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

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Pump You Up

I know, I know, I said I was going to run on Monday night, but the truth is...I didn't.

It was cold. It was raining. My knee ached. I'd just run on Sunday. I could come up with all kinds of excuses. But what it really comes down to is that while I wanted to see my running group friends I just didn't feel like running.


In the past month I've read several articles and blog posts about the benefits of strength training and weight lifting. Charlotte at The Great Fitness Experiment is doing a weight lifting experiment for the month of November. And then I read an article in Self Magazine touting the benefits of weight lifting.

So instead of going and running when I didn't feel like it, I ripped the weight lifting moves out of the Self magazine and headed to the gym.

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For the most part I followed the workout exactly. The only change I made was that after the first round I upped the squats to 40 pounds from 30. Dealing with changing the weight amounts two times instead of three was easier and I already know I can squat more than 30 pounds. Some of the other weights felt too light but I didn't want to overdo it the first time. Next time I'll up the weights.

The whole routine took about 30 minutes and afterward I did 100 sit ups (25 regular crunches, 25 bicycle crunches, 25 oblique crunches, and 25 crunches with the stability ball), held a plank pose for a count of 60, did 5 push-ups (I hate push-ups), and a few other assorted things before hopping on the stationary bike for 25 minutes.

It felt good to break up my usual routine. Today I'm sore in a few spots and looking forward to lifting again. I think I may be one of those weirdos who likes strength training.

What about you? If you had to chose, would you choose cardio, strength, or something else?

My hamstrings and shoulders are a little sore today and I have a sore spot where I rested the bar while doing squats but otherwis

Monday, November 29, 2010

To the 5s

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving (or weekend for my non-US readers). I celebrated my Thanksgiving with my family in my hometown. There was talk of doing the local one mile Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning but when the morning dawned chilly,gray and rainy I was the only one brave (read: crazy) enough to go outside.

I skipped the Turkey Trot as it seemed silly to me to deal with driving and parking for one mile when I could easily head out the door of my parents' house and run further than that.

Of course, in my string of forgetfulness, I left my Garmin on the charger at home. At first I figured I'd just run "naked" and not plan a route or worry about time. I'm not quite that zen yet, though, so instead I mapped out a 5.5 mile route but still didn't worry about time.

The hilarious thing is that as I was running through cold, gray, drizzle I heard a car horn honk. I turned to see two of my best high school friends who were also in town to visit family waving at me as they drove by! I'll defend my hometown against anyone who says it's a small town but I guess it kind of is. But I like it that way.

Seeing my friends put some pep in my step and although I have no idea what my time or pace was for the run I know I pushed it hard and came home sweaty, damp, and ready for turkey!

On Sunday I joined some running group buds for another 5.5 mile run. We originally planned to run 8-10 miles but none of us were really feeling that distance. Instead we took it easy (average 9:40 pace not counting the bathroom break). Too much turkey, I guess.

Tonight I plan to run another 5.5 miles. I like that distance. Short enough to squeeze into a busy schedule but long enough to make it feel like you did something. Five definitely makes me feel alive.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Well, Pants

On Monday night, after recovering from the Shred, I packed my gym bag so that I could run at lunch on Tuesday. I even remembered to pack my Garmin and my visor!

Except when I got to the locker room and unpacked my stuff I found I'd packed three shirts...and no pants.

And I was really looking forward to running, too.

Thwarted by my apparent inability to pack, I went back to my office and pledged to run after work instead. In the cold. And dark.

Except I keep forgetting I live in an urban-ish area where it's never truly dark. When I got home I pulled on my running tights for the first time this year, dug my fleece ear band out of the closet, and went outside into the below-freezing temperature.

The street lights made it easy to see where I was going and I decided to do two laps around my neighborhood for an even 3 miles. I left the headphones at home so it was just me and my breathing as I ran quickly so as to spend as little time as possible in the cold air.

Leaving the headphones at home, though, doesn't mean I left my phone at home. Nope, just the opposite. I recently discovered an iPhone (and other smartphone) app called Glympse. It's a GPS tracking app that lets you invite other people to see where you are and where you're going. Jason and I used it during my 10K on Sunday and it worked like a charm. So I fired that up when I left the house for my run so Jason would always know where I was. You know, just in case. I almost always carry my cellphone with me but I think this gives Jason and added piece of mind that if something were to happen he'd know exactly where I was.

Although, really, running laps around my neighborhood is not all that exciting. I startle the occasional commuter walking home lost in his or her own thoughts. I get to see the specials at the local grocery store. I enjoy seeing the Virgin Mary outside the Catholic church all lit up in the night. But last night I ran hard and fast to ensure my lungs didn't freeze into one solid block.

When I got home and uploaded my Garmin data I found I'd run negative splits and averaged a 9:12 pace over the 3 miles. I also checked out Garmin Connect to see if it would create maps and other data similar to what I used to get from Bones in Motion. Sadly, it only creates a link to my run for the blog and not the actual map or table codes. Oh well.

So even though my running day started out "pants" due to lack of pants, I'd say it ended up pretty good.

The Run That Wasn't

Yesterday was one of *those* days in Chicago. Rainy and windy and miserable. But warm! I spent the day hoping the rain would let up enough for me to go running. I don't mind running in rain. But severe-thunderstorm-rain combined with darkness didn't sound like a good recipe to me.

Then there was the thunder and lightening as I walked home from the train. And then I saw this:

So I decided to trade my normal Monday night run for a date with the world's evilest aerobics instructor.

And because I felt like making up for not running, I chose to try Level 3 of the Shred. I've never done Level 3 before and I don't do the Shred regularly.

As I lay on the floor panting and dizzy and trying to recover I realized it had stopped storming. Damn.

I should have just gone for a run.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Lincolnwood Turkey Trot 10K Race Report

And in my husband's words, Turkey Trot = Turkey Hat. And there were plenty of turkey hats out Sunday morning.

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I, sadly, do not have a turkey hat. Standing around waiting for the race to start I almost wished I did. A hat (or gloves!) would have been nice. It was chilly!

I met four of the guys from my work running group at the race but, as always, they are much faster than me so we all ran our own race. We meet before to joke around and rib each other and then after the race we all go out to breakfast. Works out well.

Jason also came out to the race since this course is perfect for spectators. Last year I ran this race and Jason got lots of good photos. This year was no different photo-wise.

What was different this year? Well, like last year I didn't go into this race expecting to break any records. But, I admit, once I was standing at the start I thought that maybe I could give it the old college try. I mean, all that marathon and speed training had to do something even if I have been slacking, right?

So, even though I'd gone roller skating for the first time in years and stuffed myself full of Chinese food the night before and woke up feeling exhausted and nauseous I went out at an 8:30 pace.

Last year I went out around the same pace but couldn't hold it as well. This year I slowed down but told myself I was going to keep my mile times under 9 minutes if it killed me. My 10K was from the Lincolnwood Turkey Trot Version 2009 so I knew Version 2010 could be a good one, too.

It was tough. During mile 2 I wished I was doing the 5K. Around mile 4 I passed Jason and said, "Feels tough today." Of course, ever the perfect spectator, he told me I was looking good and to keep it up. Since I'm good at following directions, I complied.

Throughout the entire race I alternated between figuring out how many miles I had left and telling myself just to focus on the mile I was currently doing. I admit I had my headphones turned up pretty loud so when I hit 6.1 miles and passed Jason I have no idea what he yelled at me. At this point I was pretty sure my average pace was faster than last year which would mean a new 10K PR. I pushed it as hard as I could toward the finish.

This is me totally trying not to puke

I crossed the line and stopped my Garmin as my stomach heaved. Thankfully I managed to keep my bagel with peanut butter where it belonged and I was fine a few seconds later. I guess an entire plate of sesame chicken is not what you want to eat the night before a race?

I found Jason and the rest of the guys from work and struggled to get my Garmin to tell me my final time. Turns out my Garmin time and my official time? Exactly the same. 54:08. Another PR!

Lincolnwood Turkey Trot 10K, I think I love you.

It's actually a 41 second PR and good for 22nd out of 89 in my age group and 193rd out of 483 overall.

My splits weren't even all that uneven. Check it out:

Mile 1 - 8:32
Mile 2 - 8:29
Mile 3 - 8:40
Mile 4 - 8:42
Mile 5 - 8:47
Mile 6 - 8:49
Mile .2 - 8:26 pace

Not perfect (I'd prefer to hold 8:30 the whole time) but I'll still take it!

Now, if the shirt wasn't so ugly I'd wear it with pride.

P.S. My right knee was fine during the race (with my knee strap on) but it was sore and stiff afterward. Some icing and some Advil when we got home took the edge off but it's still a little cranky with me.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Absentminded Runner

Before I post about the Turkey Trot 10K I feel I need to make a post about Thursday's run. I mentioned that I hoped to get in a short run on Thursday at lunch. Well, I completely forgot to pack my bag the night before (trying to cram in a panel speaking engagement, a trip to the gym, and dinner will do that to you). I threw some items in my bag in the morning and, per usual when I do that, I ran down the inventory of important things as I walked to the train.

Shoes? Check
Bottoms? Check
Tops? Check
Sports bra? Check
Socks? Check
Towel? Check
Face wash? Check
Make up? Check
Hair brush? Check
Deodorant? Check
Gloves? Check
Hair tie? Check

Alright, good to go. All the essentials were packed.

Do you notice anything missing?

How about the Garmin and my visor? Yeah, those were not-so-check.

Which means that I ran 3 miles sans visor and with no idea of my pace. I only know the distance because we ran the usual 3 mile route. And when I say "we" I mean me and one of the faster guys in our group. Yep, the only people man enough (or with enough free time) to brave Thursday's chilly and overcast weather were me and Hap.

Hap told me I could set the pace but I hate doing that when running with someone faster. So, I pushed it hard for the first mile and a half and (I think to Hap's dismay) suggested we turn around at the 1.5 mile mark.

It was a tough three miles. I'd been leading a training session all morning in a computer lab where we aren't technically supposed to have liquids. So, in order to set a good example, I didn't bring my water bottle. Plus, since I was doing that during my usual snack time I had to eat my morning snack earlier than usual. All that (plus my lack of running lately) combined for a rough run. I hope I didn't slow Hap down too much. I appreciated that he stayed with me.

Post-run I wasn't feeling too optimistic about the upcoming 10K. But how did it turn out? Stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sunday's Stroll


After my post about my lack of running motivation I actually went out for a solo 8 mile run along the Salt Creek bike path. I hadn't been out on the path in awhile. The leaves have definitely turned colors and most of them have fallen. The creepy house on the decent plot of land that backs up to the bike path is for sale. And my run after taking over a week off? Went really well.

I averaged a 9:39 pace for 8 miles with my last mile at 8:49. I recently read about the 3/1 run on Hal Higdon's Advanced 10K training plan and halfway through my run I decided to try it out. What's a 3/1 run? Well, according to Hal:

A "3/1" workout is one in which you run the first three-fourths of the distance at a comfortable pace, then accelerate to near race pace over the last one quarter of the workout. (You should finish refreshed, not fatigued.)

Which meant my splits looked like this:

Mile 1 - 9:46
Mile 2 - 10:08
Mile 3 - 9:45
Mile 4 - 9:40
Mile 5 - 10:14 (includes a stop for traffic)
Mile 6 - 9:24
Mile 7 - 9:20
Mile 8 - 8:49

That probably wasn't the gradual acceleration Hal had in mind, but I thought it went well. At least taking a week+ off didn't hurt my speed much. That's a good sign!

The bad sign was that on Monday my right knee was back to aching. It went away but it was pretty painful for awhile. I suppose that means I should think about actually using the PT referral my doctor gave me. I've been trying to up my weights at the gym and my glutes are definitely feeling it but I'm guessing it's not enough.

Anyway, after running on Sunday I haven't run since. On Monday night Jason got us last minute tickets to see Paul and Storm with Peter Sagal and on Tuesday evening we were invited to have drinks with one of Jason's coworkers at a Hawaiian themed bar. So, yeah, darn social life interfering with my running. Just kidding. I'm hoping to get in a run on Thursday at lunch but if I don't I guess I'll just have to see how I do at the Lincolnwood Turkey Trot 10K on Sunday.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

October Wrap Up


It occurred to me, halfway through November, that I never did a monthly summary for October. Maybe because the big event in October was running my first marathon and I felt as though I've already said everything I want to say about that?

Maybe because I spent the first part of October dealing with a knee issue?

Perhaps it was because there wasn't much of anything else worth noting? Except, I suppose, the hilarious Corn Maze "5K"?

In all honesty, I think my lack of things to say is due more to burnout than anything else. I ran approximately 80 miles in October. So far it's two weeks into November and I've run a total of 13.5 miles. Of course, some of that is because I just spent the last week in San Francisco for mostly work and some play and didn't get a chance to run. Even though I brought my running clothes my schedule just didn't play nicely. Which is too bad because I hear running through Golden Gate Park is lovely.

Taking the week off was kind of nice, actually. Since the marathon my motivation to run has been lower than usual, anyway. Is this what they call the post-marathon blues?

Friday, November 5, 2010

A Perfect Storm

After essentially not running at lunch all summer due to scheduling issues, I was finally able to get out there yesterday. Unfortunately most of the regular crew was unavailable but, thankfully, one of my female running buddies came out to run.

It wasn't a fast run, by any means. We both ran the Chicago Marathon and, as we discussed, have actually been slacking a bit in the running department. Lately I'm lucky if I get in two runs a week.

I wore capris and my long-sleeved Chicago Half Marathon shirt. It was the first time I'd worn that shirt and it turned out to be more like a tent than a top. Dear Race Organizers: PLEASE have women's cut shirts. Please please please. A men's small is NOT the same as a women's small. And to add insult to injury I didn't really need a long-sleeved top. It was a a lot warmer than it originally seemed and I was hot by the end of the first mile.

At least until we turned around to do the "back" portion of our out-and-back route. When we'd started the sun was shining but when we started heading back towards downtown we saw the dark and ominous clouds that had rolled in from the northwest. The air temperature seemed to drop and we got hit with a few raindrops. Thankfully we made it back before the rain really started.

We did our 4 mile route (which is actually more like 5) and averaged a 9:50 pace with a few pauses for traffic. Sadly, I don't have my fun stats or maps to show you because Bones in Motion (the website I used to use) was bought by Adidas miCoach which currently does not support Garmin data uploads. Boo to that!

Do you use any online run statistic trackers? If so, which ones?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Over the past two days I've run 17.5 miles.

On Sunday, after attending a semi-Halloween party and drinking two beers and a glass of wine and grazing on the buffet table I got up and met some running friends for 6 miles. I ran to and from our meeting place for a total of 9 miles. Thankfully my running friends were also at the party so we were all pretty much in the same place in terms of running. That is, none of us wanted to push the pace that much.

It was a good run and it went by fast. When I left the house Sunday morning I was running a little late so I booked it the 1.5 miles to our meeting spot. Sadly, I have no idea how fast I was going because my Garmin battery was dead. Oh well.

It was also the first time I'd run in almost a week. Like I said in my last post, I was super busy most of last week and by the time I wasn't I just wasn't in the mood to run. I'm really glad my running buddy said something at the party the night before otherwise I may have just gone a whole week without running. I fear I'm becoming someone who only wants to run with other people. There's not anything wrong with that, it just means that my motivation to just lace up my shoes and go apparently got up and went.

Except for last night. My husband and I made a rather difficult decision to rehome our greyhound and the magnitude of the situation just hit me in the gut as I left work. From putting out feelers to rehoming took less than 5 hours and for various reasons I didn't want to be around for most of it. He ended up going back to the family we originally got him from. I hope they cherish their second chance with him.

Anyway, as soon as I got home I changed into my running gear and took off for my Monday night run. I ran to the meeting spot and even though my Garmin says I was only going a 10 minute pace I felt like I was going much faster. All I could think about was running and not stopping. I was looking forward to seeing the usual group of runners so of course I did stop at the store where we meet. I ran 5.5 miles with them and then ran the 1.5 miles home for a total of 8.5 miles.

When I got back to my neighborhood I didn't want to go home. If it hadn't been so dark and cold and if my husband hadn't had dinner ready for me I probably would have kept going. So what if my knee was a little achy? So what if my hip flexors were sore? I just slowed way down and those things went away.

I've never really been one of those people who thinks of running as an escape but last night it was. It was both scary and exhilarating.

There are so many reasons to run. For a long time I did it just as a personal challenge. Maybe it's because I've now gone the 26.2 miles of the marathon and need other motivators that this week I found two more: running as socializing and running as an escape. I'm sure I'll discover even more in the future.

Why do you run/walk/exercise?