A story of going from being a non-runner to planning for a marathon in three years...

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Running in a Winter Wonderland


Things I saw on my run today? Several squirrels, a gaggle of geese, 12 walkers, 6 dogs (including one really fat lumbering yellow lab who let me pet him), 3 runners, 3 snowshoers, 1 cross-country skier, 1 biker, and 1 snowman.

As you can probably guess, I ran outside today.

But, I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me start from the beginning.

The weather today was supposed to get up into the 30s and it was incredibly sunny out. There was a little wind that concerned me, but it ended up not mattering. Tired of being cooped up inside for so long, I piled on the clothes and just before noon I drove over to my favorite bike/running path that runs along the Salt Creek and threads its way through various forest preserves. I parked the car and walked to the start of the path. Covered in snow. Not a plow or a shovel had touched it at all this winter. But, I could see that there was a strip of snow that had been packed down by previous runners, walkers, bikers and, apparently, cross-country skiers. All hope was not lost.

What did I do? Well, after my last attempt at running outside on snowy paths, I knew I didn't want to attempt it again. So I jumped back in my car and drove to the closest Sports Authority store and bought myself a pair of YaxTrax Pro. When I got back to the start of the path I slipped those babies on and off I went.


Although there was that part of the path that was packed down, it certainly wasn't smooth. There were ruts and divots and any time I had to pass another person I had to veer off into the powder-y snow. I'm sure my running form was less than ideal. But, I didn't care. The sun was shining, I wasn't cold, I was back in my favorite place to run, I was wearing my Garmin Forerunner, and I was having a great time!

Here's a shot of the pass-through under the train tracks from about the two-mile mark.


Other than FINALLY getting to run outside, the run itself was uneventful. Seven miles that was supposed to be at an 11:02 minute per mile pace. However, I was loving being outside so much that I ran a little faster than that.


So, 7 miles at an average 10:35 minute per mile pace. Mile four is the slowest because that's when I had to cross a major street (twice due to doing a there & back route) and the sidewalks I had to run on were horrible! They were mostly powdery snow covered with a thin layer of ice that I kept falling through. There was a little bit of walking and some strange tip-toe jogging. Overall, though, the YaxTrax were a success. Although, I couldn't tell if it was just the unevenness of the path or the YaxTrax themselves that were throwing off my form. Regardless, they kept me upright and made me feel a lot more comfortable.

And, because I was outside, I got all the fun data from my Garmin Forerunner. So, here it is:

Route:--Elev. Avg:0 ft
Location:--Elev. Gain:+0 ft
Date:01/31/09Up/Downhill: [+0/-0]
Time:12:48 PMDifficulty:0 / 5.0

Distance: 7.03 miles
Speed:5.7 mph
Pace:10' 35 /mi
Elevation (ft)
Pace (min/mile)
MilePace (min/mile)Speed (mph)Elevation
actual+/- avgactual+/- avg
110' 10-0' 255.9+0.2-- ft
210' 44+0' 095.6-0.1-- ft
310' 41+0' 065.6-0.1-- ft
414' 55+4' 204.0-1.6-- ft
510' 38+0' 035.6-0.0-- ft
610' 20-0' 155.8+0.1-- ft
710' 08-0' 275.9+0.3-- ft
end10' 50+0' 155.5-0.1-- ft
Versus average of 10' 35 min/mile

Posted from bimactive.com

Finally, I'll leave with one of my favorite sights along the path. I run past the forest preserve facilities operations headquarters' storage area. Anyone need a picnic table?


Friday, January 30, 2009

Holler for Holabird


Image of warehouse at Holabird Sports

Remember how excited I was just last week to find my shoes on sale and in a fun color? Remember how I chose to do in-store pick-up?

Two days later I got an email from the company Brooks uses for all their online purchases telling me that they were unable to locate a local store where I could pick-up my shoes. Not a problem, the email went on to say, they would ship them to me in 2 business days.

The next day I got an email stating that I needed to confirm the additional sales tax and shipping charges before they could ship my order. I did so and that was the last I heard. They charged my credit card last Friday (not a pending charge, a full-on money taken out of my account charge) so I assumed all was well.

I got an email yesterday saying that they are very sorry but the shoes I ordered are out of stock and therefore they are canceling my order. No mention of crediting the charge back to my account, but telling me if I had any questions to contact Brooks' customer service.

I contacted Brooks and they told me that "oh, those are just pending charges on your credit card. They'll go away now that the order is canceled." I tell them that, no, they are not pending charges. They tell me to call Shopatron, their ordering and shipping vendor for all online purchases.

I contacted Shopatron who confirmed that, yes, my credit card was credited at 11:00 AM yesterday morning and that the credit should show up on my credit card within 24-48 hours or, at most, 5 business days.

I have to say, this is the first time I've ordered something online where the company charged my card BEFORE the item shipped. I understand that they most likely want to make sure that they're going to get their money before they let the product out of the warehouse, but I still think it's an odd way of doing business. I'm also irritated that either they couldn't keep their website updated enough to account for the shoes being out of stock or that in those few days spent emailing back and forth they sold out. I wonder what would have happened if I had skipped the pick-up in store option and just asked for them to be shipped.

Overall, I was not pleased with ordering from brooksrunning.com. I was so irritated that I almost swore off Brooks shoes altogether. Except, of course, for the fact that their shoes fit me the best. And that I guess it's not really Brooks' fault. More the fault of the company they outsource their online sales to.

I ended up ranting about this experience in the The Original Live Journal Runner's Club and someone commented stating that she had just bought these exact same shoes a few weeks ago from a company called Holabird Sports. I immediately went to their website and found my shoes!

Not only did they have my size in the fun color for essentially the sames price as they were on Brooks' website, but they also had free shipping! And no sales tax! Of course I ordered a pair. However, I admit I was a little apprehensive that perhaps they were sold out, too. But, take a look at the picture of their warehouse! Pretty amazing and difficult to believe they could run out of anything. Anyway, I got an email this morning stating that my shoes had shipped, complete with a tracking number and everything.

Certainly an up and down experience. I'll definitely update about the shoes when they arrive. Which will hopefully be soon.

P.S. I almost held the teaser pose with my legs straight last night. I got really close!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

I Heart Tempo Runs

Last night was my Wednesday tempo run. On the treadmill, of course. The plan was to do one mile of warm-up, four miles between a 9:30 and a 9:54 minute per mile pace, and one mile of cool-down for a total of six miles.

It wasn't the six miles I was worried about. I know I can run six miles. I even know I can run four of them at a 9:54 pace. However, doing a tempo run is sort of like running a race without all the crowd support or race-day adrenaline. Something about running alone, especially in your basement staring at the wall, does not really motivate you to run your hardest. At least, it doesn't motivate me.

But, I did it. I did my warm-up mile at a 5.2 MPH (11:32) pace. For my four miles I set the treadmill at 6.0. Now, this technically means I was running at a 10:00 minute pace but if my treadmill is truly at an incline then I was actually going faster than that. After awhile I did push it up to 6.1 MPH (9:50 pace) for a mile and a half or so.

It was hard. I wanted to walk. Except for a brief period between miles three and four when Madonna's "Vogue" came on my iPod. I have only good associations with that song (dancing around a friend's bedroom while waving flashlights, seeing my mom excited about the stereo quality in her new car) and I didn't want a hard run to ruin it. So, I forced a smile onto my face and thought of good things.

I ran the entire six miles. I did not take any walk breaks. And I ran all four of my "tempo" miles at either 6.0 or 6.1 MPH. Overall, the entire six miles took me just under 64:00 minutes.

I still hate tempo runs. But, I have to admit, they are getting easier. I believe this is the first tempo run I've done since I started training where I ran the entire thing with no walk breaks (warm up and cool down included) AND kept my pace during the tempo portion close to my training goal pace.

Afterward, though, I was exhausted. I felt kind of dizzy. I could barely get dinner from the plate to my mouth. And my quads were killing me. I'm not sore today, thank goodness. But I am tired.

Saturday is another seven mile run and I'm hoping to do it outside. Next week is a step-back week where my longest run is 4 miles. And no tempo runs!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Me vs The Machine

On Tuesdays my Pilates class gets out 15 minutes early. This means that I get to the fitness room at the Y between 6:45 and 7:00. But because equipment sign ups are listed on the half-hour, many times the ellipticals are all full until 7:00. This was the case last night. I hate standing around waiting for a machine so instead of using an elliptical I jumped on the Precor AMT machine. Both of which were empty. I learned very quickly WHY they were both empty.

The Precor AMT is a cross between a stair stepper and an elliptical. Allegedly it works with your stride to adjust to your body's movements. Watch the video posted above for a demo. What the video doesn't tell you is that you have to concentrate really hard to move beyond doing the stair stepper motion.

My plan was to do cardio for 30 minutes. On to the machine I hopped. And on the machine I flailed. Jerky, halting motions. Attempting to move my feet forward only to find myself going backward. Oscillating back and forth instead of smooth, circular motions. I began to think that I'd just stay on the machine until an elliptical opened up and then I'd jump ship.

But after about six minutes I paused, took a breath, and tried again. And this time it seemed to click. I was able to move past the halting, jerky stair-stepper motions and into the more smooth, gliding running motions. However, it took A LOT of concentration. So much, in fact, that even though the machine had a built in television I didn't dare turn it on and get distracted. Even so, there were a few times I had to slow down and rededicate myself to concentrating on my movements.

About 15 minutes in, a woman got on the other Precor AMT next to me. I watched her flail just like me. I watched her halting, jerky motions. I watched a look of confusion and frustration come over her face. And then I watched her get off and move to a recumbent bike. She didn't even last five minutes.

I made it the entire 30 minutes. According to the machine I went 3.4 miles and burned over 300 calories. I was dripping sweat and felt like I'd gotten a decent workout. I'll definitely try this machine again. And maybe eventually I can use it while watching tv, too.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Runner's New Clothes

Comic from Another Comic

Last night was my Monday 2-miler (on the treadmill) and I don't really have anything unusual to report. Actually, I should say that it was the first time in a LONG time that I ran two days in a row. I don't typically run two days in a row but later in my training schedule I have to, so I figured this wouldn't (or shouldn't) kill me. It didn't. In fact, I was able to finish at 5.6 MPH. Also, one commercial-free episode of How I Met Your Mother is almost the exact same length time-wise as it takes me to run 2 miles so I think I've found my new Monday night treadmill show.

But you're probably wondering what the previous paragraph has to do with laundry. Or nakedness. Or both. Okay, I'll tell you.

Last night, as I was changing into my running clothes, I had to empty almost my entire work-out-wear drawer in order to find a sports bra. Apparently all the rest of my sports bras were in the dirty laundry pile. Okay, that's not entirely true. All my non-cotton sports bras were in the dirty laundry pile. As were almost all of my running shorts. And most of my running socks.

See, years ago, back before I started running, I bought a ton of sports bras from Target. I just bought the cotton ones that had some elastic and spandex in them. But they were overwhelmingly cotton. As for my gym shorts, they consisted of random boxer or pajama shorts I got on clearance at Target, a few pairs of cotton pull-on shorts, and one pair of cotton/polyester blend work-out shorts my mom bought me as a gift. Most of my tops were cheap cotton tank-tops or the occasional fitted cotton t-shirt. These served me fine for years. In fact, I still have all of them in my work-out-wear drawer.

But when I joined the Beginning Women's Running Group we had a long discussion about cotton. The consensus from the seasoned runners? Cotton is rotten! It holds onto your sweat, doesn't help cool you off, and can cause serious chaffing issues. What you need is sweat-wicking materials. In other words, man-made materials like polyester. So, off I went to Target to buy some new sports bras and see what they had on clearance clothes-wise. And get new socks, too, of course. It occurred to me that if I was going to be running more than once a week I was going to need more than the one non-cotton outfit I had. And I'd definitely need better socks! One of my clearance finds was a pair of shorts with built in underwear. I'd never thought about wearing these (in fact, they sort of weirded me out) but they were cheap so I bought them.

Guess who can't go back to running in shorts with separate underwear? I've tried it. I hate it. I also no longer particularly like the feel of my cotton sports bras while running. For awhile I used the workout clothes I deemed unacceptable for running for just regular gym trips. Exercise class, elliptical, strength training. Those were fine for the cotton stuff and the regular shorts. Except, slowly, I'm beginning to dislike wearing that stuff to sweat in at all. Which means that I wear my running clothes more often. Which means I run out of running clothes more often than usual.

In addition to cotton is rotten, the other clothing-related information I retained was something one of the group's speakers said. "The older I get," she exclaimed, "the less clothing I want to wear while running." I'm beginning to understand what she meant.

Have I decided to run naked?

No, I haven't. Although that WOULD cut down on having to do laundry more often or having to shell out more money for yet more clothes. What it means is that the longer I consider myself a runner the shorter I want my shorts to be. I don't think you'll ever find me in those shorts that are little more than full-coverage underwear, but you won't find me in five-inch inseam shorts either.

Where you will find me for the time being is doing laundry more often. At least until I do a bit more shopping...

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Runner's Trots and Pit Stops


Yesterday was supposed to my long run for this training week. One 7 mile run at 11:02 minutes per mile. However, I was busy yesterday and by the time I got home from actually having a social life I wasn't in the mood to run. So, I decided to put my long run off til today. Also, last night I decided that to see what the Runner's World SmartCoach had to say if I entered my most recent 10K time of 1:00:08 instead of my most recent (and fastest time ever) 5K time of 27:23. The minute per mile paces for my various runs ended up being about 30 second slower using my 10K time. Therefore, I decided to try to keep the pace for my runs no slower than the times suggested by the 10K-based plan and no faster than the ones suggested by the 5K-based plan. I think this will keep me from feeling frustrated if I fail at meeting the paces laid out in my original 5K-based training plan.

So, this morning I slept in, ate pancakes and an egg for breakfast, burned the first 5 episodes of How I Met Your Mother to DVD, drank lots of water, and grabbed a few tortilla chips before hopping on the treadmill. I set the treadmill to 5.2 MPH (that's about an 11:32 minute/mile pace which is exactly what the 10K plan suggested for this run).

I made it just around 3 miles before I accidentally pulled the emergency stop line on the treadmill bringing me to a screeching halt and clearing my time and distance gauges. Oops. At least I had recently looked at the screen and knew about how far I'd gone. So, I started it back up and moved the speed up to 5.3 MPH.

And that's when the intestinal cramps hit me. I made it another three quarters of a mile before I HAD to stop and run for the restroom. Thank goodness I was in my own basement and not far away from the toilet. Ugh. As I sat there sweating I wondered what could be causing this. Did I need more water? Did I need more salt? Did I need more carbs? What was going on? I drank some water and ate a few more tortilla chips and headed back downstairs. The cramps stayed at bay for a while but then reared their ugly heads once again. All in all, I had to take three restroom breaks during those last 3.25 miles. But, I finished all 7 miles mostly at the 11:32 pace.

I still don't know what caused the cramping. I admit I felt a little dizzy and light headed each time I got off the treadmill for a restroom break. Did I wait too long after eating breakfast to run? Did I not wait long enough? I was also having some intestinal issues yesterday but I chalked that up to nervousness about attending a new social event. But perhaps that wasn't the reason. Maybe the sore throat I thought I'd been fighting off has settled in my gut. Whatever the cause, it wasn't fun and I really hope I don't experience this during any of my runs during this upcoming week. Runs on the run equal not so fun.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Trying Tempo Run


Photo found at http://hoardedordinaries.wordpress.com/

This morning, like every morning for the past week, I awoke feeling achy and with a sore throat. I'm unsure as to whether or not the sore throat is just from breathing all this cold air, from breathing all the warm, dry air in our bedroom at night, or if I'm honestly getting sick. Just in case it was the latter, I decided to stay home from work today and chill.

Except that about 1:00 I realized that I felt fine. It was too late in the day to go into work (really, I would have been there for less than three hours. I didn't see the point) but perhaps not too late to go running. The sun was out, the wind was negligible, and the temperatures were actually above 30oF! The first day in almost a month that would allow me to run outside without freezing to death and I was going to pass it up because of a possible illness? No way! In addition, I skipped my run last night because we were busy seeing Monty Python's Spamalot.

So, I grabbed my Garmin Forerunner 405 and went to turn it on. Nothing. Apparently taking it off the charger and then not using it for three weeks still drains the battery. Even with the GPS function off. Who knew? I was irritated. I put it back on the charger but I had no idea if it would have enough juice in time for me to squeeze in an outdoor run before the sun set. I decided to wait until 3:00 and see where it stood. If it was charged enough to use then I'd run outside. Otherwise, it would be back to the treadmill once again.

Around 3:00 I checked it and it was 75% charged. Good enough for me! I quickly changed into outdoor running gear. Lined Under Armour running tights, SmartWool socks, shorts over the tights, sports bra, short-sleeved sweat-wicking t-shirt, long-sleeved sweat-wicking t-shirt, zip-up fleece jacket, mittens, and fleece ear-covering headband. And shoes of course. As you can see, getting ready to run outside in winter is quite a task!

I grabbed the Garmin and tried to turn on the GPS function. No go. It seemed to be stuck in some strange mode. Then I realized that it had somehow lost all my user information such as weight, gender and age. I futzed with it for awhile. I went outside and walked around the block to see if that would trigger the GPS function. Nothing. Finally, frustrated, I went back inside, re-read the manual, and figured it out. I have no idea how it got set to the "Navigation" setting but whatever. I FINALLY made it out for my run around 3:45 PM.

Today's run was supposed to be a tempo run meaning that I would run a warm-up mile, three miles at a 9:25 minute per mile pace, and then a cool-down mile. This would be my first attempt at running outside and trying to keep a pre-determined steady pace. I think I got a little ahead of myself. I didn't take into account the fact that A. I have yet to actually do one of these tempo runs at the pace indicated in my training plan (I always end up going slower), B. I may or may not be coming down with something, C. This was my first run outside since December 30th, and D. There's still snow on the sidewalks. In fact, although I did not take that picture above, that is still pretty much what it looked like on 75% of my route today.

And I don't have YakTrax.

Running on snow and ice and slush is interesting. By the end of the run my shoulders hurt and my abs and back ached from tensing up from fear of slipping. I walked a lot of times not only because I needed a break but also because I just didn't want to risk face-planting. I couldn't get into a good rhythm because I had to keep slowing down when I'd come to a patch of snow or ice. I had to leap the left-over snow plow banks where the sidewalks crossed the streets.

Overall it was not the best run I've ever had. However, even though I felt liked I walked a lot, every time I looked down at my Garmin it informed me that I was running an average 10:00 per mile pace or an at-the-moment sub-9:00 minute per mile pace. Apparently I couldn't quite hit it in between. And, as you can see from the following charts and graphs, there is some discrepancy between what uploaded from the Garmin to the Garmin Training Center software and how that translated to the BiM Active website.

Data from Garmin Training Center:


Information from BiM Active:

Route:--Elev. Avg:629 ft
Location:Forest Park, ILElev. Gain:+0 ft
Date:01/22/09Up/Downhill: [+98/-98]
Time:03:43 PMDifficulty:2.4 / 5.0
Weather:Partly Cloudy
 35 F temp; 61% humidity
 35 F heat index; winds S 7

Distance: 5.01 miles
Speed:5.7 mph
Pace:10' 29 /mi
Elevation (ft)
Pace (min/mile)
MilePace (min/mile)Speed (mph)Elevation
actual+/- avgactual+/- avg
19' 50-0' 396.1+0.4+7 ft
29' 41-0' 486.2+0.5+6 ft
310' 48+0' 195.5-0.2-6 ft
49' 56-0' 336.0+0.3+17 ft
512' 04+1' 355.0-0.8-19 ft
end19' 10+8' 413.1-2.60 ft
Versus average of 10' 29 min/mile

Posted from bimactive.com

So, in the end, I didn't hit my goal of running three straight miles at a 9:25 pace and I definitely started out too fast, but the end result wasn't as horrible as I had feared. I'm not really sure what happened in mile three, though. I think that's when I tried running the street instead of on the snowy sidewalk only to discover that I had to slow down to avoid parked cars and, well, driving cars. Also, if I recall correctly, I was feeling pretty beaten down by the fact that I couldn't get into the groove and zone out. I think I walked a lot of mile three. But obviously when I was running I must have been doing decently in order to keep the average time below 11:00. Interesting.

I don't know when I'll have another opportunity to run outside. This weekend has highs in the teens and I don't plan to take any more time off work that would allow me to get any weekday daylight runs in. Ah, well, I enjoyed it while it lasted.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Stretching My Goal

This time last year I made it my goal to be able to execute and hold the above Pilates move. It's typically called a teaser or a v-sit. And it's HARD. It requires ab strength and hamstring flexibility. Both of which I lack.

I never did accomplish this goal before I moved and stopped taking my Core & More class. A few times here and there I got close, but was never able to hold it for more than half a second and never with my legs full extended.

Now I'm taking Pilates again and interestingly enough I've found that my core strength is returning rather quickly. There are still things that are difficult for me and the teaser is still one of them. However, my current Pilates instructor builds up to the position by having us do it with one leg raised at a time before we raise both legs. I've found this easier to approach. In fact, last night I almost held the full teaser for more than half a second before my hamstrings informed me that they would not be stretching out anymore, thank you. And believe it or not, it's still hard to balance even with your legs bent at a 90 degree angle.

The weird thing is that I can touch my toes and, on a good day, I can even put my hands flat on the floor. In this position I can get my butt all the way against the wall without feeling much of anything. But ask me to do any other position that stretches my hamstrings and I suddenly become the least flexible person ever. Especially if it requires stretching both hamstrings at the same time.

I don't do a lot of stretching post-run and I don't do any before my runs. There are conflicting schools of thought as to whether stretching before or after a run really helps or not. After most runs I do a few stretches (calves, quads, IT Band, hamstrings) but I probably spend less than 5 minutes stretching. Perhaps if I ever want to achieve my goal of holding the teaser position I need to start stretching more. Either way, I'm not giving up. I may run a marathon before I can hold the teaser position, but I will do it!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Tires for my feet


Photo from http://www.brooksrunning.com

Tonight was my easy 2 mile run. I like my Monday easy runs. I can knock them out in less than 30 minutes. That's not even enough time to listen to an entire episode of Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me!.

Anyway, since I don't have much to report about my run (other than I will be super thrilled when I can get off the treadmill and tell you about things I see outside. Yeah, I remember outside....barely) I thought I'd tell you about my running shoes.

I got my first pair of running shoes a birthday gift from my mom back in 2005. We went to the local running store and they had me run on a treadmill and all sorts of other fun stuff in order to fit me for shoes. Together we decided on a pair of Brooks Adrenaline GTS's. That was before I even considered myself a runner. I had a treadmill and thought about running but wasn't sure where to start. But I knew I needed good shoes.

Those first pair of Adrenalines lasted me two years before I replaced them with, yep, another pair of Brooks Adrenalines. That second pair took me through training with the Beginning Women's Running Group and my first 5K. I then decided that I should treat myself to yet another pair of shoes. Good shoes are one of the key components in avoiding injury. Back to the local running store I went to buy ANOTHER pair of Adrenalines. I swear I tried on every other shoe in the store but it appears that I'm an Adrenaline girl. I remember when I bought this third pair the sales guy was incredibly apologetic about the color. "I can check in the back and see if we have these in any other color if you want" he kept saying. But the thing about running shoes is that you can't base your decision on looks. So what if they're yellow and baby blue. Do they fit? Then there you go.

Anyway, here's my second pair (on the right) of shoes with my third pair (on the left) keeping them company.


I still have that second pair of shoes. They've been my non-running gym shoes for awhile.

That third pair of shoes lasted me through many training miles, my longest run to date, my first 10K, and several other races. However, shortly after moving to Forest Park I decided to patronize my new local running store and buy a new pair of shoes. Once again, I tried on a few options but, as always, ended up back with the Adrenalines. The only change was that they suggested I go down a half size. I haven't noticed a difference.

The photo at the top of this entry is my current running shoes. When I decided to write an entry about my shoes I went over to the Brooks website to find a picture of them. I clicked on the link to the Adrenalines only to discover that they were on sale! See, running shoes are sort of like cars. The manufacturers come out with new models every year and then discount last year's models. January is a great time to buy running shoes because last year's styles are always on sale. I just forgot it was that time. Imagine how excited I was to see my shoes listed for only $61 when they typically retail for close to $100. In addition, they had them in a color I've never seen in a store: pink! Okay, technically they might be more red than pink in person but either way, it's something other than blue! As you can see from the previous photos, all my prior shoes have been some shade of blue. I'm so excited about pink/red shoes it's ridiculous. You might be able to tell from my blog layout that I like pink.


Brooks's website allows you to choose "in-store pick-up" as a possible option. You enter your zip code and they attempt to find a store in your area that has your shoes in stock. If they find one, they email or text message you with the store information. If they can't, they ship you your shoes. Even with shipping these were a great deal. I don't technically need new shoes quite yet, but I will soon. Plus, the idea of having two pairs of running shoes that I can alternate makes me giddy. My Beginning Women's Running Group coach and mentor always talked about how she alternated her shoes. It made me think that "real" runners had more than one pair of shoes. I'm sure that's not true, but realizing that I will have two pairs of shoes to use gives me a sense that I'm more than just a casual jogger. It makes me committed! As if deciding to train for a half-marathon didn't or something.

Regardless, I love my Adrenalines. And you know, even if you aren't planning on running even a block, I highly recommend going to a good sport shoes store (not somewhere like Dick's Sporting Goods or Sports Authority. Head to a local running store or even a chain like Fleet Feet instead.) and get fitted for a good pair of sneakers/running shoes/tennis shoes/gym shoes/whatever you call them. You wouldn't drive your car with bald tires, why should you drive your body in your feet's equivalent?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Treadmill Ennui

funny pictures
more animals

This morning I woke up around 7:30, ate some cereal, dropped Trinka Deu off at the groomer's, and then checked the weather. As I was checking the weather it start to snow. Again. I was really hoping to be able to do my long run outside today (and use my Garmin Forerunner 405...which hasn't seen use since just after Christmas!) but with a temperature of 10oF and snow and wind I just couldn't face it.

So it was once more into the treadmill breach. I didn't have a DVD to watch so instead I just put on the trusty iPod and set the treadmill to 5.4 miles per hour (about an 11:07 minute/mile pace...just five seconds slower than my training plan says). After a few miles I moved it up to 5.5 MPH. And during my favorite Miley Cyrus song I did 5.6 MPH.

The first two miles went by quickly. The third mile was a little tougher. The fourth and fifth seemed to take forever. But my final mile went by quickly. I wasn't fatigued. My legs weren't tired. But my mind was bored. Today was definitely a struggle of will to complete my entire six miles. But complete them I did.

If all of you could think good thoughts for no more snow and maybe temperatures in the 30s for next weekend I would greatly appreciate it. Or maybe send me a balaclava to wear? Either way, if I don't get running outside it's going to be one interesting transition when it comes to actually doing this half-marathon in April.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

My inner greyhound

Photo from http://www.pinkfromage.com

All day I'd been dreading my evening run.

Treadmill? Blech.

First attempt at speedwork? Double blech.

Speedwork, by the way, is the process of teaching your body that it can run faster by running it faster. And the way to run it faster is to run shorter distances at a faster pace.

For example, this evening my training plan told me that I needed to run a total of five miles. One mile of a warm-up jog, 1600 meters (or one mile) at a 8:54 minute/mile pace, an 800 meter (or half mile) recovery jog, followed by another 1600 meters at 8:54, followed by another 800 meter jog, and then a cool-down mile.

To put that in perspective, all my other training runs have been done at either 9:25 or 11:02 minute/mile paces. Or something close to that, anyway. Typically a little slower.

I hate running fast on the treadmill. It's very difficult for me. So, I was definitely not looking forward to running at almost my fastest race pace ever on the 'mill.

I changed into my running clothes, bemoaned the fact that all my good running socks just went into the dryer, grabbed my iPod, and set off for my warm-up mile at 5.0 MPH. For the first half mile every little thing was bothering me. Is that a twinge in my left hip? My triceps are sore from Pilates yesterday. My iPod is irritating me. I think my tank top is chafing my armpit. Oooh, is that a new twinge in my right foot?

As I closed in on the end of the warm-up mile I began to feel nervous. Could I really run a mile on the treadmill that fast? Before heading to the basement I'd checked the treadmill pace conversion chart and decided I'd run my fast miles at 6.4 or 6.5 MPH. That wasn't quite as fast as the training plan wanted me to run them, but it was still faster than any of the my other training runs. Especially if you consider that I still have no idea what incline my treadmill is set at.

When the warm-up mile ended, I punched the buttons to take the treadmill up to 6.4 MPH. It felt fast. It felt hard. But it also felt good. I put on some of the music I mentioned in my last post and resolved not to look at the distance counter until the end of each song. As I ran, I started to get goosebumps. Was I really going to run an entire mile on my treadmill at a speed faster than I'd ever dared before? In fact, I was. And, in fact, I felt so confident that I went ahead and nudged it up to 6.5 MPH. I finished that first interval feeling strong.

Now, I admit that I walked the first quarter mile of my half mile recovery jog. I probably could have run the entire half mile, but I wanted to actually recover and be able to complete the next speed interval without dying. As my recover half mile ticked down, my confidence grew. I planned out my songs and had them queued up. I figured that at 6.5 MPH it would only take about three songs to make it through my mile.

I started my next interval at 6.4. Then, after about a half mile, I kicked it up to 6.5. It still felt hard but it also felt as though it was flying by. The music had me pumped. And while I was running I thought about all the people I know who inspire me to run:

Lindsay because she ran outside in the incredibly horrible weather we've been having. Because she ran her first marathon in December and is already training to run another one in April. Because she's the best running supporter you could meet.

Holly because this time last year she was laid up after knee surgery but recovered and did two triathlons in 2008. Because she has increased her speed and endurance in amazing ways. Because she has immersed herself body, heart and soul into becoming the best runner she can. And when I need an extra push, I envision how we're going to look crossing the finish line together at our half marathon in July. I dream of holding hands and lifting them above our heads in our finish line photo.

Aimee because she has the most amazing view on body image of anyone I know. Because she looked at her health and said she wanted to improve it. And she did. Because she runs, bikes, Yogas, strength-trains for the pure joy of it.

Thinking of those girls and all that they've accomplished kept me going strong. So strong, in fact, that I pushed that 'mill up to 6.8 and then, for the final tenth of a mile, to 7.0 MPH.

Then I walked a little less than a quarter mile before resuming my recovery jog. I finished up with my one mile cool-down going from 5.5 MPH to 5.1. Five miles total. In less than 55 minutes.

I kicked that speed work out's butt. I hope my inner greyhound is here to stay.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Music to my feet?


Photo from PS Graphix

Tonight was my "easy" 2 mile run at an 11:02 minute/mile pace. As usual, it had to be done on the treadmill since it's still snowing!

So, I got home from work, changed into running gear, strapped on my iPod, and headed down to the basement. I did a 4 and a half minute warm-up walk and then launched into running with the treadmill set at 5.4 miles per hour. After about .7 miles, I punched it up to 5.5 mph.

Tonight felt good! I felt as though I could have run at that speed for quite awhile. Perhaps I could have gone even faster.

I credit my iPod. I don't always run with it when I run on the treadmill, typically preferring to watch a DVD instead. But I've found that good music really helps when it comes to the 'mill. Tonight definitely proved that.

Here's what I listened to:

"Come What May" - Moulin Rouge soundtrack (warm-up walk)
"Animal" - Nickleback
"Easy Lover" - Phil Collins
"See You Again" - Miley Cyrus
"Misery Business" - Paramour
"Crush Crush Crush" - Paramour
"Shake It" - Metro Station

If only all my runs could be like tonight.

Stay tuned for Wednesday when I attempt intervals on the treadmill!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Winter Long Run Blues

Photo courtesy of http://www.bigfoto.com

According to my training plan, Saturdays are supposed to be my long run days. These are the days when I build up my endurance. I prefer to do long runs outside but this Saturday Mother Nature had other plans.

It started snowing on Friday and continued until approximately 4 PM on Saturday for a total of 8 inches of snow. Add that to the inch or so we got earlier this week and you've got 9 inches of snow coating the sidewalks and streets. While there are people who run in the snow, I'm not one of them. At least, not yet. So, instead, I got up, ate a bowl of cereal, and hopped on the treadmill for my long run of 6 miles at an 11:02 mile per minute pace.

It did not go very well. 11:02 felt very fast, I felt very tired and dehydrated, and, generally, I just didn't want to be on the treadmill. I knew that if I was outside I could run this distance at this pace but the treadmill was mentally beating me.

I ended up running just under 3.5 miles and walking another .25 before I ran out of time. I had places I needed to be on Saturday so I didn't have the luxury of just running the six miles at a more comfortable pace.

I'm disappointed in myself that I didn't make the whole distance on the treadmill. But, to be honest, I've NEVER run that distance on the treadmill at that pace.

I just want the snow to stop. I want to run on dry sidewalks. I don't want to worry about how to keep my feet warm and dry while running. Sadly, the weather isn't listening to me. This week is supposed to be another snowy cold snap.

I really want to do well at my first half-marathon. I just don't know if I can do this training in this weather.

To try and make myself feel better I just spent some time entering my previous race reports into this blog. I also need to figure out why my race countdown clock seems to think I only have 30 days left until my half-marathon on April 11th.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Treadmill Tempo Trials

Click the center of the picture to play a short video

According to my training plan, last night was my first tempo run. A tempo run, according to Hal Higdon, is "a continuous run with a buildup in the middle to near race pace." As a Runner's World article says, "it's what I call 'comfortably hard. You know you're working, but you're not racing. At the same time, you'd be happy if you could slow down."

When I calculated my training plan using the Runner's World Smart Coach, I used my best 5K time (27:23...an 8:49 minute per mile pace) as the basis. Maybe not such a smart idea. Last night's tempo run consisted of a mile warm up, a mile cool down, and three miles at a 9:25 minute per mile pace. Obviously I can run that fast for three miles as evidenced by my previous 5K time. It's just that I've never run that fast for that long on a treadmill.

Needless to say, I was a little apprehensive. I'm one of those people who can run faster outside than indoors on a treadmill. I've seen discussions about this phenomenon in online running communities, and the responses are always the same: Your treadmill's not calibrated correctly. It's all in your head. You're just bored and don't want to push yourself. Personally, I think it's because when running outdoors you naturally speed up and slow down for very, very short periods of time, thus giving you an overall pace instead of the exact same pace for the entire run. The treadmill, however, forces you run at the exact same pace for every second of your run.

Regardless of the reason, last night's tempo run was hard. I actually ended up trying to run those three miles with my treadmill set at 6.3 MPH. Assuming that I had my treadmill set to a 1% incline (while my treadmill has an incline function, it doesn't have a display screen to tell me what incline it's actually set at), this translates to approximately a 9:26 minute/mile pace. Close enough, I figured. Sadly, I didn't run all three miles at this pace. I ran some of those miles, sure. But I took quite a few breaks and just let the treadmill spin while I stood on the side rails. Then I gave up on the 6.3 speed and lowered it to 6.0. Also, for the last quarter mile of my cool down, I decided to walk.

Overall, I did my five miles on the 'mill. It didn't go as well as I'd hoped, but at least I made it through the mileage and didn't end up flat on my back like our polar bear up above. Maybe by the end of this training plan I'll be looking forward to tempo runs instead of dreading them.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

New Year, New Schedule, New Cross-training

Photo courtesy of Oak Park YMCA website

When I lived in Champaign I developed a fitness routine that got me an hour and a half of workouts two days a week plus running three days a week and still allowed me to have dinner on the table by 7:30 PM most nights (with some help from the husband, of course). Getting off work at 4:30 and having no commute certainly helped.

Now, though, I get off work at 5:00 PM and have a 45-50 minute commute. This most recent fall I signed up for a class called "Ultimate Sculpt" (cardio combined with some strength training) that started at 7 PM and ended at 8 PM. My original plan was to come home from work, change into workout clothes, drive to the YMCA, do some cardio, and then head to class. Dinner wouldn't be served until after 8 PM but it's not like we have kids to feed before bedtime or anything.

However, Ultimate Sculpt kicked my butt and I just couldn't fathom doing additional cardio beforehand. Plus, by the time I changed and got to the gym I'd be lucky to get a half hour of cardio in before class. With this schedule I felt as though I was wasting a lot of time and not getting as much cross-training as I would have liked.

So now I've changed up my schedule a little bit. Tuesdays and Thursdays I plan to arrive at work a half hour earlier and then leave at 4:30 instead of 5:00. I've signed up for an hour-long Pilates class at the YMCA that starts at 6:00. After class I can jump on an elliptical trainer (see photo above) and get in my 30-45 minutes of cardio cross-training. I'll still get home around 8:00 PM but I've begun to adjust to eating dinner that late.

Last night was my first evening of this schedule. The Pilates instructor asked me if I'd ever done Pilates before. "Sort of," was my reply.

Turns out that I have. It's just that my class in Champaign didn't refer to it as such. My previous Core & More class, as well as the Ultimate Sculpt class, actually prepared me quite well for the exercises we did last night. After my first week of Core & More this time last year I wanted to cry because the moves were so difficult for me. Last night I did most of the moves with very little frustration. I find it amazing to learn what your body can do.

After class it was time to check out the elliptical machines. This was my first time in the fitness room at the YMCA. Sadly, they have half-hour limits on the machines and you have to sign-up for them in half-hour increments. Technically you're supposed to get off the machine at the 30 minute mark and re-sign up for the next 30 minutes if you want to be on longer. I figure I'll watch the behavior of the other patrons and see if people really follow these rules. Regardless, I behaved and only did 30 minutes last night. Plus, it's been almost six months since I've been on an elliptical machine and I didn't want to kill myself.

And although the YMCA membership is twice as expensive as my previous gym membership, it does come with additional perks. For instance, each elliptical machine has its own television. How cool is that?

Monday, January 5, 2009

Treadmill Training Blahs


Hello. Come on in. Welcome to my training dungeon. Okay, it's not really a dungeon. It's just my treadmill set-up in what I like to call "the scary basement." Sure, sure, I've got a tv and a DVD player and large booming speakers but what you can't see in the picture is the tub of recycling and the pile of empty boxes and the paint that's flaking off the floor.

Training utopia it ain't. But it's what I've got since it's winter.

The problem with winter, you see, is that it's dark outside when I have time to run. And it's cold all the time. I don't like to run in either condition. However, half-marathon training started tonight with an easy two-mile run so running on the treadmill is where it's at.

(And in case you're wondering what training plan I decided to go with, well, I'm sort of using a Runner's World Smart Coach plan. Except that some of the speedwork will most likely just get converted into straight running.)

So, tonight after work I changed into my running stuff, started dinner, grabbed my iPod, and jumped on the treadmill. Two miles at an 11:02 min/mile pace? I should be done in less than half an hour if you count warm-ups and cool-downs. Sadly, due to my horrible math skills I set the treadmill speed too slow and ended up running a 12:00 min/mile pace instead. Regardless, I got my two miles in and I found a Treadmill Pace Conversion Chart for next time.

I'm sure by the time April rolls around the treadmill and I will be best buds!

Friday, January 2, 2009

How to break in a 13.1 Virgin

Image courtesy of Runners' Lounge

Welcome to my little part of the Interwebs! This blog is for all of you who want to follow me as I start to tackle distance running.

Quick, let's do a crash course in distances for those who don't know (for those who do, you can skip this part):

Typical race distances
5K = 3.1 miles
8K = 5 miles
10K = 6.2 miles
Half-marathon (or 21K) = 13.1 miles
Marathon = 26.2 miles

(there are other race distances, but we'll stick with these for now)

Since I started running in June of 2007, I've raced five 5Ks, one 8K, and three 10Ks. And countless training miles (well, okay, I could have counted them but I didn't).

But, as you can see, I've never run a race longer than 6.2 miles. In fact, my longest training run to date has been just over 9 miles. So, I'm definitely a virgin when it comes to anything longer than that.

Most veteran runners will suggest that you use a training plan when attempting a new distance. Why do you want a training plan? It helps keep you on track, accountable and, most of all, it helps prevent injury. Training plans allow you to increase your weekly mileage in a nice, controlled manner. There are few things worse than running too much too soon and injuring yourself.

The hardest part (for me at least) comes when trying to choose a plan. Hal Higdon, Cool Runnings and Runner's World are some of the most well-known training plans. But, as you can see, there are difference among them. Nine week or twelve week? Beginner or intermediate? Speedwork (also known as intervals) or not? And this doesn't even get into the training plans that various running clubs use with their members or the question of whether or not you should run with a training group!

How to decide? I'm definitely a runner who needs a plan to follow. I've used Hal Higdon's 10K Novice plan in the past. My original thought was to use his Novice Half-Marathon plan for my first half-marathon in April. This will give me time to figure out how to do the speedwork/intervals required for most of the other plans. And then when I start training for my second half-marathon I can use an intermediate plan.

So why tell you all this about training plans? Because this blog will be a record of what I do during and between the runs laid out in whatever plan I choose. You'll see photos of things I encounter while running, charts and graphs of speed and distance, race reports of any lead-up races I might run, and general information about my fitness regime.

I welcome any and all readers who wish to join me on my journey whether in mind, body or spirit.

Stay tuned! Whatever training plan I choose most likely starts in the next week or two!