Archive for running

Running: Desert racing

After our week-long vacation in the southwest – stopping in Phoenix, the Grand Canyon, and Las Vegas – our family is a little less pale and a little more relaxed. And my Race in 50 States List is a little closer to completion after I ticked off states 13 (AZ) and 14 (NV) with two 5ks during the trip.

In Arizona, our mid-week stop meant that I couldn’t find a scheduled race to run, so instead I chose a virtual 5k from US Road Running. The Hilton where we stayed backed right up to the Phoenix Mountain Preserve, so I hit the trails for a scenic (albeit slow) 5k. Bonus: only tripped twice, and didn’t see nor get bitten by a rattlesnake.

Looking back toward the hotel & trailhead

Looking back toward the hotel & trailhead

Gooooood morning, Phoenix

Gooooood morning, Phoenix

RK AZ 5k

 

Next up was Las Vegas, where I registered for the 5k at the Mustang Half & 5k celebrating the 50th anniversary of Ford’s famous pony. My original plan had been to run the HM, but Cranky McBack took that out of the realm of possibility for now. And after experiencing the heat of a Mojave desert morning, and seeing how frankly boring it would have been to cover 13.1 miles around a race track (both courses circled the Las Vegas Motor Speedway), I’m pretty happy to have been relegated to the 5k.

Runners heading into the track

Runners heading into the track

Start of the HM

Start of the HM

Pace car and lead HM runner around mile 11.5

Pace car and lead HM runner around mile 11.5

Now, I haven’t been running much in the last couple months, and I certainly haven’t been training to run a fast 5k. So I wasn’t surprised to have a not-my-best, not-my-worst time in this race (25:21). I was surprised to see that I took 2nd/39 in my age group, 10th/327 for all females, and 32nd/553 overall. I mean, WHA? Must have been a lot of walkers, is my guess.

Mustang HM results

I’ve got a couple desert states under my belt now, and it’s on to Ohio where there are more pigs and hopefully fewer gila monsters.

Gila monster

 

Running: Or, how to be a runner without running

So, a funny thing happened on the way to the Flying Pig marathon. And by funny, I mean painful.

By Mikael Häggström via wikipedia, and used under Creative Commons license

I had just wrapped up the 5th week of training with a pretty good 12-miler, and was feeling good about nipping some nascent foot pain in the bud. But on my recovery run the following day, my back and upper pelvis on the left side started screaming at me. Long boring I-went-to-physical-therapy story short, my sacroiliac (SI) joint – where the spine meets the pelvis on either side – was inflamed and HAVING NONE OF IT WITH THIS RUNNING, thank you. The prescription was to stop running & start a boatload of core strength work, to let the inflammation cool and built some support for the cranky joint.

So how does a runner run to get ready for running, when she can’t run?

Run even though the PT told me not to.

In general, I’m a compliant patient. But we’d already booked a trip where I was planning to run the Race for Preservation 10k in Savannah, soooooo… I didn’t completely comply with my PT’s no-running orders.

I was hobbling in pain for two days afterward, but it was worth it – I set a 4-minute 10k PR in that race and ticked off another state from my Race in 50 States list!

Ok, seriously, don’t run.

After Savannah, the look on my PT’s face when she asked, “So, what other races do you think you’re going to run?” meant, “Don’t even think about running other races near-term.” So I quickly went from mid-30s-mile weeks to 0-mile weeks, and awaited a full mental breakdown to ensue. But thankfully, two new tools have kept me sane, moving, and much less homicidal than expected.

Defy gravity.

I’ve very lucky (and a few bucks poorer) because my PT’s office has an AlterG, the anti-gravity treadmill that uses a big inflatable bubble to counteract your bodyweight and reduce stress on joints.

I’ve been doing 2 workouts per week—my LR plus whatever else fits the schedule—in the AlterG and it’s been fantastic. I started out needing assistance equivalent to half my bodyweight, but now I can handle it with only 15% of my bodyweight cancelled out.

Something clever here about elliptical training.

Yeah, there’s nothing really interesting about using an elliptical, but they do provide a cardio workout that is comparable to running, minus all the joint-jarring and fresh air. So I’m logging a lot of miles on those suckers (blue on the graph below) at the gym I recently joined.

elliptical

Go from no running to a little less running than planned.

My PT gave me the ok to try some road running in very short increments, with the caveat that I AM NOT ALLOWED to do any more than I can do without noise from my back. And she also cleared me to run races, but only “if they’re really important” and with the understanding that I’m likely going to flare up with some pain afterward.

So, there’s no way I can be ready for the Flying Pig marathon in early May, or the Mustang 50th HM in Vegas in a few weeks. But I feel good about running the Mustang 50th 5k, and the half at Flying Pig. I’m now in week 5 of a (rehab-modified) training plan for the FP HM, and doing ALL THE CORE WORKS from PT along with it.

And hopefully by late spring or early summer, I can get back to being a runner who runs.

Running: Flying Pig training weeks 1 & 2

Even before I ran my first marathon, I was planning for that to be my only one. “Just want to see if I can do it once; I don’t need to prove anything after that.”

That lasted all of ~6 months, at which point I lost my mind and decided to run a second. “No, really, THIS time I’m done with them.”

Welp, here I am with weeks 1 & 2 of training for Flying Pig marathon (Cincinnati, May 4) in the bag, making a strong case that I cannot be trusted to stay away from the 26.2.

ETW FP wk1&2

Those two weeks were fairly unremarkable – I ran up & down some hills, sped through some intervals, did a couple 10-mile LRs. I’m using a 16-week training plan from Run Your BQ that is very similar to the one Jason Fitzgerald wrote me for ATX 2013, only I’m going slightly higher mileage this time (peaking just over 50 miles/week, where last time peaked in the mid-40s).

Possibly worth a remark was the weather, which has been doing its level best to turn everyone into meat popsicles.

Greg Laden/ECMWF

I’m already d.o.n.e. with staring at the temperature waiting for it to hit at least 10F (my go/no-go line for running outside), slipping my way through poorly-cleared sidewalks and roads, and battling with my stupid frozen water bottle during frigid LRs. The fact that my Team Flail-mates, Adam & Andrew, are facing the same makes it a little better, I guess.

Adam twitter

On the bright side, I’ll have a couple warmer-weather breaks to help keep me sane, when I cross a few more states of my Race in 50 States list. In training week 6, I’ll run the Race for Preservation 10k in Savannah; and in training week 14 (the last before the taper), I’m planning to run the Mustang 50th HM in Vegas.

Until then, though, my trusty winter running gear will be in heavy rotation.

Running: The unfortunate truth about getting started

Sitting here, just a couple days before the start of training for the Flying Pig marathon (Cincinnati, May 4), I’m thinking about how to start running. Everyone else has already covered the run/walk ratios, how to get properly shoe-d, etc., but I think it’s time we air the dirty little secret most “Yay, you’re going to be a new runner!” advice doesn’t cover:

The first 4-6 weeks are terrible.

Running sucks

Running sucks

On nearly every one of your first runs, you’re going to feel like your lungs are trying to claw their way out through your throat.

For weeks, you’ll be chasing the elusive runner’s high with legs that seem to have been filled with angry scorpions.

You’re going to get passed by fleet-footed, compression-tights-clad twerps while you’re doing your best impression of a fish flung onto dry land.

Why? It’s partly because you need to build muscular endurance, but the I’M GOING TO MEET MY MAKER IN THESE STUPID RAGGEDY SWEATPANTS feeling also stems from the need to build cardiorespiratory endurance. And for most of us getting started with running, it takes a good 4-6 weeks to get strong enough in both those areas to feel like, hey, running’s not that bad after all.

But if you haven’t been told this, and you have been pushing yourself through 3 weeks of running but still feel like the end is nigh every time, you better believe that can be discouraging.

So, reality: the majority of us are not going to like the first 4-6 weeks’ worth of running. But if you’re prepared for that, and can accept the inevitable, you’re going to come out on the other side with a solid base for – get this – actually enjoying running. Your lungs will stay where they’re meant to, the scorpions will vacate your quads, and you’ll have enough energy to wave & smile and Tights McFastRunner next time.

Running is terrible, but running gets great. I promise.

Running: 2013 in Review

With 2014 closing in fast, it’s that time where many of us take stock of 2013. So via Amy of Running Escapades, I’m joining Miss Zippy in reviewing my year of running.

It’s been a rollercoaster year, running-wise. In the Woot column we’ve got running my second marathon (after I swore in 2012 that I wouldn’t run the 26.2 ever again), a Lynch family Superhero 5k, checking off several more states from my Run in 50 States list, and breaking the 1,000 mile mark for the year (expecting to close the year around 1,170).

In the Blarg column, there was a really rough HM where I set a personal worst time, an August where I barely ran at all, and 5k times that stubbornly refused to dip below 25 minutes.

On balance, though, 2013 was another year where I enjoyed roaming around on my own two feet and demolishing any food that wasn’t pinned down after my LRs. Here are my highlights for #yearofrunning2013:

  • Best race experience? Superhero 5K in October with my husband & our son, hands down. Team Banana FTW!

  • Best run? Every long run where I didn’t break a bone (I wasn’t always so lucky in 2012)
  • Best new piece of gear?  I didn’t do anything wild and different with most of my running gear this year – stuck to my Kinvaras & other Sauconys; carried my Nathan handheld bottle around; sucked down Honey Stingers & PB Gu. But I did finally admit that, yes, I’m a runner, and runners sometimes wear tights. I love the compression pair from Old Navy and the insulated pair from Athleta so much, I may never go back to sweatpants.

  • Best piece of running advice you received? “Received” and “acted upon” may not be exactly the same here, but I’m convinced Jason Fitzgerald’s unwavering insistence that runners make strength training part of their routine has been key to preventing injuries for me. You know, when I actually do it….
  • Most inspirational runner? This is hard to nail down to just one person or group. In the aggregate, every person who ran & spectated Boston in 2013 and dealt with that awful tragedy is inspirational to me. In the specific, my Flailmate Drew for getting sh*t done and grabbing his new PR at the TC marathon.
  • If you could sum up your year in a couple of words, what would they be? The brain is the most important muscle for running.

Runners, how about you? How did your 2013 shake out?

Running: Favorite. Race. Evar. Superhero 5k

It’s hard to put into words what I love about the annual Superhero 5k in Cambridge, but it’s pretty obvious from pictures.

Was the crowd at the 5th running of the SH5k as creative & hilarious as usual? You bet. Were passersby confused & laughing at the spandex and be-caped crowd running up and down Mass Ave? Oh yes.

How much fun did our family have running together? A bunch.

Running: Fish or cut bait

Maine! The land of lobsters, moose and, for me, high-speed indecisiveness.

After summer vacation plans and some pesky norovirus scuttled my plans to race Maine earlier this year, I got up to Portland this weekend and checked off #11 from my Race in 50 States list with the Reiche International 5k on Sunday.

I usually think play-by-plays on 5ks are fairly uninteresting – for me, at least, they don’t last long enough to create the mental highs & lows that accompany longer distance running. On this one, though, I had a game of Effort-Level Ping Pong going on in my head that kept things interesting.

ETW Reiche

See, I’ve been focusing lately more on increasing my mileage than on improving my speed, so I thought I would just fun run the 5k while racking up another state, like I did in the TC 10k a few weeks ago. But then I went out on Sunday morning and found myself surprisingly comfortable at a just-sub-8-min-mile pace (for me, that’s the line that divides easy and working for it).

I kept at it, but couldn’t really wrap my head around what I wanted to do. Go for it? Pull up? Stop thinking about it? Pet that cute dog in a Halloween costume? And since I never really decided whether to fish or cut bait, I ran the 3rd mile at a uselessly middle-ground pace – too fast to be fun and too slow to slip in under 25 minutes (I’ve only ever broken that threshhold once, and barely [24:52]). I saw the finish-line clock roll past 25 minutes just before I closed in on the chute, for approximately 25:10 (no formal timing for this race).

Not me (the finishers or the fish)

All that said, hey, I’m not hilariously slower than usual! I may throw in some speedwork, finally, and see where that gets me in states 12 and beyond….

TC 10K & marathon weekend – checking off state #10

Hey, internets, long time no see! You’re looking good; what’ve you been doing? Really? Tae Bo is still a thing? Well, I can see it’s working.

Me? Well, I haven’t been blogging, that’s for damn sure. The list of reasons for my impromptu summer/fall hiatus is as boring as it is long, but suffice it to say that the dust has settled & I’m back in the saddle.

I’ll get to the usual foods later this week; for now, it’s just running rambling after a great weekend in Minnesota ticking the 10th state off my Race In 50 States list and watching our friend & Team Flail-mate Andrew hand the TC marathon its butt on Sunday!

TC marathon

Photos courtesy of Joe & Leah Lofgren

On Saturday, Flail Subteam Alpha (Adam, Alison & Adam) met up in the wee dark hours of the morning & ran the TC 10k.

Team Flail

The condensed version is that I ran up a hill, around a corner, and back down a hill. After a 21-day running streak in July, followed by nearly no running in August and a respectable but modest 60-mile September, I just stuck to a fun-run pace and finished in 55:26, for 30/190 in F3539. But there were PRs all around since this was a first-time 10k for everyone.

That race marked by initial foray into double-digit territory for my goal to race in all 50 U.S. states and D.C., so I’m pretty excited regardless of time.

But I think my vicarious excitement may have been even greater on Sunday when we all watched Drew power through the 26.2 route from Minneapolis to the capitol building in St. Paul. He had a bone to pick with that race, having run it before under hot, pace-wrecking conditions; and he owned it this go around with a 3:44:11 time and a shiny new PR.

Not going to lie – that spectating rekindled some marathon lust in me. But while I await the return of my sanity, I’ll be targeting Maine next with a 5k in a couple weeks. Here’s hoping that knocks some sense back into me.

 

CBHM Recap: At least the fails are funny

I had a lot of extra time to let my mind wander during today’s Covered Bridges Half Marathon, and at one point I was thinking about what my contribution to the running blogosphere is. It’s not technical advice or training know-how, nor tales of superhuman ultrarunning prowess; and it’s clearly not a roadmap to consistent improvement, given that I once again set a PW (personal worst) time for the half marathon (last time was at the Runner’s World halfathon).

So if I’m not bringing any of that to the virtual table, why chronicle training and recap the races? Because if nothing else, I’ve got a sense of humor about the ways I contribute to my own running fails:

I totally misjudged the weather. We queued up at Suicide Six under bright skies and already-balmy temps, and things got started smoothly.

CBHM start

My legs felt good to go for a while, but after about 5 miles, the heat started to get to me. I thought we’d be starting in the mid-60s and ending in the 70s, but temps were in the low 70s when we started, and in the upper 80s by the time I finished. Not Death Valley hot, by any means, but way hotter than I’d been training in. Add some thick humidity to the mix, and I may as well have been running with a fresh-from-the-dryer quilt wrapped around my face.

I let the love handles fly. By the time we reached this covered bridge near the end of mile 6, I’d cried uncle to the heat and pulled up to walk, realizing that 1:50 wasn’t happening today.

What was going to happen was me stripping down to my sports bra, leaving my stylish but stifling No Meat Athlete shirt on the side of the road. Get excited, spectators – shirtless middle-aged mom who’s been slacking on her core work, COMING THROUGH. Did this improve my aerodynamics? No. Did it improve my sunburnedness? Yes.

I had THE WORST aim for spectators’ garden hoses. Through miles 6-12, I saw several runners who had collapsed (but were obviously still conscious) and were picked up by emergency services, so I realized that taking it slow was probably the prudent thing to do. That, and bee-lining for every spectator who had brought out their garden hose. However, my aim was less than stellar and I ended up mostly getting sprayed in the face (great for visibility), or on my water bottle (glad it’s feeling cool), or over my head (I’m 5’6”!).

I aided another runner who then passed me & finished before me. At one point, I stopped and essentially forced a guy who was cramping from dehydration to lie down so I could manually stretch out his recalcitrant calf in mile 12. He apologized for holding me up – and then went on to pass me and finish probably a minute or two ahead of me.

But, despite getting in my own way at nearly every turn, I did at least finish the crazy thing.

Me with Health Connections executive director Cathy Hazlett

So if you want to know how to consistently de-improve your half marathon times and find the funny in it anyway, do swing by for my next running update.

CBHM Training: Reduced Speed Ahead

Whoa, how did another month of training for the Covered Bridges Half Marathon already go by? It’s less than a week from the event, and a little surprised to be here already.

At any rate, now it’s time to take stock of the 11 weeks of training gone by, and assess whether a new HM PR is in the cards for me this weekend. The verdict?

After all the miles I’ve put in – and the hills I’ve sprinted up, and the intervals I’ve plodded through – I wish I could say that a sub-1:50 half marathon was in the bag. But the truth is that over the last 4 weeks, my threshold workouts (where I did 6-8 miles at HM pace during 8-11 milers) have been disappointing. This was the first training cycle where I ran these workouts instead of conventional tempo runs, thinking I was at a point where I needed race-pace workouts more than all-the-other-possible-pace workouts. And maybe I did, to at least show me that my actual race pace may not be at PR level this time around.

I’ve always known I’m not a naturally fast runner, nor one whose speed would dramatically improve with some more-intense work. But like any runner, I like to do better each time. So for this race, better may have to just be another state ticked off the race-in-50-states list, rather than besting 1:50.

But another thing I’ve come to know is that running can be unpredictable. Several LRs and faster-pace interval workouts went surprisingly well for me during weeks 8-11, so there’s always room for an upset. Let’s see who’s right – skeptical me or wildcard me – in just a few days from now.

I’ve met my goal to raise at least $500 for Health Connections of the Upper Valley so I can run CBHM with their team! But if you’re interested in playing overachiever, any level of contribution you could make via my donation page would be greatly appreciated!