wouldn’t trade the friends I’ve made for anything in the world.
Do you run with a group? What’s your experience been?