Thursday, May 27, 2010

Three Things Thursday

1. Tomorrow marks the official end to my slacking. Since the half marathon I've run once and pulled out the bike a handful of times. Which wouldn't be the end of the world, but I've got a triathlon coming up in mid-June. So beginning Saturday: More biking. More running. And I've really really got to reintroduce myself to that thing called a pool.

2. Dear Mother Nature, I'm not complaining about the warmer temperatures. Really. I like it that it's starting to get all summer-like. But couldn't we just ease into the warm temps? I mean really. Going from upper 40s to upper 80s within a span of a few days? Rough. And the humidity? You can keep that, after all, it is only the end of May.

3. I went to cooking school Wednesday night. It was one of the Taste of Home Cooking Schools. The lady showed us how to make 10 recipes. And I admit, when she showed us how to make Caesar salad? I was a bit skeptical. Really? A salad? All it was was lettuce, cheese and homemade croutons. I guess it was the homemade dressing that counted as the cooking school lesson. Don't worry, it got better and was actually an enjoyable night.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A weekend wrap-up

Weekends are way too short. I really think the standard weekend should be three days, because two days? Not enough time.

It was a fairly busy weekend in Badgergirl's land, so I'm going with the bullet points for a quick recap:
  • I started the weekend off by heading up to The Rugrats' house. My niece was having a slumber party for her birthday, so picture a bunch of 8-year-old girls spending the night getting pampered with painted toe and fingernails. While I did my share of applying polish, for most of the evening I hung out with my youngest nephew, figuring out where the stickers went in his Star Wars sticker book (easier said than done since he decided to take all the stickers out of the book and THEN figure out where they went).
  • Saturday was absolutely gorgeous outside. So in the afternoon I headed out for my first run post-half marathon. I decided to go for a 3 mile run since my toe (the one still healing from the nasty blister/toenail trauma) was bothering me. And the shorter distance was probably a good bet since it was fairly humid out. But other than a somewhat painful toe, the run felt really good! I finished the run in 29 minutes, 57 seconds. And I know I'm being super picky here, but that's sub-10 minute miles for me! Amazing! Needless to say I was happy, even if my toe wasn't.
  • The rest of Saturday was spent hanging out with some family at an anniversary party for my aunt and uncle.
  • Hot. Humid. Windy. That was what Mother Nature gave us Sunday. It was 90 today and it isn't even the end of May! Crazy. Since I spent the morning/early afternoon looking at patio sets with my Mom, I opted to go for a bike ride before dinner. Since I didn't have my bike with me, I took my Dad's commuter-style bike out for a spin. I got the 9 miles in, but let me tell you, it was tough. So much different than what I'm used to. At times it felt like I was barely moving even though I was working so hard. Of course, part of that was due to the strong winds I was biking into. Oh well. Mental note to self: Bring your own bike with you the next time you plan on biking at Mom and Dad's.
And that's the weekend. Now it's time to put a few more things away and make tomorrow's lunch before crawling into bed with a book. Hope you all had a great weekend!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Three Things Thursday

1. I haven't run since Sunday's half marathon. I was going to go for a short run tonight after work, but decided not to. It was 80 degrees, sunny and kind of humid today. Add that to whatever is growing and bothering my allergies, the fact that it smells like dead fish and I want to give my toe another day or two to recover from the nasty blister. So I didn't run. I think Saturday is going to be the first post-half marathon run.

2. Now that the half marathon is done, I really need to switch gears a bit and focus on triathlon training. High Cliff is a month. And then the Trek Women's is in July. I can fit the biking into my running schedule no problem. It's the swimming I've got to stop ignoring.

3. I'm ready for a vacation. Or at least the weekend. Good thing tomorrow is Friday. The downside to the weekend? It's going to be busy again - helping out at a party for my niece, a family anniversary party and since it's supposed to be beautiful, I will spend some time running and biking.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

About that time I almost cried in Lambeau Field

There I was, 12.5 miles into the Green Bay Half Marathon, running through the players' tunnel and approaching Lambeau Field and I'm almost crying.

Still running. But almost crying.

And it's not because I'm in pain and just wishing the finish line would appear and I'd be done. Because honestly, at that point, I'm still feeling pretty good. Nope. I become emotional because all of a sudden it hits me what I've accomplished.

I'll try not to get all sappy, but I can't make any promises. Because in my mind? Finishing this half marathon was kind of a big step for me.

Take a step back in time to September 2007. After The Great Neck Slicing of 2007, I decided to run my first half marathon, the Fox Cities Half Marathon. I found a training plan, logged the miles and on race day, I finished the 13.1 miles. I was at a pretty good place in my life. Happy. Healthy. I had plans.

The next thing I knew, two months later The Monster decides to take up residence in my head. I get sick. Want to chop my head off it hurts so bad. I don't remember most of December 2007. Doctors figure out what wrong with me. I take the drugs. Force The Monster out of my head.

But in the process I take a million steps backwards in terms of fitness. One month I'm able to run 13.1 miles and just three months later I'm struggling to run a mile. It doesn't stop there. I lose big chunks of hair. I gain weight. I'm not happy.

But I don't want The Monster to think he's won. And since running is still so hard (and honestly at that point I didn't enjoy it), I set my sights on a triathlon. I finish my first - the Danskin Women's Triathlon - and my Mom says if she didn't know me, so would have thought I was one of the cancer patients or survivors crossing the finish line. I wasn't fast, but I was proud, because I showed The Monster he wasn't going to win. That I'd be back to the person I was before he invaded my head.


And that's what I spent a good chunk of 2008 and 2009 doing. Getting back to where I was pre-Monster. I shed the pounds. I rediscovered way I loved running. And once I rediscovered that love, I knew what I had to do.

Tackle the half marathon again.

So I did. I picked Green Bay and circled the date on my calendar. Picked out a training plan, logged the miles and prepared myself for my final battle with The Monster. A battle that would show him what I'm made of. That he couldn't beat me, no matter how hard he tried.

And that's why I almost broke down and cried on Sunday when I stepped onto the warning track that goes around Lambeau Field. Because I made it. I was minutes away from crossing the finish line of half marathon number 2. And while it took me time, I got back to the person I was before The Monster showed up.

Take that.

I'm a stronger person now than I was before The Monster arrived. All of the struggles, the times I've just wanted to quit and sit down and cry. They've made me the person I am today. A person who knows the good things in life aren't necessarily easy, that sometimes it's hard to lace up the sneakers and go out for a run. A person who rediscovered why she loves going for a run. Someone who understands that all of the hard work, struggles and pain I've put in during training will all pay off when I cross that finish line.

As I crossed that finish line Sunday, I didn't just add another medal to my collection. While I didn't come in first among the 7,000 runners who started the race Sunday, I did beat The Monster. I won the battle.

And now I can close the book on the chapter of my life that's been devoted to The Monster. I've learned a lot from him, but it's time to move on.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Green Bay Half Marathon Race Report

My employer has a no flip-flop policy in place. With the massive blister I'm sporting on my toe, I might have to knowingly violate that policy when I head into work tomorrow. Not that I'm complaining, since I love flip flops and that blister? It's a badge of honor that means almost as much to me as the piece of hardware that was hanging around my neck.

Let me back up a bit.

After weeks of training, days of freaking out trying to figure out what songs to include on a play list and what clothes to wear, it was half marathon time. I headed up to my parents' house after work on Friday since they live closer to Green Bay than I do.

Saturday I went up to the expo to pick up my packet and scope out the vendors. My Mom came along with me, since she's my unofficial race day photographer, she wanted to figure out where she was going to go along the course to see me run and what stadium gate was going to be open to get inside Lambeau Field.

I got my packet and wandered around the expo a bit. I found a few good deals - a new bottle of BioFreeze (love the stuff!), a pair of black Brooks running shorts on clearance, a SPI belt (have heard good things about them and have wanted to get my hands on one, but no stores around me carry them and didn't want to pay the shipping costs) and stocked up on some more mint chocolate GU. Almost bought another pair of Asics Gel Cumulus that were on sale, but couldn't for the life of me remember what shoe size I wore. Had it narrowed down to two sizes, and decided not to get the shoes and risk having to deal with return policies. In hindsight, should have gotten the shoes - they were the right size.

After I had walked through the expo and stocked up on goodies, Mom and I got in the car and drove the race route, just so I could get an idea of what was waiting for me the next day. It was a pretty route, mostly through residential neighborhoods. Lots of tree-lined streets and shade. Fairly flat, a few minor uphills, but nothing to get worried about.

Having seen the course, it was time to head home, eat some pasta and get ready for race day.

Which dawned bright dark and early at 4:30 a.m. when my alarm went off. I got my stuff, grabbed half a bagel and headed out the door. My sister-in-law was also running, so we made a pit stop to pick her up and we were off to Green Bay.

We got to Lambeau Field about 6 a.m. and had plenty of time. Got a parking spot and headed inside the atrium to wait. Hit up the bathrooms (a perk to being inside the stadium atrium? No port-a-potties!), downed a GU about 15 minutes before the starting time and headed out to wait for the gun to go off.

It was Go Time.

Then it hit me. I was about to run a half marathon. Some of the worries came back into my head, but I quickly shoved them out. Concentrated on having a good time. With almost 7,000 runners, it took a bit to get to the actual starting line, but after about 5 minutes, with "Shipping Out to Boston" by the Dropkick Murphy's blasting through the sound system, I was off.

Not quite to Boston, but on my 13.1 mile journey through Green Bay.

With marathoners and half marathoners all starting at once, it was a bit crowded during the first few miles, but I just zoned out and settled into a comfortable pace pretty quickly. I was just running, not really thinking about anything. Before I knew it, I was approaching Mile 4, where I knew my Mom would be waiting. Had to be "that runner" who cuts across the entire street and probably makes other runners mad when I realized at almost the last minute she was standing on the opposite side of the street we had planned. Got a "good job" from Mom and I was on my way.

Just before the 5 mile marker, I slowed up for a bit of congestion around road construction and had a moment to see a runner down and being attended to by medical personnel. Hope they were OK.

Took my first GU at the 6.2 mile marker - a spectator spot by a church they were calling the 10K Alleluia. Grabbed some water and took my GU and took a short walk break. Once the GU and water were gone, it was back to running. Was actually feeling pretty good at this point, keeping up with the 4 hour, 45 minute marathon pace group (2 hours, 20ish minute half).

At this point we're running through a fairly swanky neighborhood. Lots of people lining the streets, cheering for the runners. Even a cheerleading squad (decked out in green and gold, how fitting for Green Bay). I get through the race sponsored GU/water station and run down this short hill.

Then it hits me.

BAM! It's like I ran into a freaking brick wall. My legs were screaming at me. What the heck? I thought to myself. I'm at Mile 7. I've got 6 more to go. This wall? Shouldn't be happening right now. I pulled off to the side of the road and found a telephone pole. Took a moment to stretch and just breath. Composed myself. Decided at that point that it was OK to start incorporating some short walk breaks if I needed to. So I walked about a block or so and started running.

For the next 2 or 3 miles, that's what I did. Ran, got to the water stations and then took a short walk break. Tried to keep a decent pace while walking though.

Somewhere around Mile 9.5 I started to feel better. The running stretches were longer, the running felt faster. I hit Mile 10 at 2 hours flat. In a perfect world, one where the running gods were on my side, I thought I could finish in 2 hours, 30 minutes. I didn't know if that would happen though. I decided then to try to make it as close to that time as possible.

There were a few jelly beans consumed around Mile 10.5. Feelings of agony right afterward, running a block away from Lambeau Field, knowing it's so close yet I've still got another 2.5 miles to go. A pit stop at the medical station at Mile 11 for some Vaseline (in hindsight, should have skipped the Vaseline, caused more problems than it helped).

I hit Mile 12 and I glance down at Garmin Gus. I realize I'm not going to hit 2:30, but I'll still be able to turn in a PR over my 2007 half marathon. At this point I make the decision: Run this last mile for yourself and remember to take it all in.

So I did. I actually walked some. Went through the final water stop on Armed Forces Drive, with Lambeau Field and the finish line in my sights. Turned the corner onto Oneida Street, along the stadium parking lot, and started running. I was almost there.

I ran through the parking lot to a stadium service entrance. I ran inside. I'm in the bowels of the stadium, heading towards the players tunnel.

And it hits me.

Here I am, 12.5 miles into a half marathon and I almost break down and cry. Not because I'm in pain. Nope. I almost cry because of what I've done and what this means to me. But that's a story I'm going to save for a follow up post (because this is already approaching novel length!)

Even though I'm on the verge of tears, I suck it up and run down that players tunnel and emerge onto the warning track around Lambeau Field. Amazing. I can't put into words what this was like. I took my time. Soaked it all in. Before I knew it, I had gotten the high five from my Mom and I was exiting the stadium. Running through the players tunnel again and out into the Lambeau Field parking lot.

One final corner and there was the finish. Something I had worked so long for. I upped the speed, heard my name come over the loud speaker and raised my arms in victory.

I wasn't the first finisher. I wasn't the fastest. But 2 hours, 45 minutes and 7 seconds after I started, I crossed the finish line - a full 11 minutes faster than my 2007 half marathon time. I collected my medal, my T-shirt and grabbed some ice for my knee (which had been bothering me in the days leading up to the race) before finding my sister-in-law.

We headed back to the Vince Lombardi statue near the atrium entrance, met up with family and took some pictures before heading out for a post-race serving of pancakes. Then it was back to my parents' house, where I tended to my massive blister I got on my toe before taking a well deserved nap.

All in all, I'd say it was a good race, one I'll definitely be back for next year. But first? Look out Fox Cities in the fall. Because that 2:30? It's mine.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Three Things Thursday - Half Marathon Edition

1. Finished my last run before Sunday's half marathon tonight on the treadmill. Once again Mother Nature gave me some iffy weather, so I opted for indoors. Ran 3.5 miles in 35 and felt pretty good. Next time I run it'll be a 13.1 mile journey through the city of Green Bay and Lambeau Field.

2. Still haven't figured out what I'm wearing on race day. Pretty sure on the top. Not sure what I'm going with for the bottoms. Shorts? Knee-length capris? Do I pull out the running skirt? Decisions. Decisions.

3. Almost have the perfect running play list ready. And yes, I admit. That play list? It includes Kanye West's "Stronger" three or four times. What can I say? It's my "kick me in the a$$" song. Motivation. Will be good to hear every 45 minutes or so. Just need to add a few more tunes and the iPod will be ready to be charged. That reminds me, I better charge Garmin Gus as well.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The last longish run before race day

Five days from now, it'll all be over.

The 13.1 miles will have been run. I'll have crossed the finish line. And I'll have survived. Hopefully.

But before I get there, I have five days to freak out. Of course it doesn't help that the last two weeks have been really really light on the running. And not due to cutting back mileage for the taper. Nope. More like cutting out mileage because I've been working insane hours and don't have time to run. Kind of makes me a cranky Badgergirl.

Tonight was no different. It was a frustrating day at the office and all I wanted to do was run away and escape. So when the clock struck quitting time (at a normal time for once!), I bolted. Out the door, in my car and over to the YMCA. I wanted to run. I needed to run. Ideally I would have logged this last long run outdoors, but Mother Nature had different plans. Decided to give us bone-chilling cold temps (for May), wind and rain. Not nice.

So I ran indoors on the treadmill. And let me tell you, it felt nice to hit start and just run. Zone out. Not think about anything and leave my frustrations behind during my 6.2 mile run. It was a good hour spent running to nowhere. I needed it.

That leaves me with just one more short run on Thursday before I line up with the other runners on Sunday. I'm excited. Nervous. Scared. And slightly freaking out. Because I still have so much more to do before Sunday. Namely:
  • Survive the rest of the work week
  • Figure out the play list that will get me through 13.1 miles
  • Decide what I'm going to wear
  • Compulsively check the weather forecast and pray that Mother Nature is in a good mood and gives us warmer temps, sunny skies and no wind. Right now it looks like she might be in a good mood.
  • Soak it all in
I've got some pre-half marathon thoughts rolling around my head that I will touch on later this week. For now? Let the freak out begin.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Sole Burner 5K Race Report

I know it's Mother's Day weekend, but this race report is going to have a bit of a shout out to my Dad.

A month ago, my Dad asked me if I was going to be running the Sole Burner 5K, a local race that benefits the American Cancer Society. Even though it's been held in my hometown for as long as I can remember, I've never actually run it. I volunteered at it, but never run it. I've wanted to though since cancer has impacted my family.

So when Dad told me his company (one of the sponsors) was paying for registration for immediate family, I jumped at the chance. A race that supports a cause I care about and free. Sounds good to me. I ended up talking my Dad into walking the 5K. It was a manageable distance for him since he walks 3 miles a day about 4 or 5 times a week. He signed up.

As the race approached, Dad started getting nervous though. See most of the course is flat, but in the last 1/2 mile, there's the Hill of Hope, which is supposed to serve as a reminder to keep cancer patients in mind since they face an uphill battle while treating the disease. The Hill of Hope is what my Dad was freaking out about.

Race day dawned cold and dreary on Saturday morning. Someone must have made Mother Nature mad because it was down right chilly Saturday. And wet. Thankfully the snow that was falling Friday night (yes, you read that right) melted once it hit the ground.

My parents and I got to the park about 45 minutes before the race started. We scoped out the starting lines, watched the little kids run and tried to stay warm. About 10 minutes before the start, we headed off to the starting lines.

When I got to the runner's area, I didn't even attempt to get into the street with the rest of the runners. It was packed. Which shouldn't have been surprising since 7,500 runners and walkers turned out for the event. I stayed off on the grass, waited for the gun and just fell in with the rest of the runners when people started moving.

The first mile was crowded and congested, but thankfully people started to spread out once we hit the College Avenue bridge about a half-mile in. Once running on the bridge, I was able to settle into a nice, steady pace. It felt easy. Garmin Gus chimed when I hit the mile marker: 9:46. Huh. Not to shabby for a first mile.

I kept running. The rolling hills started during Mile 2. But honestly they weren't bad. I was still keeping a steady pace, still feeling pretty good and still managing to pass a few people every once and a while. Garmin Gus chimed at the mile marker: 19:50ish. I'll take it.

At this point I thought maybe a new PR would be in my future, but I didn't forget about the Hill of Hope that was coming up in less than a mile. I had a nice gradual downhill portion of the run into the flats and then ran along the river for a bit. It was a bit windy down here and I admit, I toyed with taking a very brief walk break to get ready for the hill, but ultimately decided not to. I kept running and there was the hill.

I was determined to own that hill. I pushed myself. Made myself run up it and push the pace. I knew it would hurt. I wanted it to hurt. Because people who are fighting cancer have it much tougher than running up a hill.

I ran.

I owned the hill.

And then was looking at the finish line in 2 blocks. My legs were hurting, but I refused to take a walk break. Not that close to the finish line. I got a block away and could see the red flags. I saw Mom and my sister-in-law and 2/3 of the Rugrats on the sidelines cheering. I threw in a nice finishing sprint.

Then had to come to a dead stop at the red flags where the finish line corral started. I hit the stop button on Garmin Gus then waited for what seemed like forever to get through the corral. Once through, I glanced at Gus: 31:25. Honestly I didn't think much about it.

I walked back down the block, stopped briefly by Mom and then headed back down the Hill of Hope to wait for my Dad. Maybe I was spacing out, maybe I didn't see him (it's hard to pick a person out of the crowd when EVERYONE is wearing the same T-shirt). But after about 45 minutes I was starting to get worried. Maybe Dad was keeled over on the side of the road, because it shouldn't be taking him this long.

Well all of a sudden I heard my name. There's Dad. Walking downhill toward me. Huh? I never saw him walk uphill. Apparently he did see me, yelled out my name and kept walking - he didn't want to break his stride mid-way up the hill. Hardcore my Dad is. So we walked back up the hill, met up with Mom and stuck around for the awards ceremony.

While standing in the park freezing, I realized something. That 31:25 that Gus told me I finished 3.11 miles in? That's a new PR for me. And not just a post-Monster PR, but an all-time PR, better than the 31:56 I posted at the Sunset 5K in July 2007.


Of course, according to the "official" race results, I finished in 32:50. Apparently you weren't "officially" finished until you made it through the finish line corral. A corral that I honestly stood still in forever.

What do you think? Can I claim the new PR based on Gus telling me I had traveled the 3.11 miles when I hit those red flags (I didn't do much weaving at all during the course)? Or do I have to go by the "official" results that accounted for me standing still, waiting for 2 volunteers to collect tags off the bibs (even though the race was chip timed)?

I'm leaning toward using Gus's time.

Oh and Dad? He ended up finishing the 5K in 45 minutes, 32 seconds. Not bad.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Three Things Thursday

1. I haven't run since Sunday. And I'm getting a bit cranky. Blame it on late nights sitting in the courtroom. Am hoping to get a shortish run in this evening but that all depends on how decisive a group of 12 can be when it comes to making a decision. Or how sympathetic a judge is in deciding to pause for the evening.

2. I'm running a 5K with my Dad on Saturday. Well, actually I'm running. Dad's walking. And apparently he's getting nervous about being able to finish. He can do the distance fine, but it's the hills that are freaking him out a bit. Especially the one at the very end - it's called the Hill of Hope, kind appropriate for an event aimed at raising money for cancer research. At this point I'm planning on finishing my run and booking it back to that hill to finish again with my Dad.

3. A quick update on the 3 Changes Challenge: Still doing great on the water. The snooze button is getting used less frequently (today I only slapped it twice!). The abs and strength work? Still a work in progress. At the rate today is going, I may decide on ab/strength work instead of a run by the time I finally get to leave this courthouse.

Monday, May 3, 2010

April reading recap

Another month is in the books, so I guess it's time for me to take a look at what I read in April.

Considering I spend a good chunk of time on a plane at the beginning of the month when I took my trip out to San Francisco, I thought I would have managed to read more. But I didn't. I actually only finished two books in April and a total of 803 pages. That brings the total for the year to 10 books and 4,126 pages. Compared to 2009, when I had finished 8 books and 3,298 pages by the end of April. A bit of an improvement I guess.

So what'd I read? Take a look:

Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos
Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

They were OK. Belong to Me was the follow up to Love Walked In. It picks up on Cornelia's a few years after the first book left off. Pretty decent read. This is what I spent most of my time reading as I flew across the country. Her Fearful Symmetry was one that I picked up from the Lucky Day shelf at the library on a whim. The cover caught my eye and it's the same author who wrote The Time Traveler's Wife, which I liked better.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The escape from the lake flies, not Alcatraz

I escaped from the swarming lake flies this weekend by packing up my dirty laundry and running shoes and headed up to my parents' house.

I wasn't able to avoid them completely though. See, I live on the southwest side of the lake and my parents actually live on the northeast end of the lake, but unlike me, they live about 5 miles off the shore (compared to my quarter-mile), so they don't get the lake flies as badly. Usually.

It was storming Friday night when I left, so I just got to their house, took it easy and grabbed dinner with them. The plan was to get in my run on Saturday.

Obviously Mother Nature had other plans since it was constant, steady 30-35 mph winds. Again. Seems like a weekly thing. And honestly Mother Nature, I'm getting sick of it. So you can stop anytime now.

So instead of fighting the wind, I did a little retail therapy. First got an oil change and stocked up on Gu at Fleet Feet. Then I went with Mom to the mall and picked out some new running gear. I got a pair of knee-length capris and four new running tanks. And the best part? They were all on sale! Score! I'll have a post on them later this week since the reason behind the purchases is I'm starting to figure out what I'm going to wear during the Green Bay Half Marathon in two weeks.

The wind calmed down a bit today, so I headed out for my run. Part of me wanted to sneak in 11 miles since I ditched the long run last weekend (blame it on Mother Nature and her windy ways), but the training plan was calling for 8. And since I am 2 weeks out from the half marathon, I decided to play it safe and go with the 8.

Probably a good decision since that 8? It was kind of hard. Not sure why. Maybe I wasn't feeling it. Maybe it was the wind. Maybe I hadn't fueled and hydrated properly. I don't know. I can only hope the lighter mileage over the next two weeks will help, because I really don't want to fall apart weeks before the half, especially since things seemed to be going well up until this point.

I just have to remember I'm allowed a bad day. I just wish it would have happened in March rather than on May 2. Let the freak out begin now.