Run Disney Finally Caught Me

Like most children of the 90’s, I spent my days memorizing every word to every Disney movie, perfecting every Disney song, and dreaming of ways to get my parents to take me to Disneyland. Again. My wedding father/daughter dance? When You Wish Upon a Star (the actual Pinocchio version).  My sister’s college graduation trip? An adult family vacation to Disney World this last December.

20140620-130357-47037728.jpgJust a bunch of drinking age adults, spending vacation hours at Disney World

Despite the Disney obsession, I’ve never participated in a Disney race (they have 9 dispersed between Disney World and Disneyland).  The two big deterring factors have been the price (more expensive for HALF marathons than I’ve paid for either the Chicago Marathon or Boston), and the apparent lack of competitiveness.  And by that, I mean that most people either spend the race weaving between people (or walking when they give up), or waiting in 25+ minute lines to take pictures with characters along the course. I love Mickey, but not that much.

Also, up until recently, most of the Disney race themes (Tinkerbell, and Princess for example) have been female-centered (men literally are not allowed to win).  A big part of the appeal for me is beating the boys, and I also don’t deal very well with women yelling at me for bumping their fairy wings, so I just haven’t been interested to the point of actually signing up. The inaugural Avengers Half (held this fall at Disneyland) ALMOST got me, but come registration day, I still couldn’t bring myself to do it.

But then…the blog world exploded about a month ago when all of the Run Disney ambassador bloggers announced a new themed race at Disneyland: The Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend (hash tag #letthewookieewin).

I wouldn’t say I’m a complete Star Was geek.  I’ve seen all of the movies, I know the general story line, and I can quote some lines.  But, I can’t name all of the planets and their significances, nor do I know all of the names of all of the creatures.  BUT, the thought of this race thrilled me so much more than any princess or fairy race to the point that I immediately shared this news with my incredibly geeky family (my sister has an actual R2D2 robot), and everyone was on board. Even Aaron.

I learned fast that Run Disney is a sub-culture of its own.  There are different terms for things, privileged early registration, and more race options than I would ever know what to do with.  And these people DO ALL THE RACES. On both coasts.  But they don’t seem to do other non-Disney races.  So, just like we might talk about our experiences at Chicago or Grandma’s or Santa Rosa or whatever, they talk about Princess, Tink,  Tower of Terror, and Wine and Dine.

Run Disney Terminology:

Challenge: Incorporates running multiple races in the same weekend.  For example, the Goofy Challenge (part of the Walt Disney World Marathon) involves a half marathon on Saturday and a full marathon on Sunday.  They also charge more for the challenge option than you would pay for registering for these events individually which kind of makes me scratch my head.  The Challenge is also always the 1st event to sell out (within 25 minutes for Star Wars), which also makes me scratch my head. The Star Wars Rebel Challenge (10K and Half) was $320 + fees for a 19.3 mile weekend.

Coast to Coast: A special medal you get for running  a half marathon distance or more at both parks within the same year.  This is the crowning achievement for Run Disney folks and what they all aspire to accomplish.

ChEAR Squad: For $100, you can cheer on your runners (this is actually the most expensive “Platinum” option out of several including one free one…comes with Mickey clappers, rest rooms, a comfortable place to sit, and breakfast…I actually think this might be totally worth the price).

Annual Pass Holders: Special people who get to register early.  They make me totes jealous not only for this reason, but also because they presumably get to visit Disney Parks multiple times per year.

Ass-crack of Dawn: Official race start time. On the upside, I should be done, fed, showered, and ready to go when the park opens.

“Fun Race”: How Run Disney runners explain Run Disney races to other runners.  What they mean is, don’t expect to run a PR here.

People from Florida: People who complain every time Disneyland gets a new race. Because it isn’t fair to host events where they don’t live.

Theme Costume: Requirement, otherwise, no Mickey high-fives for you (just kidding, but it seems like this isn’t entirely untrue).

Park Admission: What you DON’T get with your race entry

Welcome Party: $100 bucks gets you dessert, pictures with characters, and access to select Tomorrowland rides.

Diaper Dash: Races for babies and toddlers.  Start them young! Also known as: let’s figure out a way to make money off of babies since they aren’t old enough to run the regular races. All baby racers get a medal obviously.

As you can see, this is a lot to get used to.  I had to employ the help of  Jac, my resident Run Disney expert (who has earned her Coast to Coast!), and I’ve joined the Star Wars Half facebook group because I’m still kind of intimidated by the Disney runner people.

When registration opened up last week, we got 6 people registered at light speed before everything filled up within 2 hours (it was stressful and we even accidentally registered one sister twice, but thankfully we were issued a refund).

So, in January, Aaron, one sister and her fiance, my dad, and I are running the half, and the other sister is running the 10K at the inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend.  Mom is ChEAR Squading in Platinum Style.

All sarcasm and disbelief over the prices of things (and the sheer number of people…now including myself…willing to pay those prices) aside though,  I’m excited to blend my love of running, Disney, and Star Wars into what will hopefully be a fabulously nerdy event.  We already made our hotel reservations, and I’m already trying to determine if I want to go the traditional (and easy) Princess Leia route, or if I want to do something crazy.  I told Aaron I was going to wear a shirt that says “Nice Buns” with a picture of Princess Leia’s hair, but he didn’t seem too amused.

I’m also hopeful that since this is the inaugural race, and since new Episodes are in production and in need of promotion, that the original (human) cast will be sending runners off.  A girl can dream.

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Hope everyone has a fabulous weekend! May the Force be with you!

 

 

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Rock n’ Roll Arizona Half Marathon Race Recap

Rock n’ Roll Arizona is quickly becoming one of my favorite races because for the second year, I have run a PR race on this course! (you can read about last year’s experience HERE)

And, I am scary good at predicting my race times.

I went into this race with two goals: 1) to run a PR time, and 2) to run easily enough to not require a recovery period.

PRE-RACE:

We were in Phoenix for a few nanoseconds.  Aaron is the manager at a gym and it is January (aka New Year’s Resolution Hell).  He is also without an assistant manager or shift supervisor, so taking days off (even MLK Day) wasn’t an option.

On Saturday, we did an easy 2 mile shake-out run after the 6 hour drive.  Papago Park in Phoenix is one of my favorite places to run, especially in winter when there is less danger of rattlesnakes. You can mix trail running with pavement running, and the desert landscape is really beautiful.  And I enjoyed every second of wearing a tank top.

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After the run, we headed downtown to the Expo.  I spotted Run Eat Repeat Monica (very blonde, very pretty, and very well dressed) and Boring Runner Adam, both huge running bloggers that I would feel very awkward walking up and talking to.  The Brooks expo displays never fail to disappoint (Brooks is the apparel sponsor of Rock n’ Roll, so they get lots of floor space), and their carnival theme was slightly creepy, but creative.  We didn’t get to witness the Human Jesus Lizard in action, but I imagine it was quite miraculous.

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I’m not sure why they have space ships, but Journey is cool!

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I know a lot of people think expos and the crowds they draw are a pain, but I love them.  We stocked up on GU, Nuun, and compression socks at fabulous expo prices! (We’re trying out ProCompression socks since they were $22.50 for a pair….definitely different than my CEP ones, but I don’t know which I like better).

After the expo we rode the Light Rail (Phoenix’s transportation system) into Tempe and ate some tacos at a really cool restaurant called Canteen on Mill Street (Phoenix’s version of Austin’s 6th Street).  By the looks of it, it transforms into a nightclub when the sun goes down, so we got to enjoy our tacos in a very trendy setting.

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After relaxing for a bit back at the hotel, we headed to Scottsdale and ate dinner at a casual Italian restaurant called Oregano’s which is a very popular Phoenix chain (we carb-loaded here last year too).  Aaron ate a really awesome looking salad (the life of a gluten freer), but I stuck to pasta.  And it wouldn’t be carb-loading with a locally brewed Four Peaks Kilt lifter scotch ale.

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RACE DAY!

I woke up Sunday morning with something I’ve never dealt with before a race…stomach problems. Up until now I’ve been very talented at creating perfect race day conditions for myself, but I think a trip to McDonald’s on the drive into town may be the culprit.  I had serious paranoia about a terribly embarrassing accident. No runner wants to be that person.  I ate a few bites of banana hoping to settle things down.

This race runs through three different cities: Tempe, Scottsdale, and Phoenix.  We stayed in Phoenix, so we rode the light rail into Tempe (about an 8 minute ride) along with lots  of other runners! I think the one non-runner was certainly not expecting his ride to be high-jacked by a bunch of dry-fit toting people.

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We made it to race central with plenty of time. The porta potty lines weren’t as long (I think they had more this year), and gear check was organized and efficient. The race started about 20 minutes later this year than last year (7:50 for both the half and the full).  Aaron and I wished each other luck before heading into our respective corrals (Aaron was in Corral 1, and I was in Corral 2).  My stomach still hadn’t settled, but at this point there wasn’t anything I could do about it.  The gun went off, and after waiting a couple of minutes, my corral got the go ahead to RUN!

This year I lined up at the very front of my corral, so I didn’t have to deal with weaving in and out of runners.  This race places you in corrals based on an estimated finish time that YOU provide, so there are always plenty of people who probably should be in a slower corral.

One of the first things I noticed was the lack of crowd support.  Last year it seemed like most of the course was lined with cheering spectators, but it was pretty dead this year. I haven’t run with music since last May, but this was the first time I really wished I had something to distract me from the quietness.  I also saw very few race signs.  We talked to some ladies back at the hotel, and apparently the marathon course was more supported.

And the bands.  The whole point of Rock n Roll races are the bands along the course.  I think there were fewer this year, and at least 3 of them were on set breaks when I went through.  The ones playing were fantastic though, and the all-boy a capella group melted my little choir nerd heart.  One of the bands had a huge screen with their lyrics scrolling in case you wanted to sing a long.  And I think every race I’ve ever done has had a wildly enthusiastic group of Lululemon girls.  They all complimented my skirt as I ran by and Aaron was excited that they cheered a little louder for him since he was also decked out in Lulu gear.  Almost worth the price just to get extra course motivation!

And, super weirdness.  Some nice man cheered for me by name somewhere in Scottsdale (mile 6 or 7 maybe?) and I don’t know who it was.  My bib didn’t have my name on it, and I didn’t really know anyone else running the race, so I’m baffled.   It is entirely possible that another person named Amy was right next to me, but after checking out the race pictures of the two other Amy’s who finished around my time, I didn’t recognize either of them from the race (yes, I’m creepy enough to stalk the race pictures of other people named Amy). Regardless, it was a much appreciated cheer, even if it was meant for someone else!

I was seriously worried about my stomach which wasn’t handling the constant bouncing very well until about mile 6, and the sickness went away.  I don’t know what brought it on and I don’t know what made it stop, but I’m sure glad that I made it through without any incident.  At several points I considered stopping to use a porta potty, but I only spotted one group of them late in the race.

Even though my stomach settled at mile 6, at about this time it became quite apparent that I had forgotten to apply Body Glide.  I don’t know what it is about chaffing that is so terribly painful, but I remember encouraging myself to run faster so the stinging would stop sooner. Maybe I should use this as a tactic in future races?

Arizona’s course is flat for the most part.  There is a steady uphill that starts at about mile 7 and gets pretty steep at about mile 9.  And then the rest of the course is a nice downhill.

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Go Aaron, Go!

Go Aaron, Go!

Running uphill through Papago Park

Running uphill through Papago Park

I was pretty excited the whole race because all of my miles were sub-8 except for one (the uphill one), so I knew I was going to run a PR pretty early on.  I’m actually pretty proud of myself for being a smart and not going out too fast or attempting paces that I couldn’t sustain.  I had to force myself to slow down when I noticed my paces hitting 7:00 minute miles.  There is no way that I’m in shape to hold that speed for a half marathon without some pain for days after, and I couldn’t afford to push like that during this race when I’m already behind on marathon training.

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I crossed the finish line in 1:41:53, a 3 minute PR! I ran a 7:47 pace which is  EXACTLY one minute slower than my last long run pace, so I correctly predicted my finish time two weeks ago! I finished in the top 6% of all the half runners, and 42nd in my age group!

Spring toward the finish line!

Sprinting toward the finish line!

Look at that Garmin stopping action!

Look at that Garmin stopping action!

After collecting my medal (confusing since they were handing out medals for both the half and the “mini” marathon in the same place…I didn’t want to get the wrong one!), I met Aaron a little ways down the finisher chute.  Turns out he’d had a great race and had similarly hit a PR time.  He finished in 1:29:11 (6:49 average pace!) in the top 1.6% of all runners! He was pretty happy with his performance, although he wished he’d run just 12 seconds faster so he could dip into the 1:28’s.

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All races have giant horses don't they?

Giant horse!

Another great aspect of Rock n Roll races is the post race concert.  After watching Marathon Legend Frank Shorter (1972 Olympic Gold Medalist and frenemy of Steve Prefontaine) present the awards to a group that included I think 3 people from New Mexico (GO NM PEEPS!), Andy Grammar took the stage.

Frank Shorter on the right

Frank Shorter on the right

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He’s pretty “up and coming,” but I’ve heard at least 2 of his songs on the radio, and he was really adorable and interactive.  Unlike the mean man from the B-52’s who performed last year.

It takes a brave man to jump into an audience of smelly women

It takes a brave man to jump into an audience of smelly women

Meanwhile I was feeling pretty sick for a couple of hours post race, but my muscles never tightened, and overall I felt far better energy-wise than I usually do after a half marathon.

We were even able to walk to Four Peaks, home of one of my favorite beers, the Kilt lifter for some post PR celebration!

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A couple of months ago I had wanted to run this in 1:35.  I obviously came nowhere near that, or even near the 1:40 window.  I think if I didn’t have Boston training to worry about, I could have pushed it hard enough to at least get into the 1:40’s if not down to 1:40, but I’m glad that I kept my paces in check instead of getting swept up in excitement.  Because of that, I only needed 1 day of recovery while Aaron is still dealing with tight muscles and Achilles issues.

DETAILS:

Finish time: 1:41:53

Average pace: 7:47

Placement: 747/13344 overall, 177th female, 42nd female in my age group

Pre-Race Fuel: Luna Bar, about 3 bites of banana, 2 Clif Bloks

Race Fuel: 1 GU at mile 7.7

Issues: stomach yuckiness, chaffing, slight calf tightness and ankle stiffness on the right side

The Race: Fast course, great volunteers, well organized, ample water stations and fueling options pre/during/post race, plenty of bells and whistles, BUT minimal crowd enthusiasm.

Overall Impression: Happy with my performance.  It wasn’t the PR of my dreams, but I don’t think I could have gone any faster and bounced back as easily.

Heading to My Warm Happy Place (aka RnR Arizona)

In true pre-race fashion, my body has been bothering me since this past weekend.

I keep hoping it will go away, but essentially, it feels like both legs and my lower back are all in a giant conspiracy against a half PR. Everything hurts all day long.  Hips, piriformis, knees, calves, Achilles  even obliques and rhomboids.  Strangely, I had all of these problems LAST year right before this very same race.

It started on Saturday after our sub-freezing run.  I took Sunday and Monday easy with lots of stretching and felt great on Tuesday, so I pushed myself speed-wise on a tempo run only to have everything start hurting again.

So, we’ve been spending some quality time with our Yoga for Runners DVD. If any of you Yogis can help with a modified version of the cow face pose, we would appreciate it since neither of us can get our legs to do anything resembling the nice man in the video. We are however, really good at mooing every time the word “cow” comes up!

Yesterday’s Easy Threesy felt ok, but still not 100%.

I don’t know if this is taper weirdness, or something I’m making up in my head to get out of running in the cold (p.s., the “magic” is gone now that everything is just muddy and icy and cold), or if I do really have body issues that need addressing by a professional.  I’m also planning on buying some new shoes this weekend, so maybe that will help? Mostly, I want to make sure that come next week, none of this is an issue.

So, as I attack Half #6 this weekend, I am going to approach it far more cautiously than I would like to.  I’m going to run a comfortable pace, but if I start feeling any tightness anywhere, I’m going to lay off of it a bit (This is a lie.  Put me in a race, and there is no way that I’m backing down if I have the energy not to…but I’ll try!). PR’s are fun, but not being injured is more fun, so I’m attempting to prioritize my options here!

And regardless, this is a fun race.  They have giant Chinese dragons along the course, and local bands every mile to add to the flavor.  Plus, Phoenix is WARM! Looking at the forecast has been almost heavenly this week.

We’ll see how it goes.  Marathon Reflection Monday will make it’s return next week (weird that I’m more excited for that than for actual marathon training), but until then, enjoy your (hopefully) holiday weekend! Meanwhile I’ll try to make it through 13.1 miles without breaking myself.

Mapping Out the 2013 Race Schedule

One of the most overwhelming parts of reading running blogs is the exposure to the endless race possibilities.

A year and a half ago, I had no clue that more than 5-10 marathons even existed let alone what they were called.  I didn’t know that there was a Chicago Marathon, and while I think I knew that there was a Boston Marathon, I didn’t know that it was any sort of a big deal (now we’re all on a first name basis).

But with all this exposure comes tremendous race envy.  *Almost* every recap I read drives me to look at my bank account to analyze if next year’s race fits into our budget.  I mean, all of the sudden I want to go to places like Duluth and Cincinnati for fun? What is going on here? (keep in mind that I say this out of love if you live in those places.  Albuquerque isn’t a dream boat city either).

But we can’t leave town every weekend to run races, so choices must be made.

This will be the 2nd time that I attempt to map out our race schedule for the entire year.  Realistically, we can afford one, maybe two, major “destination” race per year (last year it was Chicago, this year it is Boston), so everything else has to be regional (Arizona, Las Vegas, Colorado, or West Texas).  And timing plays a big part.  We need to have plenty of rest in between races to recover physically and financially.  And as a glass half full type person, I’m always under the impression that at any given time I will injure myself and never be able to run again, so I want to run the “must-do’s” first whenever possible.  Running Chicago as my first marathon was no accident.  I wanted my first time to be with a marathon that I really loved.

This year I’ve had a few other considerations while planning our race schedule:

1) Boston.  Everything else this spring has to revolve around it include filing taxes.

2) Aaron has expressed that he’s getting burned out with our constant road racing, so I want to incorporate more “non-traditional” races in the mix.

3) Training for a triathlon.  I’m going to need a few months off of running just to focus on swimming and bike riding because this IS happening in 2013.

As of right now, I’m only officially registered for 2 races (Arizona and Boston), but here’s what we’re thinking for 2013:

JANUARY: Rock n Roll Arizona Half.

MARCH: Bataan Memorial Death March 14.2 miler (Las Cruces, NM about 3 hours south of Albuquerque): This race has a full marathon and a “half” option that is actually misleading since it is more than half a marathon.  This is New Mexico’s “big deal” marathon and it is really geared toward veterans and active duty service members.  Many members of the military will run it in full uniform with a loaded backpack.  Lots of uphill, REALLY warm temperatures, lots of loose sand, and likely some rattlesnakes nearby. This is actually considered one of the hardest courses in the country. My dad is planning on running the full marathon (WHAT????) and even my little sister is planning on running the half.  I don’t even know my family anymore.

SOURCE Photo by David Young

APRIL: Boston Marathon. Considered the most prestigious road race in the world.  Still somewhat in denial that I’ll be running it.

MAY: Run for the Zoo Half (Albuquerque):  This falls just a few weeks after Boston, so this is a BIG maybe even though it has become a yearly tradition for me.  It took me a month after the Chicago Marathon to be able to run again.  I’m hoping for a faster recovery time this go around, but I probably won’t register for this until the week of.

JUNE: Garden of the Gods 10 Mile Run (Colorado Springs).  This race is full of rolling hills, but at least each uphill is matched with a downhill. The views are gorgeous apparently.

SEPTEMBER: Imogene Pass Run 17 miler (Ouray-Telluride, CO): Aaron has run this race before.  It sounds miserable yet amazing.  The website says the following: “The reality is that despite whatever emotions we may have for the mountains and their environment, they are in fact unfeeling objects and they follow the natural rules of physics which are not always benevolent toward living creatures, great or small.”  I guess they all can’t be easy.  Check out that elevation climb!

Please note the trail. And the lack of trees. 

OCTOBER/NOVEMBER: We’re going to put in for the Nike Women’s and ING New York City lotteries (if New York opens it up).  Statistically we’re not likely to get into either one.  But a girl can dream.

DECEMBER: Rock n Roll Las Vegas Half (Full?).  It is pretty pricey/cheesey, but Las Vegas is close, and I think running the strip at night would be pretty awesome. And Las Vegas at Christmas time is actually really pretty.  Plus, the race falls right around our wedding anniversary, and I’m not opposed to renewing our vows along the course at the “Run-Thru Wedding Ceremony!”

SOURCE Photo by Steve Marcus

Other Possibilities:

Duke City Half (Albuquerque, October): This was my first half marathon.  Not the most amazing course, but it will be good to do if (when) I don’t selected for NWM or NYC. Plus, you can’t beat a local race where you can go home and nap in your own bed right after.

Tucson Marathon (December): A downhill marathon!  I don’t really want to get into the marathon habit, but if I decide after Boston that I MUST RUN MORE MARATHONS, I think a downhill one will be a nice option.

Rock n Roll Denver Half (September):  This is a back up if Imogene fills up before we register (last year it only took a few hours).

I plan on spending the summer in the pool or on a bike, so I don’t want any big races during those months.  Otherwise, everything is pretty open and subject to change.

Anyone else doing any of these races?  Any other good recommendations in the Colorado, Arizona, or west Texas areas?

I hope you have a WONDERFUL weekend!

Lesson Learned: I’m a Hibernator

Operation Fast Half is coming to a close here soon (the race is in a week and a half), and if I could sum up my lessons learned during this training cycle into one phrase it would be: people don’t change. Or maybe more accurately: after 28 years of life, you should probably know yourself a little bit better.  Maybe: You can take the girl off the couch, but you can’t take the cou…I guess that one doesn’t really work.

A couple of months ago I made some cock-eyed statement about trying to hit 1:35 for this upcoming half marathon.  I ran this same race last year, coming in at just under 1:45 (1:44:53), still  my best half time yet, but I thought I could train myself down 10 minutes to a race pace I’ve only hit a couple of times during 5-K’s because:

1) I’m faster overall thanks to some intense marathon training,

2) I’m a “real” runner now who takes training more seriously than Christmas cheer,

3) I have blog friends to keep me accountable for my workouts,

4) I’ve tasted goal crushing victory and I don’t ever want to eat anything else again,

5) I didn’t train very well last year.  My last/farthest long run was 8 miles, so anything more productive than that should surly produce extraordinary results.

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I’m going to beat you! 

What I didn’t account for is that:

1) I AM faster, but it takes a bit of time to get a LOT faster (i.e. a superstar transformation usually doesn’t occur within 10 weeks),

2) Um, was I high? (No, I wasn’t, I promise).  Christmas cheer will always trump running. Always.

3) Y’all are pretty easy to ignore if I turn off my computer,

4) Cookies are pretty tasty, oh yes they are.

5) People don’t change.  Little runners who would rather hibernate than train all winter will probably always be this way.

I was doing great all November.  Speed workouts were going amazingly, and long runs were flying by.  I was eating really well, and I was motivated.

And then I transformed back into Amy circa winter 2011, going around saying, “but, it’s Christmas”  as an excuse to not get a run in, or to pick up fudge square #3.

I’ve still been running and maintaining, but I don’t think I’ve been getting the type of quality mileage required of a significant improvement.

And then all of the sudden we’re having a really cold winter.  Albuquerque can get cold, and we usually have one miserably frigid day, but we’ve had multiple days in a row where the morning temp is under 20 degrees which seems out of the ordinary.  I’m not willing to head outside for an 11 mile run on  Saturday morning if it feels like -3 outside. I know most of you deal with this all winter every year, but I am not acclimated to cold like that.

So, I’ve been running on the treadmill more. It gets the job done, but I don’t think it really translates as well into the real world.  And I definitely cut runs shorter on the treadmill than I would outside because my wall is boring to look at.

We opted out of using a formal plan for this reason.  We knew we’d be busy and cold, and that we’d spend a lot of time rearranging workouts, but I guess we thought we’d be more disciplined (Um, WHY did we think this?  PEOPLE DON’T CHANGE).

And I’ve been eating non-stop since Christmas Day (slowly getting the cookie habit back under control).  I’m probably going to run this half about 5 pounds heavier than I did last year, which translates into extra effort and likely extra added time.  (Update: Tracie posted a chart on how many minutes extra pounds add to your race time.  If’ that’s not enough to make you depressed over holiday gain, I don’t know what is).

IMG_5648My sister made us our own special batch of gluten-free cookies for Christmas morning.  Guess who ate 95% of those…

So, there you have it. I’ve been training, but not very well, and certainly not enough to shave 10 minutes off my PR time.

In retrospect, I don’t think it was a realistic goal for me to increase speed that much knowing that I’d be distracted. I think we did better on our training this year than last, so improvement was made, and  I’m faster, stronger and more race savvy thanks to a year long effort toward improvement and I can appreciate that accomplishment.

I know that I don’t slack off all the time, and I think I have a better understanding of when I thrive and when I’m better at simply maintaining.  I’ve realized that I can seriously push myself during one training cycle per year (by seriously push myself, I mean stick completely to a plan, give each workout 100%, and have running be a top priority, while consistently remembering my goal and evaluating my progress toward reaching it), and that training cycle can’t fall during the holidays.

I won’t hit 1:35 next Sunday, and I’ve already moved past it.

What is kind of worrying me is that I should have been base-building for Boston.  The day after the half, I am jumping in head first into a more intense 12 week marathon program.  I’m taking my weekly mileage from about 15-25 miles all the way up to about 55 pretty fast, which isn’t really what I wanted to happen.  And if I only want to seriously push myself for one training cycle per year, then I want this one to be it, so slacking off for the first couple of weeks isn’t an option.

So, I’ve decided to:

1) Still go for that PR next weekend.  I can always predict my race time based on my last long run pace (without fail, I can run a full minute faster per mile).  I ran 12.35 comfortable miles on Sunday at an average pace of 8:47.  Based on this, I should come in at 1:42 which will constitute a PR.  I think I even have a decent shot at 1:40 if I suffer a bit. If I can’t be faster than I was 10 weeks ago, I can at least be faster than I was last year.

2) Go harder than I typically would for a goal race taper.  For half marathons, we typically taper for 2 weeks, but I’ll probably reduce it to about 4 days.  My priority needs to shift to marathon training.  I need all the preparation I can get to run a strong PR marathon.

I really hate giving up on something that I said I would do (though it kind of seems to be a theme recently), but I should have known myself better.

I have a general hatred toward the fitness models used in these.  What is up with this lady’s hair?

Any lessons you’ve learned about yourself during your training?  

Hope you are having a great (loooong) week!

(Half) Marathon Reflection…Tuesday

I know there are days of silence going on right now.  I’m not really sure when the official one is (I’ve seen several), but I know I couldn’t bring myself to post for the last several days.  I am heartbroken over the events of last week.  I came home for lunch on Friday and I sat in front of CNN and cried, and I still can’t make it through a news story without getting a terrible feeling deep in my gut.  I don’t think anyone, myself included, will recover from this emotionally for a very long time.  My thoughts and prayers are, and have been, with the people of Newtown.

The family of one of the little girls just moved to Connecticut from an Albuquerque suburb recently and they were members at the gym that Aaron manages.  Emilie Parker used to go to the gym day care pretty often and a few of Aaron’s employees knew her pretty well.  According to the news, her favorite book was Charlotte’s Web, and she used to greet her kindergarten teacher here in New Mexico last year with a “salutations, teacher” every morning.

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This weekend I was looking at my calender, and I realized that, even though I’m doing two separate training cycles, I am 4 months out from Boston meaning I am officially in the marathon training time frame.  So soon?  Truthfully, right now the thought of 17 mile runs is slightly overwhelming. I was so excited to start training for my first marathon back in June, and even though I’ve forgotten the pain of the actual race (MARATHONS ARE FUN!), I remember vividly the lost weekends, miserable 800’s, and chaffing/bleeding/blistering.  Even now that I’m getting back into the 10-12 mile runs, I’m starting to get a slight feeling of dread as I lace up my shoes.

And this weekend’s 10 miler wasn’t my most inspired long run.  Turns out, if you spend the winter running on a nice flat treadmill in a climate controlled guest bedroom and then attempt to run up a mountain, your body rebels in grand fashion. On Saturday, we kept hoping that if we waiting a bit longer to head out, the temperature would rise.  It kind of did (36 degrees is warmer than 27 degrees)…  As much as I run, I haven’t invested in any long running pants, so I wore shorts and compression socks. Meanwhile I saw people walking dogs who looked prepared for a walk in Antarctica. I was ok, but I think that my legs took an extra long time to warm up, and they had that weird tingling and redness that comes from sweating and simultaneously freezing.

The uphill miles were SLOW and I didn’t quite get the exhilarating feeling of flying during the downhill miles either.  Our past few (flat coursed) long runs have been fast, and I’ve been able to get 7 miles in during the first hour.  On Saturday I barely got 6 in during the first hour.  Luckily, it wasn’t completely miserable, but it did serve as a good wake up call that I haven’t been keeping to my weekly goals and and apparently I’ve forgotten about those lessons learned the hard way during marathon training.

So, as a reminder to myself of what I said I would do at the beginning of the cycle, here’s what needs work for the next 5 weeks leading up to Operation Fast Half.

1) Train in harder conditions than you want to:  Neither RnRAZ or Boston are flat.  So why am I training on a flat surface? Hitting pace goals is nice, but that won’t help power me through Heartbreak Hill.

2) Weight lifting/muscle burning exercises: my muscles are tiring faster than they should.  And my shoulders keep tensing.  During marathon training I discovered that rows helped prevent shoulder tightness.  Yet I haven’t been doing them.

3) Yoga, stretching, and general injury prevention: My calves are tight every day.  Running on tight muscles without taking care of them is a sure way to get injured.  I also have been neglecting the foam roller.  I will say though, I don’t see myself icing any time soon.  Ice is cold.

4) Cross-training: This isn’t nearly as essential during half training because the mileage really isn’t enough to completely burn me out or really injure me from over-training, but I still want to be doing more spinning and swimming for overall fitness. I haven’t in a couple of weeks.

5) Core exercises: I haven’t been doing my daily core exercises.  Instead of feeling like a cohesive unit barreling through space while running, I feel like I’m flopping around like an octopus.  My body parts aren’t working together.  And my lower back has been aching more recently.

I’m less than 5 weeks out from what is supposed to be a strong fast half that will help me transition into “Don’t Be the Slowest Person at Boston” marathon training, and I need to start taking this seriously.

I think I started falling into the mindset that, hey, it’s the holidays, I can be lazy.  But I can’t.  (Sidenote: this new enthusiasm may be slightly prompted by the creation of my 10 year high school reunion facebook group.  I’ve never been very keen on actually going to my high school reunion, but I suddenly feel pressure to have some noteworthy accomplishments.  Like, maybe I haven’t climbed the corporate ladder or moved out of state after talking loudly about how much I hated New Mexico for the first 18 years of my life and the last 5 years after college, but I can run a fast marathon, gosh darn it!).

And really, I should be taking advantage of the fact that my long runs are only 10 miles and weekly mileage is between 20-35 miles because too soon I’ll be back to thinking 10 miles is any easy day (just kidding…I’ve NEVER thought that!).

On the Christmas front, I am now way behind on my gingerbread house.  I need it to be done by Saturday, but I have so much left to do.  I  may have to pull some all nighters here this week….

Hope everything on your Christmas to-do list is getting done! Only one more week to fit in as much Christmas as you can!

Winter is Different Than Summer

First, check out Hyedi’s blog for a running headband giveaway and Sarah’s blog for a basket full of Hawaiian goodness giveaway.  Although, if you don’t, then my odds of winning go up….

Obviously I have been through winters before.  And obviously I have seen a time change or 60 in my lifetime.  Yet I am sitting here shocked at how much different this time of year is than summer.

I even trained for this same half at this same time last year, but here I am like, “Oh! It’s Dark!” and “Oh! It’s Cold!”

So we’ve had to get creative with our workouts.

The track that we use isn’t lit.  It also is not made of that fancy newfangled track spongy stuff…it’s dirt.  And the last turn is washed out because it is in the middle of a gulch.  It doesn’t rain here just about ever, but erosion has occurred   So running on this track in the dark or without complete sunlight makes the sprinting aspect of the sprinting workout pretty impossible.

So, aside from dragging ourselves out of a warm bed (is this even a realistic option?) before work, we are doomed to the treadmill.

Fact: one of the busiest weekends at the gym is the week before Thanksgiving.

For some reason, I always feel really self conscious when sprinting on the gym treadmill.  It makes this really obnoxiously loud BOOM BOOM BOOM noise, generating annoyed stares from the people there to walk in peace.

On Tuesday we braved the BUSY gym and did a 5 minute warm-up, then sprinted for 1 minute/walked for 1 minute for a total of 20 minutes before our cool down.  I was hitting between 6/6:10 minute mile pace during the sprints.  I would like to be at about a 5:30 sprint pace by the end of this training cycle.

I do think that sprinting on the treadmill is easier than being in the real world, BUT the treadmill doesn’t let you slow down, and keeping up with the pace is essential if you don’t want to be launched back into the wall/the nice walker behind you.

We followed the sprint workout with plyometrics.  This isn’t something I’ve done too much of in the past, but according to coach Aaron, plyometrics increase your eccentric load (I THINK) giving you more of that explosive energy needed for speed.  Wikipedia says, “plyometric exercises use explosive, fast-acting movements to develop muscular power and to improve overall speed.”  Meanwhile, all the cross fit people are sitting there saying DUH.

We looked kinda like these people.

Basically, we ventured deep into the weight lifting area, and jumped onto a box and jumped off it.  All the meatheaded weight lifters were giving us weird looks (Why these people jump?  Jumping no give big muscle….I always give meatheaded weight lifters cave men accents).

In addition to more gym speed training, we’re having to cram in 3 weeks of “Amy doesn’t want to DNF in the indoor tri” training.

For the next few weeks, Wednesdays will be our Spin It To Win It day which is a fancy way of saying that I’m trying to  master the art of spin biking.  Yesterday was spin class #2 for the year and today I’m feeling the saddle soreness.  At least I think that’s what it’s called.  I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.

Spinning really works out muscles that I must not use very often because I was having a hard time sprinting up the imaginary muddy hills that the instructor kept leading us through.

There is work to be done here.

There is also work to be done on indoor tri logistics.  Aaron doesn’t seem to think that the transition area will include locker room access meaning no changing that requires privacy.  As a girl of ….um…a certain size I can’t really run without a sports bra.  An option I suppose is to wear a sports bra over a swim suit and remove as necessary (and deal with the fact that this will look completely ridiculous).  I’ve been trying to research swimsuits, but I haven’t found any yet with the support I need.  I haven’t looked into full tri suits (I kind of don’t want to buy something that I may only use once), but apparently they take the whole issue into consideration.

So, that’s where we’re at.  Today is more speed work, tomorrow is yoga, and this weekend is our long run and intense swimming crash course.

THANKS FOR THE ENCOURAGEMENT on my indoor tri.  I feel silly for being so nervous about it especially since it really isn’t half as scary as an outdoor sprint.  We’ll see how it goes.

Happy Thursday! (Also, I wrote this REALLY fast today, so I didn’t edit.  I don’t even want to know how many mistakes you can find).

 

(Half) Marathon Reflection Monday

Well, we are officially back in training!

As of right now, we aren’t really following any sort of training plan. Aside from knowing that we’re adding a mile to our long runs every weekend and doing 2 speed workouts per week, we’re kind of winging it.

Besides, with Thanksgiving, an out of town wedding, Christmas, the billion things that go along with Christmas, an inevitable sneezey cold (it always happens in December), New Year’s, freezing temperatures, and a wedding anniversary, we probably wouldn’t do a good job of sticking to a plan anyway, so why set ourselves up for failure.

BUT I also want to accomplish some big things over the next 10 weeks. The problem with creating a ridiculous goal and actually accomplishing it (as was the case for the marathon) is you pretty much think you can do it every time.

So, my goal going in is a 1:35 half, or 7:15 per mile average (I’m not really sure why but it seems like a good number to reach for).

I am not anywhere near this.

My last real (non-puppy) 5-K in July was a 7:20 average.  On ONE occasion have I been able run a race faster than a 7:15 pace.   And according to McMillian, my half time is about 1:41 half based on my marathon time. So, I’ve got some speed to work on.

Aside from hitting a 1:35, my other goals for this training session are:

1) Yoga once a week to keep limber

2) Strength training: I’m never very consistent with this, and I need to get better.

3) Staying injury free by being proactive (with stretching and identifying nagging annoyances before they become issues)

4) developing a solid base for an easy transition into marathon training the week after the race.

We did our first long run this weekend.  I was planning on getting in 5 miles, but we went for a trail run next to the river and we ended up at about 5.8 instead, so we’re already ahead of schedule!

Overall, I felt ok.  My calves were tight yesterday, but considering we took a 5 week break with nothing more than a few 3 mile runs, it didn’t feel labored.

It was a slow run because it was on a trail (lots of really loose sand, lots of horse poo, and lots of change in direction).  And of course, lots of picture stops/tree climbing/general shenanigans   We had some COLD weather this weekend, so Saturday morning was our last chance to get in a good run with fall leaves because I’m guessing a lot of them have just met their ultimate death thanks to the sub-freezing temps and wind.

Our mighty Rio Grande River

I am excited to get back into the swing of things and to have a routine to keep myself on track.  I’m not looking forward to running in the early morning, especially because we’re having an unusually cold week (I know I complained a lot about the heat this summer, but I may hate running in the freezing cold even more).

I hope everyone had a good training weekend!

Kicking Off Another Training Cycle and Annoyance Toward the Oldies Station

Good luck this weekend to Hyedi and Kelly (running her 2nd marathon in 2 weeks!) who are racing this weekend!

This weekend we are kicking off Operation Fast Half.  I’m ready.  To run AND to have something running related to talk about on the running blog.

On Sunday, it will be 5 weeks since the marathon (say what?).  I really like spacing big races out so I have a good month to rest and relax.  That way, when I have to jump in again, I’m itching for it instead of feeling burned out.  I’m ready to push myself to new goals and for goodness sake get my calf muscles back.

I will say I’m a big fan of this half marathon mileage.  This weekend we”ll start off with a 5 mile run! As a long run! I won’t even need a Clif Shot or water break!

This will also be our first weekend of “winter weather,” so it looks like I’ll have to pull out the gloves, running tights, ear muffs, and running jackets that have been buried deep in the closet since March.

In other news, the other day I was listening to the radio while driving to work, and Kokomo by The Beach Boys came on.  I love this song.  It reminds me of lounging on the beach in Jamaica, (it reminds me of the movie, Cocktail, but I don’t think it is part of the soundtrack), and reminds me of Full House.  I REALLY liked Full House growing up.

Aruba, Jamaica, Ooooh I wanna take ya

My day dream was rudely interrupted when I looked down at my stereo screen and realized that I was listening to the Oldies station.

Kokomo came out in 1988…I was well into my childhood in 1988.  Songs from my childhood are being played on the OLDIES station.

Just thought I’d share.

Random question (that will become less random in the next few weeks): What kind of sunglasses do you like?  I’m a big fan of the big bug ones or ones that look retro. 

I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

 

So…Now What? Or, Accepting that Chicago is Over

This past weekend I went to cheer on my dad (and a bunch of other people I know/don’t know) at the Duke City Marathon.  I came bearing big race signs and I wore my Chicago marathon shirt so people wouldn’t think I was a non-runner just because I wasn’t racing! (just kidding…sort of…).

My dad had a great first half and finished in 2:06:something! AND he wasn’t even sore the next day! Pretty sure an addiction was created.

I rarely spectate at races (I know I should probably be volunteering more), so it was interesting to experience it from the other side.  For one, cheering is kind of awkward.  I have the same two phrases, and I was stressing the whole time that I was saying the wrong things and causing runners to lose motivation in the home stretch.

I was also pretty stir crazy, standing there with my race signs watching all of the runners coming into the finish line area.  I wanted to be racing!

But two weeks after Chicago, I’m still not able to run.  I have nagging issues in my calf/shin area.  As far as I can tell, it is just muscle tightness, but it is pretty annoying.  I’m doing all the usual rehabbing efforts, but I have to keep in mind that supposebly it will take 26.2 days for me to be all better.

Luckily, I don’t have anything to train for until the second week of November, so I’m able to not run without affecting any future race times.

I’m trying to really enjoy this time off, but boy am I really taking it off.  My workouts have included walking the dog, “weight lifting” (and by weight lifting I mean squats and curls), a single elliptical workout and my 1st swim lesson (attempting to put my head underwater without plugging my nose with my fingers…I think progress was made!).

I’m amazed at how sluggish I’ve become just from not working out regularly.  I always feel tired and I can feel my body slowly getting more lard-esqe.  Luckily I think I’m over the post marathon blues because of the excitement over the upcoming holiday season (OMGSOEXCITED), otherwise the combination of not working out and depression might have driven me to eat lots and lots of ice cream and potato chips.

On the plus side, all this lack of activity has given me the chance to reflect on what I’m going to do now that Chicago is over and establish what my goals are for my upcoming races.

First, in mid-November I will start half marathon training for Rock n’ Roll Arizona (January).  I’ve decided I want to train into running a fast half (1:35 or 7:15 average pace).  9 of my marathon miles were sub-8, so I feel like this is a reasonable goal to reach for.  It will require a lot of speed work (more 400’s instead of 800’s! Hooray!), but it is nice to have a base established.

I will start training for Boston the week following Rock n’ Roll.  I want to have a completely separate training plan for each of these races.  Instead of the 16 week training cycle, I’m going with a 12 week cycle.  After a training into a fast half, I should have the speed, so I’ll just have to work on re-building the endurance and focusing on becoming a strong downhill/uphill runner.  Unlike Chicago, Boston is not flat.  That little tiny hill felt epic at the 26 mile marker at Chicago.  I’m dreading the Newton Hills.

I’m not quite ready to call my Boston time goal.  I obviously want to put in my best effort and train hard.  EVERYONE is fast at Boston so I’d at least like to not feel like the one slow person in the bunch.  But now that I’ve qualified, I don’t know if I want the same pressure to hit a certain goal. I kind of want to see how Arizona goes before I start thinking about whether I’m ready to prepare for a sub 3:30.

I do also want to learn to swim by the end of the year, per my bucket list.  Saturday showed that I really have a looooong way to go.  But with coach Aaron leading the way (did I mention he’s also an accomplished swimmer?) and a new-found confidence that I can do anything I put my mind to, I think it can be done.  I’ll consider myself sufficiently schooled in swimming if I can make it across the pool and back using proper free-style stroke, and employing a solid breathing strategy that doesn’t include keeping my head above water at all costs.

I also want to get back some of that muscle definition that I’ve lost ever since I started running half marathons last year.  It was near impossible to do any quality weight lifting while training for a marathon because my muscles always felt fatigued, but now that we’re back in half marathon land for awhile, I want to focus on a supplementary workout program.

I’m also excited (surprised but excited) to see most of my marathon buddies signing up for a second round! We must all be nuts.  But it will be awesome to follow everyone’s training again come spring!

What’s your winter/spring race schedule?  (or, if you’re in the southern hemisphere…your summer/fall schedule!).  

I hope everyone is having a fantastic week!