Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Streaking and Upcoming Races

Are you participating in Runner's World's running streak? You run at least 1 mile EVERY DAY between Memorial Day and July 4. Just 38 days. You can check out the action on twitter using #RWRunStreak. It may be a bad idea for me, but I'm going for it. I like challenging myself.

I got in Day #1 of my run streak last night at Oak Openings. Holy cow was it warm and humid, even back in the dunes! I giggled a little bit because there were SO many people around Mallard Lake but I didn't pass ANYONE out on the trail. It's like people think Mallard Lake IS the ENTIRE park (and they're SO wrong!). Despite the oppressive humidity, I still enjoyed myself. My music was turned down enough that I could still hear the birds and wildlife around me. And I almost tripped over a squirrel who didn't move out of the way until the very last second. Oh, and I ran the loop the opposite direction I normally do. Bad idea. I hate running UP the dune face and then DOWN the stairs. :-P

As (some of) you know, I hit my goal of a sub-30 minute 5k race a couple weeks ago, more than 2 months before I had planned on. I'd been saying for the past year that I had to hit that before I'd consider a longer race (I'm not counting my St Patrick's Day 7k, lol). Even though I'm really proud of myself, it left me with a decision to make ... do I now set myself a quicker goal and go for it again or do I start looking towards longer races ... maybe even a half marathon?

I'm already registered for one more 5k, Happy Trails. It holds a special place in my memory because it was my first 5k last year and it reminded me why I enjoyed being competitive and racing in any form. My "training" for Happy Trails last year was just finishing Couch to 5k and seeing how long I could run without walking. And no real trail/ off-road running. This year, I'm taking a slightly different approach. Since about half the course is unpaved trail, I'm putting my trail shoes to good use and running AT LEAST ONCE A WEEK on the metropark trails. I haven't been running at the actual park where the race is, but I'm very familiar with it (I used to live right around the corner from there) and I think the trails I've been running are more difficult. Plus, the race avoids the dunes and major hills and the trails I've been running out at Oak Openings don't. I go to group run every Thursday night and I'll use those as my speed workouts (since I was doing that already anyway. lol). The race course will be marked a couple days ahead of time, so I'll probably put in 1 or 2 practice runs the week of, though I heard the course is the same as last year.

As for the future ... I haven't signed up for anything yet since I could end up on the other side of the country by the end of the summer but, yes, I'm looking at a half marathon for September 1. The Boy Scout Council my dad and brother are a part of put on the "Soaring Eagle Runs" every year in Bowling Green, Ohio. Course can be viewed HERE. There is the "Boy Scout Half Marathon", the "Tenderfoot 5k", and the "Tiger Cub Half-Mile Run". They are "dedicated to recognize and support our youth and the Scouting traditions and values, from Tiger Cubs to Eagle Scouts." These races are an amazing value too. If you register online by the end of June, the half is only $28, $33 if you register before August 21, and $40 if you wait until the day of. All early registrations will get a wicking race shirt. It sounds like is great support along the course as well (but you can read more about that on the website if you're interested).

Since it IS my first time running a half marathon, I've been spending A LOT of time pouring over all the different training plans and I THINK I may have found one that works for me (well, at least better than the other ones I've found). I'm using Hal Higdon's Novice 2 Half Marathon Training Plan ... with a few tweaks:
That purple star on the 21st? My 26th birthday! :)

Cross training will probably be a combination of mountain biking, swimming, and hiking.

I'm planning to use Tuesday as my trail run days since they're only 3 miles. Trail running will make me stronger, plus I like running in the shady woods in the middle of summer. :)

Thursdays will continue to be my speed workouts at group run. It works out well, distance-wise, and I enjoy the opportunity to test myself against some faster runners since I usually run alone.

The major change I made to the plan was with the weekend long run. Higdon's plan has the distance increasing pretty much 1 mile per week, but I need something more gradual. Running this much (and often) every week is going to be enough of a challenge. My plan is to do my longer runs on the canal trail or a loop of the paved roads and trails at Oak Openings (if I can get up early enough that it won't be blazing hot - very little shade on this route).

My concerns:
- How will my body (especially my shins and ankles) take to running this often and this many miles? I'll need to pay close attention to aches and pains.
- I need to figure out a nutrition/ refueling strategy. I've never used GU or anything like that before. I guess it's time to start experimenting. Any suggestions or tips?
- I'm going to need new running shoes soon? I'm saving up the money now, but I know the bottom is going to drop out of my checking account very soon, so I'm nervous. How late is too late to introduce new shoes before a race?

What do you think? Any suggestions? Tips? Holy-crap-are-you-crazys?

Monday, May 28, 2012

I'm baaaaack!

Yes, I'm still here. I've had so much on my plate lately that blogging just didn't feel like a priority. I've been writing a ton, in my journals and my creative writing prompts, but it's mainly about stuff I'd prefer to keep off this blog since it concerns other people or it's just stuff I'm not ready to share with the world yet.

So, to keep it short and sweet ...

I didn't graduate like I was supposed to. I have so many conflicting emotions about this that I don't know how to explain, other than to say that it just plain sucks.

Xena deciding if she wants to be inside or outside and Wesley "helping" me with my yoga.
I'm back at my parents' house. I'll miss spending all the time with the pups (and trying new recipes every day), but I'm glad to be home again. I have missed my bed and having cable. I won't miss having to run on the obnoxiously hot country roads, though. Every single long(er) run I planned, I had to cut short because the heat got to me. Being stunk out of the bedroom at 2am by 2 very gassy (and unapologetic) dogs will be gladly left in the past as well. lol

Just to give you an idea of how our daily walks went ... This is a CALM day compared to what I normally dealt with. :)

And on the running front ...
Oh, hello dirt line! I've missed you! :)
This week saw my return to Oak Openings with a 4.5-miler and a 3.14-miler on some of my favorite trails from the Mallard Lake trailhead. I can't begin to tell you how great it felt to get out there and just run trails for the love of it. I ignore the pace on my Garmin and just run where I feel comfortable. Of course, I have a motive for this other than just escaping to the shady trails on these obnoxiously warm days ... my next 5k is about half on trails, but I'll talk about that in my next post (which is already started).

Other than my 2 runs at Oak Openings, I went to group run at Second Sole Thursday night. Nothing too special, but the smooth road gave me a chance to think (instead of watching my feet so I didn't trip over a root or hole, lol) and get in a speedier run.

I also got in my longest run in a couple weeks on Saturday. My friend M called saying he and his wife, E, were in town for the weekend and were looking for a relatively straight and easy, preferably shady, trail to run. I offered to meet them at the string of metroparks along the river, enclosing the old canal path. The end of the trail is close to my house and it's been a favorite of mine for as long as I've been running. M wanted to do some fartleks so he went ahead while E and I hung back and chatted. She's been dealing with some knee and ankle issues so we decided on a 9:1 run/walk ratio just to make sure we're taking the time to drink water and check on our "injuries". We ended up putting in about 7 1/2 miles ... and they felt great! :) Running with E (and M once he wore himself out) gave me a chance to bounce some ideas off them and say out-loud some things I've been quietly contemplating for a few weeks now. Teaser, I'll discuss it more in my next post. ;)

Have a safe and happy Memorial Day, everyone. And thank you to all our service men and women ... past, present, and future.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Wes ran with me this morning!

I woke up this morning with an idea. After the dogs and I had breakfast and I had gotten an hour or so of work done, I snuck back into the bedroom and changed into workout clothes and my running shoes. Wesley noticed the shoes first and started following me around (more closely than usual) while I got the rest of my gear in order (I decided if I'm going to be walking them daily, I may as well wear my Garmin and rack up some trackable mileage). I waited until he went to get a drink from his bowl in the kitchen and then grabbed the leash off the coat rack and slipped out the back door, shutting the glass door behind me so he couldn't get out (yes, he can open the screen door). Xena saw her collar and leash as soon as I got out the door and ran to meet me at the side gate. I think she was excited to be the first one out for a walk (for once). Wesley was NOT happy (and let the entire neighborhood know), but I had a plan for him.

Walking with Xena makes me shake my head. For being such a fat lazy dog, you'd think she'd want to walk slower. Nope. She walks almost as fast as Wes, wears herself out, slows down for a couple steps, and then speeds back up again. She doesn't exactly pull on the leash, but she seems to do better when it's either let out all the way with pressure on it or I loop it up and hold her right at my side. Thankfully, she doesn't really react to other dogs, just kind of looks at them as she walks by. People on bikes is another story. If I see one coming, I instantly choke up on the leash and make her sit or she's bark and try to take off after them (not like she'd do anything beside slobber them up). She's big and strong enough that she could easily pull me over if she wanted to. She's a lab/ great dane mix. The best way to describe X is ... imagine an almost hip-high FAT dark-chocolate lab. She certainly has the temperament of a big goofy lab too. Her owner worries that her hips are starting to bother her in her advanced age, so a walk with her is a quick loop around the new development up the road from the house, about 0.7 miles.

By the time we got back, Wesley was raring to go. He threw an absolute fit when I took the time to get Xena some fresh water and ice cubes before putting his collar on him and heading for the front door. I always laugh when Wes and I first get outside. He goes absolutely SPASTIC like being on the leash is the absolutely coolest thing in the world! It normally takes him a couple minutes to decide he's ready to "walk" and heads down the driveway. Walking with Wes is always interesting. He's ALWAYS pulling on the leash and trying to go faster than I want to. I found myself wondering last night if it would help if I had 4 legs too. [Side note - this was when I began formulating the "idea" for this morning.] I've been letting Wesley have a loose leash and running fast as he wants on the last little stretch back to the house for the last couple walks and he's done well. I KNEW he used to "run" with his owner's daughter when she and I were back in high school but I didn't know how far, how fast, or anything other than this was when he was a PUPPY! So, today after reigning him in for the first 10 minutes or so, I loosened the leash and picked up my pace a little, to around a 11:30/mi pace. Almost immediately, Wes fell in line next to me, leaving slack in the leash! It was almost a mile back to the house and he handled it beautifully! I'm so excited! :D

I'm hopefully going to try this little experiment again tomorrow and see how it goes. I probably won't run Wesley much further than a mile since I'm only here with him for 2 weeks and I don't want to push him, but I'm thinking a morning run with Wes before going out for my OWN run (or doing yoga or a Jillian Michaels video) sounds like a great way to start my days! The dogs seem to love it too.

Seriously, what are these dogs going to do when their momma gets home next weekend? lol.

After wrangling Wes into the house and getting him some ice cubes (he seriously sat in front of the freezer until I did), I went out for my own run. It was my first time really running outside the immediate neighborhood and adjacent park. And sans-iPod (for safety reasons). I wasn't really sure of the mileage so I picked a block and told myself I could walk at any point after 3 miles if I got tired (since I'm technically back to training for 1 more 5k before increasing my distance for a possible fall half marathon). I wanted to use the run as a scouting expedition anyway, paying attention to curb widths and how heavy traffic was on any roads I ran on or crossed, deciding which roads would be safer to run longer distances on. I forgot my water (*smacks forehead*), but I felt comfortable with the pace I set (which surprised me ... 11:10, 11:03, 10:40, and 10:03/mi pace for the almost 1/2 mile). I even accidently inhaled a bug at one point, which had me gagging for a couple seconds.

Over all, I was really happy with my morning. I just need to be more careful about sunscreen next time because my acne meds make my skin more ... vulnerable? ... and my face is currently a bit sensitive. Oops. I really need to find a wicking visor or hat too. This running in my favorite ball cap isn't helping with the forehead acne at all, as much as I love it.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Dog Sitting ... or Snoozing

A good friend of the family (she's like a 2nd mom to me) and her boyfriend are out of town on vacation for the next 2 weeks so I'm staying at her house and taking care of the dogs. After the fitness frenzy that was yesterday (my run and then several more miles with the dogs), we "decided" on a nice lazy Sunday  while watching the Nascar race at Talladega ...

I'll talk about running and racing next time. I just haven't had much to say. Well, that's not completely true, but some things are just best left unsaid.