March 29, 2011

The things I do for a milkshake

In just a few days, I'll be running a half marathon. I can't believe the race is finally here and I've actually volunteered and paid money to run 13.1 miles. I don't know what I was thinking.

My last couple of runs have not gone well, even though last time I planned better, and I am not confident about being able to handle 13 miles. My longest run ever was 10 miles - over two weeks ago - and I haven't been able to run that far again since. I'm not setting any time goals for this race. My only goal is to finish it. There will be at least 1,000 runners, and I'm hoping to finish in the top 900. I know I'm being a downer, but I'm just ready to get this over with and stop worrying about it. The fear of failure has kept me from doing a lot of things in my life. This isn't one of them, but that doesn't mean I'm looking forward to it either.

April is going to be a big month for me. I'll run my first (possibly only) half marathon. I'll turn 30. I'll celebrate three years with my husband, and I'll take my dream vacation to Maui. I'll also celebrate four years at my job, which I'm very proud of. So no matter what happens Saturday, I'm happy with where I am and what I've accomplished. Whether I cross the finish line with a smile on my face or hurl on my shoes, this little journey has been good for me. I've incorporated exercise into every single day, which is something I never thought I would do. I run, I terrify my dog with walking lunges, I ride my bike and I jump rope without a jump rope with Jillian Michaels. I do something to work up a sweat every day, even if it's just a quick 20 minutes for crunches and push-ups. I'm getting healthier, and I feel better. And most importantly, I can wear (most of) my pants again AND sit down in them.

I've also become more conscientious about my diet. When you're training, you can't eat tacos and then go for a run. Trust me; I know. It ends badly. Things that may taste good no longer make me feel good. I'm eating better so I'll have the fuel I need to run and making sure I'm not taking in things that will leave me sluggish. I haven't given up pizza, but I've cut back to once a week, and I feel sufficiently guilty about it. However, when I finish this race, I am going straight to Chick-Fil-A and treating myself to a banana pudding milkshake that I've been hearing such wonderful things about. And I will happily drink all 780 calories of it.

Until then, I leave you with my latest playlist pick: Florence + The Machine. She's scary, but I don't have to look at her when I listen to my iPod.

Run fast for your mother and fast for your father; 
Run for your children, for your sisters and brothers.
Leave all your love and your longing behind;
You can't carry it with you if you want to survive.

March 23, 2011

Plan better

I have a little more than a week left until my race, and training lately has been...less than ideal. Remember when I ran 10 miles and I was all, "I'm going the distance?" Yeah, well, I went the distance, it almost killed me, and I couldn't bend my knees for three days. So last week's training was practically nonexistent. I went from running 23 miles the previous week to running a grand total of FIVE last week.

So after giving my knees several days off, I was more than a little concerned about my long run and conquering 10 miles again on Sunday. *Spoiler alert!* I didn't make it. Why? Because I didn't listen to Charlie. I realize the man's crazy, but as I was struggling to put one foot in front of the other, I could only think of one thing:

PLAN. BETTER. He warned me, and truer words have never been spoken. It applies to everything, especially my doomed run on Sunday. You see, I know every single week that the weekend will bring a long, hard run. New miles that I've never attempted. It's never a surprise. It's on a snazzy chart on my refrigerator. Yet, somehow, I often fail to plan for it. Instead of staying off my feet, taking it easy and drinking gallons of water the day before, I got up at 6:30 a.m., went to work for a couple of hours, cleaned my entire house (and I mean really cleaned, like getting the gunk out of the coffee pot and vacuuming the baseboards kind of clean), did a ridiculous amount of laundry, organized the whole house, and followed that up by a solid hour of strength training and staying up until after midnight. Smart, huh? Oh, and while I was doing all that, I drank practically no water.

Then, I still had the audacity to set my alarm for 7 a.m., like I was really going to get up and run early. Ya know, practice running during actual race time and beat the heat. See, Sunday was the hottest day we've had so far this year. It reached 80 degrees and there were zero clouds in the sky. After I rolled my sore body out of bed a few hours after my alarm went off, I took my sweet time having breakfast, drinking coffee - ya know, the beverage that dehydrates you - and headed out for a run around 1:30 p.m. The sun was beating down, and I still somehow thought everything would be fine. I had just run 10 miles the weekend before. What's the big deal?

HEAT. Heat is the big deal. Heat, humidity, already tired legs and dehydration before I even left the house. There was once a time when I longed for 80 degrees and sunshine. I sure got my wish! I ran, walked and whined a total of 5.7 miles before I gave up and went back home. I left defeated, freaking out about whether I can handle 13.1 miles, and sporting some ridiculous tan lines, thankyouverymuch compression calf sleeves.

I definitely should've listened to Charlie. Plan better.

March 16, 2011

Going the distance

This blog post title is brought to you by Cake and my new favorite running song. I have a little more than two weeks to go until the Bentonville Half Marathon, and on Sunday, I finished my first ever 10-mile run! I averaged an 11:48 pace, which I was satisfied with, and I didn't take any walk breaks. I am going the distance, but I am obviously not going for speed. Running longer distances has presented a whole new set of challenges, and I'm still figuring out what works for me and what doesn't.

Here's what I know so far:

Running long hurts in a whole new way and in new places. To help with recovery, I invested in some pretty pink leg hugs, also known as Zensah calf sleeves. This is how I spend my weekends now.

These calf sleeves are magical and I am not ashamed to wear them on the run, on the couch or to the office under my pants.

Longer runs require fuel, and my first attempt at hydrating on the run was a disaster. I got a cheap fuel belt with two water bottles, washed them in the dishwasher and now everything I put in them tastes like lemon soap. FAIL. I couldn't find the right kind of bottles for sale around here to replace the ones I ruined, but my local running store had an extra lying around and gave me one. So now I have a two-bottle fuel belt and only one usable bottle, which means my fanny pack doesn't sit straight on my fanny. After several miles of struggling with my cheapo bouncy belt, I came home and ordered an iFitness hydration belt, which should be here any day now!

In addition to chugging H2O, I also have to eat something along the way, all while not choking and not falling down and maintaining a decent pace. I tried walking while I reload, but I run so slowly anyway that this really set me back. I learned that Clif Shot Bloks make me want to die, but eating a few tiny Sport Beans (with caffeine!) every few miles is kind to my digestive system. Trial and error, my friends. Trial and error.

So much of running is mental, and I have to really focus to stay positive. If I let my brain wander down a negative path, I might lose confidence and cry on the sidewalk at mile four. (Not that that's happened.) (Ahem.) I've read some articles that suggest choosing a mantra to repeat to yourself when you get overwhelmed. Something short and easy to remember, like, "Farther, faster," or "Be strong, keep going." I think this is a great idea, but somehow my mantras always end up to be, "These are side-stitches of death," or "This hill is trying to kill me." Music helps me cope best, as you can tell from this post's title. And my new favorite things on the planet are Yurbuds, which keep my quarter-sized Apple earbuds from falling out! These things have changed my life. Buy some.

My 10-miler also made me weak in the knees, and not in a good way. I have been in some serious pain these last few days, but I'm trying not to obsess about it. I felt better today, so I ran tonight for the first time since Sunday and only made it 2 miles before all the pain came back and I called it quits. It's not so painful that I couldn't run through it, but it's the kind of pain that I know I shouldn't ignore. I'm hoping ice and rest will solve the problem, along with some strength training for my quads, hips and glutes. After the race, I can relax, recover, give my knees a break and focus on quality strength work before adding any more miles. Just two and a half more weeks to go!!

And now for your listening pleasure, CAKE.

March 5, 2011

Little victories

Y'all know I'm a slow runner. I hate how slow I am, and I get discouraged when I try to run with others who are faster. But in order to run faster, I realized I'll have to, well, run faster. So I did.

This week, my best West Coast bud, Tia Kel, returned from a three-month Arkansas hiatus, and we celebrated by going for a run. We planned to do speed intervals at the track, but when we got there, it had been completely taken over by old ladies. Instead of fighting the slow-moving crowd, we decided to run downtown instead, and Trea joined us. We ran two easy miles together before Kel had to leave for hot yoga class. Trea and I wanted to keep running, and we drove back over to the track to see if the ladies had vacated. We were in luck! They were all just leaving, so we had the track mostly to ourselves for the rest of the evening. We've never really done speed work before, so I had no idea what to do. Trea wanted to run half-mile repeats, which is just running two laps really fast and then resting a few minutes before doing two more fast laps. This turned out to be great fun!!

I usually average about a 12:00 pace, which is sloooow. But I found out that for at least half-mile intervals, I can run an 8:30 pace! It was dark and getting colder, and it felt so good to run fast, breathe hard and deep and take big strides to the finish line. My lungs were burning from huffing and puffing the cold air, but I didn't care. I ran two half-mile repeats, and then pushed through for three-quarters of a mile at an 8:30 pace. It was tough, but I loved it! Speed work is definitely going to become part of my weekly routine.

The next day, I wanted to do an easy recovery run because my legs were really tired from all that high steppin'. I went to the Bella Vista pond for an easy 3 miles. This path around the pond is where I started running last summer.

I remember running in sweltering heat and barely making it through 90-second intervals before stopping to walk. It's about 2 miles around the pond, and my goal last year was to be able to run all the way around without stopping. Because of the dark winter weather, I've been running a lot on the treadmill and on other paths, so even though I've been running far more than 2 miles at a time, I've never run strong all the way around the pond and been able to keep going...until this week.

My legs felt good, the weather was just right, and I got started about 30 minutes before sunset. There were lots of other runners and walkers out on the path, so I could people watch and zone out. After a few minutes, I realized I was running faster than I normally do. Instead of seeing a 12 on my watch, I saw an 11. I waited for my legs to tell me they were tired, but I continued to feel fine and keep a faster pace. Before I knew it, I was back where I started. I ran all the way around the pond and I wasn't tired. I hadn't stopped to walk. I had a mile left, and it wasn't a big deal. I finished my 3 miles and walked the rest of the way back around to the car just in time to watch a pink, purple and orange sunset. I know that doesn't sound like much, but I was so happy to be able to run strong and finish strong at the place where all this started. It was my own little victory.


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