Thursday, September 29, 2011

Three Things Thursday

1. I seriously can't wait for Saturday. Not only is it the opening weekend of Big 10 football, but Nebraska's coming to Camp Randall to take on the Badgers. A match up between to top 10 teams? I'll take it. I'm jealous I won't actually be in the stadium, or even Madison, where the atmosphere is bound to be absolutely electric. But you can be sure that I'll be sporting my Wisconsin red and parked in front of a TV watching every second of the game. Can't. Wait. Go Badgers! And looking for something good to read? Here's a great piece on Wisconsin's offensive line - or rather, those Big Uglies with a caveman spirit. Love it.

2. OK. Running. I should talk about that. Three runs in three days. I think it's safe to say I've found my running mojo again. And it feels good.Now I've just got to find a few races to keep me on track. I'm already planning on doing a Halloween 5K for fun and I'm pretty sure I'll be putting together some kind of "costume" to run in. That would be a first! And in November there's always the Santa Scamper before the Christmas parade and a turkey trot on Thanksgiving Day. But I think I'm going to add in a 15K on Thanksgiving weekend. I've never done that race distance before, so automatic PR! And December? Well there's a local 5K I've always wanted to run, but schedules have never meshed. This year might be the year. And don't forget, the 1,000 mile goal for the year is still out there...I'm 249.5 miles away from hitting it.

3. Speaking of races. Remember when I ran the Run for the Paws 5K on Labor Day? I came home from work tonight and found this in my mailbox. My 30:30 time (on super tired legs) was good enough for third place in my age group (30-39). Nothing like a small race to get myself some age group bling. Come to think of it, the last time I ran the race - in 2009 - I also came home with a third place age group award.

Bonus: It's actually a huge weekend in the state of Wisconsin for sports. There's the Badgers. But there's also the Milwaukee Brewers, who open up postseason play at Miller Park Saturday afternoon against the Arizona Diamondbacks with a second game planned for Sunday afternoon, the same time the Green Bay Packers are going to be battling it out against the Denver Broncos at Lambeau Field. Oh it will be a good weekend. Can't wait.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Not a whole lot to say

I've got nothing today. So you get this instead.

Oh, I guess I did have a pretty spectacular run tonight. Based on the last two days, I think I might have found my running mojo that went missing for the last week.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

My desire to run went AWOL

I won't lie.

The running has been very very minimal since I crossed the line at the Fox Cities Half Marathon just over a week ago. I had that 3-mile run late last week. And then I had good intentions to get something longer in over the weekend.

And well, I came up with more excuses than miles. Rain. The treadmill wasn't appealing. I had to watch the Badger game Saturday afternoon. Name the excuse and I probably used it.

Once again, I had good intentions on running on Monday. Heck, I even packed a gym bag to take to work since I knew it was going to be raining - hard - all day. But then I worked a little late. And I came up with an excuse not to turn left and head over to the YMCA after I left my work parking lot.

But tonight. I put an end to the excuses. I had the gym bag in my car again, but opted to go home and run outside since it was cool and overcast and there wasn't a chance for rain. I set out for my run, not really knowing how far I was going to go. I just wanted to see what it felt like. And you know what? It felt good. My pace was comfortably hard but I was enjoying the run. I ended up doing 4.65 miles. I would have loved to tack on an extra 1.5 miles for an even 6 miles, but it was starting to get dark and I wasn't dressed appropriately for night time running in a neighborhood with no sidewalks and busy streets.

So it felt good. My plan is log a few miles again tomorrow after work and then meet up with a friend for about 4 miles on Thursday after work. And this weekend? Something longer will get done, just not sure how many miles, when or if they will be run solo or with some of my Fleet Feet buddies.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Three Things Thursday

1. I went for my first post-Fox Cities half marathon run tonight. It was perfect running weather - cool enough for long sleeves, but still comfortable in a pair of shorts. Loved it. When I headed out I wasn't sure how far I was going to go. I wanted to see how the legs felt and my one toe on my left foot has been bothering me this week, it's some combination of a blister and bruise. But the legs were feeling good when I hit two miles, so I tacked on an extra mile. It was nice to not worry about pace or time and just run tonight.

2. Granted even if I wanted to care about pace, I couldn't. I ran the run naked since my Garmin was dead. It was low on a battery Sunday, so I hooked it up to the charger. And today? I couldn't even get the thing to turn on. Hmmm. Is my Garmin dead? Nearing death? Was the lack of audible beeps at the mile intervals a warning sign? Thoughts?

3. A belated recognition of a momentous occasion here on the blog. Sometime over the weekend, I believe it was the Ironman Wisconsin spectating report, I posted my 1,000th post. That's a lot words that I've spewed forth on this blog. Here's to the next 1,000 posts.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Fox Cities Half Marathon Race Report

It's two days later and yes, there's still a tiny part of me that still doesn't quite believe that happened.

All day Saturday while I was getting ready - picking up my packet, figuring out what I was going to wear, going to the team dinner, even falling asleep - I was relatively calm and relaxed. Maybe it was due to the fact that this was half marathon No. 4 for the year or because I've run the distance so many times I know I can do it.

I dunno. Relaxed. Not freaking out. Yet still a little bit odd.

The relaxation carried over into the next morning. I got up in the dark, got myself ready and Mom and I were ready to hit the road at 6 a.m. As we were driving over to the starting line area, I'm checking Facebook and Twitter. And I get a message from my friend Jeff, one of the assistant coaches from the running group and 10-time Ironman finisher.

Sure I came up with the time goals, but I hadn't really given a whole lot of thought to how I was going to get to those goals. Run my own race. Throw down the hammer. Sounded like a plan to me.

 With Myriah and Peggy, part of the Fleet Feet crew, before the race.

We parked and walked over to the starting area where I met up with my teammates. Coach Jim introduced me to another one of his runners, Danielle, and mentioned we ran about the same pace and suggested maybe we run together. But I admit, I was feeling a little selfish. I didn't want to run with anyone. Remember, run my own race (my adopted-at-the-last-minute race plan). I smiled. Nodded my head. Wasn't overly committal and went to find Peggy. A quick pit stop at the port-a-potties and it was time to get ready to run.

Standing in the mass of people, Peggy and I exchanged a few last minute pointers and race strategy, then the horn sounded and it was go time.

I think of all the miles I logged this summer and I couldn't have done it without Peggy.

I went out at a steady pace. I kept myself reigned in. I didn't want to go out too fast. I wanted a nice easy pace for that first mile and then to kick up a notch or two about a mile in once the crowd thinned a bit. Somewhere around Mile 1 I noticed Danielle in her pink running gear. I kept my distance from her, but I think she knew I was there too.

I ran.

Pretty soon we passed the Mile 2 marker and shortly afterwards were heading up the overpass that goes over Highway 441. At the top of the overpass I glanced down at my Garmin, which I had set to the pace screen. And I was surprised when I saw I was holding a 9:50 mile, and that included the uphill on the overpass. I kept running, letting gravity pull me on the downhill.

I wasn't constantly watching my Garmin, but every so often I'd sneak a peak at it. And the pace was always in the 10:00 to 10:15 minute/mile range. But I felt good. I admit, there was a little part of me that was worried that I was going to crash and burn somewhere around Mile 9, but I was feeling good. It didn't feel like I was working hard. So I kept it up.

Right before the Mile 5 aid station I saw a woman standing on the side of the road holding a sign. I can't remember exactly what the sign said, but I did see the word "Badgergirl" and remembered Jess had made a comment that her mom made a sign with my name on it. That was pretty cool. A random person who didn't even know me was cheering me on.

I kept running. Still feeling good. A tiny part of me was still preparing to crash and burn.

I saw my Mom around the Mile 8 marker and almost got run over by a milk truck moments later. Yes, I was on course. Yes, I had the right of way. Yes, he was an impatient trucker who should have been steering clear of a race course.

I kept running. This is a section of the course that I've struggled on in years past. Menasha's not a huge city, but it's a long city. And I swear we run it end to end. Right at Mile 9 we entered Jefferson Park where there was an aid station manned by the fine folks from Fleet Feet. As much as I wanted to slow down, I didn't. Couldn't let those folks down. There was also a bit of wind here, but I dealt with it. It was somewhere around here that I lost Danielle.

I was back out of the park and nearing my trip through Menasha. I caught my Mom right before the bridge and then booked up and over the bridge and into Neenah for the final 3.1 miles. As I passed that Mile 10 marker at the top of the bridge, I glanced down at my Garmin.

I was at 1:45.

And of course the thoughts in my head started swirling. That's 45 minutes to hit a 2:30. Good to know if I do crash and burn these last three miles. But also 40 minutes to hit that 2:25 I was aiming for, the B goal I set for myself. And if I'm really clicking, I've got 37 minutes to hit my A goal of 2:22. And maybe, just maybe 2:20 could be in the cards if everything goes exactly to plan. Nah. Never gonna happen.

I kept running. And did I mention I was still feeling good?

I ran through a neighborhood with big, older homes that I like and made a right turn. I hit 11 miles at 1:55. Still doable. Still feeling good. I rounded the corner and was headed up and over the final bridge. There's an aid station at the end of the bridge and typically I walk the aid stations. Well, I saw my Mom standing there - totally unexpected since after seeing her right before Mile 10 I wasn't planning on seeing her until the finish - and well, I couldn't walk when my Mom was watching. So I grabbed my glass of Gatorade and my cup of water and kept running. I turned the corner and I was in the home stretch.

I don't remember much about the final 2 miles. I was in the zone. Once I turned that corner, I threw the hammer down. Yes, they weren't my fastest miles, but I was determined to finish strong. And that involved no walking. Besides, I was still feeling really good.

You pass the Mile 12 marker right as you pass the street where the finish line is located. It's kind of mean, being so close to the finish yet knowing you've still got a loop through the park passed mansions and the lighthouse. And since we were running right next to the lake, the wind had picked up.

But I ran.

Yes. It was hard. But remember, hammer had been thrown. And I was thinking of all those people I watched at Ironman Wisconsin during the later stages of the marathon. You could tell they were hurting. But did they stop? No. They kept putting one foot in front of the other. And I thought of my friend Krista, the one who got me started in this whole running business, who finished her first 50-mile race the day before and was a rock star. Did she hurt? Probably. Did she give up? Not a chance.

And then about halfway to the lighthouse I glanced at my watch. I had just under a half-mile to go and my Garmin was reading 2:15. Unless something epic happened, I totally had a chance to hit a 2:20 or maybe even a sub-2:20. I pushed it. I wanted that sub-2:20. I worked all summer, running through the heat, the humidity, the runs that started when it was dark out. I put in the miles and honestly at that point wasn't going to let a half-mile stand between me and that sub-2:20 result.

So even though I wanted to slow down and take a short walk break as I rounded that corner and the finish line stretch came into view, I didn't. I fought. I threw the hammer down and I pushed it. I took my headphones out just so I could soak up the finish line atmosphere, but honestly I was in such a zone that I don't remember hearing anything. It was like me and me alone. There was no cheering crowd lining the chute.

Yes, that's me. Hands on my head, not quite believing the number I'm seeing.

This is what crushing your PR looks like.

I threw down a nice finishing kick and hit that finish line.


Honestly I almost couldn't believe that I did that. I mean, I didn't really have any stellar runs this training cycle. And there was never one run that I held close to a 10:35 minute/mile pace for an extended distance. But it was like Sunday was the perfect storm - perfect running weather, a nice amount of pushing by another runner (thanks Danielle), the right mindset and the right amount of confidence in myself.

Post race with Peggy and Amy. PRs all around for these Fleet Feeters.

For those keeping track at home, my previous half marathon PR was set at the Oshkosh Half in April (in less than ideal weather conditions) with a 2:30:05. So this race? That's almost an 11-minute improvement. And when you compare that to my result at Fox Cities in 2010, when I turned in a 2:43:58? Almost unbelievable the progress I've made.

But then I look back and think about everything I've done these last nine months - the early mornings, the hill intervals on a treadmill, the weekly long runs peppered with hills, the 4 runs during the work week - and I realized that I deserve that kind of improvement.

After all. J.J. Watt said it best. Dream Big. Work Hard.

My dreams were pretty dang big, even if I didn't realize what my dream was exactly other than improve my half marathon time. And gosh darn it, I worked plenty hard this year.

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Fox Cities teaser

I owe you a recap of what happened at the Fox Cities Half Marathon on Sunday. And you would think since I had the day off of work today, I would have been able to get it written up. But it's not done.

For my Facebook and Twitter friends, they already know the results. For the rest of you, I'm leaving you in suspense. But I will show you this. And yes, I realize this is not the most flattering picture. But no one ever said running 13.1 miles was glamorous.

It's up to you to decide if you think that face means it was a good day or a bad day on the race course. I'll be back with the details on Tuesday!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Remember this

It's race day. At this point I should be lining up at the starting line. And if there's anything going through my mind, I hope it's this:

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Gotta have some goals, right?

So it's Race Day Eve.

Ideally I'd love to spend the day lounging around. Watching some college football, drinking some water. In general not doing a whole lot. But I don't get to do that.

Nope. Instead I've actually got a fairly lengthy "To Do" list. And some of it probably could have been tackled and accomplished on Friday when I took the day off. Oh well

For starters there's heading over to watch my nephew (who's in first grade) at his second football game. Well, it's more like mostly practice and learning the rules and a little bit of game. Then it's off to meet up with a friend for some race expoing and lunch. And the Badger game. But since it's not on TV (well, unless I find a bar with that particular sports package), I might just be listening to it on the radio. Throw in a team dinner and it's kind of a full day.

Oh yeah. I've still got to figure out what I'm wearing for race day. And should probably come up with a plan of attack for the race. While I haven't figured out a race plan, I do have some goals. And yes, I'll put them out there.

A goal: New PR, finish in 2:22. That's a 10:50 minute/mile pace. A lofty goal, but given the perfect conditions, feeling great on the run and having a stellar mindset, I might be able to do it if I leave everything on the race course.

B goal: 2:25. That's an 11:04 minute/mile pace. This is probably the more realistic goal. But still, it would be a fairly huge PR, besting my current PR by 5 minutes.

C goal: Sub-2:30. This would still be a PR. And I'd be happy.

D goal: Finish, don't die and have a good time.

Come on race day. I'm ready for you.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Ironman Wisconsin Spectating Report

When you hear Ironman, it's not surprising to hear people say it was hard. But have you ever tried spectating at one? Dude. It was hard. Like, by the time my friend Jeff crossed the finish line, it almost felt like I had done an Ironman. Or something close.
But even though it was hard and tiring, it was so much fun. And I got so much out of it. An amazing day. I saw the pros who almost seemed to float through the 140.6 miles without breaking a sweat. The middle of the packers who looked strong throughout, even though you could tell they were hurting at times. And towards the end of the day as the daylight turned into dark and each and every step hurt, you could see the determination in people's faces. Because after all of the hard work they put in, they were going travel 140.6 miles and dang it, they were going to hear the announcer say, "(Name here), you are an Ironman" as they crossed the finish line.

Inspiring stuff. Just what I needed going into race week.

My Ironman spectating started off on Saturday. After running a 9-mile run, my last long run of the training cycle, I headed out with Peggy for Madison. We met up with our friends Jeff, Silvia, Myriah and Josh and scoped out the Monona Terrace area to get the scoop on the best places to watch the swim and logistically how to catch Jeff (who would be trying to finish his 10th Ironman) as he was coming out of the water and minutes later going out on the bike.

Of course after figuring that out, we needed food. So we all headed over to the Glass Nickel for pizza. And of course there were some last minute pointers on bike and run viewing as well as maybe some scheming about future triathlons in our futures. One which could possibly involve a tandem bike. Don't ask.

Race day dawned. Peggy and I loaded up my car and set off for Madison. Once down at the Terrace, we met up with Silvia and Jeff's dog Flecka. It was a mass of people. Everywhere you looked. People. Cameras. Athletes in wetsuits. The energy was amazing. Especially considering it wasn't even 7 a.m.

Soon the cannon was shot and the athletes were off. I wish I could have seen the swim start from the top level of the terrace, but still. Watching from lake level, you could still kind of get a picture of the washing machine like churn that 2,800 athletes produce.

We made a quick pit stop on the Capitol Square for food and caffeine, caught a little bit of the 9/11 observance and headed back to the terrace just in time to spread out and watch for Jeff as he came out of the water and took off on his bike.

Then it was time to head out into the area west of Madison to catch the bike. We went out to Timber Lane, which is about 3/4 of the way through the 40-mile loop that athletes bike twice. It's also home to a monster of a climb.

The atmosphere out there? Tour de France-like. People lining both sides of the street. People running uphill, shouting words of encouragement, as their Ironman in the making tackled the incline. And yes. There was even a group of guys dressed up in costume - one may have been wearing a pink feather boa and a coconut bra - that cheered triathletes on.

We saw Jeff come by twice, he looked good both times, and then headed back to downtown Madison to grab out bikes and start spectating the run.

Of our group, I was the most familiar with Madison since I went to school there, so it was left up to me to figure out the best places to catch Jeff on the run. Looking at the map, I found a couple spots that would allow us to see him on a few occasions. We headed out to the Memorial Union where we could see him at miles 6 and 7ish, then headed over by Camp Randall where we'd see him around mile 10ish. Next it was to the Capitol Square where we could see him at 12.6ish and then about 13.5ish.

The second loop we added in a few extra stops at Jeff's request. He was starting to struggle a little bit, but still looked good. There was an extra stop out by the Natatorium (not sure on miles, maybe 17), back to the Union (miles 19/20), Camp Randall (probably close to 23) and then the Kohl Center (Mile 25). We biked alongside him for about half of the final mile, encouraging him. And, dude. The guy picked up the speed in that final mile. He was keeping his eye on the clock and really wanted to hit that 13 hour mark. Midway through the mile he told us to go and meet him at the finish line.

We did. Ditched our bikes and ran to the finish line area. And somehow managed to miss him. D'oh! But we met up with our Ironman friend - and other friends - afterwards.

Overall it was an amazing experience. To see the triathletes. And the crowd support. And the grit and determination that the athletes had. All of that was worth the walking. And the biking. And the standing on the side of a hill for hours in the blazing hot sun.

Because I went get to Mile 11 on Sunday and I'm starting to struggle and just wish that I was finished, I'm going to look back. Those Ironmen struggled. It hurt. They could have pulled off to the side of the road as they were biking up Timber Lane - for the second time - and just threw in the towel. But they didn't.

They kept going. Because they wanted it. And in most cases, they got it.

So congrats to all the Ironmen out there who tackled Ironman Wisconsin. I'm thankful I got to see it. And to Jeff - thanks for letting me be a small part of your 10th Ironman finish!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Three Things Thursday: Fox Cities Half Marathon Edition

1. So it's race week. Which means I've been antsy. And concentration has completely disappeared. I just want it to be the weekend so I can pick up my packet, figure out a plan and run my race. And of course the week has been dragging! Thankfully I thought ahead and took Friday off. But still. This has been the longest 4-day work week.

2. I've been light on the running this week. I skipped Monday to recover from my Ironman Wisconsin spectating and Tuesday it just got too late. I did get in 4 miles last night and plan on getting in an easy 2-3 miles tonight. Then? It's time to rest.

3. I'll be back with a separate post about race goals and looking back at my training. But rest assured, after the actual race itself? I've got the most important thing covered. An hour-long massage has been scheduled for Monday! Can't wait for that.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Actual photos of me running

Hey. Remember when I ran the Madison Mini Marathon in August?

I've actually got proof that I ran it. I finally got around to looking at the professional photos that were taken. And while I liked some of them, I'm really not in the mood to pay the incredibly steep fees those photogs want. So I used the screenshots. Because it's not often that you come across a good race photo.

Waiting out the rain delay inside an air conditioned theater at the Memorial Union with @ptg1002 and @MsIndigo

 This one is actually my favorite. I like to think I look a little bit like a bada$$ here. A runner on a mission.

So I might have a slight problem with looking down at the pavement sometimes when I run.

Heading onto the Lakeshore Path. Just a little over 2 miles to go.

Finish line sprint. Yes, I passed that chic in the yellow.

 I look a little bit like death here. But mostly because I was hot and wet. But I needed to get the pic in front of the iconic Union Terrace chair.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Spectating report to come

Guys. Spectating at Ironman Wisconsin? Hard. But so much fun!

And while I've (mostly) recovered, you'll have to wait a couple of more days for the full spectating report and what I thought. Mostly because my computer is being stupid. Seriously. Almost 5 minutes to load a web page? I don't even want to think how long it will take to upload photos.

But I'll leave you with this.

Because Ironmen? They're not too bad on the eyes.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Three Things Thursday

1. Are you ready for some football? I know I am! I can't wait for the NFL season to kick off tonight at Lambeau Field. And you bet I'll be sporting my green Aaron Rodgers jersey tonight. The only bad part about today? Instead of heading up to Green Bay to take in all of the kickoff festivities that are going on, I'll be at work. Somehow I have a feeling my concentration level will be pretty close to non-existent.

2. Last night I headed out to meet up with Peggy for a run after work. We had 6 miles on our training plan and both of us have realized that 6 miles is about the cut off point for where running alone is tolerable. We can both do the longer miles alone, but find them so much easier and more enjoyable when we're with a running buddy. So we met up and ran. And the miles? They literally flew by. And they didn't feel hard. We took them pretty easy, even sprinkling in a few short walk breaks, but still finished with a fairly decent pace. We were happy.

3. And the run gave us a chance to make some more plans for this weekend. Because we're heading down to Madison to take in all the Ironman Wisconsin craziness and cheer on our friend, fellow Tough Mudder and coach Jeff as he travels the 140.6 miles. So excited. It's going to be an amazing and inspirational weekend. And I'm pretty sure I'll walk away on Sunday with the desire to add a triathlon on to my 2012 race calendar. I missed it this year.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Run for the Paws 5K Race Report

Given the face that I had run nearly 14 miles the day before, I wasn't sure what to expect when I lined up at the starting line for the Run for the Paws 5K on Monday morning.

It's a Labor Day race followed by a parade and festival (featuring free corn!) in a small town that my friend Amanda lives near. I did the race in 2009 and it was a nice small, local race. Knowing I needed to get 3 miles in anyway on Monday and that I hadn't seen Amanda in a few months, I signed up.

Of course, that was thinking my long run would be on Saturday and I'd have a day to recover. Dang Mother Nature.

Before the lightning pushed my long run back a day, I was initially thinking I'd use the 5K on Monday to test out my speed. It was supposed to be cooler and the route is fairly flat. Fast forward to Sunday night, I had legs that were feeling a little trashed (even though I sported my green CEP compression socks all day) and I was seriously thinking of hanging back with Amanda and just getting the miles in at the run/walk pace that she's used to.

But then race day dawned and the legs didn't feel too bad. We lined up at the starting line. I told Amanda I was going to go out and see how I felt. But she shouldn't be surprised if she found me on the side of the road midway through waiting for her.

The gun went off. I started running. There were probably only about 25 people running so I was fairly close to the front. Kind of weird feeling. Anyway.

First mile I was feeling good, but I didn't realize I was running a 9:30 mile. Huh. Guess my legs weren't as trashed as I thought they'd be a day after almost 14 miles. Somewhere around 1.2 miles the route made a left turn and we were heading north on a village street. Straight into the wind. Not a bad wind, but you could definitely feel it. I tried to keep the pace up though. Went through the water stop, grabbed a glass and walked for maybe 10 seconds. Started to run again. Second mile in 10:00.

About a half mile later we made another left hand turn and we in the home stretch. Unfortunately we were also heading uphill. Not a nasty uphill by any means, but enough that it caused my legs to start getting cranky with me. I refused to walk the uphill, waiting until I got to the top before I let myself walk for about 20-30 seconds. This is also when a pair of girls that were behind me - who I had been holding off the entire race so far - passed me along with another woman. Them passing me was kind of a downer, but then I remembered, hello, you just ran 14 miles yesterday. It's OK to take it easy.

I started running again, refused to stop. Made the last turn onto the finish line straight away and tried to kick it into a finish line sprint. I sprinted. But didn't have enough road to catch the three woman that passed me during that brief walk break.

I finished in 30:30. Not too bad considering it was on tired legs from the weekend's long run the day before. And considering it's just 40 second slower than my 5K PR? I'll take it. I got my finisher's medal and chugged some chocolate milk and water. We didn't stick around for the awards ceremony because the pancake breakfast at the high school was calling our names.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Moving the long run, but a good choice.

Nothing like Mother Nature to throw a wrench into long holiday weekend plans.

I was set to have my final long run - 13 miles - before taper starts for Fox Cities on Saturday. The weatherman said there was a chance of showers on Saturday, but it wouldn't be until the afternoon. So did all the pre-long run stuff on Friday night that I usually do and went to bed at a somewhat reasonable time.

Well when 5:15 rolled around, I was not only greeted by the buzzing of my alarm, but also a huge crack of thunder, so much lightning flashing that I could have been confused and thought it was 5:15 in the afternoon and the text message alert sound from my phone.

"WTF? Do we have a contingency plan? Breakfast now, run tomorrow AM? Lightning and thunder."

After a brief, half-asleep text message phone tree with my running buddies Peggy, Myriah and Amy, it was a no-brainer. We're going back to sleep.

So I did. And I eventually woke up to sunny skies, a guilty feeling about skipping the run and then was blasted with the humidity. But plans were in place to get the run in Sunday morning.

We met up at the park - minus Myriah, who's been sidelined with some knee pain - and let me tell you. We were rewarded for waiting 24 hours. Some light cloud cover, no humidity and temperatures in the mid-50s! Guys, it was actually a little chilly! Loved it.

I ran with Peggy, we talked race strategy, general life stuff and started to make tentative plans for Ironman spectating. Jeff rode along side us for portions of the run and offered good advice. I was feeling great.

And then I hit Mile 10 and my left knee started getting cranky. It's been happening every so often since I banged it mid-fall from the Berlin Walls at Tough Mudder. I'm also pretty sure the crankiness is my body's way of reminding me my shoes need to be replaced. The pair I was wearing Sunday had about 350 miles on them and it was time to start breaking in the new pair for race day last week, but with limited runs (one 7-miler) I didn't start last week.

So the last three miles were a bit of a struggle. The pace slowed down a bit. A few brief stretch breaks just to try to get the tightness worked out. But there were also some mental battles in my head. Self-doubt crept in. Worries about the half marathon in two weeks and if I'll be able to pull out the kind of performance I want since I feel like I haven't had that one great long run this training cycle.

And all the negative thoughts? Jeff did the best he could to banish the negativity as he was riding next to me. Bluntly told me that those thoughts were a load of bulls&$t and that I've made the strides in training this time around and I'll be able to hit the goal. And when it wasn't coming from Jeff it was coming out of Peggy's mouth.

Basically they told me exactly what I needed to hear to get that little bit of confidence back that I needed in order to push through those final miles. And it was reinforced when I finished the run and hit stop on the Garmin. 13.7 miles in just over 2:35. And that includes the drop in pace, struggles with the knee and a few walking breaks in the final 3 miles.

Bring on the taper. Less than 2 weeks.

Friday, September 2, 2011

September could be a pretty good month

How is it already September?

Not that I'm complaining. Because I'm kind of looking forward to the cooler fall temperatures - if they ever decide to show up and stick around - and I've got some pretty cool things planned for the month.

But first I have to mention my Badgers.

Did anyone see that game last night? Bucky was on fire! Or I guess maybe his arms were on fire. See at Wisconsin we've got a tradition. Everytime the Badgers score during the football game, Bucky Badger does that number of pushups on a board that's being held up by the male cheerleaders. On a low scoring night it's not really a problem.

But when the Badgers beat UNLV 51-17? That's a lot of pushups. In fact, last night Bucky did 233 pushups. His arms must have been burning. And while watching last night I decided I'm going to keep track of how many pushups Bucky does this year. Could be interesting.

So now that I've addressed the Badgers (who looked pretty amazing in their victory and I'm pretty stoked to watch our new QB Russell Wilson this season), I can move on to other exciting things I've got planned for September.

It starts this weekend. Sunday night I'm heading down to my old stomping grounds, the 'Burg, to hang out with Amanda, a friend of mine. On Monday we're heading over to Randolph, this little village near her house, for Run for the Paws, a local 5K and corn carnival. I did the 5K with her two years ago and am pretty excited to make a return appearance. The first time I did it was a small little race and I actually placed in my age group! Looking forward to seeing what I can do this year.

Next weekend? It's going to be pretty cool. My friend Peggy (who just started a blog, stop by and say hi!) and I are heading down to Madison to cheer on Jeff, a friend of ours and fellow Tough Mudder teammate, as he tackles Ironman Wisconsin. Even though I went to school in Madison, I never got to experience an Ironman since the event was first staged the fall after I graduated. So I'm super excited to spectate and cheer on all the athletes. Should be a pretty inspiring weekend and it comes at a great time because....

The next weekend is the Fox Cities Half Marathon. My 'A' race for the fall. I'm pretty sure there will be more written about this race as race day gets closer.

So a pretty busy month. And that's only the first three weekends! I'm ready!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Three Things Thursday: Game Day edition!

1. It's game day! In a matter of hours you'll find me sitting in front of a TV watching as the Badgers open up their season, and the entire college football season, against UNLV at Camp Randall. So. Excited. I've been waiting for what seems like forever. Or since Jan. 1 when Wisconsin lost a heart breaker to those darn Horned Frogs from TCU and JJ Watt cried during the post-game press conference. But it's a new season. And it could be a special one. And it all starts tonight. Under the lights. Kick off is at 7 p.m. And I'm pretty sure the concentration level while I'm at work today will be non-existent.

2. But before I get to watch the Badgers I've got a run date set up with a new running partner here in Oshkosh. I know Jes through Twitter and we're both in the middle of half marathon training and run about the same pace. So the plan is to meet up after work for a quick 5 miles. I'm looking forward to it!

3. Speaking of football. Did anyone see this? Apparently President Obama wanted to make a speech to the joint session of Congress on Wednesday, Sept. 7 but after some outcry from Republicans pushed it back to the next day. No big deal, right? Well, Sept. 8 just happens to be the NFL season opener. You know, the Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers taking on the New Orleans Saints at Lambeau Field? I'm pretty sure there might be a few angry Packer fans in Wisconsin if the President's speech interrupts the game and we miss a chunk because TV shows the speech instead of the game. Just sayin'.

Bonus: As I was adding up mileage for the month of August I realized I had another 100+ mile month! I logged 113.45 miles for the month. That's the third time I've hit that number this year (or actually ever) and my highest monthly mileage total (previous high was 111.7 miles in March). This brings me to 677.75 miles for the year, and leaves me needing 322.75 more miles before the end of the year if I want to hit that 1,000 mile goal. Four months. Think I can do it?