Monday, May 24, 2010

Running Shoes Retired

I retired my running shoes from this spring today.  It was sad to see them go on many levels...

I am making room for a new pair already purchased and another new pair on the way.  All of them - retired, new, and in transit - are Asics Gel Nimbus 11.  I love, love, love the Nimbus 11.  I think I am on pair #4 at the very least.  The shoe is light (they have decreased the weight over previous versions), very cushioned (I am all about a soft shoe), and they work well for people with high arches (me! me!).  So, I have been buying them over the years.  I think I started with the Nimbus 9, went to the 10, but the 11 is my favorite so far.  I figured I would be in love with the 12 after all my experiences.  I ran out to get them the first week they were available, but returned them after wearing them around the house for an hour last month.  Awful.  I hated the fit.  The shoe seems longer and narrower.  I always wear a 9.5B in Asics.  I have for the last 5 years without any deviation.  Since the Nimbus 12 had such a different fit, I ended up trying a couple of different sizes and widths, but it just didn't fit right.  So, in my psycho addiction to the Nimbus 11, I ran out to buy a pair and then decided today I should order a backup pair to my new pair.  Yes, I am a little crazy about a shoe once I find one I like.  I had to scour the web to find a Nimbus 11 in my size as they are now discontinued and out of stock many places. Sniff. Sniff.  But, I found a pair.  Ironically, from my favorite running shop in Illinois - Body N' Sole in Champaign.  I didn't even think to check their site, but it came up in my google search.  Awesome!  It is a great locally owned business if you are ever in the area.  Great store, great people, and good prices.  It definitely was not in the color I wanted (pink - bleh!), but in running, the shoe is more important than the look.  As my dad used to say, it is not a fashion show out there.  True.  Very true.  Anyway, I ordered the shoe at 6pm tonight and got an email at 7:30pm that the shoes had already shipped with a UPS tracking number.  (And that is why they are such a great store!)  I took my new pair for a test run tonight to break them in.  A very quick 3-miler before class.  It was so hot out there.  It's that time of year where you have to peel off your running clothes when you are done.  Yep.  Gross.

I am also saying goodbye to the shoes that made it through three half marathons, a marathon relay, and a couple of 5ks.  Not to mention all the training involved.  They were great in the snow, on the ice (with my yak tracks hooked on), and in the rain (including the downpour of the IU Mini).  My estimate is that I covered about 405 miles in about 4 months in this shoes, maybe more.  Definitely my constant companion!  They also helped me get a half marathon PR and my 5k PR.  But alas, these shoes were worn beyond their years.  I don't think I have ever let a pair get so broken down and also continue to run in them.  For some reason, I know I need a new pair of shoes whenever I start getting knee pain after running.  I've had that pain for a couple of weeks now, but haven't wanted to give these guys up.  (Well, honestly, I haven't wanted to wear my new ones out in all of this rain and crappy weather.)

I shipped them off today to the Nike Reuse-A-Shoe Program.  They recycle old shoes (any brand) into surface material for tracks and playgrounds, as well as use some of the materials in their clothing line.  Yes, I do realize that Nike is making money off my old shoes.  But, they were way too worn out for a shoe donation program.  I wanted to recycle them and Nike offers that type of program.  I would much rather they do good with the shoes (money or otherwise) over having them sit in a landfill taking decades to break down.  Runner's World did an amazing article called The Runner's Footprint a few years ago.  It talks all about the impact of running shoes and the sport of running on the environment.  It is definitely a bigger imprint than I thought.  So, until there is a more sustainable shoe that I like, I either donate or recycle every pair of old shoes.

Goodbye to my old running companion.  Thankfully, I have a couple more of the same to keep me going!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

5k PR!!

This past Saturday I ran in a 5k. This race was significant for a couple reasons. First, this is the first short race I have done in a very long time. Second, this is the first Mag 7 race (local race series) I have done this year. I have missed so many this spring!

This was a new race in town - The Firefighter 5k. It started and ended at the downtown firestation. It was an out and back course that included a water stop at another firestation. Minus the fact that the course was super hilly, it was a great race. Definitely well organized and very fun hanging out at the station.

The morning was overcast with temps in the upper 60s. Good for running except it was rather humid. I ran near a girl I know. I tried to beat her but she had a better kick at the end and beat me by a second! Ugh! I am not good at sprinting at the end of a race. I finished in 24:58. This is my new 5k PR time as far as I can tell from some of my old race times (still trying to complete my whole list)!! Finally, but barely, in the 24's!! This is good for me, although I am not sure I can sustain that especially in the summer races. I am not good at running in the heat at all. I just don't adjust well to the humidity and have a hard time catching my breath when the air is so think.

Normally, a race that good would get me points in the Mag 7 race series. But the competition was tough, especially in my age group! I didn't get any points, but the turnout was huge, which is great for the series.

It is definitely hard to go from longer runs to shorter runs. My legs are used to trying to pace myself over longer runs.

My friend Andrea and I post-race.

Chasing after my friend Mandy's son post-race.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Lily pics

I took a break from running any races to watch my sweet niece, Lily, at 1 month old. I was her first babysitter over the weekend while her mommy and daddy went to a Cubs game! She was an angel the entire time!

She ate, had a blowout diaper with clothes change, and then slept for 2.5 hours. Not too bad for her first sitter! :)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Fanatic #421

That's me!  Fanatic #421!  I am not sure how, but I somehow stumbled upon the coolest group every - Half Fanatics!  Half Fanatics is a group for those of us that are half-marathon crazy.  I consider myself one of those people.  I don't have huge issues training or running in a half marathon.  I can do multiple ones in a short period of time and I enjoy running them.  Now, marathons are a different story.  I have a slight interest until I start thinking about the time committment and the toll on my body.  Then I quickly lose interest and figure out the next half to sign-up for.

Anyway, to be a part of this group, you have to qualify.  They have several different categories for qualification.  After doing some research, I realized I met the minimum criteria to get in and applied for approval.  Minimum or not, who cares - they accepted me.  I'm in and it is still cool!  I got in by doing 3 half marathons in 36 days.  I also had some other races in there that didn't count, too.  I'm not gonna lie, the races were hard and I was tired by the end of that period.  But, getting into the Half Fanatics kind of makes the effort a little more worth it!  So, #421 it is!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Indy Mini Race Report


I went into the Indy Mini this past weekend with no expectations.  My friend Mandy and I both signed up for the race and wanted to finish in under 2 hours.  Since this was my fourth distance event in six weeks, I was tired.  Dead tired.  I had yet to meet my goal of under 2, but after the long week of work, school, and other things, my legs were feeling like heavy lead and I was just wanted to be done.  In fact, the whole way up to Indy the morning before the race I yawned and complained about being tired.  So, at that point, I set my goal to just finish with a decent time. 

I couldn't sleep the night before the race, which is unusual for me.  I had even taken some Tylenol PM to help me sleep, but it didn't work.  I tossed and turned until about 2am and was up again at 4am thinking it was time to go.  It was a little early to start getting ready so I laid in bed for another hour and got up around 5am.  I did my normal pre-race prep and because it was cold, even took a hot shower to warm up.  We headed up to Indy and battled the traffic trying to park downtown.  It would be helpful to have police directing traffic, especially considering all the people who have no clue where they are going, which makes things even worse. Thankfully, we decided to preserve and parked in the garage near the post-race party.  With less than 30 minutes to start time, we hit up a local hotel to use the facilities, stretched for 2 mins (yes, I know this was not good, but we were running super late!), and made our way to our corral.  Thankfully we had both submitted other race times and qualified for a seeded corral.  We were in E, pretty much behind the elite people.  It was nice to be up front because when the race started it only took us a minute or two to get to the actual start line and we had to waste very little energy weaving around people.  In years past, before I had a seeded spot, I was all the way back and it would take 10-15 minutes just to get up to the start line.  So annoying!!

Once we got going, Mandy made sure I didn't start off too fast (definitely a problem in the last race).  We ran together for the first couple of miles.  The weather was very cool (somewhere in the 40s) and overcast with gusts of wind up to 30mph. Minus the wind it was actually ideal running conditions.  I was actually feeling pretty good and avoided the wind by staying in the middle of the pack, so I ran ahead a bit and then we split up around mile 4.  I was cruising along until somewhere around mile 5 when all of the sudden I ate cement.  Yes, I was running along, taking everything in, checking out the signs for the upcoming water station, and keeping my pace when all of the sudden I was on the ground.  I apparently hit an uneven piece of concrete that I didn't notice and went airborne before landing on my left hip and skidding across the road.  I don't know how, but I was not seriously injured in the fall, nor did anyone trip over or trample me.  I also don't know how long I was down, but it wasn't long.  Before I knew what was happening, someone had reached down, picked me up off the ground, and set me on my feet.  He asked if I was okay and I was able to nod before he took off down the road.  To the guy in the red shirt who pulled me off the group, THANK YOU!  I don't know who you are, but you definitely helped a klutzy runner girl out!  As I started jogging again, I could feel a lot of pain in my left hip.  Since I could see the water station ahead, I decided to jog to that, get some water, and walk through the station to see how I was feeling.

I decided that I felt okay and would just keep going at that point.  I was definitely banged up, but the pain seemed to subside as I kept on running. Miles 6-9 include 2.5 miles around the Indy 500 Speedway.  Normally this is the worst part of the course for me.  When the sun is out, it is like all of the heat is trapped in the cement in metal the racetrack is made of.  In the past, I have always crashed about this point because the heat would do me in.  This year, the weather conditions were great and I had no problems.  In fact, I think I ran a couple of my fastest miles on the track.  I didn't even feel like I had done the whole track, but before i knew it, we were back on the streets of Indy.

Miles 10-11 are pretty boring as you run back toward downtown through a lot of run down areas.  Things start to pick back up around mile 12 as more friends and family line the track to cheer on the runners.  This is probably my favorite part of the course because there is actually some crowd support (very little support on other areas of the race) and you head back through the IUPUI campus and downtown, which is a lot prettier than most of the other parts of the course. 

All along, I knew I was keeping a pretty good pace.  I wasn't able to start my Nike+ on time as we crossed the start line and I wasn't sure how long it took us to get from our corral to the start.  So, at each mile I looked at the race clock and tried to estimate my mile splits as a way to stay on track knowing the actual time was not really correct for me.  While I was running on the track around mile 8, I knew I was on target to finish under 2 hours if I could keep my current pace.  So, I kept reminding myself to run my race and not worry about the others around me.  As I got to miles 11 and 12, I started to get a little tired, so I walked through the water station at 11 to give myself a little rest.  At that point, I knew I had 20 minutes to complete the mini, so a few seconds of walking wasn't going to set me back too much. 

When I hit mile 12, I knew I had at least 10 minutes to complete the last 1.1 miles, but I was getting pretty tired.  Worry started to take over, but I just tried to keep my pace and a positive attitude.  I saw the signs as I ran along showing there was 3/4, then 1/2, and finally 1/4 of a mile left.  But, I couldn't see the finish line.  I was so confused.  I finally got to the finish and my only clue it was the finish were the people ahead of me who abruptly stopped and started walking.  As it turns out, the wind blew down the finish line banner and metal scaffolding the night before, so they did not put it back up for safety reasons.  Makes perfect sense, but it was very confusing and this is my 4th Indy Mini.  I am sure all the newbies were really confused.  Anyway, I was so concentrated on figuring out what was happening at the finish that I missed seeing the clock as I crossed over the sensors on the ground.  As soon as my feet crossed the last sensor, I hit my Nike+ and heard a time around 1:55.  I figured that couldn't be right because I started it late and my previous best was just over 1:57 and I didn't think I could run anything faster than that.

After collecting my medal and grabbing some food and water, I headed into the post-race party to meet up with Mandy and others at our designated spot.  I couldn't find the tent we were to meet at and ended up stumbling upon one of the official race tents.  I decided to stand in line and get my official time.  I got to the table and the guy entered by bib number and printed out a label with my time.  I took one look and about freaked.  1:54:46, an 8:46/mile pace.  Holy crap!  I could not believe I my time.  I made sure it said my name and bib number and it was all there.  I was literally walking on clouds.  I had beat my personal best half marathon time by 3 minutes. Saying I was pumped is an understatement.  I don't know that I will ever repeat a time this good in my life, but coming in this much under the 2-hour mark, is a huge accomplishment for me.  I am not the fastest runner, but I do try to train well and eat well (minus all the candy I somehow inhale between the salads I eat).  I will definitely remember this race forever!

After I came down off my high, I finally found our meet-up tent, but none of my people were there.  I waited a few minutes and still no one.  I decided to walk around a bit and come back.  I did that and waited some more, but no friends!  I was starting to get nervous, so I decided to head back to the car just in case.  I had the key and new the parking spot, so I figured it couldn't hurt.  Plus, I was freezing!!  I had run with a long sleeve shirt I later tied around my waist.  I put that on and had a pair of gloves I had worn at the start.  Thank good because it was freezing and the wind was gusting!  I grabbed my pants, fleece, and phone from the car.  After a few texts with Mandy, we decided that we must have missed each other by literally a minute.  Ugh!  But, I was able to grab some clothes for her and go back to meet her at our spot.  We didn't stay long at the party.  I would have loved to walk around and explore everything, but it was so freaking cold!  Unreal!  We headed back to the car which was parked about as close to the finish as possible (thankfully) and headed home to take a nice hot shower (yes, I know this is like the worst thing you can do post-race, but it was freezing!).

Mandy and I post-race (yes, I was lame and refused to take off my warm clothes for a photo).

My usual list of observations:

  • The Indy Mini course is not that great.  There is not much crowd support except at the very beginning and the very end.  Also, there is no crowd allowed on the track and they substitute with local high school cheerleaders.  A nice touch, but not the same as the average crowd support.
  • I feel like there was a lot of Gu at this race.  They were everywhere and I had to dodge them to avoid getting the bottom of my shoes all sticky!  While I was unable to avoid the uneven concrete, I was apparently able to avoid a zillion packets of Gu.  It just seems like more than any other race I ran this year.  Personally, I hate the stuff.  I've tried it all, including a package of sport beans during a race without any practice runs with them.  Yeah, that did not turn out well.
  • There were lots of people running in just a t-shirt and shorts.  While this would not normally be an issue, I cannot imagine running in anything other than technical running gear.  I probably have more tech gear than anything else.  I could never run in a plain old cotton t-shirt that doesn't breathe and weighs 5-lbs after only slightly sweating.
  • The post-race food at the Indy Mini is crappy!  I've been to a lot of races and some 5Ks have better post race food than this.  I understand they have a lot of people to feed, but a banana and a cookie after 13 miles is not much.  The Illinois mini had bagels, pasta, pizza, candy, pretzels, cookies, rolls, etc.  It was a ton of food and it was all yummy!  Not so  much for the Indy Mini.  (Yes, if you serve candy at your race, I will be there because that is how I roll.)
  • On the other hand, I will admit the Indy Mini has the best water stations.  They are very organized, well marked, and there are lot of them along the course.  That is much appreciated and probably more important than the post-race food. 
  • Running towards the front of the pack coming from a good corral seeding is much different than running from the back of the pack.  First of all, these runners are semi-serious.  No one really stops to walk.  No one is goofing around.  These are the people who trained and who have run a few minis, so they are focused on doing well.  The back of the pack is more like a party.  People dressed up in crazy costumes, people running with groups, people yelling and cheering each other on, and people stopping to walk all over the place.  It is just a huge difference, not good or bad, just different.
  • That said, being at the front and not having to dodge people is worth its weight in gold.  Seeded corrals rock!!
  • And my last observation is that a lot of people have throw-away shirts.  It was crazy how many shirts were flying all around me for the first two miles!  People were wearing them to stay warm at the start and then used them until they warmed up after a couple of miles.  At that point, the shirt was taken off and ditched along the road.  I think someone comes through to collect all of this and donate it to charity.  But still, it is crazy!  I cannot just throw clothes aside like that.  It just isn't me.  I had a running shirt that is lightweight and ties around my waist very easily, so I often wear that to stay warm.  The funny thing is I'm sure all of those people were wanting their throw-away shirts back after the race.
I should probably end my mega long post.  Bottom line, at this point in my running career, this is the best race of my life.  (Side note: Does a non-competitive runner have a running career?  That may need a whole separate post.)  I could not believe my time.  I still can't.  I think I am definitely a cold weather runner.  I cannot take the heat, it just kills me.  I think this means I should only sign-up for fall halfs or something.  Also, the cooler temps and my attempt at better hydration seemed to work.  I had minimal cramping and was able to run through it all.  Thank goodness, because it helped me complete my Best.Race.Ever.  Now I am resting.  Four distance events in six weeks was a little much.  I am up for some fun running and 5K races instead!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Illinois Half Marathon Race Report

Better late than never, I am finally getting up my post for the Illinois Half last Saturday, 5/1/2010.  This is one of my favorite races.  I haven't done that many, but of the ones I have done, this is by far the most fun because of the fabulous crowd support.  Minus a few spots on the course, the streets are lined the entire way.  It makes the race so much more exciting to have people cheering the entire way, handing out water, and even giving out paper towel to wipe off our sweat-drenched faces!

After some race plans fell through, I headed to stay with my parents the night before the race.  They only live about 45 minutes away, so not too far to drive over in the morning.  My brother was also running the race and staying at my parents, so we got up and rode over together.  Parking was not too bad, and we ran into Assembly Hall to use the bathroom.  He met up with his friends while I headed to the start line.  This race is only 2 years old and they try to improve it each year, however they do not have a corralled start yet.  So, lining up is a bit difficult.  I stood near the 1:45-2:00 finish group and found the 8:50 pace group.

When the race started, it was pretty mild and overcast. I had originally planned to stay with the 8:50 group, but felt the pace was a little slow.  I felt great out of the great and ran my first mile in 8:07. In hindsight, a little too fast, but again, I was feeling good and it is definitely a flat and fast course.  I dropped  back to about 8:30 for miles 2-5.  I was running near a a group of two married couples.  They were rather funny, so I stayed with them for pacing and entertainment.  At one point, on of the husbands said the group was going to fast and needed to slow down.  Then he took off ahead and left the rest trying to catch up to him.  All was good, until mile 6.  I had a few side cramps so stopped to stretch those and get some water.  I seemed to be fine and slowed my pace just a bit.  Then came mile 7.  By this point, the sun had come out in full force and the humidity was on the rise.  I also started having more side cramps.  I stopped about 4 times between miles 7-9 trying to stretch them out and catch my breath.  This section of the course is through a local park along a trail.  Up until that point, everything had been along the road with tons of crowds and water stops.  Through the park, the trail is narrow and people are very crowded.  There are no water stations and no place for any spectators.  At this point, my pace slowed considerably to about 9 min miles due to all of the circumstances.  I saw the 8:50 pace group pass me, but I was still ahead of the 9:00 pace group and felt okay.

I finally made it out of the park and was able to stop and stretch enough to get rid of the cramps.  Miles 10-11 felt pretty good, although I was pretty hot.  I was definitely at a slower pace, around 9:15/mile, but I thought I still had a chance to come in under 2 hours since I had done so well at the beginning.  It was really hot, but I tried to keep going, hoping to get that goal.  However, at mile 12, I fell apart.  It was so hot I couldn't breathe.  I stopped for water twice and walked through both stations.  They changed the ending of the course, so I wasn't sure exactly what to expect.  I finally rounded the corner and I could see the finish line, but could not breathe.  I had to stop and walk around mile 12.8 to catch my breath to make it to the finish.  It was just so humid.  I finally made it to the finish line in 2:00:29.

I was seriously mad at myself.  I should have tried to suck it up and not walk those few seconds at mile 12.8 or ran through one of the water stations.  Ugh!  So mad to have just missed coming in under 2.  But, I couldn't be too upset.  It was so hot, I was just glad to finish.  I saw many runners hauled off the course, several on stretchers with oxygen masks on.  I even saw people collapsing at mile 12.5 - trying to make it and just overheating.  It was unreal.  Worse than the Kentucky Derby Marathon the weekend before. 

After finishing, I was trying to find my family and friends.  I couldn't find them but ran into my old college roommate who I had stopped to see the day before.  We got to catch up a little more and talk about the race.  She did really well, considering she had a baby in November!  I hope I can be like that one day!  I gave up on my family and started walking back to my car when I ran into my brother.  He was coming to wait for me and get his stuff from my car.  I was pretty disappointed about missing the family at the finish line.  It was the first time my parents had ever come to one of my races.  They saw my brother finish (1:35 PR for him - clearly he got the natural athletic ability in the family).  They saw some of his friends and others they know finish, but no one saw me finish.  I usually come in around 2 hours, give or take a few minutes so I figured they would see me, but no such luck.  I'm bummed I have no pictures from the day and no fun family reunion post-race.

The post-race food for this race is great - pasta, cookies, bananas, candy, bagels, pretzels, pizza, etc.  But, it was too hard to carry everything, so I grabbed some water, a banana, and of course, a handful of candy.  Plus, I knew were we all going out to lunch.  We did that and hit up a few bookstores for Illini gear on campus before I headed home.  I did hit up a few of my favorite places before leaving town - grabbed a pizza from Papa Del's and lemon custard from Jarlings.  Yum! 

I don't know why, but I am kind of a crowd watcher and also track other interesting things along the way.  A few things I saw/heard/noticed along the way:
  • Lots of people going barefoot, including several marathon runners. Unreal.  I just don't know how these people do it, especially around a college campus with all sorts of litter, broken glass, etc.
  • My favorite sign of the race: "Run like you just stole something!"  Pretty funny.  I've never seen that one before.
  • Crowd support over 11 of the half-marathon miles.  I am not sure about the remainder of the marathon course, but the crowd support here is great.  There are people everywhere and they line the end of the race like you would not believe.  It actually was hard to stop at mile 12.8 because so many were yelling to keep going (I should have listened to them and felt more guilty for stopping).
  • It was very hard to get around town.  The traffic pattern due to the marathon course was a nightmare.  You had to drive about 10 miles out of the way.  Thankfully, I know all of the out of the way places.  Those that were only in town for the run, were stuck waiting for a very long time!
  • The downside of this race is that the post-race activities are not organized well.  They had finisher photos, but I had no clue where those were located, so I didn't get one (again, no photos from the weekend).  Also, you had to walk up the steps of the football stadium to get the food after finishing.  Then, you had to go to the other side of the stadium to meet up with people.  Because everything was blocked off, it required going all the way out of the stadium and around. 
Bottom line, I am not good at running in the heat and humdity.  I much prefer cooler temps much of the fall races have.  I'll have to consider this when choosing races for next year.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Bad Week

Everyone has a bad or down day every once in awhile.  I am having the bad week.  In fact, I don't think I have had this bad of a week in a really long time.  Seriously.  Like years.  I can't go into all of the details and I think if I rehash them too much it will just make me upset all over again, but multiple things have come at me this week.  That coupled with little sleep and stress eating has really worn on me.  Apparently my look shows it, too, because people at work keep asking me if I am okay or if I am tired.  Great.  I look AND feel horrible.  Ugh!  I am hoping things will turn around.  Maybe tomorrow.