Monday, May 30, 2016

Global Running Day-A Look into my Miles

Global Running Day is June 1...are you celebrating? Did you know there's a national day of celebration for those of us who love to lace up & run?

I'm linking up with Kristen at Jonesin' for a run and we're all sharing some trivia about our (running) lives.

Here goes....

-why do I run
At first, it was about getting in shape and adding some exercise to my life (**disclaimer-I was not overweight, but I did need some fitness!). I had done a few 5K's in the past, but had never been able to run the entire 5K distance without a few walk breaks. I set a goal of doing a local 5K (and gave myself about seven weeks to train for it). I ran almost exclusively on the treadmill back then because I was too embarrassed to run outside (I didn't really consider myself a "runner" yet, so I didn't want to look like a poser). After gradually increasing my distance on the 'mill, I could run an easy 10-minute pace for three miles. Race day arrived, and I ran the entire 5K (without walking!), and finished around 27 minutes...totally smashing the 10-minute pace that I'd grown accustomed to.

What did I learn? The treadmill was holding me back. Once I stepped foot outside, I could run as fast as I wanted and on my own terms. Sure, I could have set the speed faster on the 'mill, but I'd still be "keeping up" with it and not dictating my speed all on my own.

give me the great outdoors!

-how do I plan to celebrate National Running Day?
I'm helping organize a local NRD "group run" in my town. The past 3-4 years, a bunch of us have met and knocked out a few miles in celebration. We usually wear a favorite shirt from a recent event. 

A group of "locals"
-total miles so far this year? Mileage goal?
Currently, I'm at (approximately) 335 cumulative miles for 2016 this far. Not huge numbers, but I'm not a quantity gal. Interestingly, approximately 98.5 of those miles were run in the month of May (and May isn't over). Also, I took a bit of an off-season over the winter, and this time I was very obedient in doing so. Personally, I don't believe in setting a quantitative goal because then it becomes all about the numbers, and a great deal of the quality is lost. Also, a quantitative goal may cause the runner to ignore impending issues or injuries all in a quest for bragging I have learned it's in my best interest to (sometimes) let the numbers go. I'm pretty fortunate that I can maintain my fitness and endurance without grandiose numbers.

Approaching the finish line of marathon #2...with the hubby photo-bombing me

-big events on calendar so far
Well, I have had one half marathon so far (and several 10K's). The half marathon was not a PR, but I came darn close. I was able to land my first sub-2 hr 13.1 in almost two years, and this was on a very hilly course on a windy morning. SO, I'm hoping to run a few more sub-2's. There's also this little Ultra happening in July...12-hour endurance over-nighter. Oh, and did I mention Route 66 in November?

-before I leave for a run, I must have...
Obviously my running shoes (and fully-clothed, usually in something colorful),but I also love to have my music along for the run. If I'm running with a friend (or a group function), then I usually leave the music at home. And the GPS watch? Not a requirement, but I do bring it along (sometimes) for long runs to gauge my pace.

post-run with my friend, Barb
-Do I track my miles? If so, how?
I have always tracked my miles. I keep a running log, but I'm very old-school about it. It's all hand-written, scribbled in the little spaces on our family's "main" calendar.

I not only log all of my miles, I keep all of my race bibs

-favorite running partner(s)?
I have a slew of running partners, including my husband, a local friend (who accompanies me to many of my races and training runs), and a huge network of online Virtual Running Buddies. Several of these VRB's (and myself) all met up and did an amazing 6-hour (overnight) Ultra last summer. There was a lot of blood, sweat, tears, hugs, and laughter, and we agreed to do it all over again this July (except we're going to conquer the 12-hour endurance event instead).
Can you tell we've been up all night?

-races I have run so far this year:
I have run a variety of races already this year:
*Ringing In the New Year (5K), while on vacation in California (Jan. 2, 2016) (recap)
*Red Flannel Run (5 miles), a very cold, but fun annual event in Des Moines, IA (Feb. 12)(recap)
*Race the Runway (10K), while on a mini vacation in Florida (March 5)(recap)
*Leprechaun Chase (10K), a Lads-chase-the-Lasses endeavor, also in Des Moines (March 12)(recap)
*Fight for Air Climb, an annual event I've done several times...climbing 86 flights of stairs for the American Lung Association, also in Des Moines (April 10)(recap)
*Live Healthy Iowa 5K, a state-wide event with a local venue in my hometown (Grinnell, IA)
*Red Shoe Run (half marathon), my first sub-2  in almost two years! (Iowa City, IA)May 1(recap)

-one piece of advice about running
Ultimately, you have to do it YOUR way. Others will run faster. Some will run more often. Many will run farther. Bottom line, consider the advice you receive from fellow runners, but don't be an imitator. No one else will have the exact same life as you (with the exact same family, genetics, or lifestyle). Find a way that works for YOU. And, smile as you're dong it!

Run Happy!
-my relationship with running in one word

It's no secret I love my racing hardware (and the Iowa Hawkeyes)

How about you? Are you lacing up and knocking out a few miles on Global Running Day?

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Tough Training

Not every run is gonna be a great run. Case in point: Saturday's 15-mile run.

But first let's rewind for a moment....

Have I mentioned there's this little event happening in July? Not "just" a race (or even a marathon), but an Ultra. 

Do I feel prepared? 

Mentally, yes. Bring it! I'm ready. I know it's gonna be a challenge to not only stay awake (did I mention this event starts at 11:00PM?), but also remain vertical and in constant motion. For 12 continuous hours. 

Physically, though, I'm not quite ready yet (but that will change in the next several weeks). Currently, my longest training run has been 15 miles. Although this weekend's 15-miler was tough, I'm confident if it was race day I'd still be able to cross the finish line although it wouldn't be easy (nor without struggle) in the final hours.

This particular 12-hour Ultra will be much different than last year's 6-hour Ultra (that recap is HERE) in that I know there will need to be a lot more walking and a much slower pace. I was able to run the majority of last year's event, but a 12-hour event is a whole new beast to slay. Although my strategy is to run more than walk for the first six hours, I need to incorporate more walking intervals into my training.

Most of us know to stay ahead of the game with fuel and hydration, but the same goes for fatigue. It's important to walk and take breaks before you actually "need" them to conserve your energy, especially over the span of 12 hours.

My run this weekend was a good eye-opening experience. Granted, the temps were hot and humid before I even had my shoes on. I was tired at the start (due to a long drive to and from Chicago, picking up our daughter from O'Hare the day prior). And, I knew my fueling would be compromised (because my current go-to fuel of choice, Beet Boost, is out of stock in my pantry). That said, I still was eager to head out and hit the pavement.

My friend, Barb, drove over and we headed out at 7:45AM. A few miles in, and the "groove" still wasn't happening. I don't mind running in the heat (or subsequent humidity). I do not particularly love those conditions, but I'm not afraid of them.

Another factor was my right heel, which has been acting a bit wonky recently. It feels like a heel spur; I don't really notice it much when I'm running (mid-foot strike, thankfully), but simply standing or walking is another story. This is how the Plantar Fasciitis started in my left heel a year ago (almost to the exact date). As a result, I have been on "high alert." I have been taping my arch, wearing my (ugly) PF compression sleeve, and doing intermittent massage sessions on the affected area.

Although my heel didn't really hurt as I was running, my ankle and Achilles tendon did feel a bit stiff. Barb said her legs felt a bit heavy, too, so we each did our best to keep the other going. We did a 7-mile segment and looped back to my house for a water break. Our goal was to go 16 total miles, and I was (secretly) having doubts if I'd be able to finish that endeavor.

My husband joined us for the next part . Our town hosts a half marathon, and the course is a double-loop (of 6.5 miles) and goes right by my house. We decided to do one of the 6.5 mile loops, and then access how we were feeling afterwards.

Usually having others along with me helps keep me distracted form any immediate discomforts, but that was not happening this time. I continued to feel fatigued, and couldn't stop thinking about my heel. Ironically, I never felt like slowing down (much). I'm not especially fast...I can run anywhere between a 9:30-10:00 pace without much effort. But I do struggle with making myself run slower. It honestly takes more effort to run an "unnatural" slower pace than it does to simply maintain a moderate pace (at the risk of burnout).

Finally, around the 10-mile mark, I asked if we could walk briefly. We didn't walk far (not even the equivalent of a city block), but it was just enough to recharge my energy. We walked a few more times as we made our way around the course back to my house. We arrived back at our driveway, and had about 13.5 miles done. And, I honestly felt like I was done for the day.

I suggested grabbing a quick drink inside, then come back out and run a lap around the block to get my mile count to an even 14. The husband and Barb wanted to go a little farther, though, so I agreed to go along with them for a half mile then walk back. It turns out I did have a tiny bit of mojo remaining....I was able to run most of that final 1.5 mile segment after all. It was not easy, it was not fast, and it certainly was not pretty, but it was done. It wasn't the 16 miles that we'd planned, but it was still 15 miles. And we all were satisfied with that. I knew I would not be doing my wonky foot any favors by trying to grit out another mile on a hot day with an already fatigued body and (probably) altered gait. It's a good thing I'm not a "quantity" gal when it comes to mileage.

SIDEBAR- In counting up my mileage for May, I'm currently "sitting" at 93.5 miles (with two days still remaining). Even if I hold off and don't spank that 100-mile mark (which was never a goal anyways), this is still the highest monthly mileage I've had in a long time (like, since last year at this time). It may not be a coincidence my "good" foot is showing signs of strain. Ironically, last year's "bad" foot is feeling fine. Go figure.

By the next morning, all was feeling fine with my body. No shin splints, no post-long-run puffiness (dehydration), and very minimal heel achiness. Life is not bad. I'm grateful not only for the gift of running, but also for the ability to feel fine the day after an specially tough 15-miler.

So, do stay tuned. I'll be recapping a few more of my long runs as my Ultra draws near. Have you ever had a long, difficult run that left you feeling totally drained? Do you have difficulty running slower than what feels natural?

I'm linking with the wonderful gals Holly from HoHo Runs  and Tricia from MissSippiPiddlin for the Weekly Wrap. Head over and check out their blogs, and read up on what everyone else has been doing!

I'm also adding a link to Marcia's Healthy Slice, hosted by Marcia and company. She's chatting about must-do races...head over and she what's on the roster! And check out all the other linked blogs as well.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Runfessions...It's fun not being SO serious ya got?

I take fitness seriously. And I pride myself on being a runner who isn't "just a runner."

That said, I have to confess that sometimes it's fun to shake things up a bit and make a game out of it. After all, life is too short to be serious ALL the time.

 In recent weeks, there's been a planking challenge among a few of us. I kind of joined the party a couple days late, and I don't know if the premise was to (1)work on building up endurance to increase total planking time, (2)experiment with different planking positions, or (3) to just simply add planks to your life. One thing's for sure....planking has taken on a whole new meaning in terms of comaraderie, friendship, support, and (maybe) a little bit of competition

I plank every day, without fail. At the minimum, I do a 2:30 forearm plank each morning while my chai is heating. I'm not usually looking too glamorous (bead head, pj's, and carpet slippers), so not many of those daily 2:30 planks are documented (you can thank me later).
Fresh outta bed, complete with the comfy carpet slippers
Often times, I throw in a longer plank (upwards of 5+ minutes), or several shorter planks (in challenging positions) just to mix it up. I much prefer planks over crunches for that constant battle to flatten/strengthen my abs (for the record, I do NOT have washboard abs).

Planks also work your entire core (more info HERE) and help to strengthen your back. Depending on the position, they also give your legs definition, and can help to strengthen your hips as well.  

This planking challenge kind of took on a life of its own, though.

I planked inside....
post-run plank

...and I planked outside...

In the grass, also after a run
 ...on the yoga mat with Max (who happens to think its HIS yoga mat)...

I'm just thankful he is willing to share the mat with me my backyard, in a dress (when no one was looking)...

Yes! In a dress! On one leg!
I have planked in my front between numerous drive-bys...

in the muddy post-rain grass, with sunglasses and dress shoes, none-the-less the sunshine...

Ahhhhh, in the glorious sun....
...alongside my bike (while volunteering for a local race)...

Have you ever planked with a cowbell? a nearby indoor track, on a very rainy morning...

There also may have been some speed intervals involved...
...and, believe it or not, I have actually planked on my kitchen floor!

Again, on one leg....

What do you think about planking? Ever tried it? Back in November, I hosted a Planking on the Fly challenge (more info HERE). My goal was to meet (and/or surpass) 200 minutes of planking in the 30 days of November. Broken down, I had to average around seven minutes "on the floor" every day. I was able to make it to 210 minutes of planking in November!

So, there you have it. I'm linking up with Marcia (from Marcia's Healthy Slice ), for her Runfessions link-up. Marcia was the one "who started it!" (the planking challenge, that is). I invite you to head over and see what she's runfessing, as well as all the other bloggers who are 'fessing up.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Sunshine, Planking, and DOMS...Oh MY!

It was another successful week of action....but there was that (repeat) occurrence of DOMS. What the heck is up with my shins? I seldom ever have any issues with shin splints, but this was second consecutive long run where the shins have been angry with me.

Monday started with a spontaneous plank at lunch time...this time balanced (somewhat) on the "balance" ball (an oxymoron if there ever was).Have you ever tried to hold a plank in any manner with a balance ball?

 I also did my #nevermissaMonday run, and it was a short mile (due to the DOMS). The mile wasn't painful, thankfully, and after the first couple of blocks, I could feel the muscles loosening up...but there was no need to be a hero.

Tuesday, we had strange weather. It was dark and humid in the morning, rained in the afternoon, then cleared up and was beautiful by the time I got home from work. The DOMS were still residing in my shins, so I made a last-ditch effort to get rid of them...compression sleeves all day (for the second consecutive day), under my pants at work. Desperate times, desperate measures.

I spy with my little eye...compression sleeves!
 After work, I headed out for some hilly miles with the husband and friend. And I'm not kidding when I called them "hilly." But, alas, hills are good training, even if you don't have an upcoming race with a hilly course. Running hills (occasionally) allows for a variety of muscles to get worked...and, besides, it gets boring running flat terrain.

Wednesday? Not much to report, but I was challenged to plank with my pup.....

Seriously, it is MY yoga mat, but Max thinks otherwise
Thursday, I had a relatively small workload at the office, so I got home early for lunch and was told to call back around 2:00 (to see if they would need me to return after lunch). So....a few hours all to myself? I decided to dust off the Mongoose and go for a ride (care to read all about it? recap HERE) . We have a state park a few miles west of town, and there's a bike trail that takes us there. Let me just say, this trail is a huge challenge. It's constant hills, which is one thing when you're running them...but quite a different animal on wheels. I made the entire round trip without having to dismount or walk the bike (#victory).

Approaching for the final hill...
Later that evening, since the temps were great, I also ran a few miles. Why not? Have legs, will run!  At the risk of another oxymoron, I'm calling Thursday's stuff a "split brick." Technically, a brick is multiple forms of workouts performed back-to-back (usually for triathletes/duathletes in training...swim/bike, bike/run, run/bike/run, etc.).

Biking 15 (hilly) miles at lunch, running 3 (flat) miles in the evening
Friday was Bike to Work Day...but I forgot about that until I was half way there in my car (and already running late). I decided to ride my bike back to work after lunch, though. Holy Screaming Saddle Sores, Batman! The DOMS of my shins had nothing on the saddle sores of my booty! An advantage of small-town living is that the commute to work is not far...for me it's about a 7-mile round trip from my driveway. Thankfully, the saddle sores were manageable after the first few minutes.

Saturday brought with it a morning of volunteering at a small, local 5K. I got to hang out on one of the corners and ring my cowbell. I may have even stopped, dropped, and planked in between runners.

After the race, Barb and I met up to knock out some training miles. This was going to be our first "summer temps" run. Not an ideal situation, starting our run around 10:15AM, but both of us helped with the race, so that's how it played out. We were able to get in 10 miles, then called it a day. Barb needed to meet her daughter, and I was ready for a break. My right heel has been acting a little wonky recently. It feels fine when running, but feels a little "off" walking and standing. I didn't want to overdo it. Besides, some of us made (spontaneous) plans to meet up that evening for a Full Moon Run, so I knew I'd be getting more miles in anyways.

Later, as planned, the Full Moon Run commenced. I headed out and ran a couple miles on my own, then met the others (my husband, Barb, and another friend, Bill). The temps were heavenly (high 60's), the sky was clear, and the moon was bright! We did a fast 5K, and I was pleasantly surprised how effortless those five (total) miles felt (after having run 10 miles earlier). 

Sunday was a day of active recovery. LOTS of garden squats (in the hot sun) and some planking. Are any of you doing the #plankaday challenge? 

Planking in the is good!
In other news:

Remember the garden we put in a week ago? We discovered some stray animal had been digging in there and eating some of the leaves off the tomato plants, and left his (or her) droppings in the grass nearby. This is what happens when the dog rolls around in droppings left from said other animal: Emergency bath pronto!

This is what happens when Max rolls in poo.....
Apparently, I have made an impression on a fast food chain. Funny, but I don't recall ever tweeting about anything Long (other than training runs), I don't know too many guys named John (and I'd much prefer to email them than tag them on social media), or Silver (I do prefer it to gold, but don't typically bring it up in conversation). Should I be flattered or insulted? (I'm going with flattered...#glasshalffull)

Earlier this week, my yellow irises bloomed! Aren't they beautiful?

How was your week? Did you get plenty of sunshine? Any cross-training? Have you ever used compression sleeves for DOMS relief?

As usual, we're linking up with Holly from HoHo Runs and Tricia from MissSippiPiddlin for the Weekly Wrap! Please head over and check out all the exciting news!

Friday, May 20, 2016

My First 2016 Ride - 5 Favorite Things

Most of you know that running is my sport-of choice.

Honestly, I'm not too gifted with athletic talent or grace, and running doesn't require much of either. It does keep me moving and grooving, and I have learned that even without a lot of "natural" speed or finesse, you can still lace up and run far. Really far.

That said, I know the importance of variety and cross-training. I don't do a lot of cycling (in comparison to my biker friends), but it's a great change of regimen and a fantastic supplement to running.

I finally had the chance to venture out Thursday for my first ride of 2016 (kind of pathetic it took me so long to do so). And, guess what? It didn't totally suck! The saddle sores were minimal, the legs felt good, and even the headwind (on the return trip) was manageable.

Here's my Five Favorite Things from the experience:

The spontaneity of it (well, sort of).  Truth be told, I have been itching to saddle-up and ride for several weeks, but my bike was buried in the shed. And, realistically, I have had plenty of other weekend activities going on so fitting in a ride has not been a priority. I went home a little early for lunch (slow morning at the office), and didn't need to report back until after 2:00.  I had a good chunk of time, a beautiful sunshiny day, and ideal temps. Why not?

No on-the-road emergencies. When it comes to biking, I am very much a "seasoned beginner." I know some of the (minimal) basics, but that's it. I have never even put air in my tires, and would have no clue what to do if a tire blew or a chain derailed while on the road. Typically, the husband (and/or friends) have accompanied me on this trail before. It's an approximate 15-mile round trip to a state park west of town, and it's very hilly.  I've never ventured that far away from home (on two wheels) on my own, so I had my phone with me in case I needed to call for assistance. The husband was out of town on business, so my parents were on stand-by.

A mid-day ride was a welcome break from my usual routine. Most of my lunch breaks involve running home, taking the dog for a quick walk, grabbing some food and browsing the internet (Facebook, Instagram, and blogging). I seldom have time for anything physical (except for an occasional plank LOL).

 I was able to remain "saddled-up" the entire ride. In other words, I never had to dismount and walk the bike up any of the hills, though there were a couple times the thought crossed my mind. I just kept focusing on the utility poles along the road...and encouraged myself to just keep pedaling to the next pole...and the next one...then the one after that.

Just keep pedaling...just keep pedaling....pedaling....pedaling....
The satisfaction in feeling (and seeing) my leg muscles flexing. As I made my way up the hills, it was pretty fulfilling looking down at my thighs and watching them in action. Although I could feel my heart pumping, my legs never felt like quitting. In fact, I only paused twice...for a minute at the turn-around (to check my phone), and then briefly before the final hill (to take a picture).

A quick selfie before the final hill
How do I feel about biking? I like it, but do not (yet) love it. Running, hands-down, is my go-to sport of choice, but I love and respect the value (and necessity) of cross-training. Plain and simple, I'm just not ready to make the commitment to dive in and get a pricey bike and all the gear. I have a mountain bike, which is great for tooling around town, but an actual road bike would be ideal for the longer rides, especially on the hilly trails. Nor do I have gloves (are they really necessary?), rear-view mirror, or clip-in shoes. And, let's be honest, the padded shorts really gross me out. Honestly, I'm completely fine being a newbie (and probably looking like one, too).

My trusty Mongoose...should I give him (her?) a name? 
I have done one duathlon (August 2015, recap HERE ), and it was so much fun! I do plan on doing another du (or several). I would like to do a triathlon someday....but that will not be happening any time soon (I'm not a fan of water, and have I a small vanity problem...not too crazy about wearing a swim cap #eeew).

How about you? Do you have a bike? Ever done a duathlon or triathlon?

I'm linking up with the DC Trifecta, also known as Courtney (from Eat Pray Run, DC), Cynthia (from You Signed Up for WHAT?!), and Mar (from Mar on the Run). Head over to see what's happening for the Friday Five!