Monday, March 28, 2011

Race Report- Yuengling Shamrock Half Marathon

  The reason I started running was to stay in touch with two of my best friends from college- Debbie and Dana.  We run a half-marathon once or twice a year together; sometimes one close to one of our homes, sometimes one that is a destination.  So far, we've run in Indy, Richmond (2009), Disney World (2010) and now the Yuengling Shamrock in Virginia Beach.  While sometimes the race might not be the easiest thing, the three of us never fail to have a great time.  VA Beach is also home to another one of our college friends, Jen, so it was a real Mason reunion.  It was great!
  Every big race starts with the expo.  This is the place where you pick up your bib numbers and race shirts.  It's also a great shopping opportunity.  I love a good expo.  Lots of crap, but generally lots of freebies too.  It's fun to look around at all of the different booths and vendors.  Sometimes they're crazy crowded, but the Shamrock expo wasn't that bad.

(Deb and Dana with a leprechaun) 

   This race is always held around St. Patrick's Day, thus the Shamrock theme.  For the first time, we decided to dress the part and go with a green theme for our running attire, complete with green boas.  Deb and I actually got really crazy and painted our nails green.  When in Rome, right?

  The weekend actually had several different races.  Saturday had an 8k, along with a kid's run.  Sunday was the half-marathon and a full marathon.  Unfortunately, the race organizers felt the need to start the half at 7:00 am.  That meant getting up at 5:30 Eastern, which felt like 4:30 for this Central Time Zone girl.  Not fun.  But after a very loud alarm and a swig of Diet Dr. Pepper, I got dressed and was ready to go!

   We had to walk about 20 blocks to the start.  The wind was CRAZY, which made it really cold.  Fortunately, Debbie was smart and brought us all throw away shirts we could wear to keep warm and then ditch once the race started (Thanks Deb!).  They were desperately needed.
   I started in Corral 4.  (I'm always amazed at how Corrals are assigned.  It seems I'm somehow always in some random corral.  Granted, I'm not fast so I should be in the mid-corrals, but one time Dana and I put down the same time, and she got Corral 1, and I got Corral 5!  But my time to complain about corrals is for another time... )  I took a look around and saw that many people have dressed the part.  Leprechaun outfits, kilts, green hair - you name it.  It was all there.  And I thought I was cute with my boa and green shorts!
   The race itself went off without a hitch.  I'd been told it was pancake flat, and it was.  I think the elevation rose about 10 feet throughout the entire race.  This would have been a great race to attempt a PR, but I knew going in my speed wasn't there.  As long as I ran the whole thing, I'd be happy.  So I just kept a nice easy pace and tried to keep the boa feathers out of my mouth, with limited success.
  What I always find amusing is that for a race this big (about 8,500 people just for the half), how I somehow manage to run the most of, or the entire race, with a few people.  This race it was a woman in a tie-dyed shirt.  She was literally standing next to me at the start, and then I would see her out on the course at random times throughout the race.  When I stopped to take off my throw-away shirt, she stopped to get water.  When I stopped at mile 6 rest rooms, she stopped at mile 7 and I caught her.  It's not like we were trying to pace each other, it's just how things worked out.  I did kind of want to smack her during the last half-mile though because she kept doing this sprint / walk kind of thing.  She'd RACE past me, and then stop to walk right in front of me.  (New runners- don't EVER do that.  It's annoying to the other runners.)  We ended up finishing together.  I have no idea if she even noticed I was there.
   Overall, great experience.  I felt great until mile 6, when I stopped for the rest room, had a 5 minute wait, and my legs got cold.  Miles 6-9 were fine, but I started to hurt a little during miles 9-10.  However, the thought of finishing pushed me through.  I just kept looking ahead hoping to see the giant Neptune statue which signaled the finish.  Finally, he was there.
(YAY Neptune!!)

   I finished the race and was not only awarded a finishers medal (which can also be used as a bottle opener), but also a finishers hat AND a finishers long-sleeved t-shirt instead of a mylar blanket.  Nice touch Shamrock organizers.  I had to pass on the Yuengling beer and the Murphy's Irish Stew though, which was offered at the finish line festival.  It was fitting for the theme, but wasn't really appetizing at 9:30 in the morning after just finishing a half-marathon.
   As I said before, overall a great experience.  I would absolutely do this race again. Hopefully, next time for a PR.  :-)
(Me and Dana at the finish with our new bling / bottle openers)
Watch time: 2:20
Chip time: 2:25 (gotta love long lines - they just ruin your time!)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

I Know Why the Swim is First

   I have a fun, part-time job in freelance sports production.  Long story short- I work on the Jumbotron crew for two professional sports teams in Nashville - the Tennessee Titans and the Nashville Predators.   We're getting towards the end of the Preds season now, and we're in the middle of a home-stretch.  I think 12 of the next 15 games are at home.  And if it wasn't for me going on vacation next week, I'd be working every one of them.  Great for the wallet- but hell on a training schedule.
  Since I have games on most Saturdays, Tuesdays and Thursdays this month, I have to get my workouts in on the remaining days.  Fortunately, the C25k program is over, so that time is available now.  Unfortunately, I need to double-up my workouts on some days.  Today was one of those days.
   In an attempt to actually plan my workouts rather than just winging it like I did for my last tri, I'm currently basing my workouts from a plan I got from Fleet Feet- a local running store.  It's specifically designed for the sprint tri I'm doing in May.  I started it on Monday with the swim - 500 yards total.  That swim felt great, but I also hadn't done any exercise since the Tom King 5k the previous Saturday.  Now don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking out those 500 yards in one stretch; I have to take breaks.  But I would always swim 25 to 50 yards at a time (as the schedule planned) and I never took one a break longer that one-minute.
  Well, Tuesday I had to skip my planning running work-out (the dreaded speed session) due to a Preds game.  So today, being the slave to the schedule, I did my 4x1-mile speed work and then went to pool.  The mile repeats felt good.  Really good.  I know I bitch out speed sessions, but they definitely work.  My goal time was supposed to be 10:07.  I did all four under 9:45 - and I was trying to slow down.  So my body is definitely adjusting to the tempo change, which is good.
   But from there I went to the pool...which wasn't so good.  That great feeling I had on Monday was gone. I left my schedule at home so I wasn't sure what my exact workout was supposed to be.  I just remembered I was supposed to swim 550 yards total.  So I did 8x25 and then 5x50, which is one 50 longer than Monday.  It was terrible.  My legs just felt like lead and my arms just sort of hit the water rather than slicing into it like a knife.  I was S-L-O-W too. But whatever.  I finished and hopefully, I'm better for it.
  As I mentioned in the title - I know why the swim is first.  Because people will freaking DROWN if it's last because they are so tired.  You can always coast on a bike and walk on the run, but you'll drown if you stop swimming.  And no one wants that!

Things to work on:
Speed - both running and swimming
Form - swimming
Breathing from both sides rather than just one when swimming

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Tom King 5k

   Yesterday was the Tom King 5k and Half Marathon.  It's a fun, flat local race that begins and ends at LP Field, where the Tennessee Titans play.   Generally, I'd probably train for the Half.  As I stated - it's FLAT.  Perfect for getting a personal record.  I ran it last year, but just kind of cruised it because I had run the Disney Half the week prior.  But, rather than run the Half, I did something cooler - I ran the 5k with a group of fabulous people I have been coaching since January.
   The East Nasty Couch to 5k program started January 2nd and has been meeting every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday since then.  Unfortunately, Nashville has had a pretty brutal winter, so this group has run through rain, sleet, snow and several days of 17-degree weather.  It was the kind of weather that most normal people would take one step outside and say "I'm not going out in that!"  But runners are apparently a different breed, because while we did lose some people over the 8 weeks, we had a good group present for every training session.
   This was actually the second time I've coached a EN C25k program, the first being last summer.  I love, love, love coaching these groups.   The program is set up for people who have never previously run; some of participants haven't exercised in many years.  To watch them go from people who couldn't run 60 seconds eight-weeks ago to run a 5k is a really cool thing.    
   The weather was perfect for a 5k.  Definitely the nicest day Nashville had seen in 2011 - clear skies and a race temp of around 55.  This race generally sees some nasty weather, so I grateful for the sunshine - especially since we'd had such bad weather for training.
   The race started at 7:30, so I got there around 6:45.  Chuck, the C25k group leader, wanted us to meet for a brief warm-up and to go over some last-minute race details.   Chuck is great.  He's been a runner for 20+ years and truly loves the sport.  He's also a great motivator, which is perfect for these kind of programs.  After he gave a little pep-talk, we broke up into our pace groups headed to the starting line.  All of the C25kers were excited and a little nervous.  Most of them had their new East Nasty shirts on, which was awesome!  ENFL!
   My pace group actually had three coaches - Heidi, Jen and me.  That way we could spread out if our group split up, which it did almost immediately.  Everyone looked good and strong.  After about 1-mile, I saw my friend (and fabulous jazz vocalist) Christina running solo.  I joined her and ran with her to the end.  The C25k program was her first time running, so it was very cool to finish her first 5k with her.
   Generally, if I'm coaching, I'd run back and try to guide a few other runners in to the finish.  However, because we finished on the field, we were kind of trapped.  So I remained at the finish to cheer on some of the other runners, including Joy and Susi from my book group.  Neither one of them had run a 5k previously either.  Joy's family brought flowers for her, which I thought was awesome, and the look of pure elation on Susi's face when she crossed the finish line is something I'll never forget.
   Hats off to all of the C25Kers!  Thank you for letting me be a part of your journey.  I hope we meet on the road often!!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Rest Day

   I'm not exercising today in any way, shape or form.  It's Thursday and there is a Predators game tonight so I'll be at working until around 10:00.  Working a regular 8-5 job, plus part-time freelance production work just makes too long of a day to fit in a work-out too.  Plus, rest is good.  It allows the body to heal from all of the craziness I force it to go everyday.
   However, I am trying to set up my training schedule for the HIM (Half-Ironman).  I found 20-week beginner schedule that I'm going to compare against the 16-week one my friend Jay gave me.  If I go with the 20-week, that means I have about two months to prepare; the start date would be May 8th.  I'm looking into private coaches as well.  I don't want to go crazy with the money (and coaches can be EXPENSIVE), but a little instruction would be helpful.
   I also signed up for the Ramblin' Rose Sprint Triathlon on May 15th.  That'll be my first tri of the year.  It's pretty short - 250m swim, 9-mile bike and 2-mile run.  It'll give me something to train for other than my 20-week countdown.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Speedwork in the Park

   Generally, I'm a big fan of going to the park and Nashville has some great ones.  Unfortunately, today is Tuesday which means speedwork so today I was dreading going to the park.  Now, I'm not a fast runner by any means (10-minute miler, 9-minutes if I'm feeling good), and I have a tendency to not push myself when I'm running because I'm running distance and I don't want to exhaust myself before my run is over.  Plus, let's be honest here, running fast is hard.  And it hurts.  And sometimes makes me want to puke.  Call me crazy, but doing things that are hard, hurt and make me want to puke are usually not at the top of my list of favorite things to do.
   But, as I said, it's Tuesday and for the next few weeks I'm doing speedwork drills to help me get faster.  Simple premise really - run faster for shorter increments so your body gets used to running at speed.  The plan is one given to me last year when I signed up for speed sessions through Fleet Feet (FF), one of my local running stores.  Yes, I actually paid someone to tell me how to run in a way that makes me want the throw up.  Brilliant of me, huh?  And unfortunately, I didn't maintain my fitness over the year, so any speed I had has been lost.  So here I am, a year later and actually slower than I was this time last year.  Sigh.
  Anyway, today's drills consisted of 8x400 with a 400 break in-between and then mile cool-down run.  For those following along at home, that means I have to run 400 meters targeting a specific time (in my case 2:12), then jog/walk the next 400 and repeat 8 times.   The park where we run doesn't have a track, but there is a 1-mile loop with the 400s clearly marked.  Sometimes, it's a giant pain to run in this particular park because it's centrally located and becomes very popular when the weather is nice, but today it was cold and windy (really windy) so the park was pretty much empty.
   Overall, all 8 of my 400s were below my allotted time, generally less than 2:00.  My legs felt a little dead at first after doing all of the kickboard last night in the pool, but they felt better after the first lap.  Plus, that's just something I need to get used to if I'm going to be able to finish this Half-Ironman.  The wind was definitely an issue as well.   The 2nd, 4th, 6th and 8th repeat was against the wind and man, it just hit you like you smacked a wall.  Totally sucked.  How my times didn't drastically drop on those repeats, I don't know.
  A big shout-out to my friend Heidi, who joined me today.  It's always better for me to have someone to run with, especially if they are my same pace or faster (as in Heidi's case).  I'm sure that's my times were a little too fast - I was trying to keep up with her!  Plus, there is something to having someone there suffering with me that makes speedwork almost fun.  So Thanks Heidi!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Day 1 and I've Already Messed Up!

   Ok, well, maybe not "messed up," but I'm off my schedule already and it's just the first day!  As it can be assumed, I didn't make my spin class this morning.  But not for the standard reason of "I'm too tired," which is good because that would really be lame of me this early into the training.  No, I didn't go because I'm a little injured.
   What I haven't mentioned yet is that I'm scheduled to run a 1/2 marathon in two weeks - the Shamrock Half in VA Beach with some of my besties from college (GO GEORGE MASON!!).  Anyway, I ran a 10-miler yesterday with my running group (East Nasty - I'll be writing about them A LOT).  It seems that I have a weird injury that only occurs when I run 10+ miles.  Nothing too serious - more like an upper-quad strain.  It only hurts when I'm climbing stairs, running hills or, you guessed it - riding a bike.  So no spin class for me.  I know that it might seem weak to give up so quickly on a workout, but the last thing I want is to really injure myself.  I've been exercising enough to know the difference between what's a minor annoyance and can be pushed through and when something has the potential to get worse.  This injury is definitely the latter of the two.
   BUT - to make up for it I did go for my first swim after my run today.  However, the Triathlon Gods seemed to be against me today because I somehow lost my goggles from this morning to this evening when I went to go swim.  NOT COOL.  If you've never swam (swum? gone swimming?) in a YMCA pool without goggles - DON'T.  Chlorine stings.  Bad.  So it was really just the kick-board for me, which was fine for the first time back since August.
   I also watched some "real" swimmers who were able to do the turnarounds at the end of the lanes and used all sort of handflipper-like contraptions to help them swim.  Note to self - find out what those things are.  Probably need to get some!
   So tomorrow - I'm attempting the spin class again, depending on my injury.  Also planning on doing some speedwork during my lunch hour at a local park.  Not a fan of working out over lunch but I have book group tomorrow night so I can't work out then.  The thought of speedwork makes me want to puke a little too, but it works so I need to just shut up and do it.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

So Here We Go...

Well, I went and did something pretty crazy last Thursday.  I went and signed up for a Half-Ironman triathlon.  To put it mildly, I'm kind of stressing about it.  While I've always been somewhat athletic, I've never done attempted anything this insane.  Sure, I've finished several half-marathons and a sprint tri, but that's nothing compared for what is waiting for me on September 25 in Augusta, GA - a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride and a 13.1-mile run.  Talk about getting out of my comfort zone.

So, I thought I'd start writing about my workouts, races and what not; mainly so I have a record for myself, but who knows - maybe someone (if anyone else reads this) will find something interesting or helpful.  

But that's all going to have to happen another night.  It's 9:11pm and I have to get up for a 5:15am spin class.  I've never taken a spin class and have no idea what to expect.  What do I wear?  Cycling shorts?  I know some people bring cycling shoes, but I have Keo pedals and somehow I'm thinking the Y will only have SPDs on their bikes.  See- already, so many things to think about!!  Sigh.

5:15 in the morning is going to come really early...  Ugh.