Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Good morning!

One of the things I like about running in the morning is that I get to say "Good morning!" to every walker, runner and biker I pass along the way. I don't really know any of these folks, although many of them I see day after day. Saying hi to a runner is an acknowledgement that you are both part of a "club" of folks who roll out of bed early for a run. Even the bikers will say a quick hi. As I see the high school students with their headphones on, I say hi to them too. Who knows if I might be the only person to smile and say hi to them all day.

I ran without my headphones this morning and I was so much more part of my "journey." Although I will need them for my pacing on some of my training runs, it seems running without them is not such a bore after all!

4 miles today in 42:55 - a shorter, easy run since I am still sore after Sunday. Good morning, Orlando!!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

18 miler and meeting "the infamous Wall"

For a Florida runner, today had to be the perfect day for a long run. The cold front that pushed through yesterday produced cooler temperatures and dryer weather. It was 55 degrees F with a humidity of just under 50%. The sun would warm things up to about 72 degrees F by the time I was finished. There was also a light breeze to keep things feeling cool.

I also got a one hour reprive the return to standard time. Sunrise today was at 6:35 am - and I started my run right about that time. I figured 18 miles would take me just under 4 hours. I was pretty close on my prediction.

For these long runs, I take an easy pace to conserve energy and enjoy listening to podcasts and just any old music along the way. Based on my recent epiphany, I decided to run the first 5 miles without listening to my iPod - so I could really enjoy the journey of my run. I was not disappointed! The birds were singing and the sounds of the morning were wonderful to listen to. I was happy to envelope myself in that - and I didn't feel the need to be distracted from my run.

About 2 miles into my run I realized that I really wanted to have my sunglasses and that I had not used body glide in one area I knew would chafe. With my route bringing me about 1/4 mile from my house, I made a quick side trip / pit stop to pick up the shades and use the powerglide. As I calculated later, it actually added another .6 miles to my run.

I continued on and made my next "stop" at my office. I work about 5.5 miles from my house. With the route I mapped out, I arrived there about 8-9 miles into the run, just in time to refill my water bottles. I checked in with home to let them know I was doing ok (I was already 1 hour 45 min into my run). I continued on my way, running through a quiet UCF campus and out around the nearby roads. My right quad started to ache a bit around mile 10 - but it wasn't too painful. Made me think that I need to cross train more on the elliptical machine to build that muscle up.

I had scheduled a quick stop at the house just 2 miles from the end to get more gatorade. I knew I would run out by then. But, it would be hard to stop there and not be done. Hmmmm, perhaps I could make the last 2 miles without the stop. But as I drew closer to the house, knew I needed the gatorade. It was warming up and I was out of drink.

I made it a quick stop. Fortunately, I had prefilled a couple of fuel belt bottles with gatorade the night before, so all I really needed to do was run in, grab the bottles, and get out of there. I said a quick hello, then beat it out to finish up those last two miles.

Shortly after that is when IT happened. Chris, meet the Wall. Wall, meet Chris. I felt pretty good running up to my house, but about half a mile back out (17 miles into the run) my left leg joined my right leg in aching. The ache extended all the way down my legs. It felt like my quads were getting tighter. My calves started to feel a little stiff as well. Nothing locked up - it was just a tighter feeling, so I kept on going. After all, I was now less than 2 miles from finishing this run. There was no way I was stopping.

I got to my turn around point and now started into my last mile of the run. I pushed my pace up a bit and skipped my walking break - I didn't want to stop running and then have to get going again. In the last tenth of a mile, I opened up my stride and sprinted in. I was done!!!! My final time and distance: 3 hours, 49 minutes, 58 seconds - 18.75 miles. I got home at 10:30 am.

I felt really good! A gatorade, protein shake, and ice bath completed the perfect long run day. And the heel - it is aching. I think I will need to ice that for awhile today as well. Overall, it is hard to deny that today is a good day to be a runner!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Cold weather running and my epiphany

Although not cold by many standards, in Florida this morning was cold and clear. Our first cold morning of the season, it was 48 degrees F and I was excited to see how it would feel to run in the chill instead of the heat.

Uncertain how cold I would feel, but knowing I would warm up quick, I wore capri length jogging pants, a short sleeve shirt with a long sleeve running shirt thrown over it. Instead of the visor I had been wearing (more to keep sweat out of my eyes than the sun) I put a running hat on to keep heat in.

Setting my podrunner tunes to 170, I set off for my 5 mile run at a brisk pace. The cool air felt great and the stars twinkled brightly. My first mile breezed by at 10:06 - a bit fast but still a comfortable pace. I was already warming up so I pushed my sleeves up and after my 1 min walking break I pressed on. My second mile was at 10:26. This was feeling great.

The entire run continued like that - I felt like I could run on and on. I finished the last mile of the run in 9:46 and felt great! 51:51 for the 5 miles - my fastest run on this route yet. This weather is a lot like the weather around the date of the marathon. If we get a morning like this I will be in heaven.

As I ran today, I was thinking of a recent epiphany I had regarding why we pursue certain goals in life, accomplishments, our "blue ribbons." Without getting into the details of my epiphany, I was wondering if my goal to run a marathon was just another blue ribbon I was seeking in my life - an accomplishment in the eyes of the world. And in many ways it is, at least it started out that way. But as I train I realize that it has become much more. The journey to the race has been much more important than running the race itself. Oh sure, I am looking forward to the race - but I wonder if I would be pushing myself out of bed to run on mornings like today - when I don't feel 100% and its cold outside. Would I be running 5 days a week if I didn't have that goal looming ahead? Would I plan my schedule around running 18 miles on a Sunday morning before many folks are out of bed? I think there is a good chance I wouldn't. So the goal is serving a greater purpose. It is establishing an exercise routine, a healthy approach to life that benefits me, my family and the people around me. They don't care if I win a race (which is good since I never will). They care if I am healthy, happy and part of their lives. That makes me a winner in their eyes. And THAT is the real prize.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

UCF 5 Miler - a 5M PR

It was a warm, sunny day for this race. A bit too warm, in fact. It was about 75 degrees and 97% humidity with no wind. At the start it wasn't too bad, but as the sun came up, it became quite warm.

In typical race fashion, I went out quickly, keeping up with the folks around me. I finished mile 1 in 9:15 - much faster than my normal pace - and I could feel it. I slowed my pace a bit and worked to keep going until the first water break but had to take a short walking break....the first water break was just before mile 2. I covered the second mile in 10:07 - still on the faster side but closer to the pace I was hoping for in the race. I reached mile 3 at just over 30 minutes into the race. Still a pretty good pace for trying to hit 50 minutes, but I could tell that I was pretty spent. I chided myself for wanting to stop and walk after only 3 miles, I mean, what was I going to do when it came to running 26?

Shaking off the self criticism, I pressed on. I took a few more walking breaks - to help catch my breath and give me a stronger finish. The 4th mile took me 11:07 to complete. Not too bad, and I was starting to feel a little better. I tried to keep my stride quick and shorter, focused on being relaxed to run more economically. I was in my last mile, and I told my daugther before leaving the house this morning that I would run that one for her - so after a short break, I started out on the last mile. I did take a 30 sec break about halfway through, then pressed on.

As I got near the finish, the runners that had already finished the race were making their way back down the course to encourage the runners that were coming in. That was a sign that I were close. I sped up a little at that point, and as I could see I was in the last quarter mile, I fell into a comfortable sprint to the finish line. It felt good to stretch out my stride and run for the finish. I crossed the line at 51:40, or a net of 51:15. Although I was hoping to get to 50 min, this time was a new PR for me. My best 5 mile training runs were 52:40 and my last UCF 5 miler 2 years ago was about 58 minutes.

As much as I felt like I was having a tough race, I did really well. I hung in there and finished strong. The last mile took me 10:05, not a bad finish considering how fast I started out.

I have had an easy weekend. We have had company and so I have been breaking my diet, eating more red meat and even some fries along with a few glasses of wine. Somehow I think the race was tougher because I didn't stick to my diet - at least that sounds plausable.

This coming week is a recovery week leading up to my 18 mile run next weekend. Just 11 weeks until the big race.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Pain is weakness leaving the body...

Today I ran my 16 mile long run. It was actually 16.2 miles - the longest I have ever run. I planned a run that had two 8 mile components, with a stop back at the house to refill my water bottles.

I took a new route, running the first half in a different neighborhood to the north of mine. It was an interesting run, but the sidewalks were annoying. Whoever thought of winding sidewalks that snake from side to side instead of going straight did so to torture runners and bikers who want to just go straight.

My heel started to ache around mile 8, my legs at about mile 10 - but it wasn't something I couldn't push through. I just remembered the quote from a famous running coach (can't remember the name at the moment) who said that "Pain is weakness leaving the body." I got rid of lots of weakness today (and still am!).

This has been a good training week. After last weekend's busy time of racing I took Mon and Tues off, ran 8 miles Wed (overdoing it a bit), on Thurs I cross trained to give the heel a break, doing 17 min on the elliptical machine, then when I got home about 2 miles of jogging with my daughters (very cool), ran 5 miles on Fri, Sat off and then today's run. The Parrot predictor for my marathon based on my weekly running is pointing to a 5:04 marathon. 5 hours could be a doable goal!

I did feel like I did more "dodge car" in my early morning runs. It will be nice when we turn the clocks back and I spend more time running after the sun comes up instead of almost entirely in the dark. Cars are scary. Stretches of road with few street lights are scary. Areas near the woods are scary. I carry a mace item and a cell phone and in the scary areas take off my headphones. I am in a nice neighborhood but you never know.

So, a new long distance for me. Next weekend is the UCF 5 Miler and a short long run. The week after is the infamous 18 mile run.

11 weeks, 6 days and 18 hours until Disney!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Great 10K, rough 8 miler follows

Lesson learned #1: Don't run a race, then try to do a long run in the same day. Running in a race is different from typical long runs. For one thing, you tend to run faster in a race. Now I really tried to go easy in today's race. I kicked on some running tunes and just settled in to a pace, but in spite of all the people who passed me throughout the race, my pace was still faster than my long run pace: 10:34 mile 1, 10:45 mile 2, 10:29 Mile 3....my final time was 1:06:39, a 10:44 pace. I was happy to beat the 1:10 time I put out as a goal. I finished strong over the last 2 tenths of a mile. When I got home, I decided to set out and get the long run in before I got too comfortable, so I changed into some dry running gear, loaded up my fuel belt and took off - quite slowly. My heel was aching pretty good and the rest of me didn't feel quite right either. Oh, did I mention that I may have a sinus infection? I really had to struggle to do this run - my foot hurt, my muscles began to ache, my digestive system was unhappy, and I was tired. It was sunny, which usually is a death sentence, however today was cooler and breezy and the sun didn't really get to me.

Lesson learned #2: Don't race at Disney two mornings in a row. On Saturday I had to be there at 6 am to be ready for the race. Today I needed to be there at 5:30 am. Not much sleep before Sat, about 5 hours before Sun. I can do 1 morning like that...2, well it was a bit much.

So a successful 10K, survived 8 miler, and successful Phedippedations Half Marathon completion (use my 10K and my 8 mile pace to obtain a 13.1 mile time). But I am so spent! Heading to bed right after typing this. I think I am going to take Mon AND Tues off from running.

Limping around in Florida....

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Running for Nancy, a new PR and meeting the host of Burning 20

Today I got to run my race for Nancy. Many of the racers were running for themselves or loved ones who have fought with breast cancer. The dedication was inspiring.

A full moon greeted us as we arrived in the dark around 6:00am. Excitement was already in the air. The temperature was a cool 68 degrees F. A beautiful sunrise preceeded the race start. I met a new friend, Laura, who was running her very first race ever! She was very excited.

As I waited for the race to begin, I ran into Adam Tinkoff, the host of the podcast Burning 20 (an excellent listen, by the way - you can find out more at http://www.burningtwenty.com). Like me, Adam is also training for the Disney World Marathon in January. In addition, Adam and I are participating this weekend in the Phedippedations World Wide Half Marathon (http://www.steverunner.com/halfmarathon.htm). It is always fun to meet folks in person that you feel you know after meeting them "virtually."

The race started off a bit crowded but I was able to make my way up to where the crowd was a bit thinner. I know that I took off at a strong pace, but I wanted to try to break 30 minutes today - and I figured I could adjust when I saw my mile 1 time. Well, mile 1 was NOT marked, which I realized after going about 11 minutes. I pressed on until I saw the mile 2 marker which I crossed at about 19:28. My pace was under 10 min/mile, which was what I was shooting for.

Now I had a couple of things working against me. I am suffering from a cold right now and had tanked up on decongestants last night in a failed attempt to sleep. So strike 1 - I had about 1-2 hours sleep. That was not my trouble. The drugs made my mouth and throat dry, leading me to stop for water at mile 1 and 2. Though I only walked for perhaps 30 sec each time, it made the difference for my final time.

I was pretty winded but instead of walking I slowed my pace to catch my breath. As I rounded the last corner for the finish line I sprinted to the finish. I could see on the clock that my time was about 31 min - as I crossed the finish line and stopped my watch, my net time turned out to be 30 min, 3 seconds. Just 3 seconds shy of busting 30 minutes. I was excited that I was able to set another PR and be so close to a 30 minute 5K.

Tomorrow my first ever 10K race - the Race for the Taste 10K. It's back to Disney early tomorrow morning (I need to be there by 5:15 or so) and a run through MGM and Epcot. Should be fun!

Friday, October 06, 2006

In loving memory of Nancy K. Bouwens

Tomorrow morning is the Susan Komen Race for the Cure 5K at Disney's Animal Kingdom park. And tomorrow I am doing something I have not yet done in any of the races I have run. I am dedicating this race to someone - to my mother-in-law, Nancy Bouwens, who left this world to be with her Lord on Nov. 28, 2001 after losing a lengthy battle to breast cancer.

As I paste her picture on an unused race number to pin to my back as I run, I begin to realize how much I miss her. She was a hard working woman, having raised 4 boys (and since my husband was one of them, I can understand why she spent so much time praying). The phrase that best describes her, at least to me, is that she was a woman of God. Her faith and love served and inspired all around her. Tomorrow, as I run 3.1 miles to help raise money for breast cancer research, I do it knowing that it would be the kind of thing she would be proud for me to do.

Although it has been nearly 5 years since she physically left us, it has not diminished the feeling of loss I have. I feel like she keeps watch over our family, and is certainly here with us in spirit. Still, I miss her.

As runners, we run for many different reasons. Tomorrow, I run for Nancy.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

As the sun rises...

I run through the morning - first in the dark - then as the sun comes up. I am a night owl by tradition, but there is something about being outside at first light that is energizing!

Today I began my run, as usual, in the dark at about 6 am. I had a longer mid week run scheduled - 8 miles. About 4.5 miles into my run, the sky started to get lighter, and by 6 miles in it was light and I felt wonderful! The last 2 miles of the run felt almost effortless - and as I pushed myself to run faster, the fatigue never came. My last mile was covered in 9:50 - with my pace for the run at 11 min/mile.

I feel good! It's a good day to be a runner :-)

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Toughest long run yet!

Today I was scheduled to run a 14 mile long run. Since I had successfully done this a couple of weeks ago, I have been optimistic about being able to do this again. However, the circumstances for this weekend were a bit different.

After running my best 5K ever yesterday morning, I showered up and headed over to help a friend move. I got there around 11 am and worked until 10 pm. After getting to bed late the night before, getting up early for the race, and running like a crazy woman, I was, well, a bit tired. There were a few times during the day I was wondering if I was going to make it, kind of like being in a long run where you are really worn out and just want to stop. With the move, the last couple of hours were tough not only because we had been working all day, but because I did some of the heaviest lifting of the entire day during the last hour of work.

I got home around 10:30 pm and immediately climbed into a nice hot bubbly bath. I knew that I was going to be sore in a few muscle groups I was not accustomed to using. My lower back was already a bit sore. Getting up at 6 am to begin a 14 mile run seemed out of the question. I wasn't sure whether I was going to get to my long run the next day, but for that moment, I just needed to rest up.

My body naturally woke me up around 7 am, so I dragged my achy body to use the bathroom, popped some ibuprofen and climbed back into bed. I got up a little before 9 am and wrestled with the idea of my long run. My legs felt ok and I felt pretty ok. I realize that my long run is THE most important run of the week, and I really didn't want to skip it. My husband suggested, and I agreed, that I would probably feel ok once I got out there.

Now remember my previous post regarding the fact that it is still summer in Florida? Well today was no exception. The temperature was about 82 degrees, the humidity was around 43% and the sun was bright, with no clouds in the sky. I knew if I ran, it was going to be quite hot. So I resolved to go for an 11 mile run (to my office and back) and I could extend it to 14 if I felt up to it. I would take it easy, run slowly and take breaks when I needed.

So I put on the usual Icy Hot, and also a coating of Bull Frog sunscreen since I knew I would be in the sun for over 2 hours. Packed my water, gel packs, ipod and cell phone and took off.

In a nutshell, toward the end of my run, it would be better characterized as going out for a long walk with running breaks. My total time was 2 hours 33 minutes (just under 14 min mile pace) and I had an untimed stop at the office to cool down, refill my water bottles, and pop a couple more ibuprofen. I was glad I wore the heart rate monitor, because I used it to help me judge when I needed to take a walking break and when I could start running again. If my heart rate got over 160 I really kept an eye on it. Over 165 and I took a break, no matter how long it had been since my last break. It helped me to not overwork myself. By mile 8, I was having some labor with my breathing, even though my heart rate was ok, so I had to walk a bit more. By mile 10, I had to simply walk until my breathing felt normal. I started to feel some light headedness and noticed that I was not sweating nearly as much on my run back (the last 5.5 miles) as I had in the first half of my run. With that feeling I walked. I jogged a couple more segments (they were short) and arrived back to the house - exhausted.

Once I got into the house, breathing was still labored. I used a bit of Primatene to help open up my airways. Shortly after that I started to black out and had to lie down for about 5 minutes. After that, I got up to get a protein shake into me to replace some nutrition. I am icing my left heel and blogging as I rest up. I think I flirted with heat exhaustion today. I know hydration wasn't a problem - but it still got hot.

So I am glad I did a long run, and probably tested my body's endurance as much as I might have done with a early morning 14 miler. I think I will modify my training plan a bit so I work in the longer runs over the next few weeks without increasing the mileage too much (that old 10% rule).

It was a tough run, but a good learning experience. Until the weather cools down a bit more, its back to the early morning, in the dark, runs.

A new 5K PR!!!!

On Saturday, my family came to watch me race in the Rock and Run 5K in Casselberry, Florida. Though I had spent the night before helping a friend get ready for a move (more on that in a later blog entry) and was up rather late, we were up dark and early to get to the race in time for a 7:30 am start. By the time we got to the race area, the sun had come up, and it was a bright and sunny, but thankfully a cooler Central Florida morning.

I was very excited for this race. I had two really good 5 mile runs during the week, and I felt very optimistic that I could set a PR (personal record) for the 5K - I was shooting to get my time under 33 minutes. The race started as most others, except this time I did a couple of things differently. I set my ipod on a 170 bpm podrunner tune to keep my cadence up. I also set a brisk pace - comfortable but brisk. The usual few runners breezed by me, but for the most part, I kept up with the crowd (normally I fall way behind). I knew I went out a bit faster than usual, but when we got to the first mile I looked at my watch and I had run it in 9:33 - a min per mile faster than I was shooting for. I decided to slow my pace a bit so I didn't burn out so quickly. When the water stop came up around 1.5 miles in, I skipped the stop. On a 30-ish min run I have no problem finishing without a drink. Just ahead of mile 2 I took a 30 sec walking break, just to rest a bit before the last push. I reached mile 2 in 11:10, then bumped the pace up for the last mile. About a quarter of a mile from the finish, I kicked my pace up, imagining that portion of my normal training run course where I always speed up. At 3 miles, which I reached in about 10:10, I sprinted for the finish. As I was crossing the finish I looked at the clock and saw 31:05 as I approach, and realized I not only beat 33 minutes, but blew it away. I crossed the finish and hit my watch stop button. With the 25 sec delay at the start, my net time was 30:44. My official race time ended up being 31:10.

I was ecstatic! A 30 min 5K was an goal I hoped to achieve sometime in the next year - with speed work after my marathon training. I didn't dream I would be this close to 30 min at this point in time. I was SO excited!!

We hung around for the kids runs. Both of the girls bravely ran the 1 mile run. My 11 year old completed the mile in 11 minutes. My 6 year old completed it a minute later in 12 min. I was so proud of them both.

It was a great morning to be a runner!!!