Thursday, August 20, 2015

Can I do the Dirty Du?

I've done a fair amount of talking about doing the Dirty Duathlon recently, for someone who had never gone on a mountain bike ride and who hadn't run on trails in almost nine months.

The latter part of that sentence remains true; the former has been taken care of. Cory and I spent at least an hour on the Center Trails last weekend, and (obviously) I survived to tell the tale.

I was in a bit of a funk when we started out, so I probably would've raved more in this post under normal circumstances if I'd woken up on the right side of the bed.

But still, even as a cranky perfectionist, I had to admit that the Dirty Duathlon is eminently doable, even if I do nothing more in the way of training this year.

The ride began inauspiciously — i.e., on a bit of an uphill with roots and other things that made wimpy little me nervous. I'm not an adrenaline seeker, nor was I very used to the mountain bike even on ideal terrain.

Over the course of an hour-plus and five or six miles, though, I slowly but surely got my legs under me. I definitely walked several portions, mostly sharp/bumpy uphills that I didn't shift for in time, or narrow, guard-rail-free bridges at the bottom of hills.

You know what I didn't do, though? Fall on the trails. (I fell later on smooth concrete while standing up and fully sober, for no reason at all. But not on the bike.)

I also didn't give up. I got nervous, I got freaked out by fast riders behind me, I got angry that I didn't wear bug spray, I got tickled by sweat rolling down my nose at the most inopportune time ... and I stuck with it.

And at times, when I wasn't convinced I was going to fall into a ravine, I enjoyed it.

Most of all I liked being in the woods; adding some higher-intensity exercise for a shorter period of time was a nice change of pace, too; and so was knowing I'd willingly ventured outside of my comfort zone.

The day after wasn't too painful. During our ride, I noticed the tension on top of my wrists and forearms fairly early on, but the next day just felt like I'd gone on a tougher-than-usual bike ride. Nothing special.

So it looks like I'll be doing the Dirty Du for sure, and I think I can even handle the longer distance. (Which is good, because I have a commitment that morning that would make the shorter distance's earlier start tricky.)

The plan now will have to be:

* Keep mountain biking.

* Go on a trail run.

* Bike to my trail run.

* Hit the trails with the bike first, then run.

* Sandwich a trail run around mountain bike rides.

Suddenly November seems very, very close. Even though my goal is just to finish, I should start planning this out soon.

Monday, August 10, 2015

How should I spend the rest of 2015?

I think I've settled on how I'll spend the rest of 2015, at least when it comes to workouts.

After the Bix, my bunions had started to bother me, and so had the heat/humidity. "Sit out August," I told myself. "Don't wreck running for yourself; just enjoy summer."

Easier said than done, evidently. I've been crabby and sedentary lately, and you know what cures both of those things for me? Setting — then following — a running schedule.

So August will be twice-a-week runs, with a heavy emphasis on cross-training (yoga, bike rides, walks). Ideally one run would be shorter and more intense, while the other would be longer (four to six miles) and more relaxed.

If I could get myself started on the habit of doing some pushups twice a week and planks twice a week, that would be great. 

Even better would be distilling a short post-work yoga routine, created with my personal favorite poses from the various yoga videos/classes I watch/take. But that sounds like the kind of lofty aspiration that I excel in never attempting ...

By September, I hope to have started on at least one, if not both, new challenge: Capital Striders track workouts and mountain biking. 

Why mountain biking? So I can do the Dirty Duathlon in November by myself, instead of just being someone's runner.

I mean, running two miles on trails — with a break in the middle for someone to do 10 miles of mountain biking — won't exactly be a piece of cake, but it's just close enough to easy where I don't want to pay to do just that.

After Nov. 7, I see two routes. One is just kick back and relax until Thanksgiving, when I embark on the holiday run streak again. (This is the most likely option.)

The other is to keep up the trail running, even when it's gross — especially when it's gross — so I can take on the Sycamore 8 in December, no matter the conditions.

That's a bridge I'll cross much later. For now, it's time to finish my beer and hit the sack early to rest up for my first run since the Bix 7.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Race report: Bix 7

The Bix — and my performance at it — far exceeded my low expectations, I am very happy to report.

Here's how I did with each goal.

* Focus on the experience. My friend Emily's advice, on the eve of the race, was to have fun with it, and that turned out to be a cinch.

I will say that pre-race logistics were a little annoying; parking far away and biking to the closed-off area worked out perfectly, but once I got to the staging area, it seemed like I turned into a pinball, bouncing from volunteer to volunteer who gave sometimes conflicting directions on where I should be and how to get there.

From the minute I got to where I needed to be up until the post-race party, though, I was fully able to soak in the sights and sounds.

The music along the route was as good as advertised (special shout-out to the brass band playing "Barbara Ann" along Brady Street, and the bongo drummers around the turnaround point who invited runners to take a swipe at their instruments as they passed).

The spectators were genuinely enthusiastic about watching, and there was indeed a slip-n-slide that people actually used. I would've felt slightly cheated had I not spotted that ... even though I had no intention of hopping on it myself.

My favorite sign, though, wasn't on a spectator; it was on a participant. The back of one youngster's shirt asked: "Can you run faster than a fifth-grader?" I wish I knew — I spotted him when the race was still fairly crowded, so I don't know whether he shot ahead of me or fell way behind.

* Don't walk. Done!

I started out speedier than I anticipated and thought I felt myself slowing down later in the race, but at most I slowed to an easy jog during the water stops.

Speaking of walking, let me rant one more time about people who line up closer to the front than the back and then proceed to walk right away ... in a race of literally THOUSANDS of people.

Seriously, folks. You spent at least 15 minutes waiting for the race to start and stared at the opening hill the entire time. If you didn't think you could run it, you should've moved farther back before the gun even went off.

* Finish under 1:10:00. SMASHED. Pie in the sky? More like a piece of cake, evidently.

My chip time was 1:03:27 (9:04 pace) — meaning I notched a negative split, because my first-half chip pace was 9:15.

That was a shock to me. I thought I'd gone out too hard given the heat and humidity (not to mention the infamous hills).

So that leads me to my most boastful observation of all: The hills weren't that bad, and/or I trained really freakin' smart.

Yes, I could tell I was putting in an effort, but it felt no different than tackling any of the hills I hate around Des Moines ... you know, the same ones I made sure to run twice a week for the past month or so.

The tl;dr version of this post is: I'd do it again and encourage others to join me. And I'll actually be wearing the T-shirt, because despite it being a unisex small, it fits me decently.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Goals for the Bix 7

I don't have any special excuses for not blogging for almost a month (!), so I'll just acknowledge the silence and move on ...

Yes, I'm still doing the Bix 7. Quite a few pieces of this experience will be different from the past three years' worth of races I've done.

Totally new: racing seven miles; sleeping in a tent the night before (I'm joining my RAGBRAI friends in Coralville just so I can see Cheap Trick!); and coordinating a finish-line viewing with other out-of-towners (my parents are coming in from Rockton to watch my race and then hang out).

Unfamiliar: traveling any farther than a half-hour — and outside my metro area — to a race; racing a distance that isn't 5K or a half marathon; picking a race between Memorial Day and Labor Day; and doing a race where my goals are basically no loftier than "finish."

What are my goals? In a second.

First, let me emphasize how glad I am that they're so underwhelming, because pretty much all conditions will be against me Saturday: hills PLUS 90 percent humidity, with the start-time temperature at 75 degrees. It should, at least, be overcast.

With that said, don't laugh too hard at how lame my aspirations are.

Most attainable: Beat my friend Emily's 2012 time of 1:19:03 (11ish-minute miles).

That summer was awful, so I'm not judging her ... but back when it was still late spring and I was fresh off my half marathon PR, I thought this seemed like a piece of cake.

Midrange goal: Focus on the experience and not the difficulties.

Lofty goal: Don't walk.

Pie-in-the-sky goal: Finish under 1:10:00 (faster than 10-minute miles).

I haven't trained hard — running twice a week — and much of the summer has been mild, but I haven't let myself avoid hills, and I have stayed active. So I'm not really sure what to expect ...

... except beer and ice cream. Bent River, here I come!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

What I'm doing instead of the Des Moines Marathon

Most readers of this blog had no idea I was even considering the Des Moines Marathon, so the declaration that I've decided against it doesn't have quite the impact.

After my half marathon success, I began to wonder whether I should take on a new challenge, and the obvious next step seemed to be a marathon.

The even more obvious next step seemed to be the Des Moines Marathon: It takes place in late October; I live near one of the more challenging portions of the race; and I now work from home on flexible hours.

What I didn't account for, though, was the freedom of no longer working nights and weekends. I've been taking full advantage of this new development — it's like summer break for grownups, because there's time to play and income to fund the fun.

There were a few other factors pushing me away from the marathon, but that was the primary one.

Here are the races I'm considering instead:

Bix 7 (July 25). I still have to figure out whether I trust myself to not party too hard during the July 24 Cheap Trick concert in Coralville and then wake up at 5 a.m. to get to Davenport by 6:30 a.m. for day-of packet pickup.

Also, I'll be honest: Racing in Des Moines has spoiled me when it comes to race-day travel. With the exception of RAGBRAI 2014, I've barely given transportation and parking a thought since I left Rockton.

But the outlook looks fairly promising. I'm struggling with motivation to run, and encouraged by the general feasibility of doing this race.

Capital Pursuit (Sept. 20). The website claims it's a fast race, so we'll see whether I can beat my last 10-mile race, which definitely incorporated hills. This will force me to train, but not to suffer: I'd probably start training the last week of July (or early August, if I do the Bix 7).

Sycamore 8 (early December). An off-road race in the Midwest in early winter? If that doesn't say "new challenge," I don't know what does.

Half marathon wild cards: I would consider doing the NewBo half marathon (Sept. 6), the Des Moines half (Oct. 18) or the Hillbilly Hike (Nov. 7).

Friends have expressed vague interest in doing the NewBo half and the Des Moines half, so I offered to run with them should they decide to do so. Also, NewBo and Hillbilly both also host a 10K; I could use those as a baseline, if 10K becomes next year's speed target.

And finally (geez, I ramble), I have two formal bike rides actually planned: this weekend's Bacoon Ride, which we could manage to stretch into a century ride, and more importantly, the Tour de Fur on Aug. 30, which benefits Furry Friends Refuge!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Post No. 300 is about not running

(Irrelevant to the post itself: This is my 300th on this blog!)

This is sort of a mishmash of tangentially related topics — being at an athletic event and not participating.

First was my experience volunteering at Run for the Trees, which was a 5K/one-mile race the day before my half marathon. I very much wanted to go, because the venue sounded gorgeous and it benefited the Boone County Historical Society, led by my good friend Pam.

Running didn't seem like a smart idea, so I volunteered instead, though I'm not sure that standing outside for an hour on a cool, damp day was textbook pre-race prep. (Obviously, it all turned out OK.)

My job was to usher runners toward the finish line, which was a pretty low-effort job. That left me with plenty of energy to cheer on runners and shout out things like "first female finisher!" "top-five finish!" "lookin' good, almost there!" at people.

I'm not sure whether I was encouraging, annoying, or useless. It probably depends on whether you're a grumpy runner, like me, who doesn't want to hear uplifting comments when things get tough (and did I mention it was a trail race after a rainy morning?), or a runner unsure of your runner status and in need of a cheerleader.

But at any rate, it was fun in spite of the rain and the early wakeup call required to be in Boone on time. I would consider volunteering at another race; we'll see whether that ever manifests itself in action, though ...

On the other end of the emotional spectrum was watching Cory finish Dam to Dam recently. I arrived in time to cheer him on during the final 200 meters (he didn't hear me, but I know I was there) and hung out with him at the post-race party for a bit.

I was there about 15 minutes before he finished, and you would think that watching tired runners — or, worse, the incredibly gifted ones who sprinted to the end — would have made me think "man, I'm glad I'm not running, I'd look worse than the tired ones and be livid at the energetic ones."

Nope. I was jealous. I stood in the crowd, stereotyping much of it as not-runners, and thought wistfully: I belong with the people on the course. I might not look like it, but I do, I promise!

It is an odd feeling to be back on the outside again, watching sweaty people with huge grins hobble around, bubbling over with post-race analysis. Only a few weeks ago, I was clearly one of them — that day, I was just an admirer.

So that sounded rather bleak and self-deprecating, but it actually wasn't. It also refueled my running flame, in that I reopened my mind to Dam to Dam and that I resolved — sometime soon — to start working on a fall race schedule.

More on that schedule in a few days ... it's taking shape, but needs some actual thought still.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Race report: Woofin' It 5K

Funny that a race I spend so much time talking up to people and eagerly anticipating ends up being a blog post I just never write.

(Turns out starting a brand-new job immediately after the old one finishes, then going out of town every weekend, will put you behind on your personal to-do list.)

Anyways, nearly a month ago now, I did my third straight Woofin' It 5K, which as everyone knows benefits Furry Friends Refuge animal shelter, the place that saved my Dusty cat and has since hired me. Obviously a great cause :)

Other factors that made this Woofin' It especially pleasantly memorable:

The weather was as perfect as weather gets. Cory and I biked out to Campbell Recreation Area in the morning, enjoyed a humidity-free run, then rode to dine outdoors in Waukee, all in total comfort.

We again shared a dog, though we could have each taken one of our own, and she was perfect. She pulled a bit early in the race, but then mellowed out; she didn't bark or lunge at anyone; she had a purple collar on to match my purple T-shirt ...

... and her name was Sadie.

Proudly crossing the finish line!
People came up to me after the race to ask what "my" dog's name was and praise her. I felt pretty proud, even though I'd done absolutely nothing except let her enjoy the outdoors.

(Hey, Des Moines readers, just an FYI that Sadie's still available for adoption. Sadye, on the other hand, is content in her forever home.)

And ... that's about it, I guess. Maybe next time I should blog closer to the actual event, so that I have more stories to share. (Though in my defense, we missed the costume contest because we left late, and during the race I was a bit stressed out by something that had happened at my now-former job.)