Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Some additions to the line-up

Bit the bullet and registered for a couple more races last week; with those in place around what I'd already planned to run, I have a nice early summer figured out.

May 1 - Broad Street 10 miler - Philadelphia
May 14 - Healthy Kidney 10K - NYC/CP
May 20-21 - Reach the Beach - Massachusetts
June 11 - NY Mini 10K - NYC/CP

Those 10Ks will act as both torture devices and races to gauge VDOT paces for the start of my Grand Rapids training cycle.  The Mini, in particular, will be interesting as it's usually a little too warm that day & quite humid but it's such a historic & cool all-women's race that always packs in a nice elite showing.  The Healthy Kidney, too, gets it's fair share of exposure & is a quality race for both locals & elite talent; it also happens to be the race that got me my current 10K PR 3 yrs ago (46:40).  Uh yeah, I sorta fear the 10K especially with Central Park as the route; I'm all good until that damned 3rd mile and the 1st half of the 4th mile. Part of it is the well-placed hill coming off the down of Harlem hill but more of it is my crappy attitude towards the heat & humidity.  Of course I cannot [easily] alter my body's physiological reaction to such conditions however I can try to get over my fear of racing when I know I'm not in the best of shape and these two efforts will shake that fear up ...or further cement it.   Past the time to pull on my big girl pants, CTFU and at least try to run well in less-than-ideal conditions. 

To further get me out of my comfort zone I'm toying with the idea of registering for the Fairfield HM (6/26) or the Utica Boilermaker 15K (7/10), undoubtedly both will host some nasty, sticky conditions.   Doing so will force me to enter that mindset that the miles will totally suck, there won't likely be a way to run well if I'm not prepared and it's quite likely that I may not run well even then, given the weather.

But let's push those thoughts out just a bit further and skip back to the present; last week turned out decent.  Nothing but ez running, need to remember to add in some strides as well as a little tempo work, but still a solid base building week and I got my butt to yoga, which is key, especially to my butt!

M:  6.35 mi ez (8:41)
T:  rest
W:  6.35 mi ez (8:36) + 90 mins. yoga
T:  8.5 mi ez (8:54) *first run with Kelly & Megan, wheee!*
F:  8.9 mi ez (8:30)
S:  5.25 mi ez (8:54)
S:  13 mi ez (9:14)

Total:  48.35 mi

Monday, April 18, 2011

Le suck

Last week got off to a lousy start and I'm blaming that start for setting a bad precedent.  Of course I'm not to blame whatsoever and there is no excuse making going on here.   It was completely out of my hands and an experience I've never been through before!   Ahem.

  ::rolls eyes::  

Fine, it was my fault and I am making excuses.  After spending another kickass weekend at home with the family and running the STL Marathon relay I flew back to NYC on Monday morning and headed straight to the office.  I was tired and cranky and sad (I always get sad leaving the fam, call it post-trip dumpsies).  Therefore I didn't run on Monday.    Work is more stressful than normal lately, with a big product being released next week, that means doing plenty extra to ensure everything will look & work great.  It also means that when I do finally leave the office the last thing I want to do is anything.   Therefore I didn't run on Tuesday or Wednesday.    Weak.sauce.

Thursday! This was going to be the savior of the week.  Since I'm still having problems getting out of bed in the morning when not meeting up with others for a run, I packed up my running gear and brought it to work.  The weather was superb that day and I looked forward to the jaunt over the Brooklyn bridge and up the West Side to get me home.   This sounded like a fab plan b/c it wouldn't matter when I finished w/work, I run in the dark all the time.  Everything would have gone off without a hitch had I ignored the afternoon demo meeting on the books for that day and it's location in our other office.  Fine, I told myself, I'll just run from SoHo, I won't get that run over the bridge but I'll still run home.  Nope.  Had to have my laptop with me for that afternoon and there's no way in hell I'm running with a laptop on my back, I can imagine dents and bruises from that stupid brick.  I also had a time constraint that night in the form of an appointment at the vet's office with my furry friend.  F#@$, no run on Thursday.

This is just silly.

Finally, come Friday I had my regular meet up with the bridges crew and I got some miles logged.  That was just the nudge I needed to continue through the weekend.  So while it wasn't ideal, I'm considering it one week less of base building to get me to Grand Rapids and not allowing it to happen again.

F:  6.5 mi ez (9:00)
S:  7.75 mi ez (9:25) - great fun on the bridle path!
S:  13.15 mi (9:02) - ran the lower perimeter loop of Manhattan, 59th St and south

Total:  27.40 mi

Glancing at the long view, I've got 6 more weeks of base and then 20 weeks prior to Grand Rapids.  Need to make them all count.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Back to the roots

I do experience plenty of happiness in my day-to-day, along with a ton of frustration and anger, but hey that's not what this post [or blog, for the most part] is about.  I need to remind myself of this often, especially on those days/weeks/months where it seems all is the suck.   The little things that have made me happy today:

  • Friday bridges run with Elyssa, Eissa and guest runner, Susan!   These runs make for a fantastic start to any day but especially Fridays.
  • After this morning's run and before boarding a train back uptown, I found the cutest coffee shop along Chambers St.    Thanks for the great tasting java, Blue Spoon Coffee Company!
  • Everyone clogging up the subway platform this morning were all awaiting either a B or D train.  My A train pulled up, the seas parted, I boarded easily and got a seat 
  • Cadman Plaza in spring time is a gorgeous sight.  I pass it every week day twice, while walking between the subway and my office.  On downtown bridge route running days I pass it thrice!

  •  I had one last packet of Justin's almond butter to enjoy with an apple [thereby canceling out the zesty ranch potato chips]
  •  I'm closing bugs left and right in QA for a big project my team has been working on tirelessly .  Geeky moment!
  • A few choice finisher shots from last week's STL Marathon Relay

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Lessons learned

If you've spent any significant time around me you know that I'm a stubborn, stubborn individual.  It's not always immediately evident but should you inquire about anything related to certain pockets of television or movie minutia, the subway, directions, or time lines/past events in our shared history and you'll soon find out I'm right.  I'll insist upon it.   My correctness is based on facts, I'm not one to believe that we have to share all the same beliefs in matters of opinion but if there's some fact underlying the aforementioned topics, I'm pretty much always right.  And should I have to admit to being wrong, as Jason & my sisters have learned, I'm not so gracious.  There is one area of my life that I don't have a problem being wrong, well I don't like being wrong and would prefer to have it all figured out but the learning is part of the fun.  That being, as you've probably surmised, running.  I've had good success with having a path to "right" for me in many areas but still learn things in most races and some training runs.  A few details gleaned from the 50K & this past weekend's STL marathon relay:
  • Don't be stupid; test out all equipment prior to the run.  Even though I'd recently used my Camelbak, I didn't test it out the morning of the race, choosing to simply fill the bladder up with water and be on my way.  It wasn't until about 15 mins. prior to the start that I tried to take a sip only to find some sort of blockage in the hose or bladder connection point.   Luckily with the conditions we had that day & the frequency of aid stations, I didn't need it but I did have to schlep the pack for the first loop b/c of the late timing.
  • It's ok to run fast(er) on trails when you can, take advantage of flats and downhills and cruise!  I played this race mega-conservative, the distance and terrain at that distance were total unknowns to me and I wanted to maximize the fun while minimizing any opportunity of a crash n' burn.  I had plenty left to give and could have run a bit more aggressively on both loops.
  • I'm still not OK running in the heat esp when not acclimated.  This past Sunday's run in STL was a shocker to say the least, summer crept in FAST and I was reminded how much the heat & humidity affects me.  Although I know I'll have more time to acclimate in the natural progression of spring into summer, I want to be well prepared for those nasty, doggy days when I'm deep in training for Grand Rapids.  I took an extra precaution and picked up a sleeker, smaller Camelbak while in STL, to use this summer in lieu of my hand-held on longer runs.  Will be drinking more and more often.
  • This is no grand revelation, but running trails makes you stronger.  You engage your core for stabilization and there are always plenty of rolling ups and downs to challenge and spice up any run.  I intend to keep trails in the mix while building my base for GR and for a LR here and there, when keeping the pace easy.

Here is last week's OK attempt to get my base going towards Grand Rapids; I should have planned better for Saturday's run & got out immediately upon waking up.  But ended up hitting the STL marathon expo & then visiting with my aunt who is recovering from back surgery.

M:  7.45 mi ez (9:14)
T:   6 mi ez (8:43), finished with 6x strides
W: 11 mi ez (9:12) a.m. / 90 mins yoga p.m.
T:  rest
F: 6 mi w/2 @tempo (8:07) *although the tempo miles were a bit too slow and then maybe a bit too fast, the entire run was at an avg of 8:07 so I'm not too upset
S:  unintended rest, visiting family
S:  9.6 mi ez (9:16) as STL Marathon Relay

Total: 40.05 mi

Monday, April 4, 2011

Putting it out there

In an effort to keep my motivation rolling, here's the recap of last week's skimpy running:

M:  travel to STL and rest
T:   dressed in running clothes & waited out some cold rain.  Never made it for the actual run; ate cheddar & rosemary popcorn.
W:  5.3 ez miles around a couple parks in my parent's neighborhood
T:   Cardinals home opener, woke up too late to do any running
F:   see above, hungover and attempting to do some work
S:   travel to NYC, sloth-like day on the couch
S:   9.35 ez miles up the Hudson

Total:  14.65 miles (don't exactly need a calculator for that math)

My goal for this week is log all a.m. runs, just like I was doing a year ago, and to make it back to the yoga studio at least once.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Running like a fool

As runners we've all experienced shitty runs and most of us, if not all, have experienced a period of time where our mojo has inexplicably left us.  At times this happens because we're burnt out, uninspired, injured or impacted by long periods of crap weather.   Perhaps more of our non-running life has impeded a path to running freedom or, in the worst of circumstances, it might be all of these things.   For myself it felt like all of the above and in a recurring cycle for the last 10 months.   Since being at the highest peak I've been probably ever been at, and not succeeding in a race I should have smashed, I just haven't been the same.   Who knows, maybe the same or at least a similar result would have occurred had I had the race I truly trained my ass for... who knows.   And as much as I've tried to stop the comparisons to me prior to May 1 last year and me today, I can't help it and it's making me crazy.

I'm a realist and a reasonably level-headed individual, most times, so I understand the comparisons won't do anything but a). depress me more and/or b). motivate me to try and get back there but that's still not enough.  I tried brute force, it worked for a couple weeks here and there.  I tried running for just running and it made me nuts not having a race to train for and/or a plan to follow.  I slacked on my eating & in my yoga practice and it only depressed me more.  By late last year I was probably +11 lbs of my race weight, suffering from PF in both feet for the first time ever, feeling unmotivated and uninspired and not willing to do much to change any of it.   The thought of planning for races in 2011 was truly scary, daunting and demoralizing.  Really the only thing that I knew for certain was that I most certainly did not want to train for a spring marathon.  No way, no how.  The comparisons were much too fresh in my mind and training for another 26.2 in the same period of time after one of my best cycles, would prove to be frustrating and maddening.

However!  ... I love running the miles.   I love the long run.   I love dedicating hours on a weekend to topping off a week's worth of running.   I just wasn't ready for all the other stuff that goes into specific race training, you know the guts of it all (aside from the mileage), the tempo work, the intervals, the progressions.  Basically none of the quality.   Even more so b/c NYC had more of a snowy winter than I can remember in my almost 11 years here; which doesn't really affect my ability to get out and run but does affect my getting to a snow-free track and nailing split-driven segments of running.

Back to the point, coach and I talked about this quandary of mine quite a bit.  He encouraged me to keep running consistently and logging whatever mileage I could muster.  He also planted the idea of finding a 50K for the spring.  I heard him and I did a poor job of executing.  Again with inconsistent weeks, finding my morning runs only when I had plans to meet up with others and often compromising on miles for un-needed rest days and additional hours of sleep that I wasn't lacking on to start with.  All in all, I was in no better a position by mid-January than I'd been for much of last year.  I HAD to do something!

And so on January 17th I mailed in my registration for the 2011 Fools Run 50K trail race.  I had something to work towards.   From that point until the actual race last Sunday (3/27) I'd almost be OK with yada-yada-yada'ing it.   Sure, I ran long on trails on the weekends and I tried to improve my consistency but the in/out of my mojo remained.  I just wasn't feeling it.  

Fast forward to last weekend.

I flew into Cleveland Friday night and drove directly to meet up with my awesome coach, Lloyd, his wife, Andrea, and my host for the weekend, Jim.  It was the warmest of receptions and I knew I was in for a special treat of a weekend.   A couple tasty Ohio beers consumed, a Kansas victory on the televisions and a lovely spinach salad in my belly.  Ready!

The next day brought much of the local scene into better focus. I was able to get out to the race course, check out the start/finish area and run an easy 3 miles on the toughest part of the course, the last loop known as the Salt Run. I was also able to tour many areas of the huge urban park that is the Cuyahoga Valley National Park including a few solid looks at the great blue heron heronry and hit up one of the local running stores for bib pickup.   The day was capped off with a lovely dinner in the company of Kathleen & Andrea

Pre-race dinner with Kath & Andrea

Race morning and I was excited!!  Not the least bit nervous nor anxious, just plain ole excited.  It was truly a liberating feeling that continued the entire 6:52 I was out on the course.  See, the beauty of this day, this race, was that I had no expectations, no pressures, no desire for a certain time or a certain race plan that had to do with splits.  The sun rose and provided a gorgeous day esp for those that seem to be heat-challenged (raising hand!!!).  Crisp temps in the upper 20s rising to the high 30s/low 40s (I think) by the time I finished and a sky full of blue and sun.   Not even a malfunctioning Camelbak could upset this scene.   I lined up in the last 1/4 of runners and without much ado we were off just after 7:30 a.m.   The course was a 25K loop consisting of 4 legs where each leg was made up of several trails and connectors and shortly after starting, my one and only fear of getting lost/off course, was laid to rest.  Everything was marked so well and in the first loop I was always following or running adjacent to several others.  We darted around grass trails up big sledding hills, along wide cross country trails made of fine gravel, up & down single track that often sported more than one set of stairs and around a gorgeous set of boulders known as the Ledges.

I would have had to work at not smiling.

I ran at a quicker clip when I could, power walked up steep inclines when required and made the most of mini-coversations with my fellow runners whenever we'd come upon one another.   The volunteers were AMAZING and the eventual winners were crazy friendly, cheering us along as they passed.   We looped around a few trails double-backing and finally got back to the Salt Run.  Soon enough the first lap was done and I was grabbing some soda and a pb&j square before starting back out on the second loop.   Doing a quick body check and everything was a-OK, no aches, no pains, not even the nasty PF or my ultra-crabby hamstrings came out to play today.    The second loop was much of the same, less runners now as many more did the 25K, and a whole lot muddier!   As the day warmed up so did the ground and with the passing of so many foot falls everything got a bit dirtier.   I was still feeling way good.   Every once in awhile glancing down at my Garmin but only thinking "heh, doesn't feel like I've been out there that long".   Soon enough a woman passed me who looked about my age and I decided that I'd try to stick with her; we seemed to be running the same sections at about the same pace and walking the others.   I'd say this started somewhere around mile 21 or 22?   We continued trading spots and finally at the last aid station before we traversed the big sledding hill one last time and hooked back up with the Salt Run, she dropped her cookie (a sad sight indeed) and I was able to pass her one last time.  It was funny, there was no competitive nature to this even though I find myself to be very competitive, although mostly with myself.  On to the Salt Run to finish this puppy off and what a sight!  Not only was this section crazy muddy but it was a different kind of muddy than what I experienced in all of the other sections.  Those were just wet and muddy, big puddles of water and mud that made for dirty running but not much more than that.   This last bit was what I'd call shoe-sucking mud.  It was a thicker consistency and made running on ups and downs nearly impossible.   Just as I'd get all amp'ed to pick up the pace, I'd slide off to the side b/c of the mud.   My shoes also gained a bit of weight at this point, desperate mud clinging to the sides  :)   It may have been the only time I was grateful for the many sets of stairs going up & down.  Their wood ledges provided a good opportunity to quickly rub off some mud and keep going.

Soon enough I could see the clearing where the trail popped out of the woods and into the giant clearing eventually leading to the finish line.  You can't see the actual finish at first but you can hear it, powering up the last hill there it was!!  I clearly saw Lloyd (also the race director!) and knew I'd done it.  Crossing I gave him a huge hug, collected my finishers mug and mugged for a bunch of pictures.   I couldn't stop saying what a fantastic time I had and how happy the day and race and scenery had made me.  I think Lloyd even did a mini-interview caught on video somewhere.  At the same time, it was a weird feeling.  I didn't want to stop.  I wasn't exhausted, I didn't need to sit down, I wasn't hungry or thirsty or spent.   It was magical and for a second there I had it back ...my mojo!  And this last bit is what I consider to be the true addiction of trail running & ultramarathons in general.  There's just so much out there, trails explored and not, scenery to be taken in and the lack of pressures normally felt during a road race, at least for me.  In the immediate aftermath of that day, only a short week since, my body has responded tremendously.   I was only very lightly sore, no PF flare-ups, not the trouble of getting up and down stairs as I normally have post-marathon, none of that.   Just the warm feeling of a goal accomplished:  get my running spirit back!

Coach Lloyd and I at the finish

A dirty day indeed!

Finishers mug crafted by the talented, Kathleen!

Bottom of the mug, a race I won't forget

 And while I am currently shopping around for a fall marathon I'm also hooked on both trails & longer distances.  I feel another 50K is in my near future.