Wednesday, November 1, 2017

October-ish Recap

Back in September I started having real trouble with an injury coming out of my left hip. The strain wasn't new. I'd been struggling to contain it most of the summer. But then one day, I just couldn't any more. I couldn't keep my left knee from turning out. I couldn't take shorter steps to keep it from wanting to slip. I couldn't hold the pain at bay. So to make a long story short, I eventually downgraded my registration for the Towpath Half to the 10k. It's why I never posted a September recap. It was such a disappointment after a great training season.

Despite rest, yoga, and limited massage therapy, the problem hasn't gone away. So...October was pretty low mileage. Let's be real about this for a moment. Yes, I was bummed to miss cool mornings and fall foliage. But...after 9 straight months of training, the mornings sleeping in weren't so bad either.

At the end of this, I ran way more miles in September than in October. It sounds better if I tell you the 2-month total: 186. Let's go with that.

The highlight of my October was certainly the Towpath 10k. My friend Kelly and her older daughter came from West Virginia, and this was running gold. Kelly started running relatively recently and has gained a ton of speed in a short period of time. I see pictures of her smiling during races. We've talked at length about training. In short, it's been fun to watch her take on running, and even better to get to share a weekend.

The other reason I loved this race day: my Sunday running group. We coordinated logistics and cheered each other on. They are wonderful.

On Saturday Kelly and I went to packet pick-up, where we ran into Cathy. We picked up some goodies, our bibs, all the hoopla. There was a sweetly presented yet quite confusing promotion about pee cups. Since Kelly lives in WV, she doesn't have a local Athleta (true story: I was 20 before I saw a Gap), so we went to the mall for a bit. Ice cream was involved.

Then, because we're both 10s on the Type A scale, we were up, dressed, and out of the house ahead of schedule on Sunday. We met my friends to switch people between cars, Kelly with them to the half-marathon start and Kathy with me to the 10k start. We headed to the parking and our starting lines. Kathy and I stretched, as we were both having some issues. 
At the start line
Race day weather was outstanding. It had rained the previous day, which kept the dust down on the Towpath. It was cool and beautiful. I felt good. Somehow, magically, probably from adrenaline, my knee/hip didn't give me trouble. I used my old mantras, and reminded myself how many hours I'd trained for these minutes. That it didn't matter if I was tired. I just pushed, and enjoyed it.

I came in at 48:04, which was enough to win my age group. Go me!
With my age group award
I went through the finishing area and came back around to cheer in my friends. One by one they came in, with two setting their first sub-2 hours half times, and getting new PR's in the process! That's a big day for any runner, and I was so pleased I got to be part of it for them.
Front, left to right: Kathy, Katie, Tina, Cathy
Back: me and Kelly
Once everyone was in, Kelly and I went to the Park's general store (which is completely adorable) to buy a cup of coffee. She said she'd dropped her debit card and cash when she'd gotten her fuel out of the zippered pocket of her water bottle mid-race. As I was paying for our items, the cashier asked if it was together and I mentioned her loss. The cashier replied that someone had turned in both items. We found our way to the lost and found and--yes--there they were! The lost & found people were as happy she turned up there as we were someone had turned in her items. The running community is great.

After lunch at one of my family's favorite spots, Kelly and her daughter were headed back home.

The rest of October was low-key. I didn't run a whole lot. My last run of the month was in cold rain. Because the forecast said 5% chance of rain but it's Cleveland so.

Moving into November, I'm hoping my hip/knee will find some peace. I'm enjoying yoga in the meantime though. I've gotten onto going to a place by my work over lunch time, sometimes with another running friend. There's a nice studio near my house too, and I go there sometimes. It's taken years--literally years--but I do finally actually enjoy yoga! It's possible.

That's the recap! I'm hoping for a few more miles in November.

Friday, September 1, 2017

August Recap

It's September 1. This morning I ran with my beloved purple plaid arm sleeves and a tank top, and this evening I will change out my summer wreath for a fall one on my front door. Summer is over. Yes, I love summer. I'm an academic--of course I love summer. But fall running is the best. The leaves. The cool mornings. The races. Love.it.all. So here's to putting a bow on a pretty spectacular August.

Early August
The first week of August led up to the Hofbrauhaus 10k, which holds a special place in my heart. Last year I ran it just to see if I was fit and uninjured enough to hold a sub-9 minute pace for 6 miles. I loved the super flat, out and back course, and the post-race party. I looked forward to race registration all winter, and was delighted when my MIL paid for my entry as a birthday gift.
Pre-race with Cathy, part of my Sunday morning crew

When August rolled around this year, I'd set my sights on really racing it, with a goal of running about a 7:30 pace. Mother Nature had other intentions, and saddled me with a terrible cold. I was not able to run my desired pace, but I was thankful for the opportunity to race.

After the race I heard an announcement about checking your finishing place at a tent. I was curious how I'd done. I made my way over and had to laugh when the guys' side had a really long line and the women's had about 5 people--it felt like justice for women's restrooms (and, ok, maybe a testament to the male ego). I checked my place and was surprised to learn I'd placed second in my age group!
I'll take it!
Mid-August
By mid-August, to focus on the positive outcome of a fairly terrible story, I had the occasion to reconnect with some wonderful ladies I used to run more with than I had recently. We planned a Dash & Dine, which is exactly what it sounds like. I had so much fun. I really missed this group.
Robin somehow escaped the photo op
Also, mid-month, I did my first speed work in several months. It was 800s, which I love doing. I was at the end of my cold and wasn't sure if my lungs were ready to be pushed that hard. I hit my target paces. I also wondered if my neighbors thought I was crazy as I kept running around the block.

Late August
By late August my Sunday morning group found ourselves in the dark at 6am. The first time this happened we just ran together until the horizon lightened enough to let us see our surroundings better. After that we decided to meet a little later.
We clean up ok! Missing Katie's mom and Cathy though
I've enjoyed my Sunday morning group so, so much. I admire and have fun with the women I run with, and the place we run at is absolutely beautiful. The last few weeks we've watched the fog lift off the river as the sun rises and watched egrets (I think) hunt over the water. I've taken in fields full of yellow wildflowers, and along the riverbank, beautiful wild lilies. This is an easy place to love.

On weekday runs, by late August I'd mixed things up by running in other neighborhoods a few times. On one of those runs Candice introduced me to one of her running friends who I'd never met. Good times!
Meeting new runner friends
Looking forward to September, I have a month full of training leading up to the Towpath Half in early October. I'd love a PR but will settle for a course PR. We'll see how this month goes.

In summary:
Miles: 124.5

Cross Training
Days lifting weights: One! Yikes! I thought I was doing better than this.
Yoga: Twice.
Ok, so clearly the bump in miles this month meant less cross-training. I will try to do better on this in September. 

Friday, August 4, 2017

July Recap

My July was everything summer should be--tons of outdoor activities and taking time to try new things. I just missed the 100 mile mark, but not by a lot, and in exchange for more cross-training than I've done in a long time.Welcome to the July recap.

Variety was the theme this month! I not only attended three yoga classes, but I also did three weight lifting days and started tracking my food intake again. My husband claims ping pong is exercise, so I'm also posting this picture of me playing croquet on the 4th of July.

Cross training and food tracking comes through commitment and practice. No one wakes up wanting to track their food intake. It takes time. It takes discipline. For me, it's worthwhile when I have a goal, like trying to lose weight, or lose fat, or feel healthier. Introduced to it last winter, I've been using the MyFitnessPal app from Under Armor. It's great--and free! Doing this has encouraged me to try new foods, to reach daily nutritional goals without getting bored with my diet.
Greek yogurt blended with ice, frozen berries, and 1 tbsp agave syrup
With weight lifting, I started with a handful of machines at the gym and with truly pathetic weights on them. Over three sessions I added one more machine and increased my weights a little on the others. I lifted a little when we went on vacation, too. There is something satisfying about it.

And finally, one day I went on an 11 mile bike ride through various city neighborhoods. This was the longest bike ride I'd ever done! It was so fun. My guide for the afternoon was a colleague who knows the city very well and told me all about how various development projects had come together. I have lots of pictures from this day, but will share this one: The house from A Christmas Story. Did you know it was filmed in Cleveland? You can take tours!

On the running front, I continued meeting my wonderful little Sunday morning running group. Each week we meet and run 10 miles. Sadly I don't have access to a group picture at the moment, or I'd share. I also finally "ran the bridges" downtown, which I also have no pictures of, but thoroughly enjoyed.

Mid-month I went to Pittsburgh to hang out with my best friend. Our hotel was near the Heritage Trail, which runs along both sides of the rivers and I believe elsewhere as well. I enjoyed seeing some of the sites while only getting a little bit lost. I actually ran across the bridge pictured below, and on the other side saw the Duquesne Incline and Fort Pitt Tunnel. 

On the last day of the month my fall training cycle started. I'm training for a half marathon in October, with a minimum goal of a course PR. The training schedule is tough, but I'm as ready as I'm going to be. I've built a lot of endurance this year.

In Summary
Running miles for the month: 93.7
Weight lifting sessions: 3.5
Yoga classes: 3
Miles biked: 24

Sunday, July 2, 2017

June Recap

After the Canton Marathon I dialed it down a notch in May. Ok, a lot. I cut miles by two-thirds and rested. When June rolled around I was ready to get back out there. I had some help getting it done.

Following in our tradition of The Adventures of Shannon and Joanna*, the first Saturday in June I plotted a route into the city where I met Shannon and we ran a round trip to Lake Erie and back. It brings me more than a little joy that I can run to a lakefront from my house. That's something I've never been able to say. And we had a good time doing it. AND she drove me home, so I didn't have to run back up the big hill.
If you squint at the background, I promise there's a lighthouse behind us

A few days later my long-time and interstate running buddy Rachel and her incredibly fast friend Barb came to visit while vacationing. Like we do, we ran. June wouldn't be complete without it. I can't tell you enough how much I enjoyed this. We've known each other for almost 6 years in which a lot has happened for us both. We have history. We talk deeply. I savor our visits. 

I've talked before about MRTT, which is a national, free running group for women, that has local chapters. It's been among my favorite parts of moving to Cleveland. Women post their plans and look for others to run with. Through this, I found a Sunday early morning running group I've done three longer runs with now. Each week has been a slightly different group of women. I've really enjoyed getting to know them.

Later in the month I started having trouble with my left quad/knee/foot, which isn't a new thing. While I was running hills in the winter and spring this was less of a problem, but the moment I stop doing things that strengthen my hips and glutes, it's right back. Step 1: yoga. At first because Shannon invited me to a free yoga event downtown for International Yoga Day. I enjoyed this so, so much. Even if I did get bird poop on my elbow. I consoled myself with lunch and beer afterward.
Posted by Lululemon. We're in there somewhere.
This past week I finally went to yoga at a studio near me. It was hard. I needed the ass kicking. I will be returning.

The thing about yoga, I don't enjoy it. I'm sweating and standing still. I like both but not at the same time. I'm a runner who loves to go fast. And I like to get stuff done--like stuff I can check off a list. That's not yoga. The whole inner world of yoga is something I have to work at embracing. At the same time, I also don't hate yoga. Hot yoga, different story. No love lost there. Anyway, yoga is a thing I do to keep running from hurting me. And I need to keep doing it.

All told, I turned in this year's 5th 100+ mile month, and by month's end my 2017 miles exceed all of 2016, which is nuts.

Miles: 100.3
Goals for July: Strengthen hips, get left quad/knee situation stopped

* The Adventures of Shannon and Joanna, which I adore, consist mostly of Shannon graciously showing me all the fun things Northeast Ohio has to offer, and me getting her lost, caught in ice storms, or agreeing while she's drunk to run really long distances the following day. Gradually I'm finding things to invite her to.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Race Report: Canton Hall of Fame Marathon

Last week was weird and nice. I slept in. I ate a lot of carbs. I worried. I hydrated. And then it was time to leave for Canton.

Packet pick-up went relatively smoothly. I, like everyone else, parked illegally in a fire lane. No one seemed concerned. Just like there weren't signs directing us to appropriate parking, there weren't signs telling us where to enter the large school campus to find the expo. I wandered a bit with other people until we saw someone leaving with a bag, and they directed us in. Once inside things were easy.

I saw Shannon working at a race info table for a fall event. I got my bib and my teeny tiny women's race t-shirt. I had plans to room at a nearby hotel with two other women in my running group (although I'd never met them). Just as I was ready to leave I got a message that they were also at the expo. I met them and a friend of theirs, so we all went to the hotel, got checked in, and headed to dinner.

We tried an Italian place but, sadly, it was prom, so that was a no-go. We ended up at...wait for it...Cracker Barrel. Fun fact: the Cracker Barrel does not serve pasta. We loaded up on pancakes, french toast, and a few daring souls on meat, and called it a night. (Run group fail on the photo op)

I stayed up for a while with the girls in my room, watching TV and talking. Checking the weather one last time. Earlier in the week rain had been a huge concern. It looked like we'd clear from the rain, but that it would be in the upper 70's by the end of the race.

We did our Flat Momma (picture below) and headed to bed about 9:30.

We were all awake well before 5am Sunday. Our prep worked like a highly choreographed dance, even though we'd only just met. What great girls I got to room with! We were out by 5:30 and headed to the fairgrounds to park and board the bus to the start area.

Once at the start, we all did what runners do: used the port-a-potties. Stood around nervously. Saw people we knew. Peed again. Took a group picture.
MRTT Cleveland, Akron, even a few PGH I think. And a lot of people missed the photo op. It was so much fun meeting so many people I'd only known via Facebook.
When I lined up, another runner told me the start had been delayed 15 or 20 minutes due to an accident on the Interstate. I later learned this accident snarled the parking situation for at least several hundred runners. We anxiously waited. And then, we were off. I was sort of in disbelief that after all the training, it was finally really race day.

My shins cramped for about the first two miles, but the pace felt fine. I knew the first 4.5ish were pretty flat, so I just settled in an enjoyed it. I saw Shannon and her girls around mile 3 handing out water. This was unexpected. She wasn't signed up to man an aid station. Whoever was signed up didn't show, and since Shannon's awesome like that, she enlisted her tiny terrors and they got the job done.

Mile 1: 8:54
Mile 2: 8:49
Mile 3: 8:47


We passed the big hospital, a landmark I knew to look for, and started a gentle uphill. I'd memorized the altitude trends mile by mile. By mile 9 or so we were headed up Market, the bit I knew was the hardest stretch of the whole race. I'd planned for this. I lowered my pace a few seconds.


Mile 4: 8:48
Mile 5: 8:58
Mile 6: 8:50
Mile 7: 8:54
Mile 8: 8:44
Mile 9: 9:01

We wound through some neighborhoods and made a bunch of tuns and headed toward the half-marathon finish, near the start line. 
Mile 10: 9:14 (I think I paused for a water stop)
Mile 11: 8:58
Mile 12: 8:53
Mile 13: 9:06

Where I'd hoped to be about 1:54 at the half, I was something like 1:56. I could deal with that. It might be hard to pull off my PR, but I'd easily be under 4 hours and the PR still felt possible.

And then mile 14 happened. Or, it didn't happen. I'm really not sure. My legs felt fine. My cardio felt fine. And I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that my fast miles were over. The forecast has said the heat would come on quickly, and it had. It was hot. It was humid. And that was it.

Mile 14: 9:15
Mile 15: 9:42

I saw Laurie at 15.5. She'd made me a sign and I LOVE HER FOR IT to get my PR. I saw it and just shook my head, and told her that had ended about a mile and a half earlier. Oh, how I wished that weren't true. 

So here's what I'll say for me in this scenario. I can't say I wasn't well-hydrated. I can't say I didn't have enough carbs, or that I wasn't prepared, or that I wasn't rested. In fact, I was really well prepared for this situation. A few faster people I knew ended up only slowing their races by 5-10 minutes, but I think they were the exceptions. For a while I kept mile times respectable by running slower and walking through water stations.

Mile 16: 9:49
Mile 17: 9:36
Mile 18: 10:33

And then I....well....let's just say it involved my asking a police officer not to arrest me. 
Mile 19: 15:54

After that, strictly owing to the amount of time I'd already been on the course and the heat, there were no points to be won. There was nothing that could be done to salvage a time I wanted. My goal became finishing without getting sick, and that meant more walking. Everyone was walking.

Mile 20: 11:04
Mile 21: 11:29
Mile 22: 11:37
Mile 23: 11:09

Somewhere around mile 24 I found Shannon again. I'd actually seen her once earlier, arguing with a man who was just determined a road wasn't open (it was) and nearly getting arrested for being belligerent about it. But anyway, mile 24, she'd been looking for me long enough that she'd set a time, and if I hadn't shown up by then she was calling the med tent to see if I'd checked in somewhere. I was fine, I was just slow. She had her girls in the double stroller and they jumped in with me. SO MANY PEOPLE asked if she'd done the whole race with the stroller. After a bit, someone would start to say something and we'd both just reply "no, she's just with me for a few miles!"

And let me say, thank God this woman had sunscreen in the stroller. The bit I put on my shoulders meant my shoulders were the only part of my upper body that didn't burn.
Mile 24: 12:23
Mile 25: 12:40
Mile 26: 11:50

Just before mile 26 we found my family. Shannon and her girls jumped out and I grabbed my older son to run me in. I always cry at the end of a marathon, but running down the straightaway holding his hand there was no keeping the emotions back.

Finish: 4:26:15.
This might be the only photo of either of my children ever to exist on this blog. I just love it so much.
Was race day what I wanted? No. It was not even my second fastest marathon. And that has to be ok. As a wise friend reminded me, the training and the race are separate events. There is no certainty in a marathon. It just means I'll chase that PR another day.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Pre-race jitters

Because even for Marathon #5, I still get nervous before the race.

I've enjoyed some great workouts since my Week 14 recap. Shannon ran part of my 12-miler last weekend with me and showed me a new route while we were at it. 
Me & Shannon. I can't imagine this training cycle without her.
Running here does not suck.
This week, she ran my last fast workout with me, which was 5 miles with 3 at 8:18. It was a gorgeous sunrise and, after settling into the run, it was so fun to go fast. It was especially fun I think because I knew this was it before the race. I loved it so much.

And then, just a few easy miles from there until tomorrow--race day.

Mid-day Thursday I switched to carb loading, following an article I got several years back in Runner's World--the same plan I used before my last full marathon (fall 2014). I have to say, I had a much harder time with it this time around. My diet has changed since 2014 to where I just don't eat as much sugar or as many carbs as I used to. Switching to an almost-all-carb diet has been difficult, even for such a short period of time. I've had to scale back from what the plan recommends, and eaten more "real food" to keep my body happy. But, I've eaten enough to say I've carb loaded. Hopefully it's enough. 
This yogurt is so unbelievably sweet. Like frozen custard that isn't frozen. I'm sure someone can eat this as part of a meal, but it isn't me.

In my final act of pre-race over-planning, I've Google Street Viewed the race course so I know what to expect. I did not buy a Pace Band (yes, I know you can do this for free if you're willing to ignore terrain), but I have studied the elevation chart and memorized my mile-by-mile planned pace.

I've checked the weather hawkishly. Earlier in the week my weather app was sure we'd have an 80% chance of thunderstorms. Fact: I nearly cried when I realized that would likely mean a race cancellation. Luckily, at this point the chance of a storm is pretty slim. Race temps will be in the upper 60s and 70s and probably quite humid. I think I'm as tolerant of heat and humidity as most people (brief aside: Clevelanders love to complain about humidity), and I'm hydrating like a champ today.

Last thoughts before I pack up and head to Canton?

I'm nervous. I'm afraid allergies or a cold or something might compromise me. I'm afraid of the weather.I worry that I haven't mentally prepared enough for this race. I'm just nervous.

I'm thankful. Training for this race has so frequently reminded me how lucky I am to have landed here. I've particularly gotten to know my friends Laurie and Shannon during this training cycle, and hope someday they know what their friendship and support has meant to me. I've gotten to know running routes all over the east side of Cleveland and have come to appreciate how awesomely beautiful many of those routes are.

I'm so much healthier than I was a year ago. Over the past year I've been able to address some nagging pains and injuries. Training this spring has felt much easier than it did the last time I used the same training schedule, and that encourages me. I've also lost a little weight, largely thanks to changes in my diet.

That's what I've got. Let's go do this thing. 

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Marathon Training Week 14: You may saaaaay it's a taper

But when I'm still running 45 miles a week it's kind of hard to see how. Welcome to the recap!

Monday
Today was novel in two regards. First, I'm not sure my calves have ever been this tight. So tight I stopped to stretch them about 3 times in the first 1-2 miles, and even to massage them once. I wasn't sure I was going to be able to finish my 8 miles. Finally around the end of mile 2, when I stopped at a light for a bit and stretched again, finally they released. Just, wow, though. I think I was trying so hard not to slip on Saturday that I must have changed my gait or something. Who knows!

The second thing: there was a discarded red apple on the sidewalk in front of the middle school. What better place! It made me laugh out loud.

Tuesday
Tuesday morning it was raining, so I stayed in bed and put the run off until Wednesday.

Wednesday
I got to go fast. I love to go fast. As I was running fast--and smiling--I thought, today will be the day my co-workers drive past me and wonder why I'm grinning like an idiot while running. I just...I love to go fast.
 
Thursday
Seven easy miles. I did a loop down through the next town over and home. On my way back I saw a small purse left behind on a park bench, near a school. I hesitated. What should I do? Should I take it into the school, in case it's a student's? In case they could check it for ID and try to find the person? I went back and picked it up and opened it. If it had a wallet or phone, I decided, I would take it to the school. It didn't. Just some lip gloss and a few similar items. I hoped it hadn't been picked over already. I hoped no one loved the particular bag a lot.

Friday
I got lost going to Shannon's house, a full 36 hours after telling her we could run near her because I was sure I could finally find her house. Someday, someday I hope to say reliable things to that woman while planning our runs. 2017 is not, apparently, that year. Thankfully my phone had come back the day before so while it had deleted her contact information at least I did have GPS.

We ran through horse farms. Beautiful, rolling hill, green pasture, mansion-laden, horse farms. The sun was streaming through some clouds. The horses were pasturing while wearing blankets, which I hadn't seen in so long (maybe ever?) I'd forgotten it was a thing they sometimes do. Beautiful morning with a wonderful friend.

Saturday
I realized I've nearly completed this race season and haven't brunched after a Saturday long run even one time. Unacceptable! So I texted Laurie and Shannon Friday night to see who was game. To my great joy, Laurie said she could run a few miles with me. SO HAPPY TO HAVE HER BACK!! So Saturday morning I went to our agreed-upon trail head to run the first 9 solo. In perfect timing, just as I was walking off the trail back into the parking lot, Laurie pulled in. It was so good to see her again. We ran my last 6 together, then headed to brunch.

Laurie & me
Both Shannon and my friend Rosie met us for brunch. I loved the place we ate at. Everything looked so good, it was hard to choose. They served the best breakfast sausage I've maybe ever had. What a win.
The dream team of strong-willed women
Total Miles: 45
Favorite Run: I loved going fast. I loved the horse farms with Shannon. Laurie was back. This week, I can't call a favorite. There was just too much good.

Next week I taper in earnest, cutting back more dramatically on miles and effort. I'm ready.