Friday, January 29, 2010

Off to the races!

I've got a busy weekend ahead of me. I'll be spending Saturday at the Miami ING Expo, then partying (in a non-alcholic, early-to-bed, bland food kind of way) with my Team in Training teammates. I'll also be sure to spend at least a few minutes carefully selecting my race day outfit to avoid looking like Punky Brewster this time!

And on Sunday at 6:10 a.m., I'll be waiting to cross that start line...

You know, it was only a little over a year ago that I first discovered that I loved running, during a cruise over MLK Day weekend when I decided to take a break from the buffets and spent an hour on the treadmill instead. I hadn't intended to spend that long running, but after a few miles, I realized I didn't want to get off. 

And about 500 miles, six pairs of running shoes and maybe a dozen or so (relatively minor) injuries later, here I am.

Thanks to everyone who has supported my fundraising efforts for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Thanks to everyone who has supported my running mania by reading my blog, putting up with me gabbing about my tales from the trail, and my hogging of the bread basket at restaurants.

Thanks to the experienced runners for the advice and patience with my rookie enthusiasm and silly mistakes; thanks to the new runners who've embraced the asphalt right along with me.

I'll be running with a lot of friends on Sunday in Miami and wish them all lots of luck! But I feel like I'll be running with a lot of friends on Sunday who are not in Miami, too, and I want to thank them and let them know they will be with me, too.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

So what happens after the finish line?

I don't mean to get ahead of myself, but after all of these months focused on the finish line January 31 (which is in less than a week!) I haven't thought at all about what I'm going to be doing, running-wise, on February 1.

Well, maybe not February 1. I plan to spend that day sleeping in and maybe catching a little South Beach sunshine, as I'll be staying at the hotel closest to the Miami ING start line.

But what about February 2, or 3 or 4...? I'm sure I'll want to train for a race again, eventually. But I also know I want to take some time to go back to just running for fun. (Which is why I got into racing in the first place.)

How far does a just-for-fun runner run? How often?

I have to say I am kind of looking forward to just running as far as my legs want to take me and not sticking to a schedule; to just glancing down at my Garmin out of idle curiosity to see what my pace is, instead of to make sure I'm going at a good speed.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Taper time

Ten days till the Miami ING Half Marathon, and it's time to taper. Ahhhh. Let's everyone take a nice, deep breath.

I've actually never "tapered" before, so this is all new to me. And it sounds fun. Decadant.

I foresee sleeping in, maybe treating myself to a massage or pedicure, and lying around on a crushed velvet divan while eating dark chocolate-covered cherries. (Does anyone have a crushed velvet divan I could borrow??)

Oh, and instead of my 5:15 a.m. spin classes for my cross-training, I'm thinking yoga. Or Pilates.

Or maybe...sleep.

This weekend, I run six miles with my team, and my weekday workouts after that run are supposed to be quick little runs in the two to three mile range. After months and months of hard training, I can only imagine how luxurious it will feel to leisurely trot around my development, waving "hi" at my neighbors and at all the kids waiting for the school bus instead of muttering under my breath, "Git outta my way!"

I'm off to fix myself some nice herbal tea. I'm going to make it a decaf.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

"You'll shoot your eye out!"

Today I had my 12 mile run with Team in Training. And today, as usual, like all runners on my team, I passed the pedestrians pretty early into my run.

Because I was running, and they were walking.

Trying to be friendly, I said, "Good morning, how are you?" to the TNT walking coach as I trotted past her.

She said, "I'm fine, but how are YOU?" with a weird emphasis on the you.

I said, "I am wonderful, thank you!" (I felt pretty good, as a matter of fact.)

So she shouted back (as I was now significantly ahead of her) "DON'T OVERDO IT!"

This really irritated me.

I shouted back, "I DON'T OVERDO IT!"

Then I heard her cackle, "Yeah right!" and the walker next to her cackled right back.


Perhaps I sometimes I do overdo it.

But who is this random woman, who is not my mother, who does not know me at all, to tell me to slow down?

And maybe I'm not overdoing it. Maybe she's under-doing it.

After all, she's walking. I'm running. She's...not the healthiest looking creature on the planet. As for me, at my last check-up, my internist positively beamed at my chart and told me my blood pressure was "delightful."

You don't get a "delightful" BP from underdoing the exercise.

Sorry. I'm getting mean.

I'm not really sure why the walking coach's matronly advice pushed my buttons so much. I feel very much like the little boy in The Christmas Story who is told by every adult he encounters, including Santa Claus, that he can't have the toy gun of his dreams because "You'll shoot your eye out."

I have shot my eye out, figuratively speaking, with all of my injuries, but doing so got me to discover my inner tough guy. I've gotten a lot of scrapes and blisters and uses for an Ace bandage along the way, but I've also said goodbye to the wimpy, squeamish little girl I used to be before I learned how to sprint over dead possums. "See ya, I don't wanna be ya!" I told that girl. And she left, for good.

Okay, the real  reason I am still thinking about this woman hours later is that--and I cringe to type this--I found myself automatically slowing down after she shouted out her advice (once I was out of her line of vision.) It could be because I was at the 8 mile mark, which has always been a toughie for me, but I actually think I have this inner good-girl desire to please that made me second-guess myself and crank it down just because a woman than older than me told me to.


Next time she tells me not to overdo it, I'm going to shout back, "Careful, there's a turtle behind you and he's hot on your trail!"

No, I won't do that. That would be really uncool.

After all, she's a nice lady, out there every Saturday, and at every Florida race. She's dedicated to raising money to fight leukemia, and she's probably just worried about my health because she's that kind of a person.

So I won't say it so wrong if I think to myself, maybe even whisper it, "Catch me if you can!"

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Speed drills

I'm a new subscriber to Runner's World and I have to say, this magazine rocks! It's been years since I read a magazine that contained truly useful information. (In between their ads for fat-free yogurt, health magazines are all about reaffirming what you already know; parenting magazines are really only helpful to people who aren't actually parents yet.)

This month's issue had a recommendation for treadmill speed drills caught my attention, as our recent cold spell has made me spend more time with this mechanical beast than I ever wanted to.

Here's the RW plan:

Run 5 minutes fast (I chose 7.0 on the treadmill but choose whatever's "fast" for you)
Run 5 minutes easy (I did 6.0 for "easy," but do whatever is a casual jog for you)
Run 4 minutes fast
Run 4 minutes easy
Run 3 minutes fast (around this time it dawned on me that I was getting my ass kicked by the treadmill)
Run 3 minutes easy (had to drop down to 5.0 here because my heart rate was 175)
Run 2 minutes fast
Run 2 minutes easy
Run 1 minute fast (the longest minute of my life)
Run 1 minute easy

Of course you want to add in a warm up and a cool down, but the heart of the workout is 30 minutes. And a tough 30 minutes it is indeed.

If you're like me, you'll hate every second of it while you're doing it but be grateful for the training a few days later when you do your long run outside and notice you're running much faster than you used to, with less effort.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Rain fell, and so did I

Conversation with my mother-in-law.

Her:  "So, are you running this weekend?"
Me:  "Yes, 10 miles. Unfortunately, it's going to rain and be very cold tomorrow."
Her:  "Please be careful! You don't want to fall."
Me: " Oh, I won't fall."

Ha ha ha ha HA! What a perfectly absurd thing for the clumsiest runner in the United States of America to promise!

Of course I fell. I mean, falling was the only running injury I can think of that wasn't on my resume of boo-boos, and that's only because I never ran in major rain before.

It wasn't that bad. I'd completed about 7 miles, and it was cold and pouring. I was doing well, as far as runs go. I was averaging a 9 minute mile, my fastest post-injury pace yet, my knees felt fine, and I wasn't that miserable despite the fact that my clothes were soaking wet and I'd gotten lost in Ft. Lauderdale, which was a change from my usual training territory. (I missed the turn at Los Olas, which is the most clearly marked street in Broward County. Ran right past it and didn't even notice this until I'd gone several miles longer than I should have on A1A.)

Anyway, rounding down a hill, I slipped on a wet grate in the sidewalk and went flying wildly, ass-over-tea-kettle (I am not sure exactly what that expression means, but it seems appropriate for how my feet were circling helplessly in the sky like an overturned hermit crab's), landing hard on my back and my wrist.

It hurt. But, aside from a bit of blood and a black and blue palm, I'm fine now. Which is wonderful because I was pretty sure I'd broken my wrist at first. Just because the whole thing was kind of scary and shocking when it first happened.

An extremely nice runner named Mona saw me lying on my back on a sidewalk grate and came to my rescue. When she discovered I was OK, she offered to run back with me (we were both three miles from the same ending point) as long as I was OK running "a 10 minute mile," because she'd seen me running very quickly before I fell. Staggering with a sore back and arm, I told her I didn't think I could keep up with her but I'd try. It was a tough, wet, cold, slow 3 miles back, but when I finally arrived, I felt pretty good.

Mainly because it was over.

It feels really, really good right now to be home, and dry.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Hot pants.

Apparently, calling a running store to ask for “cold weather running pants” in the middle of a Floridian cold snap is like calling a toy store to ask for Zhu Zhu pets in the middle of Christmas shopping season.

No one here has pants. So pants are hot.

I did all this web research comparing Under Armour to Adidas, only to discover I'm a beggar and can't be a chooser. The Runner’s Depot has exactly one—yes, one—pair of pants suitable for almost-freezing temps in my size. I had to sweet-talk the lady to hold them for me until tomorrow. My 10 mile run is on Saturday at 6:15 a.m. and the forecast is for 35 degree temperatures with a 90% chance of rain.

Great. I can already smell the delightful odor of wet fleece. At least if the Runner’s Depot lady is true to her word, I’ll be running through the almost-icy rain wearing pants and not capris or shorts.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Treadmill Hatred.

So my choice is to run outside, in the dark, in biting 30 degree weather—or run inside, in a heated gym, on a brand-new, state-of-the-art treadmill complete with an iPod docking station, fan, super-cool water bottle holder and clear view of CNN, HGTV or ESPN.

Odd as it might sound, I’m torn between these choices. As a Florida girl for going on four years, I have that “thinned out blood” and hate to be cold.

But as a runner who enjoys the sights of the road—whether it’s the funky way my knock-kneed neighbor runs as if his right leg and left leg are trying to have a conversation, or the occasional dead reptile on the sidewalk—being banished to the treadmill is like a punishment.

Tuesday was a treadmill day and it was absolutely miserable. I'm not really used to having my running performance being advertised in size 90 font and I got a little anxious by the constant updating of miles run, calories burned, pace, etc. In fact, I got so obsessed by the numbers blaring in my face that I ran way too hard, got my heart rate in the call-the-paramedics zone, and ended up almost collapsing afterwards. And almost puking, too. It was both the shortest and longest three mile run of my life.

I’m thinking tomorrow I’ll run with a towel covering up the read-out on the machine. Better to go a little slower and below my game but get caught up in the enjoyment of the running than run really fast, hate every second of it, and possibly need to be removed from the gym in a stretcher.

On second thought, running in the cold is sounding more and more attractive.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

A Great Eight

I'm so glad the little cold spell we've been having was still in effect this morning. It was windy and in the 40s when I embarked on my eight miles (six with my team, two solo to catch up on some of my mileage I lost while recuperating).

A lot of people get watery eyes when cold wind blows in their faces, making it look as if they are crying. I'm not one of those people, but hopefully anyone who glanced at my face during today's run doesn't know that, and assumed I'd just gotten some soot in my eyes. It's kind of embarrassing to admit that in truth, I wasn't teared up from eye irritation but from elation.

I'm a big sap, and very prone to waterworks. Still, I was surprised to find myself quite so choked up by the ease and the glee of my limbs moving swiftly and without pain for the first time in weeks--maybe even months. (When I look back on it now, I think I've been run-down since late October, although I didn't start to lose the joy of running until late November.)

I finally remembered why I'd gotten myself into the serious business of setting the alarm for 4:30 a.m. to run when the rest of the world is sleeping; why I'd braved burst blisters, pouring rain, pounding heat, wardrobe malfunctions, iPhone and earphone malfuctions, sore muscles, runner's knee, runner's stomach, and all the rest of it.

It's because I love running. In the absence of injury or exhaustion, it truly is one of my greatest pleasures.

I'm just so happy to be back.

Now please, pass the Kleenex.