Monday, January 13, 2014

Chicago Polar Dash - Race Recap

Well, after an unplanned break from blogging (ah, the joys of graduate school and the holidays!), I can officially say - I am BACK! 2014 is a new year and I've got big plans, big aspirations, and big events coming this year. But, more on that later…

For now I attempt my first race recap - forgive me if it sucks.

After the difficulty to complete last year's challenge of 13 in 2013 and the major events coming in 2014 (HELLO graduation!!!!),  I knew a lot of races wasn't an option this year. Enter the year of BIG races. I'm still going to do a handful of races, but they'll be larger distances or big, fun events to travel to. Either way, each race will be carefully selected. :)

The Chicago Polar Dash was my first race of 2014. Why did I choose this race? A couple of reasons really: 1) My friend Jess from Run With Jess was doing it and I've always wanted to do a race with her, 2) it had GREAT swag, and 3) it was a 14 mile race which would set a new distance PR for me.

We traveled up the night before and had a great time talking and laughing all the way to Chicago, capping the night off with some pretty awesome Chicago style pizza in our hotel room. Then it was early to bed.

Carb loading…Chicago style!

We woke up the morning of the race with all of us a little concerned on how to dress. There was much discussion and debate on what would be the perfect combination of tops, jackets, and accessories to ensure we were warm enough but not too warm. In the end I ended up going with Jess's suggestion of a long sleeve and my thin jacket. Let me just say, she's a genius because it was the perfect combo. The only thing that ever got cold was my hands and I've always had issues with that.

Other than being mostly black, this was the perfect combo for the temps.

We walked from our hotel to the race start in Grant Park and timed it pretty well.  Within a few minutes we were lining up to start, but not before we'd taken a picture for posterity.

It was so much fun to travel and run with these ladies! 

The start came and we were off.  Got the Garmin started and settled into the first few miles trying to warm up and chatting with my new friend CC. The course was an out-and-back which I actually enjoy. There's something in my head that says that if I can get to the halfway point, I've got it in the bag.

I never remember to look up at the photographers! 

Despite the lack of sunshine, the scenery along the lakefront trail was still very pretty.  I always enjoy running the Lakefront Trail, no matter what time of year it is. The lake is beautiful and the trail is very well maintained.

The beautiful Chicago skyline

Before we knew it CC and I were nearing the 7 mile turnaround point.  For not having specifically trained for this event, I was pretty happy with my splits.

Mile 1: 11:41 (Lots of "obstacle"  hopping slowed me down some.)
Mile 2: 11:09 (Still warming up)
Mile 3: 9:59
Mile 4: 10:05
Mile 5: 10:44 (HUGE puddles!)
Mile 6: 10:43 (More puddles!)
Mile 7: 10:30 

At the turn-around point I whooped it up a little and settled in to finish this badboy.  Knowing I wasn't going to make any sort of time goal because of the conditions, I stopped to take some pictures. 

I loved the color of the water in this picture. 

Even in the dead of winter, the Chicago skyline is so beautiful to me. 

About mile 8 I split off from CC and kept plugging away. I'd taken my Gu at 1 hour and 1:45 right on schedule and was feeling pretty good.  I found myself alone for a while so I kicked on the music and pushed on toward the finish. 

About mile 10 and still smiling!
Mile 8: 10:26
Mile 9: 10:28
Mile 10: 10:23

As I neared the finish my pace picked up a little. I was feeling good and thoughts of a marathon once again entered my head.  It was this point in the race, about mile 12 that I knew I could do it and made the decision to register for my first marathon. :)

What a welcome sight! Heading toward the finish line!

The home stretch! 1 mile to go!
Mile 11: 10:33
Mile 12: 10:10

With less than 2 miles to go I kicked it into gear and finished strong. Could I have pushed it harder? Probably. But, I feel good about this race and the decision that came out of it, and that's what matters to me. 

Woohoo, I made it! Strong finish!

First medal for 2014! 

Mile 13: 9:50 (A little burst of speed there!)
Mile 14: 10:13 

After crossing the finish line I collected my medal, a banana, and a very welcome cup of hot chocolate, then headed back to the finish to cheer in my friends. I love watching the faces of my friends as the cross the finish line! 

Well, that's it for the Polar Dash. I'm wondering though, have you ever made an important decision while running?

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Seasons of life & a dream board

A wise friend reminded me this week that life has seasons.  Not all of them are joyful, but not all of them are bad either.  As we discussed this in the car, I realized that my season of life is getting in the way of my running, but I'm learning to be okay with that.

My little ones are small, but mighty! 
I  mean, with faces like that, it's hard not to be okay with making sacrifices for them and their well-being.  But, I'm human and some days I struggle with it. My wise friend reminded me that during this season where I have toddlers and a husband away from home, working hard for his family in service to his country, I need to let go of perfection and trying to please all people.  Life is more enjoyable when you can find the joy in the everyday parts of the season you're in, rather than wishing it away.

Ouch, totally guilty some days.

As a typical type A (or so overly type A we call it triple-A in my major) personality, I plan, I organize, and I overcommit all while expecting it all to be perfect.  As my wise friend reminded me, family comes first and there was only one perfect person (and I'm not Him!)

So, while I've been busy being mom and finishing graduate school I'm not running with the regularity and race times I want.  But, I have been reflecting and I've realized a couple of things:

1. Running is not my career.  I don't get paid to do it, I'm not going to get sponsored, and I'm not an elite runner.  What I am is a determined mother runner who sees the benefits running has had for me both athletically and personally.  I want to continue to capitalize on that to be the best athlete and person I can be.

2. Having goals is great - but not when they take over your life or working to achieve them is no longer enjoyable.  I had taken on too much, as usual, and running was starting to become just one more thing to get done.  That, I am NOT okay with, at all.  So, I'm re-evaluating my goals, and more specifically, the time frame for those goals.  I like to get things accomplished quickly.  I'm learning though, sometimes it's better to wait.

3.  The spontaneous runs, with or without kids, are sometimes the best.  Over and over again this crazy semester I've made a spur of the moment decision to go for a quick run, figuring 20-30 minutes was better than no run at all.  These short runs have been some of my best, either for feeling good, stress relief, or sometimes even time! Not everything has to be planned down to the last detail. :)

That being said, I'm making a dream/goal/bucket list for the coming year.  Rhonda from Motivation Rhonda has really gotten under my skin with all her talk about it - in a good way.  I'm actually going to do it.  As soon as my last final exam is over, I'm taking myself on a date to Hobby Lobby and getting supplies to spend an afternoon creating a dream board where I can be reminded of my goals and dreams.  Like Rhonda says, the first step to making them happen is writing them down to make them real.

But for now, Tylenol, snuggles, and two tiny voices are calling my name...."Mommy!"

Gotta Run :)

Sunday, September 15, 2013

When life (or your kids) hands you intervals!

I was so excited to meet my (Sole) Sisters for our usual Wednesday run, even if it was 90-some degrees in the shade.  I busted my butt to get home on time, got dinner made and was out the door to pick up the kids in record time.  We were going to make it!

Then, everything went sideways...Murphy's law, I know.

Discussions about behavior, cranky, crabby, and otherwise unhappy, my kids were not cooperating with my plan.  To top it all off, I realized when I did get home that in my rush to get out the door I'd turned OFF the oven I'd preheated, so the dinner I'd busted my butt to get done early was not even halfway cooked. Sigh...

What to do?  Skip the planned run or find another way?  I opted to take the kids with me to the gym and run on the treadmill.  The alternative, no run at all, was even less appealing than the "dread mill."

Dutifully I stepped up, wondering how I was going to combat the boredom that seems to creep its way into just about every one of my runs on the treadmill.  Then it hit me, I can play with my pace and know what I'm doing - I've got buttons to control it all!

Next thing I knew I was looking forward to my improvised 4-3-2-1 pyramid interval workout. I started out with an easy warmup for five minutes and then kicked it up to my first interval, 4 minutes at 10:00/mile.  

I didn't really have concrete pace ideas in my head but I knew I wanted to do something with 9-11 in remembrance.  Not really familiar with these treadmills, this was as close as I could get for 3 minutes.  

Pardon the blurry pictures, 
but I took them WHILE I was running! :)

That felt really good so I figured, why not go for it? Let's see how fast I can go.  So, after a two minute recovery period I kicked it up. 

8:40 is not a pace I'm used to seeing.  Or maintaing.  So, I was quite surprised I was pretty easily able to hold it for 2 minutes.  In fact, I'd begun to accept that I wasn't ever going to get my pace in the 8 minute range.  Boy did it shock me when I ran this and felt really good!!!  Now I was curious, how fast could I really go?  I kicked it up again.

This was starting to get more difficult.  I really had to concentrate on my turnover and my breathing!  But, again, I could do it and still felt like I had more in me!  One more time I kicked it up.  8:00 pace was now the goal.

I never knew I could do this!

For one minute I held this pace and still felt like I had more to give!  This is a huge victory for me. I've always been critical of my lack of speed speed, and had really talked myself into believing I wasn't ever going to be faster than I am now.  After tonight's workout I can tell you, that's crap!

I can be faster, and I WILL be faster!

I would have pushed the pace even farther, but I had to pick up the Gotta Run kids - the childcare was closing for the night and it was quickly approaching their bedtime.  

Those progressive intervals really 
worked up a SWEAT!

What have I learned?  I can, if I believe I can.  Whatever it is.  Speed, a full marathon, you name it.  If I believe I can, I can do it. And so can YOU!

What are your tricks for the treadmill?  I'd love to hear them!

Gotta Run :)

Friday, September 6, 2013

Reality Check

This training cycle has been full of ups and downs.  Lately, it seems more downs than ups.  As I tried to study for my upcoming neurology exam surfed Facebook pretending to take a "study break", it occurred to me...I've been WAY too hard on myself.

I'm admitting it:  I don't give myself nearly enough credit for what I have and do achieve.  I'm realizing how true this picture really is for me at this point in my life.

I have not let myself be the runner I am right now.  No wonder I'm having trouble being the runner I want to be.  

I downplay and diminish what I am able and trying to do nearly constantly.  Why?  I don't know.  It's something I've always done.  But, I realized that when it comes to my running, for some reason I expect the performance of and critique myself at the level of an elite runner (um, Kara Goucher anyone?).  However, the truth is my training, nutrition, etc. is not that of an elite runner - it's that of a crazy amateur real person with too much on her plate.  Here's my reality check:

1. I'm not an elite runner.  I'm a wife and mother of two running on caffeine and too little sleep trying to finish graduate school who has precious little time to train.  I need to accept that this is where I'm at in life, for now, and look forward to life after graduate school.

1.  My runs are going to be sporadic.  With the Gotta Run Husband in the military and working all hours of the day and night and the Gotta Run Kids still in diapers, my time to run is cut even shorter than it was by graduate school.  I need to remember, it is what it is and be grateful for whatever kind of run I CAN get in, when I do.

2. Until I can devote more time to it, i.e. after graduate school, I can't expect the quick progression I was hoping for.  I eat on the run, sleep too little, and consume more caffeine than I would like while in my final semester. There isn't anything I can do about it except get through it and look forward to the time when running can be more of a focus.

3.  I CAN still run while finishing this graduate program.  I will have to learn to accept that my times will be slower than I wanted and I may have to walk at times.  So?  I'm still going to finish.  And really, isn't that the ultimate goal?

So, today I'm making a conscious decision to truly live this:

No matter how slow I go, how long it takes me to finish, if I run I will still consider myself a runner.    The time will come when I can devote much more to training for a PR half and a full marathon.  For now, I am choosing to give each run my best effort and enjoy it.  After all, THAT'S why I started running. :)

Gotta Run :)

Monday, August 26, 2013

First Day Jitters

My stomach is fluttering, my head is saying "Why?" and muscles are clenching in anticipation of the soreness to come.  As anxious as my body is acting you'd think I'm a pansy this was my first time running.  The truth is I've been on the DL for several weeks due to pain in my foot from a partially healed stress fracture. I haven't run in four weeks and I'm nervous.  Will I remember how it feels?  Will my body cooperate?  How bad is it going to be?  Then I remember things like this:

Though I never really gave up on running, I felt like I had because I couldn't run, silly as that might sound.

Yet, it's motivational pictures like this one that give me hope that my first run post-injury won't be all bad:

It starts to click...Oh yeah, I remember that! It may have been a while but I still remember how good I feel after a good run (or sweaty spin class!)

And though I feel like I'm starting over, I realize I'm not, really.  Yes, I'm going to have to rebuild some of my endurance but I'm always surprised how quickly my body reminds me it remembers that 

I am a runner. It's what I love to do and it's an integral part of who I am.  Weeks off due to injury has given me a new appreciation for running - even the bad runs.  

All that being said, I can't wait to get back out there. 

Gotta run....soon! :)

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Don't Provoke the Injured Runner

I'm injured. Again. This pretty much sums up how I feel:

Ask my family, especially the Gotta Run Husband, and they'll tell you I haven't been much fun to be around.  Crabby, moody, frustrated, and injured without knowledge of what it is or how to fix it are a recipe for disaster certain combination for arguments and a grumpy runner and family.  After nearly a week of worry, pain, and no a little running I finally gave in and went to the doctor today. I really thought I might have a stress fracture the way my foot was not responding to rest, ice, and ibuprofen. 

An X-ray of my foot revealed an old stress fracture (that I had no idea was even there!) of the third metatarsal, but no new stress fractures!  I've never been so happy in all my life to hear the words "severe sprain." That was music to my ears, let me tell you! So, it's another injury that will keep me down for another few weeks (guess I'll get quite a bit of work done on my masters thesis project), but I'm still going to be able to run my half marathon in September!!!!! 

However, this time I have the comfort of knowing I didn't do anything wrong.  I simply have feet and ankles that were overused and need some strengthening. 

So for now I'll work that core like crazy, cycle when I can, and read more academic journal articles than any one person should ever read on a single subject until I can run again. 

Gotta Run. :) (Soon!)

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Training Better (and smarter!)

This is is my first official training cycle. For my first half marathon.  I've run races before, so how is this the first time I've trained?  Well, up until now I wasn't all that serious about my running nor was I tackling distances that required actual training.

A view that's becoming entirely too common
for my husband and my children. :(

During this training cycle (this is week 8 of a 15 week plan) I've been injured twice (sprained ankle and a sprained LCL).  After two injuries it finally clicked - I need to adjust my thinking when it comes to training. Until recently I'd treated training the same as running for enjoyment, just doing it more frequently with a plan dictating distances to shoot for. Now I realize:  training is serious.  The more serious you take it and the more you put into it, the more you're going to benefit from it. 

I'm dressed, my head is
 if only my body would cooperate!

All that being said, I've come up with a few rules I'm going to try to follow to train better (and smarter.)

1.  Plan, plan, plan. Just like each of my workouts are meticulously planned, my meals and sleep need to be just as well planned or else I tend to skimp on one or both, mostly due to being busy.  As I get closer to classes starting again I worry I won't be able to keep up the dedication to training.  But, I also know from experience that when you want it bad enough you'll find a way. (Hey, I made it through my first year of grad school while my husband was deployed with an infant and a toddler; I CAN and WILL plan meals and get up early to train!)

2.  Eat well, rest well. My training runs have run the gamut when it comes to how good I felt during and after each one.  Some were great, some I wondered why I had even bothered.  Looking back on the bad runs I notice that most were prefaced by a day or multiple days of poor nutrition and/or poor sleep.  I'm still experimenting with sleep habits and nutrition combinations that will work best for me. (I can tell you, Mint Chocolate Gu is pretty darn tasty!)

3.  Be careful when trying new activities. Both injuries have resulted from jumping into new activities without consideration for how my body will tolerate the stress of new/different muscles being worked.  Trail running is one of my new loves, yet parts of my body are not accustomed to the demands it makes of me because I don't do it all the time.  Boxing was so much fun, but because I wasn't properly trained in how to work the heavy bag without hurting myself I caused a small injury to my knee. Lesson learned:  Try new things.  But, be careful and know when to back down a little. 

4.  Negative self talk will be turned to positive as soon as it's recognized.  I've read a lot about running lately.  Hey, what can I say?  When I get involved in something I like to know as much as I can about it and I'm in grad school - research is part of life right now. ;)  One of the things that has stuck with me is "Don't say anything to yourself that you wouldn't say to a friend."  Easier said than done, let me tell you.  I am my own harshest critic and terrible about praising myself or recognizing my accomplishments.  Given the chance, I will always downplay what I did do as not good enough in comparison to others. In my own mind, it's never good enough. Part of this, I'm told, is part of a runner's mental make-up.  However, I also know that part of it is me being a jerk to myself because no one tells me to stop.  The longer my runs get, the more I realize how critical the mental piece of running really is.

4. Listen to your body.  I'll say it:  I suck at this.  Big time.  I am stubborn to a fault and will push through pain rather than "quit".  But, that being said, this is what's gotten me injured both times.  During long runs, my friend, who is training for her first marathon, has been educating me on how important it is to listen to my body.  Like I said, she is training for a marathon and has yet to be injured.  Why? Because she LISTENS to her body.  I push through and end up INJURED.  Point taken.

I wore my first pair out and got to buy NEW SHOES!  
I'm dying to take these pretty babies out for a RUN!

Have I learned?  Yes, I think I have.  At the end of Saturday's 10 mile long run I had a spot in my foot that was "talking to me" near the end. It's still bothering me today, so I sit writing a blog post and enjoying the relief of ice and rest.

I've learned: training plans are a guide.  The rest is determined by me and my body.  Today, this body rests in hopes of running tomorrow.

Gotta Run (as soon I can) :)