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.