Thursday, April 26, 2012

Taper time! Wooohoooo

Wow, I can honestly say this might be the first time in the 5 years I've been running that I'm actually wicked happy and excited to be tapering. Last weekend I ran my last 20 miler before marathon #10. I split the miles again with my friends Shannon and Kim. Shannon ran the first 7.75 with me and then Kim ran the last 12.5 (the run is actually a 20.25 mile loop). It was a perfect day for a long run. Started out a little cloudy and cool, but as we finished the sun came out and it warmed up a bit. The first 7.75 miles of the run goes from my house through a very short section of Tewksbury and then into the back roads of Andover. There is one really big hill from mile 2-3 and then another one that sneaks up slow and gradual from 6-7.75 that's where the tag team hand off happened and Shannon finished and Kim began running with me. The next part of the run is a portion of the loop that I hadn't run in a long time and a totally new experience for Kim. We leave the little league field in Andover where we meet and run to the Andover Country Club and through the golf course past million dollar homes and then back to the main road for a slow climb that connects the loop to the 18 miler we have done before. From that point there is about 8 miles to go and more than half of it is hills. I compare it to the Newton Hills because it's not one big hill, but a series of hills with short sections of recovery inbetween. The longest section is between mile 15 and 17 on North St. in Tewksbury. Kim seems to really enjoy it, I call it a "suckfest". At the top of that hill marks 3 miles to go and as Kim always says, "Anyone can run a 5K". We get a mile of down hill running before the last two miles climbing back up into Lowell towards my house. Overall, it's a challenging loop but mostly quiet back roads and beautiful neighborhoods. Here's the elevation profile:
We finished the run a little tired and a little slower than normal, but it got warm and we ran out of water towards the end. I still felt really good and could have run another 6 miles so it was a success for me and as I got to the end of the run and stopped my Garmin I threw my arms up triumphantly and screamed to Kim, "WOOOOHOOOO I MADE IT TO THE TAPER!!!!"

Sunday morning I was signed up for the Lowell Firefighters 5K. It started at 10:30 and is about a mile and a half from my house so, I ran to the race for a little warm up. Got there, picked up my number and chatted with some friends while waiting for the race to begin. I had no expectations for the race, just there to support a good cause and have some fun. A nice easy recovery run/celebration for finishing my 20 miler so strong. I started out nice and easy and I actually felt a lot better than I expected after the long run the day before. Seriously, ICE BATHS ARE MAGIC. I picked up the pace a little in the second mile, then with a mile left to go I really started to push myself. One person at a time, I'd put them in my sights and then pass them (I guess it's rude to count them out loud, haha, just kidding). Rounded the last corner and there's a little hill before the fast downhill finish. I saw a few girls ahead that looked like they were in my age group so I took them out and kicked to finish strong. Turns out they WERE in my age group. I didn't place, but I was 12th out of 35 and #13 was 2 seconds behind me and #14 was 8 seconds behind her. So, that little kick at the end was worth it (Even if I did almost vomit on the timing guy at the finish line). I got some water and let me heartrate come back down to normal before the light jog home. Felt amazing, with a huge smile on my face, training done, taper beginning, feeling good.

Monday, as you might guess, I rested. Yup, I'm learning. I could have run and I kinda wanted to, but I rested and did NOTHING. I deserved it. I worked hard and ran a total of just under 50 miles the week before (49.3 to be exact). I got home from work and cleaned my house a little, folded some laundry, then curled up on my couch with a book and a blanket and called it a day.

Tuesday, I had a wicked busy day at work. The day flew by, I was in and out of meetings, I got a lot done, and I still had a lot to do. The last meeting of the day didn't go as well as I had hoped, it was ok, but not great and I was kind of wound up and frustrated that I didn't do a good job (even though I'm pretty sure I did and it's all in my head). I changed into my running gear and couldn't wait to hit the pavement and run along the Charles to get some of the stress and frustration out. When I started running I knew almost immediately that it was going to be more frustrating and not stress relieving. It was really windy out and I felt super sluggish. I struggled to move my legs and felt like I was running in water on another planet where gravity had doubled. Not fun. Not the release of energy I was hoping for. I cut the run short and finished more frustrated than I was when I started. I went home and tried to relax and read my book, but couldn't even do that. My eyes were burning and my eyelids were too heavy to hold open. I ended up falling asleep on my couch at 6:30pm. I woke up when a friend texted me around 8pm and I just went to bed.

Wednesday I woke up still exhausted. I had tossed and turned all night and didn't really get much sleep. But it was a new day and I was determined to make the most of it. I got to work early and finished up some things that were on my to-do list from the day before and had a few more meetings. Scheduled some follow ups and felt really good about how things were looking. I'm making progress and getting things done, I like it! The day came to an end and I put my running gear on and headed to Kim's house for our weekly Wednesday running date. I was thinking about my run the day before and hoping that I felt better when we started running. I didn't want to jinx myself and say anything. Usually when I have a crappy run on Tuesday the week is redeemed by a great run on Weddnesday so I just went with it. Kim and I ran the same loop as the week before only backwards and about half way in we heard a hollah from a car behind us, at first it was hard to tell what they were yelling, then it was my last name! It was my friend Charles that ran Crossroads with me in 2011 and did the Boston Marathon (a lot faster than me) too. We had just spoken a few days earlier and it was so random to see him in the middle of nowhere on a Wednesday night run. Such a pleasant surprise. It was awesome. Kim and I finished the run and I felt a thousand times better than the day before. We averaged 9:30s even up the giant hill to her house at the end of the run. Then before I left to go home we had a little dance party with her daughter who has recently learned how to "booty drop". Hilarious and adorable.

There's so much going on in the next few weeks I don't know where to begin. Here's a brief summary and I will update along the way: 18 miler, going to Copenhagen, potentially a finalist in a wicked cool contest (details to follow), fun run with friends I haven't seen in a while and hopefully some of the best coffee and chocolate chip pancakes ever, Big Lake Half Marathon, Birthday spa day, Birthday cake!, Bennington Vermont stair climb, and last but not least marathon #10 Shires of Vermont. Phew, it's goona fly by and it's gonna be AWESOME. Stay tuned.

Ok, so here's a preview of the contest I eluded to: Huffington Post The Buried Life Contest Link to my story They will select 10 finalists next week and voting begins May 1st. If I'm one of the finalists and I get the most votes, they help me cross this item off my bucket list.

Friday, April 20, 2012

30 days to go.....

I'm doing my last 20 miler tomorrow then I taper. Feeling really good about how my training runs have gone. I'm not going to be breaking any records or setting a PR, but I feel great and that's what matters most. In the last 6 weeks I've done 16, 18, REST, 19, 20, 18. I'm right on target for a nice easy 4:30 marathon and as long as the weather is decent that should not be hard to accomplish.

Oh last weekend I finally got out for my first ride on my new bike. IT. WAS. AWESOME!!!! I did 22 miles on Sunday afternoon. I had planned on just doing a nice easy 18, but felt so amazing I could have stayed out there all day, but I ran out of water. I definitely need to get out more because I wasn't fast, but hills were noticably easier with a lighter bike. Only problem is the weight difference from my old bike to my new bike is probably equal to the weight I've added to my frame since last summer. It's not much, but 5lbs. can mean the difference between a spot on the podium and walking back to my car without any bling.

Before the bike ride, on Saturday I did my long run and split the miles with Shannon and Kim again. It really does make it A LOT easier when you have company. Shannon ran the first 7.75 with me and Kim ran the last 10.25. Both sections of the run are pretty challenging. All hills, all the time. Just the way I like it. I think we finished up the entire run in about 3 hours which is well under my goal pace for Vermont.

Oh and I spent the downtime over the weekend making signs for the Boston Marathon:

Monday morning I drove to Kim's house early so we could sneak in a short run before going to Newton to cheer. It was already in the 70s at 8:00am when we ran and we barely made it 5 miles. The heat was BRUTAL. There really is no better word to use. It was a struggle to convince my legs to keep moving, there was just nothing there, no gas in the tank. THANK GOD I didn't have to try and do 21 MORE miles. After the run we showered and hopped in the car and headed to Newton.

We found a great spot right in the middle of Heartbreak hill and started cheering. We got there just after the womens elite runners went by. Even the elite men looked like death when they went by which made us really worry for the runners in the back of the pack. We had a few friends in the race and hoped that they would survive the day. Runners were drenched in sweat and really struggling. That hill broke a lot of people on Monday. We were there to help motivate them and cheer them on as they crested the top. As the day went on it was less of a run and more of a death march. By the time we started seeing bibs from the last wave more than 50% of the people going by were walking. We saw a few friends go by and gave them whatever they needed to encourage them to finish strong. Then we called it a day.

I didn't even run and I got dehydrated and cramped just from standing in the sun. I had 50 SPF sunblock on and still got burnt. I was sweating just standing there. When we got in the car to leave Newton the thermometer read 91 degrees. HOLY HEAT!!!! Congrats to everyone that completed the marathon on Monday and lived to tell about it. I'm not sure I would have if I had to run in that heat. Seriously, KUDOS to you for an epic achievement!

Tuesday, I ran along the Charles. It was warm out, but not nearly as warm as the day before and there was a very nice breeze. I did 7 miles and had ridiculously consistent splits. 9:43/10:18/10:15/10:09/10:13/10:16/9:38 Not sure what it is about the first/last mile that makes me run it faster. Probably that giddy feeling little kids get when they bust out the screen door in the middle of summertime to go play with friends and on the way back home when there's ice cold water waiting for them. That's kind of how I feel in the first and last mile of my runs along the Charles.

Wednesday, I did my weekly Ayer run with Kim. We tried a new loop and I tried an old running tank (because I've been too lazy this week to wash my dirty laundry and to fold my clean laundry so it's kinda hard to find clean running gear). Well, it turned out that there was a reason I don't wear that top EVER. It was too small and I couldn't breathe. Literally, I felt like it was crushing my lungs. I ended up taking it off 2 miles into the run and just running in my sports bra. That third mile was the fastest because I could actually get oxygen to my lungs. The run was going to be a little short of our usual 5 mile loop so Kim suggested an alternate route home, I'm not familiar with the area so I just follow her. Well, we ended up climbing this enormous hill that was long AND steep. It was rough. Note to self - for future hill repeats that street is perfect, but not so much for the last mile of an 'easy' run.

Last night I ran along the Charles again. Just 6 miles this time. It was perfect out. I felt really good until the last 2 miles, probably should have just done the 4 mile loop. Just didn't have much energy and my stomach was a little weird. Not booboo belly and I didn't need to stop and find a port o potty, just off. Maybe I was hungry. It went away by the time I got home so, I'm going to assume it was lack of fuel in my engine.

Today will be a rest day, getting ready for tomorrow's 20 miler. Topping off the tank with some good eats and going to bed early. Lots of good stuff coming soon so stay tuned......

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Boston is buzzing .....

...with anticipation of the big race on Monday. I have mixed feelings about not running. I'm jealous of all my friends that are running, but also relaxed and relieved that I'm not freaking out and checking the weather forecast every hour for updates and stressing about a time goal or last minute details. It's kind of nice to watch and cheer from the sidelines, but I would drop everything and jump at the opportunity to re-live the last two turns 'right on Hereford, left on Boylston' in a heartbeat if someone gave me a number.

I've got my own race to train for and run coming up in 38 days though so, it's cool. My training is right on track too and going great. This past weekend I did a 20 miler with my friends. They split the miles with me. Shannon ran the first 11 by my side and then Kim joined me for the last 9. I felt amazing until the last mile and a half. And really I felt ok, I just couldn't go as fast as I wanted to. I averaged 9:45s with Shannon and solid 10:00s with Kim both well below my targeted 10:18 (4:30 marathon pace). Kim's fresher legs wanted to do 9:30s and my tired legs could only manage 10:00s so I got a little cranky towards the end when Mother Nature chimed in with a lovely headwind. I got it done though and promptly plopped my butt into an ice bath. Seriously, can't recommend them enough.

Sunday, I was going to go for a short bike ride or easy run, but decided to stay in my PJs all day instead. A nice lazy day is sometimes the best training you can do for your body. I'm slowly learning that. Besides the night before I was driving home from going to the movies with a friend and my muffler fell off my car so I was too embarrassed to drive it anywhere, even just the grocery store. It was so loud.

Monday, I took a personal day from work to take my car to the dealership to get repaired. $1170 later I have a whole new exhaust system. I doubt that was really necessary, they could have just patch welded it back together, but my car has 97K miles on it and I want to get at least another 97K out of it so I figure it's a good investment. After the dealership, I went to the grocery store, then home, finished some laundry, baked some banana bread, made some soup, and even managed to go for a nice 6 mile run with Kim. So, overall it was a very productive day.

Overall, I'm feeling really good. My pace is finally starting to get back to where I was this time last year (not quite there yet, but a lot closer). I've got two more really long runs (18 and 20) before I taper for Vermont. Knock on wood, I have no pains or problems. It's just a matter of logging the miles and staying healthy at this point. My body knows what to do and I'm getting much better at listening to it when I need rest. I still have a few extra pounds that showed up when I stopped doing strength training after Tough Mudder, but nothing really significant. I'm sure as soon as I start adding more miles on my bike those will totally evaporate.

I guess I'll wrap this up by saying best of luck to everyone running Monday. I plan to be in Newton cheering with a cowbell and some signs and maybe even a ridiculous costume so that I stand out in the crowd. No matter what Mother Nature decides to throw at you for the day, race smart, start slow, adjust your plan if you need to and own that course! Cherish every mile, take it all in, and no matter what your pace is time will move in slow motion when you make that turn onto Boylston. ENJOY IT! It is one of the most amazing experiences ever! I have chills just thinking about it.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

I may not be the fastest, BUT......

......Every race I finish is a win in my books. This past weekend I ran the Luv2Run Boston 5K Saturday. It was drizzling and cold and I really didn't feel like doing it, but I was already up and dressed and I drove all the way to Brighton so I did it. I figured it's just 3 miles and it would be a good speed workout. There weren't many people there and it was kind of informal, no timing chips, no start gun, just ready set go. I started out easy and when my garmin beeped for the first mile I was surprised to see 8:55 for my pace. Sweet, hold onto that, I thought. Not too bad. Beep! 8:25 for mile 2! Awesome, keep it up, finish strong, don't bonk now, just one more mile. I picked up the pace and pushed myself. Leave nothing on the course, let's see what you got, all out, you can rest when it's over. I saw the finish line and the clock and some numbers I haven't seen in a long time......25:40 when I crossed the line. My last mile was 8:00!

I'm finally getting my speed back. That was the fastest 5K I've done since I got hit by the car last June! And I paced it perfectly. I really could not have run a more perfect race. I felt good and ran perfect negative splits. I thought that because of the small crowd I might actually place. I stuck around for the awards and when they called the top 3 for 30-39 women my name was not in the list, oh well, I didn't care. The pacing and strong finish and super fast time for me was a WIN. Turns out I was 8th place out of 15, my age group is fast!

Sunday, I had planned an 18 mile training run. Kim and Shannon wanted to run with me so they planned to meet me about 7 miles into the run and do the last part of it with me. My 18 miler is super hilly. Especially the last part of it. I warned them. I started out the run nice and easy and tried to hold back a little knowing I had a ways to go, but excited that Kim and Shannon were meeting me part way in I was excited and it was tough to ease into it. For some reason, I was running in my head a lot. Can't put my finger on what was bothering me, but I didn't feel great. Physically I was fine, but mentally I was struggling.
Just after mile 7 I spotted Kim and Shannon on the horizon. I instantly got a boost of energy. The first 5 miles were a little rough, but then I settled into a comfortable pace and felt ok. Once I met up with Shannon and Kim, I kept the pace and we continued on the route through Andover and Tewksbury. Over the hills and back to Lowell. Kim wanted to make their run an even 12 miles so we added on a little at the end. They had joined me for an extra mile a few weeks back and were nice enough to meet me in the middle of this run so I stayed with them for the last mile and a bit. It ended up being 19 total for me. I felt great. I totally could have done another 7 miles. And at the pace I held for the run I would have been under 4:30 for a marathon. I'll take it!

Sunday night I didn't sleep at all and Monday I woke up feeling really off. I went to work, but ended up going home early. I put my PJs back on and rested on my couch, but just as I was about to doze off, my heart rate spiked and raced and pounded. So, annoying. I was so exhausted I felt like I was going to vomit and I couldn't fall asleep. I finally fell asleep around noon and I was out cold. I woke up and thought it might be 1:00 or 2:00, it was almost 6:00pm! I made some dinner and went to bed. Guess I needed the rest.

Anyway, aside from the off day Monday the last week has been pretty awesome. I've spent some time reflecting on the last 5 years and how far I've come and all the accomplishments and all the things I still want to do. It's so amazing. Proof that anything is possible when you stop making excuses and start living. The possibilities really are endless. I can't wait to see what obstacles I conquer next and what accomplishments are in my future. 46 days until Shires of Vermont marathon, 59 days until the first triathlon of the season, 158 days until Pumpkinman Half Ironman, 186 days until Chicago rematch, 276 days until Goofy 2013......but who's counting.