Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014...My Running (on the fly) Year in Review

Is it already that time of the year?  You know, when most of us not only look towards the goals and aspirations on tap for 2015, but also reflect on what made 2014 so stellar?  Well, it is for me!

This past year was not only a year of excitement, but also one of growth and transition.  I participated in 23 events (four of which were virtual events in the colder months when there were limited "actual" races in my area), and two of which were "vertical" races (The American Lung Association Fight for Air Climbs, Chicago and Des Moines).  Most of these events came with hardware (finisher medals and, on a few occasions, medals from placing within my age group), but all of them were significant in terms of goals met and comfort zones violated.

My major goal for 2014 was to do "14 in '14," finishing 14 distance events (any distance longer than a 10K). My goal was met and finished in early November, giving me the remaining time to rest, recover and rehab my (somewhat) fatigued body.

One of the main things I'm always striving towards is to violate my comfort zone.  I love taking on new challenges, and testing my limits.  This involves not only registering for new events (with varied distances) as often as my schedule allows, but also traveling to different locales (as much as I love where I live, I am always eager to go elsewhere and see new sights in my running shoes).

A new experience for me in 2014 was participating in a relay race. Myself and team of co-workers raced in the Market to Market relay in May. Similar to a Ragnar race (but on a much smaller scale), the teams (most of them in costume)  raced across 70 miles of trails on a cold, rainy and windy day in Iowa. It was a fun and action-packed day, and reinforced the love of running all of us share.

Despite all the triumphs, there is a frustrating challenge that still plagues me, though.  I have been battling piriformis issues for several years.  It has gotten much more manageable, but has never quite vacated my being. Several months of physical therapy have helped, and if I could/would/should discipline myself to foam roll and stretch (especially when I don't think I "need" to), the problem would be minimized further. Meanwhile, I have been trying to transition to neutral shoes (via the counsel from a recent gait analysis at a reputable fitness store), and this transition has not been what I'd hoped. Thankfully, my aches and pains have not gotten worse, but they most definitely are still there, even with the self-imposed off-season I'm currently entertaining. Stay tuned, I predict (yet) another consultation with (yet) another store is on tap for 2015.

Here are a few of my 2014 highlights:

Late January-Chamburrr Scurry 5K, single digit temps with that good ole' Iowa windchill!

In March, I did back-to-back weekends of Fight for Air Climbs. The Chicago Climb was March 9 and involved 180 flights of stairs, the Des Moines Climb was March 16 and had us climbing 63 flights!

In May, I ran in the Market to Market Iowa relay with a team from work.

In mid June, my hometown hosts a weekend of events called the Grinnell Games. This year, I ran the 10K Twilight Trail on Friday evening and the Half Marathon the next morning...and was able to PR both events!

July 4th, I ran in a nearby 5K....not only placed 2nd in my age group, but set a new PR (and anyone who knows me, knows I do not like 5K races...much...)

Later in July, I traveled to the windy city and ran the Chicago Rock'n Roll 5K and Half Marathon with my dear friend, Penny.

While in Chicago, I had the pleasure of meeting Shalane Flanagan following the 5K!

Another brush with (running) fame was meeting Meb Keflezighi, the reigning Boston Marathon champion a week later, at the Quad Cities Times Bix-7

The highlight of all highlights happened on October 19, when I proved to myself that I am, indeed, a marathoner!  I finished the IMT Des Moines Marathon with a 26.2 PR on a much more challenging course than the other marathon I'd run.

14 Distance Events in 2014...finished!!

So, what's in store for 2015?  There's definitely another marathon happening. There's also talk of running an ultra with some of my runner friends, and another friend has just about successfully convinced me to do a duathlon with her. Comfort Zone Violations all over the place.

Stay tuned.....the best is yet to come!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

And the Streak goes on.....La Da Da da da....

As most people know, I am not a streaker.

The daily running thing works for a lot of people, but I am not one of them. I'm currently, however, just past the halfway point of the Runners World 36 days of Awesome running streak, and all is good. I have done short running streaks before (April 2013, December 2013, June 2014), and am familiar with the routine. Though I am usually satisfied with my efforts in honoring the commitment to run daily, I am always glad when the streak ends.

This streak seems to really be running smoothly (no pun intended), and has not required any extra effort to "just get it done."  I still have 17days remaining, though, and I am aware that my attitude could easily change. For me, getting to the halfway point is not difficult; it's the final 5-6 days just prior to the finale where I have struggled in the past. By then, I have accomplished more days of daily running than what I prefer (and my body wants/needs some R&R). In the other streaks, I have persevered through those final days, though, and gritted it out so I could say that I finished. And, I have had no guilt or remorse ending the streak(s) and returning to my regular routine. None whatsoever.

So, here's a quick review of the first 19 days of my streak:
Day-1--Thanksgiving morning, a freezing cold Turkey Trot 5K (single digits temps!)
Day-2--1 mile in some of my Black Friday finds
Day-3--2 miles at the lake with the husband
Day-4--1 windy mile

Day-5--1 mile after work
Day-6-- 2 miles in the early evening
Day-7--1 mile around my favorite lake (with lots of geese flying overhead)
Day-8--2 evening miles under the street lights
Day-9--1 quick mile in the early morning (I was back to the house before 5:30AM)
Day-10--2 glorious miles in moderate temps
Day-11--5 miles on the trail with my buddy, Barb
Day-12--1 mile after work in my favorite pink puffer vest
Day-13--1 mile around the lake
Day-14--1 mile in the early morning
Day-15--2 chilly miles around town
Day-16--1 quick mile in damp, foggy weather
Day-17--Santa Shuffle 5K!
Day-18--1 easy mile in the unseasonably warm temps

Day-19--a very quick mile in the 47-degree December temps & rain

What are some things I have observed during this streak? Well, as mentioned in prior blog posts, I am treating myself to an official off-season this winter. I am not giving up exercise, running, or cross-training....I am just easing up on the intensity. Doing these daily streak runs (most of which are only the minimum 1-mile distance) gives me a daily commitment that is not very time-consuming. 

I am also desperately trying to have a smooth transition to neutral running shoes (switching from my stability shoes of the previous nine years). I am not without aches and pains, but the aches and pains have been minimized. Each run in the new shoes has gotten easier, though I am still not in love with them (yet).

Consequently, I am not in love with the daily streak selfies, either. But they go hand-in-hand with the streak.....I'm keeping accountable to myself and all others who are also streaking. And I'm exhibiting my obsession with bright colors & fleece head bands. That's as real as it gets.

Streaking, have you given it a whirl?

Monday, December 1, 2014

Here Goes the Off-Season...but first, let's Streak!

As much as I have been looking forward to an off-season (and, as bad as I know my body needs one), I have decided to do the Runners World 36 Days of Awesome Streak. Again. (I did the same streak last year)

What is a running streak?  Ever tried to do one?  This will be my fourth such streak. It simply means running everyday. In this case, running all 36 days from Thanksgiving through New Years Day.

Now, as most people know, I am not an advocate for daily running.  It works for some runners, but  I am not one of them. Most of the runners who streak do so because they do not do other forms of cross-training. Running is their exercise of choice and they choose to give it their full attention.

Turkey Trotting in the sub-ZERO temps--Day 1

I, however, tend to get easily bored. I love running, but I simply need other forms of exercise to keep me happy. True, running is my main form of exercise, but I need a balance of other activities as well (and so does my body). I also have realized that although the simple act of running (itself) has made me a decent runner, it wasn't until I added consistent cross-training to my life that I became an even better runner.

Yadda Yadda Yadda.

Breaking in some of the Black Friday finds--Day 2
 So, why would I chose to do a running streak, especially when I do not advocate daily running? Because it forces me out of my comfort zone. Plain and simple. And, although I am in the early stages of my self-proclaimed off-season, the daily running will give me a goal on my calendar. Also, I am desperately trying to transition from stability shoes to neutral shoes, and dong a series of short runs is probably my best option for that process to be successful (trying to do this towards the end of my 26.2 training was NOT so successful).

I have scaled back my mileage considerably since my last race (the Hillbilly Hike Half Marathon, almost a month ago). I'm running a couple times during the week (going only 2-3 miles each time) and my weekend runs have not been further than six miles. I will do an occasional longer run (maybe every three weeks or so), but that is contingent on my previous runs being pain-free and the weather being conducive (I refuse to do any long running on the treadmill...just not happening). I'm still doing cross-training (strength, stairs, calisthenics, etc.) on the other days, as well as yoga a couple times each week. My current level of fitness will not suffer from the lower mileage in my running shoes, in fact it will either maintain or (most likely) increase because of the extra attention I am giving to cross-training.

A few awesome miles with the husband! The 43-degree temps felt awesome--Day 3

If history repeats itself, this running streak will not require much of an effort on my part. I simply plan to run an easy mile on the "non-running" days.  Since I don't have any distance events on my immediate calendar, I really have no reason to be training as if I did.  I have no one to impress and nothing to gain by doing excess mileage this time of year.  And, as I have said before, my body needs a little vacation and some TLC.

Side note---Another comfort zone violation for me is my use of the dreaded "runfies."  You've seen them, the selfies a lot of runners feel compelled to post following a run.  I post them occasionally, but am going to try to post a "streakfie" during each of these 36 days of streaking....just to keep me accountable to the others who are streaking (and to see how many different and colorful outfits I can put together!). I think that's a win-win.

...and just like that, winter was back!  Sub-freezing temps with 17 mph wind --- Day 4

So, there you have it. Streaking through the holidays. Care to join me?