Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Country Music Half Marathon Pack Job

It's Wednesday at 9:30pm.

60 hours from now, I will be finished with the Country Music Half Marathon.

There's not a lot of time, and there's lots to do.

Maybe I should be panicking.

The race is 450+ miles from Chicago and we're at the travel mercy of O'Hare airport.

Destination races are fun, right?

I printed off the confirmation email for the race. The Competitior Group must think I still live with my parents. That's cool. I can run this race as Laura from Mokena.

Then I was on the phone with Kim determining how we're getting to the airport. Our flight is early Friday. I'm still looking for the confirmation email from the airline.

I am in the process of packing. That is, if you can call an empty suitcase with four packets of Gu, a empty fuel belt, running shorts, four packets of oatmeal and a hat thrown on top of it packing. What a random list of crap. Pretty amazing I am thinking of Gu and oatmeal before I'm thinking of other essentials like running shoes or socks. Then again, depending on how well you know me, you know 'I gotta eat!'

This is only my second destination race. My first was this race two years ago. I enjoyed it enough to do it again, but first I had to give myself two years to forget about the hills.

Packing isn't coming along so well since I'm blogging and making up a list for stuff I need to do when I get back. This is part of my OCD while tapering. Tapering for a full will take control of your life for two weeks. A half, well, maybe you can get away with just a few days. I've been worried all day that I'm not hydrating enough, so I know that the taper mentality has certainly set in.

Here's the course map:

Looks like a tangled web of insanity. And it looks really hilly. Somehow.

This race is a half marathon and a full marathon. I'm running the first 11 with the big boys and then I'm taking a sharp right and wusing out. And I'm completely ok with that.

I looked up my time from last year 2:22:something-or-other. Do seconds really matter anyway? If I can do a sub 2:25, I'll call this race a success.  And even if it's not sub 2:25, it's still a success because I had fun, I ran, went on a vacation, and I wasn't sitting on my couch eating (insert favorite Easter candy).

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

12 Mile Run and the Nashville Taper

Last Saturday, Katie and I had plans to start our 12 mile run (the longest run in preparation for our Half Marathons) at Foster and the Lakefont. When I arrived at 7:45, the street was closed.

As soon as I saw the squad I remembered - CARA (Chicago Area Runners Association) Lakefront 10. Kim S. had asked the week before if I wanted to do it. Had I not needed to run 12 that day, I would have.

I called Katie and we relocated a few miles north to my neighborhood. I guess that's the nice thing about running. It's easy to find alternative places to run if your place of preference is taken.

By the time we worked our way down to Foster, the street was back open. We got to see a good number of the Lakefront 10ers working their way north to the finish. It's not often I get to see the fast people that win races. Scanning for familiar faces certainly helped pass the time. We saw Kim around Belmont on our way south and then saw Sara on our way north around the same spot.

We also saw a group of familiar faces out running that morning - Ken, Carl, and Laura. Ken and Carl were pace group leaders for CARA last year. Laura and I met in 2008 through CARA while training for the marathon. Seeing so many running friends, well for sake of a better word, running, made me start thinking about summer and training. It was the first time I'd been excited about starting in on the summer commitment of marathon training.

The Chicago Marathon's registration opens February 1st. Race day is October 11th, just over 8 months later. This year, the marathon sold out (45,000 registrants) in a record 31 days. As you can imagine, a lot can happen in 8 months. When I signed up, my thinking was that I wanted to have the option to be able to do it again. I couldn't think far enough in the future of actually doing it again.

The Country Music Half Marathon is April 30th. After our 12 mile run, Katie and I began tapering for our races (Katie's is on May 1st in New Jersey). I started it off right by having a huge celebratory burger where I out-ate Dave. But in all seriousness, hope the starts align for me on race day. My training hasn't been perfect this time around.

Once this race is over, and certainly once the weather turns, I'll start setting my sights on the next big thing: Rangar Relay. You thought I was going to say marathon, didn't you?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Elmhurst, You Almost Killed Me.

Instead of running the Shamrock Shuffle last Sunday morning, Kim and I met up and headed to...Elmhurst.

Why Elmhurst?

Well, Elmhurst has a hill. It's actually a sledding hill, but it's a mean looking sledding hill.

We sized up the hill for a few moments, then went over to a soccer field where a group of people were doing a boot camp type class. It was lead by a guy who was Kim's high school trainer. Turns out that he knew my high school trainer, Aaron, very well.

We participated in the first half of boot camp. Kim fared much better than myself. Young kids were running faster and doing more push-ups than me, which goes to show that being a runner doesn't mean you're in tip-top shape. If Kevin (my former personal trainer) and I do meet up in May as we've planned, he is going to beat the you-know-what out of me.

After boot camp had handed us our asses, we headed over to the hill, because, well, we needed to be tortured some more.

So why do I keep coming back to the hill?

Nashville is hilly. Chicago is not. You can figure out the rest.

Kim made up a loop. A wide circle around a soccer field and then up and down the hill. Repeat and repeat...until we reached over 5 miles. It was brutal. It reminded me why I stay away from stair-steppers and stair climbs.

Had I not done the Country Music Half two years ago, I would be pretty freaked about the rolling hills of Nashville.

I can't decide if it's confidence or ignorance that's going to see me through on race day.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Good Running Form

Saturday I was at the Shamrock Shuffle Expo and heard a representative of a popular Chicago running store speak. He had some great insights on proper running form, and gave some simple tips to correct bad form.  Here's the Cliff Notes edition I'd written into my Blackberry -

Proper running form allows faster speeds, most efficiency and less injuries.

When you run, you shouldn't be able to look down and see your feet.

To bring your pelvis and spine in line while running, put hands above your head and your body will adjust  to take out leaning at the waist.

Keep arms on the sides of the body. Don't allow them to cross your center plane. Otherwise you are turning at the trunk and causing over or under pronation. Can also lead to tightness in shoulders.

Over striding and heel striking causes strain, uses three times as much energy AND slows you down.   Plus it can lead to shin issues. To see how it feels to land on mid-foot, try marching in place.

Try shortening your stride when running. Aim for 180 bmp cadence to create quicker turn over. Do this by counting for 30 seconds on one foot - it would strike the ground 45 times.

Monday, April 11, 2011

When Fitness Became Part of my Life

I was watching The Biggest Loser earlier this week and thought back to my life before fitness played such a large role in it.

I had recently graduated college. I was shopping for jeans one day at a local Gap. The jeans I had were too tight. I didn't see the next size up on the shelf, so I asked the sales associate for help.

In a very nice way, she told me I'd have to go to another store to get that size.

That's when it hit me.

A few hours later, I was at Lifetime Fitness talking with a personal trainer.

My trainer, Kevin, and I formed a great relationship. I was one of his first clients. We liked the same kind of music. He pushed me to do things in the gym I didn't think I could do. We had an agreement that I would take photos of myself every 6 to 8 weeks to show progress.

More than the strength and physical appearance, training gave me the knowledge of how to properly resistance train and weight lift, not to mention boosted my self esteem.

Personal training is the best money I've ever spent. I've told countless people that.

After Kevin left Lifetime, I continued training on my own.

I went from being someone who wasn't very active to someone who was at the gym four or five days a week. I knew my way around the free weight section of the gym. I took nearly every class Lifetime offered, from yoga to spin to boot camp, and loved them all.

Since that first day of training with Kevin, I've never forgotten that it takes a lot of work to stay fit, but it's all worth it. It makes me feel great, and positive attitudes are contagious.

I still think about those days when I'm pushing myself on a run, realizing how far I've come.

I know that I wouldn't be where I am today without the personal training experience. I'm grateful for that.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

10 miles. The Cure to a Common Cold.

I don't get sick often.

Training seems to help fend off the common cold and flu. Margo's marveled in my ability to walk out of her flu-ridden household unscathed on more than one occasion.

Two weeks ago, I went to bed early on a Sunday night and ended up staying home from work Monday, sleeping most of the day.

By Monday evening, I felt recharged enough to go back in to work, but I didn't have enough energy to run. I decided to rest and hit up the vitamin C.

Thursday afternoon I made a weak attempt at a five mile run before leaving for Miami.

Once I arrived in Miami, I felt fine. Vacation was great. I returned Monday evening, ready to run the next day.

I went to bed Monday night and wasn't up for more than a few hours until Wednesday morning.

Wednesday I went to work, but went home at lunch.

I slept. More.

I called my doctor's office. She was on vacation. I stopped by a Walgreen's Take Care Clinic in the hopes they'd be able to help. The visit was a bit inconclusive. Maybe I had mono, or maybe just the flu.

Back to work on Friday. Feeling better, but by no means great.

Saturday I feel much better than Friday. I go to the doctor's office and see another doctor in the practice. The doctor says I likely have a strand of the flu, and there's nothing he can do now. His advice - I should have gotten a flu shot this year. I tell him I've never had one and he shakes his head (this is the same guy who told me I shouldn't run unless being chased). According to him, everyone should have a flu shot. Maybe he's right (?).

After that helpless visit, I text Katie to go back to what does seem to work: running.

And why not try to knock out the flu by showing it a solid ten mile run?

Sunday morning we did just that in an attempt to get back on schedule for half marathon training.

Three weeks until Nashville!