Friday, February 28, 2014

Shorts report for February

My optimism — or lack of pessimism — about February's temperatures back in January seems to have been a little misplaced:
We'll see what February brings. At the very least I should be able to leave the fuzzy hat and gloves behind here and there.
Well, yeah, I did, but that was true of a few glorious days in January too, I think. 

To take a more positive view of the past month, I guess we didn't have as many weather warnings as in January ... and I know that the shorts count was higher despite having fewer days in the month.

I got to wear shorts four times on outdoor runs this month: Feb. 13, 17, 18 and 19. Two of those days were even short-sleeve days to boot.

January's total was only three, which really, given that I live in the Midwest, is nothing to scoff at. 

Still, while I'm not itching to wear shorts in day-to-day life, I am definitely hoping for more running-shorts weather in March ... 

... unless the warmup reveals that I'm just not as fit as I was last time I did a 5K, in which case — leave me my cold-weather crutch, please.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

You're invited to a running party

Recently I mentioned how excited I was for my friends Annah and Marco, who were returning to running after hiatuses of varying lengths.

They're both sticking with it, and I knew Annah would be doing the Friendly Sons 5K with Cory and me.

What I didn't know, until a recent chat about running goals in the midst of Django happy hour, was that the Friendly Sons interest had spread. (Was it how I've consistently concluded the event details with "last year there was free beer"?)

Annah's boyfriend, Joel, is likely joining us.

Pam, of the fantastic Boone County history run, said she and probably Marco were doing it.

And Sharyn, who also did the Remembrance Run with us (her first 5K!), exclaimed: "Oh, it's on a Sunday?" because she too works Saturdays.

So of course I seized upon the opportunity to encourage them all to join, to push a few members of our old running crew to return to the fold, and to drum up support for this year's Woofin' It 5K — not only have some of these folks picked up running, but they've also adopted dogs, making them perfect candidates for a fun run/walk.

This running season is shaping up to be the most social one yet, and though I don't mind running/racing solo, I'm pretty stoked about it.

(Apologies to anyone whose interest I downplayed or overexaggerated. It was loud at Django. And there was wine.)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Finding the sweet spot

I had found a number of excuses for why the first tempo run of the training cycle didn't happen.

But happily, I can retire one of those: the "there's no good place to do it!" one.

There was a tiny park near my West Des Moines park that I liked because it was exactly a half-mile away — perfect for warmups and cooldowns — and had a quarter-mile loop that was mostly flat. It was much easier to run for time, not distance, in such a setup.

As it turns out, the neighborhood across the street from my new apartment does have a few flat roads, and they're even about a half-mile from my building, too.

Traffic is minimal, which is important given the state of the sidewalks (the ones on which I wiped out a week or so ago ... they did not improve during our thaw/refreeze).

So yesterday, I continued putting my recent resolutions into action. I scratched off the workouts that seemed most like "junk miles" to limit my options, and went for a 30-minute tempo run.

From what I could tell, it went smoothly — seemed like I picked up decent speed, like I was supposed to, and it felt like less of a struggle than Sunday's get-back-into-running run was.

Spring might not come before race day, especially with the polar vortex moving back in for the next 10 days, but I suddenly feel less like I'll fall hours short of a PR at the Friendly Sons 5K.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Winter blues

Maybe it's the long winter wearing on me, but my faith in PR-setting abilities next month is waning.

I still wanted to get a race in before Dam to Dam — though I might've picked something besides the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick race if I hadn't been eyeing a 5K PR — so there aren't any registration or training regrets.

And I'm only in week three of eight of Hal Higdon's 5K training plan, so perhaps I'm sounding the alarm early.

But there are two big reasons why I'm pessimistic:

1. I'm missing workouts. More accurately, I'm missing key workouts. Still more accurately, when I'm choosing which workout to get in and which to skip, I'm taking the easy, lazy way out.

Again, it's only week three. But I passed on the first tempo run and will likely not get in the second set of intervals, thanks to the flu bug I'm recovering from.

2. The speed workouts I have done have been rather lackluster. Well, I guess the first set of intervals went OK. But the three fast miles ... oof.

I can blame conditions like wind in my face, unexpected hills and flooded sidewalks, and of course I'm happy to do that. There's no reason race day can't have those things too, however.

Also, the numbers don't look as bad as they felt, especially given it's the first sustained speedwork I've done all year. But they're nowhere near what I notched last September.

* * *

So what to do from here?

I'm not going to throw in the towel overall, but maybe scratch one day a week off the schedule — it's too tempting to opt for "three miles" over the more challenging and race-specific workouts.

I'm going to ease up on the smack talk about beating my gentleman friend in another 5K, because I'm not so sure about walking the walk this time.

I'm going to continue running smarter, not harder. I didn't cram in any missed workouts, and I'm going to let my body finish flushing out this flu virus before lacing the shoes back up.

And next time, I'll remember the value of a solid base — you know, like training for a half marathon — before dreaming of getting in PR shape in eight weeks.

Monday, February 17, 2014

I finally wiped out

I had a good streak going this winter.

"Oh my gosh, you RAN today?" co-workers would gasp on snowy days, telling me of how they had wiped out multiple times while walking the dog that morning.

I'd like to think I was modest about it, acknowledging that yes, it was indeed slippery, and that I'd just been lucky, though my worst spill ever was on dry ground, so go figure.

So it wasn't necessarily with confidence that I set out Saturday night, but it was with a sense of calm.

If only I'd been a jerk runner, I would have gotten the whole three miles in with only a small stutter or two.

But when I noticed a truck with a huge trailer trying to reverse out of a driveway, I decided that running on the sidewalk, instead of the better-maintained street, would be the safest route. Literally within yards, I lost it.

Unfortunately, I don't have any good bruises to share. It hurt the most on the right side of my ribs, and I checked periodically for evidence of my fall, but the only lingering proof is the tenderness when I blow my nose, stretch or laugh too hard.

The good news is, my phone was still alive when I fell, so if anything worse had happened, I could've called for help. Or I could've just asked the gentleman walking his dogs — whose barks either triggered my fall by startling me, or whose barks were mockery after I bit it — to save me.

Maybe next time I should take my chances with dodging the reversing trailer.

Monday, February 10, 2014

My first impressions of the stair workout

On Friday, I capped a three-mile run with 10 minutes of running up and down stairs.

While Runner's World advised doing it after a long run, to boost your ability to push through fatigue, I decided that near-zero temperatures and a beastly hill near the end were tiring enough.

Was I right? Sort of. I mean, it was definitely a workout and not a cakewalk.

Within just a few minutes, I had my worst case of cotton mouth in recent memory, and I kept checking the timer on my cellphone, thinking that surely more time had passed than it really had.

But you know what also didn't help was having wet shoes from running outside on a set of stairs that only had rubber grips on one of three flights. Or choosing stairs that had very frequent turns.

Or doing the workout while maintenance was vacuuming, and nearly getting your foot caught in the vacuum cleaner cord as you tried to sneak past the maintenance man.

Next time, I'll consider using the stairs in the garage, because while there's only one flight there compared with three, I'll probably interfere with people less, I'll have less rest in between climbs and I'll have better traction.

And fortunately — or unfortunately — I was able to do 10 minutes on my first try, so that means I have no excuses for doing less than 10 next time.

Seriously, I thought I would hit a dangerous level of exhaustion on the first try. After all, climbing three flights of stairs to work every day leaves me breathless at the top.

Yet there I was at the end of 10 minutes, slightly proud that I'd exceeded my own predictions, and yet slightly annoyed that this sets the bar higher for next time.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Preserving my race schwag

After Karla posted about her own race-souvenir craft project, I was inspired to post about my own.

(I mean, it's still cold in Des Moines, and 5K training is just underway, so I thought readers might enjoy something different.)

The motivation to do these projects has been slowly percolating since before Christmas, and it took until mid-January to complete one: race-medal magnets.

I debated doing this versus hanging them on a bib-and-medal display, but the functionality of magnets won out over the cute Pinterest/Etsy images — I have a full-sized fridge, and our cubbies at work are actually magnetic.

Also, it was incredibly easy for someone who has barely crafted since her braces came off.
In chronological order of when they were received. Technically two of them are NOT participation awards; one race ran out of medals before it did finishers.
What to do with all the bibs? I bounced around on this, too. There are neat ideas for coasters, special photo album-like books and of course the bib-and-medal displays. Oh, and Mod Podging things.

Ultimately I decided to make my own bib display plaque, because it seemed cost-effective, within my skill level and, most importantly, easiest to constantly add to.

I've got almost all the materials: paint, stencils, brushes, slogan ("don't think; just go") and stack o' bibs. I'll worry about the clips once I make it past this stage.

Furthest from fruition are the race T-shirt pillows. This inspiration was born of necessity.

I wear most of my race T-shirts, except for the handful that really don't fit me. I could use them as dirty-chore T-shirts or PJ tops, except I have plenty of those already — and they're more comfortable.

What about squares for a T-shirt quilt? Nope; you can't iron technical T-shirts, unless you want to potentially gunk up your iron.

So I turned to Google for help. And sure enough, the Internet delivered this DIY tutorial.

At some point, I'll be converting my Arny Johnson 10-miler and Alexandria Running Festival Half Marathon shirts into throw pillows (OK, realistically, into cat pillows). I enjoyed both those races, so I'll be happy to see reminders of them lying around my apartment.

One former PR, one current-because-I-haven't-done-that-distance-since PR!
On the flip side, that leaves two shirts I might donate even though no one wants to wear a T-shirt from an event they didn't do: my Rockford and Drake Relays half shirts. In addition to both being miserable race experiences, the Drake shirt is maternity-sized on me.

I'll be taking suggestions ... or just lining the cats' carriers with them. Seems appropriate to put their hated "pet taxis" with my unhappy memories of sweating up endless hills.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Shout-outs to Annah and Marco

This post is either going to come across as corny or patronizing. If it has to be one of those, I fervently hope it's the former, not the latter.

It seems like many nonrunners see runners as smug, self-righteous people, and to be fair, I was guilty of thinking that a long time ago.

But what I discovered, once I joined the club, is that they're actually a supportive and encouraging group — people in my hometown like Doug, co-worker Mike, Coach Mike, the crew at Runner's Image were always asking about my progress and cheering goals they'd likely passed eons ago.

Once I started encountering beginner/returning runners myself, I realized why they did that: It's honestly exciting to see people taking the plunge. And right now, I get to cheer on two friends who are returning after long layoffs.

Marco made some running goals public at the end of last year: 400 miles, seven 5Ks and a 10K.

There have been a lot of Daily Mile posts, meaning that he's not only making progress on the 400 miles, but that he's also picking up some speed. Recently he notched a sub-10:00 mile.

Apparently it was not a pleasant one, but man, sub-10:00 is a huge milestone for those of us not born Kenyan. F--- YEAH, MARCO!

His first 5K of the year is this weekend, and he's aiming for sub-40:00. I have complete faith that sub-40:00 can happen, and I only say "can" instead of "will" because I've had plenty of unpleasant race-day surprises that were beyond my control.

Annah's time away from running has been much longer than Marco's, though she has done a half marathon.

I didn't know she'd picked running back up until I started receiving texts about her accomplishments: 10 consecutive minutes of running (nearly doubling her previous PR); 2.6 miles of run/walking in 32 minutes; a nonstop mile at 5 mph (after a weekend of, direct quote, eating like Augustus Gloop).

It's not easy to start from basically scratch and to stick with it, like she's doing. Quite a bit of sweat/muscle burn/panting goes into hitting those milestones.

But she's knocking them down like a pro, and I have full confidence that she can (and will!) join us for the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick 5K. If she doesn't find an earlier race.

Welcome to the Scoop Chasers, guys!

Monday, February 3, 2014

5K training starts this week!

My 5K training plan starts this week, and I'm pretty excited about it because:

1. I love the discipline of a training schedule that has an external culmination (the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick 5K). I *could* train and not race, but then I'm less likely to stick to the training schedule.

2. The temperatures this week look chilly. Not dangerously cold, but lazy cold — as in, someone without a gym membership or a treadmill would be inclined to do something else.

3. This weekend, I went to Bacon Fest, then a Super Bowl party that featured an entire dessert table and a nacho bar. (I do have to say: Bacon Fest's lingering guilt and grease overdose held me back a bit at the Super Bowl buffet.)

4. Sadly, last year's Friendly Sons partner Regina will not be able to join me, but Cory and I will be having a 5K rematch. Even if I lose, I could still claim a small personal victory if I go sub-24:00, or even sub-24:09, because there are plenty of 5Ks in the fall.

5. Another friend, Annah, has expressed interest in doing a St. Patrick's 5K, and while of course bar options abound — and she should do them, if she is so inclined! — she's been building up her endurance from ground zero, so I have high hopes that I will have positively peer-pressured another person.

Truth be told, I'm also a little ambivalent about training season's start because:

1. I haven't been pushing myself, except to not walk all of every hill. That extends to my lack of strength training since fall (seriously). I've been counting a foam-rolling session as a big victory.

2. The temperatures this week look chilly. Making crafts out of race souvenirs, reading running blogs and writing my own running blog sound more appealing.

But don't worry, this isn't going to become a whiny post. I know that once I get into the swing of training, I'll get used to all the drawbacks, and that taking the first step is the toughest.