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

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Tempo Run I Didn't Hate

Last night was a 7 mile tempo run. If you've been following me for more than a week, you know I HATE tempo runs. Hate hate hate hate them. They tend to make me feel like a failure as a runner and I have to keep reminding myself how far I've come.

Last night's run was to consist of a one mile warm-up, 5 miles at between 9:13 and 9:53 minutes/mile and then a one mile cool-down. However, once I was running the warm-up I decided to try something a little different.

After my warm-up mile (at 5.5 MPH), I bumped the treadmill up to 5.8 MPH. Then I slowly increased the speed by two-tenths of a mile every so often.

It ended up looking like this:

Mile 0-1: Warm-up
Mile 1-2: 5.8 MPH
Mile 2-3: 6.0 MPH
Mile 3-3.5: 6.2 MPH
Mile 3.5-4: 6.4 MPH
Mile 4-5: 6.2 MPH
Mile 5-5.5: 6.1 MPH
Mile 5.5-6: 6.0 MPH
Mile 6-7: Cool-down

Now, if I did my math right, the 5 tempo miles averaged out to 6.1 MPH. Which, translated to treadmill speed, comes out to somewhere between 9:43 and 10:13 minutes per mile (depending on which treadmill speed converter you use and the incline of the treadmill).

Which means that while I didn't do the miles at the exact speed indicated in my training plan, I did them faster than I normally run on the treadmill AND I did them without stopping. That's a first for a tempo run.

My tempo run hatred is definitely a mental block combined with the fact that I like to vary my pace somewhat when running hard. Being able to count down to a speed helped me avoid both the mental block and the lack of varying pace. I'll definitely try this tactic again for my next tempo run and I'll probably even try speeding it up a little bit more.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

This One Goes to Eleven

Did you know that a LifeFitness Cross-trainer elliptical can go up to at least 11 miles per hour?

I didn't either.

Until last night.

Remember last week how I could barely keep the elliptical above 6 MPH the entire time I was on it? Last night i could barely keep it BELOW 6 MPH. Heck, for most of those 30 minutes I could barely keep it below 7 MPH.

I think it was the music. I downloaded a new song last night. I've never even seen Slumdog Millionaire but I heard "Mausam & Escape" (a song from the soundtrack) on Sound Opinions last week and I really liked it. Something about new music always puts a spring in my step when I'm doing cardio.

What about you? Do you get energized by new music or do you prefer tried-and-true favorites?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tuesday Tell-All

Okay, it's not really a tell-all, but I am taking part in the interview meme that's going around. Last night's two-miler on the treadmill was uneventful (although I finally saw the How I Met Your Mother cockamouse episode) so I don't have much to report. I will say, though, that I'm SO HAPPY that the time changes next week. Perhaps just a few more days of treadmill running after work? Too bad the weather doesn't immediately warm up when the time changes.

Anyway, here's the deal with the interview -

If you'd like to play along:
1. Leave me a comment saying, “Interview me.”
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. (I get to pick the questions).
3. You then update your blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You include this explanation and an offer to interview others in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you ask them five questions.

The following questions are from Holly.

1. What race do you think would be the most fun to participate in (as far as sights or atmosphere or something like that)?

Everyone tells me the Chicago Marathon is the place to be. Just spectating last year really got me pumped up and convinced me that I really did want to try a marathon one day. The streets are literally packed with cheering spectators at least two deep for almost the entire course. The pre- and post-race events are supposed to be unmatched. My only concern would be that I would spend the entire time trying to dodge other runners. At least, though, you know you'd never be alone. And it just seems like such a great way to see so much of the city in one day. Although, I'm sure by a certain point the only thing you're staring at is the asphalt or the person in front of you.

In terms of destination racing, what could be more spectacular than Maui? The idea of the Maui marathon seems spectacular. I don't know anything about it, though. But, come on, it's Hawaii! At the very least it's an excuse to go to a tropical place.

As for smaller-scale races, some day I really want to do the Allerton Park 5.5 Mile Trail Race. It's the most talked about race of the year for my old running group and I have very fond memories of Allerton. I volunteered at the 2007 race and had planned to run it in 2008 before I changed jobs and relocated. It's just so down-home and friendly and I'd like to do it at least once.

2. How has your body changed since you started running?

I have awesome calves! No, seriously, the muscles in my calves are more defined than they've ever been. A friend even noticed and said something. My quads are slowly becoming more defined as well. I think some of that was also due to the Pilates/stability ball class I used to take but I'm sure some was due to running, too.

Overall, I think I've toned up more than I've realized. The thing is, it isn't just running that does it. Wanting to be a better runner is the catalyst that causes me to take Pilates classes and do additional cardio in addition to the running. Before I started running I worked out probably 2 days a week. Now, with the running, I work out 5 days a week. Those extra three days definitely make a difference!

However, I haven't lost much weight. That's fine because I didn't have much to lose in the first place. Some of this is probably due to gaining muscle (which weighs more than fat) and some of it is probably due to the fact that I have to eat more to maintain my running.

3. Do you have a running idol, and if so, who?

My running idols are people who went from not being runners to deciding they wanted to run as adults...and stuck with it.

The head "coach" of the Beginning Women's Running Group is one of my idols. She told us about how her husband ran marathons with his dad and they would travel all over to do them. She became a "running widow". Until she decided to take matters into her own hands and learn to run herself. She's now quite good! I don't know how many marathons she's run, but it's a lot. She loves to run and has put her passion into being the president of the running club and coaching the women's group. Plus, she has three dogs and no kids so of course I like her :-)

4. Do you have a holy grail of running that if you achieve it, you'll feel like you've "made it", that you'd accomplished what you wanted to as a runner?

I've never really thought about it, to be honest. I run 3 days a week and I'm constantly trying to get better. I think that's all it takes to be a runner. I don't think you need to run a marathon to be a "real" runner. I don't think you need to run a sub-20 minute 5K to be a "real" runner. My goals are simple: to do the best I can every time I'm out there. To be and stay passionate about it. To support other runners no matter how fast or slow. If I ever find myself lacking those things, well, then I'll feel I've failed as a runner.

But I guess I do have a current goal of getting my 5K time under 27 minutes. But once I do that I won't stop. I'll just aim for an even faster time.

5. What has been your absolute best run? It could be a race or just a workout where you felt great.

Last spring I was really struggling with my running. Runs felt hard and laborious. My legs felt like dead weights. And then one day I went out for a run, aiming to do 7 miles, and ending up doing just shy of 9. That day I felt like I could have run forever. I have no idea what was different about that day. Similarly, this past fall I went out to the bike path and ran 8 miles. The mile 4 marker was appeared out of nowhere. The 4 miles back felt like nothing. Again, I have no idea what made that difference between that run and other runs. Let's just hope that this weekend's 9 miler goes just as well.

Speaking of my 9-miler, you may have noticed that 9 miles is my further distance ever and I've only run it once. I'm not super-apprehensive about running 9. I'm pretty sure I can do it just fine. My issue is trying to find time for it this weekend. Last Saturday I was talking with another runner about how much time training eats up. Jason indicated he would be happy when this was over. I don't know how to break it to him, but it probably won't ever be over.

I was reading somewhere (on a blog? In Runner's World? I don't remember!) about how you know you're a runner. One of the bullet points was that on weekends you get up earlier than you do on weekdays in order to get in your long run. I'm not a morning person and hate getting up early when I don't have to. But it looks like this weekend (and maybe next!) might be the weekend I get up before my usual weekday alarm to squeeze in those 9 miles. I'm trying to figure out how I can get around it. It looks like the easiest thing to do would be to push my long run from Saturday to Sunday. I just hate doing that because it makes for a tiring week. So, we'll see. All I know is that I really don't want to get up at 6AM on Saturday (when it's forecast to be 16oF out) in order to be done with my run by 9:30.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

In and out and in and out

Click on pictures to see them larger

When I woke up yesterday morning and looked outside, the picture on the left is what greeted me. I debated all morning about whether or not to run outside or to do my 8 miles on the treadmill. After running a few errands in the 20oF weather and the 10 to 15 MPH winds and the blowing snow, I decided the treadmill was where it was at.

Three Tivoed episodes of Jeopardy, one packet of Sports Beans, a lot of water, 86 minutes and 8 miles later I was done. And I got to thinking about Kate's question as to which I like better: treadmill running or running outside.

When I first started running off and on in 2006, I did it exclusively on the treadmill. I tried a few walk/jog intervals outside with the dog, but even when I could run a mile on the treadmill I could never make it a full mile outside. In fact, I remember the summer I decided I was going to learn to run outside. I distinctly recall being incredibly disappointed when I failed to run the mile from my house to the Walgreens up the street. I couldn't understand if I could run a mile or more on the treadmill why that didn't translate to being able to run outside.

I think it was about pacing. On the treadmill, you don't have to think about it. You just set it and forget it. If you feel like you're going too fast, you just push some buttons and it slows you down and keeps you there. Outside is much more difficult. You have to continually tell yourself to start slow and go slow otherwise you burn yourself out too quickly. Unless you have a fancy GPS-gadget (which I didn't have when I first started running) or you've measured your route down to every quarter mile and time yourself, there's really no way to constantly know your pace. It's easy to find yourself running too fast but not realizing it until it's too late.

So, for quite awhile I was a person who could run on the treadmill but couldn't run outside. In theory as I got better and better on the treadmill I suppose I could have transitioned to outside more easily. But, instead, I joined the Beginning Women's Running Group and made a vow to do all my training runs outside. Joining the group was a godsend. Running with others helped me pace myself and figure out what was too hard and what was too easy. It helped me learn to run outside.

Now, when given the option, I'll always choose outside over the treadmill. But, I have some caveats. I think I've mentioned them before. Cold and dry? I'm out there. Warm and wet? I'm out there (except for when there's lightening). Warm and dry? That's my favorite. Cold and wet? That's when I hit the treadmill.

I think the main difference between treadmill running and running outdoors is the mental aspect. When you're doing an outdoor out-and-back run or a big loop you know you have to get back to your car/house/starting point. You can't just stop, step off the treadmill, and go on about your life. No, you have to cover those miles one way or another. But on the treadmill it's easy to hit the stop button and get off. You have to mentally commit to covering the distance.

So, for me, the treadmill is a tool to be used when running outside isn't feasible. Now that I know how to run outside, I'll always prefer it over staring at the same spot on the wall for any length of time. Even if that spot on the wall is showing Jeopardy.

Friday, February 20, 2009

28 Days Later

Photo of the estrogen molecule courtesy of www.3dchem.com

Disclaimer: Those of the non-female persuasion may not care about the following post. You may read at your own risk or you can move along and pretend there was nothing to see here.

When I opened an email at work on Tuesday and wanted to cry, I knew something was up.

When Tuesday night I felt completely weak and out of it at Pilates and couldn't even consistently keep the elliptical above 6.0 MPH, I knew something was up.

When my Wednesday night tempo run took everything I had both emotionally and physically, I wanted to blame it on the something that was up.

And yesterday, when I could barely drag myself out of bed in the morning, I realized that, yes, something was here.

Just what is that something? I'm sure many of you have guessed by now.

My freaking period.

The only scientific studies I can find doing a simple google search that deal with estrogen and exercise (at least, the only studies I could decipher) indicate that exercising decreases the amount of estrogen in your system. Which is, of course, why we're told to exercise when we're crampy and feeling like death warmed over. There are probably myriad other interactions between estrogen and exercise that I'm not aware of as well. I just know that in my own personal experience, during the few days preceding the start of my period I'm a complete failure when it comes to most exercise.

And then, of course, the next few days most everything between my knees and the bottom of my sports bra hurts and I'm exhausted.

And then I'm fine.

But right now I want a nap, an Advil, and a pretzel. Followed by a piece of chocolate. Or maybe a chocolate covered pretzel.

And then maybe I'll squeeze in that two mile run I skipped yesterday.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Shut Up and Run

Last night's tempo run kicked my butt. I spent the first part of it trying to figure out why I hate tempo runs so much. It's not the treadmill since I've failed at both treadmill and outdoor tempo runs. It's not the day of the week since I can do my Wednesday speedwork runs with little issue. So, I'm concluding that it must be mostly mental.

I was supposed to do one mile warm-up, four miles at between 9:25 and 9:55, and one mile cool-down. I think I ended up walking at least half a mile out of those four middle miles. I had to put the incline on the treadmill down to nothing. I struggled and struggled and almost started crying until I remembered how much energy crying takes. But somewhere in the middle of mile 5 I found a groove. Have I really become that person who takes several miles to "get into" a run?

While struggling and whimpering and debating quitting last night I felt like a failure. I just ran 8 miles on Sunday at the same speed I only had to run 4 last night. Why was it so hard? Why did I hate it so much? Why was life so horrible?! Just when I almost gave up (somewhere in mile 3 or 4....it all blurs together as one big pile of YUCK), I thought about some of my friends, both people I know in person and people I know online, who are going through rough spots in their lives. Spots much rougher than having crappy tempo runs. And I realized that I needed to stop whining and just get on with it. And I finished my run.

Yesterday (before my run) I compiled a list of my running milestones. Looking back over it today I've decided that I'm allowed to hate tempo runs. That doesn't mean I'm a bad runner. Kate asked me a few days ago how long it took me to be able to run 8 miles. I thought some of you might be interested in my running time line so far.

January 4, 2006 - Ran .5 mile on treadmill, speed unknown
February 18, 2006 - Ran 1 mile on treadmill, speed unknown
April 18, 2006 - 1.3 miles on treadmill, speed unknown
April 20, 2006 - 1 mile on treadmill, approximately 12 minutes
May 27, 2006 - 11 minute mile on treadmill
June 25, 2006 - Stuck at one mile on treadmill, can't run one mile outside
July 31, 2006 - 1.5 miles on treadmill at 11:32 per mile
April 30, 2007 - 1.5 miles on treadmill in 20 minutes
May 9, 2007 - 25 minutes on treadmill at 4.7 MPH
May 17, 2007 - 2.25 miles in 30 minutes on treadmill
June 11, 2007 - 30 minutes on treadmill at 12:45
June 21, 2007 - Ran 90% of a 5K on the treadmill in approx. 40 minutes
September 15, 2007 - 3.1 miles*
September 29, 2007 - 3.4 miles
October 2, 2007 - 4 miles
October 13, 2007 - 4.6 miles
November 18, 2007 - 5 miles
December 2, 2007 - 5.5 miles on treadmill
December 16, 2007 - 6.2 miles on treadmill
January 27, 2008 - 6.4 miles
February 9, 2008 - 7 miles
March 1, 2008 - 8.9 miles
April 5, 2008 - 9 miles -still longest to date
April 2008 - Present - nothing longer than 8 miles

*If it doesn't say "treadmill" then it means it was outside.

So, as you can see, it's been a process. I've come a long way. I just have to keep telling myself that when it gets hard.

But I still hate tempo runs.

P.S. Thanks Aaron for the link to figure out a treadmill's incline. I haven't done it yet, but it's the simplest one I've seen. So, yay!

P.P.S I've had a few other new commentors this past week. Thanks for commenting and I hope you stick around.

P.P.P.S. I didn't do my two mile run on the treadmill this morning. Let's not dwell on it.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Those Evil Excuses

I haven't used this photo yet, have I?

Last night was just a short, easy 2 mile run on the treadmill. Nothing to it. My adductor area wasn't hurting, I had some soreness in my right quad but nothing that would stop be from running, Jason was working late so I didn't even have to make dinner. And yet, I procrastinated like it was going out of style.

My first excuse was that I was cold. I got chilled walking home from the train station and didn't want to change out of my work clothes into my running clothes let alone go down into my cold basement and get on the treadmill. I wanted to shut the door to my office and sit in the warmth.

My second excuse was that I had forgotten to transfer more episodes of How I Met Your Mother to DVD and I was tired of listening to music. But Jason wasn't home to help me do the transfer and I wasn't sure if I remembered what to do or how long it would take.

My third excuse was that it was JUST two miles! Who needs to run just two miles?

My fourth excuse was that I still hadn't figured out the incline on my treadmill so I had no idea what speed to set it at. Nevermind that I've been running for six weeks with no clue as to the treadmill's incline.

But, in the end, I sucked it up. I figured out how to start the transfer process. I changed into running clothes (after having a mild tantrum about not being able to find an appropriate sports bra). I guesstimated (like always) as to the treadmill's incline. And, with DVD in hand (and a sweatshirt on!), I headed to the basement where I did my two mile run.

Wednesday night is a tempo run (ugh) and then Thursday morning will be my next challenge. This weeks starts an additional two-miler on Thursdays. Normally I would just do this at the gym after my Pilates class but I'm skipping Pilates on Thursday to attend a small thank-you party being hosted by our realtor. This means that I'll have to run before work. Double ugh. I can see plenty of excuses that will need to be overcome in the near future.

What about you? What are your usual excuses for not doing something? How do you overcome them?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Eight in Eighty


The above photo was taken near the start of the bike path I do my long runs on right before it crosses a street. It's there to remind bikers to slow down and watch for cars before continuing. I should have paid attention to it today. No, not because I had a car encounter (thank goodness), but because I did an 8 miler today and my average pace ended up being just shy of 10 minutes per mile. What was I supposed to be aiming for according to my training plan? Just shy of 11 minutes per mile. Oops.

But, I'm getting ahead of myself as usual.

Normally I do my long runs on Saturdays but yesterday I was busy attending the Chicago Auto Show. After walking around McCormick Place for approximately 3 hours I just didn't have the energy to run. So, I pushed my run off to Sunday.

The sun was shining when I woke up this morning but it wasn't as warm as I had hoped. By the time I ate my oatmeal, drank some water, and got dressed the sun wasn't shining as strongly and it was still only 29o outside. When I got out of my car at the start of the path I felt chilled to the bone. The first mile was torturous and I thought I would never warm up and get into the groove. I passed several other runners, though, so I knew I would survive.

The bike path follows the Salt Creek. Remember those pictures I posted last week of everything covered in snow? Well, that snow has all since melted and now the creek looks more like a river. I stopped to take a few pictures of the "creek". I tried to get some pictures of the geese that were nesting on what looked like an old stone footbridge support but those didn't come out so well.


I kept thinking about stopping to take additional photos of the path, but I didn't truly warm up until several miles into my run and I didn't want to stop because I was so cold. For most of the first half of the run I felt like I was really struggling. I kept glancing at my Garmin to see my pace and every time it was hovering around 10:00 minutes/mile. I knew that was too fast for a training run but I just couldn't seem to slow down despite the feeling of struggling.

Just before mile four I saw a young deer bound across the path in front of me and I stopped to watch it. We stared at each other for awhile before we parted ways. Shortly after that I hit my half-way point and downed some Jelly Belly Sports Beans and some water. Admittedly, the Sports Beans felt like rocks in my stomach until, shortly after rounding a curve, I came across a small clearing filled with a doe and two bucks. My camera phone doesn't take great photos of deer, but I tried.

Click the photo to see it larger

I stood and watched the three deer for awhile before they moved out of sight. A few hundred yards later I saw the young deer I had passed earlier. Something about encountering deer always puts a spring in my step and the next few miles went by quickly. I finally found my groove and felt as if I could run forever.

The last mile, however, felt tough. I was starting to tire but I just kept telling myself that 8 miles is way more than half of a half-marathon. That I've run 8 miles before. That I was almost there.

Just before the end of the path there is a huge pile of logs that I'm guessing have been pulled out of the creek. I promise you I'll get a picture of them soon. When I see these logs I know I'm almost done. Same thing today. I saw the logs and pushed through to the end.

While walking back to the car I looked down at my Garmin and realized that I'd just run 8 miles in just under 80 minutes. That's when it hit me how fast I'd been running. I just ran 8 miles at my best 10K race pace! While I know that's too fast for a training run, I'm excited to realize that all my training over the past six weeks seems to be paying off. I'm feeling much more confident about making the 2:30 mark for my half.

Now, if I could just find the energy to do something other than lay around on the couch after doing my long run I'd be in business.

And, as always when I run outside, here's the Garmin and the Bones in Motion data for your perusal (the Bones in Motion splits table was SO OFF this time that I'm not even posting it):

Garmin Training Center Splits Table:


Bones in Motion information:

Route:--Elev. Avg:621 ft
Location:Hines, ILElev. Gain:+0 ft
Date:02/15/09Up/Downhill: [+209/-209]
Time:12:45 PMDifficulty:3.5 / 5.0
Weather:Mostly Cloudy
 30 F temp; 57% humidity
 30 F heat index; winds Vrbl 3

Distance: 8.01 miles
Speed:6.1 mph
Pace:9' 55 /mi
Elevation (ft)

Posted from bimactive.com

I have a feeling I'm going to be paying for this speed, however. I've developed a new pain in what I believe is my adductor area. Here's hoping a good nights sleep and some ibuprofen helps out.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Speedwork Playlist

Okay, don't really click there. Just scroll down

Kristen (who, by the way, has the most awesome blog title ever) asked to see the playlist that powered me through my speedwork on Wednesday evening. And since when my readers ask I like to deliver, here it is. Some of them may seem like odd choices for running music, but I find they get me in the mood.


Come What May - Moulin Rouge Soundtrack
Into the Ocean - Blue October
Feel Good Inc. - Gorillaz

First Speed Mile:

Thnks Fr Th Mmrs - Fall Out Boy
Somebody Told Me - The Killers
U + Ur Hand - Pink

Half-mile recovery jog:

In My Memory - DJ Tiesto (I ended up skipping most of this because I didn't realize how quickly I would be done with the first speed mile when I put the playlist together. Hence, most of this recovery jog was done to U + Ur Hand.)

Second Speed Mile:

Misery Business - Paramore
The Pretender - Foo Fighters
Make Your Mama Proud - Fastball

Half-mile recovery jog:

Easy Lover - Phil Collins

Third Speed Mile:

Shake It - Metro Station
Crush Crush Crush - Paramore
See You Again - Miley Cyrus

Half-mile recovery jog and cool down:

Vogue - Madonna
If I Am - Nine Days
This Ain't a Scene, It's an Arms Race - Fall Out Boy
Face Down - The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus
Fake It - Seether


Last night at Pilates I felt very weak. And afterward I felt sort of light-headed and brain-dead. I thought about skipping my 30 minutes on the elliptical, but since I had already skipped both Pilates and cardio on Tuesday I felt bad about skipping the elliptical again. So, I got on. I ended up feeling better after getting it done than I did before I started. I'm not sure if the weakness and light-headedness was from skipping a workout this week or from working so hard at the speedwork the night before.

I have an 8 mile run scheduled for this weekend. I'm still trying to figure out when I'm going to get it in. I'll probably end up doing it Sunday sometime. Hopefully I can squeeze it in outside and not be stuck on the treadmill.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Go Speed Racer, Go!

Well obviously I didn't keel over after my speedwork workout last night. In fact, I kicked its butt and was only a mild zombie afterward.

Last night's schedule was the following:

Repeat the following three times:
1600 meters (or one mile) at between an 8:55 and 9:16 mile per minute pace
800 meters (or half a mile) jog at a slower speed

It was supposed to be a total of 7 miles.

Before I got on the treadmill, I set up a "speedwork" playlist on my iPod. I estimated how many songs I would need to get through each segment of the workout and scheduled my favorite "fast" running songs during the speed miles. It worked out pretty well! If anyone is interested in the playlist, just let me know and I'll post it.

I started out doing a one mile warm-up with the treadmill at 5.3 MPH. I also futzed with the incline on the treadmill. I know I need to figure out the incline but doing so involves math and, well, let's just say there is a reason I have a social science degree. Regardless, I know the treadmill wasn't totally flat but I'm unsure what the incline percentage was.

After my warm-up mile, I sped the treadmill up to 6.7 MPH. For reference, the last time I did speedwork I did my fast miles at 6.4 or 6.5 MPH. So, I was definitely increasing the difficulty here! I can't remember at what point I moved up to 6.8 MPH, but I know I did. And, yes, I ran the entire mile.

After the fast mile, I slowed down to a walk for a tenth of a mile. Then I jogged the rest of my recovery half-mile at 5.3 MPH. Strangely, that half-mile seemed to drag on forever. But then it was time for my next speed mile. This one I did almost all of at 6.8 MPH.

Again, I walked the first tenth of a mile during the recovery phase but then jogged the rest until I finished that half-mile. Then it was back to the speed. In fact, I ran the first and last quarter mile of this segment alternating between 7.0 MPH and 7.2 MPH! I was really surprised at myself. I had NO IDEA I could run that fast on the treadmill. I was so proud of myself for doing it, too. The middle half-mile I alternated between 6.7 and 6.8 MPH.

Towards the end my form was seriously degenerating and at times I found myself holding onto the treadmill handrails to keep myself upright. There was a point where I felt like puking but I persevered.

But, I have to say, the recovery half mile and then the 1.5 mile cool-down were lovely. I just zoned out and ran at 5.5 and then 5.3 MPH until I hit the seven mile mark. Once again, it wasn't my legs that were tired. It was my brain. Those people who say that running is mostly a mental effort are right. It's so easy to psych yourself out when, really, your body can do a lot more than you think it can. Every time I do speedwork I'm reminded of that fact.

Overall, I finished my 7 miles in just over 73 minutes. I probably could have finished it a little faster if I had pushed myself just a little harder during the recovery segments. But, regardless, I ran three fast miles, seven miles total, and I'm very happy with that. Jason thinks I'm crazy but I don't care. There is something completely amazing about realizing you are capable of so much more than you ever though. Now, if I could apply that to the rest of my life I'd be set!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Answers and Aches

Even though my offer of sharing my candy-scented runs with you didn't inspire a lot of people to participate in the audience participation portion of this blog, I did get a few questions. I'll get to those in a minute. But, first, my assessment of my two mile run last night:


Sadly, I did not have the euphoric run that Lindsay did on our post-skiing day. Maybe it had something to do with me being on the treadmill. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that I was tired and sore. Maybe I just wasn't feeling my run last night. Whatever it was, the two miles was TOUGH. My calves weren't sore when I started but they sure were sore when I was finished.

I am not looking forward to my seven mile run (with speedwork!) tomorrow night.

Okay, on to the questions (and answers).

A offline friend asked the following:

Will all of your running medals, certificates, etc., fit in your scrapbook, or will you one day have a display case?

Well, so far I've only received one medal and that one was technically a key chain. It was from my first 5K where all finishers received a medal. One of the race sponsors was Skirt Sports and the race was for women-only. So, all the women who finished got pink metal key chains in the shape of the Skirt Sports logo. I'm currently using mine for my keys. So, no scrapbook for it.

For the Nike+ Human Race 10K all finishers received a "finisher's bracelet" which was a small piece of metal on a nylon band. That one I put into my scrapbook. For all my other races I've put my race number, a map of the course, pictures of me at the race (if available) and my time.

Here are a few sample pages:



In the current book I plan to put one more race and then start a new book. That way the current book will cover 2007 and 2008 and the next book can cover the next group of years.

Next, Rob wanted to know: Do you have a goal time for the half?

I've thought long and hard about this question. Technically I guess I do: 2:30. At least, that's the time I told them I would run it in when I signed up. I honestly have no idea what to expect of myself, though. Right now I'm just planning on finishing and not worrying about time. I fear that if I choose a time I will be disappointed. Yet, I WANT to choose a time so that I can figure out how to pace myself. I think that once I do my second 10 mile run or my only 11 mile run I'll have a better idea of how long I can maintain a specific pace. My training plan has me running the 11 miler at any pace between 10:42 and 11:12 minutes/mile which, if I can maintain a pace like that, will have me finishing between 2:20 and 2:40. I'd LOVE to finish in 2:30, but I really don't want to get my heart set on it and then fail. I want to be proud that I ran the entire way and not have missing a time goal bring me down.

Finally, Oz Runner wanted to know what I thought about the YaxTrax. He'd heard mixed reviews.

My take on the YaxTrax? They are a life saver if you need to run on packed snow. I can't really speak to how well they work on ice and they definitely don't make a difference when running on powdery snow. In fact, when running on powdery snow they tend to allow snow to accumulate between the rubber strappy bits and your shoe. I could see how this might make it feel like your shoes weighed a ton. Also, I'm unsure if it was the YaxTrax, the snow getting in my shoes, or what but I did come the closest I've ever come to getting a blister on my foot after running in the YaxTrax. However, a sample size of one run isn't enough to determine what caused that. And since all our snow melted this week I don't know when I'll get a chance to up the sample size.

And that wraps up our first edition of Audience Participation. My own participation might be a little scarce for a few days. I'm taking some training courses at work, I had to skip Pilates this evening due to getting home late, and I'm just generally behind on life. But, assuming I don't die from the speework tomorrow night, I'll try to squeeze in a post and let you all know how it went.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Cascade Cross-Training

View of the main run at Cascade Mountain

The great thing about running is that you can call practically any other activity you do "cross-training." Yesterday's cross-training involved downhill skiing!

I've only been downhill skiing once before at Snowbowl in Flagstaff, Arizona. My husband and I went just this past Christmas (December 2008) and I discovered that while I'm a cautious skier, I'm not half bad.

I knew there were ski areas north of where we currently live and when Lindsay mentioned that she wanted to go skiing, I decided to make it a plan. My hubby LOVES to ski and his birthday was Saturday so I figured it would be a nice birthday weekend outing.

We awoke at 6:30 AM and were out the door around 7:15. We drove the hour to Lindsay's place to pick her up and then it was another 2+ hours to Cascade Mountain. We stopped at a ski rental place just outside the entrance to the ski area so that Jason and I could rent skis. We're seriously considering just buying ski equipment so that we don't have to rent every time. Aside: I never, ever thought I would be planning to own skis just like I never, ever thought I'd be training to run a half-marathon.

My skis, Lindsay's skis, and Jason's skis. I'm short.

We finally got our lift tickets around noon and got in line for the main lift. Cascade Mountain has A LOT of chair lifts so the wait was never more than a few minutes.



The short wait time was quite a change from some of the long waits at Snowbowl. What else was different? Well, obviously this wasn't an Arizona-sized mountain and most of the snow was man-made. I'd been told that skiing on man-made snow is different than nature-provided snow and it is in many respects. The main difference is that man-made snow tends to be icy. There were a few spots where stopping or slowing down were difficult because the skis just skidded over the tops of the ice slicks. What did this mean for me? Quite a few falls, I'm sad to say. Thankfully, all I came away with injury-wise is a bruise on my left elbow and sore trapezius muscles.

Not only are there a lot of chair lifts, there are lots of options for runs. I suppose when your runs are short you want to give your skiers a lot of variety. Apparently, you also want to give them amusing advertisements, too.

Click the picture to see it larger.


We skied for a few hours (doing green circle and blue square runs), took a break for some sustenance, and then Jason went off to attempt some black diamond runs while Lindsay and I ambled down the easy green circle runs. Around 4:30 Lindsay and I decided to sit by the outdoor fire while waited for Jason to return.


Finally, around 5:00 we gathered our gear and hit the road. The ski area is open until 9:00 PM because they have some of the slopes lit. But we were tired and sore and knew we had a long drive ahead of us and the snow was really becoming more ice than snow at that point.

But, we had a lot of fun and we'll certainly be back!


Saturday, February 7, 2009

Step Back Splash

Click the picture to see it larger. Also, that red stuff on the rug? Wood stain, not blood

This week was what is called a step-back week. So, instead of doing a long run on the weekend, today was just a three-miler that was supposed to done at a 10:55 minute per mile pace.

Remember last weekend when I was running using my YakTrax? Well this weekend I almost needed a boat!

The weather is in the 50s (that's Fahrenheit) and the sun is out. What does that mean? Other than gorgeous running weather, it also means that all the snow we've gotten since Christmas is melting. And pooling. And puddling. This means wetness and mud!

Since it was just a short run, I decided to take Trinka Deu (my German Shepherd mix) with me. She's a little out of shape so I figured it would keep me honest in terms of not going to fast.

It didn't work.

As you can see from the Garmin data, while running through puddles and skidding over the last little bit of icy snow, I still managed to go almost a minute faster than my goal pace. Oops. I also find it interesting that miles one and three were almost the same average speed. I'm not sure what happened in mile two. I also find it interesting that the Garmin Training Center data and the Bones in Motion data are so different even though the BIM data is pulled directly from uploading the Garmin data.

Anyway, my new shoes are definitely broken-in now. Splashing through puddles left us both wet and muddy as the photographic evidence indicates. What you can't see in the photos are how soggy my shoes are or how soaked my socks became. I didn't care though. There is something liberating about running through puddles, even if they are cold.

Garmin Training Center data:


Bones in Motion data:

Route:--Elev. Avg:0 ft
Location:Forest Park, ILElev. Gain:+0 ft
Date:02/07/09Up/Downhill: [+0/-0]
Time:09:39 AMDifficulty:0 / 5.0
Weather:Mostly Cloudy
 52 F temp; 76% humidity
 52 F heat index; winds SW 20 G 35

Distance: 3.03 miles
Speed:5.9 mph
Pace:10' 10 /mi
Elevation (ft)
Pace (min/mile)
MilePace (min/mile)Speed (mph)Elevation
actual+/- avgactual+/- avg
110' 28+0' 185.7-0.2-- ft
210' 32+0' 225.7-0.2-- ft
310' 46+0' 365.6-0.3-- ft
end9' 10-1' 006.5+0.6-- ft
Versus average of 10' 10 min/mile

Posted from bimactive.com

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Bandanna Fana Fo Fanna


Last night was a four mile treadmill run that was to be done at a 10:55 minute/mile pace. I wore my new shoes (better after loosening the laces), I upped the incline on my treadmill (still don't know what to, though), and I ran the first three miles at 5.5 MPH and the last mile at 5.6 MPH. I've found that as the miles tick past, I want to go faster and faster just to get them out of the way. At least that's how I feel when I'm on the treadmill.

So, overall, a good run that left me with enough time to cool down AND start dinner before Jason got home from work.

But that doesn't really have anything to do with bandannas.

Or does it???

If you look at my past race reports you'll see that in almost all of them I'm wearing a bandanna. It's my running headgear of choice.

See, I have a very small head and hats just never fit quite right. I've contemplated trying a visor but I fear it will have the same results as a hat. Growing up, my mom would take a bandanna, fold it up, and tie it across her forehead sweat band style. I tried that but my bangs always flopped over the edges and drove me crazy. I discovered that if folded the bandanna into a triangle and tied it over my hair it soaked up sweat and kept my bangs from falling in my face. And in the summer it protects my hair and scalp from the sun. A win-win situation!

My first bandanna was the purple one shown above. I can't remember if I purchased it or borrowed it from my mom only to never give it back. The faded gray one I know I stole from Jason. That one is so old that the edges are frayed and there are parts where you can almost see through the fabric. Jason gave it quite a workout before I got my mitts on it. I discovered shortly, though, that only owning two bandannas meant I was doing a lot of laundry.

I've picked up the rest of them over the past two years. Mostly for less than $1.00 each. Some were gifts from my mother-in-law (totally awesome gifts, I might add!). Some I bought on clearance. In fact, I've now amassed so many that although I tried to get all of them for the picture, I think there are a few (such as my pink zebra striped one) that are buried in my drawer so deep that they didn't resurface for their close-up.

I have found in the summer that sometimes I get too hot wearing a bandanna. In those cases, I've tried using bobby pins and hair bands to hold my hair back and just carrying the bandanna to mop up sweat, but I have such fine hair that not much keeps it in place. Also, you may recall my "cotton is rotten" post. Well, bandanna tend to be cotton. And although they certainly soak up the sweat, they also like to hold on to it. After a long hot run, you can practically wring out whatever bandanna I was wearing. In the winter I don't always wear a bandanna when running outside. Instead, I prefer to wear a fleece headband to keep my ears warm.

Regardless, I love bandannas. They're like my signature running accessory. So even though I could try switching to a visor or even a Bondi Band, I don't know if I will.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Welcome to My World


First of all, I'd like to say hello and welcome and thanks for coming to those of you who clicked over from one of the various blogs I've started commenting on. Wherever you came from, I'm so glad you're here!

I admit, I LOVE comments (although, don't we all? I mean, why else do we put our thoughts out there in a public forum??). So, please, I hope that all of you who found me one way or another keep reading and commenting.

Keeping that in mind, I thought I'd pimp out my audience participation post. Jedi Dad asked if he got extra credit for audience participation. Well, I can't promise extra credit, but I can promise something!

For everyone who asks a question and references my audience participation post, I will send you a little something from my neck of the woods:

Don't like Lemonheads? How about an assortment:

Why would I send you Lemondheads (or Orangeheads or Grapeheads or any of their other friends)? Because I live across the street from the factory that makes them! When you receive your candy you can open up the box, take a big whiff, and imagine what it's like to go for a run with me in my neighborhood. Because, yes, it frequently smells of lemon, grape, or orange candy around here. Thankfully, I like those smells.

So, hit me up with a question, and I'll make sure you get your candy. Although, you should probably email me your address, too. I'll probably post answers to the questions this weekend, so let's say you have until the end of the day Saturday to get your participation points.

Tomorrow I'll post about tonight's 4 mile run and possibly my love of bandannas. Last night's Pilates and elliptical workout wasn't anything out of the ordinary. Except we did side planks! I love side planks. Although, it appears I'm the only one in the class that does since everyone else groaned and complained during our set of six (three each side). Wimps.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

My shoes are here! My shoes are here!


Last night I arrived home from work to find my new shoes on the porch. I immediately got them out of the box. They're a little more red than pink (Jason says they're definitely red...and not even light red at that) but that's okay. I changed into my running clothes and decided to run last night's four-miler (on the treadmill...sigh) in my new shoes.

Except that these are the first pair of shoes I've bought online and they didn't come with the cute running store employee to lace them for me. I compared the lacing against my other pair and they appeared to be the same.

Sadly, I think they were laced too tight or something because less than a mile into my run the pinky toe on my left foot started to go numb. What?

So, I swapped them out for my other pair and finished my run. Afterward I spent some time loosening the laces on the new pair and I'll try them again for my Wednesday four-miler.

Other than the shoe issue, my run was fine. Ran most of it at 5.5 MPH and the last bit at 5.6 MPH. I listed to the most recent episode of "This American Life" and, to be honest, I don't remember much. I think I was sort of zoned out. Hopefully for Wednesday I'll remember to transfer some episodes of "How I Met Your Mother" to DVD beforehand.

I noticed that I only got one question (via email) to my audience participation post yesterday. Perhaps if I do a give-away I'll get more responses? Well, I'm not doing a give-away, but The Chic Runner is! She's giving away a copy of the Eat This, Not That Supermarket Survival Guide. Sound interesting? Go check out her post and enter yourself for a chance to win.

P.S. I'll answer any audience participation questions at the end of the week.

Monday, February 2, 2009

January Wrap-Up

Photo courtesy of TSBVI.edu

As of yesterday, I am officially four weeks into training for my April 11th half-marathon.

What did I accomplish in the month of January?

Well, I started this blog for one! And I've posted about every training run and a few things in between.

I ran a total of 52.5 miles. All but 12 of those were run on the treadmill. I suppose that having a goal to aim for really does motivate you to get on that treadmill even when you don't think you can face another hamster-like run.

I did my first speedwork run ever and I did it well. That doesn't mean that I'm not apprehensive about the one next week, though.

I bought YaxTrax and ran on snow. I'd always said before that I'd run if it was warm and wet or cold and dry but not cold and wet. That's not true anymore!

The downside is that I've developed a few niggling pains. My right hip tends to be sore for two days or so after doing a long run and the bottoms of my feet are tight when I get up in the morning. I suppose I should find a sports medicine doctor to meet with before either of these things turn into something major.

This week is a "step-back" week meaning that I run three shorter runs instead of slowly building my mileage over the week. I'm hopeful that my new shoes will get here this week, too.

Anyway, now that we're a month into my training and my blogging about it, I figured I'd throw some audience participation into the mix. Do any of you have any questions you'd like to ask? They can be related to my training, my choice of races, my running history, my life in general, anything you want. Feel free to leave them as a comment or just email them to me (a2116 at me dot com). Thanks and I look forward to hearing from some of you!