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! 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Houston Marathon Race Report

I haven't been in a hurry to write this race report post as I have been pretty conflicted about how I feel about the marathon and a bit less than excited about this one. I should strive to find the positives in all things, even something like this that honestly was not that enjoyable of an experience.  You will understand in my report below.

That was probably the hardest one I've done strictly because I wasn't as ready and the weather was beyond terrible for an hour or so.I started out trying to stick to the plan, which was to walk one minute at the end of each mile, but the wind and rain were so brutal, I was having trouble focusing. Everything seemed so chaotic in the midst of the rain and driving wind, which was blowing the rain sideways in sheets into the left side of my body. My HR strap came loose in the first couple of miles so I had to get that all fixed back, then at some point, I lost TWO of my gels! I had them in my race belt, and I guess they weren't secure and just slipped out. After the first round of rain stopped, after 20-30 minutes from the start of the race, I calmed down and just tried to regroup. I was cold. I was soaking wet. My gloves were soaked so I got rid of them. I had on arm sleeves that helped even though they too were soaked, and I had made a last minute decision to put on capri tights instead of shorts. I’m glad I did because it helped shield some of the wind, but my clothes stayed wet for about 4 hours. The rain came back around mile 6 I think, and it was really hard with huge drops. I would say by mile 8 or 9, it stopped for good. Someone in the crowd even said that the radar was clear. So I regrouped again, fought off the urge to turn around with the half, and tried to get back on the plan. I made it to the half, but I started struggling. My legs were hurting. I took a moment to stop and stretch, then I threw in an extra short walk or two. To try to compensate for fewer gels, I drank Gatorade more than I normally would. Of course they were handing out gels like after mile 20 so I passed on those at that point, and I avoided any food being handed out by spectators. I was doing all I could to save my run. By miles 20-22, I was pretty much done. I hurt really bad, and it was going to take sheer will to get me to the finish. I would run as long as I could making deals with myself that I could walk if I made to the mile kite or this block or whatever, or I would walk when the pain got really bad. Of course starting back was awful, and each time I moved slower and slower, including walking. When I hit 25, I wanted to tried to run the rest of the way in, but I couldn't  The tailwind (which was at least 30 mph) was making it difficult to not fall forward. I simply didn't have the legs to keep up with how hard it was pushing me! I bet no one has ever wished for a tailwind to go away, but I did. I saw the banner for the last ½ mile, and I forced myself to keep running (trotting, limping, whatever it was I was doing) to the finish. I made it and when I stopped, I wanted to lie down in the road. 

Moving through the finish area was really tough. I found it extremely difficult to walk. In these larger races, finish areas are big, and it's a maze almost that you have to go through to escape. I got out of that area, found my mom, and then parked it in the middle of the floor before I collapsed. Once I gathered my wits and felt better, it was time to get out of there so I could get warm and fed. Because we had come in hours earlier in the rain and darkness, we, along with many others, had a lot of trouble finding my car. I walked a LOT doing that, which really helped the soreness, but it prolonged my getting food and the recovery I needed. That night, don’t think I didn't TEAR UP a hamburger. It might be the best one I've ever had. After that it was a restful night in the bed watching the Golden Globes and reading all the fun text messages and FB posts from my friends. 

This one has taken a bit longer to recover from, but that’s not surprising. Right now, thoughts of another marathon are not appealing, but I'm sure that will change. I was not completely ready for this race, and I know that going into it. A couple of illnesses did not help my training, and of course, the weather was the worst I've ever run in before. I knew to expect it to be painful, long, slow and mentally challenging. It lived up to ALL of those expectations. :)  The positives are that I overcame. I overcame a tough injury that knocked me out of training completely. I overcame the fact that I wasn't as ready as I usually am or wanted to be. I overcame the weather. I overcame a huge mental battle that endured pretty much the entire race and even the morning before it started. Of those things, I am very pleased. This one wasn't about how fast or slow. 

I'm feeling good today and plan to be back to running in the next week or so. I am looking forward to jumping on my bike to train for my first century ride in May at G.A.S.P, from Austin to Shiner, TX. 

Number 12 in the books!
Taken immediately at the finish. I was pretending to feel good, 
but the smile completely conveys how happy I was it was over. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

It's been a while...

Ok, so it's been more than a little while, it's been nearly a year! In a nutshell, 2012 wasn't the greatest of years. The year started out getting over my injury, which turned into a mental injury. As I returned to running during the first five months of the year, I questioned my heart and desire for it. That's a tough pill to swallow, especially when running is melted into every area of my life. As the year moved forward, I sort of bounced back. I used my deferral for Houston's registration in May and started working with my coach again in June. Was I back? Physically yes, mentally, not as much. That was the theme for the year too. As a result of the injury, my run fitness suffered dramatically, which caused my mental fitness to suffer. If I couldn't run like I did when I got hurt, did I want to run? Did I want to run even if I did bounce back? I continued running, hitting and missing some days. I knew deep down I didn't want to quit.

So here I am. Houston is Sunday. After nearly two years I will be back to the marathons My 12th. And possibly one of my worst. I'm ok with it. I've accepted that it is what it is. My training wasn't spot on. My endurance isn't what it should be. My fitness is relative to what I put into the last few months. I will finish the 26.2 miles, but it will involve much slower paces and some walking. Saying all of that, I am kind of excited. The pressure is completely off. My expectations are low, which for a mental runner like me, is running gold. I will have fun regardless of the outcome. What a painful way to have fun!

2012 had its share of personal heartaches and struggles, but I'm positive that 2013 is going to be my year. You see, I turn 40 in a little less than two weeks. Yes, 40. I won't lie, it freaks me out a little. My life is nothing like I would have thought by this point, but I really wouldn't change anything about it. Saying that, I almost feel as if 40 is a new start in life for me. It's an empowering feeling that I am choosing over one of feeling 'over the hill.' I have new training and fitness goals for this year. I will aim to run another marathon in the fall. I will also complete my first century ride from Austin to Shiner, TX! I'm really PUMPED about that. It's something new and fun for me!

I'm also going to blog more. I spared whoever reads this of any mopey, whiney posts during the year I want to forever forget so with a positive year on the front, I am going to spread the blog cheer!  I will do my best to write a positive post about Houston. Ha! :)

Happy new year and happy running!