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

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The temperature's rising....or not


Photo courtesy of Freefoto.com

We've reached the stage of the year when the weather taunts me. Sunny and 50o one day followed by rainy and 40o the next. The temperatures rarely stay warm enough long enough for the world around me to dry out so everything is constantly damp. Damp makes even 40 degree weather feel too cold.

I'm slowly discovering that I have a an interesting range of temperatures at which I like to run. Below freezing? I can handle it. Above 50? Perfect. Between 32 and 50? Ugh.

Last night when I got home from work it was allegedly 38o. And it was still a bit sunny. And yet, with the breeze, it felt like the Arctic. I had zero desire to bundle up in my cold weather gear and run outside. So, I did my two miles on the treadmill. How did I do that all winter? Last night I watched an episode of Jeopardy (which is almost the perfect length if I don't fast-forward through the commercials) and still struggled to stay motivated. Perhaps the only good thing about the treadmill is that it makes me stick to my training-plan-prescribed pace. Last night I did my two miles at 5.6 MPH.

The race is a little over 10 days away. Let's all keep our fingers crossed that Central Illinois gets a mild heatwave on race day, okay?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Chicago Shamrock Shuffle 8K: Volunteer Report

Nice view, huh? That's what it looked like yesterday morning in Grant Park about an hour before the start of the Shamrock Shuffle 8K race. I woke up Sunday morning around 6 AM to what was practically a blizzard. I've never been more glad that I decided to run the day before instead of after I was done volunteering.

I wasn't running in this race. Instead, I was volunteering to help man gear check. When a race is expecting 30,000+ participants, lots of gear check volunteers is a necessity. All those runners need somewhere to put their bags while they're running. And yesterday, even though apparently less than half the registered runners showed up, plenty of people had bags full of stuff to check. As the runners arrived and stripped down out of their outerwear, they handed it over. My job was to take their bag check number (that matched their bib number), zip-tie or safety-pin it to their bag, and put it in the appropriate box. After the race the runners just had to show us their bib and we would retrieve their bag.

When I first arrived at the tent, the boxes were in chaos. Apparently they had been set up the night before but then the tent had been pummeled with rain and snow and wind. Some boxes were soaked and had to be discarded. Others had been blown from one end of the tent to the other. Our first task was to put them in order by bib number range. When we were finished, there were probably 600 cardboard boxes lined up. We had a short period of down time before runners started arriving and during that time we laughed about how the race organizers were still classifying the race conditions as "Moderate".

Does that look moderate to you? If so, we said, we'd hate to see extreme!

As we got closer to race start time, runners started arriving in droves. Some runners already had their check number attached to their bag. I wanted to hug those runners. Others needed my help figuring out what to do. After an hour of taking my gloves on and off to pin, tie, tear, label, and sort, my hands were officially numb. I'll be honest, I think they were on the verge of frostbite. No one was quite prepared for this weather and although the race organizers gave us food, there was no coffee or hot chocolate in the tent nor were there any heaters. We were COLD.

The stream of runners slowed down as the race started. However, we all stayed in the tent to stay out of the still-falling snow and to eat our "lunch." I guess technically it was brunch since we ate around 9:45 AM. About 20 minutes later runners started straggling back to the gear check to get their warm clothes. Most were soaked, red-faced, and glad to be done. Some stopped by the beer tent first and showed up beer in hand. I watched runners walk by in shorts and tanktops. I watched runners hobbling in the cold. I heard more than one wish for warm socks and dry shoes. I saw runners with cold and tired legs try to navigate the foot tall berm of snow that had accumulated in front of the gear check after falling off the roof of the tent. And yet I still heard lots and lots of thank yous. I've run several races and I have to say that one of the things I'm bad at is thanking the volunteers. However, after yesterday, I'll try my hardest to do so.

There was a steady stream of runners until around 11:15. Afterward I stayed for another 45 minutes helping break down empty boxes. We went from those 600 to probably 10.

When I left to head back home around noon, I noticed an unusual sight:

I hope there's not a runner under there!

Finally, I want to leave you with this video that one of the runners made yesterday while running. It captures the day from a runner's point of view perfectly. Yes, runners and those who come out to support them are a little crazy. But, in the end, it's so much fun.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Salt Creek Marathon...or not

No, I didn't run 25 (or more!) miles today. I wish. Nope, I did 10. Same path as last week. The bike path I run on is part of a larger system of trails that apparently extend for at least 25 miles. Every time I see this sign I think that all they'd need to do is add 1.2 miles and we could run the Salt Creek Marathon. There would have to be a pretty low cap on the number of runners, though. The path isn't all that wide.

Anyway, I wasn't really looking forward to today's run. The temperatures are more like February than almost-April, it's rather windy, and there was the threat of rain. There's nothing I like less than cold, wind, AND precipitation. However, when I double-checked the radar before heading out I saw that the rain was still considerably south of us. I figured I'd be good for a little while longer.

For once, I actually started out slow. Not as slow as the training plan wanted me to, but slower than normal. And, as usual, my mile times slowly decreased as I went along. The first half of my run was uneventful. The most intriguing sight for those first five miles was the occasional abandoned glove and the lone running shoe sitting along the side of the path. I managed to avoid most of the wind and actually ended up taking off my fleece and mittens and pushing my sleeves up. Until I hit the halfway point, that is.

At mile 5 I stopped to eat my Sports Beans and drink more water. When I turned around for the "back" portion of my out-and-back run, I got hit square in the face with the wind. Back on went the fleece and mittens. The mittens came and went for the rest of the run but the fleece stayed on.

Shortly before hitting mile 8, I came across three deer grazing just off the path.

Click to see the picture bigger. Can you find all three deer?

Also, I decided that I was going to see if I could try something one of the more knowledgeable members of the LiveJournal Runner's Club suggested when training: run the last few miles of your training run at race pace. I still haven't decided what my race pace will be, so I decided to try to run the last few miles as if I was doing a tempo run. As you can see from the data, that worked for a little bit. It was hard, though. I'm still trying to figure out what my pace should be or if I have a goal time for the half itself. My original goal was to do it in under 2:30. Well, unless the wheels totally fall off, that time shouldn't be a problem. So I'm trying to think of a new goal. Any suggestions?

There were a few sprinkles during the last two miles but nothing significant. I'm very happy that I managed to finish my run before the rain showed up.

Overall, it was a good run. I even did it a little bit faster than last week's 10-miler. Neat. Next weekend the plan is to my last long run before the race. It will be 11 (or maybe 12?) miles. I'm really looking forward to it. The current plan is to run it with Lindsay since she's tapering for a marathon the week after my half. It's been a LONG time since I ran with anyone. Should be fun!

Finally, as always, the data I love and that you probably skip right over :-)


Route:--Elev. Avg:623 ft
Location:Brookfield, ILElev. Gain:+0 ft
Date:03/28/09Up/Downhill: [+236/-236]
Time:12:06 PMDifficulty:3.6 / 5.0
 37 F temp; 72% humidity
 37 F heat index; winds NE 20 G 25

Distance: 10.02 miles
Speed:6.0 mph
Pace:10' 05 /mi
Elevation (ft)
Pace (min/mile)

Posted from bimactive.com

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Half and Ugh

Last night was supposed to be an 8 mile tempo run (one mile warm-up, 6 miles at 9:29, one mile cool-down). My plan was to do half outside and half inside on the treadmill. Well, I got the first 4 miles done outside (and three of them substantially faster than 9:29) but when I got back to the house I felt exhausted, light-headed and just generally out of sorts. I had been hoping for the effortlessness that was last week's 7 mile tempo run, but it was not to be. I thought about just calling it at night with the four miles. Four miles is better than no miles! But, I changed out of my running tights and into shorts and pounded out 2 more miles on the treadmill at 6.3 and 6.4 MPH, respectively. Six miles is definitely better than no miles!

This has just been a week of half-effort workouts. Tuesday night's 30 minutes on the elliptical barely registered 2 miles when usually I crank out at least 3. Tonight's Pilates class about killed me. I did do my two miles on the treadmill at the gym (at 5.6 MPH and 1% incline) but I fear that the wrath of the hormones might be upon me.

Normally I'd be stressed out that I didn't do my entire tempo run, but this week I'm like, "eh, whatever." I know I can run 10 miles at a stretch. I'm not worried about finishing my half. I haven't set an outrageous goal time (at least I don't think I have) so I'm pretty sure I'll be just fine. Plus, the race is almost only two weeks away. I think some people would claim I should be on my way to taking it easy anyway.

So, with that, I'm going to go enjoy my dinner and sit on the couch like a lump. I think I've earned it.

But, first, I'll leave you with the Garmin and Bones in Motion data from the 4 miles I did get in outside on Wednesday:


Route:--Elev. Avg:628 ft
Location:Forest Park, ILElev. Gain:+0 ft
Date:03/25/09Up/Downhill: [+85/-85]
Time:06:25 PMDifficulty:2.0 / 5.0
 43 F temp; 64% humidity
 43 F heat index; winds W 13

Distance: 4.14 miles
Speed:6.5 mph
Pace:9' 12 /mi
Elevation (ft)
Pace (min/mile)

Posted from bimactive.com

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Rain, rain stayed away

The weather people forecasted rain all day yesterday, so I thought I was going to be relegated back to the treadmill. Thankfully, the rain stayed away. It was once again that weird temperature, though, where I felt I would be too cold in capris or short sleeves but too hot in tights or long-sleeves. I ended up wearing tights and short sleeves with my fleece over the top. The sleeves on the fleece got pushed up soon after I started. I wonder if maybe I need a vest instead....

Anyway, since it was just a quick 2 mile run I wasn't too concerned about overheating. I tried to take it easy but ended up running both miles quickly, as you will see from the split chart.

However, even though I had praised the Garmin and its superiority over the Nike+ (at least for me) earlier in the day, my Garmin decided to act up during my run. If you look at the little graph from the Bones in Motion data you'll see that during mile 2 there are a lot of stops and starts. For some reason my Garmin kept deciding to auto-pause and auto-resume whenever it felt like it! Even if I wasn't stopped! I didn't have the volume on my iPod turned up as high as usual so I heard the Garmin every time it beeped when it paused itself. I guess I'll have to look at the manual and possibly tweak the settings. Anyone else ever have this problem with their Garmin?

Speaking of gear, I thought I'd share with you what I take on a long run. From left to right in the above photo we have:

- My iPod nano in its holster (I clip it to my waistband)
- Jelly Belly sports beans
- My Garmin 405
- My handheld water bottle (it has a little pouch for my keys, too)
- My iPhone and its holster (I use the arm band from the iPod holster and strap the phone holster to my hand. I also use the iPhone to take all my photos while I'm running.)

So, the iPod goes on my waistband, my sports beans go in whatever pocket my running clothing has, my Garmin goes on my wrist, my water bottle goes in one hand and my iPhone goes in the other. I'm beginning to think I need a waist pack. Also, I'm discovering that my water bottle barely holds enough for a 10 mile run. Perhaps it's time to upgrade to a hydration belt with pouches for stuff? Guess it's time to hit up the sporting goods stores and see if I can try some on.

Oh, and as always when I run outside, the data I reference earlier:


Route:--Elev. Avg:621 ft
Location:Forest Park, ILElev. Gain:+0 ft
Date:03/23/09Up/Downhill: [+22/-22]
Time:06:31 PMDifficulty:1.7 / 5.0
Weather:Overcast and Breezy
 56 F temp; 38% humidity
 56 F heat index; winds SE 23 G 29

Distance: 2.01 miles
Speed:6.3 mph
Pace:9' 31 /mi
Elevation (ft)
Pace (min/mile)

Posted from bimactive.com

Monday, March 23, 2009

Next to the creek and through the woods

Two weekends ago when my friends were visiting, one of them asked me how it feels to add an entire mile to a run. I don't think I really had a good answer for her. I'm still not sure that I do. But I can say this: there's a reason that running is both a physical and a mental sport. Every time you decide to go for a new distance you have to keep reminding yourself that you can do it. You have to know in your heart and in your mind that you can finish that distance.

So that's what I kept telling myself when I did my first-ever 10 mile run on Saturday. I knew when I got to that mile 5 marker up there that I had to turn around and make it back the entire way I just came. Sure, it was a little daunting, but I wasn't going to let myself down. I'd looked forward to this run all week.

My day started with a bowl of cottage cheese topped with Fiber One and a banana. And plenty of water, of course. I followed that up a few hours later with a Nature Valley peanut butter granola bar. I filled my water bottle, grabbed my Sports Beans, iPod and phone and headed out to the bike path. I purposely parked as far from the start of the path as possible to give me a nice, short warm-up walk. I stopped at the porta-potty for a last minute pit-stop and discovered that it was out of toilet paper. Oh well. My capris are moisture-wicking! I'd decided to wear capris, a short-sleeved top and a long-sleeved top. After the first half mile I was a little concerned that I was overdressed, but it turned out to be just fine.

Overall the run was uneventful. I had to keep reminding myself to slow down. My training plan wanted me to run these miles at a 10:49 minute/mile pace and my Garmin was consistently telling me I was running them in the 10:teens. Like clockwork my left shin started to act up around mile 2 but quit its whining shortly thereafter. My shoulders did start to ache around mile 6 so I had to focus on keeping my shoulder blades down and back and my shoulders out of my ears. I think the most irritating part of the entire run was that towards the end my feet started to burn. However, the new-to-me scenery at mile 5 was worth it. I can't wait to see what it looks like once things start turning green.

Every time I do a long run I think about how many more miles I would have to do if I were actually running a half-marathon. Saturday that extra mileage would have been 3.1 miles. Could I have gone on for 3.1 miles on Saturday? I think I could have. It wouldn't have been pretty, I would have slowed down considerably and my feet sure would have hurt, but I could have finished. Or at least right now I think I could have. I tend to block out how I was really feeling after a long run. Again, running is so much more mental than you'd expect. If you don't remember how bad it was, of course you're going to do it again! Or more of it.

Oh, and even though I tried to tell myself to slow down, I still finished with an average pace that was faster than my prescribed training pace. Whatcha gonna do?


And here's the other stats:

Route:--Elev. Avg:623 ft
Location:Brookfield, ILElev. Gain:+0 ft
Date:03/21/09Up/Downhill: [+219/-219]
Time:12:10 PMDifficulty:2.8 / 5.0
 57 F temp; 32% humidity
 57 F heat index; winds W 9

Distance: 10.01 miles
Speed:5.8 mph
Pace:10' 20 /mi
Elevation (ft)
Pace (min/mile)

Posted from bimactive.com

Post-run, I scarfed down a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, some pretzels and drank a glass of chocolate milk. Then I showered and took a short nap on the couch. For once, I felt GREAT after my nap. I even had plenty of energy to go out with some friends for dinner. Today, on the other hand, I feel kind of creaky and tired. I guess instead of delayed on-set muscle soreness I have delayed on-set sleepiness.

By the way, my longest scheduled run before my half is 11 miles. So that mental aspect? Definitely gotta kick in for those last 2.1 miles on race day. For those of you that run or race, what do you do to get you through those virgin miles?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Quick Notes

I promise a full training run report tomorrow, but in the mean time, here are two quick things.

Thing 1:

As part of my training run today, I decided to participate in RunningLaur's virtual race, the Hooray Spring Six Miler. I took the times from six consecutive miles during today's training run and counted those as my "race time". And what was my time? 1:01:52 Not too bad for part of a training run.

Thing 2:

And just how long was this training run anyway? We'll, I'll let my Garmin speak for itself.

Click to see it larger

Yes, I ran 10 miles today. That is officially my longest distance ever. More details to come in tomorrow's post. I know you can't wait!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Race Round-Up

Image from http://www.skirtsports.com

Last night was an easy 2 mile "recovery" run. I thought about doing it outside, but A. I didn't really have time between work and Pilates, B. It was kind of chilly outside, and C. I was afraid if I ran outside I would run too fast. So, instead, I hopped on the treadmill at the gym after my Pilates class. I did a short warm-up walk and then ran 2 miles at 5.6 MPH at a 1% incline. Perfect.

Yesterday I also signed up for another race. It's the Skirt Chaser 5K on June 13th. I wanted to do it last year but I didn't find out about it in time. It's sponsored by Skirt Sports, hence their logo up there at the top of this post. My keychain is actually from Skirt Sports as they were one of the sponsors of the first 5K I ever ran. Anyway, this race is too funny. All the women start at 5:00 PM and the men start at 5:03 PM. The idea is that the men have to catch the women. I mentioned it to Jason last night and he actually said that maybe he should train to run a 5K and do this with me. How awesome would that be???? Regardless, this race is awesome for several reasons. One is that if you pay for the "Deluxe" registration you get a sweat-wicking tanktop AND a running skirt along with your goody bag and entrance to the beer tent and post-race party. I've always wanted a running skirt and this seemed like a great deal since the skirts typically retail for quite a bit. But the other reason this race is awesome is because I'm planning to run it with Lindsay! I've never run a race with a friend before and now this year I've two planned. So fun.

I've also volunteered to help with gear check at the Chicago Shamrock Shuffle on March 29th. I'm doing that through PAWS (a local animal shelter). Seemed like a nice way to give back to the running community and hopefully meet some new people.

So now I've got races lined up for April, May (the Chase Corporate Challenge on May 21st), June and July. Whew! I like to do one race a month. There are so many to choose from, though, that I feel a little overwhelmed when it comes to picking which one I'm going to do. I like routine, so after July I'll probably end up doing some of the same races I did last year. My basic criteria for choosing tend to be based on how close the race is to my house, who the proceeds go to, and, of course, the distance.

For those of you reading this that race, how do you pick which ones to do?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Wild Tempo Wednesday

Photo from http://www.sdgfp.info/

First off, the good news. It appears that after the organizers of the Illinois Marathon publicized their need for more volunteers, 200 people stepped forward and agreed to help out. Me included. I said I would do traffic-duty after I finished running my half. Probably a stupid decision, but oh well. I just really want this thing to happen. As of now, it looks like it's back on. Let's hope it stays that way.

After getting that good news yesterday, I was more motivated to do my 7 mile tempo run after work. One mile of warm-up, 5 miles between 9:24 and 9:53 minute/mile pace, and one mile cool down. My alternate workout was just to do the 7 miles slowly. I decided I would see how my shin felt. Also, my original thought process was to do half outside and half inside. I had about an hour of daylight left and didn't know if I'd be able to get all 7 miles in before it got too dark for my liking.

Long story short: I did all 7 miles outside. And I did my tempo run. But let's get to that in a minute.

Since I didn't know how far I'd be going outside, I decided just to run in town instead of driving out to the creek-side bike path. About a half mile in, I came across my first "wild life" sighting.

Say hello to the dog I saw in the window of the doggie daycare that I run past. I love the name of the place, too.

My first dog I adopted after I graduated college was named Spot. I even have a tattoo on my foot to honor his memory.

About a half mile later, I encountered my next sign of "wild life": a friendly looking dromedary.

That's in the window of the barbershop I took a picture of on Monday.

Shortly after passing Mr. Camel, I hit the end of my one mile warm-up and sped up the pace. I decided to avoid looking at my Garmin as much as possible. Almost immediately upon speeding up my shin started to hurt. But, the amazing thing is, somewhere in the middle of mile 2 it quit. By the time I hit mile three it didn't hurt at all. Wild!

Since my original plan was to get 3 or 3.5 miles in outside, I hadn't really chosen a turn around point. However, when I hit my favorite street of all time in the middle of mile 2 and realized it was still light out, I decided to keep going. Why is it my favorite street of all time? Every single house on the street is FABULOUS. Including this one:

The first time I ran down this street I was in awe at all the houses but this one especially stood out. Imagine my surprise when I saw it on the cover of this book when I was a the Frank Lloyd Wright museum and gift shop. Wild!

The other reason I like this street is that just off it there is a short path that cuts through some woods. I decided to take that path last night. It comes out in the parking lot for a trail side museum and then continues across the street to a picnic grove.

I hit the picnic grove just before the three mile mark. Excellent, I thought. This means I'll get approximately 6 miles outside and can do my cool-down on the treadmill. I headed back the way I came. Once I reached the edge of my neighborhood, I decided to make it an even 6 miles outside. But by the time I did a loop through my neighborhood and made it back to my house, I was over 6 miles. It seemed silly to stop and go inside to do the last three quarters of a mile on the treadmill. So, even though the street lights were on and the sun had set, I kept going. I ran up to the park and back and, on the way, passed the final "wild life" of the evening.

I actually took this picture last summer. It was too dark last night to get a good photo.

My seventh mile ended a slight distance from my house. I could have run the rest of the way, but I decided to have a nice, extra cool-down walk instead.

I didn't get a chance to really check my data until later in the evening. When I did, I was shocked. Shocked! Look at these times:

Holy sh*t! Even with the warm-up and cool-down miles I hit my tempo pace almost exactly on the nose for the first time ever! And you know what? It didn't even feel that hard! I felt as though I could have been running faster or gone for longer. And three miles under 9 minutes? I am in awe at myself. I was not honestly trying to run that fast. Wild!

I am really looking forward to my (very first!) 10-miler on Saturday. As long as my shin pain stays away or drops out after two miles like it did last night, I'll be in business.

And, as always, here's the other info from Bones in Motion.

Route:--Elev. Avg:626 ft
Location:Forest Park, ILElev. Gain:-3 ft
Date:03/18/09Up/Downhill: [+108/-111]
Time:06:13 PMDifficulty:2.2 / 5.0
Weather:Mostly Cloudy
 50 F temp; 47% humidity
 50 F heat index; winds Calm

Distance: 7.02 miles
Speed:6.4 mph
Pace:9' 25 /mi
Elevation (ft)
Pace (min/mile)

Posted from bimactive.com

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A quick two miles

I thought the above photo was appropriate for my Monday two-mile run. Apparently this was formerly fire station house number 2. It's since been turned into either apartments or condos. It's a neat building and one I run past any time I do my regular in-town route.

I was excited to take advantage of the lovely weather last night. Jason and I walked Trinka Deu to the dog park and he stayed there with her while I did a quick run. It was supposed to be an easy run, but I got a little ahead of myself. I did slow down some on the return mile, though, but mainly because my left shin was bothering me again.

Oh, I took a couple of other pictures of some of the buildings I run past, too.

I love that I run through neighborhoods that intermingle residences with businesses. It's a completely different feel from anywhere I've ever lived before.

After my run I hung out with Jason and Trinka at the dog park for awhile and then it was home to eat dinner and ice my shin. This was the first time I've ever iced anything after running. To be honest, I don't know that it helped that much. It still aches today. I'm really bummed. I'm trying to decide if I should skip the elliptical this evening or what else I should do this week. This weekend is supposed to be my longest run to date and my first one in the double digits (10 miles). I've got a seven mile tempo run schedule for Wednesday and a 2 mile easy run scheduled for Thursday.

And, of course, it might all be for naught. Just the idea that my race might get canceled puts me into quite a blue mood. I thought about finding another half-marathon to do that weekend, but it just wouldn't be the same. I suppose I could switch to the Wisconsin Half-Marathon on May 2nd if I had to but I don't think I would have the same family or crowd support. I guess I'll just keep training as if the Illinois one is going to happen and see what the decision is about the fate of the race on April 2nd. Until then, though, I'll feel as if I'm in some weird limbo.

In the meantime, here's my stats from last night's run:

Route:--Elev. Avg:625 ft
Location:Forest Park, ILElev. Gain:+0 ft
Date:03/16/09Up/Downhill: [+22/-22]
Time:06:13 PMDifficulty:1.6 / 5.0
Weather:A Few Clouds
 59 F temp; 33% humidity
 59 F heat index; winds E 9

Distance: 2.06 miles
Speed:6.4 mph
Pace:9' 20 /mi
Elevation (ft)
Pace (min/mile)

Posted from bimactive.com