Wednesday, October 28, 2009

What’s Next!

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

New Diet Regime

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

Animal Sighting on the Run

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

Dressed for Running Success

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

Race Recovery

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

Race Rituals

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

Race Envy

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

Group Running Changes

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?