Saturday, March 24, 2012

Memory Lane - My First Half Marathon

Today Rhonda and I headed out for an easy run as we finish up our training schedule for our half marathon next weekend. Bentonville was packed with runners and it was fun to see so many people out enjoying the weather. Rhonda picked a route that was two miles down the trail so that we could run up the same finish hill we will encounter next weekend. We hit our 2 mile turnaround point and headed back up the trail. As we were running along we saw a couple people out with a camera and poster. My first thought was that they got the date wrong for the race but we just ran by. As we got closer to the start of the BIG hill, I saw some cars parked alongside the trail. Sure enough, we got to the hill and there was Mike Rush of Rush Running. We chatted for a minute and he told us that one of his training group runners was going to be out of town for the race so he was doing his own personal half marathon a week early. Mike quickly pushed us on our way with some rousing cheering and we tackled the hill.

We finished up our run with a quick tour of downtown to add on some extra mileage so we were closer to 5 miles than 4 for the day. As we got back to our cars, Mike and his cheering squad had made their way to the square and the finish line. We asked about the runner and decided to do our cooldown walk in the direction that he would be coming. We found Shaun and his crew right as they finished the mile of hills and were at approx. 12.95 miles. Shaun was struggling with some leg cramping and his crew was encouraging him along. Rhonda and I both got sentimental as we watched Shaun make that last turn onto Main Street where he could see the finish line and crowd waiting for him. He perked up and found that last bit of strength to finish strong. I don't know Shaun at all but because Rush Running is like family I feel so proud for him and what he accomplished.

Watching his finish got me thinking about my first half marathon. It was the Rock n Roll Half Marathon in Virginia Beach in 2001. I had seen an ad in Runner's World for a training/fundraising program called Courage for Cancer and decided to sign up. I remember being so scared and nervous about the distance and whether I could do it. I think I had some tendinitis issues during the last few weeks of training but since this was before blogging I don't have a detailed recap of that time.

My precursor to the fundraising page where I kept a very brief weekly recap of my training.

My first Half Marathon bib!

The race singlet that the charity provided was a little awkward in style so I tied the straps shorter. I also used iron on letters to add my name the night before in our hotel room. I even managed to iron on a letter to one of my sister's sheets that she had brought for us to use on the beach. Ooopsie!

First finish!!! It was a tough race with warm temps and a never ending last few miles on the boardwalk but I ran most of the race with two other members of the charity group and had fun chatting with them. Random side note...I would go on to wear those gray shorts out...literally! Several years later in 2006 I would run the OKC Memorial Half Marathon in those shorts and discover a huge rip in the crotch after finishing. I loved the fit of those shorts and still have no clue of how they fell apart during the OKC race.

Official time for my first half 2:54:34 and the bug was set for me to go on and do many more half marathons. Next week will be my 15th half marathon (16 if you include my Half Ironman in there.) I have a lot of respect for the distance and love the accomplishment I get each time I finish.

Please share your first big race experience in the comments below. I'm always looking for new races to try out!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Swim with Active Rest

On Monday I met up with my friend Lori to swim at lunch.  I have to swim shortened workouts when I swim at lunch but Lori still made sure that the workout packed a punch.  We both swam our own warmup and then decided on a main set. 

Lori picked 100's with a twist.  I should have known when she picked a 2:00 min interval that it wouldn't be a breeze.  We started our intervals from the deep end of the pool and the twist was that we would finish off the wall on each repeat.  And why in the world would you finish an interval off the you could tread water of course!

Yes, Lori had us doing 100's with active recovery between them.  That meant that we began each interval from a complete dead stop in the water with no push off the wall.  That was almost more difficult than the treading water.  On the 5th interval, I finally asked how many intervals we were doing! Eight was Lori's reply...great, still 3 more to go!

After finishing up with the 100's, we moved on to Lori's favorite swim item.  Over/Unders.  This is where you swim under water, holding your breath for 25 yds and then swim back over the water ie backstroke for recovery.  I put fins on and still only got 2 done in one breath.  There is something very mentally challenging about doing these and I just haven't figured out yet how to relax while doing them.  I swim the under with my arms in streamline and doing a flutter kick.  Most of my friends swim doing a dolphin kick for the swim but I'm not so great with my dolphin kick. 

In the end, I ended up getting just over a mile in for my lunch swim which was great. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Mom Would be SOOOOO Proud

Why, you ask?!?! I went to YOGA tonight.

My mom has been a yoga addict for a long, long time.  She loves yoga and I have watched how yoga keeps her young.  If I haven't told you guys before, I have a great mom! She never pushed anything on us while we were growing up.  She encouraged us to make decisions and choose the activities that brought us joy.  For me, that was dancing which included lots of ballet, tap, and jazz classes.  My mom tried lots of sports while we were growing up too.  She took adult tap classes, she picked up running for a while, and finally she discovered yoga. 

While my mom has always shared her love of yoga with us she has never pressured us to do it...however, it totally makes her day when one of us takes a yoga class.  Today was a rainy and stormy day which put a crink in my plans to run hill repeats with friends.  Instead I met up with one friend to go swimming and then after that we both headed to yoga class with another friend. 

Tonight's class was at the hot yoga studio and was a power flow class.  The class was full and I ended up with a spot right in front of one of the space heaters.  I'm a heavy sweater to begin with in hot yoga so you can only imagine how much sweat I produced that close to the heater.  Some of the flow series were movements between different warrior poses.  We also did a series that included standing balance poses.  The class ended with ab work including boat pose and bridge. 

Sadly the pose I struggled the most with tonight is one of my favorites...dancer's pose.  I just couldn't get situated into the pose and I was struggling with the flexibility to reach my foot.  We did some pigeon poses towards the end of the class and that really helped relax my hips which have been bothering me lately after long runs.

I don't make it to the yoga studio all that often.  In fact, I hadn't been since sometime before October...oops! When I walked in, the studio owner couldn't remember my name...not that I expected her to at all.  I told her that yes I had been there before and she tried to remember me.  Well, after class she apologized for not remembering me but said that once the flow started she remembered me based on my practice/flow style.  Um, thanks I think! I'm hoping it doesn't take another rainy day to get me to the yoga studio again!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Funny Coincidence

Sunday I headed out with Rhonda for our weekly long run.  We started from the Bentonville square and I asked Rhonda to point in the direction that she wanted to go and that I would get us a route from there.  She pointed to the SW of where we were...the only route I could think of in that direction was hilly.  We headed off for it and knew that it would be tough with the hills and the heat we had going on. 

There were some long steady hills in the first few miles but the big hill wouldn't hit until mile 6-7.  I swore that the hill would never end! Luckily the top of the hill signified a water stop at the Braum's restaurant.  I might have guzzled a little too much ice cold water but it was good to refill our bottles since we were both empty.  From there, we had to trick ourselves into running past our starting point in order to get closer to our distance goal. 

After our water stop and the yummy cold water, I was mentally starting to check out of the run.  The appeal of stopping and walking was just so strong and all I wanted to do was finish my ice water.  Rhonda was also struggling but we tried to cheer each other up.  As we were passing mile 8, a car pulled up next to me.  The woman in the car asked me where to find the local cemetery.  She was just a few blocks from it and I pointed her in the right direction. 

As she drove away, I got an inner chuckle.  It just cracked me up since I felt like I was dying in the run right then and she asked where to find the cemetery.  Now, a day later it's not that funny but in my oxygen deprived brain it was funny.  We passed by the cemetery a few blocks later and I thought of a Runner's World question that I once read on whether it is insulting for runners to run through cemeteries.  My dad used to always run through a local cemetery as part of his route and I always thought it was peaceful when I would join him on those runs.  Either way, I looked as we passed but didn't see the woman that had passed us.  I really hope that I didn't confuse her on how to get there. 

We ended up with 11 miles for the day and then a cooldown walk of around 1/2 mile after.  We were shooting for 12 miles but Rhonda's IT band started to act up so we cut it short to be safe.  We both agreed that it looks like we are skipping Spring and heading straight to Summer this year.  It was a hot and humid long run and there wasn't a dry spot on my clothes when I was done. Yuck!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Everyday I'm Shuffling

The highlight of tonight's track workout was the Shuffle!!! I loved this commercial so I had to include it for this recap however, this song didn't cross my mind until I was headed home after the workout.  Random sidenote...The song that did come to mind during the workout was Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation because I was trying to remind myself to find my rhythm for the interval paces and stay in the pace. 

Here's a little more background on the workout.  The focus for tonight was active recovery and making our 5k pace seem easy.  The workout went by quick since there was no standing rest.  Instead our recovery break between every interval was a 100m shuffle.  A shuffle is not a walk as our coach Mike reminded us while explaining the workout. The correct shuffle is somewhere slower than your easy pace but faster than a walk.  He threatened that anyone shuffling too slowly would get rocks thrown at them! Believe me, during a workout like this you come to love the Shuffle and want to eke out every blissful second of it!

The workout was 3 x 600m at mile pace.  Then we did a 1000m interval at 5k pace followed by 3 x 600m at mile pace.  Normally, we start a workout with our slower pace and work our way faster as we build into the workout.  Tonight, was bookended with tough pace work over a shorter distance.  The 1000m in the middle was meant to feel like our easy run pace and surprisingly it did feel pretty good.  The set of 600's after that were pretty tough, especially the last one. 

My running partner missed the track workout tonight so I was on my own during the workout.  I was pretty proud of myself for sticking through the whole workout even though I almost had to beg for someone to help pace me on the last 600 since it was getting pretty tough by the point.  Something that helped me tonight was a longer warm-up run before we started that I got to do with Jody.  She ran a 50k yesterday and I had to ask her to slow down...that girl is tough!

It was a fun workout since there were always people nearby to chase after or use as pace rabbits.  The group was really spread out over the track and working hard but everyone cheered each other on or even whispered a "good job" depending on how tough of an interval they were on! One area where our group shines is that the tougher the workout, the more supportive of each other we get.  My favorite "good job" tonight came from one of our youngest runners...13 year old John Robert who called out a "good job" to me as he passed me on an interval.  He kind of surprised me because I didn't even hear him coming up on me...stealthy and speedy! I'm glad to have another speed workout done because it means I get a week to recover before the next one.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Sunday Funday In honor of Leap Day

Today's Sunday Funday swim workout was our tribute to the Leap Day holiday.  We love to celebrate the holidays with a fun swim and today we had a big group including Carie our workout leader, Lori, Brent, Jeff, Jen, Hannah, and me. 

We all agreed to do a 400yd warmup and then start the workout.  After the warmup we had 8 x 25 on 35 second intervals doing fly on the odds and backstroke on the evens.  I switched the fly to free style since it's not a stroke that I'm very comfortable with. 

The first workout set was 6 x 75 on the 1:30.  The 75's were back, breast, free for each one except you swam a faster sprint for the 1st leg on the 1st one, 2nd leg on the 2nd one, 3rd leg on the 3rd one and then back to one.  I had to switch the back to free in order to keep pace with the rest of the group about halfway through the set. 

Our next set was one that we all did something a little different.  The workout called for a 400yd time trial followed by a 200 easy swim.  The 400 could be swum via a 400IM, 400 free, or 4x100.  The faster group was going for a fast 400 and they even contemplated swimming 3 x 200 fast.  I knew that I couldn't hold the same times as them so I decided to do 3 x 150.  I did the first and third as pull and the middle 150 as free with stroke for the middle 50.  The faster group ended up taking a rest break between their 400 and 200 so I ended up with extra time and managed to squeeze in another 100. 

The final set was extra special and paid homage to Leap Day.  We did 29 x 25yd repeats broken out in sets of 4.  The 1st and 2nd were on a 30 second interval.  The 3rd and 4th were on a 45 second interval.  The 4th 25 required you to get out of the pool and then LEAP feet first into the pool and sprint for the interval.  It was really awkward to leap feet first and then try to start sprinting.  I sort of perfected a method where as soon as I leapt in I kicked my feet back to try and get a semi kick off the pool wall.  Either way I was much deeper than normal for starting a sprint. 

For the 29th interval, we got to take a dive start and sprint.  Unfortunately, our 29th interval would have started in the shallow end and our pool has a strict rule against shallow water dives.  Yep, we had to add an extra interval so we ended up with 30 x 25yd repeats.  I swam the repeats as all freestyle but some of the group swam them in IM order.  Carie and I were sharing a lane and her butterfly was tough to swim against! She has got quite the powerful dolphin kick and ended up taking off a second or two after me on some of the repeats when she was doing butterfly. 

We finished up the workout with an easy cooldown and then hot tub time.   Our next holiday to look forward to is St Patrick's Day.  I tossed out the idea of somehow having to dive for gold during a repeat so we'll see what Carie comes up with.  She's really good at finding fun workouts for our group!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Crystal Bridges Hill Repeats

Friday night after work I met up with a couple Rush Running teammates to tackle some hill repeats.  I need to do hill repeats more often so I told one of the guys to remind me to get my butt there on Friday.  They had picked Crystal Bridges hill...this is my upcoming half marathon's version of Heartbreak Hill.  It is about 1/4 to 1/3 mile long and occurs around mile 12 of the half marathon.  It continues on an incline for the rest of that mile up to the finish.  Let me just say it sucks!

Here's my photo recap of our hill repeat session.  I did 4 repeats of varying lengths...two the full length of the hill and two that were just a little shorter. 
Looking down towards the start of the hill. 
First one done!
Crystal Bridges Museum of American art museum hidden in beautiful natural setting.
Number two, done!
Matt powering up the hill.
Oh yeah, three done.  Definitely feeling the hurt now!
Robert heading up the hill.
Number four, I'm done!
I waited for Robert and Matt to finish and then we did a cooldown.  The cooldown for me was at a fast tempo pace for me...those two are strong runners! We ran up to one of the art installations on the trail called Skyspace by James Turrell.  It is a small stone building that features a lighting show that enhances the evening sky.  We had hoped to peek inside but we found out from a very nice volunteer that you need reservations.  As he put it, "there wasn't room for any more fannies!"  We headed back to the parking lot and I was glad to be done! I'm so thankful to have such a beautiful trail that has wonderful art pieces and a beautiful museum to look makes the hard work of hill repeats somewhat more enjoyable!

Skyspace...I still can't wait to experience it.