Friday, November 12, 2010

Things Elliot says while we're out running

I took my two favorite little running partners out for 4 miles today to take advantage of the beautiful weather.  I just love taking Elliot running because he never stops talking.  He shouts encouraging things like "go mommy!" and "you run fast, mommy!" and lately he's been in the "why?" phase that all 3 year olds go through.  Here's a little snapshot of some of our conversation today.

"Mommy, why you run?"
Because I like to. 
"Why that girl not run?"
Because some people walk and some people run.
"Why people walk and run here today?"
Because it's a beautiful day out and it's good to be active.
"Why it beautiful day?"
Because the sun's out and it's warm.
"We go playground now?"
We're going to do 4 laps.  Are you going to count them?
"I count.  One, two, three..." About 10 seconds later.  "We all done now?  We go playground now?"
(At this point I give Elliot some crackers which keeps him quiet for a few minutes.)
"Mommy, why you not run faster?"
I don't need to run faster.  But it's probably more fun to run with daddy because he runs faster.
"Daddy run fast, mommy run fast!  Mommy run FASTER!  GO MOMMY!"
(More crackers.)
"Mommy, you my mom.  I "mwa!" you."
Awww, I love you, too, honey!
"Mommy, why you my  mommy?"
Why do you think?  (We've addressed this topic many times before.)
"Because I came out your belly?"
"Mommy?  Why I come out your belly?  There fun games in your belly?"

I seriously love this kid.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I can't think up a pithy (or even mildly clever) title since there's not much going on.  I've been fighting a bit of a cold with a really annoying cough, and I just feel kind of gross today (the fast food last night probably didn't help), but the running is going fine.  Haakan is out of town (in a tropical local for something work related - no sympathy from me) so I took the younger two out in the jogging stroller and managed to get in 6 miles and then went straight to pick Oliver up at school.  Of course, they both fell asleep in the stroller and I paid the price with Elliot being up until 10pm, but it was still a pretty good run, and pretty zippy for having the stroller with me.  I may try to take them out tomorrow to get in another 4 miles, which will just leave me with my long run to do on Saturday or Sunday, since Haakan will be back (woohoo!).

I've upped my mileage to 28 miles a week, which still isn't huge in the grand scheme of how much some people run, but I'm doing ok with it and that's the point of upping the mileage slowly.  I'm thinking that after the marathons are done (Pittsburgh in May, Columbus in October) that I may just stick at 30 miles per week as a base for a while.  I'm surprised how much I'm liking that two of my runs a week are a decent distance - two 9 mile runs a week right now, and one of those counts as my long run - and I'm finding them going better than the shorter ones somehow, maybe because I have time to ease into things and get warmed up.  I'm doing the Turkey Trot 5k on Thanksgiving and I'm wondering if I could be in line for another PR.  I'm also doing the Trot for Tots 10k the following weekend and Haakan has tried to prepare me for that not being the easiest of races since there always seems to be in wind in the face on the way back, as well as a slight uphill.  My 5k times do seem to indicate that I might be due  for a 10k PR, which would really knock my socks off.  To even get close to the 55:14 that I did in the Great Race in 2008 would be a huge ego booster.  That finish time is so far outside what I had been doing, I'm not sure how I even did it.  It's my longest standing PR, and I think the time is right for it to go down.

In gear news, I've resurrected my Saucony ProGrid Rides that I bought over the summer, since my Nike Moto 7's are approaching the top of their mileage, and they seem to be doing ok.  I'm pretty sure I'd be happier in at least a half size larger, but they're not causing me any major problems.  I am having some blistering between the toes, so I'm thinking of trying out a pair of Injinji toe socks.  I mean, the rainbow alone kind of enchants me, but I like the blister reduction, too, and the price is in line with what I've paid for tech socks in the past.  I'm also debating another running pullover for cold weather running outside, and waiting for Lululemon's Run:Dash pullover to be released.  I have two of the Inspire pullovers and they've been working great (I'll need another layer for outdoor running once it gets colder, but they're ok for the high 20s/low 30s that I've been running in in the early AM), but I wouldn't mind having a third top, for the weeks that I do my runs outside, as opposed to on the treadmill at the gym.  To say that I am a little addicted to the Lululemon gear would be an understatement.  The stuff performs great, but what really has me sold is that the shoulders are roomy and the arms are nice and long, which has been an issue for me with my linebacker shoulders and long monkey arms.  My eyes are bigger than my pocketbook and I need to start deciding what I *need* as opposed to what I just *want*, but hopefully there will be some new pretties uploaded to the website or in my local showroom today, so I can at least try a few things out.  Debating a new pair of running tights, too, but I'll have to wait and see on that one.  It might get so cold that I'm pushed inside for most of the winter, and then all my pretty winter stuff will be languishing.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Gen runs like hell!

The Freaky 5k I did on Saturday had "Run for your life!" as its tagline, but a friend tells me that it used to be "Run like hell!" and have zombies on the tshirt.  Though I'd love a tshirt that says "run like hell!" on the front, I have a bit of an issue with zombies, so I'm happy with the little running skeletons on the swag shirt I got.  The Freaky 5k is part of the Pittsburgh Marathon series, apparently, and Haakan had it on my training plan, so I thought what the hell.  The fun part is that it was a costume 5k, and Haakan and I both had the bright idea that I should go as Wonder Woman, so after I was unable to find a Wonder Woman costume that actually fit me properly, I went low rent and wore a red top, bright blue crops, a red cape, and pinned the Wonder Woman symbol to my chest (printed out about 2 minutes before I left the house, since, you know, I like to plan ahead and all that).

The race was in North Park and Google maps had me going with weirdest way, but it worked and I managed to find the race in fairly decent time.  I had a little mini panic attack as I drove through the park because I remember the route from the Just a Short Run that I did in March of 2009 and really wasn't feeling a repeat of the 5k portion, which went up a wicked hill, but it was a pretty flat course.  The costumes were fabulous!  I saw a Sarah Palin, complete with bump hairdo and American flag, a guy doing a "beer run" with a case of beer and a two headed baby in a Baby Bjorn, and a bunch of other super heros, among others.  A few people looked like they were there to run seriously, but the guys who came in first and second were dressed like Mr Incredible and a caveman in a spotted loin cloth, so who says you can't run fast in a costume!

The race started right on time, and boy was it cold!  I was in a tank top and my hands were numb before we even started (gloves would be a good idea for next year), but I found myself near the front pretty quickly.  It was an out and back at the beginning of the course, and it became clear pretty early that a lot of people were just going to walk it.  Which was nice for me because it meant my stats would be pretty good.  Maybe a half mile in I looked down at the Garmin and realized that I was doing around an 8 minute mile, which is ridiculous and unsustainable for me, but I had a hard time pulling it back and I took a walk break when I got to the water station around the 1 mile mark.  I went back out, and again, the pace was too quick and I took a break again right around the 2 mile mark.  At that point I could see the turn where we'd head back to the skating rink where the finish line was, so I thought I might as well finish strong.  I also saw another Wonder Woman and I really wanted to pass her.  With a quarter mile left to go I checked my Garmin and found that I was well under where I thought I'd be and that amazingly I might have a chance to PR.  I crossed the finish line with Batgirl and another super hero and set a new PR of 26:39, which was good enough for 12th in my age group.  I thought I might place a little higher, but there were some speedy chicks in there!

I got Batgirl and the Wonder Woman I passed to snap a picture of me before I left.  I think I'll run all of my races with a cape from now on, since it obviously is to blame for my speed and pacing issues!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Holding steady

I've had a few race-free weekends now, which feels kind of weird, but the running overall has been going quite well.  It's like Charlie hit 5.5 to 6 months and something just clicked with my physically and suddenly, I was on my way back.  As time goes on I just feel like I'm getting stronger and stronger, and it's cool to have gone through a pregnancy and birth and be back to where I was, fitness wise.  I'm even a few pounds below my pre-pregnancy weight, and I've really never felt better.

I've been getting up at 5am to run 3 or 4 mornings a week, and surprisingly it's been going really well.  The kids are so unpredictable, it's great to get the run out of the way and not have to worry that someone's going to not want to run with me, or scream bloody murder the whole time (that would be Charlie), or that it's going to be pouring down rain or something.  Poor Charlie had croup last week and I forewent the 5am run in favor of sleep, since we'd been up with him all night, and I did manage to get in 6.5 miles with him asleep in the jogging stroller during the day.  Poor kid was so tired, and the cooler air is supposed to be good for croup, so it was win win.  I was surprised that my pace with the jogger was about the same as my pace without it.  I've been averaging between 10:19 and 10:30 for my easy runs, which is actually a big speedier than they should be according to the McMillan Pace Calculator, but I have a hard time slowing down.  It's always been a problem for me, and the cooler weather just makes it easier for me to run faster.

I did my 3 mile tempo run yesterday at 9:00 pace, and I'm kind of wondering if I might be able to set a new 5k PR at the Freaky 5k next Saturday.  I think whether or not I PR is going to depend on a lot of factors, not least of which is whether or not I run it in costume.  Haakan and I both had the brilliant idea that I should run it dressed as Wonder Woman, but I have yet to find a costume the right size (this is where I could rant a little bit about vanity sizing, but I'll spare you since I normally don't care, it only bugs me when *my* size isn't in stock).  Got any other brilliant ideas for a clever costume?  I may have to try another costume store and brave the hoards of kids and teenagers this weekend, though my hopes aren't high.  I'm thinking if I can find a Cat Woman mask, I can just wear my black running tights and black long sleeved top and call it a day, but believe it or not, I haven't seen Cat Woman at the stores!  I've seen every other permutation of superhero gone slutty, but no Cat Woman.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Gen runs back to back 5k's and lives to tell the tale

This is the first weekend in a while that I haven't had a race to do, so I thought I probably should write up a report of the 5k's I did last weekend.  Yes, you read that right - I did TWO 5k's last weekend - Run Shadyside on Saturday and ZooZilla on Sunday.

I signed up for Run Shadyside in advance or I probably wouldn't have done it.  We had a miserable night with Charlie, poor kid kept waking up all gassy and upset, and I was NOT a happy camper when 6:30am rolled around.  It was cold that morning, too - probably around 40 degrees - and I was just not feeling it.  I drove over there in a heavy fog that lifted *just* as I drove out of my neighborhood (the race came within 1.5 miles of my house, so yeah, I could have easily walked there, but like I said, it was cold!), and things began to look up when I was able to easily find a parking space.  The nice thing about Run Shadyside, other than the relatively flat and fast course, is that it starts on Walnut Street, so I was able to duck into Starbucks and get a cup of coffee before the start.  "Were you out running or something?" the barrista asked me.  Ummm, no, I'm going to be doing a 5k with the other 800 people outside in the street!  Seriously, they were a little clueless in there, especially since the place was full of people in running gear with race bibs on.  I considered getting a doughnut and running the race John Belushi style (little chocolate doughnuts, anyone?), but thought better of it.

The race started basically on time and my goal was just to finally break 30 minutes.  I've been trying all summer and it's just eluded me.  Haakan thought I'd be able to do it easily, though I had my doubts.  I set out to keep a reasonable pace for the first mile, but that mile came up fast and I ended up finishing it right around 9 minutes.  And I felt good at the end of that first mile.  "If this continues," I thought, "I'm going to break 30 easily."  The second mile marker came up right at the corner of Center and Highland, and we ran back into that mist I'd driven out of earlier in the day.  I still felt pretty good and now I was starting to get excited.  I was potentially going to come in pretty well below 30, I just had to hold it together for another mile.  And then I saw the 2 mile marker, about .25 miles away from where it should have been, and I began to get worried.  I didn't want to make my final push only to find that the finish line was a quarter mile farther away than I thought it was going to be.  But they put the finish line in the right place, thank goodness, and amazingly, I tied my PR of 27:54, which I set back in the Ikea 5k last year when I was 16 weeks pregnant.   Had I been smart enough to check my watch on the final turn, I might have even surpassed the PR, but given that this was a pretty flat course and didn't have the wicked first mile downhill that the Ikea 5k did, I considered it a pretty significant victory.  We went out for pancakes and there was much rejoicing.  Horray!

Sunday morning I was supposed to do the ZooZilla 5k.  If I haven't mentioned it before, this race strikes fear into my heart.  It starts with a lap around the Pittsburgh Zoo parking lot (about .75 miles), then goes UP the gigantic hill that runs next to the zoo, up to the hairpin turn, down a little ways and then up the service ramp INTO the zoo itself.  Once in the zoo, you run UP past the polar bears and aquarium, and then it's all downhill, past the bears, monkeys, elephants, lions, tigers, snow leopard, back on to the road at a service entrance, and back into the parking lot for the finish.  I am NOT an uphill runner, which is rather unfortunate for someone living in Pittsburgh, but whatever.  Haakan had placed very well in this race a couple of times (I think he said he was third in his age group last year - came home with a little gorilla for the kids, it was pretty cute) and thought I was making too much of the hills.  Having done some speedwork on that hill, and having had to take a pit stop in the weeds to pee because I about wet my pants from the effort, I was a little leery of the race.  But whatever, Haakan was my coach, he thought I should do it, so I dutifully drove down there (it was cold again!), signed up, and waited for the race to start.

I was amazed to discover that most of the people I spoke to had no idea what the course was like.  There were some scared faces when I pointed to the road and said "Ummm, yeah, you run up THAT hill", which made me feel like I was at least a little bit prepared for it.  The worst of the uphill was .58 miles from bottom to turn around, and if I could just hold it together through that, I knew I'd be ok.  Haakan had said, "Maybe you'll PR!" as I left the house, and I laughed him off.  Not in this race, I thought.

The first 3/4 mile around the parking lot was fine.  I was keeping a good sub 9 minute mile pace and feeling good.  My goal was to keep the uphill at around a 10 minute mile and hopefully come in under 30 again, and it was pretty cool to pass so many people on the way up.  A lot of people had gone out way too fast and were paying the price on the hill.  I'm glad that I'd run it before because it definitely didn't feel as bad as it did the first time I ran it, and Haakan was right, it really wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be.  I managed to run the whole thing and turn around at the hairpin, and when the downhill FINALLY came after the aquarium, I was beyond thrilled with myself.  I felt like I wasn't going all that fast through the zoo, but I must have been.  There was a girl ahead of me in a white hoodie who I kept wanting to pass, but she stayed right in front of me.  I had the foresight to check my watch right as we made the final turn back into the parking lot and I saw that I was WAY under my PR.  Holy cow, I had a chance at a PR in this race and it took a second for the shock of that to wear off.  I dug down deep and pulled out the last bit of speed I had left and I floored it for the finish line.  I finally overtook hoodie girl right before we crossed the finish line and set a new PR of 27:13 on what is probably the most challenging course I've ever run.  I placed 11th in my age group, which is pretty good, though had I posted this time last year, I would have come in 4th, which about knocks my socks off.  We had some really speedy people this year, though, but I'll take it!

So, summing up, last weekend I ran back to back 5k's tied then obliterated my 5k PR.  Yes, I am very proud of myself!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Gen and Haakan run a GREAT Great Race

I just love the Great Race 10k.  Seriously.  If the Ikea Half Marathon is my happy half, the Great Race is my happy 10k.  Well, last year's Great Race, when I was 18 weeks pregnant and it was pouring down rain, was actually pretty miserable, but the year before that was AWESOME - I set a PR so far beyond what I've done in any other race that I swear, I must have run through a wormhole or something.  Haakan also broke 40 minutes in this race last year, so I'd wager it's a favorite of his, too.  Even those he's Mister Speedy Pants, he decided to run it this year with me.  He did still get a super nifty elite number and seeded position at the start, but he stayed back with me and the hoi polloi, and probably had a better time (at least I hope so!).

It was a great day for a race - cool, sunny, not pouring down buckets of nasty rain like last year.  It was just plain nice.  We gave my neighbor Val a ride to the start, and it was lots of fun chatting with her while we waited for the race to begin.  I saw a guy dressed up in a banana costume while I was waiting for the porta potties, which is always amusing to see.  As usual, the races started late, and we didn't actually hear the gun.  All of a sudden it just started moving, then slowed down to it's usual slow crawl to the start.  We placed ourselves excellently and were right where we should have been (though it did take us 5 minutes to pass the start!).  Haakan's usually way up in the front so this was the first year he got to hear "Shout!" like four or five times while we moved at a glacial pace towards the start line.

We took the first mile pretty slow, around 10:40is if I remember right (I actually forgot my Garmin so I had to rely on Haakan to know what pace we were going - I chose ignorance for most of the race).  Right as we're heading down Forbes towards CMU a group from the air force catches up with us, complete with flag bearer and that fabulous chanting.  It was like something out of a movie, and very cool.  Once we stopped going downhill they passed us pretty quickly and we didn't see them again.

I didn't notice a whole lot else for the rest of the race.  we kept it under 10:00 for the remainder, and I only really felt like we were pushing it at the end when Haakan said we had a good shot at breaking 1:01 (our goal going out was 1:02).  I did pass a girl of maybe 7 years old on the big hill on the Blvd of the Allies and I remember thinking she was a trouper for doing so well.  I think she was running with her dad.  I'm really looking forward to being able to run with the boys, if they want to.

So in the end, we finished in 1:00:54 and I felt great.  I really pushed it at the end, though man those last .2 miles were harsh!  We got to see Val finishing up, too, which was cool, since I never see anyone I know at the finish line.  And as always it was nice to have Haakan as my running partner.  Perhaps the best part was coming in so far under our goal time.  In retrospect we probably could have easily brought it in under an hour, but who knew at the time?  The goal was to have a good race experience, and we definitely did.  And it was even my second fastest 10k ever (which it still would have been, even if we'd pushed harder, since I don't think I would have beaten my 2008 Great Race time of 55:14).

Here's us, the happy couple, basking the glory of a fabulous race!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Gen and Haakan rock the half marathon

Funny the things that change when you have children.  I've commented many times that my 23 year old self would have been horrified that, for example, sleeping until 8am qualifies as "sleeping in" these days.  What qualifies as a date, apparently, is Haakan and I getting up at the crack of dawn to run 13.1 miles, which I'm sure would be considered anything but a good time to many, but I have a soft spot for this particular half marathon.  It's the Ikea Montour Trail Half Marathon, and it was the first half marathon I ever did, 2 years ago not too long after I started running.  It's a really nice out and back course, the first 1.5 miles (more or less) is downhill, so you can build up a little cushion, the rest is fairly flat (though the subtle up hill from mile 6 to the mile 7 turn around is easily the longest feeling mile of the race), and it's on a trail with a good bit of shade.  It doesn't hurt that the weather always seems to be fabulous for it, too.  I bagged on it last year - I was 16 weeks pregnant and had a full on panic attack in the car just thinking about it, so I switched to the 5k and ended up with a PR - but I was determined to do it and do it well this year.  Given my recent races, I knew going in that this was probably going to be my slowest half marathon, but with that in mind I wanted to just run it in a smart way, and set a reasonable goal.

We almost didn't make it to the race since my mom, who graciously agreed to wake up early and come watch the kids, was pretty late getting to our house, but it all worked out since we weren't ready to leave when we thought we would be, anyway.  Everyone woke up right as we would have been waking out of the house, so we had to attend to their various needs.  Barely making it to the race in time seems to be a theme with this particular race, but we got there about 10 minutes before the start, got our chips, and didn't have time to be worried or nervous.  Though I'm sure Haakan wasn't all that nervous - he might not have done the distance in a while, but since he runs his training runs quite a bit faster than I run mine, I knew he'd be able to do it and be just fine.  This is the man who did this same half marathon in 1:31 and change last year, so I was pretty sure he'd be able to keep up with my 10+ minutes per mile pace.

I have to say, the first 8 or 9 miles of the race were very pleasant.  The weather was beautiful, our pace was well chosen, and I just plain felt good for that distance.  The lack of a water stop from miles 6 to 8 was rather unfortunate, but we survived ok.  Haakan turned to me at one point and said, "This is just so *nice*, you know?" and I had to agree, it's just really such a nice race.  We saw the leaders come through right as we hit mile 6 (so they were two miles ahead of us at that point!) and I always love seeing the leaders.  It must have given some of the runners around us a burst of inspiration because we got passed by a bunch of people and I remember thinking "where did *you* come from?", as I usually think when I get passed like that halfway through a race.  The last three miles were kind of rough, which we were both expecting.  I hadn't done more than 10 miles in quite a number of weeks, so I knew I was going to have to just gut it out for the last three.  Haakan was very encouraging, kept chatting to me about different things to take my mind off of how tired I suddenly felt.  I had to stop and walk after the last water stop because I managed to swallow a bunch of air and my stomach felt like it was going to burst.  After I burped like 5 or 6 times (yeah, running is a sexy sport, let me tell you) I felt ok to keep going, and just sucked it up until the end.  The last 2 miles were totally a mental game of me telling myself that as much as I wanted to just walk it in, I didn't need to and should just keep going.  I had gone in with finishing under 2:30 as my first goal, going under 2:20 as a secondary goal, and going under 2:15 as my "all the stars align and I somehow pull out a faster pace than I probably will" goal.  when we passed the mile 12 guy and he said we were at 2:07 and change, I knew we were going to make it in under 2:20, and the pressure was off for a sub 2:15 finish, since that just wasn't going to happen.  I had nothing left in the tank for a last mile sprint by then, but if we just kept going, we'd make it easily under 2:20.  I managed to pull out a final burst of speed to cross the finish like at 2:18:50, making it my slowest half marathon, but one of the best races I've run since Charlie was born.  I came out exactly where I should be, performed exactly according to expectations, and I had nothing left by the end.  I can truly say I ran the best race I could run for the shape that I'm in right now, and I had a good time doing it.

On a side note, I had some fun with my addiction to lululemon running gear and Haakan and I played "spot the lulu" for the first 8 miles of the race.  I saw more than a few pairs of speed shorts, and one girl passed me in the savage green run: swiftly top that I've been kicking myself about missing out on ever since they sold out a few months ago.  One of the lead women was in head to toe lulu, wearing the same shorts I was, just in the citron color (which I like better than what I've got, truthfully, but oh well).  We also had some fun with the old railroad tunnel that we ran through around mile 3, joking that it would definitely be nice if it was *really* a time tunnel (if your kids watch "Dinosaur Train" you totally get that one), unless it took us back in time rather than forward, because that would obviously suck during a race.  I'm sure the other runners around us thought we were crazy, but at least we were entertaining!

Here's us after our 13.1.  This was actually about an hour later, I'm sure I looked more like a tired pile of goo immediately after the race than I do here, when I'd dried out a little.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Gen vs. the double jogger

Today was my fabulous 5 year old's first day of kindergarten.  Isn't he adorable?  Kind of amazing to think that the next 12 years of his life are mapped out, at least where school is concerned.

Since I only had two kiddos for most of the day (can you believe he goes to kindergarten from 9:05am until 3:51pm?  For kindergarten!) I decided to celebrate the gorgeous day and take baby Charlie, 6 months old today (awwww) out for a run.  Elliot, my 3 year old, was all for it, and really, he's great to run with.  He chatters happily, pretends to count my laps, says encouraging things like "Go mommy!", and narrates everything he sees, ie: "Look mommy!  That girl running!  That boy walk!  He no run, he walk!"  It's all said with a super cute lisp, and with great excitement.  Charlie, unfortunately, has not yet found the jogging stroller love.  Still, they were both good sports while I loaded them into the double jogger, waited patiently while I tracked down the bicycle pump and inflated the tires, and even smiled and giggled happily all the way up to the reservoir.  Of course, once we passed those fabulous art deco statues at the entrance to the park, all hell broke loose.  Charlie began with a bit of whining, but quickly escalated to a full on wail.  I tried to calm him down, but then decided to just give it the old college try and see what happened.  What he's done in the past is calmed down once he found his thumb, since I knew he was tired, so we gave it a shot.

I've said it before, but it bears repeating.  I hate being "that woman" with the screaming baby in the jogging stroller.  Before I had children, I used to wonder who these people were who would run with a screaming child in the stroller.  And now I know, they're moms and dads just like me, who are desperate to run on a beautiful day and have a good feeling that their child will, sooner rather than later, calm down and probably go to sleep.  I stopped a few times around the upper loop to calm Charlie down, and got some amused comments from sympathetic passers by, but as soon as I'd put him back, he'd just start wailing again.  So I ran to finish my lap and headed home, since running was the quickest way.  Close to the entrance I checked on him again, stuck my finger in his mouth, and felt not one, but TWO sharp little teeth poking out on the bottom.  Miserable mood explained!  Poor child, teething sucks.  I adjusted the seat and put him back in, and he was happy as a little clam for about two miles.  I did one loop around the outer track, which is pretty hilly, and got a couple of "You go, girl!" comments, which are always nice, and even managed a full lap and a bit around the upper track before Charlie got restless again.  I heard Elliot say, "I help mommy, I tickle baby!", which I think woke him up, so I just threw in the towel after that and headed for home.  Amazingly, I managed to get 4 miles done, and fairly speedy for having the jogging stroller with me.  I guess that screaming baby is pretty motivational!

Haakan and I have the Ikea Half Marathon this weekend, so I won't be attempting another jogging stroller run until next week, but hopefully it'll go better the next time.  I had been planning my exercise thinking about how to run with just Charlie, but if Elliot's willing to come with me, too, that kind of puts a new spin on things.  Haakan and I also checked out the new Urban Active fitness club, which is enormous!  It seemed very sci fi with all the tv screens and such, especially after the teeny tiny gym I go to for pilates, but I wasn't impressed with their offerings for yoga and pilates, so I'll probably end up passing, or just getting a winter membership at BodyTech so that I can run on the treadmill and have someone else watch the kiddos.  It seems kind of stupid, though, since we HAVE a treadmill, we just don't have a good place to put it, so I can't use it early in the morning, or while Charlie naps, because it wakes him up.  Doh!  It's like a logic puzzle trying to figure it all out!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Running = Sanity

These are my two older children.  I show you their smiling and shining faces because you need to see just how adorable they appear in order to understand what little hellions they are capable of turning into.  It's back to school time, and since my oldest, Oliver, is starting kindergarten on Wednesday and my second, Elliot, is going back to preschool on Tuesday, a trip to the shoe store was in order.  If you have children, you understand that there are few excursions that inspire as much dread as a trip to the shoe store.  Taking them one at a time would have been wiser, but really, I despise shoe shopping with my children so much, I'd rather just do it quick and dirty style and be done with it.  So the four of us - the baby, Charlie, had to come, too, though thank goodness he didn't need shoes - went to the shoe store and I was on a mission to search and conquer.  And my children were horrible.  HORRIBLE.  I take some small comfort that every parent who came in there with more than one child was having the same experience as I was, but still, it sucked all the way around.  They ran around, they wrestled with each other and poked each other with shrieks of "He's touching me!" and "Get your foot off my head!" while I tried to find my 5 year old's size, as well as fine the ONE pair of shoes in the whole store that I could even get on to my 3 year old's feet (poor kid has a really high instep AND wide feet - not a good combo for quick trips).  They almost knocked over a display of sale shoes and the behaved so badly, I threatened to not take them to the playground afterwards (though I did, because it would have been a punishment for *me* to not let them burn off some of that energy), and spent the whole trip getting shoes one handed since I had to keep swinging an exhausted Charlie in the car seat (he was asleep when we got there, eyes popping WIDE open as soon as we got into the store ).

Anyway, we did manage to get some shoes, and the children continued in the same vein for the rest of the day, so that when we got home from a visit to Haakan's work - where they kids also ran amok and freaked out when we left without snacks because of their crazy behavior - I informed him that our children were going to drive me to drink.  "You need to go out and run," he said.  And that, dear readers, is exactly what I did.  You've never seen a gal put on her running clothes so fast.  I ran around the hilly lower loop of the reservoir and every lap felt like a gift to myself.  It was one of those runs that was hard, yet effortless at the same time.  I did 6.4 miles and felt great the whole time.  It was a gorgeous 74 degrees, sunny in that fabulous late afternoon kind of way, and all the way around, the perfect antidote to my horrendous day.  I came home to three little kids who were *thrilled* to see me, who were fed and went to bed easily.  They even wanted to read stories with me, which is a rare treat since they're usually just all about daddy in the evenings.  A good run is like a mental sorbet, cleaning out all the nasty tasting remains of the day and leaving you fresh mentally and nicely tired and ready to wind down for the night.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Another early run, and a Run Around the Square

Horray!  Haakan no longer has the honor of having run all my slowest races with me!  We did the Run Around the Square on Saturday and it was a gorgeous day for it.  Actually even a little on the chilly side, even, which was a very welcome change.  Another nice little surprise is that they've put a mat at the start of the race, which is awesome since it took us more than a minute to cross the starting line.  But, as usual, this was a challenging race for me, and I didn't quite make it in under 30 minutes.  I think my biggest mistake was stopping twice for water.  I definitely could have run through that second water stop, and that might just have put me under 30.  And as usual, that freaking hill from 1.5 to 2.5 was so much longer than I thought it would be.  At one point Haakan turned to me and said "It's all down hill from here!"  I almost turned to him and called bullshit on it, I knew it was too early.  But we really pushed through during the last half mile of all downhill and I definitely gave it my all in the end.  So, though I came in over my goal, I'm still pleased and it was a good race.

We left the kids with my mom and sister at the big playground at Forbes and Braddock and when we ran past I heard Oliver scream "Run faster, mommy!"  Everyone around us laughed, and it was pretty funny.  Poor kid was actually tearful after the race when I told him that no, I didn't win.  Since I still had some mileage for the week to finish up, and the kids weren't ready to leave the playground, I decided to run back home and just meet Haakan and the kids back there.  It turned out to be almost exactly 4 miles, which is not as far as I thought it would be.  It's amazing to live in a city and for it to take forever to get anywhere with traffic and stoplights, and then realize that I can actually run to all these places.  It tickles me to think that I could put Elliot and Charlie in the double stroller, run to the park, let them play, and then go home.  The run itself wasn't bad once I hit the crest at the top of Beechwood Blvd.  I was flying down the hill, wondering why I was getting so tired.  Duh, I was like a minute and a half faster than my usual pace!  Which is why downhills are cool.  I'm a fan.

I also managed to get in another early run this week, which was excellent.  Charlie woke up around 5am to eat, and I decided I'd just get up and run after I got him fed.  I was up at the reservoir at 6am and had my 8 miles finished before 8am, and then felt all virtuous and fit for the rest of the day.  And hungry.  I swear, I ate like crazy all day because I just felt like I was starving!  I think I need to fuel better for those long runs, but I'm at a loss about how to do that for an early morning one.  I guess I'll figure it out.

I'm doing a 10 miler this weekend in anticipation of the half marathon that we're doing next weekend.  I'm not too worried about it.  I've been doing 8 miles pretty handily, 10 miles is only 2 more than that.  and 13 miles is only 3 more than that, right?  Subdividing the mileage doesn't make it seem quite so far.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Run early, feel virtuous

I have come to the sad realization that as it gets darker earlier, it's going to become impossible for me to run outside in the evenings after Haakan gets home.  Why is this sad?  Because it leaves me with only a few alternatives - make friends with the Treadmill (which I really don't want to do - the Treadmill and I get on best as acquaintances), or transform myself into an early morning runner.  Ick.  I get on with Mornings even worse than I do with the Treadmill.  If the Treadmill and I are acquaintances, who give one another a smile when we pass and make smalltalk in the checkout line, then Mornings and I are more like frenemies.  Oh sure, we pretend to make nice, mostly because we have to, but Mornings are more than happy to give me the smackdown, along with a little help from its friend, Sleepless Night.

Still, perhaps I haven't given Mornings a chance to show me how sweet it can really be.  So, in the spirit of second chances, I decided to give morning running another shot and got my tired behind out of bed this morning at just past 6am (those of you who have jobs outside of the home and leave the house at this hour every morning - showered, dressed, and prettied up - feel free to call me a big wuss), put on the running clothes I had laid out the night before, and headed out into the breaking dawn with a 8 mile goal.

The really fab thing about running in the morning is that it's SO much cooler - temperature-wise - than going and running at 5pm, which is like the hottest part of the day.  it was a fabulous 60 degrees when I left the house and I ran comfortably in a short sleeved shirt.  I can't even tell you the last time I was able to do that.  I walked the half mile up to the reservoir and decided to do my 8 miles around the flat upper course, rather than the hilly lower track (I'll build up to that one).  And it rocked.  I started out slow, well below my modest 11 minute mile goal pace, but I picked up the pace as time went on and I ended up at exactly an 11 minute mile by the end.  Woohoo!.

And the REALLY fabulous part, aside from having the run finished and out of the way and not hanging over me, is that I felt incredibly virtuous all day.  Of course, then I snacked like a mad woman and undid any calorie deficit I created with my 8 miles, but whatever.  It turned out to be a good thing that I had pilates this morning, too, since I was able to stretch out my sore calves.

Haakan has to take the car in for service early tomorrow, but I may haul myself out of bed to do my 4 miles early, and bask in the satisfaction of being done.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

An Ode to the Bob Ironman

OK, not really an ode, because my poetry skillz are pretty rusty at the moment, but I do have an almost profane love for my jogging strollers.  I loved my Dreamer Designs Ditto Lite when the older kiddos were small and compliant enough to ride in it, and I love my Bob Ironman single for running when I only have to take Charlie with me.  We set out today to do 6 miles while Haakan took Oliver and Elliot to the pool, and the plan was that I'd meet them when I finished up, but I ended up doing 7.7 miles, thanks to a bit of a miscalculation, as well as a desire to keep Charlie asleep as long as possible.  Poor guy hasn't been napping well at all since he started this obsessive rolling over phase (totally annoying - I remember this from the older boys and it makes me crazy every time) so I wanted him to get some quality sleep.  We did a rather hilly course, and I'll cop to a fair amount of walking on the hills.  Running with a jogger is not for the faint of heart, and I'm rather out of practice since I've had either the luxury of running alone, or been unable to figure out how to push both strollers at the same time, which I'd need to do if I were going to run with all three at once.  I hope this is just the first of many fabulous runs to come!

I had Haakan snap a picture of me afterwards with my new favorite running partner.  Clearly I need to wipe the smears off the camera lens on my cell phone, it looks like I'm standing in a heavy fog or something!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Moving in the right direction

So if you're one of the three people who follow this blog (and hello to all of you! <3 ), you know I've been struggling a bit with the running for a while.  I expect too much of myself, Haakan was expecting too much, blah blah blah.  So, with this in mind, I dragged myself out of bed last Saturday morning for the Brookline Breeze 5k. Charlie doesn't sleep great, so the fact that I made it out of bed at all is pretty impressive, but I managed to show up at the race an hour before the gun, so I had plenty of time to snag an excellent parking space (which I then had to vacate once I realized that I wouldn't be able to actually leave after the race, since the main drag was closed for a community festival - oops) and try to get my head together.  At the registration I checked out a map of the course and realized that I had driven in on the out and back course.  Suddenly, the "challenging" course seemed a lot more doable.

The last 5k Haakan and I did together was pretty disappointing with me stopping a lot and walking.  I'm sure the heat had something to do with it, but as I stared up at the biggest hill of the race (which I would be running down at the end) I vowed not to walk during this race.  If I was able to handle giving birth three times without drugs, I could handle a 5k without stopping.  My goal was just to do better than the last few 5k's, and to feel good about myself at the end, rather than wondering why I didn't push harder or do more.  And in that, I was absolutely successful.  My finish time of 30:28 definitely didn't break any land speed records, but it does make it my best postpartum 5k and means that I'm finally moving in the right direction.

It seems so silly and almost kind of stupid that I had to relearn that I can push myself out of my comfort zone and I'm not going to die right there on the spot.  I've had a couple of really excellent runs since that race and I feel like it's a bit of a corner that I've turned and I'm finally on my way back to where I was before I got pregnant.  I've got the Run around the Square next weekend and I'm actually looking forward to it, and going for a sub-30 minute finish.

Friday, August 13, 2010

5k tomorrow morning!

Apparently I am running the Brookline Breeze 5k tomorrow morning, and I'm trying not to think about it all that much.  Mentally, I am not in the best place with the running, though my trip to San Francisco definitely showed me that the temperature has a HUGE impact on how fast and well I'm able to run.  I'm also having to kind of rediscover what my speed and distance feels like, since it was so different while I was pregnant.  I was purposely NOT pushing myself, so to push myself again is just taking more getting used to than I was anticipating.

So tomorrow's 5k (9am start - good because I don't have to be up at the butt crack of dawn, bad because it's going to be on the road to hot already by then, and there is something to be said for being done earlier rather than later) is described as a "challenging" course, which I think is code for "hilly."  The question is why, as a native Pittsburgh gal, a hilly 5k would be a surprise to me.  Isn't "hilly" the default around here?  Rather than stressing on it (the disappointing Skirt Chaser 5k that I did back in June was also a pretty hilly course, and I felt pretty demoralized after that), I'm just going to deal with it.  I run hills all the time, I can handle a few hills!  And it can't be any hotter than it was during the Stampede in the Park 5k that Haakan and I did a few weekends ago (which also started almost a half hour late ).  So perhaps this will be the race that starts me on the road to rebuilding my racing self esteem.  And if it's not, then there's always the Run Around the Square in two weeks.  And then the Ikea Half (which was my first half and is a nice route - the first mile is all downhill!) on September 11th.  Lots of chances for a good race and lots of chances for me to work on pushing myself more and not being afraid of what will happen, silly as that sounds.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What a difference 30 degrees makes!

We got back on Sunday from a week in the San Francisco Bay area and it was a wonderful trip!  The family had a great time, and more than that, I had a week of really awesome runs.  We happened to be in a hotel that was right on a stretch of the San Francisco Bay Trail, which was just fabulous.  No stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge or anything like that, but it was still lovely to be able to run next to the water.  I ran 4 times while we were there, and most were pretty gray and windy, but there was one lovely sunny day and it was gorgeous running next to the water.  The trail isn't completed and we were at one end of what I think was around a 7 mile stretch.  In one direction, the trail went 1.71 miles from the hotel, and in the other direction I'm guessing it went closer to 5 miles or so.  The farthest I went was 4 miles, to do an 8 mile out and back.  Other than that one sunny day the weather wasn't above like 55 degrees or so when I went out to run, and it was overcast, but that made for some excellent running weather.

The first day Haakan pushed me out the door while Charlie took his morning nap and I did 6 miles at 10:22, which is quite a bit skippier than my usual 11-12 minute miles I'd been slogging through at home.  I had a spring in my step and it really barely felt like an effort.  The two 8 mile runs were both around 10:55, since Haakan had told me to keep it around 11 minute miles, since that's where it seems like I should be right now.  Those 8 mile runs were awesome.  I ran past a couple of marinas, a veritable minefield of giant snails trying to cross the path (that made for an interesting little stretch, trying not to stamp on them), and ran up a nifty hill to a spectacular view of the bay (I believe that was at San Bruno Point - I was mostly running between there and Oyster Point, closer to the hotel).  And, totally geeked about this, I ran past the Genentech offices, which thrilled me a little since I know they were the company that first synthesized human insulin (thank you, Mr Salsi, for that tidbit of info that I've remembered since high school!).  I also ran past a building that one day smelled like Krispy Kreme doughnuts, and the next day smelled like black licorice.  It was a USDA building, I discovered the next day!  The anise smell wasn't too bad, but the Krispy Kreme smell was like torture, since I was pretty hungry when I went past it.  The last run I did was a 3 miler that Haakan suggested I do at a zipper pace, since it was short.  I did it at 10:12, significantly faster than my most recent 5k.

Clearly the weather is a HUGE factor to me in how fast I'm able to run, and how much I enjoy my runs.  This is amazingly comforting to me, knowing, for real, just how big of a deal the weather is.  I just need to get through these next few weeks until the weather cools off, and then I can begin to enjoy my runs more, add to my mileage, and think about some future cooler weather races.  Heck, even a drop out of the 80s would probably make a huge difference.  It was 91 degrees when I went out to do 6 miles yesterday, back down to 11:38 for my pace (and a stop to tie my shoes in there, during which I stopped the clock), but it didn't seem so bad knowing that cooler weather is around the corner.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Half marathon it is, then

I've been going back and forth about whether or not I should be doing this full marathon in Columbus.  Yeah, it seemed like a great idea and I had all these romanticized ideas about long runs and all that jazz, but the reality is that it's been freaking hard to get the runs in, and more have been bad than not.  So I raised the question with Haakan, all teary eyed and full of anxiety, and we decided it probably wasn't a bad idea to scale back.  I was supposed to do 14 miles as my long run this past week, so we decided I'd still do that.

Disaster is a good word to use when I describe the 14 miler, which ended up being a 12 miler.  The first few miles were ok, it was hotter than Hades out there, but I was holding my own (went out around 5pm, after a particularly bad night with Charlie kept me from going out early in the morning like I had planned).  I was ready to throw in the towel around mile 7, but I dutifully took my gel and soldiered on.  I kept telling myself, if I've made it to 7 miles, I can just as well do 10, and then I'll reevaluate.  I got to 10 miles and though, I've gotten this far, I'll finish 12 miles and then decide if I can do the last 2.  Miles 10 and 11 were rough, and when I stopped to use the porta potties and almost passed out, I decided that I probably should concede defeat and head for home after 12 miles.  And I barely made it home.  I was a shakey, sick, low blood sugar mess by the time I got home, and I had to ask Haakan to make me a hotdog because I couldn't stand up long enough to do it myself without getting nauseatingly dizzy.  Very unpleasant.  I had this happen with a 10 miler and I *thought* I had fueled appropriately throughout the day, but apparently not.  It's just proving very difficult to eat enough while I'm breastfeeding to have enough to pull it out for these long runs.

So it looks like I'm either going to do the half marathon in Columbus, or else just defer on the full until next year.  I'm doing the Ikea Half Marathon about a month before Columbus, and I'm not sure it's worth it to drag the whole family to Columbus, get a hotel, etc etc, just for a half marathon.  And at the same time, I can't really go alone because Charlie will be so little still.  We're still working out the details, so it's up in the air, but as of now, I'll try for the full marathon in Pittsburgh in May of 2011.

I feel kind of like a weight has been lifted since we've decided to bag the full marathon in October.  I feel like I've been getting slower and slower, which is the opposite of how I should be feeling.  Maybe I can concentrate on getting faster for some races and such and can definitely have a more positive marathon experience in May than I probably would have had in Columbus in October.  Yeah, I feel like a little bit of a loser, but this is supposed to be fun and it was feeling like more of a job than it should.  I have enough not fun things that I have to do throughout the day, the thing I do for myself shouldn't be one of those things I *have* to do, it should be something I *want* to do.  So hopefully I can get back on the wagon the right way and this blog can stop being so damn depressing and whiny!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

THIS is why I run

When I started running a few years ago, I had this fantasy about the perfect long run.  The weather would be lovely, sunny but not too hot, I'd look good running wherever I was, and the run itself would be challenging, but not so difficult that I'd want to melt into a puddle of goo by the end.  Yesterday, I had that run I'd always fantasized about, and it couldn't have come at a better time.

My hip ached for a few days after my disastrous 10 miler and truthfully, I was afraid that I'd really screwed up and was feeling pretty low (if that wasn't obvious from all the "woe is me" I've been posting lately), but I managed to get it stretched out and thought I should try an easy 3 and see how I was doing.  Before I attempted this, I happened to come across a copy of last month's Runner's World, which had an article in it about meditation and running that caught my attention.  I think I'd looked at the article when I first got the magazine, but I didn't really read it.  I did this time.  And for some reason, things just clicked this time when I read it and I had an epiphany.  I've used breathing techniques to control pain and discomfort before.  Hell, I had three non-medicated labors and used breathing and relaxation techniques through all of them (my last labor was shorter than the marathon I did last January, too).  I don't know why it never occurred to me to use the same techniques while I was running.  "Return to your breathing and your feet", the article said, and this would help to center you as a runner.  It also said something to the effect of that we shouldn't spend so much time worrying about doing things without pain.  Life is pain, you deal with it.  The proverbial light went on and I somehow felt like I'd stumbled onto something that had been missing.  I went out without my iPod to do my easy 3 miler.

It worked great!  I thought about my breathing, my feet, and when anything hurt, I just accepted that it would hurt and tried not to worry about it or obsess on it.  This kind of thinking probably would have been really helpful to me during the marathon, but for some reason I thought I would be able to finish it without my feet, and every other part of my body, aching and screaming for me to stop.  After the success of my easy 3 miles, I felt brave enough to attempt the 12 miler and did it the next evening.

Folks, runs like that are the reason I run.  At no point did I question why I was out there, and at some point I realized that I was in the middle of one of those rare runs that was just pure pleasure.  My pace was good, I only had to stop for water every 3 miles, and when I started to feel sore or my mind started to wander where I didn't want it, I just brought my focus back to my breathing and my feet.  Amazing.  It worked so well, I went out and bought myself a copy of Chi Running today and will hopefully read it over the next week and pick up a few things at least.  I am continuing on with my marathon training renewed and full of confidence that I really *can* do it.  Hopefully this feeling will last and I'll have even more fabulous runs like the last one.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

When the going gets tough... and hot...

Haakan and I did the Father's Day 10k last Sunday, and to say that it was a little bit of a disaster would be an understatement.  We set out MUCH too fast (we realized in retrospect) and by 2.5 miles in, I was burned out.  I had a total breakdown, crying and all, because I felt like such a loser.  I finished a faster 10k at 18 weeks pregnant, in the pouring rain, and having to pee.  After crunching the numbers, Haakan decided that the pace had been entirely too ambitious and I'm actually quite a bit slower than he thought, which is both comforting and depressing.  At any rate, I figured out a few new ways how to NOT run a 10k.  Next up, a 5k in Bellvue in July.

My runs this week were ok.  I did a 7 miler around the lower track of the reservoir, which was fine except for the two ENORMOUS blisters I now have on my pinkie toes.  No idea where they came from or why they showed up, but they suck and they hurt and I can't wait until they're gone entirely.  My speedwork was fine, no big surprises or problems, but it was kind of miserable since it was already 80 degrees and like 90% humidity when I did it at 7am.  Yesterday's long run was like a death march.  I meant to do it early in the morning, but then Charlie had a really bad night (woke up choking on mucus running down his throat, poor thing), so that means I had a bad night, too.  When 5am rolled around, I thought there was no way I was going to be able to run (and it's good that I didn't, since he woke up again at 6am wanting to eat), so I ended up going out around 5pm, which is probably the worst time of day to run in the summer.  It didn't seem that hot until I started moving, and then I heated up very quickly.  My bowels were upset the entire time, so there was more than one potty break involved, plus a lot of walking to make it through.  My hip injury from the last round of marathon training has been rearing it's ugly painful head, and I almost bagged it after 6 miles, but I knew I'd hate myself for not completing the run, so I sucked it up and finished.  By the time I got home I was a mess and I spent the evening in a nauseated low blood sugar lump on the couch.

I won't lie, this bad of a run this early in training has thrown me a bit and I'm having some major doubts about the wisdom of this marathon.  I'm going to give it until my next cut back week and see how it's going before I really decide one way or the other.  I fully expect the 18 and 20 mile runs to be unpleasant, or at least really tough, but if the 14 and 16 are that way, too, that might be a pretty good indication to me that I should drop to the half marathon instead of the full.  Haakan is still very optimistic, though we've reassessed my finish time goals to have me coming in right around 4:45, rather than shooting for 4:30 (I'll try for 4:30 or under in May when I do Pittsburgh).  Unfortunately, there's no 4:45 pace group, so I'm on my own.  I may try to find a group hoping to finish in 4:45 so that I don't have to go it alone, but we'll see.  I'm a little afraid to post about it on Runner's World for fear of being laughed at by the hard core marathoners, for whom a 4:45 finish would be a "why bother?" kind of situation, but that might be a good place to find some other runners hoping for a finish in that range.  I feel like if I could just get the aches and pains out of the way, I'd be doing really well.  Maybe I'll try to get a fuel belt to bring on the 12 miler next weekend so that I don't actually have to stop for water or anything.  I need to get used to not stopping or these long runs will be useless to me, since I don't really plan to keep stopping during the marathon to use the porta potty and all (hopefully!).

The one bright spot of my disaster run yesterday is that I was very pleased with my expensive running shirt from Lululemon.  It held up great and was the one thing that wasn't bothering me during the run.  I was annoyed that my shorts wouldn't stay put (I got some nice chafing on one thigh) and the liner kept riding up, but the shirt worked great.  I may try to get one in a sleeveless style, too.  And some longer shorts.  Lesson learned, for me, short shorts and the long run don't really mix all that well.  I think some longer compression shorts might be in order for the next long run.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Almost like running blindfolded

I would have made a crappy Boy Scout.  I love the "be prepared" motto, and yet, I never seem to be.  I was supposed to do speed work this morning, the last thing to do before my upcoming easy week (of which I am in desperate need - I feel totally burned out and need a break), but my Garmin crapped out before I even got up to the reservoir.  So I decided to turn it into an easy 3 miler and just kind of wing it.  And I have to say, it was kind of liberating to not have my Garmin or my iPod with me.  I actually had some time to think, and it was kind of nice.  And I say this as a die hard iPod lover.  I might try to do one of my runs a week without the iPod and see how it goes.  But I really don't want to give up the Garmin.  I need some way to at least time how long I'm out and then do the math to find my pace.

Next up in races - the Father's Day 10k down on the North Side.  The course seems a bit different this year, though I could be wrong.  Sounds like it's starting a bit farther down the waterfront from the stadium.  The race raises funds for prostate cancer research and they've thankfully changed the name from "Us, Too", which always bugged the heck out of me - since, you know, men's health issues are so underfunded and underrepresented in the world of research - to "Man Up", which I like a lot more.  It's more positive, more calling you out, and less whiney.  I'm trying not to think too hard about my goal for this race and just hoping to have a good experience, and hoping that my mom and sister will be able to keep the kiddos happy for a while while Haakan and I run.  I've never done a race with someone next to me the whole time, so this should be kind of an interesting experience for both of us.

Friday, June 11, 2010

A new look

Like the new blog template?  I felt like my funk necessitated a bit of a change.  Doesn't this look like it would be a nice place to run?  The templates had a bunch of different options, though none really screamed "runner!" to me.  I thought about putting a big mountain in the background, since that's what I sometimes feel like I'm running up, but I settled for the nice tree lined street, which is not unlike where I usually run.

In the wake of my craptastic performance in the Skirt Chaser 5k last weekend, my runs this week have been quite a bit better.  Haakan and I decided I should try to pick up the pace of my easy runs a bit, so I did my 5 miler at a zippy 10:28 minute mile, rather than the 10:45+ I had been shooting for.  My easy 3 miler on Wednesday was slower, because I was planning to do my long run, but forces conspired against me.  First, I wasn't able to get out the door as early as I wanted to because Charlie pooped after I fed him, and then decided not to go back to sleep easily.  Then, about 2 minutes after I got out the door, the sky literally opened up and the rain just *poured* down on me.  I decided to call it my easy run after 3 miles and headed for home, waterlogged and glad that I had the wiggle room to do it another day.  So I did the long run yesterday evening, and it went ok.  I continue to struggle with pacing issues and I went out entirely too fast for a long run.  The first 5.5 miles were awesome.  The last 3.5 miles were pretty harsh.  My feet were bothering me, I was tired, and I just couldn't pull in the pace for some reason.  I was glad to be done.

The high point of my long run is that my snazzy new Nike Airborne Long Top worked awesome.  I'm always on the lookout for a tank with a built in bra that actually works without another bra underneath, and this is the first one I've found that really works the way it's supposed to.  I definitely want to get another one.  It stayed put, was supportive, was nice and airy despite feeling substantial, and it didn't show weird sweat stains (always a plus).  I went down a size in the Nike Speed Shorts, too, and I think that helped with the weird fit issues I was having before.  I am also madly in love with the way too expensive Lululemon Run:Speed Shorts that I splurged on.  Yes, they are short, but I think I can make them work.  And best of all, they work great.  They're super comfortable, they don't ride up, and I actually think they might make me run a little bit faster.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Gen compiles further proof that the 5k is not her distance

I'm writing tonight from the depths of suckatude.  I'm watching DVR'ed episodes of Glee (totally in love with neil Patrick Harris, btw), I'm preparing to eat cookies and cream ice cream, and I'm generally wallowing in my extremely shitty performance in today's Skirt Chaser 5k.  It had the potential to be an excellent race, but the course was challenging - the first 1.5 miles was like straight up hill - and I don't know, I just couldn't suck it up.  I felt like I couldn't breath, I just couldn't push through it somehow.  And it seems like this is what happens lately.  This was even worse than my last 5k, and by all indications it should have been much better.  I can pull out a 9 minute mile fairly handily in my speedwork, but I felt like I couldn't even hit that with the hills.  And I do run hills. I don't know.  I think I just keep psyching myself out or something, like I really am my own worst enemy when it comes to races.  And why?  I have no idea.  I've done labor 3 times without drugs and I can't muster it up for a sub-30 minute 5k finish.  Yes, Charlie's only 3 months old this coming week.  Yes, I need to give it some time.  But damn it, I'm frustrated and more than a little disappointed in myself.

The race itself is a pretty cute concept, and I got a pretty cute running skirt as part of my swag (and I look pretty cute in it, which is nice).  It was out at Heartwood Acres and unfortunately, it *poured* down rain before the race and turned the parking area on the grass into an absolute swamp.  The race was postponed for 15 minutes because of lightning.  It might actually have been more motivating if the torrential downpour had continued through the race, but it didn't.  They played The Beastie Boys' "Girls" as the women took off at the start (the women got a 3 minute head start and the guys had to "chase" us, it was pretty cute) and the first like tenth of a mile seemed promising.  Then we started going up hill.  And up.  And up.  And even more up.  It was relentless.  And then when we hit the top, and went down a little, there was more up.  And a little more.  There was some downhill again, too, but by then I felt so demoralized and so behind my goal time, I think I just let it get to me.  Every hill felt like a kick in the face, like a "you suck" from the course, and I just rolled over and took it instead of fighting it.

So what do I do?  How do I get past this?  I'm afraid I'm going down the path of self doubt and performance anxiety and I'm too much a prisoner of the elements and the course.  I feel like maybe I get lucky every now and again and pull out a good race, but overall I'm just a back of the pack runner, and maybe I always will be.  I'm not quite ready to be ok with that, so I guess I'll keep on fighting it.  Next up: the Father's Day 10k, which I'll run with Haakan beside me to pace me.  We'll see if that goes any better than the last two 5k's have.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Long run in the clouds

I finally got motivated to get up early and I did my 8 miles this morning mostly before the kids were even awake. Charlie woke up around 6am and I fed him and was out the door not too long after that, all snazzy in some of my new gear (more on that later). I just hoped that everyone would sleep for a while so that I wouldn't come home to all three kids screaming (it's happened before), and Haakan was happy to report that they'd only been up for around a half hour when I got back, and Charlie was still asleep! So for once, the stars aligned and things went the way they were supposed to.

I do my long runs at the Highland Park Reservoir, which is a .75 mile loop around one of the major drinking water supplies for the city. It's all ringed with crab apple trees that bloom in the spring, there are baby ducks that swim around in the reservoir (don't worry, it's all filtered and safe by the time it gets to my tap), and this morning the honeysuckle was blooming and the scent was just fabulous. It also was so foggy I felt like I was actually running through a cloud. I haven't been in fog that deep since I lived in Ecuador and visited an actual cloud forest. I walked up to the reservoir (it's a bit more than .5 miles) and before I was even a quarter of a lap into my run, my hair was soaked and dripping into my eyes from the fog. I could barely see 5 feet in front of me. It was really cool. And obviously really wet. Luckily it wasn't hot or it could have been really miserable. That super thick mist wasn't even burned off by the time I finished my last lap around 8:30 or so (I started running at about 7am). I've been reading the Percy Jackson books and all the mist was putting me in mind of the mythical Mist that clouds the minds of mortals. If there were Greek monsters lurking up at the reservoir I didn't see them, though I definitely kept my eyes peeled.
It turned out to be a really good run. I was skeptical and almost bagged on it, since my digestion had been pretty upset the night before, but I did the whole 8.25 miles (which is 10 laps, plus the run home) with no stops, not even for water. kept my pace at a nice 11:09, which was pretty much perfect for a long slow run. My feet were bugging me a little by the end, but overall I felt pretty good. And I feel like I needed that after my last two runs were harder than I thought they should be.

I went out all kitted out in some of my new duds, as you can see from the picture.  I'm a little bit in love with these shorts.  They rode up just the *tiniest bit* but then settled and didn't budge for the whole 8 miles. The shirt, on the other hand, did ride up a bit, but no belly was exposed, and the wrinkles it made kind of helped hide the muffin top a bit, I think.  Both are from Under Armor.  This is me after my 8 miles - see how happy I am?  That's because I'm done!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Solo Speed Work, or Gen Crashes and Burns

I've got issues.

This is no surprise to anyone who knows me, and my mom has a number of pithy little comments she could insert at this point, but specifically, as this is a blog about running, I'm talking about my issues with regards to pace. I know some people, like my hubby, can go out and say, "I'm going to run 5 miles at 9:25" and then do it, no Garmin or external monitoring required. I, unfortunately, am not one of those people. Even with some nifty technology at my disposal, I have issues.

Because I'm trying to increase my speed from back of the pack to at least middle of the pack, I've been doing speed work once a week. Generally, this has been good for my ego as the speeds and distances have been challenging, yet doable. And Haakan's been coming with me, which has been fun (it would be *really* fun, were it not for the actual running, but hey, you can't have everything), and has also helped me to stay on pace, since like I said, he's got an internal speedometer. This Wednesday, I had to go alone.

"Go forth and do three 1 mile repeats at 8:55," said my coach, aka Haakan. We didn't want to leave the kids at home with his parents, since we were afraid the baby would wake up, so he stayed behind and sent me out alone.

8:55 would have been a very doable pace. Challenging, yet not impossibly so. 8:45, which is where I ended up for the first two miles, proved to be a bit TOO challenging, since I was only able to squeeze out .5 miles for my final one.

So here's where my issues come in. I set out with the best of intentions, with my Garmin all charged and set up properly, my shoes laced up right, looking all cute and runnerly (which always helps), and yet I just couldn't get the pace under control. As soon as I'd take my eyes off the Garmin, the pace would creep up, and before I knew it, I was zooming along WAY too fast, and I'd have to fight to slow down. I have no idea why I couldn't keep it under control, and I paid the price for it. Instead of three 1 mile repeats, I ended up doing two 1 mile repeats and one half mile. I spent part of the second mile repeat feeling like I was going to pee, so I had to make a pit stop at the porta potties (thank goodness for them!), and I think trying not to pee screwed me up even more. I think I need to learn how to internalize the pace more. It's like I think it should be harder to go at that pace than it is, like I think it should feel like a sprint or something. So I go too fast, I'm exhausted at the end, and the thought of doing another mile just feels like torture, so I dread it, and then I don't want to do it. I spent my cool down between the second and half-completed third repeats trying to psych myself up, saying "I'm doing this because I *can*, not because I *have to*." It wasn't entirely successful.

Next post, I share my fabulous fashion finds when I went a little crazy at Dunham's. I'm still waiting on my snazzy new shorts from Lululemon, but I've got a few other snazzy things to tide me over. I almost look like a real runner, so now I've just got to stop doing stupid things, like having no control over my speed!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Fashion challenged running

My runs lately have been going great. My speed improves, my distances are getting longer, and my feet are feeling much better (let's hope the orthotics don't actually cause more problems than they solve - they'll be in next week, hopefully). So in the light of all these fabulous changes, I'm upgrading some of my running clothes and getting rid of the shirts I've had for 2+ years, because I can't seem to get the almighty stench out of them. And if I don't want to smell myself when I run, I'm sure other people don't want to, either. When I run past people, I'd rather them not be thinking "Wow, what was the stenchy blur of speed?" So new running clothes, here I come.

Choosing what to get is something I'm agonizing over. I wish there were a decent running store closer to me so that I could try things on, but since there's not, I'm relegated to buying online and hoping the return policies are good for things that don't work.

First up, I've got a pair of Lululemon Run:Speed Shorts headed my way in Foxy Passion Plaid. I was seduced by the sale price (though they're not returnable, unfortunately, so I hope they fit right!). I'm slightly concerned about how short they are (2.75" inseam) and hoping I won't be pulling at them the whole time I'm running, but we shall see. I fear no short shorts! I've also got a Cool Racerback in Passion, to match the shorts ('cause I gotta be matchy-matchy, right?) and a TaTa Tamer that will probably be too small (luckily that IS returnable). If the shorts and racerback work out, I'll go back for another pair, most likely, if they're still on sale, since sale always helps.

I'm also eyeing up a few things at Athleta and wondering if I can pull them off or if I'll just look like an overly matched idiot with flab hanging out. Haakan thinks I can pull off a Ready to Run Bra Top, but I will admit to some skepticism. Not sure the flab on the belly has gone down enough for that, but I'm game to give it a try. The sizing is tricky as heck, though, with my small ribcage/large breasts issue. I'm also intrigued by the Hana Run Shorts, which look just a little more interesting than my usual boring black Nike shorts (which are giving me a weird faux penis effect lately). I totally wish they had this stuff in stores so I could try it on, but alas, I'm SOL on that one.

Lastly, I'm contemplating a pair of these lovely Abby Shorts by Asics, which Runner's World says are one step away from bunhuggers. Hmmmm, am I woman enough for bunhuggers, or even shorts that are one step removed from them? I may have to try them and find out. I'm only a few pounds from my pre-baby weight and I'm looking pretty good, I think I might have a shot. And maybe they'll make me magically faster! A girl can dream, right?

In actual running related news, I'm signed up for the Skirt Chaser 5K on June 5th out at Heartwood Acres. It should be fun, and it's a cute premise - the women get a 3 minute head start on the men, then the men are invited to catch us if they can. I anticipate being caught, but I also anticipate doing well. We'll have to see how it goes. My speedwork seems to indicate that I could definitely be doing sub-9 minute miles for the 5k. I just need to actually do them now. No idea what's holding me back, but I'm sure it's more mental than anything at this point. So I'm kind of looking forward to this 5k because I feel like I really might be able to pull off a pr, or at least do better than I have been doing.

So, for the two people who read this blog, what running gear do you like? Tops? Shorts? All that good stuff. :)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Some good runs, and an odd runner

On Tuesday Haakan pushed me out the door into the rain and commanded me to run 5 miles on the hilly lower loop of the Reservoir. I went out only because I had to, since it was cold and wet and I was still feeling a little like a whipped puppy after my disappointing 5k, but it turned out to be a fabulous run. Every now and then you get one of those days when you feel like you can keep running forever, and you're shocked when you realize your pace is faster than you thought, and you feel good. I think it's something about the rain, maybe, or it being kind of chilly. But whatever the reason, I felt just great.

Because it was raining there weren't many other people out, which is nice, because it makes me crazy to have to dodge dog walkers on the path. The one other runner braving the rain and chill was a girl who looked like a pretty hard core runner when I first passed her - all long legs and shorts and layered tech T's. She looked like she was zipping along, too. Because we were running the loop in opposite directions, I passed her twice on each lap. The second time I passed her, she was running with an umbrella. And not just an umbrella in her hand, but full extended and held over her head. And it wasn't any kind of special sports umbrella (if such a thing exists), it was just a regular black umbrella. I think I must have eyed her kind of funny and I assumed she would have abandoned it by the time I saw her again, but nope, there she was again, umbrella extended. And each time I passed her, it seemed like I was going faster than her, which was weird because she seemed to be zipping along, despite the drag the umbrella must have been exerting. It was one of the oddest things I've ever seen a runner doing, running with an umbrella.

I finished up that run with a zippy pace of 10:28, which totally perplexed Haakan. If I could do 5 hilly miles at that pace and not be winded (seriously, I felt great the entire time, I did not feel like I was going that fast), why could I only pull out a 9:50 pace for the Race for the Cure. Deciding to solve the mystery for himself, Haakan roped his parents into watching the baby so that he could do some mile repeats with me at the Reservoir while the older kiddos were at preschool. We jogged up there at a nice 11 minute mile pace, then stretched and moaned a little (well, that was all me, since I wasn't so thrilled about the speedwork). The goal was to do two 9 minute mile repeats, and it went really well. In retrospect we probably could have done them at closer to 8:50, or maybe even 8:45, because I was able to ramp it up quite a bit during the last quarter mile of the final repeat, but it was nice to know that that pace really shouldn't be out of my reach for a 5k, and now we're looking for another one that I can do next weekend, maybe. And Haakan is threatening to run the Father's Day 10k with me to keep me from slacking off, which I seem to do when left to my own devices. Who knows, maybe I'll end up with a 10k PR if he's there to push me on, though I think it would take a lot to top my PR in the Great Race the year before last (an 8:54 pace for a 55:14 finish).

Sunday, May 9, 2010

First Postpartum 5K - DONE!

Well, the Race for the Cure wasn't the disaster I was thinking it would be, but it wasn't spectacular, either. As I suspected, I have some mental issues when it comes to racing. I feel like in some way I'm just afraid to push myself too hard, though I'm not sure why. The experience was more pleasant than it was last year, and not too far off what I did then. So I guess that's the good news, that I'm about back to where I was before I got pregnant, at least in terms of speed. That's the benefit of being slow, I guess, there's nowhere to go but up, right? BTW, those charming children standing with me are Elliot, who turns 3 today, and Oliver, who turns 5 on Thursday. Haakan's multitasking and holding the baby while he takes the picture.

The problem with the Race for the Cure, here at least, is that it's REALLY congested. The walkers get confused an start with the 5K (even though the walk starts later), they stand in the front and walk like 5 or 6 abreast and are difficult to get past, and it's just generally hard to get past people. There were more than a few times that I felt like I had to slow WAY down because I was just totally blocked in. My other issue with this particular race is that I always forget just how long it actually is. It makes a couple of twists and turns that I always forget about and the last mile comes out a little differently than I think it should, and that always confuses me. There's also a couple of good hills that I think are mentally harder on me than they are physically, but again, they always screw me up. As I thought, the paces Haakan had set for me were a little too ambitious, and I didn't end up hitting them. I finished with thoroughly lackluster 30:33, for a 9:50 minute mile average. I had some good bursts of speed on the downhills, but I don't know, I just went into it with too much anxiety. I need to do more hills, more speedwork, and more miles in general. My feet held up ok, but I am SO getting those orthotics that my podiatrist is recommending. So I guess it's good that I got the first race done. It can only get better from here.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Resurrecting the blog, and another runiversary

I've been bad. Been neglecting my poor little blog here, when I really shouldn't have. But as I vow to become a better runner, I'm also going to try to be a little more kind of my blog and not leave it to languish quite so much. Poor little blog, I hope I can make it up to you.

In the past year, I've done a whole lot of running, a good portion of it while pregnant. Yup, I've got a 2 month old baby boy to keep my older two boys company, and I ran through most of my pregnancy, and even did four races (two 5k's (one a pr) and two 10k's). Running while pregnant was an interesting experience. You have to reevaluate your goals so much, it's mentally hard to get your head around. Rather than building speed, you're working on just getting out there some days and just trying to maintain and not lose too much strength and endurance. And then you have to take time off afterwards, which is just plain hard because it's hard to sit still. And when you get back to it, it's hard to be so far from where you used to be. It feels like you've taken all these steps backwards and are rebuilding from scratch, but with this distant vision of what you used to be able to do. It's like coming back from a major injury, I'd imagine, though obviously it's nice to have a new baby to cuddle up to.

I went back to running when Charlie was about 3 weeks old, and now, with him turning 2 months old today, I'm preparing to run the Race for the Cure tomorrow, the first race I ever ran. My hubby and I went to the track on Thursday to do some speedwork as part of my plan to train for the Columbus marathon in October (yes, I think I am insane, but more on that later), and based on that, he thinks I could be racing faster than I am. So I get ready to do this race with a lot of anxiety hanging over me. For one thing, it's freaking cold out there, and the idea of getting up early and standing around in the cold and rain before the race just does not appeal to me. And second, I'm afraid of setting out at the paces he recommends, and just crashing and burning for being too ambitious on the hills. I'm still feeling my way back into things, I'm feeling like pushing for speed is something that's just so far beyond me, and I'm afraid of failing at it and disappointing everyone, especially myself. Last year's Race for the Cure was not all that great, and I feel like it's hanging over me. I've been having some issues with my feet that I am also afraid are going to slow me down (as a side note, I am officially in love with my podiatrist - man taped and padded up my feet and it did WONDERS. Unfortunately, the tape and padding are all gone now, so who knows how tomorrow will go).

I need to get better at pushing myself, I think. I need to mentally toughen up. I've done childbirth without drugs three times now (though the marathon I did last January actually took me longer to complete than my last labor took!), I made it through a death march of a marathon, and I routinely have to do things I don't want to do. Why can't I push myself through races? What makes me pull back, or stop and walk, or just not want to do it? Why can't I just suck it up like I need to? I guess that's the question I have to work on answering as I work more on my speed and endurance and try to surpass where I was before. I never realized just how mental running was until I started doing more of it. I never thought I would think that my mental game is the weak link, rather than my abs or quads or whatever.