Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Still working on consistency. But I have it in my sights.

So I tried to get more consistent with my running this month. Remember? I was aiming for 3 runs a week and hoping to log 30 to 40 miles this month?

Well, I didn't accomplish that goal. But I didn't fail miserably either.

I started off the month on the right foot, running four out of the first nine days. But then something happened mid-month and I lost a bit of that running mojo. The runs? The dropped down to about once a week.

So I finished the month with seven runs and 21.2 miles. Not great. But not awful. Let's just say there's room for improvement.

And I might be on the right track. Because tonight? I headed over to the YMCA and reintroduced myself to the treadmill. And we got along fabulously for 4.3 miles which I ran in 45 minutes. I started off nice and slow (the first mile was clocked at 11 minutes flat) and slowly increased my speed. I was averaging around a 10 minute, 20 second mile in the middle of the run, but I really pushed it the last half mile or so. The 4 miles were finished in 42 minutes, 49 seconds. Not bad.

The run felt really good. And I hope that's a sign of things to come in October. Because I will regain consistency and I will break 40 miles for the month. Because I've also got myself signed up for a challenge on DailyMile. A challenge to log 40 miles running in the month of October.

Bring it.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Swim class number 3

And in the third week I learned to do bilateral breathing.

Yes folks. I can now breathe on both sides when I swim.

When it comes to having to take a breath while swimming, I've always taken it on the right side. I'm not sure if I never learned how to breathe on my left side, or if I've never been comfortable with it, so I just stuck to breathing on my right.

But this morning, after doing a warm up and some drills, we had the option to break off into a training group and tackle a longer swim workout or do some small group work with the coach and work on breathing. Me? I decided to squeeze every penny and morsel of information out of my $30 class fee and went with the breathing group.

We worked on the separate pieces, utilizing a side swimming kick first on our right side then the left. Then we'd swim half the length of the pool on side and switch to the other. Pretty soon we were putting all the pieces together and putting the new bilateral breathing technique into practice.

Nice. I liked it. It felt comfortable.

Overall it was a good class. Learned I need to keep my head lower in the water and how to breathe on both sides today. Not bad.

Was going to go for a short run on the treadmill tonight after work. But it was miserable outside. Super windy with steady winds around 30 miles per hour and gusts up around 40. Cold with temperatures in the low 50s and rainy. Yuck. Plus I had a pounding headache all day. So I ditched the run and just went home.

I'm OK with that though. But I think the swim class was a success this morning.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The end of my run turned into an obstacle course

Remember that day I talked about regaining consistency with my running? The goal to go about 3 times a week? Well I started out the month pretty good. But my last run? It was over a week ago.


So today I knew I would lace up the running shoes and run. I just wasn't sure where.

The weather was really funky today. For most of the day the sky looked like it was going to start storming any second. And it wasn't super warm, but it was muggy. So I was all set to head over to the YMCA after work and reacquaint myself with the treadmill.

But when I left the office? It was sunny and there was a slight breeze. Yes, it was still a little muggy, but a tolerable muggy. So I decided to ditch the YMCA, head home and head out in my neighborhood.

Like I said, I haven't run in over a week, so I was just planning on the short, 2-mile loop I run in my neighborhood. But I was running, and feeling good. So by the time I hit that last home stretch, with the end in sight, I decided to keep going. Ran through some new neighborhoods that I sometimes bike through but have never explored on foot.

Over the last half-mile I was kind of zoning out. Which was probably a good thing since it's been kind of a rough week and I just needed to clear my head. Unfortunately as I'm running along all of a sudden there something blocking my path.

Bambi's mom.

Yup, almost ran smack dab into road kill. That my friends would not have been pretty. But I managed to avoid it and finished up the run.

Overall it felt good. I put in 3 miles and maybe could have kept going, but I had a date with my recliner to watch The Office. I'm heading into the office late tomorrow morning, so I'm crossing my fingers I can get myself out of bed early enough to sneak in a quick run before work.

Today I remembered what it is that I like about running and why I really need to consistently lace up the sneakers.

Monday, September 21, 2009

A second attempt at swim class

It was Monday, which meant I tried the whole swim class thing again.

The alarm started blaring at 5 a.m. (it was still dark by the way, just like last week) and I rolled out of bed, threw on my stuff and headed out the door.

I got to the pool and picked up a pair of flippers and got in. Our coach - side note, not only is it weird to say I've got a coach, but especially since I don't remember his name. I think it might be Rick - told us we were starting with a 250 yard warm up.


Folks, I haven't swam since the Oshkosh Triathlon at the beginning of August. So a 250 yard warm up? This could be tough. But I started swimming. And I really didn't stop. Just momentarily around 100 yards, mostly to let the girl in front of me get a bit of distance. I didn't want to get kicked in the face at 5:30 in the morning.

With the warm up done, we were told to put on our flippers. Now, I swear I picked up a matching pair, but some how I ended up with one blue flipper and one that was half blue and half lime green. Oh well.

We started out with this ladder of 7 50 yard swims, each time getting progressively faster, with about a minute of rest in between. Not knowing how fast I could go, I started out pretty slow and gradually tried to get faster. I think my first 50 was about 50 seconds (yes, I said I went slow) and I ended up finishing the last one in just shy of 40 seconds. Not speedy, but I'll take it.

Then it was time for drills.

Drills? What are these? I've never done drills. My previous swim "workouts" have consisted of me getting in the pool and just swimming back and forth. But drills were being added today, hopefully to help me become a better swimmer.

We did one-armed swimming, some one-armed swimming with a shoulder lift and finally a drill the coach called high elbow entry delay. They were interesting. I've got the idea, but I struggled a bit. I'm pretty confident I'll catch on quickly though.

Before I knew it, the hour was up and it was time to go.

The swim felt good. I didn't feel as intimidated as I did last week and I felt more comfortable in the water. I managed to find two other girls in the class who are at my skill level, so I'm hoping to hang out in a lane with them. I think I'm going to end up liking this.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Races from a different perspective

I saw a race from a different perspective today.

From the eyes of a volunteer and a spectator.

Today was the Fox Cities Marathon, the site of my first - and only - half marathon two years ago. Last years I missed it because I was still recovering from the attack of The Monster and this years I didn't sign up because I haven't been getting along with running so there was no way I was prepared to run 13.1 miles.

But I wanted to do my part. So I signed up as a volunteer. And I spent the morning handing out Mylar blankets and offering words of congratulations to half marathon finishers and then spent a portion of the afternoon standing along the course and cheering on marathon runners to the finish.

As I was standing in the finish chute, I saw the elation as people crossed the line. Finishing their first or 40th half marathon. Seeing the result of weeks of training and long runs. Seeing the excitement on their faces when they realized they just set a new personal best.

And I realized I wanted that too.

I want to put in the miles, hours and sweat to be able to cross that finish line myself next September. I want to see if I can best my half marathon time from 2007 and see if running 13.1 miles is easier the second time around. So starting tomorrow it's my goal, get ready to tackle the half marathon again. Those 13.1 miles should be scared.

While coming to that realization that I wanted to add another half marathon to my list was a big thing, that wasn't the best part of the morning.

No. That came courtesy of a woman whose name I don't even know.

I was standing there with a Mylar blanket in my hands when she crossed the finish line 13.1 miles after she started the run. While she was walking through the chute, I reached out and offered her a Mylar blanket. She smiled, nodded. I wrapped the blanket around her shoulders, told her congratulations and to enjoy the recovery period, because she deserved it.

And even though she had just run a half marathon, she turned, smiled at me and said, "And I thank you for all that you did today."

And with that, she walked to the back of the chute to claim her medal - a sign of what she had done today and in the days and months leading up to that moment.

Yes, I've run races and done triathlons. And I've relied on those volunteers and know what an important role they play. But I never thought about that when I signed up for the volunteer role. And to have that woman take time out of an amazing day for her just to thank me, made me realize I need to do the same thing next time. Because volunteers are important, just as important as our friends and family who stand by our sides when we decided to tackle these events.

Monday, September 14, 2009

I received a fail in sinking

I learned something today.

When the alarm clock starts beeping at 4:45 a.m.? It's still pitch black outside. And driving anywhere at that time of the morning will require headlights. It's early. And black.

And I've got 13 more weeks ahead of me to get used to it.

See I signed myself up for a triathlon swimming class at the YMCA. It's 14 weeks long, meets every Monday morning (not so) bright and early at 5:30 a.m. and runs for an hour. It's supposed to help us become better swimmers - whether it's speed or endurance or comfort that we're aiming to achieve. Me? I just thought it would be a good way to keep myself going to the pool and in the back of my mind maybe I'm hoping I can learn a few things to make myself a tiny bit faster in the water.

So today was class number one.

I admit, while I was sitting there with the rest of the people who showed up this morning, listen to the instructor rattle off his impressive swimming resume, I felt a little intimidated. I wasn't sure how this was going to go. Yes, I took swimming lessons as a kid. Learned how to freestyle and backstroke. But the butterfly or breast stroke? No idea. And once I hit 10 years old, I didn't continue with lessons and didn't even step foot back into a pool until last year when I decided to do my first tri.

We eventually got in the pool. Jumped feet first into the deep end where we proceeded to scull for about 20 minutes. Funny, I always thought it was called treading water. Apparently "scull" is the term. So we sculled. And then we were supposed to sink down 10 feet to the bottom of the pool and push off towards the top. Epic fail. My sinking? It was about 3 feet, if that. Apparently I don't sink. Other people could sink, but I couldn't. Needless to say I was happy when I got to don a pair of flippers and work on a bit of kicking. I can kick. And apparently inhale a lot of chlorinated water. Because I did that too.

Yes. I didn't drown. But I did walk away from the pool this morning feeling a little intimidated. Like maybe I was in over my head. But I'll keep going. And maybe after a few weeks it'll start to get easier and I won't feel like a fish out of water.

One thing's for sure. It's not going to be getting any lighter at 5 a.m. If anything, it'll probably get darker.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Eight years ago today

It's hard to believe it's been eight years.

Eight years and I still remember exactly where I was when I heard the news. Eight years and I remember exactly where I was when those towers fell. Eight years and it still remains a little unreal yet so fresh in my mind.

Our lives have regained some sense of normalcy, but the events of that day have never escaped my mind. And even though the footage of those planes hitting the towers was played over and over in the days and weeks following the attack and on the anniversaries, it still doesn't seem real and I still shudder when I see it.

And today, the eighth anniversary of that horrific attack, I still grieve. And I remember the 2,974 victims that were killed: 2,750 connected to the World Trade Center, 40 in a Pennsylvania field and 184 at the Pentagon. Those numbers do not include the 19 hijackers.

I will never forget.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Run for the Paws Race Report: Bringing Home Hardware

Labor Day is supposed to mean a day off of work. A day to sleep in. Enjoy the last weekend of summer. It's never included a 5 a.m. wake up call or bringing home a piece of hardware for me.

Today it did.

I ran in the Run for the Paws 5K this morning in Randolph, Wis. My friend Amanda had asked me about a month ago if I wanted to run it with her. With no Labor Day plans and the promise of free corn at the Korn Karnival, I signed myself up.

Randolph is a bit of a drive from where I live, and the race was already scheduled to start insanely early - a 6:45 a.m. start time - so I went down to Beaver Dam and crashed at Amanda's house last night.

The alarm went off at 5 a.m., I jumped in the shower (hey, it wakes me up) and we were on the road and driving through heavy fog by 5:45.

Yes. Heavy fog. The kind of fog that means you can barely see a car length in front of you as you drive down the highway, crossing your fingers no animals decide to jump out of the fields lining the road. Hmmm, I thought. This could be interesting.

We got to the park, picked up our packets and got ready to run.

The start time was pushed back about 15 minutes in hopes the fog would lift and it would be safer for the runners. That was nice since the routes were entirely along country roads.

With the sun high in the sky and the clock reading 7 a.m., the bull horn emitted this ambulance-like noise signaling the start of the race. It was still foggy. But I ran.

It was a little eerie actually. I mean, it was foggy, so you couldn't see very far in front of you. Once a runner got ahead of you, you could see them in the distance, but basically just their outline. Couldn't make out a lot of features and good luck trying to see the corners up ahead where you would need to turn.

It was a smaller race, which meant with fewer runners, I was pretty much running on my own. Setting my own pace with no one next to me. Almost made me feel as though I was just out for my daily run.

It was an out and back run, the first time I've actually had a course like this I think. And honestly? I didn't like it that much. The biggest trouble spot was where the water station was set up. It was about 1.25 miles in and right at a corner. It was stationed on the side of the road you would run on on the way out, but at the pre-race instructions, we were told to hit the water station on the way back in, meaning it probably should have been set up on the other side of the road. The problem was the runners who had passed the turn around were flying around the corner, coupled with back of the pack runners who decided to hit up the water station and just stand there. A little congestion. A little confusion and a bunch of close calls in terms of people almost colliding.

I was lucky to avoid it.

The run itself went OK. I hit the first mile around 11:30, thought I needed to pick up the pace a bit. Haven't got a clue what my other mile times were. About a quarter-mile from the end, I kicked it into a higher gear, trying to out run this guy in a blue tank top. He ended up beating me by 2 or 3 seconds. Ugh. So close.

I ended up finishing in 34 minutes, 14 seconds. Good enough for third place in my age group.

And that's also a new PR for me this year in a 5K. Down almost 3 minutes from the year's first 5K in April after having a ton of set backs due to the Monster last year. Still about 2 minutes slower than my pre-Monster 5K PR though. But it's getting closer. And to think I've barely run in the past month. Makes me wonder if my sub-32 minute 5K is in the cards yet this year.

Friday, September 4, 2009

I danced the night away

Runs can be skipped when musicians beckon.

I had tickets to go see O.A.R. last night in Madison. So I pulled one of those days where you eat lunch at your desk to sneak out the office earlier. When the hands on the clock pointed at 4 p.m. I was out the door. On my way to Madison.

The concert was at the Overture Center, this great venue downtown used for performing arts. Usually musicals, symphonies and other theatrical productions.

But last night O.A.R. took the stage. And it was amazing.

It was general admission, so first come first serve for seating. My friend Amanda and I got there about a half hour before the show started and staked out a pair of seats on the outskirts of the main level. But it was nice. Because it was in the upper level of the main level, so we were actually sitting above everyone on the main floor, so when the show started and they all stood up, we could still see the stage without having to stand.

Of course, I couldn't resist. I couldn't make it through an entire show siting down. About four songs in, I was out of my seat, dancing the night away as the boys jammed on stage. So I'll count that as my "workout" for the day.

Like I said, concert? It was amazing. Good mix of tunes. We had some newer stuff - "This Town" and "Shattered" off their new album - as well as some older stuff - "About Mr. Brown" and "Dareh Meyod." Midway through the set they sat down in a semi circle and busted out an acoustic set with "I Feel Home" and the opener Brett Dennen sat in on a rendition of Paul Simon's "The Obvious Child." Good stuff.

And it wouldn't be an O.A.R. concert without the crowd (and one of my) favorite "That Was A Crazy Game of Poker." Good closer before coming back out on stage for a 2-song encore.

So fabulous concert. Well worth the ticket price, the 2-hour drive to Madison and the late night. Unfortunately I forgot my camera. So no photographic evidence. But trust me. It was good. Both to listen to and look at.

Even though I woke up this morning with sore legs from the dancing, I did manage to crank out a mid-morning 2-mile run. Hoping to sneak in a short one tomorrow morning before I take off for some Labor Day weekend fun. Have a good one!
* Photo courtesy of Wisconsin State Journal

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Paging consistency


It's something that's definitely been lacking in my running lately.

Want an example? In August I logged four runs for a total of 12.3 miles. And one of those runs? Yeah, it was the run portion of a triathlon. It wasn't much better in July - five runs, 15.4 miles consisting of two 5Ks and a triathlon. In fact, the month with the highest mileage for me this year? It was April and I was just shy of 22 miles.

It hasn't been pretty.

And it's not that I don't enjoy running. Because once I lace up the sneakers, plug in my iPod and start putting one foot in front of the other, I like it. I like the feeling being able to just go out there and run and how it gives me a chance to clear my head of all the crap that sometimes gets cluttered there during the course of the day.

It's actually going out and putting one foot in front of the other that I've been having problems with lately. Getting out the door and going. The past few weeks I've come home from work and kind of felt the urge to go run. A couple of times I even threw my running clothes on. But then the motivation to get out the door and run suddenly vanishes. And I'd rather curl up in my chair and read. Or watch TV - something I rarely do to begin with - or even putz around online. Basically anything BUT run.

I got to thinking. How can I find the consistency I used to have. And the answer came to me.

Plans. Goals.

So here's the plan:
  • Aim for three runs a week. Throw in a bike or two and try to hit the pool once.
  • Aim for 30 miles this month. It'd be nicer to maybe hit 40 miles, but I've been struggling to even hit 20 miles per month this year. And there are 30 days in the month, that's just 1 mile per day. Totally do-able.
  • Slowly increase mileage. Start with 2-3 miles per run. See if I can get a long run to 5 miles by the end of the month.
Doesn't sound too difficult, does it?

I got off on a good foot tonight. As usual, I putzed around when I got home. Tried to avoid the run. But I eventually got out the door.

I was planning on a 2-mile run since I haven't run since last week when I tackled two treadmills at the YMCA. But once I got running and threw in a couple of speed intervals, it felt good. I wanted to keep running. So I added on an extra leg and bumped the run up to 3.25 miles. Ended up doing 9 intervals (averaging between 30 seconds and a minute) and finished up the run in 33 minutes, 27 seconds. Not bad.

Gotta start somewhere.