Wednesday, September 08, 2010
After a very sweaty, tiring long distance run sapped my motivation on Sunday, I was somewhat reluctant to begin a new week of training. I was actually starting to wonder if I was overtraining a bit or doing something wrong? Or maybe I really just did have a bad day, and “they” always say that your best training runs often come after the worst ones. This week also ended up being a very up and down week for me, but the good news is that it ended on a positive note. I still feel just as excited as ever about running the Wine & Dine Half Marathon in four weeks. I don’t have a particular time goal, and I’m headed into it with the sole objective of soaking in the Disney magic and the Food & Wine festivities. In recent weeks, I’ve really been reflecting on my long term running “vision,” in essence what I’m in it for and what I really want to get out of all this hard work and training. Lately, I’ve seen quite a bit of chatter among my friends about running-related training and goals, and it’s prompted me to really reflect on what I’m doing and what I’m all about…at least as far as my physical fitness is concerned. Am I pushing myself enough (or too much)? Do I have a satisfying balance of different types of training on my schedule? Are the events I’m choosing the right ones for me? Do I need to consider adding different elements which I’m currently not including, such as formal speed training? Many, many questions, right? But, considering that I devote 6+ hours each week to training, I truly want to make it the best experience I possibly can. I don’t want to dread my workouts or live with the feeling that it’s all pointless. Life’s too short for that. Sure, just like any other athlete, I’m going to have bad days when I don’t want to train, but I would hope that these days would be very much in the minority. I’ve struggled a bit with finding my way in running, just as I have with many aspects of my life, and I feel like things are starting to gel…somewhat, but I’ll admit that I’m still (and will probably always be) very much a work in progress.
I’ve already done a couple of half marathons, and I’m in the precarious position of determining my next steps. Do I want to embrace speed training and shoot for a smokin’ hot PR? Would I prefer to slowly build my endurance to 26.2? Or am I happy where I am, running half marathons like a Half Fanatic and collecting experiences to add to my running resume? Will I dedicate myself primarily to running, or would I prefer to master multisport training? I suppose the beauty of goal-setting is that, while it does give you a defined direction, it doesn’t have to be permanent either. The path that I choose today may not be the path I follow tomorrow. Re-evaluating my tentantive plans to rack up more half marathons in 2010-2011 and train for the 2012 Disney Marathon is a useful mental exercise. Looking back at over a year’s worth of progress and considering what I’m realistically capable of doing (while remaining healthy and injury-free!) in the coming eighteen months or so is something I really need to do.
The mental wall I hit during week six of my Madison Mini Marathon training was telling, and catalyzed the development of my current running “philosophy.” This was my third half, and with two under my belt, I had decided to challenge myself by adopting an intermediate-level training plan. The plan included weekly formal speedwork (tempo runs and track-style workouts on alternating weeks), and eschewed almost all cross training in favor of additional training runs. I hoped that the plan would help me run faster and “better.” Contrary to my expectations, the high volume of training made me miserable. I managed to trudge my way through every workout on the list, but about all I can say is that “I got through it.” Was I happy? Did I look forward to running? No…honestly, I really didn’t. Sometimes when I stood on the ‘mill to do a tempo run, I gazed longingly at the stationary bikes in the corner or daydreamed about the pool or Zumba class. I was tired, irritable, and stressed, classic signs of overtraining. That exhilerating feeling I used to get when I was running, the one where I felt like I was flying, the one where I fought the urge to tear down the street singing Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now,” was missing in action. Something was wrong, and things had to change before I just gave up completely. Sure, there’s something to be said for pushing yourself. It would be “cool” to run eight minute miles or cover 30+ miles in a week, but for me, at least at this time in my life, the crapload of work that it would take to get there is NOT worth it. I’m certainly not afraid of hard work – anyone who trains for a race isn’t, by necessity – but, since running is a pasttime, not my livelihood, there’s no sense in losing the joy in the journey.
With Type A Christina kicking and screaming and resisting the change with every fiber of her being, I scrapped my training plan and replaced it with a more conservative and varied one: three days a week of running, no speedwork, and generous portions of cross training. Although formal speed training was gone, if I suddenly felt inspired to run a few fartleks or do a bit of tempo running…so be it. When I felt like pushing myself, I could vary my course or throw in a few big hills. Jack Johnson became my virtual “coach,” as his laid-back music reminded me to slow down, breathe esy, and RELAX. In spite of my initial doubts, I quickly saw that this was one of the best decisions I could have made. The final six weeks of my training went like a dream, and the Madison Mini Marathon was unforgettable. Did I PR that day? No, but I’m proud of my time, and even prouder of how smoothly the 13.1 miles went. I ran that race feeling stronger and more confident in myself than ever. Why do I run? I run for the experience, the sheer joy, and the ability to retreat from the daily grind. Every run I do, from the weeknight four miler to race day itself, is like a mini-vacation that whisks me away from my troubles and responsibilities. I can feel like a child, running wild, taking in my surroundings, and letting my thoughts and emotions flow freely. I can just BE. I circle back to the question, “What are my goals?” My #1 goal is just to RUN. Not necessarily longer or faster, but just to get out there and RUN. I’m very much interested in building my race resume to include more half marathons and that 2012 Walt Disney Marathon. But as I approach every race day, my focus will always be the same…to simply enjoy the journey, every step of the way.
Enough babbling for now! As you can tell, I’ve had a lot of time to think this week. In any event, this week’s training was somewhat of a mixed bag, but I’d generally consider it a success. Here’s the recap:
Monday: After Sunday’s treacherous long run, I was grateful for the chance to just REST. I did do a little bit of strength training, but with my feet firmly planted in front of the TV ;)
Tuesday: Thunderstorms drove me inside to the treadmill, but my one consolation was that Chopped was on Food Network. The run didn’t turn out to be so bad (4.74 miles in 50 minutes, average pace of 10:33/mile), and it was a perfect outlet for some of my emotions. Today was my son’s last day in the two-year-old preschool classroom, and I was experiencing an intense rush of the bittersweet “Oh no, my little baby is growing up!” feelings. I was in desperate need of a little me time.
Wednesday: So…yeah, taking the little man to the three-year-old classroom was tough on my mother hen instincts, but we all survived. He actually went happily and had a wonderful day with his new teachers and friends, while I was the one all torn up about it! Again, it was one of those days when I was eager for the chance to work out and distract myself. The Expresso bike, my main squeeze, was in use, so I started with a hill walk on the treadmill, which lasted about fifteen minutes. Once I had a chance, I got on the bike for 6.33 miles of rolling hills. Good times!
Thursday: MEH sums up how I felt about today’s run. I’m not sure if it was the workouts yesterday, but my legs just felt weak and soupy today. Even though I had Project Runway, where the designers had to re-do hideous bridesmaid dresses, to entertain me, not to mention the task of pondering why my son came home with bright green hair (art project gone amok, I suspected), I just could NOT get into it. I could not get my legs to move at more than about a 10:30/mile…very frustrating. I completed 4.54 miles in 50:00, an 11:01/mile pace. Well, I did it…and it was tough, but I can check that workout off my list, I guess. But as I left the gym, I kind of shook my head and wondered, “Why do I do this to myself?”
Friday: I normally cross-train on Saturdays, but due to some of our weekend plans, moved that workout to this evening. After bidding a happy farewell to the work week and eating some dinner with the guys, I hit the Expresso bike for a leisurely fifteen miles. I didn’t push the intensity, and just let my legs move at a comfortable pace. When I was finished, I also made another big dent in my weekly strength training routine.
Saturday: Pretty much a day off, but I did squeeze in a bit more strength training while Timmy was busy playing with his new Thomas the train set.
Sunday: This morning was my first “cool weather” run of the season. When I got ready to head out, it was about 48 degrees, so I actually put on a light jacket. Imagine that! My iPod battery had died and I had forgotten to charge it, so my ten miler would be just me, alone with my random thoughts. A little scary! The run generally went VERY smoothly, and I felt like it gave me the redemption I needed after last week’s exhausting LSD. Without music, I spent most of my time caught up in reflecting on my fitness goals, among other things. It was very refreshing just to hash everything out without any distractions. The only part of the run I really struggled with was the last half mile, which included a HUGE steep ascent. I huffed and puffed my way up and attracted a couple of curious stares from a couple of people walking their dogs at the top of the hill. I finished 10.08 miles in 1:49:05, average pace 10:49/mile.
So, even though my training runs were a little hit-or-miss this week, I feel good about how it turned out. My totals came out to 19.36 miles of running, 2.80 miles of walking, 21.33 miles of cycling, and 90 minutes of strength training. Really very similar to last week, just with a little more strength training. It felt like just the right amount of training. In Week Three, I’ll bump my distances up just a bit more. Midweek runs will now be five miles, and my Sunday LSD will be eleven miles. Until then…
Monday, August 30, 2010
After twelve weeks of building up to the Madison Mini Marathon and a great race last weekend, I might fall into the post-race blues. Except…there’s not much time for that because I have another exciting event right around the corner. I’m running Walt Disney World’s Wine & Dine Half Marathon on October 2, five short weeks from now! This is a nighttime race centered around the EPCOT Food & Wine Festival, which starts the same weekend. The F&W Festival is one of my favorite Disney events, probably tied with the Disney Christmas festivities. I’m not so much into the wine, but I love wandering around EPCOT sampling bites of different kinds of food. Yum! (Thankfully the walk around the World Showcase is around 1.25 miles, so I burn off many of the calories I consume as I wander…) This year is the inaugural Wine & Dine Half Marathon, and I’m excited and honored to be a part of this event. After completing the Princess Half Marathon back in March and having an incredible experience, I signed up for this one almost immediately! I can’t wait to be back in Florida on my “home turf,” soaking up the Disney atmosphere! My training plan for this half is just six weeks, and will essentially cover the final six weeks of Hal Higdon’s beginner’s half marathon training plan (but with the long distance mileages ramped up just a bit). So here goes nothing…
Monday: After taking a day to recover from the Madison Mini Marathon, I was eager to get back to work! Today, after working on some core strength training at home, I hit the gym for an easy cycling workout, just a quick seven miles at a low-moderate intensity.
Tuesday: Today, my schedule got really turned around due to work commitments, so I ended up switching today’s scheduled run for a late-night cycling workout at the gym. I was feeling unusually stressed out today, so it felt good to fly on the Expresso bike and leave it all behind! I really needed the physical release in a BAD way. I did 10.15 miles at a moderate intensity, and the time just FLEW by!
Wednesday: After some lower body strength training, I ventured out into the neighborhood for a late evening run. This is the first time I’ve really run at night (outdoors, anyway), so it was quite an adventure! Since the Wine & Dine is a nighttime race, I am trying to get some training done at night just so I have a better sense of what I’m getting into. And I must say that nighttime running ROCKS! Tonight the air was so crisp and cool and refreshing that I could definitely feel fall on its way. I ran without music so I could be more aware of my surroundings, and I have to say that running is not as engaging when there aren’t other people or raceday entertainment to keep me occupied. I actually ended up resorting to counting my steps towards the end because I was just a little bored with the whole silence thing! Towards the end of the run, I was treated to a spectacular view of the big full moon rising…that was pretty sweet! I ended up finishing 4.47 miles in 46:56, for an average pace of 10:29/mile. And, even though I got a little bored from the lack of music, I thoroughly enjoyed my nighttime running experience.
Thursday: I worked on some upper body strength training, then geared up for my next training run. This was my second nighttime run in a row, and I mixed up my route with some extra hill work. After last night’s boredom, I entertained myself with a little quiet Jack Johnson music. Tonight’s run was one of the best in a while. I tackled all the hills without slowing down! Considering that just a few months ago, I couldn’t do the same hills without stopping at least once, I have come a long way! So, although my running hasn’t gotten a ton speedier, I feel a LOT stronger and I can definitely feel that I’ve made a lot of progress with hillwork and conquering different kinds of terrain. So I’ll take it! I trotted down the final hill, once again enjoying a view of the full moon and feeling jazzed about my successful workout and my upcoming half. I think that nighttime running is my FAVORITE! Which is a good thing, I guess, since the days will be getting shorter and shorter, and many of my after work runs will have to be in the dark. Tonight, I finished 4.82 miles in 48:37, for a pace of 10:05/mile. Sooooo close to breaking that magical 10:00/mile mark, which is amazing for all those hills!
Friday: Tonight I finished up my strength training for the week, and then just took it easy. Unless you count chasing an active three-year-old around the house as a workout ;)
Saturday: I attempted to get up early for a cycling workout, but when the alarm buzzed, sleeping in seemed like a MUCH more attractive option. And once I finally woke up, I had errands to take care of: a haircut appointment, grocery shopping, cleaning. After lunch, I reluctantly got over to the gym. Just wasn’t feeling it today. I was scheduled for 50 minutes, and I counted EVERY minute as I moved through the workout. It was almost painful! I did manage to finish up, though, and completed 12.71 miles. It wasn’t that today’s workout was bad as such, but I just wasn’t enthusiastic about it either. It was a huge relief to return home and spend the rest of the afternoon couch surfing with the fam.
Sunday: After several weeks in a row of fantastic long training runs (and a great half last week), I was about due for a dud. When I had trouble setting on a route the night before, I just got a bad feeling about this morning’s nine miler. I kept putting potential routes into MapMyRun, and I either didn’t like them or they were just too confusing. I ended up copying the route for an upcoming Haunted Hustle group training run. I figured it couldn’t hurt to begin familiarizing myself with some Middleton running routes, since that’s where the Haunted Hustle is. I had to get up at four forty-five in order to finish the commuting and the actual run in time for church. WOW, it is so easy to forget how early that really is! Still in a half-zombie state, I got dressed, ate a bit of food, and took the twenty-minute drive to the shopping center where I’d start.
The shopping district was deserted (as you would expect), but the stereo was already playing music…perhaps to entertain the lone security guard who was cruising the center in his car? As I set out running, I made the critical mistake which (I believe) botched up the whole workout. Some upbeat Counting Crows was playing on the stereo, and I moved in time to the music…way TOO FAST. I was flying, and it felt awesome. Well, at least for the moment. There was something bizarre and thrilling about flying through the deserted outdoor mall at top speed, almost like being a little kid running wild through a toy store after hours.
About a mile down the road, I turned on to the bike path which would carry me through the countryside and to my turnaround point, I started to feel tired…SERIOUSLY tired. I had just made the classic mistake of starting out too fast, and now I would pay! I had scarcely run a 5K and had no clue how I was going to make it through 6 more miles. I tried to enjoy my surroundings. I passed by a Lexus dealership, a small neighborhood, and vast cornfields. Where else but the midwest would you see a luxury car dealership within the same quarter mile as barns and cows?! The sun was starting to rise, and the fiery orange orb lit up the countryside in such a spectacular way that I wished I had a camera on hand. It seemed to take FOREVER to reach my turnaround point, and when I finally did (dork alert!) I honored my usual little ritual of singing “Ooooooooo, we’re halfway there, oooo oooooooo livin’ on a prayer!” (There’s a crazy running-related confession for you…) And I was finally homeward bound.
To perk myself up, I tore open a Power Bar chocolate energy gel and started to eat it. This was the first time I had eaten this brand, and ICK, what a mistake! It had a sickly sweet chocolate peanut butter-ish flavor and the consistency of Greek yogurt. BLECH! I know that Greek Yogurt is one of the latest “it” foods and is supposed to be so good for you, but I just can’t get into it. I can’t get past the texture. It just like sticks in my throat and EW. Anyway, so needless to say I won’t be buying that kind of gel again, but at least it gave me a little energy boost. As I trudged through the remaining few miles, I slowed down more and more, to the point that I lengthened my walking intervals and shortened the running ones by quite a bit just to get myself home. To distract myself, I thought about my fall racing schedule, which is coming together very nicely, and contemplated what I would wear to my upcoming races. Whatever works, right?! I nearly cried with relief when I ran back into the shopping center (much more slowly, of course) and spotted my car in the distance. I ended up completing 10.21 miles in 1:52:06, for an average pace fo 10:58/mile. Without being able to look at my splits, my guess is that my first couple of miles probably were way too fast, given that my last few miles were extremely slow (like in the 12:00/mile range, I’m guessing). I guess that this is one of those situations where a Garmin really could come in handy. Well, I’ll just move on from this one and remember to pace myself more carefully next time! It was a horrible 10 miles, but could have been a LOT worse. At least my GI system behaved!
So, that wraps up my first week of Wine & Dine training. I did a total of 19.5 miles of running, as well as 29.86 miles of cycling and 73 minutes of strength training. Next week’s plan is pretty similar to this week’s, except that I’ll ramp up the strength training to 90 minutes. I did struggle a bit with motivation towards the end of this week, but that’s bound to happen once in a while! I’m keeping my fingers crossed for some more great running weather and a successful week. We have a few more hot days coming up, but hopefully some more gorgeous fall-like weather will come up soon!
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
As the Madison Mini Marathon approached, I felt almost as nervous as if it were my first half marathon. Well, in a sense, it actually was. This was the first half marathon I registered for. It was the day after the Berbee Derby. I was glowing in the bask of having finished my first "official" 5K in 33:41. I kept toying with the colorful Madison Mini Marathon flyer I had received with my race packet. I was tempted. As a newbie runner, I knew that I wanted to run a half "someday" but felt anxious that nine months wouldn't be enough time to get myself ready for such a formidable distance. Marathons and half marathons were for "real"runners, serious runners, and I wasn't even sure if I qualified. But with shaking hands, I filled out the entry form and bravely hit the Submit button. I had pulled the trigger...and committed to (what I thought would be) my first half marathon.
In the nine months that followed, I enjoyed various distractions...lots of work and two events called the Disney Princess Half Marathon and the Madison Half Marathon. Before I even picked up my Madison Mini race materials, I had two half marathon finisher's certificates hanging on my wall, and I knew beyond a doubt that I could go the distance. But as I walked into the expo on Friday afternoon, I felt almost as nervous and intimidated as the newly minted 5K finisher who signed up back in November.
After dinner, I went through the motions of setting up my race gear: running skirt, shirt, shoes, moisture wicking socks, Amphipod, two packets of shot blocks, a "grasshopper Gu," iPod, headphones, Gymboss, bib, safety pins, cash for parking, road ID, which has kind of become a good luck charm, and so on. I was way too nervous/excited to sleep and didn't make it to bed until eleven or so! Even though the jitters were in full swing, I just had a good feeling about this race somehow. The weather outlook was promising - predictions of mid-70s temperatures and cloudy skies, but no rain. After seeing possible storms on the forecast earlier in the week, this was definitely a relief! The course looked gorgeous: scenic, interesting, and not ridiculously hilly. My training, particularly my recent long runs, had gone swimmingly. I was READY!
I set two alarm clocks but, as usual, I didn't really need them. My body somehow knew to get up about two minutes before alarm #1 sounded. I quickly got dressed and started toasting a bagel for breakfast. I paced around a bit, putzed around on the computer, ate, and headed out just a bit before five o' clock. On the way to the expo, I had run into some painful construction, so rerouted myself a much easier way today. I got to the parking garage a little after five and didn't have any problems finding a spot. After taking my time getting my stuff together, I took the short walk towards the UW campus. I saw a couple of groups of runners, but not a lot of people had arrived just yet. I found a comfortable place to sit in front of the library, listened to some Jack Johnson on my iPod, and tried to stay as calm as I could. I had taken a few minutes to check out the start line and decided to position myself between the 2:20 and 2:30 signs, closer to the 2:30.
As the next hour wore on, the sky got lighter and lighter until it was a pearly shade of gray, and more and more runners arrived. The event was sold out, with 4000 people joining the half marathon. I savored my daily dose of people watching as runners and their friends and family milled around near the starting line. At 6:30, I stationed myself near my starting position and watched a tow truck cart off a car that had parked nearby, squarely in front of a big No Parking sign! I spotted Bucky Badger walking over to the 5K start line. At 6:40, we started to hear some announcements from the emcee. He explained the flag system and warned us to pace ourselves for the warm weather and drink plenty of water. The usual pre-race stuff. At 6:55, we listened to the National Anthem, and I started feeling really emotional. There’s something magical about standing at the start line with thousands of other runners. From the elite runners to the penguins, we’re all in it together, all about to embark on a 13.1 mile adventure. That’s pretty awe-inspiring…at least to me! After the soloist sang the last few notes of the anthem, it was time to GO! Up ahead, we saw a man waving a green flag, and the elite runners ran out, followed by the rest of us. It took about four minutes for me to cross the start line, at which point I started my Gymboss. I smiled and felt like an excited little kid running into Disney World as I passed the man with the green flag. Half marathon #3...bring it!
Throughout the first mile, space was a little tight, so I stuck to running...didn't want to annoy anyone by slowing to a walk after just a couple of minutes, and there was really nowhere for me to go to get out of people's way. I just kept my pace at a comfortable jog and remembered that I'd have a lot of distance to cover over the next two hours. I was enjoying my surroundings already. We started running up towards Capitol Square, and the capitol looked eerie and cool rising up out of the morning fog. We did a quick jaunt around part of the square, which was alive with race spectators and farmer's market attendees. The first mile marker was on State Street, right after we left the square. The clock said 14:00, which translated to somewhere between 10-11 minutes for me...right on target! As I worked through the first few miles, the music on my iPod became more and more of a distraction and I kept turning down the volume, and then finally decided to let it just stop. The people watching was enough to keep me entertained, and there were bands and musicians positioned periodically along the course to keep the music coming.
The second and third miles were a complete blur, and before I knew it we were running up by the zoo, right where I did my very first race almost a year ago. That brought back a few fond memories! At the fourth mile marker, we turned into the UW Arboretum for a peaceful, scenic, but humid and mosquito-ey couple of miles. The canopy of trees kept us well shaded, not that it was really sunny anyway, but WOW those mosquitoes were biting! As I ran along the paved path, I played tag with a girl whose shirt read “I had my wisdom teeth out 5 days ago. I just want to finish.” (Quite possibly the most creative outfit I saw all day!) And I was surprised to see one of my co-workers trotting along the course right in front of me in the fifth mile! I had no idea she was even a runner! We only stuck together for a short time, but oddly enough, actually ended up finishing the race within four minutes of each other. I jogged along at a leisurely pace and started popping lemon-lime Shot Blocks to keep myself fueled. I let my thoughts wander freely, and briefly wished I had a pensieve to capture them all…just so I could look back in a few years and entertain myself with the crazy things I think about on long runs. Right around six miles or so, we saw a runner down, but thankfully EMS was already there to help. It’s so easy to forget that long distance running comes with its risks, but it does. Much as I try to hydrate and fuel and take care of myself, there’s always the little part of me that fears I’ll be the “runner down” in a race.
At this point I was expecting to see the uphill action I thought I had seen on the course map, but it never seemed to come. Either I misread it, or my hill training had really really paid off! I ran over the 10K split timing mat, and soon after that, we popped out of the arboretum at the seven mile mark. The race was halfway over and it hardly even felt like it. I was just in disbelief at how smoothly things were going so far. Were there big problems ahead? There was no way it could be this easy…right? We turned onto a main road and kept on going, past some spectators and a water station or two. I was amused by the Barney Gumble style burps I kept hearing behind me at the water stations. Apparently, etiquette isn’t really top priority in these events! Somewhere right around the ninth mile marker, we ran by Bruce’s church and I realized I was starting to feel a bit tired. It wasn’t as horrid as in the Madison Half Marathon, where my legs were just screaming “Nononono!!” This time my legs felt a bit loose and weak, and my breathing was getting more and more labored. And it felt like one of my toenails was slowly biting the dust. Awesome. And then, in grand Christina tradition, my Gymboss just QUIT on me. As in the screen went completely blank…and nothing. It seems like having a piece of gear break on me is quickly becoming a required part of my race day experience. Lesson learned…NEVER count on ANY piece of gear to get me through a race. Because, with my luck, it probably won’t.
So as with the Madison Half Marathon, when my Garmin died, I had to completely abandoned my structured run-walk intervals and just go with the flow. It wasn’t so bad. I ran some, I walked a little. When I felt stronger, I went faster and ran longer. When I felt weaker, I slowed it down. We turned back towards the UW campus and headed due north towards Lake Mendota. I was enjoying myself immensely. I did have a near-miss almost-fall-down incident when my foot got caught on a piece of rough pavement and threw me off balance. Luckily the only casualty was one of my Amphipod water bottles, which popped out of my hydration belt. And thankfully, it only endured minor injuries...and its outlook is promising! Around mile 10.5, the course crossed near the 11.5ish mile part of the course, and a runner near me joked about taking a little shortcut. (Not that we would have really done that…besides why would I want to cheat myself out of a mile out of my 13.1 when I paid good money to run the whole thing?!) So we ran and ran some more, up to a turnaround point, and soon enough, we were on “the other side” of that meeting point, with less than two miles to go.
Shortly after that, we were cruising right along the lake shore path, enjoying a peaceful view of the sailboats in the water. After some more Shot Blocks, water, and “grasshopper Gu” my energy had come back and I felt ready to make a strong finish. By this point, I was pretty sure, from looking at the mile markers’ race clocks, that I would not be PR’ing, but I was OK with that. The crowd of spectators was getting bigger, and I spotted many race finishers wearing their shiny new medals. I knew that the end was near now! Hearing some of the spectators calling out my name (thanks to the personalized race bibs) gave me that extra little bit of motivation to keep on running strong, even when I was tempted to slow down and walk.
We then ran behind a building and started to turn away from the lakeshore path. Up one last hill, around a corner, and the finish line was in sight! As I neared the top of the hill, I took one last quick walk break so I’d have energy to burn it on in to the finish. The emcee was announcing runners’ names as they trickled in one by one, and I heard him announce my name, but didn’t hear anything else he said. I was so focused on the race clock ahead of me, which said 2:26:something, and the race photographers behind the finish line that I just couldn’t accept any more sensory input. I tried to smile for the camera, but wasn’t completely sure how it came out. It was a fine balance between keeping my breathing going, moving my feet, and arranging my facial features into some kind of semi-photogenic form. I guess I’ll see if my efforts actually worked once the race photos come out!
I stopped for a bottle of water, and as I started to drink, I felt tears welling up in my eyes. Out of nowhere, I was feeling overwhelmed with emotions, and just so happy that I finished and had such a positive experience. It was as if I was finishing a half for the first time all over again. It was amazing! Feeling kind of corny and blubbery, I moved on to receive my finisher’s medal, along with an ice cold bottle of chocolate milk (ahhhhhhhhhhh). Then I stood in line to sit on an oversized chair and have my photo taken. It was tricky manipulating my tired legs up a stepladder to sit on the chair. I had fleeting worries about getting through 13.1 injury-free miles only to bust my rear end trying to get myself onto the chair! Thankfully, my finisher’s photo was incident-free, and I wandered over to the finish line to watch people run in. It was so much fun seeing people smiling as they crossed the line, and I especially loved couples and friends who ran in holding hands! It’s so amazing to go through this journey as a soloist, so it just touches me to see people take on this challenge, start to finish, together. After the final runners and walkers finished their race, I went to the results table to get my official time: 2:22:52. Not too shabby…but how cool would it have been to come in thirty seconds faster and have 2:22:22?! Oh well, I’m still very happy with my time. After a bit of disappointment after the scorching hot Madison Half Marathon, it was kind of nice to see my time shrink by almost ten minutes. Still not a PR, but well within range! The mass exodus out of the parking garage was overwhelming and I was hungry, so I finished up my morning with a stroll over to Five Guys for my favorite post-race snack, a hot, juicy burger!
I can’t say enough good things about my experience with the Madison Mini Marathon! It ranks right up there with the Disney Princess Half Marathon on its pure awesomeness. The official website build it as a showcase of Madison’s best sights and compared it to a mini-vacation, and it was 100% true! The course was gorgeous, not overwhelmingly challenging but far from boring, and included many of my favorite running venues. The fleet of smiling volunteers was fantastic! Helpful, energetic, encouraging, seriously everything a runner could ask for. The water stations were well stocked, and even featured misters to cool everyone off, and the race ran super smoothly. The organizers really had their stuff together. And to cap it all off, I really loved both the race shirt and the finisher’s medal! I’d highly recommend this race to any runner who happens to be near Madison in August.
This was quite a journey for me! Even though I can’t get all geeked out with my Garmin anymore, I did keep a running tally of all the time and miles I put in during my twelve weeks of training. And it all came down to this:
261.17 miles of running and walking +
184.02 miles of cycling =
452.19 miles total
2650 minutes of running and walking +
745 minutes of cycling +
708 minutes of strength training =
4350 minutes total
The mileage added up to (roughly) the distance between Tampa, FL, my hometown, and Atlanta, GA. That’s an eight-hour drive, and, from having done it many times, I know that it’s a LONG way! My training was a huge commitment, but worth it from beginning to end. I’m really proud of myself for working so hard on this and getting to the end of my 13.1. I’m still in amazement that, just two short years ago, I wouldn’t have even wanted to run a mile, and here I am with three half marathons DONE! Today’s experience strengthened my desire to run a marathon in 2012. Yes, I was tired at the finish, but with the proper training, I know I can keep right on going! The marathon is a challenge which I’m very eager and excited to tackle…once I have a bit more experience. For now, I’m all ready for my next adventure: the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon, six short weeks from now. I have my training plan sketched out, and am looking forward to enjoying some high-quality early autumn running weather. Let the training begin!
Friday, August 20, 2010
Well...here we are in the final hours before the race! It's 9:59 pm, and the starting gun is exactly nine hours and one minute away. I can't believe that just twelve weeks ago I was just starting out with this training program, and here I am, just about ready to "graduate." Race-day jitters are in full swing. You know, just the typical stuff. Will it rain? Will it be too hot? Will I get lost on the way to the starting line? Will I get stuck in construction traffic? Will I find a parking spot? Yeah, I'm right on target with all these little nagging questions ;) As for training, though, I feel as ready as I'll ever be and excited to give this one a try. The course looks somewhat challenging, with some hilliness in the middle, but also scenic and interesting. I'm looking forward to the bit that goes through the Arboretum, one of the prettiest spots in town! And of course, the finish line is something I always can't wait to see!
This week was my last week of training, and as I mentioned in my previous blog entry, I tapered and thereby resisted my body's desire to push hard right through to the end. It was refreshing to get a bit of extra rest, even if it felt strange to hop off the bike after thirty minutes or stop the treadmill after two miles! I also cut my strength training back a good bit to let those muscles rest up! Here's my recap of the week...
Monday: I did 7.94 easy miles on the bike, which added up to about a half hour, and some core and lower body strength training. The intensity all around was more relaxed and easygoing than my usual.
Tuesday: 4.21 mile easy run (well...haven't all of my runs been kind of easy-ish lately?!), and I ran on the treadmill. It wasn't much shorter than an average weeknight run and honestly didn't feel that much different. I watched some very engaging Food Network programming while I worked out. More light strength training...this time upper body.
Wednesday: Another cross-training night, so I hit the bike as usual, just for a half hour again. I was a little bored with cycling tonight, so watched the calorie counter (even though we all know that cardio equipment calorie counters aren't really accourate) and counted up the number of Jelly Bellys I was burning off. (I had just eaten a bunch of candy, so perhaps it was some residual guilt...) I wrapped up with even more light strength training, with a mix of different muscle groups represented.
Thursday: Project Runway and running on the treadmill! I actually watched part of the show at home, dashed to the gym during a commercial break, and watched the last bit while I did my 2.36 miles on the 'mill. The workout felt absurdly short! I got through it easily and didn't feel all that challenged or even a bit overworked at the end. Although I guess that's kind of the idea, right? I did my final little bits of strength training, and officially wrapped up my training efforts.
Friday: Officially a rest day! I took a half day off of work and headed to the race expo to pick up my packet and browse all of the running goods. It was kind of a trip getting downtown. There were a lot of construction zones between my work and the pickup location, and I hit traffic and problems at ALL of them. Crazy! At least it gave me some practice for getting down there tomorrow morning. Parking wasn't as difficult as I feared, and I was in and out of the (stuffy, non-air conditioned) expo hall pretty quickly with my race materials, cool new blue tech T, and supply of Shot Blocks for tomorrow. And I've been relaxing at home since then. Now it's about time for me to get some shut-eye...or at least try to! I'm feeling like I'm almost too excited to sleep!
Wish me luck tomorrow! This is IT!
Thursday, August 19, 2010
After an involuntary cutback week, this week was my last “big” training week before the taper and RACE DAY! Eek! It was a little bit difficult falling back into my usual routine after a week of constantly interrupted sleep and a complete breakdown of my day-to-day rhythm. But I did it, got my training right back on track, and feel ready to take on the world. Or at least the big race! Here’s my recap of the week:
Monday: I took today as a rest day…mainly so I could catch up on all that missed sleep! Zzzzzzz…it felt amazing to rest my head on the pillow knowing that my sleep wouldn't be interrupted by the pager.
Tuesday: It felt strange and even a little intimidating going back to running after FIVE days away from it. How is it that five days can feel like an eternity? A sI took my first steps on the treadmill, it felt almost like my legs were actually rusty and creaky from lack of use. I found Cupcake Wars on the TV and set myself (gently) in motion. What better motivation to keep running than visions of dreamy cake flavor combinations dancing before me?! I’m all about the competitive cooking shows…I get into it kind of like sports fans get into the Super Bowl or March Madness! I kept my pace gentle and easy tonight, and finished 5.54 miles in one hour, average pace of 10:50/mile. Not bad for my first day back!
Wednesday: I hit the bike for a hilly 9.53 mile ride, and also got in a healthy dose of strength training. It was refreshing to just ride and daydream, ride and daydream, away from the stresses of the work week.
Thursday: Another treadmill run tonight. It was for the better since we were under a heat WARNING. Craziness! The heat index was something like 101 which is almost unheard of up here. Thankfully Project Runway was on to make my ‘mill workout more entertaining. I pushed myself a tiny bit harder today and cranked out 5.62 miles in 59:30, average pace 10:35/mile. My body is feeling good, strong, stable, and ready to take on 13.1. Although first I have to take on this week’s 12 mile long run, the last LSD of this training program.
Friday: Very much like Wednesday, I did some strength training and also spent a little time on the bike, this time 7.44 miles. I feel so good that I’m finally getting into a consistent pattern with my cross training and strength training! I know that it’s good for my running and I’m just glad that I’ve finally hit on something else that I actually LIKE to do.
Saturday: Today I was scheduled for sixty minutes of cross training, and did some more biking, 15 miles to be exact! I also finished up my strength training for the week. I tried not to push too hard on either activity since I wanted to be good and rested for tomorrow’s long run.
Sunday: I was SUPER nervous about today’s long run. It was the longest training run I had ever attempted - uncharted territory again! And I was going into it with not having run outdoors OR completed a long run in two weeks. What if my body had forgotten how to go the distance? I planned a neighborhood route with varying terrain (big hills, rolling hills, plenty of flats, and conveniently routed past a public bathroom and water fountains in case I needed them) anad planned to conquer it at an easy pace. Thankfully the weather could NOT have been better for running! When I got started, a little before six o’ clock, it was in the mid-60’s and the sun was just starting to rise. There was just the slightest hint of autumn in the air. Any reminder of my favorite season of the year is enough to put a bit smile on my face! The world was just starting to wake up, and I enjoyed the peace & quiet and the feeling like I was embarking on my own, private little mini-vacation. As for the run itself, it was DREAMY. I went uphill, downhill, across the flats with no extra walk breaks, no GI issues, no wardrobe malfunctions, no gear-related glitches, no problems! It felt easy and I could have easily done more. That’s the way running is SUPPOSED to feel! I ran 12.42 miles in 2:08:32, for an average pace of 10:21/mile. If I can run the race at that pace, I can even beat my PR (from Disney) by a little bit. You never know!
It was a very successful week. I did 24.12 miles of running/walking, to bring my total to 239.86 miles. I also added in 31.97 miles of cycling and 93 minutes of strength training to balance things out a bit. I’m feeling good and ready for this race now…and a week from now I should have a shiny new medal to add to my growing BLING collection! Now I can relax and enjoy my week of tapering. This week will include a bit of strength training, two days of light cross training, and two runs, a four miler on Tuesday and a two miler on Thursday. On Friday, I’m taking a half day of vacation to attend the expo and get ready for Saturday morning. And then, bright and early on Saturday, I’ll be (once again) on the run! Now, bring on the taper madness! Stalking Weather.com every hour to double-check Saturday's forecast - check. Obsessing over whether to wear the pink shirt or the black one with my newest running skirt - check. Contemplating which flavors of Shot Blocks to pack in my Amphipod - check. Daydreaming about what I'm going to buy at the expo - check. Exciting stuff!!
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