Wednesday, May 30, 2007

I finally conquered the track

Soooo yeah. When I got up on Tuesday morning I could definitely feel Monday's run, so I decided that my cross-training day would be a yoga day. Last night I did 45 minutes of yoga and pilates. It was great for stretching my legs and working my abs, which I noticed have gotten stronger since I started training. I felt a lot better about my running life this morning, relative to the past few mornings.

But there was no time to revel in the moment; Wednesdays are track practice days. These are usually pretty brutal. The whole point is to run short distances at faster paces than you run longer distances. Theoretically this helps you to gain speed on your long runs. It's painful, which means I'd like to discredit it, but I really can't. I do think the track practices are fairly instrumental.

Today's workout was the following:
1 mile warm-up (slow)
3x400 (3/4 mi.)
4x100 (sprints/strides)
1 mile cool-down (very slow!)

All together, 4.5 miles. I have to say, I was proud of my pace on the 1200's. I don't know what my time was on the first one, but on the second two I finished somewhere between 5min40 and 5 min 45, so somewhere around a 7:30 minute mile pace. The last timed mile I ran was (I think) around 7 minutes 45 seconds or so, so I've definitely gotten a little bit faster. The "strides" at the end, I just had to laugh at myself. I try so hard! I just can't sprint.

Overall, I felt good today. I felt like I was fast, consistent, and didn't hurt too much. I hate to say this, but I kind of liked it!

Monday, May 28, 2007

this is training

Let me introduce today's run by restating that when I woke up this morning my calves were so tight it was actually difficult to walk. So I wasn't sure what to expect when my schedule called for a 40 minute run today. As soon as I started I could feel how tight my legs were, still from Saturday's six miler. My legs started to cooperate around the end of the first mile. The bigger issue today was just the heat/humidity. It was somewhere in the 80s and very humid. I felt like molasses moving along the sidewalk. According to my trusty watch I was running roughly 8.5 minute miles. I can do better than that, but was pleased with it for today. My total distance was somewhere around 4.2, which is not long for the time I was out. I stopped a few minutes early and used the last mile as a cool down, which is why it wasn't longer.

Tomorrow is cross training. I'm considering yoga...we'll see.

Catching up, and a new distance record!

Wow, ok, so I'm a little bit behind on updating the blog. It was an interesting week for training.

On Tuesday I went to the gym for my cross-training day. I did pretty much the same routine that I've been doing for the last few weeks--20 minutes on elliptical, then about 25 of weight lifting. I swear, weight lifting has become easier since I've started running so much. I think my body is in this rhythm of building muscle, so the lifting fits into that. I upped my weight a little on tricep pushdowns this week.

On Wednesday I decided I'd had enough of track workouts for a while; I'd been to the last three, so I deserved a fun week. Instead of going to the track, I went to Human Kinetics to play handball (not the racquetball-like game. It's more like soccer except you throw the ball rather than kick it) with the crew up there. I had a great time! I wasn't throwing very effectively for a while, but I got better as we played. After maybe an hour a handful of people decided to leave, leaving myself and 5 guys. We played 3-on-2 with one goalie. They discouraged me from playing goalie and put me on the team with 3 people, so I decided I had to step up and prove myself. I took on one person in particular, with decent success. I had a great time! Unfortunately, I also rolled my left ankle in the process. I kept playing on it, the endorphins in full force. Only later did I realize that it hurt.

Not only did I not have time to run on Friday, I was also concerned about the left ankle. So I didn't run. I felt like a cheater about it.

Saturday was our first practice at Lake of the Woods park in Mahomet. It's actually about the same distance from my house as Meadowbrook in Urbana. I think I can get to Mahomet a little faster actually. When I got there it was lightly drizzling. Our coach announced our expected distances: 6 miles for half-marathoners and 8 miles for marathoners. Off we went in the rain. It drizzled on and off throughout the run, never very hard. Meg, the girl I always run with, wasn't there, so I ran alone. Somewhere after mile marker 5 I took a wrong turn in the park and got lost. I was just like, Oh crap, they're going to have to search for me. I found my way back and finished the course. Long story short, I accidentally ran a little more than 6 miles. Later I also realized that the trails all connect eventually, so I didn't have to backtrack. The bizarre incident of the day, someone stole one of our tubs of gatorade/water! Who steals from people running for charity?? It was very odd.

I'm writing this on Monday morning. Yesterday and today upon getting out of bed my calves were so tight that it was actually awkward to walk. It's a good hurt. The six miles definitely worked my muscles hard. We'll see how this afternoon's run goes.

Monday, May 21, 2007

ice cream sandwiches

Before I get started on today's run and the ice cream sandwiches I want to touch on Saturday's run before I forget about it. We ran 2 laps at Meadowbrook again. I was a little disappointed that it wasn't longer--I was prepared for 3 laps. However, Meg and I made the most of the two laps and hit it at a good pace. We finished (3.7 miles) in 31 minutes. Our single mile time trials are faster than that, but that's as well as we've done with the longer distances so far I think. And it was perfect weather. The quote of the day: Vicki, totally serious, says "There is no nutritional value to drinking alcohol while you run." Some not-so-good Samaritan had handed her a beer (people commonly hand out water to runners) at about mile 7 on the Indy half-marathon a few weeks ago.

So, the ice cream sandwiches. Today was a longish run, 40-45 minutes. I planned to run to Prairie Gardens and back plus a few laps around my subdivision to finish out the time. I knew also that today was going to be hot. So what did I do? Indulged in McDonald's chicken nuggets and ice cream sandwiches for my lunch/afternoon snack. THIS WAS NOT A GOOD IDEA. Sugar like that just doesn't help you. Neither does grease and a lack of fruits and vegetables. My muscles just wanted nothing to do with hard running. It was a pretty crappy run. I love ice cream dearly, but it just wasn't worth it. I'm going to have to sequester ice cream eating to evenings and off-days. And Erin, yes I know, it was totally my idea. Bad Joanna. Tomorrow there will be bananas and baby carrots and awesome cross training.

Friday, May 18, 2007

a runner's gripes

To this point I've been pretty factual in my blog posts. I'll do that briefly about today. For those of you who read this though, I want to give you something a little lighter to nibble on, so that's below.

Today: I ran for just over 30 minutes. I ran the perimeter of Boulder Ridge (my subdivision), The Cove (the wannabe subdivision next to us) and Sawgrass (the subdivision across the main road). I tried to push myself for the middle 10 minutes of the run. It was a great run. I'm always amazed by how slowly the first ten minutes seem to go, then how quickly the remainder goes. Today's run came at the end of a fairly stressful day, a day filled with various things that had me unusually riled. Running is somewhat therapeutic for me. Sometimes that therapy involves ranting in my head about ridiculous things that bother runners. Hence the promised lighter stuff.

Things that bother at least this runner:
  1. Sprinklers. Don't water the sidewalk. Not only is it a gross waste of natural resources, it's just annoying. I have to run out into the street or stand there and wait for the sprinkler to oscillate away from the sidewalk. If it were hotter or if I weren't wearing mascara I might delight in running through your water. But the rest of the time it just annoys me.
  2. If you park on the sidewalk I will run through your yard. And I'll not keep it to a minimum. And I'm secretly hoping you see me. And if possible, I'll run close enough to the parked car to set off its anti-theft alarm. It's the runner's equivalent of "We don't dive in your toilet so don't pee in our pool." Classy, I know.
  3. Dogs. If your dog is not behind a fence it had better be on a leash. If it chases me I will read its name off of its collar and stand there and yell for its owner until you or your neighbors hear me. I'm really not into being chased by dogs.
  4. The walkers who refuse to acknowledge me. Honestly people, we're the ONLY two people on an otherwise 100% empty street (empty to the point that the houses haven't even been built yet). What is the deal with staring straight ahead as if I weren't there? I don't get it. At all.
  5. I really thought about listing kids and their toys, but honestly it's usually pretty cute. Nine times out of ten the kids don't know what to do about me and we get a little "deer in the headlights" situation. I mean, honestly, does the basketball hoop need to be in the middle of the sidewalk? Probably not. But the three-year-old who stares at me is adorable enough to excuse the toys.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

progression/regression intervals

Today we were back at the track for another interval workout. The weather was perfect--a little cool if you were standing around in short sleeves. Here was the workout:

1 mile warm-up
2 minutes
4 minutes
6 minutes
6 minutes
4 minutes
1 mile cool-down

I think all told it was just under 5 miles. I ran a pretty constant pace, which is most of the point of doing track workouts. Most people felt like today was harder than last Wednesday, but I felt just the opposite. Perhaps I ate the wrong combination of foods last Wednesday afternoon, or maybe the heat got to me more than others. I don't know. Today was strenuous, don't get me wrong, but kind of fun. I still felt human at the end of it. And my cross-training yesterday (20 min eliptical then weight training) didn't leave my legs hurting, so that helped too.

As to the this post's name, that's what we called this type of workout in high school. Usually the up-side and down-side of the workout are the same (so we should have had a 2 minute interval before the cool-down today).

And fyi, I tried the Goody "stay put" head band with rubber grippies today. It's great for every day use but still comes out when I run. I'm going to try clipping it down next time.

Monday, May 14, 2007

on the grid!

Today, for the first time, I broke out of the subdivision and took to running the grid. It was a good run! For those of you (the very few of you who read this) who know Champaign, I ran just about from Staley & Bradley to Duncan & Springfield (along Bradley then down Duncan). This route had numerous advantages over running the subdivision:
1. "Hills" (going over the interstates, which, incidentally, I got honked at while doing!)
2. Greater diversity of scenery--some residential, some commercial, some stretches of road
3. Less circling about

I realize in writing this that talking about "the grid" is probably pretty Midwestern. Since it's obscenely flat here there is no topographic reason for the roads to curve, so by and large, they don't. In the country, the roads are laid out in a one mile by one mile grid. In town there are traditionally 6 blocks to a country mile.

Two other points for the day.
1. I'm increasingly convinced that anyone can do this. The training schedule is amazingly effective.
2. Running hats rock! Breathable, keeps the sweat out of my eyes, and keeps me from squinting in the sun! I have a white Adidas hat which I bought at Dick's Sporting Goods. It's good stuff.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

new distance record

Today was my fourth Saturday morning group "long run." Half-marathoners were to run 4-5 miles, marathoners 5-6 miles. The loop at Meadowbrook Park is 1.85 miles, without a convenient way to do just one mile. Meg and I ran three loops, so about 5.5 miles! That distance was a first for both of us. No aches or pains (although my hams were pretty sore). It was a little cool when we got there, so I ran the first loop with my zippy on, then did a run-by to drop it off with one of the coaches before starting the second loop. We had just amazing weather this morning. A for the run, I'm not saying I was terribly fast, but that's ok for now.

Meg's been a great running partner. I can't remember running with someone so naturally before. If we're doing intervals, we essentially match pace. If we're doing longer distances, we match pace. We just fall in together and it works. I think we end up pushing each other, so it works.

Today was also the deadline for dropping off fundraising letters to Team in Training. If we turned them in this morning TNT would pay the outer postage for us. I didn't turn in very many. I just don't have that many people to send them to. Some I'm dropping off personally. Many people I meet face-to-face or communicate with by email. I'm a long way from my fundraising goal still. I hope the few letters I did send out bring in some contributions.

At practice this morning we had a "motivation moment." We heard the story of a 21-year old who died of a blood cancer last year. His Mom is running in his memory for the Bloomington team. I'm glad my Wednesday coach doesn't share those kinds of moments with us; it's ok to get them just every now and then. Hearing it today brought back to me one of my motivations. Knowing some people affected by blood cancers connects this experience to THON in my mind. THON is so incredible partly because you know your sponsored child, survivors come and speak, and you know the families who look to you for help and hope. THON has moved me to tears that way. Service and evangelism are both SO powerful when you can look the person in the eye. I thank God so much for showing me the joy of serving His awesome will.

And in case anyone was wondering about yesterday's run, it was fun. Nice easy pace. Only about half an hour. I discovered a sidewalk all the way around a "lake" (read: retention basin) in the neighborhood next to ours. I think it's at least a 1/6 mile loop. While running that loop a dog (Norman) decided he wanted to run and play. He wasn't taking no for an answer, so I finally just called out "Who owns Norman?" A guy came out of his garage and took him. It was sort of entertaining. Anyway, it was an easy, fun run.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

that one hurt

Today was the "hard workout" at the Urbana track, and boy was it! On the surface it doesn't sound so bad--a mile warm-up, 4 x 800, then a mile cool-down. Four miles total. It doesn't sound that bad. I've been running 3.8 on Saturdays without any problem. But I have to tell you, today kicked my ass in a big way.

I don't know if it was the heat, the fact that I ran yesterday (rather than running Monday and cross-training yesterday), the food I ate today, or what. The first 800, my throat felt like it had burst into flames. The third one I was about 10 seconds slower than my others. Afterwards, my left hip is pretty tender, and there was slight chafing for the first time, which, I have to say, is unpleasant.

My first, second, and fourth 800 I ran in 3:30-3:38, which is faster than half my mile time from last week. Donnie thinks that's why 800s are harder, it's still a decent distance but you're pushing yourself harder than you do during a mile. Other goods news--my feet were fine! No blisters yet, which is great. Also, no shin problems today. It was also nice that after my third (my hardest) 800, one of my teammates gave me a little high-five of encouragement because he could see that I was struggling. That was nice.

Tomorrow is an off day! Wooooohooooooo!!! I have a feeling I'll need it. :)

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Switching things up

I'm supposed to run on Mondays and cross-train on Tuesdays. Yesterday I walked for 30 minutes with my friend Marla at lunch. I had planned to run when I got home, but I had an awful headache. Consequently, I decided that the 30 minute walk would be this week's "cross-training" (ok, so I cheated just a little) and I would do an actual run today.

I was a little hesitant about today's run. It was finally hot enough out that I turned the air conditioning on in our house. It's been quite some time since I ran outside when it was hot, so I wasn't sure how I was going to do. I waited until about 6:30, at which time it was about 84 degrees I think. I was pleasantly surprised--the heat didn't get to me at all. It turned out to be a nice run. My shins didn't bother me, which is great--this is the first time in weeks that my right shin hasn't acted up during a run. There was a gentle breeze the whole time I was out. I saw lots of people from the subdivision. I have no idea how far I ran, since a) my pedometer is calibrated for walking and b) I left it at work anyway. I was out for 30 minutes, that I know.

When I got back I stretched and rehydrated. After maybe 15 minutes we sat down to dinner--Tuscan Lamb--yum! Tomorrow is a track workout in Urbana. It's going to be harder than last week's run, so I'm not sure what to expect. I've heard the track runs get brutal, we'll see.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

My first post--outlining the last 3 weeks

Since I started training for my first half-marathon two weeks ago, I've been debating blogging about all my first-timer aches and pains and lessons. On Friday, Natalie helped me decide to do this. Once the decision was made, I realized that I'd better get started sooner rather than later, so here I am. My very first runner's blog.

I'm going to use this first post to outline the last two weeks or so. My following blogs will chronicle my experiences as they happen.

Sometime around March 20 or so I attended an info meeting for Team in Training (TNT) at my gym. I'd considered going to one before but never had. The info meeting won me over. Jill Nydegger told us what running for TNT entails and who it benefits, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. She had a little video and everything. I had a few reasons for wanting to run. First, Penn State's THON inspires me to participate in events that raise money for various cancer research programs. THON is so touching, so important, and so overwhelming, that I couldn't leave Penn State and not take part of the THON experience with me. Second, I've had this crazy life goal of running a marathon or a half-marathon for a long time. I've never been together enough to make myself train on my own, so I knew I needed a group of some sort.

We had the TNT Kickoff Party in Bloomington on April 14. We got fundraising ideas and met our teammates that day. Already, I'd started "training" on my own a bit, trying to follow the schedule vaguely. In doing so, I managed to fall off a treadmill for the second time in about a year. This time I didn't scrape myself up too badly, fortunately. I might share a picture of my leg if I had it, but fortunately for you I don't. The only disappointing part of falling off the treadmill for the second time was that I caught myself immediately and there was NO one there to see my heroic save.

Our first team practice was on April 21 at Meadowbrook Park in Urbana. Aside from parking at the wrong end of the park and having to go searching for my team, it went smoothly. The loop around the park is 1.8 miles, so we ran it twice. I slowed down for maybe the last half mile of the second loop, which I was pretty pleased about. After practice, we went to Body & Sole, the coolest shoe store (for running shoes, anyway) ever. They look at your feet, at how you walk, at how you run, and find the best shoes for your foot. I had no idea running shoes varied so much! I came in wearing pink & gray running shoes that I bought off the clearance rack at Shoe Carnival a while ago. The sales lady made fun of them (rightfully so) and sold me some really nice Aasics. They turned out to rub my feet a bit, so I exchanged them on Monday for a pair of Brook's. Love them.

Our next team practice was the following Saturday (my birthday) again at Meadowbrook Park. The run went about like it had the week prior. I'd been having trouble with my right shin hurting. I still am having some trouble with it, but I've gotten some good stretching ideas from both my coach Harley and my officemate Sarah. After the run, we went to the Panera at Kirby & Mattis for coffee & bagels, to get to know each other a bit. That's where I met Harley for the first time. Meredith (the spring team coach), Allison (my mentor), Cynthia, Meg, and I (all on the fall team), and Randy and his wife (spring team) were there.

That afternoon, Sarah and I went shopping at Dick's and Target to get me proper running clothes. I've always run in cotton, which is the worst possible thing to run in. Cotton doesn't breathe, so if you sweat, you are drenched. I bought three new running shirts, two pairs of shorts, a sports bra and a hat. The difference is amazing! I'm no longer drenched when I run. And my shorts sit where they are supposed to sit and I don't have to tug at them. The shirts don't feel like they are sticking to me and twisting after a mile or two. I definitely recommend Target--they have a good selection of Champion stuff at really reasonable prices. Their dry fit stuff is great.

My training schedule goes as follows: run Monday, cross-train Tuesday, group running on Wednesday, Thursday off, run on Friday, group run on Saturday, Sunday off. I kept running and lifting and whatnot on my own between the group workouts I'm mostly talking about. Lifting seemed easier on the second Tuesday. I've been lifting for a few years, so I don't think it was practice. I wondered if it was because I'm getting better with the running, that it's helping the rest of me work better too. It could also have been my imagination.

On Wednesday, May 2 we had our first group run at the track in Urbana. First off, let me say, it's a wonderful track. It's soft and a quarter-mile. We had an "easy" workout to start off. We ran a mile warm-up at an easy pace, then ran a mile at a strenuous pace, then another half, then a mile to cool down. My "strenuous" pace mile was 7 minutes 45 seconds, which is not terribly fast for runners. Regardless, that's faster than I had been running on the treadmill, and I was pleased with the pace. After practice, my hip flexers tightened up substantially. On Thursday at work, Sarah showed me more stretches to help me out. What would I do without her?!?

Yesterday was the best run ever. I went running around our neighborhood after work. In the rain. It was awesome. The rain ranged from a mist to an all-out rain. I was absolutely soaked. I finally got my new shoes dirty. My mascara just barely started to run. I only ran about 25 minutes. I just kept thinking to myself, if you can't run in the rain and get dirty when you're 26, when can you do it? And because I now own awesome running shoes that breathe, they were 98% dry this morning.

This morning was our third Saturday practice at Meadowbrook Park. Meredith was in Indianapolis with the spring team, as today was the Indy Half. Allison stepped up to organize us for this morning. We did the same path we've been doing, twice around the park for a total of 3.8 miles. I stopped briefly after the first loop to stretch my right calf/shin since it was doing its thing. It continued to cramp for about 0.1 or 0.2 miles after my stop, but then released and felt fine. I caught up to Meg and Allison about 1.2 miles into the second loop (Meg and I run about the same pace, I was pushing myself to catch up). And today, for the first time, I didn't slow down for the end of the second loop! So I was pleased to reach my goal for the day.

I then came home and took a nap. My calves are pretty tight right now but nothing hurts. Stay tuned! Future posts will NOT be this long!