Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Hills Are Alive...

...with the sound of my feet pounding the pavement. Yes, I said it - HILLS. We ain't in Illinois any more.

My week of vacation brought me back to the great state of CT. After a year in the midwest, the northeast looked downright mountainous, forget hilly. But I have to say, it definitely is beautiful.

With New England topography came a new challenge for training: I'm used to running on very flat land. Not too much of that in the Litchfield Hills.

I tried to scope out some areas in my parents' town that were flat-ish, and tended to run these areas. However, one day I went for a relatively blind run in Orange, CT and it somehow felt like I never STOPPED running uphill. I felt as though I should have been on top of Everest when I was done!

I think the hills lit a bit of a fire in me. In general, my times were great at home, but I think I was always subconsciously thinking I needed to keep my pace up and not slow too much on those pesky climbs. In total, I ran 33.3 miles of Connecticut terrain in a week's time, and let me tell you... my legs felt it.

So let me share a little story... on my last day in CT, I squeezed in my long run for the week. I did 9.1 miles by running 7 laps around a loop near my parents' house. First and foremost, running in circles is insanely boring, but it was flat and easy to get to, so that's what I did. As I'm running by my house, the dog decides she wants to come to, and blows through her electric fence to run by my side. Despite my best efforts, I could not get her to stay home, so she ran next to me. She's not outstanding with cars, but luckily there's very little traffic in the area. She's also very responsive and follows commands, so if a car came by I'd call her to my side and she'd stick with me. Good doggy.

But then... bad doggy. We were coming down the street, and one of the neighbor's cat's darted across the street into the neighbor's yard, and Mya took off. Normally, this would not be a big deal. But the yard she darted into has a German Shepherd that could (and would) eat her for a snack, and an owner who freely wields a shotgun and picks off small, furry woodland creatures. I about had a heart attack. After screaming for her at the top of my lungs, she emerged from the yard unscathed. My father finally reigned her in, put a new battery in her electric fence collar, and I finished my run. Afterwards, the aforementioned neighbor called my folks to tell them the horrors of Mya's visit... and ratted me out for running with the dog off leash. It was like I was 8 and my friend's parents called to inform mom and dad I misbehaved. Turns out said neighbor was sitting on her porch counting the number of times I ran by. Not too much to do in Woodbury, I guess.

Anywho, vacation was amazing. Spent lots of time with the fam, saw tons of family and friends I hadn't seen in a long time, was in 2 amazing weddings, and overall had an absolute blast. I've returned to working nights, but have spent my afternoons before work hitting the Lakefont Trail. Nice and flat, just the way I like it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Big brother's out there joggin', Proud Amy does her bloggin'

A brief midweek update. Here's a shout out to my big brother Chris, who's made the decision to get a little healthier.

I think that ANYONE who makes this choice and makes a concious effort should be applauded and prasied a million times over.

Let me tell you about this guy, though. Biggest heart in the world, and his physique was expanding to match. One day he woke up and said, "Enough's enough" and decided he's make a change. So, he too decided to join Weight Watchers and is already down 10lbs. Skinny Minny!

He told me that he was inspired by my goal to run the marathon, and was intimidated to even start running. I recommended the "Couch to 5K" pod cast. If anyone of my 2 readers is interested, click the link to learn more. Basically it's a program that gives you guidlines to get you off your butt and start moving - follow the training schedule and in 9 weeks, you can run a 5K! It comes equipt with a soundtrack, if you will, to motivate you and help you keep your cadence. And so he's working it - and by the end of the week, he'll be running 20 minutes without stopping! Honestly, it's a major accomplishment and I'm so pround. He's even signed up for his first 5K!

C'mon, people. Harbor your inner Michael Jackson - it's time to get healthy!
I'm gonna make a change for once in my life.
It's gonna feel real good, gonna make a difference, gonna make it right...

"My, I admire your fashionable running shoes..."

If you don't get the reference from the title, google "Ebonics Language Lesson."

Anyways, moving on.


There they are, folks. I figured that if I am going to put all of this time and effort into training for this race - not to mention the entry fee! - then I better do this right. After guidance from my own personal PT... ie my college friend whom I often badger about my athletic ailments, I headed to the New Balance store in search of my new kicks.

I never knew there was so much that went into buying quality running shoes! They had me stand a pressure pad to evaluate the weight distribution I place on my feet, then they had me get on a treadmill, where they recorded my feet as I ran. When we watched the video in slow motion, turns out my ankle wobbles and is unstable as I run, and that this is due to the fact that I place all my pressure on the lateral edge of my foot. They put me in various shoes and had me repeat the treadmill trial, and once I found the pair that was the most comfortable and corrected my weight distribution, the wobble in my ankle totally resolved. They even allowed me - actually, encoraged me - to run around the block to test drive the shoes before I bought them.

I am amazed at how much lighter the shoes feel to me. Now granted, the actual weight difference is probably minimal,but my previous sneakers were particularly heavy and the new ones are designed to be light, so the difference is certainly noticable.

I took 'em out for a spin when I did my "long run" on Saturday. I went 7.15mi and kept a pace of 10:14/mi, and my feet felt great at the end.

The shoes are treated like royalty in my home. They have their own special spot, and I wear them literally only to run. I want to preserve their awesomeness.

Running, overall, as been going really well. I'm suprised by my progress in just a month's time. My weekday "recovery runs" are supposed to be run at an easy, conversational pace, so I set out and do just that. But as training continues, that pace quickens - I've dropped almost a minute a mile since starting. And of course, I know this because of my nerdy spread sheet.

I've also made a new effort in life - I'm going a little greener, folks. I really became quite a city girl the day I sold my car and turned my mobility over solely to public transportation, but I've "one upped" myself - you'll now find me on the Lakefront Path riding my bike back and forth to work. Now this may not work for every shift, but when it does work out, it's great. I get a work out in, it's an enjoyable ride, I can soak up the sun and nice weather, and I'm being all ecological and what not by reducing my carbon footprint (or something like that). I've also opted to take stairs if I'm climbing three flights or less. There are easy calories to be burned... just gotta find 'em!

116 days, 16:03:39. Craziness!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Day I Became a Runner

Two weeks deep into my marathon training, and I already have a nerdy excel sheet tracking my progress. Go ahead, laugh at me... I embrace my nerdiness. Nay, I flaunt it.

Say what you want, but it's interesting to track my trends. I have been jotting little notes on a given day regarding how I'm feeling or things that may have affected my pace. On my shorter weekday runs, I have not been doing the "walk/run" pattern - I'm just running the allotted time at a comfortable pace. On the weekends, I am supposed to be running as though it's race day.

So last weekend, I gave this whole "walk run" thing a try. I had tried it at the gym, but it's easy there - timer in front of you, and a push of a button switches your speed. Running outside is different in a MILLION ways, and the walk/run plan is no different. So I headed out for my first run, ran my comfy pace, walked briskly when my timer went off, ran again, etc. And when I was done, I put it in my spreadsheet. I was at a pace of a 12 minute mile.

12 minute mile?! I only ran 5 miles! My time per mile will surely lengthen as I move farther along the race... I can't run a 12 minute mile!

So I pondered this during the week. I came up with two major points. First and foremost, I need to use the walk/run to my benefit. I can push myself and run a little harder, because I'm building in rest time. Secondly, I need to use my weekend long runs to start pushing myself and training hard, as I want to see improvement over the course of my training. I think progress will be inherent in regards to my endurance as training moves along, but advancing my pace will take a little work.

So I thought about this on my short weekday runs. They say your weekday runs should be at a comfortable pace - recovery runs - so I kept that up this week. And today, I headed out for long run #2 - supposed to be 6 miles, but all told my loop came out to 6.6 miles.

I've never claimed to be a great runner. In fact, I'll flat out state that I am NOT a great runner. But I'm not bad. I try not to let it get to me when people pass me running along the Lakeshore path, because hell, I'm out there running... gimme some credit here!

I'm not really sure how to explain just what happened today, but I broke through a wall. I went outside with the mindset that today is a long run and a training day, so I needed to push myself. So, I did, and I kept a pace that was a little uncomfortable in the sense that it's faster than what I'm used to, but it wasn't insane. At first I thought I could never maintain it... but as the run progressed, I think I even began to run slightly faster. It was like today I decided I wasn't going to go for a jog, I was going to go for a run.

Then a funny thing happened: I started passing other people.

When the buzzer went off, I walked briskly as I'm supposed to, and once my minute break was up, I was back at it, and I felt amazing. All told, I ran 6.6 miles in 66 minutes. That's a ten minute mile.

But is it? I'll spare you the long, drawn out math, but we have to consider the fact that I'm walking a certain distance of my run. So if I assume that I walk at a pace of about 4mph, figure out how many walk cycles I did, I can basically subtract that from my run to see what my actual running pace was. So, being a nerd, of COURSE I did that. I was keeping a 9:36 pace. That's a personal record!

Now I'm faced with this new realization... I have it in me to be a runner.

So now, each weekend as I head out to do my long run, I will always be thinking that I can keep that pace, and on any given day, I better match it or improve it. That's how you get better.

I'm on a mission, people. Nothing stops me when I'm on a mission.

125 days, 9:36:40 until go time!