Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Post Columbus injury whining

I mentioned in my race report that at the end of the race my Achilles tendon was bothering me, which I thought was odd because it had never bothered me at all during training.  Turns out it continued to bother me and I have been unable to run pretty much since the marathon.  I tried a spinning class, but that still bothered it, so I was reduced to the elliptical.  The only redeeming thing about the elliptical is that the sound on the built in tv's at the gym actually works, so I don't have to lip read like I do on the treadmill.  Still, I was not thrilled being a hamster on a wheel, and I started slacking off.  Then I came down with some nasty strep-like virus that put me on the couch for 5 days.  I *finally* got out today, on what the radio keeps saying is literally the last good day of the year.  I loaded my youngest into the jogging stroller and managed to get in 4.6 miles AND a shower before I had to go get his big brother from preschool.

The run went well, but towards the end, I was definitely aware of the Achilles.  It was nowhere near pain, but I was aware of it.  Does that make sense?  I'm kind of unsure of what I should do in this situation.  I'm dying to get back to running, it's been really hard not being able to run the past few weeks, but I obviously don't want to do anything to make things worse.  I may just keep the runs to 5 miles for a while and back off if the Achilles acts up again.  Clearly, it's gotten MUCH better, I just wish I knew how long it would take to heal up, or what exactly I should do.  Grrr... silly body!

But given that I felt fine for the first 3 miles, I think I'm definitely clear to do the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving with Oliver, who is *REALLY* excited about doing another 5k.  Given how fast he finished the last one, I think I'm going to try to get him to run even more this time, and see if we can finish in closer to 33 minutes.  I don't think he understands that he's going to have to get A LOT faster if he wants to win his age group, but at this point, I just want to get him out there.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Columbus Marathon Done!

I've had a few conversations recently with people online about runner elitism and this tendency that we seem to have as women to kind of cut ourselves down before anyone else can, and couch it in funny self-deprecation.  Lululemon apparently recently did a waterbottle that says "I run because I can" and in tiny print underneath says "but I really jog", which kind of annoys me because if you're out there with two feet off the ground at some point during your stride, you are RUNNING, no matter your speed.  So in the spirit of encouraging other women to not engage in this nasty habit of belittling our own accomplishments, you will see no apologies here for my finish time.  Lots of people finished before me, but lots of people finished after me, and a whole hell of a lot more people didn't run at all that day.  My accomplishment is in no way belittled by the accomplishments of others, and in the spirit of that, I'm damn proud of myself.  I'll give away the ending and say that I missed a PR by a couple of minutes, but there are many things about the way I ran this race that I'm proud of.  I'm sore as hell, but damn it, I did a good job.
A pre-race thumbs up.  Note the "why the hell am I doing this?" look on my face.
That said, I still woke up the morning of the race in a state of some anxiety, though admittedly less than I usually feel before a big race like this.  I think knowing that I had the hubby to share the misery with me helped a great deal.  Our hotel was mere blocks from the starting line so we were able to just walk out the door at 7am for a 7:30 start.
Checking the Garmin and freezing my butt off.
They had a pre-race photographer, which was cool.
Walking to these things is always pretty cool, lots of people out on the streets, lots overheard conversations (according to one that I heard, Gatorade does indeed go bad, so be warned there).  Haakan calmed me down during my mini freak out at the start and we were off and over the start line less than 10 minutes after the gun.  The first maybe 4 miles were a straight shot down a wide street, which, coming from Pittsburgh where it's all hills and curves, was pretty cool.  It was a pretty perfect day for a race, fairly cool, low humidity, but windier than I would have liked.

Having the hubby running with me was full on awesome.  If you ever get the chance to run with someone who is willing to carry your water and refill the bottles at aid stations, then catch up to you, do it.  He says as the race went on it got harder for him to catch up to me as he got more tired, but I think he liked the chance to go a bit faster.  The crowd support through a lot of the residential neighborhoods we ran through was really great.  We went through one very nice neighborhood that's on the register of historic places (Old Town, maybe?) where there was some kind of awesome house party going on.  There were like 20 people on the porch and in front of this house and they set up the most awesome cheer as we went past.  I kind of wished I'd been at that party, the food looked good.  And another neighborhood (German Town?  German Village?) smelled like cinnamon.  Mmmmm...  It was neat to see all these very nice neighborhoods so close to downtown, since the geography makes that largely impossible in Pittsburgh (and a history of bad civic planning, but we won't go into that).

It was around mile 10 that my stomach started to bother me and I just felt inexplicably tired.  I had to stop for a walk break, but I'm super proud that I hadn't stopped at all to that point, even at the water stops.  I'm not sure if it was the gels or the Gatorade, probably a combo of the two, but my doubts started to creep in and I had a hard time getting going again.  We were well ahead of pace at this point and doing well, so I sucked it up and soldiered on.
I look tired, but I don't think this was all that far into the race.
The hubby called my mom when we were about a mile from where they'd be able to see us pass (just a block from the hotel - good thing I didn't know that, I would have been tempted to just stop and go take a nap).  They were going to see us before the half marathoners split from the full marathoners and I was getting nervous we'd missed them somehow when the hubby spotted them.  "I'm going to cry when I see them" I'd warned him, and I had to fight really hard to not start bawling when I saw them.
"I'll see you soon, I've got to keep running!" I told them.
I fought back the tears and we kept on going.  "Wanna just do the half?" I asked the hubby, only half joking.  He ignored me and we passed the point of no return and ran through a very cute neighborhood (Short North?  Short something, at any rate) and saw the girls from the lululemon store, who cheered us on enthusiastically, as well they should since we were both decked out in their product.  There were more walking breaks here, my stomach just didn't feel good and I was tired.  Still, the miles were going ok and we weren't totally off track yet.

Around mile 17 or so we got to the Ohio State campus, which was kind of cool, but totally deserted.  Where were all the students?  I know a bunch of them were probably running, but seriously, it was past 10am when we ran through, at least a few could have mustered it up to come out and cheer.  My dad's an OSU alum so we had to snap a picture.
See me leaning on the sign?  That's because I was exhausted!
I think I heard "Hang on Sloopy" about 20 times during the course of the race, and one of the best parts was all the music.  This race had more music than the RnR marathon I did as my first in Phoenix.  There were DJ's everywhere and live bands, it was really nice.  Once we got through OSU, we were in Upper Arlington and had been told the last 10k would be pretty much down hill.  It was, thank goodness.  I had my slowest mile splits here, but I also had some of my fastest.  It was also at this point that my Achilles tendon started to really bother me, something that I'd never had an issue with before.  My quads started to feel it, too, but it was really the Achilles that was bothersome.  The last 10k seemed extremely long, but parts of it were very nice.  I think the hubby slapped the hand of every child who held it out, and when we heard a musician playing "Dance with Me", I did a little twirl with the hubby as we ran past.  He also mustered up some slow motion running to the Chariots of Fire theme song, and I had enough left in me to do some fake knocking on the door during a live rendition of "Love Shack".  With a mile left to go the hubby told me to go on ahead and run while he filled up the water bottles, and maybe he'd just see me at the finish if he couldn't catch up.  I cursed him a bit because I really didn't want to run anymore, but it was just a mile left so we really had to do it.  He was hurting by this point, too, as this was by far the longest amount of time he'd ever been on his feet running a marathon (he's usually done well before the 4 hour mark).
I think this is the final turn before the finish.
The single best thing about the Columbus Marathon is the downhill finish.  The last .2 or so is fully downhill, so you really can finish strong.  The announcer called out my name as I crossed the finish time, and though I have to get it straightened out because my chip malfunctioned, the final time was 4:54:09.  Not a PR, but still under 5 hours.  And, very cool, the results website tells me that in the last 6.2 miles, I passed 167 runners, and was passed by 15.  Personally, I think that ratio is awesome.  I can't tell you how much I LOVE the fact that we were passing a heck of a lot more people than were passing us during what was easily the hardest part of the race.  I would love for more races to include this statistic.
Gonna airbrush that clock...

I battled some of the same issues I'd had in Pittsburgh, most notably that the race happened on the day my monthly "friend" came to visit.  All my male readers just went "yuck", but I'm a girl, I have girl issues, and this is significant as the time before my period leaves me feeling very sluggish.  It is a far from ideal time to run a race, so I'm just proud of myself that I got it done.  I'm also very proud of the 10 miles of even paced running that I did, with no breaks at all, though I truly felt like I couldn't have pulled out a much faster pace, even for a shorter distance.  Doing this same race under the same conditions at a different time in my cycle might easily mean cutting 10 minutes off my finish time, but I'll never know that for sure. The lack of speedwork during my training probably hurt me, too, since my body didn't know what to do with the lactic acid when it started to build up, and that probably contributed to my upset stomach. I've learned even more about how to train for the next one, but I think I may take a racing break for a while, while I work on some strategy for how to get faster.  I say that now, talk to me in a week when I'm not so sore!
Done!  Looks a lot like the pre-race photo, but sweatier.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Night before the Columbus marathon

**This was supposed to post yesterday, but for some reason it didn't upload from my phone**

I've noticed that I feel really emotional before big races like this.  In some ways the specter of my first marathon in Phoenix in 2009 still haunts me, it was such a horrendous experience.  Pittsburgh went much better, but still was far from perfect and I under performed it, I feel.  So now there's more riding on this.  This is the race I was supposed to do last year, then bailed on after a miserable summer of training and disappointing races.  My training has been beautiful, there's no real reason for me to not meet my goals.  But I find myself putting all this pressure on myself, all this heaps upon heaps of anxiety, and find myself just wanting to crawl under the covers and ignore the clock that's ticking down to start time tomorrow morning.  I get too much into my head with these races and I need to remember that tomorrow morning, I'm going to run the best race I can for the day I'm given.

The day wasn't all spent in an anxiety induced state of hysteria.  The kids had great fun at the kids races, and I bought these beauties at the expo.  The only thing that could make me happier is if they were stability shoes (they're not, so they'll just be for short distances, and looking super cute).

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Oliver's first 5k!

My 6 year old, Oliver, has been asking for a while if he could do a race with me and his dad.  He'd done a mile here and a mile there with us, but nothing major.  So when we had a weekend with back to back 5k's right in our neighborhood, I decided that maybe we could give one of them a shot.  He *REALLY* wanted to do the Zoozilla 5k, which runs up the giant hill that cuts the zoo in half, then goes back down through the zoo, but having done that race and knowing that Oliver's kind of a wimp (he gets that from me, unfortunately), we decided to try for the Shadyside 5k instead.  It's a much flatter race and there are usually a lot of kids doing it, so I thought it was a good first race for him, just to see how it goes.

The race started at 8am so I got him up a bit before 7am, we got dressed, and out we went.  Unfortunately, my plan to park in the public lot right behind the start line was foiled by the roads being closed (doh!), which wasn't an issue last year because I got there super early.  So we had to park like half a mile away and I made the poor kid run/walk with me to the start, because we still had to register.  We managed to register and get our chips on our shoes, but I was still pinning my number to my shirt when the gun went off.  At this point Oliver starts to have a full on freak out, thinking we're going to miss the race, but I managed to talk him down and we started off.

We ran down Walnut Street to Aiken, and then down onto Ellsworth, and Oliver was doing great.  About a half a mile in he started to get very annoyed that I hadn't brought water for him, and we managed to *almost* get run over by the leaders because we were on the wrong side of the cones when I had to stop to tie his shoe. At one point he said, "Are we winning?" and I had to point out ALL the people ahead of us, including the super fast guys who had almost run us over.  When he would ask to walk, I would tell him we could walk when we passed some landmark in the distance, and he was a pretty good sport about it (better than I am when Haakan does that to me when he paces me - there's usually cursing involved when I get told "just run to that lamp post up there").  Around the halfway point I reminded him that there were pancakes at the end and his face lit up and he took up for a while.  He loved the crowds and was high five-ing everyone, and the runners who were around us were very encouraging to him.

When we got to the final stretch up Walnut Street, I told Oliver it was time to sprint, and holy cow, I don't think I could have kept up with him if I'd tried.  Given the burst of turbo speed at the end, I definitely don't think we needed all those walk breaks.  Final time was 38:41 and he couldn't have been prouder.  Unfortunately, they didn't get his name recorded for the results, just his number, but he wasn't in medal contention, anyway (some of those kids were really speedy!).

It's really an amazing thing to be able to share something like this with one of my kids.  At his age, there's no way I could have run a 5k, and maybe if I had been more into sport and such, I wouldn't have had to find my healthy habits as an adult.  And really, one of the biggest reasons I started running was so that I could set a good example for my kids.  I always thought it wasn't as big of a deal for boys, since they're just kind of expected to be good at sports and such, but it's really just as important to be a role model.  With Oliver, he gets obsessed with winning and will become frustrated and decide he doesn't want to do something if he can't win.  I think me going out and doing races and not winning is a good thing for him to see, and an even better thing for him to experience.  At the end of the day, we're all competing against our best selves, on so many levels.  It's not about accolades from other people or getting a medal, because really only a small number are going to get that.  It's about putting forth your best and each time, trying to surpass it, because it gives *YOU* joy.  If that's a lesson he can start to learn early, I don't think it will ever serve him ill.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Great Race number 4!

Oh the Great Race.  Such a perfectly named race, it's just so much fun.  This was my 4th time doing the 10k and I never fail to be simultaneously tickled and annoyed doing such a big race.  This year there were 14,500 people in the sold-out race, doing both the 5k and the 10k.  I'll go on record saying that I think the Great Race 5k is probably a pretty crappy race, since about half of it is running UP the Blvd of the Allies, but I've never done it so I couldn't say for sure.  The 10k, however, is just plain nice.  I think I've had four blog posts now waxing rhapsodic about the Great Race, but it bears repeating.  If you're in the Pittsburgh area, I think this is a race worth doing, and not just for the Eat'n Park smiley cookies at the end.

We gave my neighbor Val and my frequent running partner Stephanie a ride to the start and had a nice time milling around in the giant crowd at the start.  The Hubby ditched us to head up to the front after we stood in a super ridiculously long porta potty line, and after trying unsuccessfully to find my friends Kelly and Andy, we ended up lining up in the big crowd.  I didn't manage to place myself as well as I did last year and we should have easily been another minute or two closer to the start, which meant I felt like I was doing a lot of dodging of people up until we got onto Fifth Avenue, but live and learn.  My plan was to stick with Stephanie because I had a feeling she was going to finish faster than I was (she's faster than she thinks she is), but I peeled off right around the halfway point when I had to take a short walk break.  I was doing great until then, totally in PR contention, but I think the heat got to me, and I just had gone out too fast, and I kind of lost my mojo.  Going up the Blvd of the Allies was rough, much tougher than it was last year, but it was also a lot warmer this year than last.  The race started a half hour later, I assume so that the 5k walkers would be totally cleared from the course by the time the 10k started, but that half hour was enough to make it HOT by the time we started.  I wore short sleeves and was totally comfortable at the start, which is a pretty good sign that I'm going to be overheated during the race.  I'm going to try carrying my own water next year, too, since I lost a lot of time at the water stops.

At the end of the day, I managed a 57:59 finish, which is good enough for a second best 10k time.  If the weather had been a bit more cooperative (and I think the humidity was the real killer, and it was downright tropical feeling by the time we were finished) I might have been closer to breaking that old PR, but it just wasn't in the cards. As I predicted, Stephanie did finish before me and I would have been closer to a PR if I'd managed to stick with her, but like I said, it was hot and it just wasn't going to happen.  And incidentally, though I didn't find my friends Kelly and Andy, Kelly kicked serious behind, especially since her youngest child is only 9 weeks old!  Seriously, she's awesome (there's a whole slew of "woe is I" posts about how much I struggled to get some speed back after Charlie was born, so I'm way impressed).  The good news is that according to the McMillan Pace Calculator, the 4:37 finish time were're shooting for in Columbus is still very much within the realm of possibility and I don't think we're going to make any major course corrections there.  This is my highest mileage week of marathon training, culminating with a 22 mile run this weekend, so I just hope I can remain healthy enough to get it done (back to back bouts of strep messed up the plan and I had to scrap one of my 20 milers in the hopes of getting healthy).  Once this marathon is done, I am going to do speedwork (which I've been avoiding, because I hate it and I'm lazy and I don't like to do things I hate) and hopefully that'll help me to start seeing some speed gains with shorter distance races.  I think I'm going to put the marathon on the back burner after Columbus is done, and concentrate on specific speed goals with shorter distances.  I've definitely got a goal to break 2 hours in the half, so maybe next year will be the year for that.

I was going to include a link to the video of me crossing the finish line, but somehow I managed to be *right next* to a guy wearing exactly the same color shirt as me, and you can't even see me until right after I cross the finish line, and then only for like a second and a half.  Seriously, blink and I'm gone (I had to watch the video three times to even find myself!).  So instead, bad bedroom self portrait.
Charlie wanted to be in the picture, too!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Recap of running in Sweden

My lord I'm a poor excuse for a blogger.  Seriously, this is why I haven't gotten any money yet for "monitizing" my blog.  I could list a slew of excuses, but instead, on with the race reports!

But before that, I should talk about the three weeks we spent in Sweden and the running I got to do there.  Overall, it was a good trip.  The kids had fun, though they got a little tired of having no one to play with but each other, and we enjoyed ourselves, though we were exhausted pretty much the entire time.  The weather was fabulous coming from the hellish heat and humidity that was Pittsburgh.  I didn't care if it rained every day, it was such a relief to be out of the heat.  And good weather made for some very nice runs, including one in Visby where I got to run inside the medieval city walls, which were built in the 12th century.  Seriously cool.
This trail was right near the house we stayed in for two of the three weeks we were in Sweden.
My training schedule got a little messed up, so I had an 18 mile run to do a couple of days after we arrived.  After looking over some maps and such, the hubby picks out a route for me that should follow a trail that goes out near the water and *looks* like it should be really nice.  And the beginning of it was, but then I quickly ended up bushwacking my way along a trail that was little more than a goat path, trying to find my footing over boulders, and doing a lot of backtracking when I couldn't find the trail.  I finally found a nearly 3 mile loop that was largely runable, though not quickly, and ran that a couple of times.  When it started to look like it was going to rain, I decided to try to head back home and found that along the road it was pretty straight forward.  I still had 5 miles to go, so I ended up doing loops around the cul de sac where the house was.  The hubby made fun of me pretty mercilessly because I kept getting lost and it had taken so long, but I was vindicated the next day when he tried it himself, and ALSO got lost and had to run slowly.  So there.  Sometimes he should just listen to me, I'm not *always* just being a wuss.

The lucky hubby got to do a 10k called the Midnight Run while we were there.  He bought someone's bib and ended up back in the "slow people's" corral (I grumbled when he said that, because those are *my* people, damn it).  It's worth mentioning if only for the blindingly orange shirt he had to wear during the race (they ALL had to wear them, and I think half of Stockholm must have been blinded).
I love that you can barely see his face because the shirt is so freaking bright it's sucking up all the light!
After my 18 miler out in the sticks where we were living was so messed up, we decided to do my other long runs in the hubby's parents' neighborhood, and those went much more smoothly.  However, I discovered a couple of things that make running in Sweden annoying, as opposed to running at home.  First, though it was seriously wonderful to have so many paved walking trails all over the place, there was NO public water.  None.  I had to take a detour into a shopping center to fill my water fountains in the rest room!  Secondly, free rest rooms are kind of hard to come by.  Yes, it's pay toilets all the way, so I was sure to take some kroner with me when I did my second 18 miler on that route.  It all worked out, but as some who plans my routes based around the availability of bathroom facilities and water, this put a damper on things.

I'll stop there while I formulate my race reports from the Run Around the Square 5k and the Montour Trail Half Marathon (which doesn't sound like nearly as much fun as the Ikea Half Marathon, but it's the same race, just renamed).
This photo has nothing to do with running, but see?  Lots of fun in Sweden!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Stampede in the Park 5k and a lesson learned

So we did this one last year and it has the dubious honor of being my slowest 5k ever.  This year, I finished in 29:03, good enough for a 7th in my age group, but third finished in 28:11, which I should have been able to beat easily.  So now I'm kicking myself for not pushing through and going for a faster time. Oh well, live and learn, right?  This is a good lesson about goal setting.  I won't go into another race without a time goal that I'll push towards.  I'd like to think that if I'd had the Garmin (mine bit the dust, so now I'm waiting on my replacement and Haakan and I are sharing his, and he had it for this race) it might have made a difference, but probably not.  Next year I will seriously rock this race.  The speedy pants I'm married to placed 3rd in his age group and won a coffers mug, which I will shortly be filling with coffee.
At least I look cute, right?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Summers races and plugging away

Summer is not my prime time as a runner.  I'm starting to realize that when the mercury and humidity rise, I kind of go into running stasis, just kind of trying to preserve the routine until the weather cools down.  This is not a time for PR's, so what little success I have, I'll take.  Just doing better than last year (which, if you remember, was horrendous) feels like a huge accomplishment.

The first race of the summer was the Father's Day 10k down on the North Shore.  It's a nice race on a fairly easy course, but it's usually hotter than hell and unfortunately I went into this year's race just coming off a nasty summer cold and definitely not feeling 100% despite the easy week the preceded the race.  I was also challenged by the joys of being a woman, and I almost didn't even start the race, but I figured if it was really horrible I could either DNF or just walk it in.  I won't lie, there was some walking involved (there pretty much always is in these summer races) and it was pretty miserable, but I definitely did better than last year and finished in 1:01:13, which actually makes it a 4th best 10k, so not as crappy as I was thinking it was, especially given that while we were standing around waiting for the results, I started to see stars and almost passed out, which is pretty sad when I think I placed like 20th in my age group .  Haakan took this little movie of me getting close to the finish line in my bright yellow top and snazzy little running skirt.
After the Father's Day race, I got back to the training, just plugging away and trying to keep up with the mileage and long runs so that I can go into the Columbus Marathon as well trained as possible.  Over 4th of July we took a nice vacation out to Montana to both visit my dad and to go to a college friend's wedding, and I had three runs, including a 10 miler, to get in while we were away.  I got the first run, 5ish miles of speedwork, done at the Kalispell, MT city park.  It was not a bad route, exactly a mile around this cute little park with a lake (unfortunately there had been some MAJOR flooding in the park and all the standing water meant it was mosquito heaven).  I managed to hold my own, despite being at a higher altitude than usual and pretty worn out from just getting to Montana with three fidgety children.  And I got to see this little guy like 3 or 4 times as I ran past the little pond.
Montana turtle
After the wedding was done, I got in two runs in Victor, where my stepmother's family has a cabin.  First up, the 10 miler.  There just so happens to be a paved bike and walking trail that follows Route 93 and will eventually go all the way from Hamilton to Missoula.  Right now there are apparently some places where it's not been finished, but it was possible for me to get dropped off right on the edge of Victor (downtown Victor was all torn up with road work) and just run towards Missoula.  The benefit of this - it was relatively flat, it was paved, there was no road traffic and very few places where it even crossed roads (not that anyone drove onto those roads, anyway).  The drawbacks - there was NO shade, not even a little bit, no water, and nowhere for a bathroom break. Also, those little rolling hills felt like freaking mountains in the heat and the altitude.  In case you were interested, it's exactly 5 miles from the road where I got dropped off to the Stephensville sign.  So I ran those five miles, turned around, and ran back.  The run back was a bit more scenic, but it really wasn't what I'd call a pretty run, since you're next to a 4 lane highway the whole way.  I did see some cows and horses, and a baby deer, so it wasn't bad.  And I got it done, which is the name of the game.
Pretty mountains outside of Victor, MT.
After the 10 miler got done, I also still had a 6 miler to get through (it should have been 8 miles, the hubby forgot that he'd scheduled an increase in mileage for me, so I had a little catch up to do when we got home) and decided the best way was to run the 1.5 miles from the cabin up to the trailhead and back, twice.  This actually wasn't too bad of a run.  Again, it was hot, I'm not great at hills, and the altitude was getting to me (and it wasn't even that high!  The moral of the story here is that I'm a big wuss).  But it was kind of cool to run up and back, and it was definitely prettier than running on the flat and shadeless bike path in town.
Bear Creek, running very high and very fast.
Once we got back from Montana, there was again no rest for the weary and I got right back into things.  I was up to 16 miles for my long runs, so after I'd done a few up at the Highland Park reservoir, I decided to branch out a bit and came up with this route that would take me through 4 city parks for a total of 16 miles.  There were some wicked hills involved (those were mostly walked), but I was pretty pleased with it, as the stretch through Schenley Park was particularly pleasant.  The first time I did it, before vacation, it wasn't too bad (the last 2 miles through East Liberty and into Highland Park always kind of sucks because it's a gradual uphill that just feels plodding and slow), but the last time I did it, my Garmin totally died halfway through.  Well, it actually went crazy scrolling through screens, beeping and not responding to the buttons, until I smacked it with my water bottle and it finally turned off.  It was really hot that day since I'd had to start later than usual and the rest of the run turned into a bit of a death march.  It took me close to 4 hours to get through it and I walked a lot.  No shame, it was tough and I finished it.

This brings us up to summer race number 2 - Annie's Run, put on by the Greater Pittsburgh Road Runner's Club.  The premise of the race is simple enough.  Show up at 6am, run for 6 hours, whoever covers the most distance wins.  The course was a 1.25 mile loop at the Upper St Clair park and had two wicked hills - one you run up, one you go down.  I walked the hill on the way up.  It was REALLY steep.  Haakan and I engaged the services of a fabulous babysitter so we could do the run together, and we had no intention of doing the whole 6 hours.  My plan was to do 16 miles, and Haakan was going to do 11.  But he ran so much faster than me that he had lapped me twice by the time he finished his 11 miles, so he decided to just do the rest of mine with me, which would take him to 20 miles if I did one extra lap (and it would bring me to 17.5 miles).  I briefly contemplated doing an even 20, but I was ready to go home by the time he was finished, so 17.5 miles it was.  It was a pretty low key event and a lot of fun.  After this, he's all psyched up to do the full 6 hours next year.  It took us around 3.5 hours, which I don't think is too bad given that it was hot and hilly, and I'm a wuss when it comes to both.

Since I'm a glutton for punishment, I agreed to do a 5k with my sister the next day.  The money raised was for sarcoma research, which is a good cause, and it seemed like it would be a pretty good course, so sure, what the heck.  At 6am when she picked me up, I was beat, and it warmed up really quickly, but it turned out to be an ok race.  Something I've been learning is that during the summer I need to totally reconceive what a good race looks like.  Everything is slower and more effort, so the 28:49 finish is really not too bad, good enough for my 5th best 5k, amazingly.  And, since I gotta love an event listed as "run/walk", my stats for this race are fantastic!  I finished 10th out of 74 in my age group, which might be my best stats ever.  However, even if I'd beaten my PR, I would only have placed one place higher in my age group, so clearly I need to get quite a bit faster.  If I could get my 5k time to 24 minutes or faster, I could actually compete in my age group.  Hopefully PR's will be coming down come fall, since I'm doing relatively well for it being such a hot summer.

Friday, June 3, 2011

A reprieve from the heat

So my 10 miler didn't go so well.  I only did 5 because it was just miserable out.  75 degrees at 6am and at least 80% humidity.  Anyone in the south who reads this blog, feel free to call me a big wuss, but seriously, it was terrible.  I called it quits after 5 miles and went home totally ashamed of myself.  It bothered me all morning, so just before noon I decided that I was going to such it up and do the other 5 miles I had bailed on, even though it was now hotter AND I'd have to bring the jogging stroller.  Amazingly, it went really well!  Yes, it was hotter and I was pushing the jogger (thankfully only the single this time), but there was a nice breeze and I think the humidity had fallen a little.  Charlie sang in the jogger for most of the time and only got antsy at the very end, and it wasn't a bad run at all!  Faster than my morning run, and quite a bit more pleasant.  And I do love the occasional run with the jogger.  My kids are pretty fun to run with, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't get a little boost from the "supermom" and "you go girl!" comments that I get from people when I run past.

I was supposed to do 14 miles tomorrow for my long run for the week,  but there's an event at the lululemon showroom that I want to go to, so I talked the hubby into giving me the green light to go out and do it this morning instead.  This meant I had to be out the door at 5:30am in order to be back not too long after 8am, but truthfully, I kind of like being up that early.  It was still dark at 5am and I got to see a glorious pink sky as I ran up the hill to the reservoir.  I did 3.5 laps around the lower cinder track, then 4 laps around the upper loop, then another 3 around the bottom, and 3 around the top before I headed for home.  The lower loop is hilly (the jury is still out on the best way to run it - I ran counter-clockwise today) and almost a half mile longer, while the upper loop is totally flat, and splitting the run up so that I was doing a little of each really helped stave off the boredom, and I think doing the hills and flats isn't a bad thing.  It was around 47 degrees when I went out this morning, in long sleeves and capris, and it was just glorious.  It was the perfect temperature for a long run, perfect weather, and just all around awesome.

Part of this event at the lululemon showroom tomorrow is that we get to test drive some shoes on a 3 mile run, and I'm looking forward to that.  Someone is bringing a bunch of pairs of Brooks shoes for us to try out on the run and I think that'll be kind of cool.  I'm going to be needing new shoes in another month or so, so trying out a different kind of shoe will be interesting.  I've been wearing Nike Motos pretty much the whole time I've been running, but I wouldn't mind branching out a bit.  I need a stability shoe because my gait is all kinds of wonky and I wonder if something else might not be even MORE stable for me than the Nikes are.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

F'ing hot

The title says it all.  It's hotter than hot here lately, and will be 74 degrees at 6am when I go out to run tomorrow morning, according to  74 degrees!  WTF?  It's been ungodly humid, too, and just left me feeling sapped and exhausted.  It was so hot on Monday morning that I went out to run in just my shorts and sports bra, which if you know me is something I pretty much never do.  But it was oddly liberating and I'll probably do it again.

In all the winter training, I had forgotten just how much summer takes out of me.  I really need to get better at just sucking it up in the heat, or I'm in for another summer of disaster races.  We're doing the Father's Day 10k again (if my mom and sister can watch the kiddos) and while I'm sure I won't repeat last year's 1:08 and change disaster, it looks like my long-standing 10k PR is probably not going to fall anytime soon, unless we get an inexplicable cold snap, and I run through a wormhole.  We've got my races leading up to Columbus all planned out, which is both comforting and kind of scary.  I'm back on the horse with the training without too much of a break, but I'm still concerned about how it's going to fit in with our summer vacations and such.  I guess things will figure themselves out as we go.

In the meantime, mentally preparing myself for 10 miles in the freaking heat tomorrow morning.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Marathon mile splits

For those who keep track of these things, here are my Garmin splits from the marathon.  They actually tell the story fairly well.

Mile 1 - 10:35
Mile 2 - 10:25
Mile 3 - 10:14
Miles 4 and 5 - 9:54 I turn to pace leader and say, "Ummm, we're running negative splits!  He's unphased, but it freaks me out
Mile 6 - 10:59 I drop off from the 4:30 pace group
Mile 7 and 8 - 10:46
Mile 9 - 10:39
Mile 10 - 10:13
Mile 11 - 11:44 The half marathoners break off and turn around, which is pretty depressing.  Carson street suddenly looks like a ghost town.
Mile 12 - 13:33 Bathroom break in Oakland at the top of the hill.  I wish I knew how much time I lost on the hill, since I lost *at least* a minute in the porta potty.
Mile 13 and 14 - 10:33 Obviously I did well through Oakland and Shadyside.  If I'd looked at my watch and actually seen the average, it might have encouraged me to keep the pace up a bit more.
Mile 15 - 11:52
Mile 16 - 11:25
Mile 17 - 11:44
Mile 18 - 11:36
Mile 19 - 11:13
Mile 20 and 21 - 11:06
Mile 22 - 12:32 Totally losing steam here.  I think a lot of this was going up Liberty so we could do the final downhill
Mile 23 - 10:43 And Haakan appears!
Mile 24 - 12:06
Mile 25 - 11:20
Mile 26 - 11:10
Final .2 - 8:08 The final sprint.  If I had enough speed to pull this out at the end of a marathon, I could have run the whole thing a bit faster.

So, lessons learned here:

1. Look at the freaking Garmin, stupid!  Seriously.  There are a couple of points where if I had actually paid attention to the splits I was running, I probably could have salvaged things a bit more, definitely come in under 4:50.  What's the point of wearing it if I'm not going to pay attention to the splits?

2. Have a plan.  In anticipation of Columbus, Haakan says to me, "You need a plan.  It's fine to run/walk, but you need to plan for it."  I would rather plan to NOT run/walk, but I clearly need a contingency plan for when I inevitably get tired and need breaks.  If I'd been able to run and then walk through the aid stations (which were every mile after the half marathoners split off), I would have cut minutes off my finish time.

3. Tweak the training.  I'm thinking more hills, more drinking on the fly, and keeping the Garmin running during bathroom breaks so that I can get a sense of how much time I'm actually losing when I have to stop.  I need to check my vanity about the speed of my training runs (which is stupid, since they're not even fast!) and go more for accuracy.

3. Make midcourse corrections.  The minor injury to my knee and the time off it required messed me up.  In retrospect, it might have been smarter to start with the 4:45 group and try to stick with them.  I won't make this mistake again.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

First post!

If you never did, check out my first ever blog post.  It took me two years longer to get to the Pittsburgh Marathon than I'd intended, but damn it, I did it.  I started this blog so long ago, I forgot that the whole reason was to talk about training for the race I'd grown up watching but never thought I'd get the chance to run.  Kind of makes me a little teary eyed.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Further ruminations on the marathon

I did my first post-marathon run today, and other than the torrential downpour that greeted me just as I got to the park, it wasn't bad.  I only did 3 miles, and I might have run longer if it hadn't been for the rain making my shoe insoles creeping up under my toes.  My middle toes were still feeling kind of squished, and truthfully I'm not sure how long it's going to take for them to return to some kind of normal, which is a little freaky.  The swelling and blisters have gone down, but they're still pretty sore.  Hopefully in another week they'll be feeling more normal.

So I'm thinking a lot about where things kind of went wrong in terms of not hitting my goal time, and I think it comes down to a general aversion I have to pushing myself outside of my comfort zone.  This is something I've probably always been struggling with, but I've noticed it most since I started trying to get back into running shape after Charlie was born.  I have potential to be going much faster than I have been, but I have a hard time maintaining it, for whatever reason.  I need to work more on the speedwork, if for no other reason than to get used to how it feels to not be comfortable and to push myself.  I tend to give up too easily, and I just need to get past that.  I do need to cut myself a break, too, because in the grand scheme of things, I'm not all that experienced of a runner.  Every marathon teaches me more about what I need to do differently in the training, how I need to learn to push myself, all that good stuff.  I'm pleased with how I did Pittsburgh, since I think I did the best I could have done for how I was feeling on the day, but I've got high hopes that Columbus will be even better.

The other big thing I need to do is more stretching and cross training.  My sports medicine doc ( Dr Hottie ) said my IT band is incredibly tight, and that's obviously a recipe for disaster, so I need to get better at doing the things I need to do to make sure to stretch it out.  I also think that adding in a day of spinning or swimming could only do me good.  So my blog readers are going to help to keep me honest and accountable here!  Remind me to stretch, remind me to do something other than just run, and hopefully, I'll do even better in Columbus than I did here in Pittsburgh.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

We Are Victorious! or Second Full Marathon DONE

As usual, I spent the early morning hours before my second full marathon (Pittsburgh, on May 15) standing in the kitchen with Haakan, saying "why are we doing this again?"  He pointed out that this was the reverse of the last time we both did Pittsburgh, when he was running the full and I was running the half.  I pointed out that he'd have to wait a whole lot longer for me to finish than I had waited for him, speed demon that he is, and reminded him again to bring a book.

We got into town, found parking on the North Side, not too far from the finish (getting back to the car was definitely less of an ordeal than getting back to my hotel in Phoenix, where I did my first full marathon, had been - when I had to walk almost a mile to a light rail station, wait, take the light rail, then walk 4 blocks back to my hotel) and started to mosey towards the start.  There was a giant banner hung across the Clemente Bridge (which we'd have to cross at the end) that said "We are victorious" in Greek.  According to legend this is what Pheidippides, the Greek soldier who ran from Marathon to Athens, said as he arrived at his destination.  Then, according to legend, he dropped dead.  So, inspiring words, but I hoped not to exactly replicate Pheidippides' feat.  There were also big banners that said "1/2 mile to go", and I thought about how long that final half mile was going to feel at the end (it also seemed particularly mean to make us run over a bridge at the end, since you don't realize it until you're running over one, but bridges are up hill!).

This year the start was in the middle of Downtown, as opposed to in the Strip District, where it had been two years prior when we'd last done the race.  This time there were corrals, which were heavily policed, and a lot more organization.  I found the 4:30 pace group, they all tried to calm me down, as I was fighting down nervous tears at this point, the mess of pain and bad emotions that my first marathon had been was totally in my head.  Finally, convinced I wasn't going to sob my way through 26.2 miles, Haakan went up to Corral A (my slow ass was in Corral E) and I chatted with the other hopefuls in my pace group.  Here's me right before I dropped off my gear, looking all excited and freaked out.
Check out my number, yo!
We crossed the start almost 13 minutes after the gun and it became clear to me by like mile 3 that 4:30 was just not going to happen for me.  It just felt harder than it should have at that point.  The pace felt too fast, I felt too winded and too heavy, and I just knew that it wasn't going to be my day for a PR quite that great.  I remember thinking that if I'd been doing a 10k that day, it would have been one of my slowest.  I felt like I was running at my maximum, which isn't really where you want to feel during the early miles of a marathon.  I dropped off from the 4:30 group right behind mile 6 and crossed the 10k mark still in good shape for a 4:30ish finish.  However, I felt myself fading and feeling tired already and I made some midstream goal corrections.  I could finish under 5 hours easy, maybe I could shoot for 4:40 or less instead.  My friend Chelsea, who was doing the half, unexpectedly caught up with me at that point and I managed to keep pace with her for a few minutes until I fell behind and lost her in the crowd. We went back into the West End (which was kind of cool, even though it was all uphill - there were a TON of people out), then out onto Carson Street for my least favorite part of the course.  I HATE that chunk on the road before you get to Station Square.  There's no one out, it's largely uphill, and you're basically running down a highway.  There were a ton of signs and such up, though, so that was cool.  By this point, I'm doing a run/walk, and it was very early in the race to be doing that.  I was just trying to keep my average pace within a certain window, and was pretty successful with that, until I made a pit stop in Oakland, after we crested the hill on Forbes (and that hill sucked every bit as much as I thought it would.  Note to self: more hill work!).  I lost at least 2 minutes waiting for the porta potty, and then using it.  I didn't realize how far behind I'd gotten until I spotted the 4:45 pace group on Fifth Avenue.  We crossed the halfway point at Fifth and Morewood, and I knew that all hope of a sub 4:40 finish was pretty much gone.  Sub 5 hour became the new goal.  I briefly got in front of the 4:45 group, but I lose them as we crested yet another hill (I swear, I felt every single hill in the course).
Look!  I'm not last!
Running down Fifth Avenue was nice, as was running down Penn towards Braddock.  Once we got back into Homewood, I felt like I was running in an unknown territory, since I don't drive back there a whole lot, and it seemed further than it was, I'm sure.  There were A TON of people out along the course, which was pretty neat to see.  There was a lot of music, smelled like a lot of barbecues going on, and a lot of pithy comments to the runners, which was fun.  Once we made the turn onto East Liberty Blvd, I got a second wind because I knew we were really close to my neighborhood, and getting close to the final 10k mark of the race.  At that point, I knew I could finish and finish strong, even if I was over pace.  I strongly considered just turning around with the half marathoners and doing a DNF while I was on the South Side, but by mile 18.5, I was feeling glad I hadn't done that.  "I got this," I kept telling myself.  Mile 19 came and I felt great.  I had settled into a run/walk kind of pattern, and I was ok with that since the primary goal was a better experience than I'd had in Phoenix.  I started seeing neighbors who were cheering me on, and as I passed my street, I just hoped my mom would be out with the kids when I turned the corner.  And she was.  As soon as I saw my mom carrying Charlie, I started to well up with tears, I felt so overwhelmed to see my family.  She ran next to me with Charlie while I told people, "That's my little boy!" until we got up to where my sister was standing with Elliot and Oliver.  When they saw me they started cheering at the tops of their lungs, "Go Mommy!  Run fast, Mommy!" and I about broke down into sobs.  "Those are my kids!" I shouted to anyone who could hear me, and the runners around me smiled.  Elliot was shouting so loudly, we could still hear him two blocks away.
Freaking joy on my face, seeing my kids.
I finished up mile 20 and felt like I was losing steam a bit.  I'd run strong through Highland Park because I knew so many people there, but I was starting to feel pretty much DONE.  Still, I knew once I hit Liberty I'd be close to the end, and get that nice downhill stretch.  There was some fabulous dance music going up at the top of Liberty, and the crowd support was great in Bloomfield.  I started down the hill feeling like I was definitely going to make it, and going to finish strong, when out of nowhere my fabulous husband appears.  He'd finished the half marathon in 1:39 (a finish time of which I can only dream) and had walked 3.5 miles back up the course to meet me and run the final stretch in with me.  He took a little video when he caught up with me.

I was pretty happy to see him, especially when he began running in next to me, since it had  been getting a little lonely there without my iPod and I was wondering how I was going to spot him at the finish line.  Clearly I was pretty pleased to have someone to run with.
What a flattering angle.
We went down Liberty into the Strip, running until it flattened out and my piriformis muscles started to cramp up on me.  We did a lot of run/walk then, but I knew we were in the home stretch and I was going to come in under 5 hours easily.  The last two miles really were some of the hardest physically, and I walked a lot more than I would have liked, but mentally, I just felt good.  I was going to finish, I wasn't miserable, and it was going to be good.  Ignore the pissed off look on my face here, I was actually pretty pleased!
What you looking at, punk?
As we got to the final bridge, Haakan said "Ok, I'll see you at the finish!" and took off down the sidewalk to let me do the final mile myself.  It was HARD.  I was so tired by that point and that bridge at the end was just plain mean, as I'd thought it would be.  Seriously, why put a freaking hill in the last mile?  I know we're the city of bridges and all, but c'mon!
That half mile felt freaking LONG!
Crossing the finish line, I really did pour on the last bit of speed that I had.  I finished in 4:51:56, almost 20 minutes better than my finish in Phoenix, but more than 20 minutes over my goal time.  Still, given that I felt so tired so early on, I feel like I ran the best race that I could have for how I felt that day.  I don't even think starting out slower would have helped.
Gotta PhotoShop that time clock, that is NOT my chip time!
Haakan has pointed out that I'm barely a year post baby, and it took me a while to get under 30 for the 5k and under 1 hour for the 10k, so this finish time isn't that far outside of the realm of where I have been.  Could I have finished faster?  Given ideal conditions and an ideal physical state, I probably could have gotten much closer to 4:30.  But the knee injury kind of got me off track, as did having to take a longer taper than I wanted, thanks to being out of town.  And I can't discount the joys of being a woman of childbearing age, which definitely played a part in how I was feeling on Sunday.  There are lots of variables and moving pieces, but like I said, I think I did the best I could have done for that day and the circumstances I was handed.
Me and my bling.
I felt physically pretty good through the whole race, so I wasn't prepared for the absolute horror show that was my feet when I took my socks off.  I knew I would have some blistering because I could feel it on the bottoms of my big toes, and when you're running that far in wet conditions, some blisters are to be expected, but the big purple nasties were beyond what I thought I was dealing with because they just didn't hurt that badly.  I also had giant purple blisters under my toenails on my middle toes on both feet, and a blister at the end of my pinky toe on the right foot.  The blisters under my toenails freak me out, and I may have to admit that I've sacrificed them to the marathon gods.  I never thought I could have something like that that didn't just hurt like hell!  The blisters I had during Phoenix look like little nothings compared to these babies (I'll spare you a picture, but maybe I should have taken one because they were horrifying).

So, to paraphrase, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times, but I guess most marathons are.  I'm sure I'll post more ruminations on it as time goes on, but for now I'm just really pleased to have survived it, to have set a new PR (which I will hopefully be taking down in Columbus in October), and to have exorcised the demons of my first marathon in Phoenix.  Since my official race photos aren't up yet, I'll leave you with a picture of the beautiful flowers my sister got for me.  Love you, Jess!
Yay, pretties!

Coming soon, Pittsburgh Marathon race report!

I'm waiting on a few more photos, but rest assured I'm working on a race report for the Pittsburgh Marathon I completed on Sunday May 15!  Without giving too much away, this was a much more positive experience than my first marathon (the report for which I don't think I ever posted - gotta dig that out of the old laptop!) and all the gory details will be up once the photos come online!

Monday, May 9, 2011

2011 Race for the Cure - another Runniversary!

Props to my fabulous mom for getting up at the crack of dawn on Mother's Day to watch my kiddos so the hubby and I could run the Race for the Cure.  In all honesty, this isn't my favorite race.  It's hilly, congested, and generally disappointing in terms of finish time.  But I do it every year because it's a good cause (though I definitely want to know how much money the Komen Foundation actually nets with these events, because they are SO expensive to put on) and because it was the first race I ever did.  Four years ago, I decided to get my fat ass off the couch and start doing something to feel better about myself, and the Race for the Cure was my goal race.  Memories... Like the corners of my mind....

Anyway, I managed a 27:18 finish, which is almost a 2 minute PR for this course, so I'm not in the least disappointed with how it went down.  The Mr Speedy-Pants that I married finished under 21 minutes, so he ought to be happy, too (if I ever finish a 5k that fast, I'll probably have the finish time tattooed somewhere visible on my body).  I was going to try to stay with him for the first bit of the race, but I pretty much lost him immediately as he took off like he was dodging enemy fire or something.  It was pretty entertaining to watch.  I realized that I really do need to do some more hill work and some speed work once I get this marathon squared away (5 days and some hours - eeeeek!), since I still should have been able to finish this race faster.  But all in good time, right?

I hope all the moms out there had a fabulous Mother's Day!  Mine was busy (my middle son turns 4 today, so we had his birthday party on Mother's Day), but I wouldn't have it any other way!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Run club!

The first rule of run club is, don't talk about run club.

Ok, not really, but wouldn't that be kind of cool?  Some kind of secret hard core running club, where you come home with the soles peeling off your running shoes, your Garmin smoking, and an odd aura of accomplishment emanating from you?  Yeah, that would be cool.

My running club is cool, too.  I've been running a couple of times with a group organized by the lululemon showroom here in Pittsburgh, and the best part has been getting to run with people.  I do almost all of my runs alone, and it gets a little lonely.  I mean, I see the same cast of characters where I usually do my runs, and it's nice to get a friendly wave from Glowing Zipper Guy and his pal Scary Home-Made Face Mask Guy, Friendly Mullet Guy, Camo Guy, and the Friendly Old Italian Guys, but it's *really* nice to be able to have a conversation with someone over the course of a few miles.  I found that it keeps my pace in check, too, which is something I definitely need.  We finished our five mile loop and I got the impression that the other runners were a bit disappointed with our 10:42 pace, but I personally felt like it was fabulous.  That's what a nice easy run should be.  If I could find someone to do my long runs with, who I could chat with, maybe I could reel in the pace a bit, which would only be good.

On the subject of my long run pace, I've known for a while that my long run pace is a bit faster than it should be, but I've been unable to slow it down.  It sounds stupid, but I get into a good pace, I feel good, and it feels unnatural to pull it back.  In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion that I got injured during my 20 miler because I was trying so hard to keep the pace slower that my gait got all messed up and I ended up stressing myself in a way I hadn't before.  But, anyway, I sought the advice of the experts on Runners World Online in the Marathon Race Training forum, and at least one person suggested that perhaps it's not that big of a deal that my long runs end up very close to or a bit faster than marathon pace.  He (or she, I can't remember now) said that as a newer runner, it makes a bit of sense that my runs would be in that pace range, since there isn't going to be a huge difference right now between my marathon pace and my regular easy pace, since I'm still not really "racing" a marathon as much as just surviving it.  That made a lot of sense to me and it comforts me a bit to think that being a bit faster than I should be doesn't necessarily mean I'm going to crash and burn during this marathon, which is exactly one month from today.  I'm going to do my last long run, 20 miles, on Sunday, and then I'm going to take a long taper and hopefully kill this thing on May 15.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Marathon countdown and injury conquered (hopefully)

Yeah, I've been a bad blogger, once again.  Big surprise there.  I get on the wagon, I fall off.  Lather.  Rinse.  Repeat.  The good news is that I've been plugging away with the training program, dutifully putting in my time and doing well.  The bad news is that I tweaked my knee during my 20 miler 3 weeks ago and have had to take it a bit easier than I had been.

The bad part of being injured is obviously that you're injured.  There's anxiety, there's uncertainty, and if you're me, there's full on panic and a lot of melodramatic "Why, god, why?" and some tears.  I had to miss the Just a Short Run half marathon that I was planning, which should have been an easy PR for me.  I sat in the kitchen crying on the morning of the race and my 5 year old, in a fit of sympathy that's utterly uncharacteristic of him, put his arms around me, gave me a kiss, and said, "Mommy, you look crestfallen."  Crestfallen, indeed (and, props to public school, that's good vocab for a kindergartener!).

The upside of an injury is that I get to visit my sports medicine doctor, who I shall henceforth refer to as Dr. Hottie.  Dr. Hottie is not only a fab sports medicine doc, but, as the pseudonym implies, he's hot.  HOT.  Not as hot as my husband, obviously, but still, if you're going to wait for over an hour after your appointment time to spend a few minutes in a cold office in your shorts, it might as be with someone attractive.  Dr. Hottie manhandled my knee, made me bend and stretch and flex and all that, and then assured me it was probably just overuse and made a followup for me in two weeks.  So I rested, I varied my route (I had been running in the same direction on a canted road, which is all kinds of dumb.  Bad runner!  Bad!), dutifully did the PT exercises he'd given me, and things looked very good at my follow up.  Apparently my IT band is *extremely* tight, according to Dr. Hottie (interestingly, it was NOT my IT band that hurt, but good to know), but if I'm smart about things, it should all be fine.

And in the spirit of that, my training is now back on track.  I came back with a 12 miler, then a 16 miler last week, and this week I'm supposed to do 20, and we'll see how that goes.  Worse comes to worse, I can always switch to the half marathon at the expo, but I'm confidant that things will go well, and I'll at least be able to finish.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Gear review Thursday!

This week for the gear review, I thought I'd venture into a world I'd previously scoffed at - running skirts.  I'm not sure why I never got into the whole skirt thing before, maybe because when I first started running it was couched in some kind of modesty terms, and I'm not someone who felt immodest in shorts or tights, so why did I need a skirt?  I did finally get a skirt when I ran the Skirt Chaser 5k, sponsored by Skirt Sports, but I was much less than impressed.  I got the skirt with my registration, and as far as I can tell, it's one of these Kick Start skirts, which, cute as it is, fit really oddly.  I had to exchange my size medium for a small on race day, and given that I probably weighed about 10lbs more than I do now, there's no way that skirt fits me.  I found the shorts didn't stay put, the waist was odd, it was just not a good fit for me.  So I swore off skirts.

However, I am in need of some warm weather bottoms, since I dropped a bit more weight and the stuff that fit me last summer isn't fitting quite as well right now (liner creep, ick), so when lululemon uploaded some SUPER cute running skirts last week, I bit the bullet and ordered two.  So this week I'm going to give you a comprehensive review of the Run: Pace Setter skirt.  Unfortunately, these sold out wicked fast from the website, but if you live near a lululemon store, you could probably still find one there.  They're pretty similar to the Run: Speed skirt, which also sold out wicked fast online, but I believe the rise is higher, and there are two tiers of ruffles in the back, rather than one.  With a warm 45 degree morning, I set out to do 5 miles of speedwork in my new snazzy skirt, and see how it performed.  To get a sense of sizing, I'm 5'7" and 135lbs.  I take a size 2 pants in most places, and I ordered this in a 4 from lululemon.  I would say this fits true to size as related to other lululemon items.

 First off, there is no denying how freaking adorable this skirt is.  I felt CUTE when I put it on, and while obviously looking cute isn't necessary in order to run, it definitely helps when you're tired and getting up in the early AM to head out there.
As you can see, it's a regular A line skirt in the front, but it's got two tiers of ruffles in the back.  This means you've got a nice full range of motion and you don't need to have any vents on the sides or anything.  I didn't find this rode up in the front at all during my run.  It's got a nice wide waistband, too, which helps to eliminate any muffin top that might potentially be an issue.  It also stayed put well and I didn't have to hitch it up at all.  There IS a drawstring if you find yourself between sizes and want to go with the larger one, but the drawstring on the black skirt is hard to undo when it's wet and sweaty (I've learned from experience from other items), so I'd try to avoid using it, or cut it to make it easier to tie and untie - it's a continuous drawstring the way it comes.
You can see that it's also a  bit longer in the back than in the front.  That's good because this baby is SHORT.  From middle top of the waistband to the hem in front, it measures 11.25", and 12.25" long in the back, again from middle top of the waistband to the hem. I didn't get a great picture of where they hit me, but I would say they're kind of a medium rise, sitting right above the hip bones, but still below the belly button. If you are not a fan of short skirts or shorts, this might not be the skirt for you.  I kind of can't picture doing a lot of running around town in this one, but it would probably be fine, since short shorts are pretty acceptable nowadays.  
 As for what's underneath, you can see that there are pretty short shorts underneath (3.25" from the middle seam to the hem, so in practice they're probably closer to 2.75" when you have them on).  Lululemon doesn't call them compression shorts, which is good because they're really not.  I actually think I'd like them a bit better if they WERE compression shorts, but they get the job done.  They've got some sticky plasticky rubber stuff along the hem to keep them in place, and I'll admit, I was pretty skeptical that it would work to keep them in place.  They seemed to him me in a really odd place, right where my thighs are widest, but they didn't really bother me at all when I ran in them.  If your thighs touch when you run, you might want to take a few laps around the store (at a real jog, not just a bouncing up and down motion) to see if they're going to make you chafe.  A little Body Glide, and perhaps hitching the shorts up or down might help.  I found they pretty much stayed put, and like I said, I was pleasantly surprised.
 For a little skirt, there are actually a fair number of pockets.  Lululemon has been putting two front pockets and one zippered back pocket on their Run: Speed shorts and Run: Energy shorts, and they've done the same here.  The front pockets are at the top of the waistband, between the layers of fabric, and though they're not zippered or secured shut, they're fairly large and I've never had a key bounce out of them or anything.  They're a nice size for a Gu or something similar, and I've even tucked my iPod Nano into one in a pinch.  The back zippered pocket is actually the perfect size for my iPod Nano (I've got one of the longer skinny ones, third generation, maybe?), but since the top I had on had a nice big zippered pocket in the back, I put my keys in the zippered pocket on the shorts today.

  Overall, I was pretty tickled with this skirt and definitely think this was a good purchase.  If the weather holds up, I'm considering wearing one for the 15 mile race I've got coming up next weekend.  I *did* find that there were a few fit differences between the two skirts that I got - one in black, one in lilac snow.  The lilac one seemed a bit higher in the rise, the fabric stiffer, and the shorts stretchier.  Overall I like the fit of the black one  better, but that's pretty typical for Lululemon - the black fabric they use for the Run: Speed shorts, etc, is pretty much perfect, the fabric they use for the colored and patterned ones, a bit less so.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

New feature! Gear Review Thursday

I've wanted to start doing gear reviews for a while.  I run a fair amount, mostly outside and in a variety of weather conditions, and I definitely have opinions, so why not, right?  So this is the first in what will hopefully be a series of gear reviews based on my own experience with different running-related products.  If you've got something you'd like to see reviewed, let me know in the comments and I'll see if it's doable.

So first up in our series, Injinji Performance Series - Mini Crew Rainbow (CoolMax EcoMade).  Yup, that's right, we're tackling socks.  When I made my first trip to the running store with the hubby, he insisted that I pony up what I considered to be mega bucks for some fancy-schmancy running socks.  Newbie me thought this was stupid, but after many many miles run, he was absolutely right.  Socks are something you don't want to skimp on, just as you want to make sure you have the best shoes for your own particular feet.  When you figure that good socks will last you LONGER than your running shoes, and are all that's standing between you and the mother of all blisters, it's sort of a no-brainer that decent socks are worth the money.  At $14, the Mini Crew Rainbow socks are consistent with what I'd expect to pay for running socks.  I've been reading about Injinji for quite a while, usually with an "OMG, I would *never* wear those!" kind of reaction.  Because, if you haven't looked at the link, these are toe socks.  TOE SOCKS.  My only experience with toe socks has been receiving them as a gag gift, but after I read a couple of articles extolling the benefits of toe socks for blister prevention, I decided to take the plunge and get myself a pair.  I had a couple of bouts of blisters this summer that were so bad I'd do just about anything to avoid the again.  I bought these socks from REI and the size small is the right size for my size 8-8.5 feet (I wear a size 9 running shoe, in the interest of full disclosure).

Could they be more adorable?  When I tried them on last night, my children proclaimed them "weird" and the hubby said he couldn't believe I was going to try toe socks, and I'll admit, they felt a little weird to begin with, but I got used to them.  I decided to give them a try on my 4 mile tempo run this morning.  It was cold this morning, air temp of 5 degrees and a windchill of -4, and given that my toes were frozen, which is not a problem I usually have, I'm going to say that these are not great socks for cold temps.  Think of it like this - mittens keep your fingers warmer than gloves because your fingers can huddle together for warmth, rather than being kept separated in their own separate casings.  Same goes for socks.  I think these are probably fabulous for summer running, or at least above freezing temps, but I won't be going to them again for these super cold mornings.  I'll revisit these for another review once the weather warms up and see how they do outside of sub-arctic temps (ok, it's not really sub-arctic, but it's still a bit nippy out there!). I didn't notice the separate toes once I got going, however, and they really did fit pretty well, despite being sized for men.  I'm not sure how well these would fit someone with significantly smaller feet or shorter toes, however.  I also did find the places where the colors joined to be noticeable when I first started running, so someone with more sensitive feet might be bothered by that.  Again, I didn't notice it once I really got moving, though.

So, rounding up:
Good sizing (size small fit my size 8-8.5 feet well)
Comfy once I got going
Super cute (they come in other colors, too!)
Decent price point

Not good for cold weather
Joins where colors change might be annoying for some
Sizing might not work for those with shorter toes/smaller feet

Overall, I'd say they're worth a shot, though ideally it might be nice to be able to try them on first (just don't let how weird they feel deter you - you get used to them!).