Thursday, March 31, 2016

Five Race Day Reality Truths

What are your thoughts on racing?

Do you embrace the start line of a race? Does the thought of lining up with a bunch of others feel intimidating, or does it give you a rush of adrenaline?

Here's a mere five lessons in racing reality I have had to learn (and relearn) over the course (no pun intended) of almost 11 years of running:

1. Although you cannot control the race day conditions, you can control how you train.
This little lesson became crystal clear in my very early years of running when I was in love with my treadmill (yes, there was a time when I actually adored that beast). I could run three easy miles on it in the comfort of an air-conditioned setting (with an additional fan blowing on me) and a television screen to distract my attention.

I used to whine and complain about how hard it was to run hills, and the outdoor air was so treacherous with all that Iowa humidity. It just wasn't fair that race officials would plan out a race course with difficult hills or complicated hairpin turns. And, it really wasn't fair to allow the race to start "on time" if there was rain or extreme wind present.


There were excuses aplenty for my (usual) less-than-stellar experiences. When I transitioned to running outdoors, things dramatically changed. Although I wasn't a fan of heat (or extreme cold), I no longer feared them. Hmmmm. So, until you can find a race that allows (and guarantees) participants the luxury of "perfect" race day conditions, you'll do yourself a big favor if you prepare for it by doing some (if not most) of your training outside.

2. If you're blessed with perfect race day conditions, so is everybody else. 
Some days, you'll wake up to optimal conditions on race day morning. Perfect weather, a great breakfast, and a flat course usually makes for a great experience, and possibly a PR. I can't tell you the number of times I've showed up at a race feeling like I was gonna dominate the day (which is silly, since I'm really not super fast) only to be passed by a large number of the crowd at the finish line.

Last year, I did my first duathlon. It was a pretty hot and humid day in Iowa, with plenty of wind as well. The biking leg was 20 miles long, and the first five miles were straight into a massive head wind. It was an out-and-back trek, and as I was approaching those final five miles I was almost giddy with excitement at the thought of how much time I would make up with what would then be a mighty  tail wind to take me home! I was envisioning passing several cyclists as I cruised (effortlessly) to the transition station and then finishing the event with a victorious sprint to the finish line. The thing is....everyone else ALSO got to relish that same tail wind. (Duh!) And most of us looked like arthritic zombies as we practically fell off our bikes and tried to make our way through the final 1.5 mile jaunt of the race on foot.

3. How you place is always contingent on who else shows up as well. 
Similarly, there have been times I have eyed the field of women who appear to be in my age group. I admit that I enjoy age group awards as much as the next person. After all, with my middle-of-the-pack speed, placing in the top three is not an every-race occurrence. That said, showing up at a "small" race will not necessarily guarantee you a top-three finish. And, sometimes I have been pleasantly surprised to bring home an age group award. None the less, you can run a great race and finish with a substantial PR...but still not make the top three in your age group.

Case in point, several years ago I did an 8K race with friend. I had just "graduated" into the next age  bracket, so I was excited to not have so many "youngsters" in my field of competition. Also, I had captured the 2nd place age group award the year prior, so I was (smugly) a little over confident (and hoping to take home another AG medal). My race went well, I even PR'd my finish time from the previous year! I finished almost an entire minute ahead of my friend, and she felt great, too. Guess what? Even with a faster time than the year prior, four other "old ladies" finished ahead of me. And my friend? She placed in the top three of her age group. How's that for a smack in the face and a big serving of humble pie?

4. It's in your best interest to run your own race.
You have probably heard this before. Yes, you may find comfort in having someone else pace you. Or perhaps you thrive on counting how many bodies you can pass in that final mile. Maybe you need the constant crowd support to keep yourself in motion. These are all great little "crutches" to have...but there's nothing more fulfilling than knowing you did it on your own. This also goes hand-in-hand with training. Group runs are a fantastic way to get the miles done, but what if you have a long run scheduled and no one else is able to show up? Could you knock out those 15+ miles all by yourself? What happens if you're in a race and you suddenly need to walk...are you gonna expect someone to pullover and walk with you? Granted, a true (runner) friend will stick with you no matter what...but is it fair to them?

5. Not every race will be a PR race.
Shocker, huh! Some races just need to be ran and not raced. Of course that's easy for me to say, since I'm not typically in contention for placing unless it's a small race on a cold day. I think most "new" runners want to keep getting faster and faster with each new race. What they will eventually realize is there's this (somewhat) annoying condition call plateauing.

Plateauing isn't all bad, though it is incredibly frustrating. It's a neat accomplishment to reach a point where you can maintain your fitness and (dare I say?) speed. But the more racing you do, the PR's will start to become few and far between. You've probably heard of athletes "peaking" in their performance, and that often happens to runners as well. I love a PR as much as the next person, but I no longer expect them nor do I take them for granted when they occur. And I try to simply enjoy running for the simple act of fitness that it is. I'm thankful to have discovered this sport, and I plan to keep with it forever.
pic from PanFoto
Have you experienced any of these Race Day Truths yourself?

I'm linking up with the DC gals for their Friday's theme is Fitness. A big thanks to Mar at Mar on the Run, Courtney at Eat Pray Run DC and Cynthia at You Signed Up For What for hosting this great event! Head over and check out their blogs as well as all the other blogs to see what everyone's talking about!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Wrapping up Easter week in Iowa

Here we go again...another week of unpredictable (and irrational) Iowa weather to deal with.

Theme? Maybe "buckle your seat belts, it's gonna be a bumpy ride."

Monday was kind of dreary, but I still wanted to get in my "nevermissaMonday" run, and since it wasn't raining (or snowing), I headed outside after getting home from work. Holy wind, Batman! I briefly considered doing a couple miles. Briefly. A couple minutes into my run and I turned it around and went a different direction, and finished the minimum mile and called it good.
One mile in the crazy wind...and my hair was a hot mess 
Tuesday brought with it much nicer weather and (dare I say it it?), a lack of wind. Wednesday's forecast looked less than desirable, so I elected to take it outside on Tuesday and postpone my stair workout to Wednesday. I met a friend after work, and we ran five glorious miles in the dry (and sunshiny) weather.
Happy to be back in a tank top and shorts!!!
Wednesday, as predicted, was just plain cold, damp, and nasty. I didn't even feel like leaving the house to drive to the downtown office building for my weekly stair-running excursion. Also, all of my stair-training has been pretty "fast," so I decided to slow it up a bit and do some triple-climbing (you know, taking the steps by three's). This I could easily do without leaving my I did 50 "flights" of three-step climbing.

Three-step climbing is a different ball game than doing singles (or even doubles) because that third step really changes it up (no pun intended). It's a much bigger (longer? higher?) step and requires a lot more strength work in the hamstrings and glutes (because it's a much more slow and controlled motion), and it also utilizes a lot of balancing as you're making those slow, high steps.

Another challenge was my chosen wardrobe. Since I wasn't going anywhere, I changed into yoga pants and a tank top. Not usually a problem, except these pants are low-waisted, and after the first couple sets of three-stepping, the waste band decided it wasn't gonna stay in place any longer. Thankfully, Max (our dog) was the only one privy to my "posterior smile," as if the confusion of me constantly going up and down (50 times) wasn't bad enough.

Thursday was another cool and damp day. Ugh. I even had to dig out my boots and leggings. Not necessarily a fashion-forward thing to be wearing "winter" clothing during the "spring" season, but I knew it would be a chilly day at the office.
Yep, back in the winter leggings and boots
Ironically, I had a bit of an extended lunch break, so I decided to hop on the 'mill (speed set on 4.7 and incline on 4) and do some power walking with (intermittent) 12-pound hand weights.  That got my heart pumping!

Friday was another beautiful day, with ample sunshine. I also had an extended lunch hour, so I was able to suit up and lace up and get a couple quick miles done before heading back to the office.   I also was feeling a little restless in the evening, so I headed back outside for six laps around the block across the street form my house. This block is situated on the side of a small hill, so essentially, it's like doing two (small, but steep) hills each time I complete a lap around it. Three laps is equivalent to a mile in that mini workout got me two miles of hill work (and sore legs the next morning).
Being outside in the sunshine always makes me smile
Saturday. Oh boy, Saturday had me spending upwards of six hours with the two daughters...on a shopping excursion. The oldest daughter is graduating college in six weeks (HOW is that even possible???), and needed several new dresses for various upcoming events.

I awoke to some unexpected stiffness in my legs and lower back. Not especially eager for a long day on my feet, I did the unthinkable: I dressed like a runner (without having any running on my agenda). Typically, I'm not one to "dress like a runner" when I haven't even broken a sweat (or foresee any sweat happening), but since my legs (and back) were in recovery from the previous day....I made an exception to that self-imposed law of fashion.
Fashion no-no...dressing like a runner when you're not running
Sunday was Easter, one of the big holidays in the Christian faith. We went to church, and hosted my parents and sister for dinner. Later, after the two college kids left to head back to their respective schools, I met up with my friend, Barb, for some long distance miles.

As mentioned in numerous prior posts, I am coming off of my off-season. My last long-distance race (a half marathon) was in early November, and I had not run any farther than a 10K distance since (well, except for that somewhat spontaneous 15K on New Years Eve while on vacay in California). I have a couple of half marathons coming up (and an Ultra happening in July), so it's time to ease back into long-distance running on the weekends.
And we're back in fleece-lined tights and stocking hats
The temps weren't ideal (high 30's, with some wind and damp air), but we did have a little bit of sunshine. We ran seven miles, and those seven miles went fairly fast and felt great. So far, most of my running has been pain-free in 2016. Granted, there's that usual stiffness in the first mile or so, but it's only been lasting for one mile or so (and not the typical 3-4 miles) and the stiffness has been very minimal at that. Although the off-season was difficult (seriously, what runner actually WANTS to run less?), scaling back my mileage was one of the smartest moves I've done in my (almost) 11 years of running.  

What else? Well, I posted this funny pic on my Facebook page, Running on the Fly, and it almost exploded with numerous funny comments in support of my distaste of Peeps. I love all things sugar, but these did not make the cut. Even as a kid, I rejected them as "proper sweets." Crazy, huh.

I got a new haircut recently, and have been experimenting with different styling options. I don't want to be one of those gals who sticks with one "tried-and-true" hairdo for decades (believe me, we have a lot of that in Iowa LOL). My latest find is the straightener one of the daughters gave me (when she upgraded to a more expensive model). Did you know you can use a straightener to curl your hair? And the waves actually stay all day?
Curls from the straightener (#whodathunk)
Lastly, our dog, Max, is due for a grooming appointment, but I think his wavy hair looks so cute when it's long! 
Max loves having the brother and sister home from college

How was your week? Do you have any long-distance events on your spring calendar? What do you think of Peeps...Yay or Nay? Ever dress as a runner when you're not running?

As usual, I'm linking up with my gals, Holly at  HoHo Runs  and Tricia at  MissSippiPiddlin  for the Weekly Wrap. Lots of great blogs, and lots of great reading...head over and take a look!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Another race, and a few Runfessions

OOPS! I did it again.

Recently, the husband and myself had a mini vacay in Florida (to support our son and his team at the NJCAA national swim meet, hosted by Indian River State College in Fort Pierce). I did a little bit of research and found a race (MFI's Race the Runway) in the exact same city. Coincidence? An act of fate? Or was it just meant to be?

None the less, it was a no-brainer. I hit "submit" and found myself registered for my first-ever race in the Sunshine State.

Although the swim meet (and this race) took place in Fort Pierce, we were staying an hour away, in Melbourne (due the lack of available lodging), so we had to rise and shine pretty early (4:15AM) to be on the road, make the drive, and get checked in prior to the 6:30AM race start.

Another beautiful Floridian sunrise
The weather on race day was ideal....temps in the low 60's at sunrise, with the minimalist of wind. As you can guess, this event (MFI's Race the Runway) took place on a runway. That called for an early start time to ensure all participants (the 10K runners/walkers started at 6:30 and 2-mile runners/walkers started at 8:00) would be finished by 10:00 so the runway could re-open and operate as usual.

Ready to roll....
Leading up to race day, I had a pretty low-mileage week in terms of running. I had kept active, though, by doing lots of beach walking and stair climbing (our hotel room was on the 9th floor and I had taken the 'vator only one time during the entire five days we were there).

As predicted, the course was pretty flat. It had a small loop right after the start line, then it took us on an out-and-back trek with another loop at the turn-around. Lots of volunteers and a couple of water stands along the route made for a great experience.

The first mile felt great. I noticed my split was 8:24, which immediately gave me hope of a potential new 10K PR. I'm not usually racing to set a new record, but I knew this would be an ideal opportunity given the course, weather conditions and my current (blissful) un-injured state of fitness.

All of the runners had spread out by the second mile mark. Since this was an inaugural event, there wasn't a large crowd of 10K runners, and not many of those runners were women. Prior to lining up, I had spotted a woman who appeared to be in my age group. I kept my eye on her, but by the third mile she had merged well ahead of me.

Looking good, feeling great
Overall, I felt great the entire race. I could tell my pace had slowed some during the third and fourth miles, but I never felt fatigued. It was one of those race races where I just let my body go, and it kept going on its own without much effort.

About halfway through the final mile, I could hear someone approaching from behind. It was a gal, and we hung together for a short ways before she gradually pulled away from me. I tried to catch her, but it wasn't meant to be....she broke into a dead sprint for the final stretch and finished six seconds ahead of me. I kid you not.

It's not everyday the finish line is framed by airplanes
My official finish time was 56:03. Initially, I was a little disheartened because I felt like I ran the race strong and consistent (and was really hoping for a 54:xx finish). My splits were 8:40, 9:11, 9:21, 9:16, 9:07, and 8:42 (hello! Negative 5K splits!!). The last ".2"of the 10K distance will remain an unknown because I didn't hit the button on my watch correctly...and didn't realize it until a few minutes later. Oops.
The 10K finisher medals  were cool!
I grabbed some water and waited for my husband to finish. I didn't know how he'd do since he hadn't really trained nor had he been in running shoes in several months. It turns out he was able to run the entire course, though he did admit to feeling pretty tired in the final miles.

Yes, a pic of me capturing the husband on my phone

After he finished, we checked the posted results. I didn't see my name anywhere. I searched a couple more times...then I spotted the top. I had been named the Masters Champion. Say WHAT??? We looked a little further, and saw the husband had placed second in his age division, too!

We hung around awhile and waited for the awards ceremony...which didn't happen until all the 2-mile racers had finished. Like most events, they start off with the younger age groups and work their way to the older folks, so I didn't pay much attention.

The 10K racers received finisher medals, and they were also handing out medals for age group placings. They called my name, for being the Women's Masters Champion, and I walked forward...and they handed me a scarf. A scarf? Yes, a scarf.

Me and my aviator scarf (and nasty post-visor hair)
They went through all the men's winners, and the husband collected his first-ever age group medal. I was proud of him, and happy for him as well. I've done a lot of racing, and have seen a lot of competition. It always seems to be a lot more competitive for the men than it is for the women, so this was a pretty substantial victory for him.

So what am I runfessing? Several things, actually....

First of all, although I was proud of my strong race, I have to runfess my finish time was a bit disappointing. I had glanced at my watch periodically (mainly at the mile markers), and it kept showing I was just under a 9-minute I really was expecting to finish around 54 minutes (or less). Seeing the 56:03 at the finish line was a bit of a downer. What I forgot to acknowledge was the remaining ".2" after mile 6...which would, ultimately, add a bit of additional time to that perfect sub-9-minute pace (duh).

Also, I have not had many "overall" champion victories, so being awarded a scarf seemed like a joke (especially when all the age group winners received medals).  Granted, the scarf is reminiscent of pilots from years past, and it does have the event logo on it (which is pretty cool). Ask any of my friends, and they will tell you that I love scarves....but this is one I probably will never wear. Maybe I can tie it on the rack where all of my medals hang (?).

Lastly, I must runfess that I was humbled by the final stats. Remember that gal who passed me right at the finish line? It turns out she was also in my age group, as was the gal before her (who finished a couple minutes ahead of us...she was the gal I was following until the third mile or so)). The Overall Female Champion was 17 years old (finishing in 51:53), and the second and third place finishers were in my age group (which means they're also of "Masters Division age"). In other words, I was the fourth female finisher, but was designated "Masters Champion" by default because the other two (faster) gals qualified for "Top 3" fastest overall (which doesn't account for age division). They all received scarves, too. Interestingly, there were only six female runners in the "under 40" age categories, the rest of us were all in the Masters Division.  Seriously, I cannot make this stuff up.

Overall, though, this was a great event, and I am happy with how I finished. Really, I am. Even though I didn't finish as fast as I thought I was capable of, I felt strong and the entire 6.2 miles felt relatively effortless. This race was run in the early hours (in an earlier time zone) at the end of a busy week. I have no business complaining about any aspect of my performance. Every run is a blessing, and every finish line is a victory. But that scarf.....

Have you ever run what felt like a strong race, only to have a finish time that doesn't seem to match your effort? Ever received a unique award from placing?  

I'm linking up with Marcia, from Marcia's Healthy Slice, for the monthly Runfessions.....and I'm not the only one runfessing some stuff. Head over to the linkup and check out what everyone else is coming clean on...

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Taking it to the Stairs

Have you ever taken it to the stairs? I have, faithfully.

I kind of stumbled (no pun intended) onto the sport of stair-climbing all on my own. I had seen the Fight for Air Climb on the news (always after it happened), and I was intrigued. A lot of people shun taking the stairs (and opt for the elevator), but I've always been a little less main-stream. The fact that there was a national stair-climbing event (with local venues all over the country), and participants would not only pay a registration fee to climb lots of stairs (but also be required to raise an additional $100  to participate) was something to behold.

I have done the Fight for Air Climb (affiliated with the American Lung Association) four times (three times in Des Moines and once in Chicago), and  my fifth Climb is happening in April (also in Des Moines). I take this event seriously, which means a little extra stair-training is in order in the months prior.

Although I do a lot of my training on the stairway in my house, occasionally I also head downtown and train on the stairways of  an office building. Like with running, it's best to change-up the routine now and then. When I train at home, I have only the one stairway (which gets a little monotonous, especially when I have 50+ flights on my agenda). Utilizing a place where I can run multiple flights (before having to run back down) gives my stamina a little more of a challenge.

Recently, I have been faithfully taking it to the stairs on a weekly basis.

My first official "training session," happened in early February. It was my first time doing multiple flights (in awhile), so I chose a random number of "total" flights to do (100) or a maximum time limit (30 minutes) as my goal. I'm a tall gal (5'9), so it's easier for me to take the steps two-at-a-time (instead of single-stepping). Also, come Climb day, I'll be taking the steps two-at-a-time as well, so it just makes sense to do most of my training that way.

The building I use is a four-story office building, but also has a basement....for a total of five flights of stairs. I refer to each five-story (basement-to-top floor) climb as a "set." To get to 100 flights, I'd need to do 20 sets (5 flights X 20 "sets" = 100 total flights).

I started out taking the steps pretty fast, and by the time I had done four sets, I concluded that I needed to slow down. Even though I climbed the steps by "two's," once I reached the top floor, I took my time descending.

All went well, but the strain in my quads was a little much. Hoping to conquer 100 flights for my first official outing was pretty aggressive ( do I say this....STUPID). I decided on 16 sets (instead of 20), for a total of 80 flights (instead of 100), and called that good.

Despite the usual endorphin rush, my body did feel somewhat tired (but in a good way). The next day, however, was a much different story. It was around (approximately) the 20-hour post-climb time...and the DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) set in. Not itty bitty baby DOMS, but big Momma Bear DOMS. And they were angry. My calves (on both legs) felt like knotted-up golf balls, and hurt with every step. I've experienced a similar calf pain a few times when I've had to walk during a long race (like a half marathon). The muscles would seize up and hurt worse than labor during child birth (I've given birth three times...I know what that feels like).

Fortunately, the pain didn't last long. Within a couple days, I was back to walking like normal without wincing.

The following week, I went back to the office building for another stair-training session. Afraid of over-doing it, I decided to not do as many sets. Instead of 80 flights, I did 60 instead (12 sets of climbing). I kept a decent pace, took all of the steps by two's and was able to "run" most of it.

The DOMS were a no-show this time around. Thank Goodness!!

For my third session, I mixed it up a little. I had been wanting to do a brick workout (of sorts). Run first, stair climb, then run again. The weather had been unseasonably warm, so I left my house and ran downtown, literally, to the office building (approximately 3/4th of a mile). Once inside, I ditched the jacket and started climbing.

The climbing seemed to go fast (again, I took the steps by two's). Not sure how many sets to do, I settled on doing 14 (70 total flights). I wanted to attempt 80 flights (like I did that first time a couple weeks ago), but I still had that run (to get me back home) awaiting me when I was finished so I thought it best to not be too ambitious on the stairs.

I finished the 14th set, and took my time descending the steps back down to the bottom of the building. I put the jacket on, and headed outside. I started running, and was pleasantly surprised that it didn't feel too difficult following the 30+ minutes of stair climbing.  

My fourth session also had me doing 16 sets (80 flights). I was starting to already see some results. The climbing no longer felt like a challenge anymore, so I started to work a little more on my speed. As mentioned, I always take the steps by two's (going up), but coming down is a different story.  I take the steps one at a time for the descents...and it actually takes longer going down than it does going up, which gives me a great opportunity to catch my breath and have a mini recovery between sets.

The next morning, the husband and I left for a mini vacay in Florida (to support our son and his team at the NJCAA swimming/diving finals in Fort Pierce). As luck would have it, our room was on the 9th floor of our hotel. The elevator was also very slow-moving, so after that first ride up to our room (after check-in), I didn't step foot in the 'vator again.

We stayed there for five days. Over the course of that week I climbed a total of 300 flights (which includes the 80 flights from the night before we boarded the plane). It became a bit of a contest, affectionately dubbed "Race the 'Vator," where I'd take the stairs and the husband would take the elevator in a contest to see who would make it to the room first. 

Our hotel had 16 floors (actually 17 floors, if you count going to the roof), and I spent several minutes each day taking advantage of them.

Back in Iowa, the following week I returned to the office building. For my fifth session, I did 15 sets (75 flights). Again, all of the climbing was done by taking the steps by two's.

Last week, my session had me doing 17 sets, for 85 total flights. Similar to marathon training, it's a fun challenge to see just how many flights I can do at a time. Realizing that all of these sessions have been pretty intense, it's probably time for me to have a scaled-back week (also similar to marathon training). Also, I have not done any "strength-building" sessions....doing a small number of sets, but taking the steps by three's. Yes, I have done that in my own house. It goes much slower because it requires a lot more focus on balance, but it's every bit as intense.

So, why all of this crazy stair-training? Why not? Stair-running is a great (indoor) alternative to running hills, or doing hill sprints. It combines strength work with intervals, and gives you a great aerobic workout as well. You can vary the speed (walking or running), intensity (taking the steps by singles, doubles or triple "stepping"), and the duration of the workout can easily be altered if fatigue sets in.

The Fight for Air Climb is a fabulous event. It's a great challenge to climb the stairs for all of those who can't. Personally, I know a lot of former smokers who have "kicked butt," and it's in their honor I climb all of these stairs. Also, my mother-in-law suffered from COPD, and passed away last May. She had been a lifelong smoker. Even though she had quit smoking in recent years, the damage had been done. I think of her with every step I climb.

Any interest in participating? Here's a link to the Fight for Air Climb, so you can find an event near you. Or, if you don't feel like climbing yourself, you can donate to those of us who do ( Like ME ) and together we all can work towards cleaner air and healthy lungs for everyone.

Have you ever taken it to the stairs? Ever participated in a stair-climbing event?

I'm linking up with Deb from  Deb Runs for the Wednesday Word....which, for today, is Faithful. Head over and see what everyone else is saying about it.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

A Festive Week of Pi, Color, and Running

Another week, another wrap.

This week had a very festive theme, complete with lots of color, yummy treats, festive fun and several miles in the Iowa weather.

My Pi run...I kinda hit the wrong button on the watch and accidentally "ran over" my Pi distance

As most people know, Monday was my birthday.  I had 127 greetings on Facebook alone, as well as numerous texts and other messages throughout the day. It was a great day! In recent years, there has been a lot of focus on March 14th being Pi Day. I was (actually, still kinda am) a math dork in my younger years, so this would have been such a neat thing back in the day.

The past few years, I have made it my own personal tradition to run 3.14 miles on my birthday. This year was no exception. I also may have indulged in a few sweets (hello, heavily-frosted cupcakes).

These little beauties were almost too pretty to eat (almost)
Tuesday was kind of a chilly day, so it was the perfect excuse to stay I headed to the office building and did some stair work. It's becoming more of a challenge to capture this weekly endeavor in pictures because one can only get so creative in a boring stairway. All went well, and I conquered 17 sets of the five story-building, for 85 total flights of stairs. It's no longer a challenge climbing the stairs, but I am trying to increase my speed.

Another session on the steps (in some of my birthday-gifted gear)
Wednesday was somewhat of a rest day (some strength work, and some speedwalking on the 'mill). The weather was chilly and the wind most fierce. The husband and I had a Chamber reception/awards presentation to go to after work. I had considered going for a short run afterwards, but decided to catch up on some blogging and reading instead.

Thursday was another busy day at work, but I was able to get everything done and was home by 4:30. It also was St. Patrick's Day, so I suited up in green and knocked out five miles in the windy sunshine. I'm not kidding about the wind, either. Once I hit the turn-around, and made it to the corner, I was hit (smack dab between the eyes) with 30mph-wind gusts for several blocks until I changed direction and had some trees for shelter.

Go green or stay home...running a few miles on St. Patrick's Day
Friday arrived, and I finally was able to leave work earlier than I had in the past couple weeks. Eager to start upping my mileage (slowly), I was planning to run long on Saturday (and spend Friday afternoon watching basketball). The weatherman told us we'd have rain, snow and cold temps on Saturday, I elected to head out and do another (somewhat) long run in the Iowa wind. I'm not an advocate for consecutive long-runs, but I know it's harmless once in awhile. Surprisingly, my legs felt great (even after the previous day's battle in the wind), and the six miles left me feeling invigorated.
More miles in the Iowa wind
 Saturday arrives, and the weather was like a sudden flashback to winter....temps in the upper 30's, some wind, and white stuff falling from the sky. Say WHAT???? I didn't plan to run in it, but decided to layer up and head out for a brisk power walk. A friend met me, and we knocked out four miles at a very fast pace. Although there were intermittent showers of snow and sleet, nothing really stuck to the ground.
Yep...back in the puffer vest and fuzzy headband & gloves
However, Sunday morning brought with it a dusting of snow to greet the first day of Spring. Either a cruel twist of fate, or a nasty joke on behalf of Momma N and Old Man Winter, this was uncalled for. So, what to do? I laced up and slid on my shorts and headed out anyways (#springbedamned).Take that, Momma N!

You're only cold if you're standing still (or taking a selfie)
Other happenings? Well, it is March, after all, and that means March Madness. I love basketball (watching, NOT playing), and this year Iowa has three teams repping the state....the Iowa Hawkeyes (my Alma Mater), the Iowa State Cyclones (our big inner-state rival, also where our daughter is enrolled #badparenting), and the University of Northern Iowa Panthers (usually a Cinderella team, but they played a tough first-round game against Texas). We lived in the East Lansing area for seven years, and underwent a green and white blood transfusion while the MSU Spartans are always a NCAA tournament favorite (but they royally destroyed my bracket this year).

So, there you have it. I've added a couple of half marathons to my "paid-for" roster, am ready to ease back into a training schedule. Stay tuned, there's more races to come!

How's your racing calendar looking? Did you get any unexpected snow this weekend?

I'm linking up with the fab gals, Holly at  HoHo Runs  and Tricia at  MissSippiPiddlin , for their Weekly Wrap. This weekly "accountability check" has been so much fun the past few months that I've been participating. Lots of great blogs written by some great peeps! Head over and check them out!!