Archive for April, 2012


Planning ahead

My next race is a 10k on June 9th. Oddly enough, this will be the shortest race I’ve run to date. Because crazy people start with a half marathon and work backwards, right? I’m not really sure what to expect or how to pace myself. And as someone who has finished the longer races due to sheer stubbornness, I’m a little worried that my lack of speed will be more obvious during a shorter race. In a larger sense I don’t really have a time goal for this race. I think I’ll finish without a problem and I don’t have a previous 5k or 10k to compare. I should be able to do 12 min/mile or better. And I have all summer before I have another race.
I have been looking at the calendar with a more global eye. I have several big races starting in the fall and I think now is the time to start preparing a base. After my June 10k I have a 10 miler in WDW the last weekend of September. I think this will be more of a fun run for me. 1st because I’m really a morning person and I doubt I’ll be at my best at 10pm. 2nd because I’m running the Westchester Medical Center Half Marathon the following weekend. And 3rd because I need to stay healthy if I think I can finish the Goofy in January.
With that in mind I have posted a schedule of every weekend “long run” between now and the Goofy. I took the various Jeff Galloway training plans for the various races and created a Master Plan. I moved super long runs so they don’t occur the weekend before a race. I picked the longer of 2 (or 3) distances when train plans disagreed. And I’m trying to make a commitment to include in my training those elements recommended to improve my speed and form: hill repeats, cadence drills, speed work, magic miles. All things I’ve avoided to date.
On top of that I’ve developed a voracious appetite for reading about running. I’ve finished 2 John Bingham books: Running for Mortals and Marathoning for Mortals. I read Train Like a Mother (still need to read their 1st book). And I just downloaded Jeff Galloway’s book on motivation, I’ve perused Hal Higdon’s training plans. Reviewed the Athleta “Power to the She” plans. And studied the plans in Train Like a Mother and John Bingham’s books. And I started my food diary as recommended in the book Racing Weight.
Insanity, right?
Here the bottom line. Committing myself to a 4 or 5 day a week plan isn’t realistic with my schedule. Work is busy. Home is busy. 3 days a week is almost do-able. Almost. If I get an extra day I can add elliptical or yoga or spinning. If I can’t, I’ll do some crunches and whatever else I can manage and congratulate myself on training for something. I can easily change my 2 mid-week runs to include some hills (today was my 1st go and after 4 hill repeats my cardiovascular system was acting like I’ve never run before!) and some faster runs. I can do some cadence drills and try to include a Magic Mile every few weeks. Maybe I can even do 800 repeats on the high school track.
I will try to make a commitment to my 3 days. I will be willing to sometimes wake up super early to stay with my plan. But my plan is 3 days a week. I won’t make myself crazy looking at mileage that I won’t achieve while Minors live under my roof and my job description includes the word Surgeon. And I will embrace my speed (or lack thereof) as my accomplishment because it is an accomplishment.
And I’ll probably keep reading to learn more.

Now if only I could convince my husband that we need to spend February Break in Florida so I can run the Princess Half….

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Why books are dangerous…

Those who know me will know that while I’m still a relatively newbie runner, I’m a life-long reader. My mom loves the story of how I learned to read. Apparently my older brother (we’re one year and twenty days apart), another early reader, would read books to me. I had significant hearing loss as a child (due to chronic ear infections – I can hear fine now) but had good skills as a lip reader. The story goes that I learned to read by lip reading the words my brother said and then finding them on the page. I was 3 years old at the time. I’ve been an avid reader every since. My reading taste is somewhat eclectic, although trending toward nerdy. I love epic fantasy (think Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings) but read many things from Jane Austen to chick lite.
How does this relate to running?
My most recent read (besides Racing Weight – a book about getting down to you peak body composition which is helpful but not life changing) was Born to Run. This book is incredible! I seriously think any and every distance runner should read it! The book is a story of the Tarahumara people of Mexico – a tribe of gifted long-distance runners as well as the story of Micah True (who recently died). It describes how hono sapiens are evolutionarily designed to be distance runners, explains how the modern running shoe is responsible for running injuries (we should be running barefoot or in minimalist shoes), and talks about ultra-marathoners (any race over 26.2 miles is considered an ultra and these crazy -said with admiration – people sometimes run 100 mile races).
How does this relate to me?
I took away several messages.
1. The 10+ lbs that I gained while training for my marathon are seriously harming my pace and probably hurting my long-term health. I need to get more serious about nutrition. Many of these ultra-marathoners are vegetarians and I’ve started a modified vegetarian diet. Without feeling hungry or deprived, I lost a pound in my 1st week on the diet.
2. I need to find time for cross-training and/or strength training. I haven’t figured out when but I know why. Maybe it’ll be crunches and lunges while putting kids to bed. Or family bike rides as the weather improves. I’m thinking about trying spinning with a friend. Or doing the P90X that my husband has set up in the basement.
3. I’m going to consider more minimalist running shoes. I’m not ready for Vibrams or – yuck – barefoot running. But maybe there is something to the book’s claims that more supportive shoes are causing injuries. I’ve started investigating options and I may try some out. I was thinking of Brooks Pure Cadence as a possibility since I already wear Brooks and those got good reviews.
4. I need to pay more attention to running form. Small steps with rapid turnover. I’m not ready to get a running metronome or anything but apparently form matters. I learned some tips from the book and I tried them yesterday. Need to practice it more!
5. I need to consistently find joy in running. As much as I love my Garmin, I need to enjoy running. Some of these ultra-runners started because they just loved running. It’s still not fluid and easy for me to be a runner but yesterday I paid attention to the joy in it. And that will probably help me increase my mileage and pace more than anything.

And that is why books are dangerous. The good ones make us re-think things.

Today I finished my 4th Half Marathon. Anyone who has read any of my blog entries knows that running races has seriously changed my life. In a good way. Today’s race reinforced my love of racing (and running) while still leaving me with plenty of food for thought.
I had high hopes for this race. Last year I finished in 2:36:41 which still remains my fastest race ever. I was really hoping today would be the day I beat that time. My fantasy is to eventually be a 10 min/mile runner but my hopes for this race were more modest – 2:30 or at least PR. Despite accomplishing neither of those goals, I consider today a modified success.
I had a few issues going into the race. Despite good training since the Disney Marathon in January (my mileage for February and March 2012 was higher than the same months in 2011), my last 2 weeks were poor. During vacation I missed a run and then I was feeling sick the next week and missed 2 or 3 runs. We stayed out late watching a Broadway show the night before the race and whatever I had for dinner last night didn’t agree with my stomach, leading to an embarrassing emergency bathroom stop before the show. And then there were the weather reports.
Despite my love of traveling to Florida whenever possible, I have never done particularly well with warm temperatures. This seems to really be a problem with running. Last summer I really struggled on hot days and trained poorly during summer months. My January marathon was a lesson in what not to do when running in warmer temperatures (my mistakes included overheating and over hydrating to the point that I lowered my body’s salt levels). Needless to say a predicted high today of nearly 80 with a low of only 60 was making me a little nervous.
I slept ok last night. I had a weird dream that it was e morning of my Disney Half Marathon (leading up to the Goofy medal) and Disney cancelled the race due to lightning. And then my alarm went off at 6:15am. I did my usual race day routine. Shower (I know it makes no sense to shower before running 13.1 miles in the heat), dress, eat pop tarts, drink Gatorade, and I was off to the races. It was super nice to be in a hotel room in NYC instead of up at 5am to take Metro North downtown! I was at the race by 7:30am.
My outfit today (pics to follow when available) included a tank top, compression shorts, my sparkle skirt, and hot pink compression socks. I expected to be chilly while waiting for the start and was a bit worried to discover that I was quite comfortable. Uh oh! I didn’t want to pre hydrate too much because then I’d have to pee the whole race but I drank some of the Gatorade before tossing the rest. I met some nice people before the start. I started back in the last grouping (NYRR doesn’t do true corrals like Disney but the organize you by estimated finish time). I find that the people in back tend to be friendlier than some of the faster runners. Or maybe I’m just biased because I’m slow!
The start was at 8am but it was closer to 8:15 before I started. My strategy was to try for 12:30 min/miles for the 1st loop in Central Park and then speed it up for the 2nd loop. The 1st mile was really crowded which was frustrating. Lots of walkers in my starting area. I do run/walk but found it hard to navigate to free space. My 1st several miles were around 12:15 pace and I even did ok on the Harlem Hill. At least the 1st time around!
I learned from prior mistakes. At water stops I drank Gatorade and dumped water on my head to sta cool. By mile 3 the heat was already apparent! I had my salt tabs and GUs and followed my usual strategy – salt every 30 min and GU every 45 min. I felt pretty good for the 1st loop.
I wanted to pick up the pace a bit on the 2nd loop. Starting around mile 8 I tried to speed up a bit. There was a very scary moment where a women was disoriented during the race and the collapsed! Mile 9 was my fastest in the race – about 11:15 pace. And then I hit the Harlem Hill again. I had been feeling good and thought maybe it just wasn’t as bad as I remembered it. I probably shouldn’t have pushed so hard on mile 9 because mile 10 was my slowest of the race. Maybe 12:40 or so. I tried to make up the difference on the last 3 miles but really didn’t have enough gas left in the tank. All were close to 12:00 pace – mile 13 was about 11:50 pace – but it wasn’t enough. I ran the last 3 min and finished 2:38:24. 2 min shy of my PR.
My legs aren’t as sore as they should be so I think the heat was a big factor. If the temps were 10 degrees cooler, I probably would have PRed. But I ran a good race and finished strong. I’m proud of that.
But I look around and see that I *should* be able to go faster. What’s holding me back? A few things. Some are easier than others.
1. I need to lose 10-15 lbs if I want to get faster. I’ve gained 10 lbs in the past year or so and that needs to go. It’s holding me back. I started reading Racing Weight and I want to make better eating a priority.
2. I need to cross-train. My quads are relatively weak. I need to swim, bike, or do weights. At least once a week. This is a bit harder. It takes a lot for me to run 3 days a week. How am I going to ind a cross-training day?
3. I need more miles. And maybe better miles. I could probably add a least 1-2 miles to my mid-week runs without too much trouble.
4. Other. My husband suggested maybe finding a coach. I don’t know how realistic that is. Galloway does e-coaching which costs $300 for 6 months. Maybe 6 months pre-Goofy I sign up?

Again it comes down to the question of why do I run and do I need to be faster to enjoy it. I don’t really know the answer yet but it sure gives me something to think about!

Pre-Race Preparation

36 hours from now I will be running my next half marathon. I feel like this event snuck up on me. I’ve done a decent job of training, even if the last week wasn’t great. Since my marathon in January, I’ve run a 10 miler, two 12 milers, and one race distance run – which was 2 weeks ago. I’ve done some tempo runs and some hills. And at this point I may wish I had done a few more runs but, truthfully, there’s nothing to do at this point (except, of course, drinking water, eating right, and getting enough rest). And yet somehow I feel undertrained.
I’m having an unconventional weekend leading up to the race. I’m on-call today. Tomorrow morning the kids have ballet class and opening day for Little League. And then Tom and I are escaping into NYC for a grown-up night out. Tom “won” a night at the Kitano Hotel at a hospital benefit so we’ll stay there tomorrow night. And we’re going to see a Broadway show tomorrow night, Newsies – which is, appropriately enough, a Disney production. Tom was thoughtful enough to get dinner reservations at an Italian restaurant for my pre-race pasta dinner.
This afternoon I took the subway from the North Bronx down to Union Square so I could pick up my race packet. The Expo was nice. Much smaller than Disney but well-conceived. No identification was required to pick up my bib. The woman behind the counter wasn’t sure I was who I said I was. I gave my name, “North, Amanda.”. She looked at me and asked, “You’re picking this up for yourself?” Insert a skeptical look. I said, “Yes. I’m Amanda North.” and she still looked incredulous, “You’re 40??? Are you sure.” I had to convince her that I really am a 40 year old mother of 3 before I was allowed to collect my bib. My number is 10565 this year. Funny because last year I was 10545!
I then picked up my t-shirt. Explained to me why, at the largest women’s half marathon around, are the race shirts unisex cotton t-shirts. Really??? We can’t have cute women’s cut shirts? Or tech shirts? Or something that I might ever actually wear? I know the shirt isn’t the point but even at the Westchester Medical Center Half Marathon – which is a fraction of the size of this race – we got nice tech shirts. And I love the Disney shirts (by the way – I’m getting 3 Disney race shirts in January).
I wandered the race expo and found a cute running tank that will match my Sparkle Skirt. Since the predicted temps will be 80-ish, I figured that I needed a light-weight tank. And I got a $10 off discount. I got a few free samples and spoke to a few nice people before heading back on the north-bound subway. An enjoyable time at the expo.
I was planning to try for a PR at this race. It’s enough away from my full marathon that I’m fully recovered and I have no big races until the June 10k so I can take a week or two off to recover after the race. However, recent illness in my house (bad colds and the vomiting bug) plus recent vacation plus warm temperatures make this less likely. With the weather predictions being what they are, I will choose a very conservative run/walk ratio (probably 1/1) and maybe start with a slower pace than my target. I’m thinking about 12:30 to start and then increase on the 2nd lap if I feel good.
Ultimately when all is said and done I will receive the same medal as the 5th place finisher. And I know I can finish. So I figure I’ll live in the moment and collect my bling. I’ll likely update on twitter during the race (@anorth21) if anyone wants to cheer me on. Race starts at 8am (NY time) on Sunday morning.

Sunday is my next half marathon. It sort of feels surreal. I was hoping for a time goal and now I’m just hoping to not post my slowest time. It seems like I was doing ok with my training. The weekend before this holiday weekend, I finished 13.1 miles in 3 hours. Sadly on a treadmill. But I’ve been congested since then and just not feeling 100%. And then there was vacation followed by holidays galore.
The day after my 13 mile run, my family left for a Florida beach vacation. The trip started off with a bang. Or a barf. As in my 8 year old vomited the whole way to Florida. As soon as he was better, my husband started. Leaving me with all 3 kids to supervise at the pool. And little ability to run. At least the weather was nice, right?
Tuesday morning I tried to get a run down. Not surprisingly it was HOT. I don’t do well in heat but this was ok. The bigger problem is that the walking paths at the resort were much shorter than I expected. I should have checked at the front desk for a jogging route before taking off but my Garmin has spoiled me. I did 2 miles before returning to rescue my husband from the children, I did some “cross training” – if chasing kids in the pool and sea kayaking count.
I was awoken at 5:45am on Wednesday by my husband. Thankfully this time there was no vomit involved. Instead he wanted to make the 2 hour drive to Disney World for the day. And I’m the crazy Disney person…. We had a great day with lots of walking and stroller pushing but no running.
Thursday was pack and travel day. Although we didn’t leave the resort until 2pm, I was finishing laundry and packing before we lost our room. I did swim a few “laps” in the pool but still no real running. We arrived home late Thursday night so I could race off to work (pun intended).
And then the holiday meal preparation began. Along with the congestion and slightly upset stomach (I’m morally opposed to vomiting so at least I didn’t do that). I made Passover Seder for 12 people on Friday, 10 people on Saturday, and Easter for 11 people on Sunday. Running??? No sir!
Today my nanny is vomiting so I raced home from work to retrieve my 3 kids. Another run-less day. Hopefully tomorrow I’ll finish the OR in time for some running. I’m hoping for a nice 5 miles or so and maybe another 3 miles on Thursday or Friday. I know I can finish 13.1 on Sunday and maybe I don’t care how fast.

PS I’m registered to run the Goofy in January, 2013. 13.1 miles on Saturday followed by 26.2 miles on Sunday. You can start praying for me now!