Friday, April 30, 2010

From NR: Tragedy!

It's been a little while since I discovered my personal tragedy but I have yet to write about it. Here goes: my favorite running socks are no more!!

Okay, not such a catastrophe, but still sad! I've been buying my running socks from the Army Navy store in Grand Rapids the last couple of years. They're nice and lightweight, super cheap and the tops are sparkly (some yellow, some green) and say sunshine on them! I love them. Sadly, almost every single sock has a hole for my right big toe to poke out of now. So last time I went up to GR, I decided it was time to buy more just to head into the store and find that they no longer sell them. Not only that but the saleswoman had no idea what I was talking about so it's probably been a while since they've had them (I don't think I've bought any since last summer). I have no idea what brand they are and so have no way to look them up online, though I did try a few quick and useless searches using variants of 'running sock' 'sunshine' and 'glitter'. Shockingly, nothing came up! Yeah. I think they still sell the same brand but different socks, though, so I'll have to check NEXT time and write the brand down. In the meantime, I am running out of socks. The problem I've found with anklets is that so many tend to be just too short so that the back of the shoe rubs against my heel. Not comfortable. I found some cheap ones at Old Navy, though, so I'll give those a try and report back! They aren't sparkly, though.

The first trail race was on Wednesday! It was my first speedy anything since I've been injured so I was a bit apprehensive about it. Usually, this is the easiest course (well, I suppose Western Waterfront is an easier course) of the spring. However! It's been rather dry this year, so it was decided that we could venture onto parts of the trail usually too muddy this time of year. I shudder to think what they look like in a normal year. My mom asked if we ran through some puddles and I laughed at her. We were trouncing through Marsh Marigolds it was so mucky! The first third was wet, mucky and shoe sucking - I lost my right shoe in the first third during the warmup run of the course. Not a good sign. The second part was hills. Hills reminiscent of Brown's Point. Yuck. I didn't have as much of a problem with them as I thought I might, though. I tried to work on trusting my legs and ignoring my mind going something like "What the hell is that? You want to run up another one of those?" Then you turned a sharp right and hit sudden pavement which gets the legs all confused. "What?! Solid ground? What do I do?? How do I balance?"

I lost my left shoe in an unassuming mud hole in the single track. During the race. Luckily, we weren't more than a quarter mile from the finish and there was someone I could hear behind me so I decided to just keep going and go back for my shoe when I finished. I didn't even need to do that since Randy found it and brought it in with him. Thanks, Randy!

Overall, a pretty good race, though there's nothing to compare it to since it was a new course. I was trying hard to just run my pace and not let anyone else affect what I was doing so I could focus on what my legs wanted me to do. I ended up running faster than I thought I would, so that was nice. My legs are still strong (actually, probably stronger in general with all of that PT) but my breathing is perhaps a bit behind.

I'll be giving everything a good test tomorrow at the Moose Lake 10K, though (man, am I link happy today). Flat and fast so we'll see what happens. Hopefully the nasty weather that usually accompanies the Millennium Trail race doesn't show up in Moose Lake tomorrow. But if it does, I always love running in the rain, so it won't be so bad!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

8 weeks!

So every new run seems to be another chance to analyze whether I'm going to feel ready for Grandma's or not. It gets to be sort of funny when I catch myself making another judgment call after a 3 mile run! The most important is the long runs, though, and the last two have felt fantastic - though, if I'm being honest here, I've only had three "long" runs if you count my first one back which was all of 10 miles. Anyway, good long runs bode well but I'm going to keep taking it a day at a time as long as I can. Nothings wrong with being smart and running Sour Grapes Half instead of Grandma's. Especially if it keeps me healthy.

Saturday was a lovely 13.5ish mile run on the Superior Hiking Trail. Lisa ran 27 miles from her house to Magney Snively and back (!) and was looking for company, so I ran out with her and had Kyle come pick me up. It was a perfect day - cloudy with threat of rain, just warm enough with a nice breeze at our backs (granted, I imagine the "breeze" wasn't fun to run back into and that threat of rain turned into rain on my drive back, leaving Lisa out in it). It made it hard to decide what to wear but was great once we got out there. I was hoping for 12-14 miles today (I hadn't really decided which) and this was a great way to up my mileage without too much extra wear - trails with the soft landing they come with and the slower pace they demand, not to mention the slower pace demanded by someone running twice the distance! I had a great time despite trying to twist my ankle apart at one point via a stick/rock combination. I blame Rick since we were plugging along just fine without incident until he came along!

It's hard to run on the Superior Hiking Trail without wanting to look around. Everything is turning spring green right now so you want to look at the views with the new budding trees and find the sprouting plants on the ground all while trying to watch your step. We saw three turkey buzzards soaring about, too! The great thing was, since we were so high up, they were soaring right at our height and they were close enough to see their red, which I don't think I've been able to see before. I also covered a few parts of the trail that I've never been on before and a lot of trail that I've never run on before. I really wanted to turn around and join Lisa on the way back and even though I knew it was silly and I wasn't in the sort of shape to run 27 miles, I really wanted to anyway!

Next up for the gel test was Gu brand. A Strawberry Banana and a Tri-berry with caffeine. I also tried a chocolate Accel gel with caffeine since we were out there a while. They all worked great - no sticky all over my hands this time! I think the Strawberry Banana was my favorite but since that was the first one, it's hard to tell - the test will be trying it later in a run sometime. Gu is buyable locally, though, which was my aim and also popular enough to be found at an expo should I forget my gels and need to buy them last minute. No negative GI issues with either gel, so far, which is also quite good! I love the idea that Cliff has, though - they have the top tear off but stay attached to the main body so that you don't have to be juggle little pieces of trash with everything else. I wish everyone would copy them.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

From NR: Decision Time!

Decisions to make! I was going to go on to say how I hate decisions but let's stay positive, right?

So, I had a fantastic 12 miler on Saturday! The first half was only so-so and I was getting worried by mile 5 but the second half felt great, even with it being more uphill. In fact, I really wanted to add a mile and make it an "even" 13 but decide to err on the side of caution, which was probably a smart idea. Everything felt smooth and fast on the way back and even with concentrating on going slow and then feeling slow for the first half, I finished in 1:44 for an average of 8:40 pace.

New things on the run - my Camel has mold in the tube so I went with my handheld as 10 miles is about my limit for no food or water. This was the first time I've used the handheld water bottle for any run of length (I've done a couple short runs just to get used to it and hadn't been a big fan) and I actually didn't mind it as much as I thought I would. I think I drink a lot more with a handheld and that is definitely good. It's nice to not have the rubbing on my back from the waist pack, too. However, while I did get mostly used to it it, I'm not a fan of the sloshing noise. Someone needs to invent a handheld with a bottom that moves up as you drink so that the liquid doesn't slosh much.

I also tried gel again, since it's time to switch to something else to make sure I'm taking in enough fuel and gel seems to be the way to go. You might remember that I tried gel once before with results such that I didn't want to try again. This time I tried Shelly's favorite kind - Accel Gel. Orange flavored. It's not SO concentrated that I needed to drink right away, but I did feel as though I needed to drink halfway through which I could see being a juggling problem at water stations but perhaps I'll get used to the consistency. I definitely didn't have the choking that I felt with the other brand. It was easy to open and eat on the run, unlike my first time around. It seemed to be a good size, too - I was able to suck it down quick and while I did spill all over my legs once, I think I'll figure it out and not do it again :) The only problem is that it's not available in Duluth so I'm stuck with ordering online only. I'm not a big fan of this since I like to be able to run to a store in a pinch so I'll have to try some brands of locally available gel brands, too. When I looked around, the Clif Apple looked familiar and I think that's what I tried that first time so I'll probably avoid that!

So the dilemma . . . Saturday was 9 weeks out from Grandma's and I'm just considering myself 'back' from injury in the last couple of weeks here. There's still time to get two 20s (or a 20 and a 22) out my schedule but it only involves one stepback week before the tape. So my long runs would look something like this: 14, 16, 18, 20, 12, 22, 12, 10, race.

I feel as though trying to run Grandma's hard is just not a good idea. I don't want to re-injure myself and I want to be prepared. I think a big problem I had at Whistlestop was that I didn't know my target pace well and I wasn't confident enough in myself to find that pace on my own, so I hung onto a guy who was going faster than I should have been. I need to know my target pace inside and out.

So. Do I forget about Grandma's this year and do the Sour Grapes Half the weekend before instead? I feel as though I have the time to be able to run a good Half. Fox Cities Marathon is September 19 and would be a good race to try for my 3:30 again. It seems like the smartest fallback choice - Whistlestop is only a week before Wild Duluth and there's not much for nearby marathons in the summer. September is a good time, hopefully getting cooler and it's before duck season :)

I could run Fox Cities as my goal race and still run Grandma's but I'm not sure I want to if I'm not ready to give it all and I don't know where I would aim. Do I try and just hit a 3:40 (my age BQ) and see what happens, just to make sure I'm in? Do I try for something bigger? Do I just have fun and not go for time at all (I'm not sure I can do that!)?

Now, the Eau Claire Half is for sure out. If I do Grandma's, I'm thinking about not doing most of the trail series. I need to do some track work and get my pace figured out instead of letting a weekly race count as that.

I don't necessarily need to make a decision now. Grandma's won't be filling for a while so I have some time to see what my knee is continuing to think. But thinking like that means I have to be training as though I were doing it so I guess I really do need to be making that decision soon.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

From NR: Preconceptions

I had a great trail run Wednesday. About halfway through, I found my groove and felt like I was just flying down the trail. I thought a lot about things, too.

I do a lot better when I open myself up to failure and I have to remember that. It's why I still think going for 3:30 was good at Whistlestop, even if it didn't work out right. I've always done my best when I decide it doesn't matter if I crash and burn - it seems I sell myself short a lot and could really go harder then I thought.

First experience with this was back in middle school, really. It was the Princeton cross country meet in maybe 8th grade when it was still out at that campground. On the bus ride down, I was informed that I was cut down to JV instead of Varsity for this meet. I was pissed. To make it back up to Varsity for the next meet, I would have to beat the time from someone running Varsity at Princeton when JV and Varsity were running separate races so I wouldn't be able to directly race the people I was trying to beat. The JV race also had a TON more runners than the Varsity and the course was simply not built to handle the amount of kids running at once (probably why it was moved off the course the next year or the year after). So I decided I was going to run like mad - much faster then I thought I could maintain for the whole race. After all, you aren't expected to do well at Princeton so it'd be okay if I crashed and burned. Well, I ended up getting 2nd! All because I let go of what I thought I could do and just ran.

Maybe similar is how I've run my best time for the Trail Series races that very first time I ran each one (with the exception of Rolling Stone). Perhaps because I didn't know what to expect those first times around - I didn't know the course and didn't know who I 'should' be running with.

I guess my moral from the story is that you'll only be as fast as you let yourself be. Just let your mind go sometimes, take the risk and go. Whether this means for a race, a section of a race, a training day, an interval or even long term goal setting. Wednesday, I was running up a hill in the middle of the run, nothing too steep or bad, average trail length, average trail steepness when I realized I was thinking along the lines of "Okay, get to x point and you can walk if you need to." Wait, wait, wait! Evaluation time! Just what exactly is hurting enough to think about walking? Quads? Fine. Calves? Tight but fine. Those sore hamstrings? Just fine. Why was I thinking about walking? Could my mind have just decided without me that this seemed like the type of hill to walk some on or even the type of hill I would 'normally' walk some on? As soon as I stopped (mentally, not physically) to realize my legs were fine, I was able to keep going no problem. I'm trying not to let my mind psyche my body out.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Bike to Work!

I had my last PT appointment yesterday! Todd seems to think I'll be fine on my own from now on - though he said I can definitely come back if I feel like I need to. A lot of what we do, I can do on my own now that I have gym access, so that is good. I've made sure to write down what we've been doing just in case I forget. He warned me that I'd definitely be sore from this last session, though . . .

So what do I do but head over to the Fitness Center and do some upper body lifting since my PT focuses on legs and core. I've already been able to up the weight on some of my exercises but I'm still hanging out with the bare bar on the bench press. It's 45 pounds - that's a lot! Yeah. I've at least been able to up the number of reps in a row I can do of them.

Up next is home, eat food, and eventually, get back in my car to head to work only to find that someone (that someone might be me) seems to have left the headlights on and the battery is now unwilling to start the car. Well, I've been wanting to bike to work for a while but have had no idea how long it would take. Call work, let them know I'll be late and get dressed for biking!

Turns out it takes under 10 minutes to get to 24th Ave and about 20 minutes to get up the hill to LSC (jutting over to Piedmont on 10th St) much of that being walking up the hill. I did manage to make it further up 24th before walking then I thought I'd be able to but that's a brutal hill and I'm glad I chose my road bike since it's lighter to push. Then a final 10 minutes or so to get to the mall. So about 40 minutes from front door to work. Not too bad. Probably not a doable thing once it starts getting hot since I don't have access to any sort of showering once I get there but definitely workable in spring/fall. Biking seems to make me kind of hyper once I get to work, too, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.

So. Hard PT + upper body lifting + unexpected uphill bike to work = rather stiff and sore today. My neck especially from biking and my hamstrings also. So when my alarm went off this morning to get me going to the pool, despite being rather tired, I was ready to jump up. Nothing like a nice swim to work out those sore muscles, right? I got into some really good rhythms and felt smooth despite the frustrating goggle issues I kept having (I think I need new ones as I've either completely lost the ability to put them on right or the seals are leaking). I haven't done any workouts in the pool for a while, now - today was just a straight mile. I've been following my swimming with stretching in the sauna more, too. It's funny, when I first starting going I could barely stand to be in the sauna. Now I go in, throw a cup of water on and hit the top bench. Rock. Here's hoping this does something to my summer heat tolerance :)

On board for the rest of the day? Finally ordering my Dirty Girls and going for a lovely trail run in the rain with friends and hopefully doing some organizing of my computer room tonight.