Thursday, December 9, 2010

Turkey Flop & Training

This year I decided not to run the crowded Southpark Turkey Trot and ran the Lake Norman Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day along with Adam. It was the most disorganized race I've ever been part of. I say 'part of' because I've volunteered at a few races. The most unorganized one I ever helped with, was still better organized than the debacle Thanksgiving 2010. For starters, we had to wait in 2 different lines to pick up packets. The first was to get our shirts, bibs, coupons and transponders. This race was timed with 'transponders' versus the usual 'chips.' The transponders where on padded velcro strips that strapped onto your ankle. They had clearly been used many times before and were in pretty nasty shape. The organizers hadn't connected the bibs and transponders together for people who had pre-registered. This meant that we had to wait in a second line to do this.

There are three distances associated with the race: half marathon, 10K and 5K. Adam ran the 5K and I ran the 10K because it matched with my training for the day. After waiting in line for packet pickup, I had to wait in yet another line for the restroom and when I made my way back outside the half marathon was starting and I had 10 minutes to run to Adam's truck, dump my stuff and get back to the start line to start the 10K.

We ran into a couple of our friends who were in a long line to register for the event. We then ran into my friend Julie who had decided to run that morning and had not pre-registered. She told us that they were out of shirts and transponders. So they had let her wait in line and pay even though they knew she wouldn't get a time or a spot in the results. No announcement was made to the people in line about the lack of transponders and time.

We started the 10K on time. The course (all three races shared the same streets with the half repeating sections) consisted of several out-and-back stretches through an apartment complex and a business park. There were very few volunteers on the course and very little signage for the 10K. People were turning around earlier than the turn around points because they were confused as to where the actual turn is. This confusion was partly why many runners finished short of their race distances. The 5K and 10K were off by around 2 tenths of a mile, but the half marathon was a good 2 miles short. The volunteer leading the half marathoners by bike completely missed the first 2 miles of the race leading the runners in the wrong direction.

After finishing, Adam found me and I learned that the 5K start was delayed 10 minutes so that they could finish registering the people in line. The people who WEREN'T GETTING TIMED! He also told me that people were complaining that the courses were short. I only saw 3 mile markers for the 10K: miles 1, 2 & 4. At mile 2 my watch indicated I was running a 6:30 pace. Hahahahahaha! I wish! I've never run that fast. I figured then that it was roughly 1/2 mile short, but after finishing and putting things together, I think the sign was in the wrong place and that the course wasn't that short.

Adam finished 4th overall and took his age group. We went to his truck and put on warmer clothes and went back to wait on the awards. After almost an hour we learned that they would not be giving out the age group awards. The organizer later said it was because they hadn't been able to enter all of the day of registrants into the system.

Thus ends my rant and my reasoning for not running Turkey Trots anymore.

As for training, it's not going too badly. I've chosen a program that I really believe in. It uses speed workouts, tempo runs, long runs and a recovery run to prepare. Some of the long runs are 'Race Simulations' where you run part of your long run near your planned race pace. I'm struggling with the usual issues of fueling and pacing myself so I don't bonk. I also missed a couple of runs due to a sinus infection. Every. race.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Look Back Since We Last Blogged

I'm not going to lie to you, I really wimped out during the dog days of summer! I shut down so much during July and August that I wonder if it's even worth it to try and run. I'm considering taking those two months off next year so that I'm not so discouraged about my running.

Here's a quick run down of what I've been up to since we last blogged (I won't bore you with how much I'm doing at work):


Hood-to-Coast, Oregon, August 26-30 - Hated it! Man, I hated this race. Let me first start with first impressions by saying that Portland, OR, where we flew in, really surprised me. I expected something along the lines of Asheville, NC and was surprised to see a city similar to Charlotte, NC but with mountains. Mt Hood (the race start) was awesome and Seaside, OR (the race finish) reminded me of Virginia Beach, VA.

Post race we took a short trip to Canon Beach (see picture above), which was really beautiful.

The race: I repeat, I hated it. I knew leading up to it I would, but it was too late for the team to find a sub so I went thinking I could make the best of a bad situation. I cannot go without sleep and a relay requires that you go without sleep. This tore my stomach up and put me in the worst mood. The first and last race legs didn't help.

I was leg 11, which means I ran legs 11, 23 & 35. The first leg, was a little more than 4 miles long and was during the evening hours. I had to run along a greenway in the pitch black dark in a deserted for the weekend business/industrial area. I would never do this at home and if I did, you'd call me an idiot. Several faster runners passed me, but none were close enough to make me feel comfortable about being on this greenway at night. I wasn't alone though, there were lots of creepy people hanging out along the course to keep me freaked out the whole 4 miles. They were all dressed in dark clothing with no lights or reflectors. I had on my required head lamp, blinky lights (one in front and one in back) and my reflective vest. So they could see me, but I couldn't see them until I was right on them.

I finished incredibly pissed at myself for agreeing to do this stupid race along with race organizers who would send us through such dangerous places. My second leg was much better. Again it was only a little more than 4 miles, but it was during the day. When I agreed to do the race the upside was that I'd get to see Oregon which I'd heard was beautiful. I finally got to see some beautiful sights in Oregon on my second leg.

My third leg was still during the day, but terribly ugly. I was on a gravel service road with large mounds of grass and dirt on either side. I couldn't see anything but telephone poles and wires. At this point, my stomach was too upset from a lack of sleep to fuel this run. I had no desire to run at all and it was my longest run: 7 miles. It was horrible. I was tired, I was cramping, hurt and I was incredibly tight. I walked most of it. I finished, passed off the bracelet and was ready for a nice bed and a long night's sleep.

I didn't get that until I got home. We were all (2 teams 24 people total) staying in one big house. I had to sleep on the floor. You went to bed when the last person went to bed and you got up when the first person got up. But the rest of the trip wasn't a total loss. I really loved Canon Beach. I want to go back to Oregon sometime and tour a winery or drive up the coast. I'm sure it's prettier than what I saw on the run!


Social Life: Maintaining. Adam and I attended a lot of social gatherings since August. This picture is of us after a wedding anniversary party. It's rare to see Adam in pants that aren't jeans. His brother's wedding and my best friend's daughter's birthday have also been some fun events for us recently.






The house on Minnehaha Parkway

Twin Cities Marathon: Loved it!...but bonked. For the trip to Minneapolis for the Twin Cities Marathon on October 3rd we, along with 3 other friends rented a house in Minneapolis. It was in a great neighborhood! The house had 4 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. It was perfect! We all attended a Twins game the day before the race. Through the race website we were able to get $20 tickets to the new stadium. The game was packed because the Twins were having a great season and this was one of the last home games for regular season. They won in an exciting finish. Bases loaded, full count, etc. It was exciting!


The race was great as well! Well, it started out great anyway. The weather was perfect. It was in the 40s at the start and in the 50s at the finish. There were a lot of people cheering the runners on. It was like running through block parties. I felt great until somewhere between miles 9 and 12. By 12, I needed a nap! I made it to the end running a 2:05 half, but a 4:45 full. I found out later that what happened to me was what they refer to as 'hitting the wall.' I always thought you couldn't finish when you hit the wall, but now I know differently. Training didn't go well (read: July and August were hot). When it began to get hot my track workouts got slower, my tempo runs turned into 'just get through it runs' and my long runs were no where near the paces I needed. So it wasn't a complete surprise that I bonked. It happens. I felt horrible after the race! I was so sore and stiff! I had planned to do the new full marathon in Charleston in January, but I've downgraded to the half. I think I have an endurance problem and that I really need to focus on that. The next two races I did, prove that! (more on that later)



Vacation: Later in October, I met my parents and older sister in Wild Dunes on the Isle of Palms outside of Charleston, SC for a vacation. Adam joined me a few days later for the weekend. The picture above is of the place where we stayed taken from the beach and the other is a sunrise from the balcony of the condo where we stayed.



Like all good runners (read: addicted runners) we looked for a race to compete in while we were on vacation. The pictures above are Adam finishing the Daniel Island Race for the Cure 5K at an official time of 17:20 and me on the right finishing the same 5K at an official time of 25:31. This race was flat and looped through a pretty neighborhood on Daniel Island. The temperature was perfect for a race PR. Adam PR'd by 2 seconds and I ran what I'll call a recent PR. The following weekend at the 4.9erK (around 3 miles) at UNC-Charlotte I ran a 25:42, which is pretty good for such a hilly course. It's faster than last year's time when I was fighting PF so I'll call it an improvement. With these recent times, according to the FIRST training program, I should be able to run a 4:08 marathon. So you see I have some endurance work to do! Suggestions for improving endurance welcome!!!


Finishing out the vacation theme, we rode bikes along the paths in Wild Dunes, found a rope swing, had dinner out, drank beer, ate way too much Halloween candy and managed to blow my recent diet out of the water. But it was a great time!


Next race: Charleston Half Marathon in January. I may sneak in a 5K in between, but I have a pretty aggressive training program that I got from the internet and I don't know how I'll feel. The plan is one that I found on the FIRST website that was used by Ryan Hall when he ran his half marathon PR. It's similar to the FIRST program but you run 4 or 5 times a week and you have a bit more flexibility in distances. Crossing my fingers and going now for a swim. Bye!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Runner's Hall of Fame

So the numbers from the NASCAR Hall of Fame are in and they aren't good. This did surprise me as I really thought the scores of people who move to Charlotte to either get a job at NASCAR or to live in a city where they might see Jeff Gordon at a PF Chang's would attend the HOF regularly. Maybe if they added a bar?

I have no interest in visiting the NASCAR HOF, but it got me thinking about other hall of fames that I might be interested in. Football, Baseball, Country Music? Nah, nah, nope. But what if the sport that I not only love, but actually participate in had a hall of fame? A runner's hall of fame. Where would that even be? Boston? New York City? Oregon? Maybe it should exist online. Where everyone involved in the sport could visit!

Then I did a quick Google and found out that there is a National Distance Running Hall of Fame! In Utica, NY. Yeah. Utica. The only explanation given on the website as to why a city in the middle of New York was chosen was this:
"Utica, N.Y. is the home of The Boilermaker 15K Road Race, the largest 15K in the nation with nearly 10,000 runners. Though located in a small city, The Boilermaker consistently ranks as one of Runner's World's Top 100 Races."

Interesting. A 15K that draws 10,000 runners is such a big deal that the National "Distance" Running Hall of Fame should be located in the same location. Though most big city MARATHONS draw way more than 10,000 runners (ex. Chicago registers 45,000 every year), this race was such the big deal that the HOF is now located in Utica. Well, yeah, because the hall was created in 1998. In the mid-90s running started to take off as a sport. Between 1999 and 2009, the number of people running road races increased by 3 million. Had the hall been built today a different location may have been chosen.

So now I know that there is a Hall of Fame for running and it's in Utica, NY, which is small but in the same time zone and easily accessible from I-90. I have no desire to visit. I love this sport. I love going to races and cheering on my friends or people who look like they're struggling and can use some words of encouragement. But do I want to go and read about people I don't know? No, not really. I think running is a very personal sport. I care about how I perform and how that stacks up against how I performed in the last race. Isn't that the idea behind a PR (Personal Record)? I'm happy when my friends set a new PR or finish a milestone race or even place. But care about Ryan Hall breaking a world record or Kara Goucher qualifying for this or that. Not so much. Adam cares. He reads magazines, watches replays of races and can tell me who ran what at which race this past weekend. So maybe it's a guy thing.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Staying Green


Besides the number of strip malls and churches in Charlotte, many visitors to the area comment on how green Charlotte is. Not how energy, eco-conscious we are, but how many trees there are in Charlotte. Today's photo is a good example of some of the most common trees in Charlotte's landscape: a Magnolia tree and three Crape Myrtle trees. Magnolia trees are somewhat of a symbol of the South and Charlotte is a city in the South. Crape Myrtle trees in every color are planted in many yards in Charlotte as well as many shopping centers. They add color to the landscape starting in late spring and continuing through the summer.
However, Charlotte's people population growth (which is continuing even during the recession) is encroaching on our green population. If you've lived here long enough, you've noticed the decline. A recent article in the Charlotte Observer shared statistics on how much we've lost.

"Between 2002 and 2008, the analysis found, Mecklenburg lost 9,475 acres, or 3 percent, of its trees as the population rose 21 percent. At that rate, the county would lose an additional 20,500 acres - more than the combined acreage of all county parks - by 2015." Read more: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2010/05/19/1444305/city-tree-canopy-continues-to.html#ixzz0wmMablSe
There is some hope for Charlotte's trees. The city counsel recently voted for new regulations forcing developers to keep more existing trees than in the past and they approved planting more trees along city streets over the next year.
This is good news to landscapers who charge a small fortune for tree trimming services, their insurance companies who in turn charge them for a policy protecting them from hospitals who benefit from injuries during such services. Let's not forget plumbing companies who benefit from tree roots encroaching on pipes. That's the true green cycle of Charlotte!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Charlotte Criterium 2010


Saturday night a section of downtown Charlotte was blocked off for the Charlotte Criterium bike race. Per Wikipedia: "A criterium, or crit, is a bike race held on a short course (usually less than 5 km), often run on closed-off city center streets." For Charlotte the course distance was 1.2 miles and the male cyclers travel it 50 times. The male winner receives $50,000, which is apparently a large purse for criteriums. (We didn't get there early to watch the female cyclers. They competed 25 miles for $25,000) Elite cyclers must be invited to participate.

Adam, me and 3 of our friends set up chairs at 4th & Tryon near the 24 HOB tent to watch. We brought a cooler with a six pack and sandwiches from HT. From our spot we could see the racers every half mile. They were going at speeds between 2:48-2:50 minutes per mile. It took roughly an hour and 50 minutes for the cyclers to complete the 50 miles. When they were pushing to finish, you could smell the rubber from their tires burning on the asphalt! There must have been something to gain for all of them to push to the finish but I haven't found any information on what that is.

We didn't see any of the wrecks, but we heard an announcer speak about two of them. We learned that the cyclers involved in a wreck have to be checked out by medical personnel, on standby, before they can return to the course. For that reason, if a cycler is involved in a wreck and is ok to return, he's not penalized a lap and starts behind the other cyclers on the same lap that they are completing. This made perfect sense to me as they couldn't possible catch up at those speeds! It's not like NASCAR where they pull into pits for a break giving someone the chance to get a lap back. We saw a couple of cyclers walking their bikes or riding them slowly down the sidewalk after the wrecks. They were pretty beat up and bloodied. We heard from friends who saw one victim close up that said he had a few teeth missing!

It's a nice event and there were quite a few people (more than 35,000 were expected) there to watch. While the entire course was lined with people it didn't seem to be more than one person deep. I'd like to see Charlotte do more events like this. It was fun, exciting, and promoted a healthy sport that is also good for the environment.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Audra's Photos of Charlotte

"I'll just tell them...that I have nothing to say." Pedro Sanchez 'Napoleon Dynamite'

I haven't posted in while. Partly because I've been super busy and partly because of the thought behind the line above. Other than complaining about how hot it is and how lousy my training is going because of the heat, what else can I say. Yeah, I've been busy, but it's not really interesting enough to blog about. Now I've been having fun, it's just the kind of fun you have to be there to enjoy. So in thinking of something else to write about I started thinking of things I've already discussed. That reminded me of my trip to Northern California which always reminds me of Willits. Willits, CA is a tiny town along the coast of Northern California where we stopped and got the best burrito I've ever had. I can't stop thinking about Willits, CA so I googled it. I found a blog called "Photos of Willits, CA."

And that is the inspiration for a new angle for this blog "Audra's Photos of Charlotte." I've personalized it because I'm sure there's a blog out there called "Photos of Charlotte" but I'm too lazy to confirm that. On to the first photo.


South Tryon in South Charlotte

I begin with this photo of the strip mall where Adam and I had lunch today. This picture of this seemingly insignificant strip mall in Charlotte is actually indicative of Charlotte whose catch phrase could be 'The Land of the Strip Malls." On nearly every corner in Charlotte, if there isn't a church, there's a strip mall. Many visitors believe that all we do in Charlotte is shop, eat and go to church. That isn't ALL we do. Just most of the time.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Foiled Again!

I walked into a quiet and cool indoor pool area to find it was just the lifeguard and I. The pool water looked like glass until my temp-testing toe sent ripples through it. I jumped in and the contrast between my body temperature and the water's 85* sent chill bumps over my skin for the first 2 laps. I settled into a comfortable pattern enjoying the peace and quiet of the room. What could possibly ruin this moment?

A leaky face mask.

More annoying than fifty thousand vuvuzelas!

First one little drop penetrates the seal at the forehead and rolls down the nose to pool under my left eye. Staying right in my peripheral vision, it sits there taunting me, rolling with my head as I come up for air. Soon other drops follow its path until I'm having to close my eye when I take a breath on the left or take a drop in the eye. Soon another pesky issue, fog, develops.

Still I do love an empty pool.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Cold SNAP

So in the middle of summer there was a cold snap where it was only in the 80s for about a week. Yep, ONLY 80s. The mornings were high-5os - 60s, which is when I tried to get out and take advantage of it.

It did make a huge difference in my training. My speed work this week called for 3 x 1600m. I managed a 8:08, 7:50 and an 8:26. Felt great! My long run for the week was 12 miles and that too went pretty well, except for all our 'breaks' which we need to get better about.

But all good things must end and we're not only back to hot temps but bad air quality has accompanied it. It's now truly brutal out where before we only thought it was brutal. This is the time when you start feeling like you're a slug and like you can't run fast if you were being chased by bigfoot. Fortunately I've come across (thanks to my friend Emily) a run calculator that will tell you your pace based on previous times for different temperatures up to 100*. Found here http://www.runworks.com/calculator.html I'm already stuck some of my times in to see where I could be in Minnesota in the fall when it will be cooler.

This weekend is a cut back weekend where I only have to run 10 miles. 10 miles at 10:35-10:20 per mile pace. If I start early enough, like at 3am, I could make that pace. Highly unlikely that I will.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Field Day

So since training is going so crappily I think I'll write about something else.

Recently I was in the doctor's office waiting to get my allergy shots when I overheard a conversation between a nurse and a little girl (about 6 years old) ahead of me who was getting her allergy shots. The nurse called her name and she ran over and said
"We had field day today"
Nurse: "What's your favorite event?"
Little girl: "Tug-of-War"

I got a pit in my stomach hearing this. I always hated Field Day when I was in elementary school. I remember we'd come back after Christmas break and the PE teacher, Mr. Biggs, would be ready for us to start practicing for field day. He always made us do at least one running event. I hated running and would always pick the shortest distance I could. There was the 25 yrd dash, the 50 yrd dash, 75 yrd and 100yrd dash. The 25 yrd dash wasn't an option after the 2nd grade. Then there was a relay race, hurdles and of course tug-of-war. We'd choose our activities and then we'd be matched to race 3 others of the same ability. We'd practice every Friday during PE until the big day, often racing against the 3 people we'd race on field day.

I don't remember many field days, I think I've mentally blocked them like many of the traumatic events in my life (including most of my relationships). But I do remember one event. It was in 4th grade. I'd picked the 50 yrd dash and been matched with 3 other slower girls including my friend Patty. Every practice I was last and Patty was 3rd. I really didn't care. Then it was field day.

I remember starting out and being just a little behind Patty, which was where I'd been every practice. Something just clicked. I've had a lot of 'clicked' moments in my life. When I've been stuck on a concept for a class and suddenly a light goes off and I get what the professor/teacher has been trying to get across. When I've been stuck on a work issue and suddenly remember where I've seen the answer before. Something clicked that day during this race when I thought "if I speed up, I could beat Patty." So I dug in and pushed myself harder. The race wasn't long enough for my body to catch up to what I was doing so I didn't feel my asthma kick in until after the race, so there was no pain. I remember feeling great. Feeling like I could actually do something I've never done before.

I did beat Patty and got a 3rd place ribbon. That was my first physical accomplishment.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Life, Love and Running

So after bragging about how strong my runs have felt, I went out and ran a sloppy tempo run on legs o' jello. It happens. The schedule called for a 2-mile warm-up followed by a 3-mile tempo run followed by a 1-mile cool down. When I took off for the 3-miles of tempo, my legs didn't immediately respond. It's of course HOT in Charlotte right now and hydrating properly is more important than ever, but not always possible. And that's my excuse for what I was feeling during this run. And what I was feeling was that at any next step I would fold like paper. Though my knees wobbled quite a bit, I didn't fall. I make it the whole 6 miles though the last mile included more walking than I'd care to admit.

This third week of marathon training I added an extra 'speed workout' in the form of the 'Miles of Mooresville.' I love this event! It takes place one Friday evening a month during the summer and the first one was Friday, June 18th. The race lengths are 1 mile, 2 miles and 3 miles, with approx. 20 minutes between each event so that you can run all three. It's timed, well organized, fun, but incredibly hot.

I headed out from my place at 5:15 pm to head 45 mins North for the 7pm start. It took an hour and a half to get there due to terrible traffic! Why anyone lives North of Charlotte and deals with that traffic everyday, I will never understand. I also plan to find a new route before next month's event. My A/C in my Jeep has been broken for 7 years now. I know, I know, but it really hasn't been an issue until this year when I'm driving to Adam's via the interstate on a regular basis. The windows down and moving provides a nice breeze and keeps me relatively cool but when you're stuck in traffic, you just roast. So by the time I got to the event, got my bib number and timing device, I'd sweat out at least a quart of water. I grabbed a 12 oz. bottle of water and downed it before getting to the starting line.

The organizers reversed the course this year. This is the second year for the event and the organizers had requested feedback to make the event more attractive. I think someone must have suggested that the previous ending, which was up hill, was not a fun finish. The 'new' course started off down hill, for about .25 mile then a vicious uphill. The uphill is long and steep. Then you turn a corner and get to climb a slow incline. Then the course flattens out to the end. I think the idea was to go for a faster finish.

I had already decided to concentrate on the first two races and then use the third as a cool down. The first race my bronchial tubes were burning. It was so hard to breathe! The sun was out and the temp was in the 90s and I was pushing as hard as I could. I felt terrible! And the only thing I got for this was an 8:12 mile. Worse than last year by about 30 seconds. Ugh! The second race was the 2-mile race which was 2 loops of the course which meant two times up that horrible hill! This time my stomach was aflame. Good thing there was nothing in it or I'd have lost it. I finished at an 8:38 pace. Which I felt better about than the 1-mile. I decided not to run the 3-mile run and to save it for my 10 mile training run the next day. I grabbed my race tech tee and free beer and watched the third race.

Several folks from Charlotte and from the Meetup group came up for the races. We all complained about the traffic and the heat. A couple of guys were asking if Adam was coming to run. They know Adam is fast, but they've never run with him. I think they were looking forward to competition. Adam always has a hard time getting out of work at a decent time and Fridays are the worst. Add traffic and he was barely there in time to get registered to run the 2-mile race. He rocked it! He finished in 11:01 or a 5:31 pace. He landed in 2nd place. That's only because a 23 year old kid from Chapel Hill (via Nashville) named Brock Baker came to town to visit a friend and decided to join a racing event. He won all three races and ran the 1-mile at a 4:43 pace.

So with about a dozen people up from Charlotte, we planned to celebrate after the event at the Brickhouse Tavern in Davidson. We all headed there after the last race and got a big table on the side porch. It was after midnight before we headed out. So unfortunately I slept in on Saturday and missed my window to run my 10 mile training run before it got too hot. So I moved it to Sunday. Unfortunately Sunday was the hottest day of the year so far. Even starting early was still pretty toasty. I managed to get in the mileage, but due to continuous side stiches the last 1 1/2 miles included walking than I should be doing. I was at least a minute off the pace I needed for my long run.

Overall, I think heat is contributing more to being off pace than anything else. I feel like my legs want to run and want to push the pace. My bronchial tubes and ab muscles are not completely on board. Tonight's speed workout calls for 12 - 400m, on the first day of summer. Nice.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

More Marathon Training

So during week 2, God decided to turn up the heat. It's really tough to hit the pace I need to hit in this heat. It'll be in the 90s this week and probably every day until some time in September. The good thing is that I haven't missed the pace by much and I feel really strong. I've kept up with my increased stretching and I can really feel the difference it's making. I've cut back the frequency of my runs on the suggestion of a friend of mine who said that even though it feels good to run extra miles, the program that I'm using is pretty intense alone.

This week I'll still add an extra run when I run the Miles of Mooresville runs. I ran this last year and I'm really looking forward to it again. It's 3 timed runs in downtown Mooresville. A 1-mile run, 2-mile run and a 3-mile run. The course isn't flat. It starts down a slight decline, then begins a slow decline, then a nice downhill, but then you climb to the end. The course is the same for all 3 races, you just do more loops for the second two. It's not bad, but when you add the extreme temperatures, it's tough.

My strategy, if you want to call it that, is to focus on the first two races for a total speed workout of 3 miles. I plan to make the most of the downhills to get my speed up. The 3-mile I'll run as a cool down. Last year my July 1-mile time was 7:51 and 8:06 in August. My 2-mile time in July was 17:07 (8:34 pace) and 17:20 (8:40 pace) in August. I didn't run the June races last year. I was fighting plantar fasciitis last summer and I remember that did bother me during these races. So did the heat! It will be interesting to see what my times are this year. My plantar isn't completely healed but does feel much better.

I don't know what running Friday night is going to do to my time Saturday morning. I thought about postponing my long run to Sunday morning but then that would mean running my long run and then my speed workout back to back. I think this will be good practice for H2C. I hope so anyway!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Training Week 1

Interesting first week of training for Hood to Coast and Twin Cities Marathon.

Monday was Memorial Day and the first official day of training. My plan (a modified FIRST plan) called for a speed workout of 6 x (1 min fast, 3 mins easy) with the 10 min warm up first and then a 10 min cool down following. Since I was lucky enough to have the day off on Monday, I decided not to tie myself to a time and meet with a group for a workout. I instead went to the J in the morning and used their outdoor 'dirt' track for my workout. I'm not sure how big this track is (I think it's 1/8 of a mile) but since my training was time based I didn't feel it mattered. During the warm up I noticed dark clouds rolling in. Since I didn't hear thunder or see any lightning, I wasn't too worried. After the 4th 1 min fast/3 min easy session, the clouds were almost over the field and I started getting a tad worried. After my 5th session, I decided to head inside and finish on the treadmill. As I reached the front door to the J I started hearing big rain drops. Before I hit the inside door to enter the gym area the bottom fell out and it was a complete down pour. It was an interesting scene from inside the windows of the gym on the treadmill. Lightning, thunder, slanted rain made the time on the treadmill go by a bit faster.

The FIRST program only requires you to run 3 focused runs a week which allows for a great deal of cross training. You can add a run or two for cross training and to prepare for H2C, I've added 3 runs. One is a Tuesday hilly 2.4mi run. This week this run was an uneventful, humid and hot (87*) run. But I felt strong and that's what counts. The second and third runs are my '2 a day' runs for H2C. I'd originally thought I'd just run an extra run Saturday evenings to get in a '2 a day' day, but have figured out that with a busy social calendar, this would be impossible. So Thursday mornings I run before work and after work. That puts about 9 hours between runs, which may turn out to be too much time. But I've not been able to find a training program for a relay race so I'll have to wing it as best I can. Thursdays runs didn't go well. A side stitch in the morning and heartburn in the evening. Not sure about the cause of the sidestitch but I've traced the heartburn to peanuts and peanut butter in a Clif Mojo bar I had for snack. The important thing is that my legs felt good and strong for these runs.

Wednesday's run was the second official training run for the FIRST program and mother nature wasn't on board with that run either. This run is a tempo run and the plan called for 2 easy miles, 2 fast miles, 2 easy miles. I arrived at CRC in the rain to run with the group. I was the only girl in a group of about 12-14 runners. The thunder and lightning were rolling in as we gathered on the front porch. I told the group when at start time that they could go ahead and start or wait out the lightning. You know men. If one said 'let's roll' the others have to follow. So I watched as all but one of them took off in the rain and lightning. Two more late comers showed up and we used a blackberry to watch a radar screen showing intense storms right over our location. When it finally passed it was close to 7:30pm and the four of us headed out. Rounding a corner in the 3rd mile I saw some cloud to cloud lightning and decided to call it a night after 4 miles. It seemed stupid to risk death to train to run a 4:15 hour marathon.

My long run this week, and the third run in the FIRST program series, called for 8 miles at a pace of 10:05 (planned marathon pace + 30 secs). In case you're not mathematically inclined, my planned race pace is 9:35. Because it was only 8 miles, less than I'd run the week before, and I didn't have to meet anyone at a specific time, I lazed around in the morning and didn't get started running until 8:15. It was already 87* and the humidity was on full blast. It was a tough run because of the heat, but surprisingly there were a few moments when I felt pretty good. I missed my overall goal time of 1:20:40 by about 3 minutes. I'm going to blame the heat and humidity for that and let it pass.

In all the first week was less than sucessful. But I'm not going to let that cloud the rest of the training. Weather happens, life happens and you have to learn to run through it.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I Just Haven't Been the Same Since That House Fell on My Sister

Of the six New Year's Resolutions I made this year, I've already succeeded at one: seeing two plays this year. I've seen Jersey Boys and Wicked and I highly recommend both.

Four years ago on vacation I picked up the book Wicked, The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. I enjoyed the book. A couple of years later a friend of mine asked me if I'd seen the play. I didn't know there was a play. It was in Charlotte and she said it was great. I didn't get to see it and was really disappointed. Then it came back this year. I had waiting 2 years to see the play and heard from everyone I knew who'd seen it that it was amazing. I was worried it wouldn't live up to the hype.

We got to Oven Auditorium with about 10 minutes to spare. We found or seats which were in the lower section to the right of the stage and twenty three rows from it. There was a big monster, either a pterodactyl or a dragon with wings made of metal above the stage as part of the frame. There was a curtain with a map of the Emerald City and the surrounding region hiding the stage. A green light was shining behind the map highlighting the Emerald City. We didn't have to wait too long before the orchestra started and the ptero-dragon began to move, his eyes glowed red, steam spewed from his nostrils and his wings flapped. And we were in for three hours of excellent entertainment.

The play or the tale, starts with the villagers celebrating that the witch is dead. Glinda the good witch arrives to celebrate with them and one of the villagers asks if a rumor that Glinda and the wicked witch were friends is true. Glinda then begins to tell the story of the life of the 'wicked' witch.

The story is tragic, but the play does have a lot of funny moments. I had heard it described as a play that anyone can relate to. The characters are certainly relate-able. It is a great tale and in the end good does trump evil, but it challenges your idea of what you thought was 'good' is in this story.

The cast was phenomenal. Elphaba (the wicked witch) had an amazing voice. The dancing, the lighting and the stage forced your imagination to see story as bigger than the stage. It definitely lived up to the hype.

So other than hanging out at the theatre I have been ramping up my mileage. I don't officially start training until next week, but I've been getting into a new routine to prepare for it. My next big races are Hood to Coast (H2C) in Oregon, the Ashville Half Marathon and Twin Cities Marathon in Minnesota. For training I'll be using the F.I.R.S.T. beginner program again, but adding an extra 5-7 mile run close to the long run in order to prepare for H2C. I'll also be adding hill repeats in addition to the speed work to prepare for H2C. I've never done a relay race and I haven't gotten any good advice on how to prepare. I've heard "you have to be in better than marathon shape' and that's been it. Not helpful. There are no training programs on the web for it either. So I'm winging it. The tough part is going to be getting in that extra run and still having a life.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Eureka! I Made It!

So it's been a while since my trip to Northern California, but it's been pretty crazy since I got back and I'm just now stealing some time to write about it.

In short, the Humboldt Forest is gorgeous and Napa contains the best landscaping I've seen since Italy.

We got to San Francisco at around 11pm local time after leaving Charlotte at 4:30 and stopping briefly in Houston. Exhausted, we managed to find the hotel shuttle, get checked in and hit the bed by some time around midnight. It was a great hotel that was conveniently located near the airport. That's about as much as I can say about San Fran as we left out the next morning after picking up the rental car and headed north to packet pickup and Eureka.

Our road trip was pretty much confined to HWY 101, which was an easy road to follow. We passed through the usual small towns that have highways running through them similar to what you see on the way to the beach. Only this was Northern California, not Eastern Carolina. So instead of seeing industrial styled strip malls with barber shops, "home-cooking" diners and little shops with rebel flags in the windows, we saw tie-dye shops, cafes and cute restaurants with healthy and tasty food in old refurbished buildings.


We found packet pickup at the start line for the race in the Humbolt Forest. It consisted of about 8 tents, lots of volunteers and only a few items for sale by one running store in the area. We didn't have any trouble getting parked and getting our packets. The volunteer who handed me my bib number repeated my city and state to me. 'Yes' I said. Again he repeated it and said 'you came all the way from North Carolina?' That was the first clue that this was a small, rather local, race. I took my bib to another tent where I switched from the full to the half. The lady at that tent asked me if I knew some relatives of hers that also live in Charlotte. I didn't know them. After getting my race shirt, which rocks!, we headed back out of the forest after stopping for some photo ops, and headed to the Red Lion Hotel in Eureka.Eureka is about 40 miles from the Humboldt Forest and about the closest place to stay if you're visiting Humboldt. I have searched for words to describe Eureka. If you live in Charlotte, it's very similar to NoDa. You have very industrial parts mixed with cool victorian homes or cafes or restaurants. There are no tall buildings. There is waterfront and the waterfront is very beautiful. Overall, it has a sad feeling to it. I don't know the history of the area, but I had the sense that is was once a booming area and a nice place to live, but something, maybe the recession, hit it hard. I don't recommend a trip to Eureka.

We went to a neat restaurant called Lost Coast Brewery and enjoyed a nice meal, some great micobrews and then hit the bed early for the race the next morning. Race morning we woke up, got ready and headed 40 miles south to Humboldt. I was a bit worried in the morning that I would be cold. I hadn't brought a long-sleeve shirt to run in and I was afraid that had been a mistake. When we got to the race start and parked I realized I would be fine. Actually I knew it would be hot! I was pretty glad I wasn't running the full. The temps were in the upper 50s and it later got into the 60s. Not terrible, but a bit warmer than a good race temp.

The course was simply gorgeous! When you looked into the forest, you couldn't see very deep into it. I couldn't really tell if you could even walk off the beaten path in this forest. The race course was on a paved road which contained some potholes and dips. The redwoods were right at the edge of the road. You could see where some of them had been chipped when cars or trucks or something large had brushed them. The first 6.5 miles was pretty much up hill. But it wasn't steep hills, it was more like slight inclines. It was a little deceptive. My asthma was still an issue. When I tried to push it up the hills, it pushed back. I took my rescue inhaler a couple of times and then decided I wasn't doing well enough to risk overdose on medication. I backed off and ended up walking more than I'd like. At the turn around point we started back down to the finish line. The downhill was nice and I really think it was a great course for a PR if you're in shape for it. After the race we took a few more pictures and headed back to Eureka for showers and lunch.

Chloe, my travel companion on this trip, had read about Arcata which was only about 10 miles North of Eureka, but was supposed to be pretty cool. I was relunctant to get back in car because I felt like we'd already spent too much time in it. However, I already knew there wasn't much in Eureka and agreed to head up to Arcata for lunch. After a lot of driving around searching for 'downtown Arcata' we finally found it, parked and headed out on foot to check out the shops. It was about 4pm on Sunday. FYI Arcata apparently shuts down at 5 or 6 on Sundays. That was a bit surprising considering it was a little college town home to Humboldt State. It did have a very 'college' feel to it and was much nicer than Eureka. We got some coffee in a little cafe and then checked out an outdoor store around the corner.

Then we went looking for lunch/dinner. Not an easy chore as most places were closing. We were referred to a place called Luke's Joint. It was delicious! Really great food! It was across the street from what must have been the town square. We got a table in the window and talked to the owner about the area. He told us about a wine bar around the corner that wouldn't be open for another hour. We headed out from Luke's and tried to kill some time in a little used book store. The store was two stories tall and packed with used books. We both managed to find a couple of books and then decided to just head back to Eureka rather than killing more time before the Wine bar opened.

Back in Eureka, we walked from the hotel to the Carter House Inn, which is a bed and breakfast that occupies about three Victorian style buildings in Eureka. There we were able to buy some wine and a cheese and fruit plate while we chilled out on comfortable chairs by a fire. It was chillier in Eureka than Humbolt by about 10 degrees. Not so horrible that you can't stand it, but cool enough that a nice spot by a fireplace was comfy.

The next day we left Eureka and headed South to Napa. On the way we stopped at a little town called Willits. We chose to stop in Willits because of a cafe that we saw on 101 that looked good. In California cafes serve coffee and baked goods. Not lunch, like they do back East. The guy in the cafe referred us to a Burrito Exquisito place across the street. "Organic, Natural, Fast Food." Really, it said that! We grabbed burritos and went to eat at plastic tables behind the building. The food was really good and surprisingly not greasy. After checking out a tie-dye shop we got back in the car and headed to Napa.

While checking into the Marriott, we asked the lady at the desk for some suggestions for downtown Napa. The lady began telling us that Yountville is 10 miles North and has some great dinner places. Again we asked her about downtown Napa. She said it was 10 miles South and yeah there are some places there. We were confused by her behavior but headed to downtown Napa. We found a beautiful park near downtown and left the car to go tour Napa. It was a Monday evening and there wasn't much going on. We found that most of the shops were closed or getting ready to close. We were surprised at how few people were around. The downtown area consisted of several small shops and a mall. Nothing special and not quaint. We walked down to the area known as Riverfront and found a large, newly built mix-use building. It was built to house shops and restaurants on the lower level and condos or apartments above. There was one shop occupying the lower level. It was bike shop that was closing for the day. The condos or apartments above looked mostly vacant. It looked like it had been started before the recession and then taken a hit.

We found a nice Italian restaurant and got a table without having to wait. The food was great and the wine was great too. Afterwards we found the car and headed back to the hotel.

The next morning we asked the concierge about places to rent bikes and which wineries to visit in the Napa Wine Country. She pointed us to Yountville for the bikes and gave us a map as well as vouchers for free tastings.













Driving through Yountville we realized why the lady at the desk had pointed us this way. It was so beautiful and quaint. We found the bike rental place, got the bikes, a map and were off. It was a beautiful day. It was sunny and warm but not too hot. We visited 3 or 4 wineries and did about 3 tastings. We took a lot of pictures! The pictures are beautiful but do not capture the essence of the area. We were there during a non peak time and didn't have to stand in lines or fight crowds to get to wineries or wines. A couple of the places where we tasted wine actually gave us additional tastings. Something we really didn't need, but we didn't want to be rude. We stopped after the second winery at a roadside deli and store for lunch. It was a small place that looked like a rural grocery store. They had a really nice cheese case and I got some cheese, bread and a salad. We ate at a picnic table behind the store.

We continued the tour after lunch and were surprised to find that we'd had the bikes for about 6 1/2 hours! We returned the bikes in Yountville just before the bike shop closed and started our walking tour of Yountville. We found a little place called Bistro Jeanty where we had dinner. It was a French restaurant and we were able to get a table outside.

After dinner we headed back to San Francisco and back to the same DoubleTree Hotel by the airport. After checking in, returning the rental car and catching the shuttle back to the hotel our buzz had worn off and we were in full on withdrawal. I hit the bed early because I had to get up at 4am to make a 6am flight. I made my flight and got home with a stomach ache from lack of sleep, dehydration and jet lag. Totally worth it!

In all it was a great trip and we spent just about the right amount of time in all locations except that I didn't get to see SF at all. If I had known what Eureka was like, I'd have stayed in Arcata and left after the race, still spent only the one day in Napa and gotten in a day in SF. But it was a great trip.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Beantown

I don't know where to start. In short Boston was awesome and exhausting!

We went to the expo right away to get our packets and spend some time checking out the booths. The shirts for the 5K and Marathon were really nice. Good quality, wicking shirts with no sponsors posted on them. The packet pick up and official Boston gear was in a small room with a few other discount booths. We walked through the room some and didn't find anything interesting. We were thinking that it was a pretty crappy expo for a big race when we saw that there was a whole other room we'd missed! The expo was closing so we agreed to come back the next day after the 5K.

That evening we checked into our hotels. I roomed with Adam's friend Kathy at the Double Tree near Chinatown and Tufts University. Adam and his family were in a Holiday Inn, off the beaten path in Beacon Hill. I met Adam and Todd at Rock Bottom's for dinner. It was walking distance from my hotel. It was cold and rainy so we ate and went back to the hotels to get some sleep before the 5K the next day.

The next morning it was 38* and rainy, which isn't really bad weather for a 5K. I ran to the start line with Kathy, which was less than a mile from the hotel. I seeded myself closer to the start line than where I was comfortable starting. I started
with the 6-minute group. In my defense there were a lot of people who were not where they should be. From the start I was being passed and passing people. The first two miles I was at or close to a 9-min pace. It wasn't what I wanted to do, but it was pretty good for how I felt. The course had about 2 decent sized hills and the rest was flat. It was also gorgeous! We passed beautiful brownstones on tree lined streets. They couldn't have picked a more scenic route. I finished at 28:39.


After the race we went back to the Expo to check out the room we'd missed. I bought some gloves from Nike and a jacket from Northface. I needed a nice jacket, plus I wanted it for the walk back to the room. We didn't find any good deals at the Expo, just a lot of running stuff. We only had about an hour to shop then we had to head back to our rooms to get ready to head to a Red Sox game.

It was freezing at the game. Just what you'd expect from a Spring game! We got really lucky as our seats were under the covered area. We were lucky because it rained at least 3 times during the game.










The Tampa Bay Rays are really good this year. They held the Sox off from scoring until the very last inning. The Rays won 7-1. But what a great stadium! They even have veggie burgers! I grabbed one and some peanuts plus a Sam Adams. It was all yummy. They sell Clam Chowder and hot chocolate in the stands. I've never seen that before!

After the came we headed to Canestaro's for a nice Italian meal so Adam could get his pasta. It was a quaint place in the neighborhood behind the stadium. I had found it online and made a reservation. The reviews were right, it was a good place. Then it was back to the hotels to get some sleep before an early start in the morning.

Kathy's mom, Judy, was also staying with us at the Double Tree. She and I got up early to get in a workout before going to watch the race. I had tossed my shoes after the 5K, because they were clearly done, but I didn't have any to workout in. So I decided to get a swim in. Our hotel also houses the Chinatown YMCA and we had free use while staying at the Double Tree. So I went for a short swim and wasn't at all surprised to see I was the only non-Asian at the pool. Even the Y's employees were Chinese. The pool was pretty clean, but the building was old and not very nice. It made me really appreciate the Jewish Community Center in Charlotte.

After working out we got ready to head to Boston College to watch the race. We decided to take the train which was pretty close to the hotel. When we got down to the subway we found the train packed with people. I started to get on and a guy waved me down to the next section of the train. Judy said "I guess we should wait for the next one." I said "They're all going to be like this." and I squeezed in where really, there was no room. Judy managed to get on as well and we were crammed in like we were in Japan or something. I was thinking that it was going to be hard to find a good spot to watch the race with all of these people going. Then the train got to the Kenmore station and 90% of the trains occupants got off. Whew! We were able to grab seats and ride out to the very last stop, the Boston College stop.


We found a nice spot right at mile 21 and sat down. It was cold, but sunny. I had brought some trail mix and it turned out to be a life saver as there were no places to get food around us. We were there for a little more than an hour before the first runners came through. By then the area around us was starting to fill in. Adam had given me his splits so I'd know when he should be passing. Unfortunately he had a bad second half. I thought I'd missed him. After a while I started thinking that I hoped I'd missed him because if I hadn't then he was off pace. And then I saw him. And he didn't look good. I could tell something was wrong with his right leg or hip. He managed a smile as he passed but it looked like he limped off. He still managed a great time, 3:25, but he had been at the halfway point at under 1:30, so he was a bit dissappointed in the second half. When we met up with him after the race, he said it was the toughest course he's ever run. I believe we'll be back in Boston another year so he can have another go at it. I know he'll sub-3 at some point. He's a really strong runner.


Kathy called as we were waiting for her to pass mile 21 and said she'd quit at 10 and was sitting with Adam at the finish. Kathy had been injured so she already wasn't sure how far she'd get. It was interesting for me to be around these really fast runners when they had had a bad day. I found myself saying to Adam what I usually say to my friends which is, training is good, but it all comes down to that one day. The difference was that these fast runners knew they'd have a better day another time and that they'd be back again. You don't find that confidence in slower runners.

We ended the evening at Cheers. Touristy, yes, but lots of fun!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Boston Bound!

So I'm packed, for the most part, for Boston. I have a lot going on this week between now and then, but was just thinking about the 5K on Sunday. I'm closely watching the weather and have packed for every possibility. Shorts, long sleeve shirt, short sleeve shirt, calf sleeves and a running hat. I have directions from my hotel to the race start and directions to the St. Charles River to run my cool down. But I have no plan for the race.

For many reasons. For one thing, I've run one 10-mile run in the last 3 weeks. And it was not a quick 10 miles. I haven't done speed work in 3 weeks. Three weeks may not seem like a long time, but it really is. I'm completely out of the loop on running and on where I am in my running. I haven't done a 5K since August. I don't even remember how I did! Another thing, and this is big, I'm still hocking up some luggies. Sorry to be so graphic. I don't know what my lungs can take and especially when the temperature will be a good 20-30 degrees cooler.

Guess I'll wing it!

So since I didn't get in a 20 mile run for marathon training, I've had to set my sights on the half marathon instead of the full. I'm disappointed, but I think I'm doing the right thing. I am registered for the Twin Cities Marathon in the fall so it's not like I don't have another one to look forward to. Additionally, I won't have to spend as much time recovering as I would from a full. This will allow me to focus on more of the shorter distances in the area and work on speed. So it's good. It's for the best. I'll just keep telling myself that!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Good Days and Bad Days

Fortunately we got some much needed heavy rains on Thursday. Unfortunately, today, Friday, I'm still pretty congested. I plan to get an allergy shot today and next Friday in an effort to curb these stupid symptoms. I also plan to attempt the 20 miler tomorrow morning. I have no idea how far I'll get or how slow it's going to go. My mind and my legs want to get out there and knock it out. My lungs have more sedentary plans.

I leave for Boston next weekend and from recent pictures of the city I can see they're all bloomed out for Spring. Lovely. Hence the weekly allergy shots. I played around with maps of the area where I'll be staying. I'm luckily very conveniently located to everything. After the 5K on Sunday I'm going to run down to the St. Charles River and run along a path by the water that I found on the map. I've heard so much about this area from other runners that I want to experience it myself. I also found a great map about the Boston Marathon course and still plan to be at mile 21 at the top of heartbreak hill, but now know a little about the area.

Adam got tickets to the Sunday Red Sox game. My Dad told me a little about the stadium. He said it's like what Crocket Park was like when we first moved to Charlotte, more than 20 years ago. Crocket Park was where the Charlotte O's played. They were a AA Division baseball farm team for the Orioles. The park was a small and wooden stadium and if you got into the box seats (which you could always sneak down into), you felt like you were on the field. We used to sneak down and sit in the first row by the dugout. We could hear the manager cussing at the players. My Dad said Fenway Park is very similar. I can't wait to see it!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Update

Still sick with a sinus infection/walking pneumonia, something like that. Getting better but no eta on a return to running. To date, I've missed 7 training runs including the first 20 miler. If I can't do my 20 miler scheduled for this weekend, I'll have to drop to the half marathon instead of the marathon.

Lesson learned: No more Spring marathons.

Good news is that I did book a hotel the night before the marathon and I'm working on a room in Sonoma. Not easy to find a cheap room out there!

I did get my packet from the Boston Marathon association with my 5K number in it. Very excited about this race. I love 5Ks! I can't wait to get to Boston and run the course. The course runs around the Public Gardens and Boston Common. It finishes at the finish line for the Boston marathon. I'll need to get in some extra miles that day and I'd love to run near the Charles River. Later we're attending a Boston Red Sox game.

Another update: Vibram 5 Fingers. I actually set out (with inhaler in hand) to walk a 4 mile loop on Saturday morning in my Vibram 5 Fingers. Calves still hurt today. I really believe these 'shoes' work muscles nothing else seems to find. I also ended up with several blisters to I'll be investing in the socks for them before I use them again.

Keeping fingers crossed that I can get in 4-6 miles on Wednesday. S-L-O-W miles.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Everything On Hold

Been sick since Sunday. No end in sight. This sucks major. Missed all my runs this week, haven't swam in 3 weeks and haven't lifted in 2 weeks. I'm on a ton of meds and pretty much in a fog. Every. Freakin'. Spring.

Friday, March 19, 2010

DST Has Arrived

I was so looking forward to Daylight Savings Time! Running in the daylight and the beginning of the great warm-up when we can run comfortable in shorts again!

But this whole week I've been so tired and out of it. I thought DST would be my reset button, but I think I'm going to need a full re-boot! I've skipped out on lifting and swimming all week. I've continued my running, but it's been somewhat lacking in energy.

I have had a lot going on. Work remains busy and I had to go into the office (or an office) twice this week, which somewhat disrupts my schedule. Then there was the beer mile.

I didn't run in the beer mile. I don't think I have the stomach for it! You drink 4 beers while running a mile. One full 12-oz beer every quarter mile. Why waste beer by guzzling it? I should mention here that I drink dark beers like Guinness and other stouts and not piss water such as bud or miller. So I'm really not the target demographic for a beer mile. I do love organizing theme runs and so I organized this one. Luckily, 30+ people don't share my view on guzzling beer and the event was successful and entertaining. Surprisingly there was very little carnage (puking, passing out, etc.). The weather was awesome as opposed to last year when it monsooned on us at the start, so people stuck around for a long time and actually continued to drink! There's a general feeling these days that we've all emerged from hibernation after a brutal winter and we're out and ready to celebrate Spring. It feels great!

I purchased my flight for San Francisco for the Avenue of the Giants Marathon and the plan is being set into motion. The next 4 weeks of training will be tough as I complete the 2-20 mile runs and the recovery runs in between. I'm looking forward to it with a healthy amount of fear. I also have the Boston 5K coming up and a weekend at the beach in between.

With work, training and trips, no additional progress has been made on the condo. It is upsetting that we're 3 months into the year and no 'For Sale' sign is posted outside. But there's a lot on my plate at the moment and not a lot that I, alone, can do about what's left to get the condo on the market. But there's still 9 months left in the year!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Training, Work, Life

I've been working so much lately that I haven't wanted to log back in after work to blog or even to check my email. It's not bad, the work is interesting, there's just a lot. Some of my team members want me to start helping with releases. I don't mind helping but some of these releases don't start til 9 or 11pm. I'm in bed by 11pm and my brain is definitely off by 9pm. I've never been a night owl. I've stayed up late, but I was drinking. My brain was not working then. And no, I didn't pull all nighters in college, either. My body just doesn't do evenings. So I'm not sure I can pull this off. I wonder how long I can put it off?

I finally had a good long run on Saturday. Unfortunately I didn't start my watch to see how good of a day it was but I felt pretty strong. This week I'm doing my first 18 miler. yikes!

I've started doing some of the Thursday night runs again. Some of my friends that I know from other things besides running, have started coming to them. I've decided to make these runs my 5 Finger runs. I haven't run much in them since I got them and this seems like the perfect opportunity as Thursdays is a cross-training day and not part of my marathon program. This week we're doing a pre-Irish Beer Mile run practice run. Combining a little beer with my 5 finger run should be interesting. Plus I've never hashed so it will be good to see how that feels. I'm organizing the beer mile so I can't participate. I'm not really all that disappointed.

The weather is warming up and I'm so excited to be able to put away my running tights! It's much better to run in shorts. It's totally mental but most of running is mental.

Speaking of mental, I'm considering running my first ultra. It's a little one as ultras go, it's a 50K. It's in Salem Lake where I ran the 30K in October. The only thing about the 50K is that it's an out and back twice. The course is flat and on trail that is more like a greenway and not technical. I'm dreading the out and back and repeat part. Is it better to stay in your head during that or get out of your head? I wonder if my mp3 player would make the whole race? I mentioned it to Adam and he said, 'you'd be running for a long time. That's well over 4 hours.' He's a really fast runner, so the idea of running FOR 4 hours is foreign to him. I think his longest marathon was 3:40 something. Maybe faster. The race isn't until January. I have plenty of time to decide and then to train. But the idea is out there.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Bloom Is Off the Rose

I was sitting with some friends talking about our long runs and complaining about feeling bored during them when one of them said 'I think it's because it's not new anymore.' She hit on it right there. I'm in my 7th year of running, I'm training for my 7th marathon, I have at least a hundred bib numbers from races of all distances and turfs hanging on my refrigerator, dozens of medals and even a few awards. There aren't many, if any, firsts anymore.

When you first start running you seem to hit a PR every time you race. You watch your time for a particular distance break goal after goal and it's exciting! I PR'd by 1 minute, 2 minutes, or by the most minutes by which I've ever PRd! I just ran my first 5K!, my first half! my first full! All of these exciting milestones happen early in your running career. After a while your friends and family stop being excited. You run out of milestones, you have a few bad races, then you stop PRing except maybe once a year if you're lucky.

Then what?

There is a certain amount of pleasure in watching other people hit milestones or PR. That is why I do love this sport. It's such an individual effort that you can be happy for someone else because it doesn't mean that you or someone else lost, like it does in a team sport. But that doesn't exactly motivate me to get through a 12 or 20 miler without being bored.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Inconsistent

"Why must it always be stop and go?
Where in this life can I find constant flow?
Inconsistency on a larger scale
Impersistence forcing me to bail out
.... What I really need is consistency" - Consistency by Ari Hest

That sums up how I feel about my training. I've determined that if I have a really good speed workout and tempo run then my long run will suck. The reverse is also true. Maybe there's some consistency here after all.

I'm 9 weeks out and have officially decided to run the Avenue of the Giants marathon. I have also possibly talked 2 friends into joining me. We plan to make a nice mini vacation out of it.

Work has been keeping me really, really busy. I'm falling behind on many of my New Year's Resolutions. The biggest being selling the condo. Nope not on the market yet. Why? Mostly it's the weather. For example, it's snowing right now for the 80th time this year! So can't really get all those little projects I have left to do done. I did finish reading a book, bringing my total to 2 towards my goal of 10. I started 2 more so that one is looking good. I have a plan to see the play Wicked which will count towards my 2 plays for the year. Haven't actually bought tickets yet, but I will. Haven't been to the Evening Muse yet this year sadly. I have signed up for my two marathons though so that one is almost locked down.

So with work being incredibly busy and training, there hasn't been a lot of down time. There also hasn't been much play time. The most interesting thing that's happened in the past month is that I won my first beer chugging contest. Yep. At a baby shower. Had to drink beer out of a baby bottle. Fun stuff. I'm not posting pictures.

I do have some great trips planned and I really can't wait to get out of here and enjoy some time in other cities. I'm also still planning to run the B.A.A. 5K and will be signing up for that as soon as it opens tomorrow. I'm really looking forward to running a 5K! It's been too long!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

MT Weeks 4 & 5

So work has been really hectic. I'm in an area now that has a great deal of work. It's great! But I haven't had as much time to blog. It's also been tough getting in my long runs due to snow every weekend!

I'll start with speed workouts. I found some fools willing to run track with me. The company has been great! They're motivated and motivating. We did a workout that consisted of 5 x 1K with a 400m recovery in between. It was awesome! It seemed weird at first. What is 1k? It's a 1,000 meters or two and a half times around the track. We decided to swap directions for each interval. It really helped the hips. I felt great after workout. The next speed workout didn't go so great. The plan called for 2 mins fast/2 mins easy. What? Minutes? That's just license to go slowly. I had a pinched nerve in my back that was affecting my neck and arm. So the workout was horrible. I was barely finishing 400m in 2 minutes. Lousy workout.

Speaking of lousy, the tempo runs have been going badly as well. The first one called for 1 mile easy, 4 tempo, 1 mile easy. I could not push myself during the 4 miles. I ended up walking some and finishing at a 10 minute pace. The next week didn't go well either! The plan called for 1 mile easy and 7 miles tempo. Again, I finished at a 10 mile pace. Part of the issue could be that it was really cold. In the 20s. Another issue is that I can't tell what pace I'm running. I'll think I'm running really hard and will find out it was a 10 minute pace. At some points I think I was running faster than a 9 minute mile but then dieing in the next mile. I'm not sure how to work on pacing. I was hoping this training would help. I thought that this was something that came with time, but I'm starting to think you either know it or you don't.

My long runs have been affected by adverse weather conditions and a race...in adverse weather conditions. I'll start with my favorite, The Uwharrie 8 mile trail race. I love this race! I've only run it 3 times in the past 6 years though I've signed up 5 of those years. This year I ran it with my friend Jody. My friend Chloe ventured to the race as well, but took off and we didn't see her again until the end. The weather was cold, but not as cold as I've experienced there. It was at or around the freezing mark. They'd had a great deal of rain leading up to the race and were considering cancelling the race, but decided to do it. Chloe, Jody and I went back and forth the night before considering whether or not to do the race. The race is an hour and a half from Charlotte so we couldn't just go and check the trail conditions ourselves. Finally Chloe said 'Let's do it. It'll be ugly but it'll be a great story.' Later Jody would say that 'the great story' part hooked her. We met at 6am and headed East.

The trails were wet but not completely soupy which is what I had expected. There was no ice. Jody and I stayed together and got into a good groove in places while walking the more treacherous areas. We talked, laughed and caught up in general on what we'd been up to. The race directors had put up ropes to get over the worst of the creeks and we were able to get through the race course without any spills or broken bones. I had worn my wool socks and trail shoes and I was amazed at how warm my feet stayed. Along the course we met up with a lady who runs trail races all the time. She's been a runner for 30 years and left the roads 15 years ago. She gave us great advice on how to land so you don't slip or fall and gave advice on how to dress. I never knew there was such a thing as wool underwear and bras. Now I may have to buy them!

My next long run was a 12 miler that I had to run after a 3.5 inch snow fell the night before. I started my run at close to 11am. I decided to wear my trail running shoes and wool socks. I thought the trail running shoes would help grip in the snow. I chose a route close to home and wore a fuel belt to carry my water. The roads and sidewalks weren't bad. The shady areas did have a great deal of ice and I had to walk through those areas. In the end, the trail shoes were a bad call. They didn't offer the cushioning I needed for the roads and there weren't enough snowy areas to make them worth while. Live and learn, I guess. I was glad to get in the 12 as it had been close to a month since I'd been able to hit double digits. I lost one long run to snow and the Uwharrie race was only 8 miles.

This week's plan calls for a long run of 13 miles. I've decided to bump it to 14 miles. I feel like I need to get these long runs ramped up a tad faster than in the plan. Wish me luck!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

MT Week 3

Last weekend's long run was foiled by snow and ice. I got in about 45 minutes on an indoor track but one lap was 1/12 of a mile. So making it 45 minutes is pretty good (sane).

I was able to find a track that was snow-free to do my speed workout. This week's workout called for 3 1-mile repeats. Fortunately the kiddies were out of school and I was able to go during the daylight hours. My goal for one mile during speed workouts is to be within 8:05 and 8:20. I felt somewhat strong in the legs during the workout, but I noticed my breathing was really off. I was really struggling. It could have been the cold. It hasn't been getting out of the 40s much these days. Still I was able to stay within range with:

4:13
4:09
4:14

The last one I was doing pretty good the first 3 laps but lost it in the last lap.

I really hate track workouts.

The second workout was my tempo run. The plan was 2m easy, 3 tempo, 2 easy. The 3 tempo miles I did in 26:06 or 8:42 per mile pace. Not bad. This is a bit faster than I need to run for tempo. I'm also on a pretty hilly part of the course when I do these tempo runs. My legs after about 2 miles of tempo started feeling like spaghetti. I think I hyper extended my knees a couple of times because after I finished running they really hurt. I ran 3 more miles after my tempo run, but I walked a couple of times during the first mile after tempo. I think I'm running the tempo runs too fast and then giving out on the cool down.

Another interesting thing I discovered is that if I completely stop, like when trying to cross a busy street, I start back feeling stronger. This may be something I can do at water stops and I definitely want to experiment with in my next half marathon race.

My next race is supposed to be this weekend. The Uwharrie Mountain Run. Unfortunately the are calling for ice in that area this weekend. It's a trail run that is already difficult without adding ice to the mix. I'm keeping an eye on the weather, but I'm not hopeful I'll be running it this weekend. If not the race, then I'll probably get in the 12-miler that I missed last weekend.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

5 Fingers and MT Week 3

Over the weekend I purchased a pair of Vibram Five Fingers Sprints. I walked around in them for a couple of days to loosen them up as they were a little tight when I bought them. They loosed up quickly. They are also more comfortable than they look. They got a few looks, though most people didn't notice. Reaction ranged from cool to creepy. Some people don't like feet.

My track workout for the week called for 6 x 800 (only 6?) with a 90 recovery in between. I decided to go to a nearby track that someone had told me about. This would save me some gas and it was supposedly well lit and visible from a main road. I decided I would warm up in my Five Fingers and do my workout in my Mizunos.

The warm up in the Five Fingers was good overall. I didn't notice any difference in my stride or any burning sensation in my legs. I'd heard from a couple of people to expect this. I read about barefoot running when I'd only been running a short time in '04. I changed my stride based on the information I'd read about barefoot running. This could be why I didn't notice a difference. Towards the end of the 3rd loop, I guess I didn't lift my left foot high enough and scraped the top of my big toe along the track's surface. It hurt so bad I was sure there was permanent damage. My first thought was 'not my pedicure!' I stopped and looked at my big toe and waited for the blood to surface on my new Five Fingers. But it never came. When the sting subsided, I continued my warm up with minimum pain in my big toe. When I changed into my Mizunos, there was no visible evidence of the scrape and my pedicure still looked great. Score 1 for the V5s!

It was really windy! The wind gusts were unbelievable. I switch direction each speed interval to break it up in my head and in both directions the head wind was in the second half of the track, when you're tired anyway. It felt like a bully had his hand on my forehead holding me back. I'd start an interval pretty strong, but hit the head wind and lose momentum. After the first 400, I'd struggle to recover even with the wind at my back then lose it all together when I hit the second head wind. It was so discouraging. My times were off more than 10 seconds from last week.

Interval times:
4:07
4:11
4:13
4:13
4:12
4:06

When I got to the track there was a lady run/walking the track. Her sons were playing around the soccer goal. She left before I started the warm up. It was just me. There were no games at the nearby softball fields and there were no lights on the track. There was heavy track on the main road, but the parking lot wasn't visible from this road. When it started to get dark, it started to get creepy. I'll try a different track next week. Maybe I'll even find someone else to run these with!

Workout number two went better than speed work. I run this one with a group. The plan called for 5 miles @ tempo pace. That's roughly a 9:50-10:05 pace for me. I warmed up for a mile before starting my tempo run. It was tough, but I felt strong. The course I run with the group isn't easy. There's a lot of hills, but there will be hills in a race, so I don't modify this run to avoid hills. I managed 5 miles in 47:32 or a pace of 9:30. That's slower than the 4 mile tempo pace last week, but I started the tempo run sooner, where there are bigger hills, this week.

Overall, I think training is going well. I feel strong and I'm more involved in my workouts than I have been in the past. My long runs have been hit or miss which is normal. I am working on some fueling issues with those but I think I have a plan that will work. I'm certainly enjoying this more than usual.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

More Charleston and F.I.R.S.T. Week 2

...after finishing shrimp & grits, we headed back to the hotel to clean up and spend some time in downtown Charleston. The temperature was in the 60s but it was raining. We walked up to Kings street and walked along it, stopping in some of the more interesting shops. We went into Half Moon Outfitters where I tried on a pair of Vibram Five Fingers. They didn't have the size I need or the kind I wanted, but I made a note of what I am looking for. I'm debating between a pair of V5s or a new pair of Mizunos. Just not sure if V5s are a good idea with my PF issue.






Adam shopped for a hat while we were there;)








We eventually stopped into King's Street Bar & Grill for a bite, some beers and to catch the NFL game. We took it easy the rest of the evening and went to Poogan's Porch for breakfast. I highly recommend Poogan's!














Poogan's Porch is in an old Charleston-style house on Queen St.

Back in Charlotte I enjoyed a relaxing Monday off from work since it was MLK day. Well not really. I actually got up early and made it to my athletic conditioning class and then went for a nice swim. After running a couple of errands I went home and sat on the couch for hours.

I usually do my speed workout on Mondays and I'd been doing them in the gym on the treadmill. I had decided that that really wasn't going to work and wasn't a good indicator of how fast I was really going and had resolved to finding a track. So I really wasn't relaxing on the couch as much as I was putting off going to the track. Finally around 3:00 I headed to a local school track. It was unseasonably warm but still cool enough to not get too hot. I need to do a 10 minute warm up, 12 x 400 (90 secs RI) and then a 10 minute cool down. I used to do my speed work on a street that was relatively flat and had the mile markers for 200 meters, 400 meters, etc. up to 800 meters and then you would run back to get in a full mile. I liked this but the track is closer. I had it in my head that I needed to run 12 times around the track with a 90 second rest in between. But for whatever reason, while I was warming up I somehow got it in my head that 400 meters was actually twice around the track and not once. I timed myself running twice around the track 10 times with a 90 second rest in between sets before it sunk in that I'd been doing 800s! Ugh! I thought well, I should finish what I started. But after doing my 11th one I realized that I'd done 5 1/2 miles of speed work and that's really too much. So I stopped. I was pretty beat anyway. My times were:
  1. 3:49
  2. 3:51
  3. 3:55
  4. 3:56
  5. 3:57
  6. 4:00
  7. 3:55
  8. 3:59
  9. 4:02
  10. 4:02
  11. 4:05

So from this, I see some consistency. I also see an endurance issue. By the way, the first 4:00 was partially due to a pause when a little girl riding her bike on the track took a nasty spill. I was going to help her, but her dad was at the track and he helped her. She wasn't seriously hurt just startled.

My second run for the week, my tempo run, was postponed a day because of work. Luckily my training schedule is flexible enough that this wasn't a problem. I just ran the next morning instead of in the evening with my group. It was cold and my foot hurt (pf issue) for the first mile, but loosened up and didn't bother me again until after the run. The plan was 1 mile easy, 4 miles tempo, 1 mile easy. Unfortunately, when my run was moved to the next day, I had to run a route I'm not familiar with. This meant having to stop a couple of times and check my directions. I did manage to get the 4miles tempo in at 37:05. I was happy with this given the stop and go during the run due to not being familiar with the route. I think next week's tempo run will go a lot better.

For my third run this week I'm meeting a group to run part of it. I have to run 11 miles at a 10:20 pace. I don't think that will be a problem. I may try to run it at a sub-10 pace but it really depends on how I feel when I wake up that morning. I'm looking forward to running a long run with a group again.