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

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I Leaf Running

Photo by Lenora

Fall is definitely here. Last night I found leaf bits in my socks after my run. Why? Because I ran through many a pile of leaves in the gutters last night.

I joined the OPRC for the regular Monday night run. The club president gave a brief talk about safety when you're running in the dark. I have my headlamp but I'm thinking I need to get a flasher or a reflective vest. Or maybe I need this top. The running store we start our runs at has it for sale and it's super-cute. And reflective.

Anyway, the run last night went surprisingly well for having raced hard the day before. In fact, if you subtract the pauses for traffic, my average pace last night was almost identical to my pace at the race on Sunday morning!

The interesting thing is that I ran the first 4 miles of my 5.4 mile run with a couple who was doing around 9 minute miles. So, of course, not wanting to give in and walk, I kept up with them. When we hit the park for our water break, though, I started out ahead of them but behind the rest of the group. I was running on my own for the last 1.4 miles. And it shows in my pace! Just proves what I've come to realize: without someone pushing me I'm not going to push myself. With the park break my pace for the last full mile was over 11 minutes. If you subtract the park break it was more like 9:49. Still, almost 30 seconds to a minute slower than any of the previous 4 miles.

I admit, though, that last 1.4 miles felt good. I felt strong. My form felt fabulous. I was enjoying running by myself in the dark through quiet neighborhoods and then through the small, bustling downtown area.

Arrived back at the store for water and chips and salsa. Chipotle has been super nice to us the past two weeks. They bring us the end-of-the-day chips and left over salsa to munch on after the run. Last week they brought guacamole, too!

Overall, it was a good run. I'm grateful that my runs are getting better. It makes me remember why I love doing it!



Route:--Elev. Avg:628 ft
Location:Forest Park, ILElev. Gain:+0 ft
Date:09/28/09Up/Downhill: [+19/-19]
Time:06:35 PMDifficulty:2.3 / 5.0
Weather:Overcast and Windy
 58 F temp; 53% humidity
 58 F heat index; winds W 29 G 40

Distance: 5.43 miles
Speed:6.6 mph
Pace:9' 09 /mi
Elevation (ft)
Pace (min/mile)
MilePace (min/mile)Speed (mph)Elevation
actual+/- avgactual+/- avg
18' 58-0' 116.7+0.1-3 ft
28' 32-0' 377.0+0.5-9 ft
38' 54-0' 156.7+0.2+3 ft
49' 18+0' 096.5-0.1+7 ft
511' 07+1' 585.4-1.20 ft
end9' 20+0' 116.4-0.1+3 ft
Versus average of 9' 09 min/mile

Posted from bimactive.com

Monday, September 28, 2009

PAWS 8K Run for Their Lives Race Report

Let me introduce you to Robert and Annette (and you know Trinka Deu already). I met them through the running group I joined. They are, in a word, amazing.

Last Sunday when Annette found out I had a race coming up in which I really hoped to beat last year's time, she offered to be my own personal pacer. When her plantar fasciitis flared up last week, her husband stepped in to pace me instead. My goal? A 9:15 minute/mile pace.

They picked me up just before 7:30 AM yesterday morning so that Jason and his mom (who was visiting) could sleep in a little longer. We arrived at the race start with plenty of time to hit the port-a-potties, get Robert signed up (he was originally going to bandit the race - that is, run without registering - but he was won over by all the dogs and the charity aspect of the race), have Robert put on my disposable timing chip for me (I'd never used one like that before) and to do a short warm-up. Annette was our Sherpa and held our swag bags, our sweatshirts, and our water.

One of the best parts about the PAWS 8K race is seeing all the people with their dogs. Giant Great Danes, fuzzy Husky puppies, goofy Golden Retrievers, energetic Labs, and unique mutts. While waiting for the start everywhere we looked was another dog over which to fawn.

I never got to see Jason or his mom before the starting gun went off. Apparently they got stuck in traffic. But Annette cheered for Robert and I as we went past. The first mile felt easy. The air temperature was cool but the sun was out. Robert had us start far enough up that we weren't constantly dodging people after the first quarter mile or so. We passed a guy who was running AND juggling. Robert told me a funny story about how one of the guys in the running group ran an entire marathon with his Garmin held out in front of him so he could constantly watch his pace. Robert and I settled in behind two runners.

"How you feeling?" he asked me. "Pretty good," I said. "You're doing great. You seem very comfortable with this pace." And what pace was that? Between 8:30 and 8:40 minute miles! Strangely, I DID feel comfortable. "But wait until my brain kicks in," I said.

We skipped the water station at mile 1.5 and lost the couple Robert was using to keep himself slowed down. We didn't speed up much, though, thankfully. Still mile two was also done in under 9 minutes.

It wasn't until the mile 3 marker that I started to struggle. I slowed down considerably. I could feel the water I'd drank before the race sloshing around in my stomach. I really, really wanted to walk but didn't want to do so with Robert there. Robert kept me going, though. "Breathe in hard through your nose," he told me. I tried to focus on not letting my form deteriorate. I glanced at my Garmin. I thought it said 3.8 miles. It really said 3.4. "Take some Gatorade," Robert said as we passed the aid station. I did. Finally, we made it to the 4 mile marker.

"Pretend it's Monday night," he said. "All we have left is LeMoyne." LeMoyne is the last stretch of road before we hit the water fountain break at the park during our Monday night runs. "But that's always the longest part for me!" I whined. "Don't think like that!" he admonished me.

Instead of attacking the hills, he had me slow down slightly. "You can make it up on the downhill," he said. When we had half a mile left he said, "Okay, you can open it up now!"

"I don't think I have anything left!"

But he pushed me. "400 meters!"

"That's just once around a track!" I grunted.

"Exactly! You can do it!"

We rounded the final corner. "We can see the finish line! 200 meters!"

"I think I'm gonna throw up!"

"Won't that make for an amusing finish line photo?"

And with that, I pushed with all my might to the finish. I grunted with every step. Robert shouted, "Go! Go ! Go!" I saw Annette cheering for us. And then we were over the line. I gagged as the little fluid I had left in my stomach surged up. I clasped my hand over my mouth and then hung my head over the nearest trash can. Robert ran for water and Annette came over and gave me a hug.

"She did great!" Robert said. We looked at our Garmins. "I think you're going to have to readjust your expectations for your race times." They smiled. You see, we didn't pace 9:15/mile. We paced just over 9:00/mile. Official time? 45:18. Over a minute and a half better than this same race last year. I never could have done it without their help. I'm still in awe that they did this for me. I think I told them thank you about 100 times.

Sadly, Jason missed me at the finish line. So, after Annette and Robert left we killed some time checking out the post-race festivities. We collected some good freebies at the various booths and I took Trinka Deu through the doggie agility course.

And then once the crowd cleared out near the start/finish line, I requested Jason take a picture of me there.

This race was both hard and fabulous. I am so thankful to Robert and Annette. I never, ever could have done this well without their offers to pace me. But, they're right; the mind is the athlete. If I can get over some of my mental hurdles, I will kick butt at my next race. I CAN get my 10K time under an hour. I know it now.


Official Race Stats:

Time: 45:18
Pace: 9:07 minute/mile
Overall place: 294/803
Age group place: 54/181

Other Stats:

Route:--Elev. Avg:587 ft
Location:Chicago, ILElev. Gain:+0 ft
Date:09/27/09Up/Downhill: [+134/-134]
Time:08:59 AMDifficulty:2.0 / 5.0
Weather:Partly Cloudy
 58 F temp; 89% humidity
 58 F heat index; winds SW 6

Distance: 5.03 miles
Speed:6.7 mph
Pace:9' 01 /mi
Elevation (ft)
Pace (min/mile)
MilePace (min/mile)Speed (mph)Elevation
actual+/- avgactual+/- avg
18' 40-0' 216.9+0.3+6 ft
28' 54-0' 076.7+0.1-13 ft
39' 02+0' 016.6-0.0+3 ft
49' 27+0' 266.3-0.3+10 ft
59' 04+0' 036.6-0.0-7 ft
end********** ft
Versus average of 9' 01 min/mile
** Insufficient data to calculate this split

Posted from bimactive.com

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Take it and Run Thursday - Yoga and Running

This week's Take it and Run question is rather appropriate for my workout last night. Kitzzy asks:

I find yoga to be an excellent companion to my running to avoid
injury, improve flexibility, and help relieve sore muscles after a
hard workout or race. Tell us about your experience with yoga as it
relates to running. If you have not tried it, why not? If you have,
did it help? How often do you feature yoga in your weekly workout
regime? What are your favorite yoga poses and routines? Pass on your recommendations for your favorite yoga DVDs, instructors, podcasts, online resources, etc.

Last night was Wednesday so that means yoga class. I also decided to run to and from yoga. I mean, it's less than a mile and a half from my house to the gym. Why would I drive?

My run was great. I really felt in the groove. I really push it on the way there because I'm always afraid of being late but I wasn't even exhausted when I got there. I was sweaty, yes, but not exhausted. I took a minute before class started to wipe off my face in the bathroom.

Here's a quick run-down of my class last night

-Laying on the mat with our eyes closed
-Two instructor-led sun salutations
-One sun salutation on our own
-Eye exercises (what the hell?)
-A few back-bending poses
-A few forward-bending poses
-A discussion of her favorite yoga book and the handouts she had for us
-Some spine twists
-More laying on our back on the mat

I'm sorry. I'm just going to lay it out there. Maybe this makes me a bad runner but I do not like yoga.

I know, I know, I should probably take more than one type of class before declaring that. But, based on this particular class, I don't like it. I do not feel centered. I do not feel stretched out. I do not feel sore. In fact, I mostly feel irritated. I tried to be open-minded. But, really, I spend most of my class thinking "what the hell", "you've got to be kidding me", or "this is such a crock of sh*t".

If you can't tell, yoga is making me angry.

So, sorry yoga-touting runners but I don't see yoga making me a better runner. I admit, I feel kind of bad saying that after only 5 classes, but I just can't see myself sticking with it. I'll probably finish out the session (it's just two more classes) but after that I think the most yoga I'll do is when I break out the Wii Fit.

Now, running to and from the gym I love. In fact, my run home from the gym last night was just as good at the run to the gym. It was dark out but there are enough street lights that I didn't even really need my headlamp to see. I was totally in the groove. I had a slight interruption when a delivery driver stopped me to ask for directions (which, amazingly enough, I knew how to give...thanks to having run past that street before!) but I like helping people out so I didn't mind too much.

Overall I did 2.39 miles at an average 9:17 minute per mile pace. Of course, there was a huge break in the middle and several stops at intersections but the actual running parts were strong. No stats today, though, because the BIM data got all screwy due to my huge break in the middle. It thinks I ran my second mile in an hour and 45 minutes! Maybe if i was a turtle!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Keeper of the Newbies


Last night was the weekly Monday night run with the running club. It was also the "run of the month". This month's run was sponsored by Asics. They raffled off two pairs of shoes (I didn't win) and provided pizza and chips with guacamole. After the run I went out to a bar with some of the club members where we ate the free popcorn and had some beers. Even the run itself was fun!

We had one new guy show up last night. The furthest he'd ever run before was 4 miles. Another woman showed up who I'd run with a few weeks back and for whom this was only her second time running with the group. The club president, who actually remembered that I'm "slow", asked me what pace I planned to run and paired me up with the two "newbies".

The three of us ran together, chatting, and I managed to keep us to the "between 9 and 10" pace I'd promised. We finished 5.4 miles at an average 9:26 minute/mile pace. This was my first time actually pacing anyone else so I was pretty proud of myself for A. doing what I promised, B. not walking at all, and C. being the welcoming group member I would have wanted on my first day.

Also, now that the sun sets before we're done running, I wore the headlamp Jason bought me over a year ago.


It's an LED light that clips on the bill of your hat or visor. The other runners were really impressed with it. They said they could see me coming from blocks away. It seems to work pretty well for seeing the ground in front of you when it's pitch black, but it can't compete with the occasional street lamp. Also, it doesn't help cars see you from the back. I'm thinking I should get some reflective wristbands or a strobe light that clips to my shirt or shorts.

Overall, it was a great run with good company. THIS is what a running group should be like. So, from here on out, I will call myself the keeper of the newbies and the pacer of the "slow". At least, when there are others that need me. Otherwise, I'll do my best to keep up with the pack. And bring my phone. And write down the course on a piece of paper in my pocket, just in case (and, yes, I did those last two things last night).

Also, I am taking a well-deserved rest day today. I ran almost 20 miles in three days. I think my legs need a break.


Route:--Elev. Avg:628 ft
Location:Forest Park, ILElev. Gain:+0 ft
Date:09/21/09Up/Downhill: [+19/-19]
Time:06:38 PMDifficulty:2.0 / 5.0
Weather:A Few Clouds
 67 F temp; 75% humidity
 67 F heat index; winds Calm

Distance: 5.40 miles
Speed:6.4 mph
Pace:9' 26 /mi
Elevation (ft)
Pace (min/mile)
MilePace (min/mile)Speed (mph)Elevation
actual+/- avgactual+/- avg
19' 21-0' 056.4+0.0-3 ft
29' 45+0' 196.2-0.2-6 ft
39' 34+0' 086.3-0.1+6 ft
49' 13-0' 136.5+0.1+3 ft
59' 23-0' 036.4+0.00 ft
end8' 58-0' 286.7+0.3+3 ft
Versus average of 9' 26 min/mile

Posted from bimactive.com

Monday, September 21, 2009

River Running


Photo by Wildcat Dunny

Early last week I got an email from the president of the running group I joined informing us that Sunday was going to be the monthly trail run and that the trail head was just a few miles from us. He said the trail was mostly hard packed dirt with some crush gravel sections and some of it was "single track" meaning that you have to run/walk/bike single file. I was very curious about this trail since I'm always looking for new, close places to run. However, I wasn't sure if I wanted to go. I wanted to run on Saturday and I don't normally run two days in a row. Also, you may remember that the last time I ran with this particular group I didn't have the best experience.

But, in the end, I sucked it up and joined a small group early Sunday morning for my first trail run. I figured I could just go slow and have it be a "recovery" run for my run on Saturday morning. Plus, it was an out and back run so I didn't have to worry about getting lost. Just in case, though, I strapped by iPhone (with GPS!) to my arm and brought my headphones to keep me company if I ended up alone.

Amazingly, I ran with the other women in the group the entire time! They were going slow (for them) and although I wasn't always right on their heels, I was close enough to hear their conversations the entire time. And, for some of that time, I was even close enough to participate in the conversation! I'm glad, too, because even though the club president had marked the course, we still missed a turn and ended up having to back track and find the trail again. I would have been so angry and irritated if I'd been by myself. Thankfully, I wasn't.

It was a beautiful run. All through woods and along the Des Plaines river. We rarely saw other people and it was fun to run on something other than pavement. Watching for roots, climbing embankments, and navigating through gravel made the run go by so fast! I'd decided to go 4 miles out and 4 miles back for a total of 8 miles. I got so caught up in running with the other two women and enjoying the trail that I didn't even realize it when we hit 4 miles! Seriously, if one of the other women hadn't also decided to turn around at mile 4 I have no idea how many miles I would have covered.

During the second half of the run I was running with the club secretary. I'm impressed with her. She came to running late in life and she said it took her a few years to build up her speed. She was asking me about my upcoming races and goals. When I told her about my 8K on Sunday and how my goal was to pace under 9:25 per mile, she OFFERED TO COME PACE ME. Yes, she really offered to come run with me on Sunday and help me hit my goal times. Hopefully it will really work out because how cool would that be??

All in all, I had a really good run. This run renewed my faith in the running group. They definitely aren't for beginners, but I can tell that if I stick with it I'll make some really good, really supportive running buddies. Plus, the actually running itself wasn't half bad. No unintentional walk breaks (just when we stopped at water fountains) and what I think is a great pace for an 8 mile trail run the day after a 6 mile run. I ate the same mini Clif Bar and chocolate milk for pre-run fuel and I didn't even bring any gels or sports beans or anything with me. Drank some water just before mile 3 and again on the way back around mile 5. If that's the kind of energy trail running can give you, sign me up!



Route:--Elev. Avg:614 ft
Location:Elmwood Park, ILElev. Gain:+0 ft
Date:09/20/09Up/Downhill: [+344/-344]
Time:07:59 AMDifficulty:2.9 / 5.0
Weather:Mostly Cloudy
 66 F temp; 65% humidity
 66 F heat index; winds E 8

Distance: 8.06 miles
Speed:5.9 mph
Pace:10' 06 /mi
Elevation (ft)
Pace (min/mile)
MilePace (min/mile)Speed (mph)Elevation
actual+/- avgactual+/- avg
110' 32+0' 265.7-0.3+3 ft
210' 23+0' 175.8-0.2-6 ft
39' 57-0' 096.0+0.1+3 ft
49' 27-0' 396.3+0.4-4 ft
59' 45-0' 216.2+0.2-10 ft
610' 29+0' 235.7-0.2+10 ft
79' 43-0' 236.2+0.2-4 ft
811' 05+0' 595.4-0.5+4 ft
end10' 00-0' 066.0+0.1+3 ft
Versus average of 10' 06 min/mile

Posted from bimactive.com

Better Stuff


So, I've got this 8K race coming up on the 27th. I'm not REALLY training for it. I mean, I want to, but my schedule is just all sorts of screwy. I printed out a 10K training plan that actually has me running an 8K on the day I'm truly schedule to run one. I've kind of been following the plan...when it works with my schedule. This weekend, it happened to work perfectly with my schedule. Meaning Saturday's run was supposed to be six miles with two at race pace.

On my way home from work on Friday my $100 Bose in-ear headphones crapped out on me. They're doing that thing where the connection somewhere inside the wires goes flakey and one side loses sound intermittently. As you can guess, I'm pretty irritated about it. I went to Best Buy to look for replacements. Sadly, our Best Buy no longer carries these headphones. I guess they ARE two years old. Anyway, I have lots of headphone issues due to having a small head and tiny ears. Most in-ear headphones just fall right out of my ears, especially when I'm running. So, after wandering the aisles for 30 minutes, I finally decided on these Sony ones:


They're not perfect. The part that actually goes in my ear is a little too big, they take some skill to put on (especially when my hair is down), and the tops interfered at first with my visor. But, they stayed put during my run and did their job of conveying the music to my ears. I have to say, the staying put thing was a leg-up on the Bose ones. Even those would fall out of my ears occasionally. I still want to replace my Bose ones for commuting purposes, but I think these will do for running purposes.

While at Best Buy I also picked up an armband for my iPhone. Strangely, they only carried one option. This Rocketfish brand one:


It gets cruddy reviews on the Best Buy website and I can sort of see why. I, however, took it entirely out of the packaging at the store so that I could try it on. It fits great and the neoprene is soft on my bare skin. However, it is neoprene so it certainly holds in the sweat! Blech. I agree with the reviews that it's a pain to change the volume and I can totally see this thing falling apart in less than six months. But, it was all they had and it was still better than my jerry-rigged armband.

So, with my gear upgraded, I set out on my 6 mile Saturday morning run with the goal of doing two miles at race pace. I decided "race pace" would be anything under 9:25 minutes per mile. Now, I know the goal is to run those fast miles in the middle of your run, but I hadn't run at all since Wednesday and that was only 1.5 miles! Plus, the weather was perfect and I actually felt good for once. I'd tried a new pre-run fuel routine of a Mini Clif Bar and a small glass of skim milk with Hershey's syrup. My fresh legs combined with the new fuel put such a spring in my step that my first two miles ended up being my race pace miles at just under 9:00 minutes per mile each! Whoa! And, believe it or not, the next four miles all stayed under 10:00 minutes per mile each. I didn't run negative splits, but all six miles were strong and I didn't have to take any walk breaks.

This is definitely better stuff.

Oh, and speaking of that 8K I'm running, it's serving double-duty. I'm not only running it as an actual in-person race, it's also counting as my run for the Fall Five Miler being hosted by RunningLaur. Definitely check it out. I mean, look at the adorable race bib!



Route:--Elev. Avg:627 ft
Location:Forest Park, ILElev. Gain:+0 ft
Date:09/19/09Up/Downhill: [+134/-134]
Time:08:32 AMDifficulty:2.1 / 5.0
Weather:Mostly Cloudy
 65 F temp; 70% humidity
 65 F heat index; winds S 6

Distance: 6.03 miles
Speed:6.3 mph
Pace:9' 34 /mi
Elevation (ft)
Pace (min/mile)
MilePace (min/mile)Speed (mph)Elevation
actual+/- avgactual+/- avg
18' 54-0' 406.7+0.5+3 ft
28' 52-0' 426.8+0.5+10 ft
39' 48+0' 146.1-0.2-6 ft
49' 59+0' 256.0-0.3+13 ft
59' 55+0' 216.0-0.2-17 ft
69' 54+0' 206.1-0.2-3 ft
end9' 10-0' 246.5+0.30 ft
Versus average of 9' 34 min/mile

Posted from bimactive.com

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Run Salutations

Click to see larger

Last night I came thisclose to skipping yoga. The weather was gorgeous. Cool, sunny, and breezy. A perfect evening for running. I wanted to run. Sure, I'd run the night before, but I really wanted to run again. I didn't want to waste the last few hours of daylight cooped up in the gym. Jason almost convinced me to skip class and go for a run instead.

In the end, though, I decided to run to yoga class. I could have run home, too, but by that time it was going to be dark. And while I have a headlight to clip to my visor, I still don't know how I feel about running at night. So, instead, I had Jason pick me up after class.

We worked on sun salutations. After, of course, laying flat on our backs with our eyes closed for several minutes. I admit, it was nice to have what amounted to a long cool-down session after a quick almost 1.5 mile run. Although, if you look at the stats it doesn't look like that last .5 mile was all that fast. Stupid intersection with the longest red light on the planet. Ugh. I hate that intersection. Also, running to class kept my body warm throughout most of yoga. The room where we have class is always freezing but last night I was comfortable until the last 10 minutes.

Most of you who commented on yoga yesterday indicated that you liked it. I'm still not a believer. I don't think I'll be signing up for this class again. I actually find I'm more relaxed after a good run or a good Pilates session than I am after yoga. Live and learn, though, right?


Route:--Elev. Avg:621 ft
Location:Forest Park, ILElev. Gain:+3 ft
Date:09/16/09Up/Downhill: [+19/-16]
Time:06:10 PMDifficulty:1.3 / 5.0
Weather:A Few Clouds
 66 F temp; 56% humidity
 66 F heat index; winds NE 16

Distance: 1.48 miles
Speed:6.6 mph
Pace:9' 06 /mi
Elevation (ft)
Pace (min/mile)
MilePace (min/mile)Speed (mph)Elevation
actual+/- avgactual+/- avg
19' 11+0' 056.5-0.1+3 ft
end11' 36+2' 305.2-1.40 ft
Versus average of 9' 06 min/mile

Posted from bimactive.com