Wednesday, April 27, 2011

kicking it up a notch

There is less than two months left in my training for Grandma's Marathon in Duluth, MN. I'm definitely feeling the burn. It seems like lately my legs are always sore, but it doesn't seem to bother me as much as it used to. I think I am developing a new appreciation for the pain and maybe (god forbid) even enjoying it a little?
My weekly hill workouts on Tuesdays switched over to speedwork Tuesdays. I did 5 miles of pickups yesterday. Although I have a better idea of what pickups are than tempo runs, I'm still not quite decided on exactly how to go about it. I decided to wing it by doing five minute blocks with a 60 second sprint at the beginning of each. I did a 5 minute warm-up at 5.5mph, then took it up to 7 for a minute. I did the rest of my pickups at 8 mph between four minute blocks from 6.0-6.5 each. I was on the treadmill yesterday so it  was easy to control my pace and keep track of the time.
The trick was reminding myself to look at the clock this time. I usually avoid it like the plague. Sometimes I even bring a book for the sole purpose of blocking it from view so I don't agonize about the time I have left.
I felt amazing at the end of my workout, exhausted, but good. I have been pretty stressed out this last week with extra hours at work, math exams, final projects and a couple unpleasant conversations. I have had little time to myself so this me time is becoming so precious. When you're having a bad day, there is nothing better than running so fast and so hard that you think your lungs may just burst, then turning around and doing it all over again a few minutes later. With finals just around the corner, I'm going to feel like doing pickups every day.
They say that it is runs like these that make you faster. I hope so. Maybe there is some hope of running my first marathon in under four hours?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Runners High

I have it. Right now.
I just got back from my mid-week 4 miler and I feel amazing! I ran fast, for me.
I posted a question on daily mile earlier today about tempo runs. Now, I'm new to this whole running thing so I had no idea what a tempo run was. I'm still not quite sure if I have the right idea. But it just felt right.
The reply I got came from one of my new found blogger friends, Vanessa from Gourmet Runner. She said, "'s at your lactate threshold, so it's basically your race pace for 20-30 minutes...The point is to learn how to sustain a fast pace over a longer period of time. Hope that helps!"
It did help, Thanks Vanessa!
I personally do not have a race pace. In fact, I have been rather against it. I didn't want to put any unnecessary pressure on myself, being a beginner and all. I thought if I had a goal pace I would get discouraged by not meeting it and then quit before I even tried. I wanted running to be something that stuck with me for the rest of my life, so I had to love it. And allow myself to be slow, if that's what I needed.
So, back to the BEST RUN EVER! Today's run was only supposed to be 4 miles so I figured today was a good day to try this tempo run thing. I warmed up  in my home with a few yoga poses, stretching and calisthenics. Then I hit the road and started my stopwatch (a tool that I almost never use). I jogged for the first block, then I thought, "Why not just go for it? I can always stop and walk if I want to." So I did. A 155bpm Podrunner mix  helped a little, and I ran as fast as I could comfortably sustain. I only had to slow down  a couple of times as I went up hills or breathed my way through a side stitch or two. I slowed to a walk/slow jog at 3.96 miles and clocked the lap. After a five minute cool down I looked at my clock.

This is what it told me...
Can you say PR?

3.96 miles at 33:41 turns out to be an average pace of 8:30/mile. I set a new personal record today and I am grinning from ear to ear. This is a major accomplishment for me (not to mention getting overcoming my fear of stopwatches). I'm pretty tired but the happiest camper around. It doesn't even matter there is nobody home but me. I had to share it with someone right away, so I'm sharing my joy with you!

I'm so proud of myself that I could just jump right out of my clothes! Actually, that IS the next thing on my agenda; I'm in serious need of a shower.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

mid-week update

My training has been going well despite the awful weather outside and the mounting tension as the semester comes to an end. Last minute projects kept me up most of the night, so getting up at 5:30 to arrive at the gym by 7:15 this morning felt like a major accomplishment. Although seven miles were on the agenda today, I could only manage 6.2. First of all, because I was going to be late to class and second, I get really bored on the treadmill. I didn't have the steady urging of a good beat to keep me company today. My literature class had some required reading so I was listening to an audiobook. Although they're not always adequate distraction from the monotony of treadmill running, I LOVE audiobooks. They save me from getting behind on my reading. I like to read but my problem is that I am always goGoGO and when I eventually stop, It's naptime.
Yesterday's hill repeats were replaced by a little experimentation with the incline controls of the treadmill. First time I ever even touched those buttons. I never even think of it as an option. I ran 2.7 of my 5 miles yesterday at a 4% incline. I'm still not sure if that's good, but I felt adequately challenged so I considered it enough.

Like I said before, tension is mounting as I prepare projects, presentations and study for finals. I don't have much time for anything but I still find the time to run. It is a top priority for me (next to aceing all my finals of course) and helps me fight back the end-of-semester worries. If I can pull off 14 miles or an over 6 mile stretch on a treadmill, hellacious finals or three 15 minute presentations performed back-to-back seem like small cookies in comparison.
Gotta Go...
Keep running and reading and I will do the same.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Halfway there

I ran 14 miles yesterday. I RAN fourteen miles yesterday!! Just had to say it twice. If I hadn't been there the whole time I wouldn't believe it. This is a major accomplishment for me. Six months ago I thought 5 miles was a lot. I still think that's far enough, but yesterday, I nearly tripled that. Whoooo! 

I wasn't looking forward to my run yesterday at all. I was looking forward to being done with it. Last week was a rough on for me. Windy conditions paired with inadequate nutrition made it hard for me to fulfill my miles and by the time Sunday came around, I didn't have much confidence left. I made up a list of excuses why I shouldn't run, weighed the pros and cons and decided that it wasn't a great idea.

I went anyway. The first mile was the hardest. The second mile was hard. I kept wanting to turn around, saying to myself, "If I turn back now it'll only be a few miles, I can handle that." Then I started thinking about how crappy I would feel if I just quit, turned around, gave up. I couldn't handle that, so I forced myself to start thinking posotively. If self doubt took over, I wouldn't make it and I would have to accept defeat. I decided not to let that be an option. I started thinking of how great it would feel to get on here today and tell the world I had done it. I dug down deep and pulled out the confidence I needed to go on. 

Then I started to enjoy it. I began to notice the little things around me. The breeze coming off the lake was mild and cool. The sun was out and it wasn't too hot. Podrunner in my headphones steadily urged me onward. Equipped with the energybelt, complete with shotbloks and two small bottles of water, I had everything I needed. I felt safe and free. I felt good so I kept running.

I didn't have much trouble until around mile nine when I started to feel like there was a small rock in my shoe. I took off my shoe and shook it out, hopefully eliminating the discomfort. It didn't work. It wasn't until a couple miles later that I figured out that it wasn't a rock at all. It felt more like a teeny piece of glass. I took my shoe and my sock off and found a nickel-sized blister on the bottom of my foot. Ouch! There was nothing I could do, I was still a few miles from home, so I kept going and tried to ignore the pain. By mile 13 I was beat, and climbing the last and biggest hill. I told myself it was OK to walk here but by this time I had built up such a rythm that I couldn't stop. It felt really weird to walk. My legs felt alien beneath me. 

Finally it was over and I walked the last block and a half to stretch out my legs. When I got home I stretched, poured myself a tall glass of (room temp) water and took it into the bathroom where I soaked in an epsom salt bath for a half an hour. It felt amazing because my body hurt from the waist down. After that I rubbed my legs down with tiger balm and put on some tall fuzzy socks. It was heaven. I was in bed by 10:30 last night, sleeping like a baby. 

Today is my rest day and I'm set on recovery. I just  finished cooking a nice veggie soup from scratch and I'm about to spend the reat of the day studying. I hope I can find a ride in to work tonight so I don't have to bike it. After all, I've got another hard week of training coming up...

Tuesday: 5 miles, Hills

Wednesday: 7 miles

Thursday: 4 miles

Friday: 5 miles, med effort

Saturday: 5 miles

Sunday: step-back, My training says to find a 5-10k but I don't think there are any going on in my area. I guess I can always pretend.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Against the wind

- and uphill, both ways

It's been warming up here in southern Wisconsin but you wouldn't be able to tell on a day like this. There has been a strong, cold wind blowing for the last few days. In a car that's no problem. For a bike commuter however, it's more like hell just froze over. It's been a struggle to get my miles in this week. I lost my bus pass this week so I've been biking everywhere. Thirty mph winds make for a rough ride, especially if you are loaded down with heavy schoolbooks. All this extra exertion has been really hard on my legs. My calves are constantly tight. I've cut 2 out of 4 workouts short at the gym this week. It's too easy just to get off the treadmill if you're tired. On Friday I skipped my run altogether on account of the hail. I kinda feel like I let myself down in some way. I keep trying to remind myself that I probably would have caught a cold out in that weather. Although a part of me still thinks I could have done better.

The weather didn't stop me yesterday. It did delay my departure quite a bit, as I was reluctant to go out in the snow. Yes, snow. In the middle of April. Are you kidding me? It wasn't that soft puffy kind of snow that gently drifts to the ground in December, qiet and and pristine white. Nope, on the contrary, it was like a million teeny pellets flying at me as if shot from a gun. I got about halfway down the block before turning around to put on a hat and a scarf to cover my face. Even though I was cold and my shoes were soaked through, I felt pretty good by the end. After the 80 degree weather we had last Sunday, things were starting to look up. Then came the wind, and the rain, and the soreness. I just hope I can make it through the week. Almost there. Today is my first 14 mile run. Hopefully I'm ready for it. I don't feel much like running right now but it's still early and the sun is coming out. I'm trying really hard to focus on the sense of accomplishment I will have earned by the end of mile 14 later today. Wish me luck!


Wednesday, April 13, 2011


When I started blogging, I also started searching for and reading blogs by runners. I have noticed that a lot of the running bloggers I have visited are obsessed with food. I'm thinking this must be something that just comes along with marathon training. I am close to the halfway point in my training and I'm always hungry! And it's not just, "oh, I'm a little hungry so I'll eat some fruit." or "I have some errands to do so I'll wait an hour and eat at home" It seems like I go into total raging monster mode, my stomach takes up all control of my emotions and I feel like I need to eat a whole pizza, like NOW.
I haven't done this yet, thankfully. But I'm not making any guarantees for the future. I have a coupon book with a whole section devoted to buy one get one pizza deals. At first I wondered why there were so many, but now I'm thinking I may just use them, by myself!
I can't go more than 3-4 hours without food before feeling like I'm going to fall over, or bite the head of the next person that doesn't come up to me carrying food. I have started carrying Lära bars and fruit along wherever I go, but it doesn't seem like enough. I need to eat every two hours and I'm not even halfway through my training.
Will I ever get used to this? Am I going to need to pack a lunch on race day or stop at a Pizza Hut on the way to the finish line?


I can't seem to get enough. I can stretch before or after a workout; most of the time I do both. I stretch at random time throughout the day but it does nothing to keep me from feeling like I need more. I've already stretched 3 times today certain parts still feel a little tight. I made it to class today in record time. Just over ten minutes is all it took to ride to campus. I hit the treadmill right away because I bad a little time before my first class began and I had already done my warm-up. Six miles was on my training schedule today. Jog at a comfortable pace for 15 minutes, then do two miles at a faster than normal pace, and ending with a comfortable jog. I set the treadmill at 5.6 mph and ran for 15 minutes. That was the easy part, no problem. Then I set it to 7 and ran faster. Less than a mile into it I started feeling lightheaded but kept going. At 2.8 miles I started feeling a little off balance so I got off, filled my water bottle up and got back to it. I continued the 7 mph pace for another .6 miles, then I slowed down to 6 mph. I only got to 1.3 miles before I had to stop completely. I felt weak, dizzy and a little bit nauseous. I think I probably just hadn't had enough to eat this morning. Coupled with the extra-hard ride in today, the double-time pacework just ate up my remaining calories. I really have to start paying more attention to my calories so this doesn't happen again. I can't be hitting a wall at 4 miles on race day.
I feel pretty crappy about cutting my workout short by 2 miles today but I'm not about to start beating myself up about it. I had a long hard weekend full of a lot of work and I even added 1.5 miles to my long run on Sunday. I did walk that last 1.5 miles but it was so nice outside I had to stop and enjoy it. It was over 80 on Sunday and not cloudy as the weatherman predicted. Great! I logged 20 miles on my bike just getting around town. I even found a buddy to run the 5 miles with me on Saturday. It reminded me how great it is to have company on a run. It was over before we knew it. I have been running by myself this whole time and it is really hard not to ignore the fact that if I want to stop, take a break, or cut my run short, there is nobody to stop me but myself. Now that I know I've got a friend who is at just about the same running level as I am, there will be many more outdoor runs together. Yaaay!
Monday's rest day came right in time. It really helped yesterday's hill repeats to go very smoothly. No pain or fatigue and I made decent time.
I wanted to change up my hills course and run a neighborhood across town but without a car that would mean I would have to leave my bike somewhere and worry about my gear while I was running. Temps were supposed to drop down to 40 so going without a change of clothes would not have been smart. I ended up doing the same hill as the last 2 Tuesdays but expanding the loop and running it backwards. I was surprised how well it changed the scenery. I felt like I was in a different neighborhood.
Maybe I'll do Shorewood Hills next week.

Saturday, April 9, 2011


It is a misty Saturday morning and you wouldn't be able to tell just by looking, but it's going to be a beautiful day. I am staring out onto the tarmac at the Dane County Airport already anticipating the end of my workday. I've been here for an hour and a half and I'm ready to jet (no pun intended). By the time I leave work today, the sun will be out and it will be over 60 for the first time this year.
Yesss!! I can barely contain myself. After a long winter, this is heaven.
I am looking forward to a nice bike ride home, made easier by the addition of a rack to clip my saddle bags onto. I no longer have to carry everything I need on my back. I will be able to do my short 4-5 mile run outside today and I'm super excited about it. After three consecutive days in the gym, it's about time I got out for some fresh air. My calves were still sore on Wednesday so I hit the elliptical for 45 minutes at half resistance. It said I traveled 5.5 miles but I'm still not sure if I can trust the distance readout from the machine. I kept my heart rate around 160-170 and I was sweating a lot so I must have gotten a decent workout. Yesterday it was the treadmill and it felt great! Four miles in 45 minutes. After walking for five minutes, I set the pace at an 11 minute mile then increased it to an 8.5 minute pace for the last mile. That last mile was hard and I wanted to quit a couple of times, but I didn't. After the 4th mile I threw in an extra 2 minutes at 8 mph just because I was feeling so good. Sprinting used to just kill me but now I love the feeling. I finished up red-faced and sweaty. Great workout. However great my treadmill experience was yesterday, I'm ready for a change. Today I get to be outside!
I haven't decided on a course just yet but today I will have company on my run. I usually am more of a solitary runner. This partly because I don't want the pressure of competition, and partly due to my lack of organization and or friends that run. For the longest time I fell into the group of people who would boast of not ever running unless I was being chased. Most of my friends fall into that category as well. It will be good to have a friend with me today. She has been training indoors on a treadmill so far this year and doing pretty well, but she hasn't run outside yet. She expressed reservations about running outside attached to the added impact of the pavement so we're going to keep it easy today. I'm planning on running anywhere between 4 and 5 miles. I know she'll do great; she's been running better than a 9 minute mile for 4-7 miles at a time. I'm almost afraid of being left in the dust. Either way it'll be a great run. I just know it.
Can't wait!

I hope everyone else out there is looking forward to a great weekend run as well!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Inner Battles

My legs won't cooperate with my body today and it's entirely my fault.

** -- ** -- ** -- ** -- ** -- **

My calves are still super sore from yesterday's hill repeats. It wasn't all that far, but I'm definitely paying for the enthusiasm I put into running up and down those hills.
Today was 5 miles on the treadmill and my legs were not having it. My right calf was being difficult before I even started my workout. I stretched after my run yesterday, before bed, after I got up this morning and right before my workout. It didn't seem to help much. It feels like I got punched right above the ankle on the back of my right leg. I even double-checked my leg for a bruise after my run today. Nope. No damage, just this little internal voice screaming at me from the general direction.
What do you do with uncooperative leg muscles? It was bound to happen at some point; the joint pain would subside and I would have to deal with my overworked muscles trying their best to refuse two 5-mile runs in a row. I can't wait to get used to this. If I keep up my training, pretty soon a 5-miler will be a piece of cake. That's definitely not happened yet. I wasn't about to let some silly leg cramp get me down so I got on the treadmill and went. The first 10 minutes consisted of steady even walking. Then, I picked up the pace. I was able to maintain a 9:13 pace for the next 2 .5 miles. I walked/ran for the remaining couple of miles and I was glad it was over. The time I was making while jogging was eaten up by the times I pooped out and started walking. My pace: somewhere above a 10min/mile.
I was so happy with the pace I had set for myself yesterday that I thought I could do better. So much for that.
I am still having trouble dealing with treadmill boredom setting in shortly after the beginning of my workout. I watched a documentary called "The Future of Food" on my Netflix app for iPhone. It was written and directed by Deborah Koons Garcia, wife of the late Jerry Garcia. Even the fear it evoked in me about GMOs and sinister corporate takeovers wasn't enough to delay boredom for more than 30 minutes. Great film, as far as documentaries go. I blame my boredom soley on my chosen method of exercise.
Did I ever mention how glad I am that it's getting warmer here in Wisconsin?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Procrastination Station

Felt like I got nothing done today. I kept getting sidetracked with other activities. I wanted to get up early so I could hit the gym before class... I ended up getting up early, but I did my laundry instead. I didn't get any miles in but I was able to stock my gym locker with a couple extra sets of workout gear.
Plan B, hit the road as soon as I get back from school.
When I got home I was starving so I made myself a late lunch. Ever since I started training, I have been hungry constantly. I couldn't run right after that either.
Digesting takes time and I am not a big fan of throwing up so I decided to wait a bit. Then I remembered that my dog needed a bath. He really did. He was pretty stinky. Giving my fluffy white dog a bath is always rewarding. He's always good, he loves the blow-dryer and when he's finished he prances around the house showing off how handsome he is. So cute.

Blue is gleaming after a bath.

It still took me about an hour to get going after that. I think that swapping out Sunday's run for Saturday, then not running on Monday either, really messed up my motivation. I left home at 5:30 and it was still sunny and not too cold.
Today was another set of hill repeats (could be part of my reason for procrastination). It's a step-back week so it wasn't as intense as last week. I made my warm-up run a little longer on the way because I wanted to tackle this hill with gusto. I actually ended up improving my time per lap by over a minute. Each loop is .66 mileswith about a third of the distance being a giant hill in Maple Bluff overlooking Lake Mendota. I did 4 loops at an average of 8:34 min/mile. That's faster than I normally go but I really pushed it today. I can definitely feel it in my calves right now. After my post workout shower I rubbed out my sore muscles with some tiger balm and donned my knee high, super cozy, socks. It is heaven.

Like I said before, this week is a step-back week with my longest run being only eight miles. My weekday runs have not decreased in distance though (bummer). Most days I'll be running 4-5 miles. I have talked to a few of my running buddies recently and I think I may have company soon. The warm weather has done what I couldn't in convincing them that it's better outdoors. Having people to run with is great for my motivation.

On the schedule for this week (week 8):

Tuesday - Hill repeats 4 miles I did around 5.
Wednesday - 5 miles (treadmill)
Thursday - 4 miles easy
Friday - 4 miles medium effort
Saturday - 5 miles easy (prep for long run)
Sunday - 8 miles
Monday - Rest

Bike commuting to work and school has helped me build muscle and endurance. It has been so helpful in the recovery process, I sometimes forget that I ever had knee problems. They say cross-training is good for you; it is.

Enough. Top priority right now, sleep.

Monday, April 4, 2011

I'm still alive

Wow. Saturday's long run took a lot out of me. I'm still a little sore today, but I'm alive. And I feel better than I did yesterday. Yeah! I managed to ride my bike into work and school without much difficulty. It is super windy and it was a fight to move forward at times. I just hope the wind is at my back on the way home. I think it could blow the whole way and it would still seem like small potatoes to the 12 miles I endured this weekend.
I may be exaggerating slightly when I say I almost died. I didn't. Death wasn't near either, although I did feel really lightheaded right before reaching the twelve mile mark. I plodded through the first couple of miles reluctantly pulling my body along until I got into the swing of things. Getting really thirsty or having to pee is something you don't really need to think about in the gym or on a jog around the park, but it's something I should have prepared for. I reluctantly stopped at a creepy gas station to use the facilities along the way. Any place that has loiterers who look like permanent residents makes me a little uneasy.
I got a bottle of water and some now and laters. These were partly for my sweet tooth and partly because I thought it might induce salivation if I got tired of carrying a bottle full of cold water. It was warm-ish when I started but as soon as I felt the cool breeze of sunset coming off of Lake Mendota, I ditched the bottle. Holding onto it was making me colder. The last 4 miles were hilly and cool. The uphills made me feel like walking and the downhills made me feel like I was running faster than I could sustain. I was able to push through and finish strong. I only walked the last 2 blocks (and a couple of times during the run).
Going for a run when you are exhausted is hard enough, but sticking it out for two hours (while doing an excellent job of convincing yourself you feel fine) is a feat and a half. Now, whether it was a smart move or not, I have yet to decide. I have had to re-think the categories of  smart and/or sane actions since I became a runner. Things have started to look differently ever since I redefined my standards for accomplishment. A couple years ago, I would have laughed hysterically if you told me I would run 21 miles in a week then decide it wasn't enough until I had run at least another 12.
I skipped the run yesterday because there was no way my legs were cooperating. I did go for a long walk with my dog and that felt good. Getting up and moving was the best thing for me at the moment, but it was hard to work up the motivation. Blue and I walked just over a mile and a half. Any further and I would have ended up carrying him. He's a little white poodle mix with knee problems, so he has a hard time going long distances. This made him the perfect companion for yesterday's walk, slow and steady. 
I am more sore than I've been since I can remember, my legs want to move in short jerking motions and one of my toes has a blister on a blister next to a toenail that is only halfway attached (no lies). It feels great! I'd gladly trade blisters and about 3 more levels of sore for a lazy day on the couch with junk food any day. As long as this is what it takes to reach my goal.
No pain no gain, right? You can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. What doesn't kill me makes me stronger? Yes, it's cliche, but it fits.

I don't think you can become an outstanding runner unless you get a certain amount of enjoyment out of the suffering. You have to enjoy absorbing it, controlling it and—ultimately—overcoming it.
-- Derek Clayton in The Masters of the Marathon

I found this quote in my mailbox a couple days before my run and I figured I may need it pretty soon. What's funny is I actually understand the feeling. I did it. I overcame, I bravely faced something I've never done before and it feels good to know now that I can do it.

Thanks to everybody that has taken the time to read and follow me on my journey.
It's not over yet, I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Sunny skies are here again...

It is so beautiful outside today, it's hard to believe there are going to be thunderstorms and torrential rains all day tomorrow. It is 50 and clear and I should want to be outside more than anything. After a winter indoors, fresh air sounds good. Right?

Not completely. I am dreading my 12 miles today. Not only am I a little frightened of the prospect of running further than I ever have, I am T-I-R-E-D. Between the 16 hours of work standing behind a desk in the last 24, sleep deprivation from studying late all week and the other 21 miles I ran so far, I believe I have every right. But I don't want to be exhausted. I want to pretend it's something I can overcome in hopes of finding out I actually am capable. 

So, here I am trying to psych myself out to get on the road. I don't know if it's working yet. The sooner I go, the sooner I can reward myself with a nap. Yess!!

I've been really excited to map my runs lately and I have found a new tool to track my training progress while mapping my courses all on the same site. It's called the daily mile and I 've only been using it for a few days but I like it. It's like the runner's club site I've been looking for since last year. It is a new opportunity to meet like-minded ladies. I knew there had to be an easier way to share a passion with people I know are out there but could never find. This seems like it could be fun.

On with the run!!

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