Saturday, November 28, 2009

Turkey Trot

Thanksgiving has come and gone! I'm probably at least several pounds heavier from all the delicious food, but it's so worth it. This is my favorite holiday! There's no hustle and bustle of shopping and wrapping gifts, just spending quality time with family and eating some of my favorite foods (unfortunately, I have so many!).

I had so much to be thankful for this year: my fun-loving and hard-working husband, my beautiful children, my parents (the best grandparents in the world!), my health, the best running buddies, and especially for my sister and her family. Our prayers were answered when my brother-in-law got transferred here and their house finally sold (nothing short of a miracle in this economy).

The two-day feast/holiday started early on Thursday morning with Eladio, the kids, and I running the Sprint Thanksgiving day 5K. I had planned to race it while Eladio was going to jog pushing the kids in the stroller. We woke up to temps in the low 30's. Maybe it was going to get in the 40's by mid-morning, but probably not until after the race was over. Start time was 9:00, so to ensure a good warm up and to pick up our stuff, we got there by 8:00. While Eladio and the kids stayed warm in the car, I started my warm up at 8:30. I jogged around the Sprint campus for about 20 minutes, then with 10 minutes to go, I did 5 striders. These were supposed to help prepare my legs and lungs for the faster running I was about to do, but I just wasn't feeling it. Even the short 20 second sprints were making me tired. I was really doubting my ability to race hard that morning. I saw Eladio waiting on the sidelines near the start right before I got ready to line up. I took one last drink of water, bid my kids and husband a farewell, and took my place at the start. Taking Eladio's advice, I lined up at the 7 minute mile pace sign. I expected I would run somewhere in the 7 minute range for my first mile and I didn't want to have to worry about passing a bunch of people when, or if, I was ready to take off. With just minutes before the start, I still wasn't feeling pumped about pushing my body to its limits. Good thing I had already taken some pressure off by choosing not to wear my Garmin. I decided to not really worry about my pace and just run, going by feel alone. That's very unlike my normal racing strategy, but since I hadn't really trained for this and have no upcoming big races on the calendar, I felt free to try something different.

Promptly at 9:00, the race began. My legs began a fast turnover, but still not fast enough to keep up with most of the runners around me. I was getting passed by most of the field it seemed. Did I mention the race had just over 5000 participants?! I listened to my body and just let it run whatever pace felt good. We had some gradual uphills during the first mile and I knew there was a pretty decent size hill in the second mile, so I still held back a little. As we headed up the first real hill, we passed mile one. My watch read 7:35. I knew if I wanted to have a chance at breaking or even finishing anywhere in the 23 minute range, I would have to pick it up. I had picked 23 as my goal since that's generally been the time I could finish my 5K's with very little training in the past. The last (and only) time I ran this 5K several years ago, I had finished in 23:30. And that was even with me being 3 weeks pregnant! I HAD to beat that time. Surely, I had to be in better shape now and would be able to breathe easier without a baby growing in my belly and sucking all my reserve energy! (or so I thought when I signed up for this).

The second mile had even more uphills, but as we turned back into the Sprint campus we were treated to a nice downhill. At mile two, my watch read 14:54. I didn't have much umph in me to start kicking it in during the last mile, so I just held the same pace. My legs were starting to disagree with my mind's pace and my breathing started becoming more labored in the final mile. The song "Defying Gravity" popped in my mind, but I wasn't feeling much like flying. I had passed some runners on the uphills during mile two and normally I would have given all I had in that last mile to pass as many runners as possible, but I just didn't have it in me that morning. I simply kept the pace and did my best to not get passed. I think I accomplished that at least.

As we headed around the last few curves and I could hear the DJ at the finish line, I looked around and saw I was finishing mostly around men. I didn't see any females in my immediate line of sight to help push me in at the end (that's my competitive streak coming out). It wasn't until I made the final turn and saw the finish line that I started opening up my stride. I had no idea what the clock read. I had started my watch when the race officially started, so I knew my actual time was probably about 5 seconds faster. This wasn't really a timed race for the 5000+ runners since only the first 15 male and female finishers would have a recorded time. For some crazy reason, I thought I might have a chance at that, but in the first mile, when I saw I wasn't able to keep up with so many of the front runners (at least a couple hundred men and women), I figured I wouldn't make the cut. With about 20 feet to go, I glanced at the finish line clock, but I could only see the seconds, not the minutes. I saw :38, :39, :40. I figured the minute side was at 23, so I sprinted as hard as I could to make it under 24. I crossed the line and fumbled to stop my watch. It took a couple of seconds after I crossed to find the button. I looked down and to my surprise, my watch read 22:51. I was amazed!! No way did I just run under 23! Especially, with the way I felt and having run with no strategy. This definitely was a first for me. I don't remember ever running that fast without following a prescribed pace and constantly looking at my watch. This may be my new strategy. I really liked it! It was a hard race, but I'm so glad I did it. It's yet one more thing to be thankful for on the most thankful of days! Good thing I got to celebrate two days with dinner at my in-laws on Thanksgiving and then with my family on Friday.

By the way, Eladio finished not too far after me. He believes he was the first baby stroller runner to finish, even finishing well ahead of another jogger who started 10 minutes before the race! His time...somewhere around 27 minutes. His last mile was in the 7's! Not bad for a pushing and being dragged by an extra 50 pounds and still recovering from knee surgery a few months ago. Good job, honey!

Now it's time to take a couple of weeks off of intense running and put my focus back on doing some quality cross-training. My abs and hips need it badly, especially after all that stuffing and pie! Hope your Thanksgiving was filled with lots of love and joy!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Defying Gravity

I saw Wicked for the second time over the weekend. It is now my favorite musical, especially since it has provided me with my new running theme song - "Devy Gravity!" Just want to share the lyrics. They don't all apply, so I'll just include the ones that I plan to use (hear in my mind) at the end of a hard race - everything from a 5K to a marathon.

Something has changed within me
Something is not the same
I'm through with playing by the rules
Of someone else's game

Too late for second-guessing
Too late to go back to sleep
It's time to trust my instincts
Close my eyes
And leap...

It's time to try defying gravity
I think I'll try defying gravity
And you can't pull me down!

I'm through accepting limits
'cause someone says they're so
Some things I cannot change
But till I try, I'll never know!

I'd sooner buy defying gravity
Kiss me goodbye
I'm defying gravity
And you can't pull me down!

Now, I just have to remember these words at the end of Thursday's 5K. Ha! In the mean time, I have an easy recovery run and a deep tissue sports massage. I'll report back soon!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Big Miles and Time Trial

Last week was a big mile week for me. From Saturday to Saturday, I logged 36 miles! That's quite a lot for me. That's the mid to upper range for me even when I'm heavily training for a marathon - and I'm not really training for anything right now! It wasn't planned, it just happened. As I talked about in my previous post, I did 10 miles two Saturday's ago. Last Tuesday, I ran 8 with my pal, Mallika. I had originally wanted to run only 6 with 2-3 at tempo pace (8-8:30's), but it came to 8 after our long 2 mile cool down. We did end up running 3 at tempo pace and I'm happy that each mile got a little faster. Mile 4 - 8:32, Mile 5 - 8:15, Mile 6 - 8:03. TWM met Thursday morning and I got in 6 easy miles (still around 9 min pace). On Saturday, I ran 12 with the Runner's Edge. It was nice to join the group again and run through some beautiful neighborhoods around Mission Hills and Loose Park. I had a tough time though staying with the 9:30 group and holding the mid 8's pace they settled into after a couple miles of warm up. I definitely think I need a longer and slower warm up before getting to that pace. Heck, my tempo pace isn't too far from that and I was just shooting for an easy long run. The last couple of miles were hilly and tough for me. I fell considerably behind my pace group and did my best to finish strong. Evidence of "big miles" for me that week. My legs were tired.

Today, marks the beginning of my winter training. I've been talking about it for weeks and today I finally did it - my 2 mile time trial. Anyone who lives in KC and is reading this right now knows that our weather here is not that great. Temps in the 30's and 40's and cold rain, some sleet, and light snow in the past 24 hours. Our TWM group agreed not to meet this morning to torture ourselves. I still wanted to get in my time trial, but wasn't sure about doing it on a potentially slippery track. I opted to go later today and used the half mile loop in my neighborhood instead. I set out at 1:45 this afternoon with rain coming down lightly. Did a couple easy miles for my warm up and four striders to get my legs ready. Took a few drinks of water and stood at my imposed starting line trying to talk myself into going. I was feeling tired, unmotivated, and was fighting a headache - probably from not eating and drinking that much this morning. Knowing I wasn't going to feel any better just standing around, I took a few deep breaths and took off. The first lap (1/2 mile) was pretty tough. I looked down at my watch and saw that I was doing the same pace as my 800 repeats last spring on this same course. I avoided doing the math and just kept running and breathing hard. Finally, after I finished the second lap, I gained some confidence. I started to believe I could finish all four laps and not die from oxygen depletion. My breathing got under control and my legs had found their rhythm. Third lap felt pretty good and the fourth lap, I just went for it. I looked down at my watch with a couple little turns left and saw that my total time was 13:30 and I still had .2 to go. I started pumping my arms more and breathing as hard as I could. I thought, one corner down, just a little more to go. Here it is, last corner, when is my stupid Garmin going to beep and let me know I'm done!! Finally, it beeped. Finish time - 14:32! Not bad for not doing speed work in 2 months and having done some "big miles" last week.

Now I'm setting my sights on finishing at or very close to 23 minutes for the Sprint Thanksgiving Day 5K next week. Let's hope today helped!!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Running crasher

You've heard of Wedding Crashers? Well, on Saturday I was a Running Crasher. Here's what happened. After my TWM run on Thursday (I'll explain TWM a little later), my friend Theresa told me she would be running six on Saturday morning with her husband Jason. Eladio wasn't having a group run on Saturday and I wanted to get in some sort of long run, but was really hoping for 8-10 miles. I wasn't sure what I'd be able to do though since my family and I had been sick all week. We had fevers and lots of congestion. I knew running over the weekend would depend on us feeling better so I didn't want to make definite plans until Friday afternoon.

By then, Alex was running a fever so I took him to the doctor. Diagnosis...double ear infection. We got him on antibiotics and pain medicine. Eladio was also on the mend, so I called Theresa and decided to meet her the next morning. She sent an email out to our TWM group to invite everyone. Not knowing the response, I showed up bright and early Saturday morning.

It turned out to be just me, Theresa and Jason. Very quickly, I felt like the third wheel. I started thinking, "What if they had just wanted to run by themselves and I pushed my way in? This could have been planned alone time with just the two of them." I voiced my concern and Theresa and Jason assured me it was okay. Well, I guess she did send out that email. We ran a beautiful, low-traffic, hilly course. The conversation was so good though, I hardly even noticed the hills.

We got done right about 8:00. I hopped in my car and was about to head home for "mommy duty," but then I thought - "Hmm, my friend Ann and her group were planning to meet at 8:00 just a mile or so away from here. Maybe I should try to join her for a few more miles." I had really wanted to run more than six anyway.

I called Eladio to make sure it was okay. He said it was fine so I followed his directions and figured out Ann's meeting spot (long story short - he knew where that was). It was a new access point for me to a trail I have run many times. I was a little unsure where I was going, but I kept following the main trail like Eladio had instructed. I knew they had about a 10 minute head start, but I was hoping I'd run into them at some point and could join them for at least a couple of miles. A mile and half later, I still hadn't found them. I had just about given up hope and was ready to turn around when they appeared in front of me on the trail. They were surprised to see me, but welcomed me to join them. I got in my final mile then turned around to head back to my car with just one woman from the group. The rest were going on to do some more miles.

We finished up with some nice, easy cool down miles. By the time I got back to my car, my Garmin read just over 10 miles. Not bad for really not planning it all out. I just had to laugh that I was able to do it all with friends and by crashing their already well-planned runs.

A quick explanation about TWM - it stands for "Tuesdays with Myra" - adapted from Tuesdays with Morrie (a good, sentimental book and movie). A group of originally five women from Runner's Edge who all live nearby wanted to get together to do some speed workouts and semi-long runs on Tuesday and Thursday mornings last spring. After we met a few times, Ann and I started joking that we needed to call ourselves something. There was already a group called "5 at 5" and we were really "5 at 6" (five women who met to run at 6 a.m.) Didn't have quite the same ring. After playing around with a few things, we came up with Tuesdays with Myra. It's now abbreviated since we also sometimes meet on Thursdsays. Over the summer and early fall, we met sporadically, but now that we're heading into our off-season, we're starting to meet more frequently. I love these ladies! Without them, I'm sure I wouldn't be running quite that early or doing that many miles during the week. See you in the morning!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Remembering New York

A year ago today, I ran the New York City marathon. It was my 12th marathon and the last one I ran. Watching it on TV today brought me back to the thrill and excitement of the race. Nothing can top running over the Queensboro bridge and coming onto 1st Avenue. The sound of the crowd was deafening and brought such energy to my tired legs. Finishing in Central Park...just incredible. Those were just a couple of the highlights. I loved sharing it all with my friend Ann and running for Girls on the Run (and wearing my tiara).

If you watched today, you saw two exciting finishes - Derartu Tulu pulled away in the final mile to win the women's race and Meb Keflezighi became the first American male to win since 1982. I was mostly interested in watching Paula Radcliffe and Ryan Hall, but they both fell behind and came in fourth. I know Paula is an amazing runner, but I was so disappointed in her pulling out of the Olympic marathon in Athens. I'm proud of her for going after it today despite her injury and finishing a respectable fourth place.

Congratulations to all NY marathon finishers! I hope you enjoyed your experience and really took in the city. There's no better way to see it!