Sunday, January 15, 2012

Week 2 ends with friends

A successful week 2 of the 2012 running streak and marathon training ended with a long run with friends who I've not run with before.  First, I must confess that I had a slightly weak moment on Friday morning.  The schedule called for 9 miles, which I knew the night before I would not be doing.  But I thought I would run for an hour before work.  That didn't happen.  I just did not feel like running that morning, so I went back to bed (which resulted in an hour of very poor sleep), then stressed all day about getting in my "streak" run after work.  I did get a 2 mile run in, but I need to remember that sometimes it's okay to skip a run, yet most of the time I should not skip it.  I am tired no matter if I wake up at 5am or 8am, so unless my body is telling me to take it easy, I need to just suck it up and get out the door.

With that said, I did just that on Saturday morning and got in 4 miles before work.  Although I felt sluggish I maintained a 9 minute pace and was just fine with that.  Then last night I was struggling with whether I would get up an do 16 miles this morning.  I knew that I HAD to get in the 16, because Christy (my BFF and long distance training partner for Virginia Beach) ran her 16 that day.  But this was my only day off this entire month.  So I posted my dilemma to Facebook (of course, because that's what we do nowadays, right?), and a solution was soon posted in response!  A group of friends I know from cycling was getting together to run long Sunday morning.  It was great--I joined them at 7am this morning and had a great run.  At first the pace was a little slower than I am used to, but it allowed me to hear about their RAGNAR experience, and I was having a great time getting back into the groove of laughing and joking and story-telling while running.  I forgot how much I missed that since I've been training solo for about two years now.  After 7 miles we met up with some more folks who were going for a shorter distance, and a new running friend and I picked up the pace.  I ran some familiar roads but also a new trail that I had not been on before, and by the end of the 16 miles, Mai and I were pushing each other pretty fast!  She blamed me...but I think she was pushing it, too!  So I ended with a 9:26 average, feeling really great (other than a right ankle soreness), and so happy to have enjoyed a social run that challenged me at the same time.

I ended the day today watching the US Olympic Marathon Trials, and I am thrilled to be part of a community of runners that can range from a just-off-the-couch run/walker to a blazing-fast group of amazing elite women runners.  Running really can touch everyone, in one way or another.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Love it when a run goes well!

Fredo was still his normal self this morning.  Apparently his one day of rest on Tuesday morning was enough.  And the speedwork from yesterday did not tire him out like I thought it might.  Normally when Fredo and I run, his gait is steady and comfortable, and he can keep going seemingly forever.  With speedwork, however, I'm running faster so he has to break stride and go into a trot.  That didn't phase him, though.

This morning called for a 40 minute tempo run, and I had to start earlier than normal to get to work by 7:00.  Fredo started whining before I had even let the dogs back inside from their morning pee...he wanted to make sure I didn't leave without him!  The weather was quite different from the mild, windy morning of yesterday.  This morning it was cool (54 degrees), calm and very quiet in the neighborhood.  For the first half of my run, the only person we saw was our friend and neighbor Tom on his way to work.  Although this was supposed to be a tempo run, I felt like just running...without worry of pace, just enjoying the morning.  Of course, occasionally I would feel like I wasn't running quite fast enough and try to pick up the pace.  It want like this the whole run--enjoy the moment, focus on pace, lose focus, think about running form, focus on pace...I felt like I wasn't running as fast as I should be.

Fredo was happy, I felt pretty good about the run, and 47 minutes and 5.4 miles later, I had averaged an 8:33 pace.  I was very happy with that!  I'm so excited that my runs that feel not fast enough are much faster than they used to be!  And I'm happy that I didn't ruin Fredo's love of the run with overdoing it last week.

We will continue to enjoy the mornings together.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Sometimes you stick to the plan...other times you listen to your dog

I admit that my first week of sticking to my running plan was rough.  I didn't miss a workout, and I was pleased about that.  But I worked very long days at work, I hurt my feet by wearing my minimalist running shoes too much, and I even tired out Fredo!

So week two began on Monday with a planned easy 4 mile run.  I was tired, very tired.  My shoulder/neck pain prevents me from sleeping well, which doesn't help.  But the run was okay, I was glad I got it done, especially because I worked until almost 9:30 Monday night.  Then came 5:00am Tuesday morning.  The schedule called for speed work (7 x 800m repeats).  Speed work requires focus, determination, and most importantly, some level of energy.  I had none of these things at 5am that day.  But I would have done it.  And then Fredo gave me some advice.  That's right...Fredo the Wonderdog told me to go back to bed.  He didn't say this in words...he told me by his actions.  After letting the dogs out to pee as I always do when I get up, Fredo ran back into bed.  Normally, he will follow me around the house, whining as I get my shoes on and get ready for our run.  But Tuesday morning he jumped into bed with Brian, looked at me as if to say, "Not today woman, not today.  Go back to bed, crazy human."

And so I did.  I only had an hour to sleep, and I didn't sleep well, but it was a good decision.  By the end of the day I was feeling much better, and when I got home around 7:15, I convinced Brian to get on his bike, put the new dog (Ursula the puppy) into the doggie bike basket for her first ride, and join me on my 1-mile "keep the streak alive" run.  It felt really great to get outside and move, so we went around the neighborhood for just over 13 minutes.

Taking that rest day yesterday did wonders. Even though I still got less than 6 hours of sleep last night (that is bad for me--I need sleep!), I was looking forward to my speed work--and so was Fredo!  He was ready to get back to his running this morning.  I admit I was a little nervous (I know that sounds strange, being nervous about a run), but I haven't done speed work in a while, and I had no idea what to expect.  I tend to set high expectations for myself and get disappointed if I don't meet them.  My goal was to run 7 half-mile repeats, with 2:00 minutes of rest between each, in 3:40 each.  I ran just over a mile warm-up, then did my workout on my chosen "track" of two streets in my neighborhood that are flat and form a U with cul-de-sacs at each end.  It was 10 degrees warmer this morning than it has been (65 degrees) and WINDY!  Speed work in the wind is crazy, with half the work with the advantage of the push of a tail wind, and the other half a struggle into the wall of a headwind.  Overall I felt good, and for most of the repeats I beat my projected time.  I also wore my minimalist shoes again for the first time since Friday, and am happy to report no arch or ankle pain.

So Fredo the Wonderdog knew what he was talking about.  A running plan is there for guidance, but should be modified as necessary.  And when I might be too stubborn to make the right decision, I will use the guidance of my Fredo, instead.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Week one, run and done...

I consider my running week Monday through Sunday, so week one is now complete, and it was a success.  The running streak is alive with at least a mile run every day this year so far.  (Okay, so it's only been 8 days, but it's a start.)  Today was my long run of the week at 14 miles, and unfortunately I did not enjoy it.  They can't all be winners, though, can they?  It was a high mileage week, 46 miles total.

Is it strange that I actually enjoy the mental struggle of running?  For any non-runners reading this, you might think that the running part is struggle enough, and many times it can be.  This morning, for instance, I just wasn't feeling my normal running groove.  I didn't want to run 14 miles.  But the body is an amazing thing and is capable of so much more than we know--and that's where the mental struggle comes in.  Convincing the body to keep going when it would be so much easier to just stop is a challenge, and one that I am proud to be capable of (on most days).  I may not enjoy it while it's happening, but the accomplishment once I'm done is extremely satisfying.

I have been wondering at what point my minimalist shoes would begin to give me trouble, and I reached that point today.  Friday night at about mile 7.5 of my 8 mile run my feet started to hurt.  Then my right arch cramped bad, really high up.  At first I wasn't sure what I was feeling, but the pain was sharp and came back every few steps.  I made it the final half mile, but I couldn't have gone much further.  The next day was just a 1.4 mile run and I used my regular running shoes, no pain.  So this morning I put my light shoes on again.  I made it about 7 houses down the street and the arch pain was back.  I went around the whole block trying to figure out if I could work out the cramp, whether I should keep going and just call Brian to bring me my other shoes if it got to a point that I couldn't continue.  I was struggling with this decision because I REALLY want to be able to use the minimalist shoes for the marathon.  My regular running shoes now feel like bricks when I run in them.  But the pain would not subside, so I went home and changed shoes.  No arch pain with the other ones.

So my running week is done, just to start over again tomorrow.  I'm missing my Crossfit workouts, because I just can't fit them in with my busy work schedule, and I'm hoping that a month without the core strength training will not negatively impact my running.  We'll see.

Here's to week 2!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Keeping the streak alive

7th day in a row of running at least 1 mile--the streak is alive! The plan today called for a bike ride, but because of my work schedule that won't happen. I was extremely tired when I woke up at 5:15 this morning, but splashing cold water on your face really does work to help wake you up! And this is the only time of year we can get cold water out of the tap in Florida. So to keep the streak going, I headed out for a 1.4 mile jog. It was a humid 45 degrees which also helped me to wake up. It was a nice way to start the day and get the muscles moving, body relaxed, energy level up. Tomorrow: long run of the week.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Tough but successful week

Now into the busy month at work, this week, although a short one because of the holiday, was pretty rough.  I am fairly proud of myself for sticking to my running plan, for the most part.  It's tough when working 12 - 14 hour days, but I did it, so I know I can keep it up.

The running plan today called for 8 miles.  I got up at 5:00, let the dogs out, got my clothes together, then realized that I was so tired from the busy week that I was better served getting another hour's sleep rather than running.  This is only because I knew I could go for my run after work.  I admit that I felt guilty about this, because it felt like I was skipping my run, but I knew I would get it in after work.

I've already expressed my feelings about running in the morning...if you take that and reverse it, that's how I feel about running in the evening!  First, my motivation falters and it is so difficult to get out the door once I get home.  There are so many distractions, the pressure to get other things done, or simply the fatigue of the day setting in.  But I knew I would get tonight's run in, I was committed to doing it.  My plan was to run at least 6 miles and try to get close to 8, depending how I felt.  It helps to see Fredo get so excited about running--when he realizes I'm getting ready to run, he will not leave my side because he does not want to be left behind.

Tonight's run started a little rough--two stray dogs decided to block our way--one was friendly and just wanted to play, the other more reserved.  The problem was that Fredo wasn't so sure about her, and they wouldn't leave us alone, so I had to go home and get Brian to block them as we left again.  Why do dogs always find their way to the Quinn's?  This time there was nothing we could do for them, because they were afraid of Brian, clearly they were not treated well by men.  Very sad, but I digress...

I ran a route I hadn't run in a while, and at first was feeling fine.  Although I overdressed--I must remember that when it is warmer than 50 degrees I do NOT need long sleeves.  I found my groove, but I just did not feel right.  My legs felt weak, I felt like I was running slow, just plodding along, but I focused on being okay with that and just kept moving forward.  I thought about how nice it was to be outside after having been inside so much of the week.  But in the back of my mind I was still not thoroughly enjoying the run.  Too much traffic on a Friday night, I had to wait at quite a few intersections for turning cars to pass.  And then I focused again on moving forward...relax the shoulders, arms and wrists, chin down and in, legs powerfully turning a steady cadence...repeat.  I made it 8 miles in 71 minutes, just under a 9 minute pace.  That's good enough for me on weak legs and an environment that is not my favorite. 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

I get knocked down, but I get up again, you're never gonna keep me down!

This morning was a tough one...I didn't sleep well, it was cold in the house (we're trying not to use the heat again this year), and it was a damp 33 degrees outside.  But I did not hit snooze, I got dressed for running, and out I went.  The schedule called for a 45 minute tempo run.

During the first mile of my run, these are the things I thought about, and figured I would write about today: the cold, how Fredo the Wonderdog even seemed cold, remembering to NOT overdress for a cold run, that people need to start thinking about taking their Christmas decorations down, that I'm glad the people who clearly had a grand old time with fireworks on NYE finally cleaned up the debris that was left in front of their house, that I loathe litterbugs...then came mile 2, and I tripped.  Yup, foot caught on something and down I went.

Those of you who know me well will not be surprised by this, as I am quite clumsy.  However, though I often stumble, I rarely fall down when running.  Usually I slightly twist an ankle (which simply results in discomfort), I stumble but catch myself by throwing a leg forward (resulting in a strained ass muscle, but that's about it), or I bump into something.  But I don't often fall.  Last year I fell once because I caught my foot on one of those bumpy mats added at the ended of a sidewalk so people who are blind can tell the road is coming soon--it wasn't fastened down completely so my toe caught it and I did a spectacular tuck and roll.  On a busy road for all to see, of course.  The time before that was last February while trail running in Sedona. I don't really count that, though, because I am a novice trail runner and there were many rocks and hills to navigate (I fell three times in two days!).  Before that I don't even remember the last time I fell, although I know I have.

So this morning's fall came as a complete surprise, especially because it happened so fast.  I was up...I was down.  Fredo stood there looking at me as if to ask, "What happened?  Why are we stopped?  Why are you on the ground?  I guess I'll just wait here for you, Human."  My first thought was nervousness about my neck and shoulder, which has been strained for weeks and felt pulled again as I fell.  I got up, took inventory of how I felt, and then looked for the culprit that jumped up and grabbed my foot.  At first I couldn't find it--then I spotted it in the street light--a little piece of concrete from the road, just a tiny little bump, and that's all it took.  Well, enough of that, I set off to running again.  Of course at first after a fall the adrenaline is kicked into high gear, but when that settled down I realized I was fine, the neck was a little strained but did not impact my running.  After that I just tried to focus on the run (I noticed that I was picking my feet up higher for fear of tripping again!).  Since this was supposed to be a tempo run, I was trying to pick up the pace and make sure I was giving it a hard effort. Although I was feeling fine, fall notwithstanding, I did not feel as if my attempts at pushing my pace were working.  But I got into my groove and finished the run strong.

Once home, I did an assessment of the damage.  First, the run went well.  I ran 5.5 miles in 47 minutes, an 8:33 pace, which I am happy with.  No aches and pains other than the usual.  I stretched a bit to loosen the IT bands, started the coffee, then went to do the real damage assessment.  Gloves were not torn, nor were the hands, but I felt a couple of bruises on my palms.  No big deal.  Elbow!  Yup, some skin missing from my elbow, though I'm not sure if my shirt tore.  No skinned knees, capri running pants in tact.  Great!  And then...the kicker...a dime-sized hole in my new running shoes!  Argh!!  They are lightweight shoes, not a lot of material to withstand the scraping on the asphalt.  You know what this means, right?  Time for new shoes?!  We'll see.  For now they will continue to work, but the hole is where my pinky toe is, so hopefully it won't push its way out and make the tear bigger.

So went my morning run...success with a little side trip, literally.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Why go for a streak? Why not?

Many people think I am a very motivated person, especially when it comes to exercise.  I'm really not.  I truly enjoy exercise, I thrive when pushing the limits of my body and more often, my mind when it says "stop pushing your body" and I can counter "no!"  But I need some sort of goal.  I do not do well if I have no purpose in my exercise.  I suppose this is something I should work on--really enjoying the moment and the journey instead of focusing on the end result.  And I do enjoy the journey, but I know that to stick to a training plan I need some goal as a target.  Right now I have the Virginia Beach Marathon on March 18th.  My training plan at the moment is targeted towards that end, and specifically for qualifying for the Boston Marathon with this race.  I also would like to do another half-ironman triathlon this year and at least 2 shorter distance triathlons before July.  Because of my work schedule from July through November, I will have no goal during that time except to keep running.

This is where the streak comes in, and an additional goal.  There is a group on Facebook called I <3 to Run.  On most days there are motivational posts about running, and I often get a lot out of those little reminders.  In December, however, I read one of their posts about a running streak in 2012.  They proposed that they want to get as many people as possible to run at least one mile every day in 2012.  I didn't really pay attention to that first post, thinking only that it was silly.  Then I saw the post again, and thought, "I wonder how many people would try that?"  Then I saw it again, and thought, "I don't think I could do that.  It's a lot of pressure."  Then I saw it again, just before the new year.  Yup, you guessed it.  I decided, "Maybe I could do that."  After all, what's a mile?  For a long distance runner, it's nothing.  In fact, quite often before or after a Crossfit workout I'll run a mile (as a warm up or cool down).  I don't even "count" it as part of my running program.  But it does count, doesn't it?  It means, at minimum, that I would be moving for 8 or 9 minutes, outside, getting something done.  So I am on day 4, and the streak is alive.  The first three days of running I covered 22 miles.  My marathon training plan has Wednesday as a rest day, and one of the weekend days as a bike day.  The rest of the days are supposed to be run days, with a particular distance or effort, track or hill workout, long run or easy run, etc., planned for each.  I have yet to stick completely to a training plan, and often miss a planned run.  But so far, for the 4 (long) days of 2012, I have run at least a mile every day.

Today I worked a 12 hour day.  It's my busy season, and January will be full of 12 to 16 hour days, weekend work, lots of stress, and lots of fatigue.  Today was no exception--back-to-back 4 hour poll worker training sessions, followed by a stop in the office to get some work done.  On my way home I kept thinking about how my upper back is all seized up, and how I wish our jacuzzi was working because I really need a good soak, and I'm hungry, and it's cold out (44 at 7pm is cold in Florida!).  But the definition of a streak prevents even the notion of skipping a day.  And as I said, what's a mile?  What's 8 minutes?  Okay, so it takes a few minutes just to get dressed and ready to run...but so what?  I got home, changed my clothes, and Fredo the Wonderdog and I ran a mile.  When we were done (Fredo was not happy to be turning back towards home so soon!), I grabbed two more dogs (our big greyhound Bo and little chihuahua Phoebe) and took them for a short walk around the block.  Winners all around!  The streak is alive...for now.  I'm interested to see how this works out.  But it's a goal.  That means motivation.  Silly?  So what.  I like silly.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Morning Runner's Secret

Early morning runners share a secret. It is a secret that we want to share with others, hoping that they will enjoy the knowledge of it as much as we do. It is the secret of the dawn. The atmosphere of a pre-dawn morning while running (or walking, for that matter) is almost indescribable. There is a quiet that is leftover from the night, but that is punctuated by the initial stirrings that morning brings. This can be as subtle as leaves blowing down the street, which maybe in the middle of the day would not sound as pronounced, to the harsh squeak of the garbage truck brakes, trash cans thrown around, and engine throttle to get as fast as possible to the next house. Maybe those who are driving to work (or home from the night shift) experience this a little bit. But I would argue that unless you are out in it, not surrounded by a vehicle, not in a cocoon of music from your headphones, you just don't experience all that the pre-dawn has to offer. Additionally, there is a feeling. Maybe it's a feeling of change, of awakening, of fear of the dark or shadows, but a feeling that is unique to this time of the day. And then things begin to change again. The imperceptible shift of dark to light as the sun begins to rise. You don't even notice that the shadows begin to disappear, that you can begin to see color, and if you're lucky enough to be facing east, you see the sky as it begins to lighten. This is the secret that morning runners share, and we want to share it with you. Try it. You'll see what I mean.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Partial FAIL, and it's only day 2!

It's only a partial fail because I did get in 12 miles (12.16 to be exact!). However, I didn't get started until after 8am, which is the fail part. I could justify it by saying I have the day off, it's no big deal, the weather's not too hot, etc...but the bottom line is that I let myself be lazy again. Here's the truth of it: I did not set my alarm last night because I knew if I did I would be tempted to snooze it this morning, and no snooze button is part of my new year's resolution. So I didn't want to set myself up for failure. I knew that the dogs would wake me up sometime between 5:30 and 6:30. However, I also knew that I would likely go right back to bed after letting them out. Which is exactly what happened. And I knew that in going back to bed I would not automatically get up with first light, it would likely be 7:30 before I climbed out of the comfort of snuggling with the chihuahuas. Alas, it was 7:39. Once it gets close to 8am, a litany of excuses NOT to go running begin to build in the back of my mind. I start to get hungry at 8:00. By the time I'm done running it's so late in the morning. I have to feed the dogs. I have to make the coffee. Blah, blah, blah. But since this blog on day 2 is keeping me honest (even if no one reads it, it's out there), so I did feed the dogs, I did not make the coffee (Brian was not too happy about that one), and Fredo and I set off for 12 miles.

I only have a couple of short things to say about the run...after all, the running part will come, it's the motivation part that this blog is all was tough, as I knew it would be due to my recent lack of training. My legs were a little fatigued, I had some foot and ankle aches and pains, but I did it. 12.16 miles in 1:52:48, about a 9:17 pace, which is just a tad slower than I would like. So on to the positives.

It was a beautiful morning, once again, although quite windy. It was the farthest I've run in my minimalist shoes, and so far, so good. I have no idea at what mileage they will start to hurt my feet, due to the lack of cushioning, but they haven't yet. I saw a bald eagle, a wood stork taking flight from the scrub bush, and of course the usual osprey and vultures. I also ran with music today, which is not normal for me but was a nice change of pace. And at mile 8 or so I decided to go off-road for about a mile onto some dirt (well, sand, since this is Florida) trails in Gemini Springs. Fredo and I both really enjoyed that change.

Speaking of Fredo, he amazes me. When I slack off in training it means he doesn't get to run, either. So yesterday was his first 6 mile run in a couple weeks, and he did great but was really sacked out in the afternoon. Today he didn't skip a beat and was my little Energizer Bunny Dog for 12 miles. Since we typically run the same routes, he knows when a turn is coming up. But yesterday I threw him for a loop at one point because I went a different way. All it takes is a little flick of the wrist with his leash and I can redirect him with ease. But he is so smart, because this morning, as we neared that intersection from yesterday, he slowed his pace a bit and started glancing back at me as if to ask, "Which way today, Human?" He is simply awesome.

So day 2, started bad, ended good, onto the rest of my day. (Not all of my posts will be this long and detailed of course, but since I have the day off I'm sharing.)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year, New Blog

I've never done a blog before, but thought it might help me stick to my training plan, so I'll try it. We'll see how it goes.

The plan for this year is to run the Virginia Beach Marathon in March, and hopefully qualify for the Boston Marathon (which I would run in 2013). I need a 3:40, and my fastest marathon was 3:49 at Tampa in February of 2010. I feel a 3:40 is doable, though, because I have been running faster lately. It will take a good race day and a pace group, and I should be able to accomplish it.

I also want to do another half ironman triathlon this year, which I would have to get done by July because of my work schedule. I don't have one picked out yet, and I'll need to get a few shorter ones in, too. The goal for triathlons is to do a full Ironman in the fall of 2013. Yikes!

The other purpose of this blog is to record my experiences running with my canine partner Fredo the Wonderdog. We don't know how old Fredo is, but he is at least 8 years old, maybe 9. He has been my running companion for the past couple of years and he gets such joy out of it. When I'm having a bad run, I at least look down at him and see how happy he is and it gets me through. But I don't know how much longer he'll be able to run with me. I can't imagine running without him, but I of course know that he can't keep running forever.

So my first training entry will be about this morning's run. My marathon schedule calls for 16 miles yesterday, but I have not worked up to that. In fact, the longest I've run lately is 10.5, and I have not kept up with my week day runs over the past couple of weeks. And I did not run at all this morning the plan was to run 6 miles, and log a long run of 12 miles tomorrow. Then hopefully I can get back on schedule.

I slept in a little bit today, which sometimes would cause me to skip my run, but I am really going to try to get all my planned runs in this year. The weather was beautiful--about 60 degrees with a light breeze, not a cloud in the sky. As we started I felt great, and remembered why I love running. Fredo of course was raring to go. Before 1 mile, however, my body started to yell at me for skipping runs lately, and it became a bit of a struggle for the remainder of the run. My legs felt okay, but I have a stiff neck/shoulder problem that has been plaguing me for weeks, and I felt a little bogged down. I did a route that I haven't done in a long time, so when I reached a point that I thought was almost 5 miles I looked at my watch...NOPE! Only 3.47...argghhh...this is why I do not look at my watch often, because I started thinking about how much farther I had to go and how 6 miles seemed to be taking FOREVER! But then I caught myself thinking negatively and started thinking about the route, breaking it up into pieces that I knew I could accomplish. I tried picking up my turnover to try to run a little faster, which would work for a little bit.

As we got back to my neighborhood I checked the watch one more time and figured out what I needed to do for the end of the run, and came in at 6.15 miles. Pace was 8:47 per mile, which nowadays is on goal for me. On "easy" run days I want to be under 9 minute miles, and when I feel crappy like I did today it's a bonus to come in under that.

So day 1 of 2012 accomplished, Fredo was happy, I'm feeling good, and I'm ready to conquer the year.