Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Girl Behind the Runner

Reflecting back on the past few months and the closing of my recent training cycle is bittersweet for me right now. The 18 weeks that I have spent training this year have been the most incredibly challenging, wonderful, and eye opening weeks I have yet to experience in my life. Through this lovely blog I have met (using that term loosely here, more like emailed/texted/confided in) wonderfully gracious and kind people that have worked their way into my heart and added light into my life and inspiration to my spirit. I have found myself more grateful then ever to be living the life that I am and reveling in the experiences that I've been blessed with. For the first time in my life, I am content with who I am and the path I've taken.

Running hasn't always come naturally for me. I took up the sport at a young age with sorry attempts to transform myself into an athlete. I wanted to be fast, to fly like a gazelle through fields with the sun kissing my skin and my hair dancing in the wind. I wanted to feel like there was nothing that could keep up or stop me, but my legs never possessed the naturally ability for speed. For years I let my lack of speed be my comparison to other runners, always envying what they had and never truly appreciating the gifts which I myself had. Every race that I would line up at from high school until I was 26, which was last year mind you, I never felt comfortable and confident in my racing abilities. Every race I would find myself breaking down inside, questioning why I thought that I belonged there. I looked like a runner on the outside, but the inside was a mess. Confidence in my training and my legs was never able to shine through because I wouldn't let it. Spending time telling myself why I shouldn't be at that line and pointing out all of the runners that were going to beat me became my prerace ritual.

Last fall I'd gotten a much needed wake up call. After 16 physically grueling weeks of training for my 3:15 Chicago marathon goal that left me in the best shape that I had ever been in, I flushed all of my efforts down the toilet on race morning. Instead of enjoying the experience that I was about to have, at the starting area I had an emotional breakdown. Tears, anxiety, fear, doubt, defeat; all of which came before the gun ever went off. My goals suddenly became unrealistic, and I a fool. When I should have been telling myself how awesome I was and mentally replaying all off the successful workouts I had leading up to that point, my mind went the other direction focusing on all the things that made me inferior to other runners. I crossed the finish in 3:38 and really had given up any hope for nearing my goal at the 10 mile mark. The weather was hot, I was holding back tears the entire race, I drank too much Gatorade, and I just wanted it all to be over. This was the worst race experience I had ever had, yet I value it so much.

When running a marathon becomes a team effort, you know you're in trouble.
This is not cute.

After that race it took me a few weeks to pull myself together, and I begun to pour my running thoughts into my blog. Here is where I was able to appreciate my gift and reflect upon the work that I was doing. Having the worst race of my life was probably the best gift I have ever had because it taught me to appreciate what it means to be able to run and move in such an amazing way. This blog has somehow saved my mentality and given me confidence to press on when the road gets tough. Having confidence in myself wasn't always my strong suit, and it wasn't until college that I was able to realize it is okay to be slightly awkward and march to a different drum...but I never understood that in my running until recently. The reason why all of my finishing times were always lingering in the same area was because I didn't believe and I was imparting too many limits on myself before I would even try.


Last Saturdays 10 miler made my heart sing. I stood at that crowded starting line feeling at peace with myself not worried about the other runners and knew that my body was willing and able if I would let it. There is where I took down that brick wall I had up for so many years so that I could see what was on the other side, and what I found was beauty in myself. I don't know why it has taken me 15 years to say that I AM GOING TO CONQUER THE WORLD WITH MY RUNNING, and I don't care. All that matters is I'm here now, and I am going to do great things.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Soldier Field 10 Mile

Official finishing time today was 1:07:48. BOOYA. That is a 4 minute and 8 second PR. HUGE for me. 27th female out of 6,953. 253rd out of 12,276 total finishers.

While I was at the starting line sardined in between the massive crowd of people waiting to start the race, I begun to feel a bit emotional and was fighting back tears. BUT these were tears of joy. I knew something amazing was about to happen, adrenaline was rushing through my blood and I felt ready to attack the course. For the first time in my life I felt strong, powerful, capable, and fast while standing at the starting line of a race. Today was the day that I not only hit a 4 plus minute PR for 10 miles, it was also the day that I have finally learned to believe in my running abilities.

Maybe that sounds crazy considering that I have been running for 15 years now and completed more then 30 races, but it hasn't always been an easy road for me. Lets just say that my head hasn't always matched my heart, until today. It wasn't that I felt amazing or that my feat was easy today, because it wasn't, it is because I feel like I have finally overcome the demons inside my head. Those damn demons have been imparting those little thoughts that spread like a plague in my mind for years telling me that I feel like hell and need to slow down and that I am never going to achieve my dreams because they are unrealistic. Today was the day that I was finally able to lay these crazy negative thoughts to rest.

Mile 1: ???
Mile 2: 6:37
Mile 3: 6:43

A large portion of mile 1 was in a tunnel that blocked my Garmin signal, so I took off and begun the race by feel. By mile 2 my signal returned and I was back in business stalking the pace on my watch like a hawk. I knew that I went out too fast by mile 3 when I begun to feel a wee bit uncomfortable in the tummy area, but there was no turning back the hands of time.

Mile 4: 6:48
Mile 5: 6:43
Mile 6: 6:41

Somewhere around the half way point my stomach begun to really give me hell. I was being punished for my nutritional indiscretions of race eve where I ate an unbelievable amount of dairy products. Whole milk yogurt for breakfast with an extra foamy latte, a giganto portion of ice cream for lunch, and pizza with extra cheese for dinner. Let me spare you the gritty details, but dairy in massive quantities the day before a race is not a good idea.

Mile 7: 6:46
Mile 8: 6:52
Mile 9: 6:51
Mile 10: 6:57

During these last few miles my body was telling me that it needed to stop because the discomfort in my stomach really begun to become intolerable. But I trucked on. I wasn't stopping. I wasn't going to walk. I was going to cross that line knowing that I gave it my all, and so I did. But thats the whole point of racing, to figure out how to overcome all the crap that is going on inside you and to figure out a way to PUSH through it.

Folks today I learned an important lesson. Not only is it a bad idea to eat junk before a race, it is an even worse idea to eat your body weight in dairy products as your pre-race fuel. It will make you feel like hell, your entire body will feel like the michelin man from all the bloating, and you will want to be rolled up in a ball for about 12 hours afterwards until you feel like you are back to your normal self. Trust me, don't try it.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Fridays Random Thoughts

This afternoon in the mail I received a small package from the organizers of the Magellan Half Marathon that I ran almost two weeks ago. Inside this little envelope was a finishers medal reading "2nd Place Overall Female Finisher".

Backing up the story a bit, I wrote a semi vague posting last week about integrity. I didn't want to get into detail about what was going on for fear of hurting the feelings of another, but what had happened was a women had cut Sundays half marathon course short and crossed the line prematurely claiming my 2nd place finish. For the first 7 miles of this race I knew that I was in 2nd place and because the remainder of the race is a blur in my mind I wasn't quite sure if I was indeed passed by another female before the finish. Turns out that I wasn't.

Knowing the conditions of this race I never wanted to falsely accuse another person of unintentionally stealing my thunder, so I decided to respectfully accept my 3rd place finish. But my husband being the loving man he is contacted the organizers and they worked it all out and it turns out that I really did come in 2nd. Nice confidence booster before tomorrow mornings race.

It has been a really busy and weird week for me with lots of random things going on in my normally dull life. One of the highlights this week was on Wednesday when my latest posting got some local attention from the organizers of the Soldier Field 10 Mile, Fleet Feet Chicago. Turns out that my self entertainment can be weirdly amusing to others. So thank you Fleet Feet and to the few new followers that have joined along for making me feel like I just got my 15 minutes of fame.

Speaking of SF 10, I am PUMPED to run tomorrow. I love this race and this distance, and I think that my body is ready for a decent PR on this course. For a little extra motivation tomorrow I have been telling myself that because I have the 10 days after off of work to recover that there is no excuse for chickening out and not forcing myself to press the pace. Really hoping to hit 1:08 or better here. But I have been eating crap all day, which did include a GIANT serving of ice cream, so we shall see if my body is willing to comply.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

My Mad Persuasive Skills

Thank you all for your sweet comments to my crazy rantings. I know that it can be painful reading an insane women's thoughts, but I need to be honest with myself. Plainly put, life is hard and balance can be difficult to find at times for everyone. I need to learn to not let my saucy attitude gets the best of me at times and keep the building blocks of my heart solid.

I'm in countdown mode today. 2 days until I'm off of work for the next 12 days, which means 3 days until the Soldier Field 10 Mile. This will be my 4th year at this race, and it is definitely lies at the top of my list of races to not miss in the Chicagoland area each year. Races are expensive and my husband and I are not millionaires, not by a long shot. So when I take time to plan out my racing schedule for the year I have to have clear and persuasive selling points for each race so my hubby will let me spend more of our hard earned dollars on running rather then saving for less practical things, you know like a house. Truthfully if I had it my way we would be broke, but well traveled to races across the globe.

This years selling points:
  1. Who doesn't want to start off their Memorial Day weekend at the crack of dawn for a 7:30 a.m. race?
  2. I will get to trek onto usually forbidden spaces for runners like Lakeshore Drive and the field where the amazing Chicago Bears play.
  3. Okay so the race is a bit steep. But if I sign up EARLY it's only $60, and this year they are giving out a medal AND a stadium blanket to finishers. Who would turn down a blanket?
  4. They will print my name on my bib. True that there aren't many spectators along the route, but if anyone does want to know my name that morning it will be clearly printed for them to see.
  5. You can bring a book or magazine and sit in the stands and munch on some Dunkin Donuts while I'm running, it could be a nice quiet time for you.
  6. I promise that this year I will break 1:10. I will CRUSH it. By boatloads.
  7. Lets face it, I like to run wearing minimal clothing and I'm hot...and you like to look at my sexy runners bod.
  8. You can have my post race beer.
  9. I might not get to do this race next year if I'm carrying your baby.
  10. While I'm modest and don't like to bring up my running or boast of my accomplishments much outside of my blog, you know that you like to brag about your wife being fast and about all of the men she beats.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Time to Pump the Breaks

This weekend I think that I hit my limit, the much-feared-never-talked-about limit that we all have in life and pretend like we don't know about. I've been stretching myself rather thin lately, thinking that I possess these awesome super human powers and can handle anything and everything. Between maintain a marriage and household, working full time, focusing on my lofty career goals, trying to keep up with friends and family (failing at this miserably), studying for a certification that I wanted to take a long time ago and haven't yet found the time, trying to hold a running peak for longer then usual, and trying to keep my sanity is all just a tad bit to much.

When I was in college, I felt like I was super woman. I held down a full time job and full time course load where I would often run on 3 hours or less of sleep a night all while having a long distance relationship and an active social life, supporting myself financially, and having surprisingly stellar grades. How the heck did I do all this without ever feeling tired? I suppose being young, broke, and naive was enough fuel back then.

These days I take on way more then I can handle which makes me frustrating to work with, impossible to live with, and difficult to love. When I should be acknowledging that I simply cannot control everything and just need to let some things go, I instead decide to try to remain in control of everything and refuse to ask for help or take a pass on things. My body and mind are the biggest casualties of this these days. All rationality has been lost and I am one exhausted soul. On Saturday I thought that I could squeeze in one more quality 16 miler before the Soldier Field 10 Mile this coming Saturday, but there was no freaking way this was happening. I managed to somehow get my body to comply with 8 miles but they were definitely difficult, and really I would just like to forget about them. My ambition has far exceed my abilities since my half marathon, and I am awfully humbled by this. Why would I think that I could come off a hard efforted (is that even a word???) half in less then desirable weather conditions followed by a heavy mileage week and still feel strong and fresh? Mmmm, apparently I'm crazy and unfortunately have lost the super human powers I once possessed.

Priorities of washing my hair, flossing my teeth on a daily basis, washing my face before going to bed, shaving my legs, doing the laundry, emptying the dishwasher, keeping food in my house, brushing my dogs teeth, or even responding gently and kindly to others have all been flushed down the crapper. Basically I am sucking at being a responsible adult and a loving Christian these days, something for me to work on obviously. In the past 48 hours I have reminded myself countless times that the world does not revolve around my training schedule. I am blessed to have a husband who encourages my dreams to become reality, but learning that it is not all about me is so damn difficult for me.

This week is another taper week for me before Saturdays Soldier Field 10 Mile. I love this race, and I am super pumped for it mentally. Physically my body is a little over used from spending what has now become week 18 of goal orientated training this year. While I'm looking forward to this race, I am also looking forward to some much needed time off of running and work that I have coming up as well.

Monday: OFF
Tuesday: 5 easy miles
Wednesday: 6 miles with 3x1600's at 6:17, skipped this workout last week so I'm going to attempt to give it another go
Thursday: 5 easy miles
Friday: Off
Saturday: RACE!!!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Runner's Integrity

Lets talk about something that has been on my mind the past few days, integrity.

I don't mean to be a jerk face, but there is something in life that I think everyone should possess and value...and that is their integrity. Knowing that all merit is backed by honest and moral principles is what makes achievement so special, and I have always valued my integrity. While I am not a perfect person and have a lot of terrible qualities, it has always been important for me to uphold an honest and true picture of who I am in life and not to parade around as something I am not. I do not take credit for others work, and I appreciate and respect the success of others.

That being said, I think that this is also a quality that should be upheld in athletics. Sportsmanship is an extremely attractive quality in an athlete, and all great physical achievements come from honest hard work. There is no way to cheat the system and still come out on top. Dopers get caught and so do racers who think that they can out smart the system and take course shortcuts.

Why is this all so important to me today? Because cheating deprives you of who you are and has the ability to hurt others along the way. Cutting a race course where you misrepresent your abilities is not cool, and taking credit for work that you simply did not do is basically fraud. Plainly put no one like recognition for their merit going to someone else who found out a way to cheat the system and today my feelings are hurt because of this. I feel like I am reliving a sad fall day nearly two years ago when some jerk decided that they had more rights to my new bicycle then I did, so they cut the lock and took it while I was in a yoga class. Robbed blindly.

In the movie Without Limits Bill Bowermans character says one of the most prolific things that I have ever heard, that "the purpose of a race is not to win, it is to test the limits of the human heart". A man is no greater because he won, he is greater because for a brief moment in time he took a step outside of his comfort zone and believed that he could achieve something great.

There are no intentions to be controversial here or to point fingers and name names, recent events have just put a damper on my heart that I needed to get off my chest. Having integrity in your works and not claiming that which is not yours is good humanity and common courtesy. Nuff said. Thank you.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Sunday's Events Illustrated

My hubby is an amazing artist, truly a gifted man.
So when we decided not to bring our camera out to Sunday's race because of the rain, we neglected to get any photos.
D, being the artistic soul that he is, decided to illustrate Sunday's activities.

At the start line.

A few miles into the race, wind at my back and feeling good.

On the back half of the course, running against the wind making my best efforts to make forward progress (which was a lot harder then one may think).

Tunnel vision and the loss of any sense in my mind.

Crossed the finish, and oops ended up in an ambulance nearing hypothermia.

Thank goodness I am a prepared woman that traveled with my winter gear. Accepting my women's 3rd place medal out of over 1200.

Recharging my batteries after a valiant effort that was lost to the wind.

Isn't he talented? Sorry ladies, he's taken.

I took yesterday afternoon off of any type of physical activity, I was totally wiped out. Oddly enough my legs aren't sore but my arms are.

I've got one more spring race ahead of me on May 28th, the Soldier Field 10 Mile. This race is a Chicago runners staple and shouldn't be missed. It runs on an out and back course starting in front of Soldier Field down LSD and the comes back along the lakefront path and finishes along the 50 yard line of the field. There are like 10,000 runners and it is always a really fun race.

This weeks workouts:

Monday: OFF
Tuesday: 9 miles super easy
Wednesday: 9 miles, 5x1600's at 6:17 (errgh, don't know if this is actually going to happen but I'm going to give it a go and see)
Thursday: 9 miles recovery
Friday: 16 miles progressive, or just a nice enjoyable long run
Saturday: 9 miles recovery
Sunday: 9 miles

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Chicago Magellan Spring Half Marathon

All I can really say about todays races is...HOLY FREAKING WIND! Honestly the wind was brutal and made for interesting race conditions.

I'm in the flaming magenta top.

I felt like I was well prepared for this race. Speed workouts, long runs, resistance training, yoga, a well balanced diet, my new foam roller; all culminating into the perfect training cycle. Sure there were rough days, but overall I felt more prepared then ever for a race. I knew going into this morning that the weather was going to be a problem, so my solution was just to not think about it. My mind set the past few days was that I can't control the weather and everyone will be running in the same conditions so there is no use getting bent out of shape about it.

The course was an out and back route on the lakefront path with about 2,000 participants. At the start it was rainy horizontally, maybe 40 degrees, and extremely blustery. Good news was the wind was at my back for the first 6.5 miles, so I was soaking it up. I felt amazingly relaxed and in control. My breathing was in check and my legs were ecstatic to be running fast, adrenaline was pumping through my veins faster then I could have imagined. I was taking the best advice ever from Amanda to "just enjoy running fast", and I was enjoying every stinking minute.

Mile 1: 6:39
Mile 2:6:40
Mile 3: 6:35
Mile 4: 6:32
Mile 5: 6:28
Mile 6: 6:33

Then the course took a turn at 6.5 into the wind. Yikes, is was torture. The gusts were fairly strong, 20-30 mph, and coming directly off of the lake which gives an added chill factor and the rain was fairly steady. I was wet and my hands were numb. There were times when it felt as if I was running on a treadmill, like my body was moving but not actually moving. Even the giant puddles along the course had whitecaps. But I kept at it trying to remain focused.

Mile 7: 6:57
Mile 8: 7:25
Mile 9: 7:25

This is when things started to turn south for me. My breathing became deep gasps from the muscle power that was being required to maintain forward motion. My formed stayed tight, but I just could not overcome this wind. It was sucking every ounce of energy from me, but I wouldn't give in.

Mile 10: 8:02
Mile 11: 7:37
Mile 12: 7:47
Mile 13: 7:15
Last .16: 1:05

I begun to get tunnel vision around 10, and honestly felt like I was drunk and it begun to be difficult to even keep my eyes open. While I should have been panicking at this point for what was going on with my body, I instead decided to just stay focused on the finish. Honestly I don't remember these miles, at all. My body begun to go into "black out" mode.

I crossed the finish line in 1:32:59, no where near my goal. The wind had got the best of me, and it begun to get a bit scary at that point. Tunnel vision turned into double vision and my legs could no longer support themselves. I lost all feeling in my body and spent the next hour in an ambulance. My lips were blue, I was trembling like a fool, and I had lost control of my legs. Never in my life have I ever felt like that. It was weird and scary, and it was only by the grace of God that I ended up making it to the finish line. While you can have all the right preparations for a race and feel like you are going to knock it out of the park while at the starting line, the weather may feel otherwise. Today was me vs. the wind, and sadly the wind won.

I could waste time boohooing over my finishing time, but I was the 3rd female to cross the line. Overall I would say that times for this race were significantly slower then last year and clearly I was not the only one battling the wind today. I mean if I was 3rd crossing at 1:32:59 in that weather, then I am fairly certain that those two women ahead of me had slower times then they expected as well.

Yes it sucks that I now have to wait until September to attack another half marathon to get that sub 1:30. BUT the good news is I know that I am more then capable of it now. Without those winds today I would have crushed that second half of the course. I really think that the headwinds added several minutes to my time, so thats my story and I'm sticking to it.

Oak Brook Half Marathon, I am going to own you on September 5th. Seriously watch out because IT. IS. ON.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Taper Confusion

I would just like to give blogger a special thanks for deleting my last posting. I am so glad that instead of the studying that I should have been doing yesterday morning I instead decided to spend an hour typing and publishing a post, obviously time well spent. So thank you for taking that unproductive hour from my day that I will never get back. Still hoping that it may reappear sometime soon.

Moving on in the world...what is it about a taper that makes my body feel so tired and achy? This week I have barely been able to pull my carcass out of bed in the morning, my legs have been feeling sluggish, calves have a mild burning sensation, I have been eating like I'm going into hibernation yet I am losing weight, and there are lots of extra hormones flowing through my blood that make me want to cry about everything. Basically I feel like a hot mess.

Foam rolling has become my second job. Gosh this was the best investment ever. The trigger point foam roller will save your life, go buy one now!!! Man I like that angle, my legs look long instead of their usual stubby self.

I have spent more time in downward dog this week then cleaning my house or washing my hair, as the above picture shows. Look the cleaning lady, i.e. me, needed a week off.

And chilling with my pups on my porch has been the highlight of my mornings.

Maybe it is the humidity that hit Chicago this week, but my body is really confused. Yet every stinking time I taper I have this problem. I have ran a mere 23 ease miles this week, nothing to impressive for me. WHY BODY? Why are you doing this to me? Yesterday I even abandoned my speed workout because my legs felt like led.

I still am confident that I am going to nail that 1:29 half, just frustrated that my week has been filled with stiff achilles and sluggish runs. Shouldn't it all feel like a piece of cake at this point?

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Where My Head Is These Days

If I were to tell you that I am excited about Sunday's half marathon, I don't even know if that would be able to describe my emotions. I AM PUMPED! I mean truly ecstatic, words cannot even be said about how much I want to run this race and break 1:30.

This is my excited face.

The last half I ran was Labor Day last fall. I didn't really have any expectations going into the race because it fell after two 70+ mile weeks while I was training for the Chicago marathon. I showed up to the race not knowing much about the course and just wanted to get in a good workout, which strangely enough left me feeling confident and relaxed. My focus for that day was to get out there and have fun. Period. There were no other expectations.

I realize here that it may appear that I wet my pants, I assure you that I did not. I have not quite mastered the drinking while running thing.

I was chillaxed and kept telling myself that I was doing awesome. I was cruising over hills like I never had before and felt mentally stronger as each mile passed. Truly it was one of the most amazing race experiences that I have ever had in my life because my head was in the game. At that point in time I took a break from telling myself what I couldn't do and instead focused on what I could do, it was the beginning of my spiritual running days and damn it felt good.

For me there are a lot of factors that I take into consideration that I allow to hold me back from success in nearly every area of my life. Wasting time focusing on my limitations used to consume the majority of my thoughts. I would tell myself that I wasn't capable, I wasn't good enough, that my legs do not possess the power of speed, and that I was short with big legs and scrawny arms which do not make me look like a runner. Whine whine whine.

After my splatter all over the pavement of the 26.2 miles of the Chicago marathon in the fall, it took a lot for me to mentally pull myself back together. Simply put, when you are constantly telling yourself that you can't do something...you will ultimately fail. I hate how all of my greatest lessons in life come from my missteps and failures, but this is what also makes them have such a positive impact on my life. If there is one thing that I have learned in my life it is that no matter if your attitude is positive or negative, it will spread like a plague. So these days I choose positivity, my body may be small but it is mighty and I can move mountains.

This winter I have been hitting it hard at the gym and on the roads pushing for this sub 1:30 half because I WANT IT. I want it so bad that lately all I can see in my mind is me crossing the finish line and the clock reading 1:29 with a giant smile on my face and my hands raised high in the air. Yikes, it gives me goosebumps and makes my heart beat a little faster just thinking about it. So even if the weather is looking a tad less then desirable:

I'm still showing up to that starting line ready to kick my own ass. Sure 23 mph winds coming off the lake aren't the most desirable conditions for a PR on a course that rides right along the lakefront, but I'm not too concerned. My God powers my legs these days, and I am confident that he will strengthen me. I will NOT be allowing negative thoughts to enter my mind. There is only room for positive feelings about how I will glorify my God with the awesome power he has given me.

Thank you Lord, you are awesome.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

I Love You Spring

If I didn't know better, I could have mistaken today for an afternoon in July. 85 degrees and sunny, yes please.

I worked this morning and decided that I would run home. Reducing my carbon foot print and sparing $2.50 on the EL makes me happy girl. I was a dope and left some items back at my desk after changing out of my work clothes and had to face my coworkers in my running gear. Can we say awkward waking through a profession kitchen in a skimpy running outfit?

On this rare occasion with my iPhone toting along inside my sports bra (because there is obviously plenty of extra room), I decided to document this beautiful afternoon with a rather insane photo of myself and a few of my beautiful city.

After a brutal winter it was nice to finally see others out making attempts to enjoy the lakefront as much as I do.

It wasn't love at first sight for me an my city, but now I cannot imagine myself grounded anywhere else.

Now if only every spring day would look like this.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

It's Taper Time

After Saturdays absurdly inappropriate meltdown over milk, I opted to head to Target with the hubster after my long run. Whoops I forgot to stretch, fuel, ice or do anything else that would have been beneficial to my body after covering 15 miles in nearly 2 hours. That is unless sour patch kids watermelon gummies and a Starbucks white mocha sans whipped cream counts as post workout recovery. I heard that was Desiree Davila's secret to nearly winning Boston.

Yes that is me having my pout fest.

So sometimes I make bad decisions, and I definitely pay for it. Todays easy 9 didn't feel so easy with all the lactate that decided to linger in my legs. I was still able to hold a decent pace and feel relaxed but had to workout the crampage in the calves so that the legs could move on with the week and rest. What has always worked best to alleviate lactate in my legs is to stride it out. Every half mile I included a 20 second stride to remind my muscles to get that acid moving.

Post run fueling is so important, and sadly I was a failure at this yesterday. Distance running recruits a lot of muscle action in the body and burns through so many carbohydrate, protein, and fat stores. The only way for the body to restore muscles and gain strength is to replenish these nutrients after exercise. Knowing this and following this are two different things in my world, and sometimes pizza and candy sound better then a healthier fare. My body is punishing me today for my nutritional indiscretions of yesterday. Maybe not the best of choices 6 days out from a half marathon.

TAPER MADNESS this week.

Monday: OFF, weights
Tuesday: 5 miles easy
Wednesday: 5 miles easy, weights
Thursday: 6 miles, 3x1600's in 6:15
Friday: 5 miles easy, weights
Saturday: OFF
Sunday: RACE DAY

Saturday, May 7, 2011

My Quiet Place

This morning was my last long run of my current training cycle. Scheduled was a 16 progressive with the last few miles at race pace, and from mile 1 I could tell that my legs just weren't up for it this morning. Rather then make attempts to fumble through what would become a botched and miserable 16 miles, I made the decision to run without concern to pacing and instead focus on the beauty of the lakefront.

Okay, so it wasn't a terrible run it just wasn't the workout I planned...and thats alright. Not looking at my watch and allowing my thoughts to be distracted caused my splits to be all over the place and for me to be a hot mess when I walked in the door. I may have had a little temper tantrum this morning when the hubby finished all of the milk in his cereal and my dreams of my usual extra foamy latte to compliment my hard work disappeared. I am a wee bit cranky when my routine is broken.

15 committed weeks of training have been put into these legs in hopes that next Sunday I will be crossing the finish line of my half marathon sub 1:30. With 8 days to go, I opted to take this mornings run to be a time of reflection and appreciation for my body and its accomplishments. Truthfully one hard workout at this point really will not make a difference. On the back end of my run I made a stop at one of my favorite places in the entire city, the very end of Navy Pier. While most people know Navy Pier for its attractions, they have not yet had the chance to experience the other more serene side of the pier that rarely occurs. It can be quite difficult to find peace in such an urban area, but I have found it on the pier on early morning runs before the hustle and bustle of tourists with their cameras and baby carriages fill the space with laughter and chatter. This has become my unsuspected quiet place.

I was lucky enough to make it to the eastern most point of the pier this drizzly morning where the lake was as smooth as glass and there was not a single other person around. I could have just continued on mindlessly but instead decided to revel in this rare occasion and stop to take in the beauty of the city and spend some time with my thoughts and my God. It was just what I needed.

I don't know what next weekend will hold for me, do I hope that it is a 1:2X:XX finishing time? Yes. But it may not be. I feel strong, and my head is in the game but I know that there are a million things that could happen in the next 8 days and PR's are hard to come by. Maybe it's not my time to break 1:30, maybe it is...who knows. Either way I feel confident that I gave it my all during this training cycle and it's now time to enjoy a well deserved taper.

Do you have a running quiet place?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Many Thanks

I would just like to say a big thank you to Amanda, who has a very sweet soul, and all of the others that have stopped by my blog recently. Wowzers is all I can say, I am speechless and moved by all of your kind comments and positive feed back to my last posting. You all know just the right things to say to make a gal feel even more blessed, so thank you for your blog love and following my random rantings.

All that being said, I want people to know that I am a normal gal with a normal job that does laundry, cleans toilets, and worries about retirement and paying bills just like everyone else. Running for me is a time that brings my spirit alive and makes me feel uninhibited and free . I don't buy into information that says runners have to have a certain look, come from certain backgrounds, or that they are persons with bodies that are destined for specific movements. Most runners will never finish first in a race, they won't make enough money to live in fancy houses or drive luxury cars from their sport, and world records will just be a standard for the determination of what an elite athlete is. This is true for me too, I have never EVER won a race, the only money I ever won in a race was $50 for coming in 3rd place which basically covered the cost of the race, and by the time I finish a marathon people like Shalane Flanagan and Khalid Khannouchi are well recovered and moving on with their day.

My story is no more inspiring or special then anyone else, I'm just a gal that joined the track & field team in 7th grade so that I could temporarily escape my awkwardness for awhile and hasn't stopped since. I know that my running doesn't define me and that it is just something I do that brings me appreciation for all of the great things that I have been blessed with in my life. So thank you again for visiting my blog and finding interest in my weird life, I am looking forward to making it to all of your blogs and hearing your stories.

Miles will send you all a check in the mail for making me feel extra special and giving him a few nights off of snuggling up to me.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

What Works For Me

Yesterday afternoon as I headed out the door for my easy 9 mile run, my husband said "why do you have to run so many miles? If you want to get faster, why don't you run lower mileage at higher intensities?"

I'm not really sure what made him question my methods, but he has a valid point. Maybe that was his nice way of saying spend time with me not your running shoes, or maybe he is just sick of sacrificing weekend mornings to get up early and be my cheer squad and paparazzi. Either way his question prompted a lot of thoughts in my mind.

Why do I run such high mileage? While all human bodies have the same bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, organs, etc., they all react and respond to stress differently. Overall my particular body responds positively to exercise stimuli. There are days when I am achy or tired, and sometimes I even have days where I feel unusually sore but when I feel these sensations I make adjustments to my training. I started running at the age of 12 and have spent the past 15 years getting to know what works for MY body. It wasn't always easy for me to run 60+ miles a week and ward off injury, this was something that I had built up over time. For ME to achieve MY goals, MY body needs higher mileage.

Why not just run 45-50 miles per week at higher intensities? Some people thrive off of numerous high intensity workouts, I am sadly not one of these people. In my running experiences I have learned that in order to get the full benefit of the hard workouts, the easy ones need to be really really really easy. The muscles and systems of the body need time to strengthen and heal after high intensity sessions, so piling one on top of the other will not produce much benefit. Instead this will burn out energy stores quicker, and may even lead to injury. The point of tempo runs, repeats, fartleks, etc. is not to simulate race conditions, these workouts are not meant to be an all out race effort. Instead what they should provide is stress on the body that will allow the "quick-twitch" muscles that are not necessarily active during slower runs to active and strengthen. These workouts should feel like they are a higher intensity but should not leave the runner at the end of the workout feeling like they have nothing left in them.

Every runner is different. We all have different goals and motives that put us out on the pavement. My goals are to chase a few PR's this year and to step outside of my racing comfort zone all while enjoying myself before the hubby and I set off to expand our family in the next year or so. I do not base my training on what others are doing and I have become an expert in reading the signals that my own body is telling me, and I encourage other runners to do the same. Yes I could run less mileage and maybe the intensities of my speed workouts could be higher, but my goal is to make it to my starting lines healthy, strong, confident, and ready to kick my own ass.

That being said my advice to every runner would be:

Find out what works best for you. This can be time consuming and take some trial and error.

Listen to what your body is telling you. If your muscles are achy, you are feeling tired, and it is difficult for you to make it through your run this is a red flag that you may need some time off or to cut back your mileage.

Don't compare yourself to other runners. We all have predisposed biological limits that we have no control over and cannot all race like Usain Bolt, Meb, or Deena Kastor. Yes this sucks, but I like to tell myself that running is fun because there will always be people faster to chase down and people slower who want to chase me down.

Fuel your body like you are an elite athlete. Vitamins, minerals, and nutrients are what our cells need to repair themselves after a workout. You only have one body, treasure it and spoil it in nutrient goodness.

Have fun and set your own goals. Enough said.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Week 15 of Training

Some workouts were great for me this week, like Fridays 16 mile progressive. But then there were others that left me feeling like a crazed maniac. This morning I thought that maybe I could try to get in my skipped tempo run from Wednesday before church, but my legs could barely hold a sub 8 pace and I decided that I was just going to have to let this workout go.

Two weeks until my half and four until my 10 miler, so I really don't think that missing one speed session is really going to make-or-break my training.

Next weeks plan: (which I'm sure that I'll change by tomorrow because I for some odd reason cannot commit to anything)

Monday: 10 miles easy
Tuesday: 9 miles easy, weights and yoga
Wednesday: 9 miles, 6 miles tempo at 6:50 pace
Thursday: 9 miles recovery, weights
Friday: 16 miles progressive, last progressive run until the summer
Saturday: 9 miles recovery, weights