Monday, February 17, 2014

Five weeks in - Facing the mental giant and the solo run

This weekend I wrapped up the first five weeks of training for Lincoln. Despite all the crazy weather (ice and lots of rain and cold) I have been able to complete all of my training runs, and complete them successfully. Success means different things for different people. Right now, for me, success is running strong and finishing with a good feeling about the run. I am not running for any certain finish time or trying to maintain a particular pace. I just go out and let the day determine itself. Usually when I do that, I have a great run.

Running has always been very mental for me. My blog over the last few years speaks about that a lot with all of my ups and downs. I am not as fast as I have been at previous points in my running, but I am content with just running. I do like being faster and having fast goals, but I usually end up putting too much pressure on myself and the fun completely goes away. I get nervous, stressed, and never find a way to enjoy the moments. The mental aspect of it all overtakes the run and the whole experience changes. So I'm running just for fun, while still working hard, but to try to keep the mental blocks out and the fun in.

With running being very mental for me, solo runs are often tough. Most runners are social and love having running partners to train alongside for accountability, company, and that extra push when needed. I am no different. I had a stressful ending to last week, and when I get down about something, I tend to withdraw and remove myself from social encounters. That is how I process. The usual Saturday crew was going to be combining their long run with a local 5k that a friend of ours was directing. My plan was to work all of that into my 14, however, I made a last minute decision to scratch that plan and do my 14 alone. When I opt for a solo run, especially on something long, it's really needed (and extremely rare!). I plugged up to my iPod and went for it. It was one of those days when everything clicked. I started slow, ended fast, and recorded negative splits on all but two miles. It was a beautiful morning, and I allowed myself to get lost in the run. I didn't think about what was on my mind, and by doing that, all that was on my mind felt better at the end of the 14 miles. It was just what I needed.I finished strong and feeling great about my run.

I don't know what the next 11 weeks will hold for training, but my plan will continue to consist of fun, social miles with friends with the occasional solo run to blow off some steam and to keep the mental cobwebs at bay. It's supposed to be fun, so why make it otherwise!


Monday, February 10, 2014

Back to blogging...Back to Running...

I'm not even sure why I have a blog since I find myself NEVER writing! Well, I guess one reason I stopped writing was because I wasn't running as much, and my blog is titled Dawn Will Run! I've just not been feeling the running bug for quite a while, but I think that maybe it is back...

After the "100 miles in July" challenge, I slacked, again, big time. I was still working out a good bit, but only running 15-20 miles or so a week. That was perfectly fine with me. I learned a hard lesson about finding contentment in what kind of training you like to do. Long story short, but during this time when I wasn't feeling the running bug, I finally learned to be content! I think it is really what brought me back to enjoying it again. There was a time when I didn't think I would ever run another marathon. And well, what do you know, I am signed up to run one in May.

At the end of year, I started running a bit more, and I give a good friend credit for some of that. These weekend group long runs began being organized by this friend, and I really started enjoying them. Even though I'm slower now and couldn't always keep up, having the accountability and the social aspect of getting out there and getting started with the group was a lot of fun.

So, fast forward to New Year's Eve. I'm texting with a close friend in Nebraska who had said a while back that we should run a race together this year. She texted me that day and suggested the Lincoln Half Marathon/Marathon. I said, ok! She said, half or full? I said, you make the call! She called full! We both agreed to be on our computers when registration opened at midnight on January 1. Apparently this is a super popular race and fills up quickly! We both signed up, and just 11 hours and 35 minutes later, registration closed at 12,000 runners! I love Lincoln, Nebraska as much as the next guy, but I have no idea why this race is so popular! Maybe it's the 50 yard line finish in Memorial Stadium? Either way, it excites me because it must be a special race.

So, 100 miles in July?! Whatever, I ran 115 in January! I'm back in my comfort zone of running and running lots of miles. Well, maybe subtract one of those runnings as I'm not going to get up quite as high on the weekly stuff as I have before, but I am back to 30-40 mile weeks.

My friend and I are training together, but from afar. She is in Northwest Nebraska, and I am in South Mississippi. We text and email about our training and provide encouragement to each other when we need it. This will be her first full, and I couldn't be more excited for her! This will be my 13th. Lucky 13. I've been waiting a long time to be excited about lucky #13.

Keep reading for more on this experience for my friend and I!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

100 Miles in July

At the end of June I decided to accept a challenge to run 100 miles during the month of July. To hardcore marathon runners this is a normal number, if not a bit lower than usual mileage, particularly when training.  However, if you have read my blog for the last year to year and a half, you know I have not been the mileage junkie I used to be. So this was the perfect challenge for me to accept.  I was ready!

The idea came from my good friend and co-worker Jenny (Jenny Bou) who ran her first half marathon earlier this year and has made consistent progress in all aspects of her training. She thought up this challenge as a way to better her running and hold herself accountable to increasing her mileage. A couple others jumped on board so we had a little #100milesinJuly challenge team that would provide extra encouragement, motivation, and accountability. Even though I was in and ready to go, I was still a bit unsure I would actually do it at first, especially the first weekend in July when I got sick and missed two or three days of running, but I kept going and said, "if I get it, great, if not, that's ok too." So I kept running, and the mileage started adding up. Some days the run was pretty bad because my legs have not been used to this much of an increase in mileage in quite some time, but the legs began to respond and remember what lots of miles felt like. And they started to like it.

I had a set-back about midway through the month. In addition to running I do quite a bit of cross training, and this year took on strength and conditioning work in addition to my cycling (and teaching indoor cycling). The cycling has usually been enough to give me dead legs every now and then, but adding in squats, lunges, dead lifts, sprints, etc., well, you can image the soreness. Jenny and I were talking how these workouts made our challenge that much more difficult due to the amount of training we do outside of running that not only throws in fatigue and soreness but also takes up time when we could run.  In our conversation we said, "well, not only do we have runs, we have guns! Runs and guns!" From that #runsandguns was born. We both love our strength and conditioning cross training so the super early morning runs we squeeze in before a workout and the heavy legs are definitely worth it! Anyway, these workouts also include jump ropes, and I have never had much success with that skill. One morning we had to do a lot of jumping rope, and, long story short, I had a breakthrough. Not only was I able to jump rope pretty much the entire workout, I also was able to throw in a couple of double-unders! That's a BIG deal!  But that breakthrough gave me incredibly sore calves, like to the point I had significant trouble walking, so I missed a Saturday long run and the next two days were pretty pitiful. I pushed through, and the next week I was able to get almost 40 miles, which is really what helped push me to the finish line.

It was fitting that I ran my last 2 miles last night with Jenny (and her husband Brad who also did the challenge). It was perfect to finish with the one who started it all. It's a great feeling to have achieved 102 miles in July alongside some great running friends who helped push me to the goal. I overcame a lot of days when I didn't want to run or thought I was too tired. Since the injury, running has been less than exciting for me and getting motivated has been a struggle at times, but this challenge was what I needed to get my mojo back. I plan on continuing with 100 mile months, and I think this just might be the spark plug to get me ready for marathon training this fall.

I can't end this 100 mile challenge without giving some credit to a few folks. First, my main running partner and one of my closest friends, Vicki, who has trudged through mile after mile with me over the last eight years of running. She has been there through lots of marathons and has seen me succeed and fail all while being my biggest cheerleader (and making me laugh a ton). I owe a lot to her. Again when I needed her she muddied through the rough days of this challenge with me without once getting annoyed. She's a trooper! Then there is Thu, one of my indoor cycling participants, who is always eager to get up at 5 a.m. to run! She's nuts, but a great friend that's always ready and willing to run and does it with a positive attitude and a smile on her face. She has now become one of my running partners and a good one at that! Last but not least is Jenny, who is now more than my co-worker, she's an awesome friend. I have seen her transform herself through hard work and discipline, and now I'm seeing her do the same thing with her running. She encourages and keeps me motivated, and without this challenge, I would have had another less than stellar month of running. I'm grateful to her for this push, and I hope to have many more with her as we add up the miles on our journeys!
#runsandguns #100milesinJuly

The official 100 mile photo! #runsandguns
The training logs

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Shiner G.A.S.P.

Over the weekend I completed my first century ride, going from Austin to Shiner, TX in the Greater Austin to Shiner Pedal (G.A.S.P.). It was amazing, fun, difficult, and painful. All the things you want an endurance event to be!
Months ago, maybe even before Christmas, I started bugging a few others who bike about doing this. I was surprised when several expressed interested, and in the end five of us registered. So back in January/February we started with big training plans. Come April, my training slacked! Of myself, I discovered that I'm not as in love with biking as I once thought I would be. Anyway, I was registered, and I was going, ready or not.
Thursday afternoon, Vicki and I loaded my Honda with all of our stuff (who knew one tiny woman like Vicki and I could have so much!), and hit the road. My used bike rack was holding on to our bikes with all it had, and I certainly watched it like a hawk from my rear view mirror. After 10 or so hours, lots of laughs, and the inevitable Mexican food stop, we arrived to Lucas' (Vicki's son) apartment in Austin. They were out of town, so we unloaded, settled in, and crashed hard for the night. I was so proud of us and our ability to follow-through with our plans to get up for a Friday morning run in Zilker Park. It was amazing to run in a city that embraces fitness like Austin. I love Austin as it is, but this run made me fall in love even more. After the run, we did a quick Versus workout (that I had missed on Thursday), and headed for a breakfast taco, Mexican meal #2! My diet was already blown!
 This was a view from one of the spots on the trail in Zilker Park that circled Town Lake. Amazing!
This is the trail. LOVED it!
Shortly after the run and a shower, we met James, Charles and Jason at Jack and Adams Bike Shop to pick up our race stuff. This was a really cool bike shop with some cool folks working there. The crew was happy because beer was on tap! The newbie centurions, myself, Vicki and Jason, purchased the official G.A.S.P. jersey, and I elected to wear mine for the ride the next day. We walked down to another bike shop, then ended up driving over to Mellow Johnny's, the bike shop made famous by Lance Armstrong. After piddling around a while, it was lunch time, so we headed over to Shady Grove, one of my favorite spots in Austin.
James, Vicki and I then ended up on South Congress where we spent a few hours shooting the breeze at the Continental Club, which has been a popular Austin spot since the 50's. We had a good time there...  After that, we took James home, and headed home ourselves to prep for the race and rest!

Ride morning came early, but we caffeined up, loaded the bikes, and headed over to the start. It was chilly, but proved to be a beautiful day! I had never done a mass start before, over 1,000 riders, so I was a little nervous, although excited about it. It was very cool to look ahead and see all the colorful jerseys and bikes! With the sun to our left, we were off. Feeling good and getting warm, the nerves dissipated, and I settled in to ride. We arrived at the first rest stop at mile 17. It was almost like a party, there were so many people there! We grabbed some snacks, from peanuts to powdered donuts, and then got back on the road. We decided to stop at each rest area because why be in a rush? It proved to provide me with some rest to keep me going a little longer. We had some pretty serious winds and some definite serious hills, but the scenery was amazing. Very Texas, and I took it all in. After the second stop, I lost Vicki, but decided to meet her at the rest stops, which is what we did for the rest of the ride.
Rest stop 3, mile 45!
It started getting real in the second half. I was doing well actually, but with about 30 miles to go, I starting fading. Which is expected as I had only done limited rides at that distance during my training. I was pleased with how well I felt, and how long I kept it together though. At about mile 83, we passed over I-10, and a sign read "Shiner 19." I was happy to be in the home stretch, but also thinking, "crap, I have 19 more miles!" Of course these were the hilliest and hardest miles of them all. I lost close to a mile per hour of speed, and I think I was talking out loud to myself, possibly even cursing. Hey, whatever it takes.
Finally I saw the sign that sign Shiner City Limits, and I think I might have started crying. We turned into the Spoetzl Brewery, and I was DONE! I immediately got off my bike, but I was a little out of it and didn't know what to do. I retrieved my checked bag, and ended up seeing the guys. After a few minutes to collect myself, Charles graciously took my bike to load, and they pointed me in the direction of the shower. They waited on Vicki, then shortly after my shower, we were all reunited for some food and beer!
Like any endurance event, we took pictures and told war stories at the finish. That's always my favorite part of it all I think! The celebration is always worth the battle. We battled hills, wind, fatigue, and distance to get to the reward. The bus ride home was also an adventure. It was quite a rowdy crew who somehow convinced the driver to stop for more beer! We arrived in Austin, unloaded our bikes and all met back up for Mexican meal #3, this time with Lucas and Kari. I slept like a rock that night, and awoke early again on Sunday, this time to load the bikes once more for the ride home.

Shiner G.A.S.P. was amazing, and I loved the time in Austin. I happily put away my bike Sunday evening when I got home. It is in retirement for a few days, and I'm not sure when it comes back out what its purpose will be. As of now, no centuries in the plans, but I never say never!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The beast awakens...

In my pursuit of reinvention, I have changed up many things in my routine. My running has changed due to the bike ride coming up in a few weeks, meaning, no Saturday long runs right now and getting in a run when I can. I guess my running several days in a row here and there is what woke up the beast. No, not what you are thinking. I'm not on fire and blazing a trail of speed and mid-week long runs. I'm talking about the now infamous injury of 2011-12. Yes it has returned, but fortunately, not in the severity of its first appearance.

I first noticed it about 2 weeks ago as a nagging tightness in that area. I've been a foam rolling fool for a few weeks now, and so I upped the foolishness to help keep it at bay. I guess this injury does not care about the foam roller because by Thursday of last week, the pain and tightness had increased. I pushed through a 6 mile run on Thursday, which was probably stupid. It didn't bother me too much at the beginning of that run, but by the last 2 miles, I was grimacing with each step. At my Versus workout Thursday evening, the warm-up 400 was excruciating. At the first step it felt like there was a reign on my right hamstring that got yanked each time I extended my leg. I literally limped through that lap. Luckily the rest of the workout had no more running. A good thing is that it does not hurt doing what we do in the Versus workouts or my indoor cycling classes, which is another sign it is not as severe as its first occurrence when I could do NOTHING for a few weeks. .

At the temporary office (thanks tornado), we have these chairs that even though they are upholstered and not too uncomfortable, it feels like I am sitting on a brick causing the area to ache and throb almost non-stop. So while at work I heated, walked around, stretched, and repeated all day long Thursday and Friday. I rested two days over the weekend, and I mean, I did absolutely nothing. It was feeling much better by Monday so I was back at it with cycling. I cut my Tuesday run back to 4 miles, but I felt it the entire time, While it wasn't grimacing pain, it was ever-present. At Tuesday night's Versus workout, we had about a mile and a half of running, but I was happy to notice it wasn't as bad as the morning run. I did try to stretch and massage it during the day so that it would be as loose as possible. After my shower and dinner, I hit the foam roller again for a good hour probably. That is one way to make your dog wonder what the crap you're doing!

Today, it's hard to say how it is. I taught cycling this morning and it was fine, although tight. Sitting on this chair right now it hurts so I will continue my routine of stretching it out and walking around while at work and return to the foam roller roller and heating pad tonight. I need to put this beast back to bed! I have big plans!

On a much more positive note, I am dropping weight. My efforts to better my diet, while not 100% clean, have been paying off. Clothes are fitting better and looser. I didn't weigh at the start of my diet change so I won't have a true starting weight, but I did weigh once last week . I will try to remind myself to weigh Friday when I go in to teach my morning cycling class and get a new number. I'm loving these changes and the new workouts! All part of the reinvention and all good!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Reinventing Myself

Following the great debacle that was the Houston marathon, I almost completely stopped running. I might get 10 miles in during the week. I had fallen out of love with running. The infamous injury of 2011 left me flat, and I almost didn't want to put forth the energy to get back into run shape. After forcing myself to do try and limping through Houston, I was done. Many Saturday mornings were spent in my cozy bed and not on the pavement. And did I care? Nope! It was not a bad feeling!

This last year has taught me something. I realized I don't have to feel guilty or like a slacker for doing things differently. I started biking more as a group of us have signed up for the Shiner G.A.S.P. century ride that travels from Austin to Shiner, Texas. I've logged quite a few long rides, but no major run mileage. I am learning to have fun with my training and try new things. I've also started a Versus Strength and Conditioning Athletic Training class in the afternoons. The group meets on Tuesday and Thursday in Petal. So far, I've only been going on Thursday due to my indoor cycling teaching schedule, but next week that changes. My class schedule has been adjusted so that my Tuesdays are free. I've really enjoyed this and am enjoying the positive changes I am seeing from this new type of workout.

In the last couple of months I have begun to slowly rebuild my run mileage. This time it's on my terms and not those of the marathon or peer pressure (it's me who pressures based on what others are doing). I'm slower than I used to be, and not the queen of the long run either, but I'm having fun. My friend Jenny, who recently completed her first half marathon, and I have been adding in some extra runs to our current schedules by going on a few runs during lunch. We both want to up our weekly mileage so a day or so here and there of running at lunch helps us both. The days here aren't so warm yet, and our temporary location (thanks to the Feb. 10 tornado's destruction to my office building on campus) allows for some great places to run. I have enjoyed running with her and seeing her runs improve, and it helps me to be more motivated and push a little harder again.

I have no goals, no races, no anything in mind when it comes to running. I'm doing it strictly for fun right now. Maybe I'll do another marathon, maybe not. I do know that I am riding my first century ride in May, and I'm going to get in great physical condition through Versus. Those are my goals, those are my plans, and everything else is just icing on the cake. Cake that I am not eating, by the way, because I'm also paying a lot more attention to my diet.

So, it really is a small reinvention of myself. For so long I have been defined by the run only. One day, I do hope to be back to a strong, faster runner again, but I'm not putting any pressure on myself or spending too much time focusing on it. It will happen when I'm ready for it to happen. Until then, more kettle bell swing, burpees, push-ups, bike miles, lunchtime runs, and a guilt free Saturday morning of late sleeping here and there.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

I'm 40...

Saturday I turned 40. I am not sure what I expected, but when I look in the mirror, I look the same. I didn't suddenly wake up all stiff (well stiffer than normal) and not able to stand up straight. Do I see 40 when I look in the mirror? Honestly, no, I don't. Am I ready for 40? Part of me isn't ready for this new decade and how 'old' it sounds. I know 40 is not old because I am not old. I don't look 40, I don't feel 40, and although I'm mature, I don't act 40. So what is so tough about it?

I unexpectedly started celebrating my birthday last Wednesday. I teach 3 indoor cycling classes a week, and I'm pretty close with most of those in my morning class. They thought they would surprise me with a room decked out with black balloons, a happy 40th birthday banner, and streamers made up of the number 40. Oh, and signs on the door of the cycling room. Now, I like to think I'm good with surprises, but really, I'm just ok with them, and in the morning at 5:30, I'd say I'm pretty bad at them. My initial reaction to this was less than positive. Of course, I loosened up, woke up, and had a great time. They also surprised me with a goody bag of some of my favorite snacks, and an iTunes gift card since my music is a huge part of my class. It was a really fun and sweet surprise, and a great way to kick off the 'celebration.' 

My gals at work celebrated my birthday eve with me on Friday by treating me to lunch at one of my favorite places, Jutama's, which serves delicious Thai food. And I also received some really sweet gifts from them. 

The actual day of my birthday was very quiet. I had brunch at Southbound Bagel with one of my oldest running friends. We spent some time chatting and catching up, and I filled her in on the events of the Houston marathon. I would share a picture from this lunch, but the one I'd want to share, she wouldn't let me take. I relaxed part of the day,then closed it out with my mom, niece, nephew, and his girlfriend at the Southern Miss basketball game, which we won. I had to work a few hours on Sunday at an expo, but was able to spend the rest of the evening with a close friend watching movies and eating pizza. 

Monday we gathered at mom and dad's for the big family birthday bash. Dinner would be at 5, but I went on over early to spend time with whoever was at their house. The highlight of the afternoon was shooting a gun for the first time. This is odd for me since I have grown up around guns with hunters (tons of them), a dad retired from law enforcement, and a brother currently working in law enforcement. My oldest nephew talked me into going out to shoot. It was fun and scary all at the same time. My ears still aren't normal, but I am actually excited about going to do it again soon, with earplugs this time. The crowd began to gather and included my mom, dad, sister, 3 nephews, one niece, one niece-n-law, a great niece, a nephew's girlfriend, my niece's boyfriend, and I had a friend there also. We had a great meal, great laughs, lots of stories, even more picking on me, and my favorite, cake. It was the perfect day to celebrate with my family, and I loved it. 

Birthdays can be fun, but we have never been the type of family to blow a birthday out. I am not a big fan of being the center of attention so I am kind of glad it is all over. I guess now I won't have to worry about a tough birthday again until 50? Just saying that was hard... But, like I've always heard, growing older is better than the alternative. 

I do have one more thing to do this week that I am considering part of the birthday fun. Tomorrow night I am seeing Willie Nelson with a few friends. I am not crazy about country music, but I do prefer the older stuff so this should be fun. I mean, Willie is a legend! I will post pics in my next blog of this great adventure!

Oh, and I started back running today after a week and a day or two off. I am enjoying the rest and the relaxed running mentality a LOT! But it's good to be back on the road! 

Not that all this birthday stuff is over, and I am settling into my new age and new decade, this is what I know. 
I'm 40. I'm a runner. I'm a cyclist. I'm a sports fan. And I'm fabulous!