Sunday, July 29, 2012

Victories and shopping sprees

OMG you guys... does anyone else have Olympic fever like I do?! I don't know how I am going to concentrate at work this week, all I want to do is watch these amazing athletes! I have always admired how hard these folks work and how amazing their athletic abilities are, but I appreciate their talent even more now that I understand what it takes to train for an event. Granted, my first half-marathon and someone's Olympic dreams are nowhere near on the same level but that's what makes me appreciate these elite athletes all the more.
My new Olympic-themed running shirt!
Speaking of my half, training is going well! This weekend we did 8 "easy" miles, followed by the group's annual pancake breakfast. Let me tell you, knowing there are piping hot pancakes waiting for you at the finish is an excellent motivator! Maybe I need to have someone with pancakes waiting at the end of my half. My long runs have been alternating between 8-10 miles lately and will stay like that for most of the summer until we get closer to go-time. I can't believe I am already running 10 miles and all I need to tack on to that is an extra 5K distance to reach my goal of 13.1. I am finding my biggest challenges to be hills (of which there are plenty around here) and the heat/humidity. I'm told that all of this heat training will make my November race all the better, I sure hope so!

My NSV USATF shirt!
I have been fortunate to have experienced some non-scale victories lately. One occurred just yesterday after my long run, when I was browsing around the running store that was sponsoring our run. I saw an Olympic-themed USA Track & Field tech shirt hanging on the wall and made a beeline for it. After browsing through the sizes and seeing that the largest size was a Large, my face fell. The shirt was women's cut and made by Nike, whose shirts notoriously do not fit me well. I tentatively took the Large shirt down from its perch and peered at it skeptically. I held it up in front of me while staring in to the mirror. It looked like it might fit... kinda. I wanted it bad enough that I decided to just get it and hope for the best.

Once I got home, the first thing I did was try the shirt on... and it fit! In fact, it fit perfectly! Not only was this a NSV, it was a lesson yet again that things are not always as they seem. See, in my head I sometimes still see myself as I looked 60+ pounds ago. It is always a shock and a surprise when I learn that I am physically smaller than I thought. This is a really weird feeling because it makes me wonder what else about myself (and the world) I am viewing incorrectly.

"These are more than just running shoes."
Another running-related purchase I've made recently was in the form of shoes. Granted, I did not need them as I have backups of my current running shoe. But I had seen these everywhere and I wanted to try them out, if only to get them off my mind. I found them at my local Dick's Sporting Goods store and was able to put them on my feet for the first time. I'm pretty sure my first words were "It feels like walking on marshmallows!!" I felt like a dork running around the in-store "track" and wasn't sure if the shoes were in fact "right" for my foot, and decided to check with my local running store.

Unfortunately when I walked in the door of my (usually-amazing) running store, I was paired with an older gentleman who must have been a new employee. He didn't know the answer to any of my questions and didn't go through the routine I'm accustomed to when being fitted for a shoe. I had to finally put an end to our rapport when instead of selling me what I was asking for, he started showing me shoes I was not even interested in. I walked out no more knowledgeable than when I walked in and decided to just order the shoes and form my own opinion.

I had done a lot of research online and everything I read said I would love the shoes. They had stability, which I was told would be good for me when I bought my current shoes a year ago (but prior to running with any regularity). They were a minimalist shoe... which is not something I necessarily wanted but surely I was curious. As a result, they were also significantly lighter than my current shoe and had more cushioning. The kicker for me though, was the fact that the shoes were neon-freakin-pink. I know, you shouldn't pick shoes by the color. Stop making stability shoes in boring white and I will! Plus, I get excited every time I get to wear these gorgeous shoes so it's instant running motivation! I have been breaking these bad-boys in one day a week on a short, easy run. They are comfortable as all get-out and I can definitely feel my calves and glutes working harder than they do with my other shoes. They wont be replacing my Adrenaline 11's, they are just something different to add to the mix.

Brooks PureCadence
Another NSV of late has come from my Polar FT7 heart rate monitor. I wear it every single time I workout and I have learned so much about my training by using it! It helps me to know when I am working too hard or not hard enough, and lately it has helped me to see some progress in my health that would otherwise have gone unnoticed. See, when I first started running my heart rate was in the 180 range for the majority of my runs. I was definitely over-exerting myself and sometimes my HR would go even higher when I really pushed it.

Over the last couple of weeks I have been noticing that I've been burning fewer calories doing the same activities. After more scrutiny I noticed that even when I am running at what feels like an extremely fast and difficult pace, my heart rate stays below 170. I'm not going to lie, at first I thought the battery in my HRM was dying. It's funny how doubtful I can sometimes be about my abilities. In actuality what has happened is that my conditioning has improved a great deal! My heart and body have become stronger and therefore more accustomed to my current level of activity. I continue to be amazed what the human body is capable of doing!

I've got more goodies to reveal to you guys but it will have to wait for another day. I need to give full attention to my DVR because it's time for women's gymnastics!! Have a great week everybody!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Father knows best

Over the 4th of July week, I attended a family wedding up in New York. The wedding itself is a story all its own, as the entire wedding party (bride included) got food poisoning from the rehearsal dinner and were ill throughout the wedding and reception. This isn't the intended subject of my writing tonight though. Prior to leaving for New York, my father had been seeing a doctor for some concerns surrounding his heart. He was advised to alter his diet and continue his workouts. One day dad asked me if I would be bringing my workout gear on our trip. I asked him why and he told me that he would like it if we could workout together. That was a first, and it made me smile. I told him that yes, I would bring my running shoes and yes, we could workout together.

Once in NY, it was easy to revert to "vacation mode" and sleep in, eat some delicious New York treats, etc. I came downstairs one morning to find my father sitting at the table looking perplexed. "What's wrong?" I asked, to which he replied "I was hoping to go for a walk today but it's raining." I looked at him and said the same words I would hope my very own workout buddy would say to me, "So what? Let's go." We put our sneakers on and set off on an adventure around my aunt's neighborhood.

It was humid and the sun was strong but after spending many hours in a car the previous day, I couldn't wait to shake out my legs. I broke into a slow jog as dad walked beside me. "You don't expect me to run, do you?" he asked dubiously. I giggled and told him no, I didn't expect him to run. I would jog slow enough to stay with him. He seemed OK with that and so we continued on.

Running is not something new to my dad, as his question might lead one to believe. When my mother was pregnant with me, my dad became infatuated with running and even completed the NYC Marathon mere weeks before I was born. Not only did he complete that marathon, he did it at an average pace of under 7:30/mile. That is AMAZING, you guys. I can't even run ONE mile under 7:30, let alone 26.2 of them!!

As we plodded along, I asked him to tell me about his race experience. I was surprised to learn that the NYC Marathon was his first and only marathon. He told me about his training and how he had a group of buddies that he would meet up with to do indian runs and long runs. We talked about the technology of running and how nearly 32 years ago there was no such thing as sport drinks or gels. His voice changed as he described the marathon itself. I could hear from his tone that he was re-living that day... running over the bridges and through the various boroughs, and eventually making his way to Central Park.

What he remembers most about the race was the energy of the crowd. He said that there were areas along the course that were simply devoid of spectators and that those miles were the most difficult. I could hear awe in his voice as he described arriving in Central Park to the wild screams and yells of thousands of on-lookers. "There were so many people there cheering us on during that last mile. I needed it." He paused for a moment and then said something that touched my heart.

"I was lucky. I finished in just over 3 hours and the streets were filled with people. You know... the Olympians, the fast runners, what they do is incredible. But the people who I admire the most are the ones who take 6 or 8 hours to finish. After the lights are shut off and the crowds go home, the people who run, walk or crawl across that finish line no matter what... those are the real heroes." Indeed, Dad. Indeed.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Butterflies

I try not to look at my feet when I run. It's bad form I know, so I constantly remind myself to look straight ahead. "Chest up, shoulders down, arms loose," I recite wordlessly, mimicking the rhythm of my feet on the pavement.

Sometimes though, I manage to sneak a peek at the ground. Mostly to be sure I'm not about to trip on uneven sidewalk or step in dog shit, and ok sometimes I just like stealing a glimpse of my neon pink running shoes. But tonight I saw something pretty cool. As I hurtled down the sidewalk I noticed what I thought was a stray leaf, listless and still.

As I was nearly upon it, suddenly up it sprang and fluttered away; a butterfly, and another one just steps beyond that. They kind of took my breath away. I'd like to think they were placed there for me; a reminder that things aren't always what they seem and change can yield beautiful things.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

One foot in front of the other...

I've been at a loss for words lately. I have loads of things I'd like to discuss here but everything on the forefront of my mind feels so serious and I find myself shutting down. I'm in a funk, y'all and it's a big bad one. The last couple of weeks have brought with them an increase in pressure at work, a barrage of doctor's visits for my dad, and the death of my dear friend's newborn infant and my great-uncle. I've kept all of these things to myself because it seems unnecessary to unload it on anyone else, as we all have our issues. I sure could use a hug, though.

Luckily none of these things have affected my training. In fact, they've probably intensified it. See, working out brings me a sense of peace and calm that I have trouble finding otherwise. As always, I am so thankful to have running as my beacon of light. It is a source of stability in my sometimes-chaotic life and it has helped me through tough times more than I can count on one hand.

As far as my half-marathon training goes, this weekend our long run was only 6 miles. That makes me laugh, to say anything was "only" six miles but that's four miles less than the week prior and therefore deserving of an "only". The reason for the shorter distance is because we calculated what is known as our "magic mile", a mile run at about 80-90% effort used as a predictor of our race pace and performance. For more on Jeff Galloway's magic mile formula, click here.

So, we ran an easy mile warm-up and then arrived at the marker to begin the magic mile. Usually we run as a group, two-wide and in formation but for the magic mile it was a free-for-all and my competitive side loved it. I started off conservatively slow and stayed that way for the first .25 miles, at which point I realized I had a lot of juice left and started passing people. My favorite part of the run was the very last stretch where I told myself to treat it as a race and I mustered everything I had and sprinted to the finish.

I stopped my watch and glanced down at the time and my eyes kind of bugged out when I realized what it said: 10:44!! My fastest mile ever... and I didn't walk any of it. Just seven months ago I had declared a goal to be able to run a mile without walk breaks... and here I had done it in record time. That was a cool feeling. Even better though, was knowing I could have run it even faster but had conserved energy for the four remaining miles we had yet to cover.

Up until this week I was running only three days a week, with Zumba two nights a week for a total of 5 days of cardio. Saturdays are my long run days and I've been using Sunday as sort of a catch-all... do yoga, or a dvd or nothing at all. This week I decided to mix things up a bit and use Sunday as a fourth running day. I felt great. I'm not sure if it's because of the shorter distance on Saturday but I think I am going to try to incorporate Sunday running in to my regular workout schedule. I will treat it as a recovery run day, keeping the mileage low and the pace easy.

That's all I've got for now. Keep training hard and hug your loved ones y'all. I'll try to focus and catch you up on the neat father-daughter workouts that happened during my trip to New York.