Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Springtime in Boulder

This morning I did my first run since Sunday's race. Since I'm still trying to kick this cold, and since it was supposed to be a short, easy recovery run anyway, I didn't get up at 5 a.m. Instead, I used my short break time at work to take a 3-mile run up Boulder Canyon.

Photos of Boulder Falls, Boulder
This part of Boulder Canyon (photo is courtesy of TripAdvisor) is up higher than I ran today, but it looks very similar.

My calves are still sore, and my nose is still runny, but overall it felt great to be out in the chill of early spring. My library straddles Boulder Creek and a part-paved, part-gravel trail runs the length of the creek through a lot of the city and up into the canyon, our main thoroughfare to the mountains. I used to run this route all the time, until my allowed break got to be too short for the kind of running I need to do most of the time.

Boulder Creek

It's a beautiful place to run. At this time of year, the snowmelt from above hasn't swelled the creek to the level it will be in just a few weeks, but the water is no longer constrained by winter's ice in most places. The higher you get, the more waterfalls and rapids you see and hear. The path crosses and re-crosses the creek several times, so the calming white noise of the water comes and goes. You don't need music at all. As I went along, I thought about how I will likely incorporate this trail, which provides an increasingly hefty climb the further into the canyon you get, into my long marathon training runs this summer.

But summer is still on the horizon. Right now, it's spring. Spring in Boulder means one thing to many runners: the Bolder Boulder 10K. Held every Memorial Day, this race is the second-largest in the country. Hotels around here fill that weekend, as do gym treadmills and the trails and streets in the weeks leading up to it. Lots of school kids train for it as a group. (I was too much of a wimp at that age to contemplate running that far. What a waste! Part of why I run now is to make up for my foolish fears and choices as a young person.)

I've run this race the past three years, with mixed success. In 2008, I was just happy to be back running at all after getting through the first year and a half with twins. My time was 56 minutes and change. In 2009, I ran my post-pregnancy 10K PR of 53:24. Last year, it was the first in a series of disappointments, as I ran two minutes slower than I had in '09.

Though I had originally hoped to run it with my dad this year, my plan changed several weeks back when it looked like I might be able to go with Dan on a trip to Finland, where he has a conference the week ahead of the race. But last week we found out my plane ticket for that trip would cost around $2,000. So suddenly the Bolder Boulder was back on the table. Of course I plan to run it.

In order to start in one of the first waves of this giant race, you have to show a qualifying time in a prior race of almost any length (see chart here to see how your races would stack up). It's interesting to compare where my recent races would place me. Sunday's half-marathon time of 1:57:19, as well as my 1:27:01 in the 10-mile Snowman Stampede, would get me into the DB wave (makes me feel a bit better, as my half time must not have been as far off my 10-mile time as I thought). But my time in December's Colder Bolder 5K (24:24) bumps me up two waves, into the more rarified CC group.

This makes me wonder if I just had a really awesome day at the Colder Bolder or if I have lost something in the intervening months. Probably impossible to tell....

Regardless....Can you guess which time I plan to use when I sign up for the Bolder Boulder?

I'm sticking with the FIRST program for the Bolder Boulder. Those guys didn't let me down for the half or the 5K, so I figure they know what they are doing with 10Ks too. I do plan to keep my long runs longer than they specify for the 10K training, as I don't want to lose my half-marathon endurance gains when it's time to start marathon training in June. Two 15-milers, and no long runs shorter than 10 miles after this weekends recovery long one of 7.5 miles, will be what I'm aiming for.

I also plan to stick with the Quick Start eating plan in an effort to get closer to racing weight prior to embarking on marathon training. Here's what I've eaten so far today:

Breakfast: 1 cup of high-fiber Kashi 7-Grain flake cereal; 1 banana; 1 cup Greek yogurt; 1.5 cups lo-sodium V8 vegetable juice
A.M. snack: One packet Justin's Chocolate Peanut Butter
Lunch: One can lo-sodium Imagine chicken noodle soup; one apple
Indiscretion: 1 piece Twizzler's black licorice (I swear, our security guard at work is going to kill me with this stuff!)

Finally, earlier bedtimes are definitely in order! Wouldn't it be awfully nice to have this nasty cold be the only one I get this year?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Boulder Spring Half: Lessons

In the end, despite the fact that I started it late, my Garmin time for yesterday's Boulder Spring Half was only about one second off my actual time. That time was 1:57:19 (the Garmin time, linked below, was 1:57:20).

The associated numbers: my average pace was 8:57/mile; I was 39th out of 100 women in the 35-39 age group; I was 145th out of 573 women (damn--woulda been nice to be top 25%!); and 396th out of 1017 people.

This performance would have elated me last fall, when my only goal was to break two hours. But this time I was disappointed. I was hoping to run this one about 20 seconds/mile faster, which would have shaved five minutes off my total time. So in the end, I was able to meet only my "not-my-day" goal of beating my old time. Not super satisfying. I was much happier with the Snowman Stampede in February.

After some moping last night--which Dan talked me out of; some of his reasoning is below--I'm going to take this as a learning experience. Here is what I'm taking away from it:

1. Don't get sick the week of a race. In my defense, it wasn't like I could do anything about my kids bringing home a cold that, it turned out, I had no immunity to! But I could have been more careful in other places about hand-washing. And I *certainly* should have skipped the wine that interrupted what may have been the night's sleep that could have helped me avoid getting so ill.

I'm still reeling from this cold. Last night's sleep was poor because both kids woke up around 12:30 a.m. and I could not go back to sleep until 3:30. In the morning, my ears, which had cleared during the race, were stuffed up again and my head had re-morphed into an echo chamber. Blech! I hope this is my last cold for a long long time.

2. At the beginning, line up closer to the front. If you look at the Garmin results, you'll see the first mile, when I was caught up in the herd, was by far the slowest. I told Dan that I'm paranoid (especially in Boulder) about getting in the way of truly fast runners at the start of a race. He pointed out that this alone cost me a full minute. I was quite close to being in the top third of finishers. Therefore, he said, I should have stood in at least the top half of the starters. When he put it that way....

3. Do tempo runs on hillier courses. Because of the winter's darkness and cold, I did most of my tempo runs inside on the treadmill. That has to change, so that I can learn to maintain speed when the going gets tough, as it did at the end of this race.

4. Continue to work on fueling. Maybe I let the cold cut into my appetite a little too much this past week. Maybe Jelly Bellies aren't enough for a long race. I'm going to keep weighing my options. I enjoyed having no twinges at all from my gut. Surely there's a happy medium.

Here's another point that I'm unsure about:

Throughout this training cycle, I attended bootcamp classes most Tuesday and Thursday mornings. These always came after my scheduled speed workout and tempo runs for the week, which I did on the same days. I intended for the bootcamp classes to be my strength training component. But Dan thinks maybe they were too much, and I'm sure the authors of the FIRST program would consider it too much. Does anyone out there have an opinion? They never slowed me down (at least not that I could see) during subsequent training runs, though I do think they might involve more extra cardio than I need.

I'm going to keep going with bootcamp at least until summer, when I will start marathon training. Doing it will help me get my weight down and keep my muscle mass a bit ahead in my body's eternal battle with fat. But I will revisit this question when June rolls around.

Alright! It's time to move on. To quote Runner's World Editor-at-Large Amby Burfoot (who won the Boston Marathon in the 60s): "A champion understands that running performances are like roller coasters, with many ups and downs, and that you have to accept the good and the bad...A champion has vision. A champion dreams of things that haven't been and believes they are possible. A champion says, 'I can.'"

Next post: what April and May hold.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Race Review: Boulder Spring Half

It wasn't perfect, but it was progress! And for a race that came after the long, sick week I had (my nose in that photo isn't red from sunburn), it was pretty satisfying.

I didn't get to hang around for the results (we had a 4-year-old birthday party to attend), and they haven't been posted online yet. But I'm pretty sure I was under 1:57 and I was definitely under 2 hours. I am disappointed not to have run the sub-1:50 that would have indicated readiness to try for a Boston qualifying time in my fall marathon, but I didn't really expect to be that far along at this point. You hear a lot of stories about people qualifying for Boston on their first or second marathons. I'm not ever going to be one of those talented folks. If I manage to do it, it will be tortoise-style: slow and steady, a gradual increase of endurance and pacing skills over months of hard training.

Here's how today's race unfolded:

My number was 1066, the year that William the Conqueror arrived from France and changed the course of British history. I noticed this as soon as I picked it up last Wednesday (and the nice volunteer at the gear truck today noticed it, too). I also decided to wear the "Be Great Today" sticker that Jim at 50after40 sent me earlier this week. While I don't know if I quite lived up to that standard, I felt cool wearing it, an emblem of all the support I get from this blog (thanks Jim!). So between King William and Jim, I had some good karma going.

I woke up at 5:30 after a decent sleep, ate my dry Special K and a banana and then took a quick shower. I don't have a lot of girly girl traits, but I do like to feel clean and I shave my legs every day. I knew I'd feel lighter like this. I also had two trips to the toilet while still at home--and have heard nothing from my gut since! Maybe the lighter eating this week helped. Having a cold really cuts into my appetite (as does tapering).

As with all of my recent races except the Colder Bolder, I traveled to the start with my friend Kathy, who drove up with her husband from Centennial to run. (Her goal was to do 2:10 or better, which she did. Yay Kathy!) It was good to have her there--it kept my pre-race nerves in check, especially when the start was delayed by 12 minutes (I think because of the parking situation). Though it was chilly, we decided we wouldn't need our jackets (a wise decision in the end).

The start/finish area was crowded. In addition to the half marathon, there were also 10-mile and 10-K races on the schedule. Kathy and I were toward the rear of the lined-up half marathon folks, so it took us a minute or two to get across the line once the race started. We wished each other luck and were off. My Garmin, unfortunately, had lost its satellite connection due to the start delay, something I didn't realize until we were already over the timing mat at the start. I fired it up again but it was definitely off.

The first mile was slow as the crowd strung out, but by the crest of the first hill at mile one things had opened up. I saw Beth of Shut Up and Run at the mile two aid station. She was waiting for a runner she coaches.

I kept my music off for the first half of the race as I planned. There was a light headwind, but I've definitely seen worse. At each mile marker, I told myself "Three miles to music....two miles to music....a half mile to music...." I know this course so well that I was autopilot for this entire part, occasionally tuning into conversations around me but mostly just keeping an inner eye on how I was feeling. Oh, and wiping my nose on my left sleeve. There was a lot of that too. I did "come out" of myself when I was passed by a lean man pushing another guy in a wheelchair. Very inspiring! They got a lot of cheers from the handful of spectators along the backroads.

I had my small water bottles, one in each hand, and some pomegranate Jelly Bellys, so I didn't have to stop at the aid stations. When at last I got to the turnaround, however, I did walk for about 30 seconds in order to drink some Gatorade. Then I fired up the music and bore down. Dan, Kathy's husband Eric and my kids were waiting at a corner by then, so I got big grins and cheers from my kids. I tossed my son the water bottle I had emptied and kept pushing. The downhill straight along Niwot Road was quite fun, but I knew I was in for some pain in the last two miles, when suddenly the uphills reappear.

It helped when another wheelchair drew up to me. This one was being pushed by a fit man and woman who traded it back and forth. I stayed with them until the end, passing and being passed by them. My quads and my calves were quite sore by the time I passed mile twelve, and I slowed to a 30-second walk twice before the music and the shame got to me (I think walk breaks are great, but only if you are planning on them from the beginning). When we turned to go into the finish area, I found a kick, passed the wheelchair couple and a few other folks and crossed the line with nothing left.

I paced around in a daze for ten or fifteen minutes, wandering into some of the expo tents but not really lingering anywhere. When I went to collect the gear I had checked, I discovered my voice was strangely constricted. Soon after that I began coughing and hacking like a lung patient. Kathy found me, and we found Dan, Eric and the kids soon after. Dan was worried, because he didn't know about the 12-minute delay at the start and thought I had had a bad race. I was pleased to disabuse him of that notion!

I allowed myself birthday cake at the party and ice cream this afternoon (flavors: Peanut Butter Chocolate and Death By Chocolate--if you're ever in Boulder, go get Glacier Ice Cream). This will be my last such indulgence for a while, as I'm going to embark on the Racing Weight Quick Start beginning tomorrow.

More lessons from the race to come in the next post (which I hope will also contain my actual time). At the very least I know I get to change my personal record for the half marathon!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Playlist and Giveaway Winner

Can a good playlist cover up an ear infection? I sure hope so. Because I'm pretty sure this cold has turned into my old childhood nemesis.

Today I talked to the weekend on-call doc at the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine (I love those guys). He recommended a couple of OTC drugs and said, "Yeah, you can run the race as long as you have no fever." I'm supposed to go in and see them on Monday to make sure I don't need antibiotics.

But Monday is forever away...because it's after the race, which starts a little more than 12 hours from now.

Therefore, I have taken my first OTC pill and assembled my playlist for tomorrow. My strategy for music will be to slog out the first half of the race with no tunes, as I've done on all my long training runs out there. Then, just after the turnaround, I'll fire it up. It's right on an hour, which I hope means I won't actually hear the last song (because I'll be finished!).

Here's the line-up:

1. "Take Me Home, Country Roads"--John Denver (good for a backroads race, right?)
2. "If I Should Fall from Grace with God"--Pogues (we had an Irish punk Pandora station on for St. Paddy's Day)
3. "The Cave"--Mumford & Sons
4. Mix of "Sandstorm" by Da Rude and "Children" by Robert Miles (got this from spin class)
5. "Roll Away Your Stone"--Mumford & Sons
6. "Private Conversation"--Lyle Lovett
7. "Lift Me Up"--Moby (also from spin class; this is one of my new favorite songs)
8. "Little Lion Man"--Mumford & Sons
9. "Sorrow"--Bad Religion
10. "The Seven Deadly Sins"--Flogging Molly (more Irish punk--love it)
11. "Let Your Mind Be Free" (more techno from spin class; don't know the artist; my incredibly cool spin teacher just gave me her disc)
12. "Boot Scootin' Baby" (also from spin class; very cheesy...and very fast)
13. "Ring of Fire"--Social Distortion
14. "Sandstorm"--Da Rude (the only track that's on here twice)
15. "Cotton Eye Joe"--Rednex (from spin class; the really weird video for this is embedded above)
16. "Come On, Get In"--K.T. Tunstall

Let's hope that's good for a winner!

Now, without further ado, the winner of the Justin's Nut Butter is Teamarcia of The Studly Runner. Marcia, congratulations! Shoot me an email at terzahbecker [a] and I'll get these out to you next week. Thanks to everyone who entered. I'll be taking all of your good wishes with me tomorrow.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Goals for Sunday

The virus score: Dan 1, Vista Windows Internet Security 2011 0. Tonight I should be able to work on my playlist for Sunday's race.

Unfortunately, the other virus--the nasty cold that I've been battling--is so far winning its game against my immune system. I skipped what was supposed to be an easy three miler yesterday morning and spent all day at home with my kids, who also have this cold but despite some coughing are handling it better than I am. They napped, and I tried to, but I was so congested I couldn't sleep. At 4:30, I dragged myself into work for my Thursday night shift. And helped by Nyquil, I slept OK last night.

I'm telling myself I'm feeling better today, enough that I might attempt that three easy mile run tonight. Regardless, I'm still hoping to be mostly on game by Sunday. Maybe another good night's sleep will do it for me. Dan told me his dad heard that colds can make you feel crappy in a race but don't necessarily slow you down. I'm banking on that.

At least Sunday's weather forecast is still looking good. The high is predicted at around 55 degrees, with a 20% chance of some precipitation. Chilly is good, especially on that course. There's no mention of the dreadful wind, either, though that doesn't mean there won't be any. We had a doozy of a wind day on Tuesday afternoon and overnight--it sounded like I imagine Dorothy's dreams of the tornado carrying her house away did--and another spurt of gusts yesterday afternoon. Fingers crossed that's it for the wind until next week.

Now it's time for me to set the three-part goal for this Boulder Spring Half Marathon: my moonshot goal, my should-be-attainable-step-forward goal and my this-wasn't-my-time-cut-my-losses goal.

Without further ado, here are those goals (I'll start with the pessimistic one):

1. Cut My Losses: I would equal or beat the chip time for my last outing on this course: the sub-2:05 I ran in October. After this training, I should be able to do that even with a cold and/or wind.

2. Should Be Attainable, Would Be Progress: between 1:54 and 1:55; this is the pace predicted for the half-marathon by my 5K pace in last December's Colder Boulder and therefore the race pace all of my training has been based on this winter.

3. Moonshot: Sub-1:50, the pace that says I'm ready train for a BQ in my next marathon; probably unrealistic now, even if my cold goes into complete retreat, and would have been tough even had I been perfectly healthy; but I don't think it's completely impossible. A girl has to dream (that's what this whole blog is about).

So there you go! Keep your fingers crossed for me. Oh, and don't forget to enter my Justin's Nut Butter giveaway, if you haven't already. Deadline is tomorrow (March 26) at noon. I'll unveil the winner when I unveil my playlist.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Tale of Two Viruses

My husband Dan is a busy guy these days. He has a conference in Florida at the end of April where he's going to give a talk and ahead of which he has to write a paper. Before that, in the second week of April, he has an oral exam of sorts in which he has to convince a panel of professors that the work he's been doing will yield a viable physics dissertation. It's sort of like his pre-PhD defense. And of course all this while he has to keep working on the research itself. Oh yeah, and there's the little matter of us having to sort out our move.

Not only is Dan smart and cute, but he likes to run too. This pic is from last August's Muddy Buddy race.

I asked him on Monday if he needed me to help him in any way. He said he might need to work late and go in on some Saturday afternoons--pretty par for the course. Then he said something that floored me: "Is there anything I can do to help you get ready for your race?"

The answer to that was yes (I'll get to the details below)--but first can I just say...he is the best. I am grateful to married to someone so understanding about my running, which after all (unlike his PhD work for him) isn't in line with my talents, has no income earning potential for our family and sucks up a lot of what would be family time. "You just really love running," he said to me during another conversation. "It makes you happy."

So getting back to his question about how he can help. I asked him, Along with making me go to bed early this week and making me pasta with red sauce on Saturday night, could he would he PLEASE fix our iTunes? You see, we have two laptops, an old one and a new one. The old one (unfortunately) is where our iTunes still resides. And on Sunday night it got infected with this:

If the creators of this are reading this, you WILL go down. It's only a matter of time.

It's called Vista Internet Security 2011, and it's one of those insidious fake antivirus malwares that tries to extort money from you by convincing you that it can rid your computer of bugs that you don't really have. In the past, Dan has dispatched these quickly. But this one is proving stubborn. Last night he spent a half-hour on it--talking about how there's a special place in hell for the people who deploy these nasties--before giving up for the time being (he had to go back to work--did I mention he has stuff to do other than deal with the laptop?).

Today, I'm home sick. Yes, the thick throat turned into a real cold, complete with sore throat, near constant dehydration unless I'm drinking something all the time, interrupted sleep and a slight fever. So both the computer and I still have viruses. And I can't work on my playlist--I'm afraid the computer bug might "spread" somehow if I contact the iTunes Store or mess with syncing my iPod.

Dan has vowed to return and conquer the computer bug, and I am hoping desperately to have my personal bug under control by the weekend. But neither victory will happen today. With the exception of one very mild cold around Christmas, I stayed healthy all winter, dodging illness brought home by the kids and into the library where I work as well...only to fall prey to this one with just five days to go until my race.

Off to take another nap! The sick laptop will stare blankly at me from its spot in the bedroom, sort of like Hal 9000 after he got shut down. But ahh, napping. Even illness has a silver lining.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Touching the Waters

My sleep obsession has deepened. I didn't think it was possible, but it's true. In fact, I'm going to go take a nap after I get this post up before I'm due at work at noon.

The reason for wanting more sleep? My son Will woke up from an uncharacteristic nap on Saturday with a runny nose. I hoped it was allergies. But three days later it's still with him, and now comes with a cough. Yesterday I began to develop that thick feeling you get in the back of your throat when a virus has breached the defenses. By noon at work I was tired enough that I did something I haven't done since I was pregnant and stretched out on the break room couch for 20 minutes. My dad calls these short siestas "touching the waters of sleep," the idea being that you don't immerse yourself completely in those dark alluring depths--you just get a refreshing taste. Yes, my dad is as obsessed with sleep as I am.

Last night I had the light off at 9:02 p.m. I woke up at 5 as usual this morning and did my last speed workout, a quick 6 400s at a 7:13/mile pace, more for staying sharp than adding anything to my training base (hopefully that's established). That felt fine, and I sucked down way more water than usual. When I got home, I helped Dan and the kids get out of the house. And now I'm about to go put my PJ pants back on and crawl into bed. Having a cold for this weekend's race would break my heart. Perhaps my old friend Sleep can help me keep it from developing further.

I'll blog later in the week about my other current obsession....My Half-Marathon Playlist.


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Taper Weekend Alcohol Problem

I seem to suffer from Blog Jinx! No sooner do I post talking about my recent good pattern with sleep than I make a big mistake and mess up that pattern.

The mistake this time? For once, it wasn't sweets. Nor was it related to my oft-blamed children (my son did wake up with a wet bed, but I was already awake at that point, so I can't blame him this time). No, it was the one thing I failed to mention in my prior post: alcohol. Specifically, a tasty Portuguese white wine my husband has been bringing home recently to tempt me with.

Our awesome neighbors, whose four-year-old is the third Musketeer to my twins' duo, hosted a spontaneous cook-out last night to celebrate the return of our perfect warm-season Colorado weather. My husband brought said white wine. And I, buoyed by an exhilarating 8-miler earlier that day (stats from my Garmin are linked below)....well, I overdid it on the wine.

Now, I didn't drink so much that I was really drunk. That doesn't really happen any more. I also know how to combat tipsiness and possible hangover symptoms by drinking lots of water, which I did last night. But alcohol affects my sleep as much as caffeine does, regardless of whether I rehydrate. In a way, alcohol is worse than caffeine. Because while caffeine makes it hard to fall asleep in the first place, alcohol makes it easy to fall asleep but nearly impossible to stay asleep. So though (as promised) I turned my light out at 9:30 p.m. last night, I woke up at 1:30 a.m. and wasn't able to go back to sleep for three hours.

Ugh! Stupid! Do I have a race next weekend or don't I???

Suffice it to say, I've learned my lesson. Bedtime tonight will be even earlier. And there will be no alcohol in my life this week (or in the foreseeable future, as I'm starting Matt Fitzgerald's Quick Start plan the day after my race).

With one week to go, the race directors sent a weather forecast. It's looking great, but heat and wind (my two nemeses) could still happen:

And here are the details from yesterday's run. It was fun, mostly on the Bolder Boulder course.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Awake When I'm Awake, Asleep When I'm Asleep

Those of you who have known me for a while already know that sleep is huge to me. Talking with some friends from work about our pet peeves the other week, I asked them: "What annoying qualities do I have?" And one them said, "Well, you're kinda funny about sleep."

It's true. I'm obsessed with sleep. In some ways, I always have been. I never really liked road trips in college because they were hell on sleep. Nor have I ever thought sleepovers were very much fun. They should be called wake-overs, in my opinion. But back in those days, it wasn't too much of an issue. Catching up wasn't hard. Running, of course, is great for sleep, and sleep is great for running. Want to run a marathon? You need to get at least eight nightly hours and often more. Sign me up! was my thought.

Then I had my twins.

This is what the first couple of months with twins were like.

Not only were ten hours of sleep a night not happening, I was lucky to get three in the first couple of months. Even when the newborn stuff eased up, six straight hours was a coup. See, people warn you about newborns (though no description can capture the addled, torture-chamber sensation of too little sleep, sleep interrupted, no idea of when normal sleep will return). What they don't warn you about are the things that will keep interrupting your sleep for the next few years. In no particular order: illness--yours and your kids'--you'll get sick more because they do; sociability (sometimes babies and toddlers are just, well, AWAKE at the very wrongest time, and they want to play); leaky diapers; learning to walk and talk; potty training and bedwetting; nap strikes; nightmares and imaginary monsters....I could go on. Twins are two times all of that.

Now, after four years of ups and downs with sleep, we're in a great pattern. The kids sleep well most nights, to the tune of at least ten hours. And on the weekdays when I'm home with them (Thursdays and Fridays), I almost always get to nap. My daughter at four still requires an hour and a half or so of afternoon shut-eye. In fact, she asks for it. (I'm so proud.)

Her brother is the opposite. He doesn't really need a nap any more. But after a rough start, when he had to get used to playing by himself, he's become a champ at "quiet time" in his room. I can hear the click of Trios (a Lego-like building toy he loves) as I drift off to sleep. Usually it's still clicking away when I wake up an hour or so later. Sometimes I find he's emerged from his room and is playing in the living room by the time I awake, but that's OK with me, as long as he's unobtrusive.

With the kids settled down, I've had to correct a few bad habits of my own to start getting the kind of sleep runners need. The biggest thing has been to get myself in bed before 10 p.m. It's hard to go to bed early when the evenings are your only "adult" time. But it needs to happen if that other key activity--improving your running--is going to occur. A 9 p.m. bedtime would be better. That's what I'm going to shoot for the nights of this upcoming taper week.

The other habit I've had to break is caffeine. Caffeine, even as early in the day as 2 p.m., keeps me from falling asleep quickly. For a while I was drinking a skim latte in the morning and tons of iced black tea in the afternoon, especially when I was at work (which are days I won't get a nap). I've now mostly phased out the latte, and when I do drink it, it's decaf. As for the tea, I've switched to green, which has enough caffeine to make me feel perkier, but much less than black. I haven't felt that unpleasant buzz at night since making this switch.

Sleeping kids, early bedtime and minimal caffeine: These things are all a big part of why it's been so much easier for me this training cycle to get up at 5 a.m. and get my runs and spinning workouts done. For the first time since pregnancy, I feel like I'm getting not just the bare minimum of sleep to function, but sleep that--most nights anyway--is adequate. I feel awake when I'm supposed to be awake and sleep deeply when I'm supposed to be asleep.

Boulder Moment: Sighted at the playground today...Olympians Alan and Shayne Culpepper and their three sons. Our twins' first real outing was in February 2007, when we watched Alan win his third U.S. Cross Country title at Boulder's Flatirons Golf Course about a mile and a half from our house. Will and Ruth slept in the stroller the whole time. Dan and I felt like zombies among the vibrantly alive. Today, I did not ask the Culpeppers for an autograph. If their sons are anything like mine, they had their hands full.

Don't Forget: Enter my Justin's Nut Butter giveaway! Deadline is March 26!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Woman Who Walks at Dawn

No, it's not me. I'm the woman who runs or spins at dawn, and today was no exception. I found myself back on the treadmill for my tempo run (last one before the half-marathon!). Only three of the miles this time were at tempo pace (started at 8:06 miles, finished at 7:53 miles), with three others run easy. But the return of the inky morning darkness, which today would have been with me the whole time had I gone outside, sent me indoors again. I sometimes get creeped out running in the dark.

Which brings me to the Walking Woman.

My route to the East Boulder Rec Center, where I do all my early a.m. spin classes and runs on the treadmill, travels southeast from my home and partly along a road called Baseline. The road is named after the 40th Parallel, which it traces through the soil of Boulder County and, eventually, up a substantial hill beloved and feared by local runners and cyclists (including me; it's about 3/4 of a mile long, that sucker, and its steepness is always reflected in my pace). The portion of Baseline I drive before the stars have set is flat, and it's here that I see her about one of three mornings, sidling along on the sidewalk, covered head to toe.....the Walking Woman.

Picture one of those gigantic ankle-length down coats that make people look like legless Michelin men. Picture it with a hood drawn up over the head and a mask pulled up over the chin. We're talking a serious deep-freeze winter weather item. Odd thing is (actually there are many odd things here) it's never completely closed at the bottom, though the top is totally sealed off.

Then picture a pair of yoga pants or capris underneath a tunic of some sort (remember you can see this because the coat's not fastened around the legs--maybe to help her walking stride?). On her feet: snow boots. It's usually so dark that I can't ascertain the colors of any of these items but the coat. It seems to be tan, but maybe that's just the effect of the orange street lights.

She's always headed west, toward the Flatirons, as I'm headed away from them toward the east, and she's always on my side of the street.

I've seen her in all kinds of weather. On the profoundly cold mornings, I understood about the coat and admired her for getting out in those temperatures. On two occasions this winter, when the sidewalks were treacherous with ice that had melted and refrozen overnight into jagged stalagmites, I saw her walking in the bike lane on the road, and I felt guilty about shining my headlights on her obvious desire for privacy.

Because the coat isn't about the cold, really (though I'm sure it comes in handy for that). The reason I know this, having never seen this woman's face or spoken to her, is that when I saw her yesterday, when the morning was chilly but held much of the promise of the 70-degree temperatures we saw later in the day--in other words, not down coat weather any more--she was still wearing the coat, the hood, the tunic, the big boots, all of it.

I wonder where she's going. Probably she's just exercising, walking pre-dawn because she likes privacy and quiet. But I like to build other stories about her in my head. Like maybe she's walking to Safeway, which is just down the road and has a little Starbucks inside, and when she gets there she'll shed the coat and actually chat with the barista, who maybe knows her story, where these walks originate, what kind of coffee she likes. Maybe she has lots of kids and this the only time of day she can get a break. Or maybe it's the opposite, she's older, maybe a divorced empty nester and a little bit lonely. Or maybe not divorced but married to a late sleeper like I am, and she leaves the house for fresh air and so it will be quieter longer for him.

My favorite theory is that she's a shut-in for twenty-three hours of the day, frightened of people and traffic. This hour, 5:30 a.m., is her time in the world, which for her is stars, dark mountains to the west, chilly air and, eventually, when she turns around and heads back to wherever she came from, sunrises of various colors before whose majesty streetlights wink out one by one.

Don't forget to enter my nut butter giveaway! Deadline is March 26!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The First BQby40 Giveaway!

In the interest of distracting myself from the looming half-marathon (still 1.5 weeks away)--and as a thank-you to everyone for reading and helping out this far--I am hosting my inaugural BQby40 giveaway.

I'm going to try to do one of these every month or so. My plan is to use products from companies and individuals based in Boulder for these contests. Boulder has been very good to me. As a daily beneficiary of this town's beauty and kid- and runner-friendliness, I want to give something back. Plus, there are so many fantastic locally-produced items here, most made with good health in mind, that I don't see running out of ideas any time soon (though I will deviate if something runner-friendly and really great comes up from somewhere else).

So without further ado: my first giveaway is.....four boxes of Justin's Nut Butter squeeze packs!

These little packs, which run about 200 calories each, are the perfect post-run recovery food, especially when accompanied by crisp apple slices. They also make a great afternoon snack, either on their own or with fruit. I keep a box of the plain peanut and almond butters in my in-box at work--if the munchies hit I have something satisfying at hand. Oh, and my kids also love them.

Justin's is a homegrown Boulder company but rapidly expanding throughout the country. Read their story on their site (and order some of their products if the stores listed don't include yours). And of course enter the giveaway!

What I've got for one lucky winner (who hopefully will have a large sweet tooth like me) is one box each of the Chocolate Peanut Butter, the Chocolate Almond Butter, the Honey Peanut Butter and the Honey Almond Butter. Each box contains 10 1.15-oz. squeeze packs. Should be enough nut butter to last you a while! The ingredients (this being Boulder) are all-natural and mostly organic. And they are tasty.

To enter, do any, some or all of the following things (one comment for each you do, to maximize your chances of winning!):

1) Follow my blog and leave a comment telling me you've done so (or tell me you're already a follower).

2) Go to Justin's site and then leave a comment on my blog saying which kind of nut butter would be the first you would try (or if you've tried them already, tell me your favorite).

3) If you've been to Boulder or live around here, tell me in a comment your favorite story about Boulder.

4) Post about this giveaway on your own blog and then leave a link to your post in a comment here.

5) Tell me in a comment one thing you'd like to see more of on my blog.

6) Know of runners (including yourself) who have an inspiring story about qualifying for Boston on their blog? Post a comment with that link here.

The contest ends on Saturday, March 26 (that's the day before my half-marathon) at noon Mountain Time. The winner will be chosen by and will be posted that afternoon.

Good luck and thanks so much for reading!

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Jitters Begin

You'd think I'd be grateful not to have any more really hard or long runs in this training cycle. My race is now just under two weeks away. I've done the work. I missed no runs and only a few cross-training sessions. Knock on wood, I've managed to stay healthy. I've even lost a few pounds.

And yet....

This is the point--the beginning of what runners call the taper, where you ease back for several days in order to be well-rested for the big event--where I always start questioning whether I'm really ready.

The biggest worry I have....besides the weather, which obviously is a fruitless worry--like I tell one library patron who calls and frets whenever it snows, no one can control the weather, ma'am...the biggest non-wind worry I have is that I haven't worked hard enough. Most people trying to go as fast or as far as I want to go run five or six days a week, or even every day. The program I'm following deliberately schedules runs only three days a week--but you do them much faster than other training regimens prescribe. There is no slow running in the FIRST program. The pace of your last race determines your training paces and, at first anyway, they feel hard whether you're doing speed intervals, a tempo run or a long run. And two aerobic cross-training workouts are required every week--you can't skip those and expect to get good results.

But (I am now asking myself) will that be enough? The elites don't train this way. Even most of my running friends don't train this way. The conventional wisdom says more miles run = better performance. Period. Doesn't matter if you run five-minute miles or eleven-minuters. Did I make a bad choice when choosing this program?

Moreover, when I first looked at the half-marathon plan, it was daunting. The distances on all the runs seemed awfully long for the paces I was supposed to hit (the marathon plan looks much the same to me now, and I don't even know what my paces will be yet!). But for the last few weeks--with the exception of those two windy and difficult long runs where my intestines or the wind threw me way off--the paces have started to feel easy enough that I've been wondering if I shouldn't have increased them a bit. I didn't do that, because I wouldn't know how much of an increase would be too much, and the book is pretty adamant that unless you're rock-solid sure you have improved, you shouldn't mess with your pace.

But...what if I should have increased them? Have I blown my chance for a great half-marathon?

There are lots of logical answers to these worried questions. One is that I had good reasons for choosing the FIRST program. The anecdotal evidence that it works is solid, as are the authors' scientific reasons why it works, especially for older and time-pressed people. While I'm not super-old, I'm not in my twenties or early thirties any more, and I certainly am pressed for time.

For last fall's half-marathon, run on the same course, I followed a much more conventional program from Runner's World (Run under 2 hours! it promised) with lots of easy miles on more days a week mixed in. There was even an eleven miler the week before the race itself! I felt tired and beat up by the time the race rolled around. Running that often is hard on my body. I bonked at the end of the race. With this program, my body has felt great. I've needed no ice baths and many fewer naps than I needed last fall. I know I shouldn't doubt these feelings of better fitness and health.

The truth is, second guessing will always be a part of the training process for me. I won't really know the answers until after race day, and even then there are so many factors I can't control that could help or hurt me. (That last half-marathon was delayed three weeks when a wildfire broke out, because the firefighters used the race site as their staging ground. Not exactly something anyone could control!)

I just need to keep telling myself to enjoy the taper. And if I have to worry, I'll try to focus the worry on my playlist for race day. Now THAT is something I can control.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

12 on the 12th

Like a four-year-old girl in the Turkey Trot kids' race--that's how I felt today.

Of course, I was dressed slightly lighter than Ruthie was for her little race back in November. And there was no crowd cheering me on. And I don't think I had my tongue hanging out like that (though I don't know for sure). But the pure joy was the same.

This 12-mile run--the last long run of my half-marathon training!--went almost as perfectly as I could have dreamed. There was a light breeze, but no horrible wind. The sun came and went from behind high, friendly clouds. The songs on my iPod matched my mood. The Sport Beans I ate before and during the run gave me some oomph on the way out and some extra energy on the way back. I had to make no pit stops. The hot chocolate I bought at Starbucks on the way home tasted like the nectar of the gods. I loved everything about this day on the backroads.

It was a good rehearsal for my half-marathon, now two short weeks away. I plan to do many of the same things I did this weekend ahead of and during the race. Those things include:

1) Eat a night-before dinner of white pasta with my husband's simple tomato sauce.
2) Go to bed early and nap on the days before the race.
3) On race morning, eat a simple breakfast of Special K cereal with no milk and a banana, plus two glasses of Nuun and as much plain water as I want.
4) Unless the temperature is much higher, wear my capris and a short-sleeved shirt.
5) Eat several Sport Beans just before the race and two of them every two miles of the first 3/4 or so.
6) Gut out the first half (the uphill half) with no music. Turn on the tunes for the second half, with the most inspiring songs saved for the last two miles.

And here are two niggling things I need to deal with:
1) I've developed a blister on the inside of my right heel, probably from my new-ish shoes. I know from experience that regular Band-Aids do not stay on during races. But I have plenty of time to baby it and figure out how to cover it up before the race.
2) My new hand-held water bottle bugs me during long runs. It's heavy and, when I switch it to my left hand, my ring catches on the strap. But there aren't quite enough aid stations for me to run the race without my own supply of water. So just for the race, I'll go back to my small bottle, which should hold enough water between the aid stops and doesn't weigh me down as much.

Now, except for my usual cross-training this week, one more speed session on Tuesday and a shorter tempo run on Thursday, it's taper time. Time to rest, take care of myself, enjoy a little more sleep in the mornings. Oh, and tame the butterflies in my stomach. Don't know if I can do that. The anticipation is building.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Bad Sleep, Good Run

My daughter Ruthie woke up at 2:15 this morning, rousing both Dan and me from a deep sleep. After he got her settled--it wasn't even five minutes--I couldn't go back to sleep for an hour, and when I did, I had disturbing dreams involving me turning into Witch Mommy Who Locks Children Into Their Rooms for interrupting her nap and me getting into fights with other women over treadmills crammed into impossibly small gym locker rooms.

You can imagine that when the alarm went off at 5:15 I wasn't happy about it. But I haven't missed a single run in this training cycle. So I heaved myself out of our seriously comfortable new bed and assessed the bags under my eyes in the bathroom mirror while my Nuun tablet dissolved.

"Well, Terzah," I thought. "Remember that DLF is greater than DNF is greater than DNS."

This sentiment--which stands for Dead Last Finish is greater than Did Not Finish is greater than Did Not Start--was quoted by a fellow reader of the Run Like a Mother blog. She said she saw it on a T-shirt. And after my rough night, it was just the thing to get me out the door. Yes, I was supposed to do 5 miles at a mid-range tempo pace (8:24/mile), but I decided I would just run, keep it going for five miles and if I felt slow or ill (in other words, the training run equivalent of dead last), well, at least I got out there.

Those of you who have been running for a while will probably guess what happened. I ended up feeling great on this run. It started as soon as I stepped into the cool morning breeze. By then it was 5:41, and the late winter sun was already turning the eastern sky a deep shade of gold. The Flatirons, striated with snow, hulked to the west. This was to be my first tempo run outside in several weeks.

The first mile I still felt slightly creaky and slightly sleepy, but it dissipated quickly. At mile two, it was light enough that I felt comfortable turning on my iPod. As soon as I found the tempo of the first song ("Fadeaway" by the BoDeans) I knew I was going to enjoy this and run it reasonably fast. And by the end, I was sorry it was only five miles and not six. Waking children and work (I have a night shift on Thursdays and it's always a long day) no longer seemed stressful.

Unless the weather gets seriously awful again, I plan to do my tempo runs outside from here on out. My head needs the fresh air. My legs need to get used to road running again (the backroads and the treadmill are both lower impact than that canyon in Utah is going to be).

A few days ago, with the weather about to turn nice again, a runner I follow on Twitter mentioned a beautiful run he had that morning around Davidson Mesa: "Boulder runners, get back outside!" he exhorted.

Yes, yes. It's time.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Couple More Boulder Moments

Ah yes, they abound here, those Boulder moments!

These two particular ones happened on the same day last week, within hours of each other. One made me feel (briefly) like I actually belong here, among the fleet and the svelte, and the other brought me quickly back to reality.

The first happened at boot-camp class. Every now and then the rec center brings instructors who are trying out for jobs with them to sub for our class. The bosses and our regular instructor, Chris, watch them as they lead our group, presumably evaluating them on how thoroughly and appropriately they kick our butts. On the day in question, the substitute instructor's name was Michael. Like all of them, he looked fit and, like many of them, was a good talker. He mentioned that he used to work as a salesguy for Nike, he worked us out well and at the end he showed us a stretch that felt really good to my tight hamstrings.

Afterwards, I told him about my sore lower back and the resulting tightness in my hips. He showed me a few more stretches and suggested that I do leg swings, front-to-back and laterally, before my workouts.

And then came the happy moment: "Are you a runner?" he asked me. "Because you look like a runner."

I was stunned. I have never been told that I look like a runner by anyone. Especially not anyone in Boulder, Colorado. Because, really, I don't. This must be why Michael was a salesguy: he's good at saying what people want to hear, true or not. Nonetheless, I think I floated out of the rec center after my shower that day.

But such feelings are never meant to last. Later that day, I went to Boulder Running Company to pick up some more Nuun tablets, a hand-held water bottle and some Sport Beans (I'm still trying new, hopefully easy-to-digest options on my long runs; something has to work eventually, right?).

When I buy Nuun, I always buy a ton because I drink one before every workout, and often after, too, especially the Saturday long runs. I'm a big sweater. Nuun has been the difference for me between having and not having uncomfortable exercise-induced headaches. I also bought three packs of the Sport Beans (why I don't know; I didn't really expect them to sit well; maybe it's that at this point I'm desperate to find something that won't make my gut unhappy). And I figured I might as well pick up two of the bottles, one for each hand. The long runs on those hot summer days will require lots of liquid.

Now, I like Boulder Running Company. It was their man who put the neuroma pad into my new shoe a few weeks back, before I even had that as my diagnosis, and they've been helpful and nice to me every time I've gone in there. But one of my co-workers--an excellent runner, by the way; she's one of the ones who smoked me in that corporate challenge relay last summer--has said they make her feel unimportant when she goes in there, presumably because she's not one of the elites. She now goes to another running store in town that she describes as more friendly. But I've never seen any evidence of snobbery at BRC (believe me, if I had seen it, I'd never go in again), and since it's closer to my house, I've been buying my shoes there since we moved to Boulder five years ago.

So anyway....I carried my haul of bottles, Nuun and Sport Beans up to the counter, where three sales guys were gathered. One of them looked at my stuff on the counter and said:

"Ah, I see someone is getting ready for an ultra."

Geez. Was I really buying that much? Had I gone overboard on the Sport Beans? Are they something only runners of 50-plus-mile races should purchase? That was it, I thought, feeling the inevitable blush creep over my face (why did I have to be born a blusher? It's so undignified, and so unpreventable!). I felt like the little girl played by Abigail Breslin in Little Miss Sunshine when her blowhard dad suggests that beauty queens don't eat ice cream, and there she is with a bowl of the chocolate good stuff on the way.

I mumbled something about my runs "getting longer" and got out quickly, my "looking like a runner" balloon deflated. This little incident alone isn't enough to make me stop shopping there, but I do think I'll be ordering my Nuun and other food products online from now on.

Food Report
Here's what I've eaten so far today--it's not exactly Ash Wednesday fasting, but so far so good:

Whole-wheat bagel with lox, a small bit of cream cheese, two tomato slices and a few capers
Glass of lo-sodium V8 juice
Two apples
A PBJ sandwich (made with natural PB and "simply fruit" apricot preserves)
Two mugs unsweetened green tea
Three strands of black licorice (this is courtesy of our security guard at work, Lorin; I have to learn to "just say no" to licorice)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Racing Weight and Lent

This morning my shiny home scale/body fat monitor pegged me at 134.6 pounds and 23.4% body fat. Since I am about 5'7", this puts my body mass index (BMI) at 21.1.

The healthy body fat range for women is between 25% and 31%, according to a article quoting the American Council on Exercise. I was surprised to read that I'm *below* that range. As for the BMI figure, the CDC puts a normal range at between 18.5 and 24.9. I'm right in the middle of that.

So far so good: I'm healthy and fit. But here's the rub: the body fat range for athletes seeking to compete at "racing weight" (your best weight for best performance) is much lower. I learned this from a pair of wonderful books by Matt Fitzgerald called Racing Weight: How to Get Lean for Peak Performance (see cover above) and Racing Weight: Quick Start Guide. Specifically, for women in their 30s, the body fat range that usually indicates you're at racing weight is between 11% and 17%.

I sat down and did the math, using research-based formulas in the books, on what it would take for me to get to 17%. The result: I'd need to get down to 120.7 pounds. That's a loss of about 14 pounds of fat. A lot, in other words.

Fitzgerald notes that it does you no good to lose weight if you're losing mostly performance-enhancing muscle. In my case, that means being a weak 120 pounds probably won't give me marathon times that would be any better than they'd be at a strong 134 pounds. He's also quick to point out that it's unrealistic to expect that anyone can or should stay at their racing weight at all times. Rather, this weight should be a target atheletes seek to hit when they have a significant race coming up.

A significant race. Like a marathon where at the very least you want to hit a personal record. Like I have coming up on the not-as-far-away-as-I-think date of September 17.

SO. I am going to embark on the Racing Weight Quick Start plan. This involves taking a period of time between training cycles (which I have between the Boulder Spring Half on March 27 and the beginning of my marathon training in early June) to "jump start" fat loss. It's like going on a diet in that I'm pretty much going to have to cut out all junk food for eight weeks. But (and this is the happy part) it's NOT like a diet in that I get to eat around 2,000 calories a day since I'll continue to train intensely (remember, Bill Pierce suggests I use this time to "get comfortable" with 15-mile runs).

I don't expect to get all the way down to 120.7 pounds in eight weeks. It wouldn't be healthy to try for that anyway. But I can get a head start, form some decent habits that will take me through the summer's training and cross my fingers that my weight will get itself to where it needs to be by September.

This also jives neatly with the beginning of Lent. I was raised Catholic, and was a fairly committed Catholic until a few years back, when some of the Church's anti-women and anti-gay social stands finally got to me. Since last summer, I've happily attended an Episcopal Church and am raising our kids in that tradition. But a big part of my heart will always be Catholic.

Each Lent (Lent being the 40 days before Easter), I try to give up one bad habit and start one good one. This year the good one will be eating the Racing Weight way. As for the bad one, most years recently have involved giving up sweets. But this year I'm going to try something harder: giving up dining out. This is harder because it will require me to do some things so dull my good intentions with regard to them always fall by the wayside: plan my meals, make them at home, brown-bag it at work.

Having the marathon on the horizon and some helpful meal ideas from Racing Weight will help.

But really, no Chipotle for 40 days and 40 nights? Can I do that?

We'll soon find out: Ash Wednesday is this week. To help me stick with this plan, I'm going to use this blog as an occasional food diary. Food diaries are tedious, I know, so don't worry that I'm going to make this into a boring record of each crumb I consume. But forcing myself to note my meals and my fat-loss project here on a regular basis will help keep me on track, just as it's helped keep me going with my running this winter.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Boulder Benefits: Massage Part II

Today was one of those rare and relaxing mornings that included a not-too-taxing but satisfying run....followed by a massage. I love massages. My whole family does. My dad says we're like a bunch of monkeys. I'd get a massage every week if I could afford it. I'd rather have a massage than eat. I'd even rather have a massage than eat CHOCOLATE.

The run was a 10-miler out on the backroads. The uphill first half felt labored, with lots of huffing and puffing and shuffling and not much speed to show for it. All five of the first miles took me over 9 minutes. The second half felt much better, as it always does going downhill, and in the end my average was a decent 8:56/mile. It wasn't as fast as the Snowman Stampede 10-miler two weeks ago, but I never go as fast when I'm not in a race environment. Thank you, weather gods, for keeping the wind in its cage today. It was cold-ish--shoulda brought gloves--but quiet and still. Subtle signs of spring abounded: ditches flowing with melt water; two red-wing blackbirds that I saw (and lots more than I heard); frisky horses breaking into a run in the fields.

The massage, courtesy of a gift certificate from my awesome sister-in-law, Kate, featured no fairy cards, salt crystal lamps or chanting. That was just fine with me. Kate's gift got me time at the student clinic at the Boulder College of Massage Therapy, which sends a fleet of aspiring therapists to every Bolder Boulder and Colder Bolder race. They always do a great job with the 15 or so minutes they get at those races, so I knew I was in for a good experience with the full hour.

Sure enough, a soothing young guy named Geoff worked on my tight hips, IT bands and calves. By the time he was finished, I felt reinvigorated, which was a good thing because when I got home Ruth and Will were waiting for me to start the naptime routine, and I was as hungry as a longshoreman. I read to them (one book each), dealt with the usual bathroom trips and requests for toys after (they are allowed to play quietly in their rooms if they prefer that to sleep, which Will usually does) and I then practically inhaled leftover pasta, two hard-boiled eggs, a spoonful of peanut butter and a glass of Nuun water, all the while trying to keep quiet so Will's keen ears didn't pick up the clink of fork on bowl or the crack of the eggshells.

At $35 for an hour and $50 for 90 minutes, BCMT's student clinic might actually be a place I can attend on my own dime more often than every six months. Something to think about with marathon training looming!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Getting Some Advice from the Expert

Having a coach would be a great thing. Runners with coaches always have someone to consult when issues like illness, injury or just plain "what do I do now?" come up. I don't have a coach, and with the looming move and likely rent increase, I don't think I'll be able to afford one for quite a while.

Luckily, because I'm following the FIRST Run Less, Run Faster program, I don't often have questions the book doesn't answer. But over the weeks of this training cycle, a couple have cropped up. So I did what any good former newspaper woman would do, and I emailed the source directly. Bill Pierce is one of the co-authors of Run Less, Run Faster. He wrote back to my email within two hours of my sending it.

Here were my questions (in italics) followed by his answers:

Q1. I plan to follow the running workouts to the letter that week, but it's unclear to me whether I should continue x-training the week before the half-marathon (or for that matter the marathon when it comes). Do I just rest on what are normally xt days or keep x-training? My x-training workout of choice is a twice-weekly spinning class. Over the summer, it will probably be rowing and outdoor cycling.

A1. The week of your race you can make XT days rest days or you can do 20-30 minutes of easy spinning once or twice. (After our emails, I found out that my spin class may not be happening the week before my race anyway, because it's spring break around here. So there should be no temptation to overdo whatever I end up doing instead.)

Q2. I will have about nine weeks between the Boulder Half and the start of the 16-week marathon training program detailed in your book. What would be the best thing to do with that time? I don't want to lose any endurance or speed. Would it be OK to train for a race? Another thought I had was to ramp up the long runs to get a jump-start on that piece of it. But honestly I'm not sure what to do with those two months.

A2. Increasing the long runs so that you are comfortable doing 15 mile runs would be good. Also, go ahead and do a speed workout but not necessarily one of the track repeats. Go to our website and click on Tuesday workouts for something different. Don't worry about a target time, just do the workouts at about 90-95% intensity. Also, keep the tempo run of 5-6 miles and make it a good effort without focusing on a target pace.

He went on to say that he has run the Top of Utah Marathon and that it's a good course, especially for someone who is used to altitude.

I'm excited about this and feel less at sea now that I have a plan for the nine weeks before marathon training starts. The other thing I plan to do is use that time to really focus on my nutrition and weight. Stay tuned for more on how I plan to go about this!

Thanks for the help, Bill, in case you're reading this!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Good News and Bad News

First the good news: I registered for a fall marathon!

After lots of dithering, I chose the Top of Utah Marathon on September 17. The photo, which I borrowed from the official race Web site, shows a section of the course.

I won't lose out on scenic: "Run past river banks, marshes, limestone outcroppings and through the cool canyon vistas. Moose, elk, deer, and many other species of wildlife make the Canyon their home..."

But that's not my main reason for choosing this race. My new friend Erin had been planning to run it anyway and offered to share a hotel room with me (she's already booked the room, in fact!). She and I are at about the same ability level (though she may well be faster by the time this race rolls around, as she has a couple of other marathons planned before this one), so I will have company. It will be good company, too, as she is both driven and optimistic.

It will also be an adventure for me, as Logan, Utah, is about an eight-and-a-half hour drive from Boulder. I figure a road trip of the kind I haven't had since my kids were born will be OK. I'm supposed to stay off my feet a lot the day before the race anyway. It will mean a weekend of solo kid duty for Dan, but he is game. I am very lucky to have a husband like him!

My goal for this race is to run it as much under four hours as I can. It also happens right smack in the middle of that new Boston registration window. In the unlikely event that I run 3:45 or faster in this race, I may be able to turn around and sign up for Boston 2012 after I cross the finish line, or soon thereafter. They say in running that you should have three levels of goals for each race: a moonshot (qualifying for Boston), a hard but realistic goal (under four hours) and a bad-weather-bad-luck goal (beating my NYC PR of 4:14). I feel fairly organized because I have all three already.

The only drawback to this relatively early race is that I will have to do a lot of hard training in hot temperatures. Colorado summers can be searing. But I've done it before and I can do it again. It may mean getting up early on a lot of Saturdays. Happily, I'm already used that, and at least it won't be dark!

OK, now the bad news, which has nothing direct to do with running. Our landlord, who is a super nice guy, called last night and said he needs to sell our condo. We have to be out by the end of July at the latest. Wow! We sat shell-shocked for quite a while after that conversation, finally going to sleep at around midnight after tossing the possibilities around. You see, our rent in this place is super-cheap, under $1000/month, which is unheard of for a 3-bedroom place in Boulder, home of venture capitalists, patent-holders, trust-funders and the attendant sky-high real estate they bring with them. There is virtually no chance we will get lucky again here with our rent.

So we're looking at a move out of Boulder to one of the less-expensive adjoining towns, which means commuting (ugh!), and probably higher rent even with the move. We can't buy right now, as Dan won't finish his PhD until December and we won't know where we will end up until he finds a more permanent job. Our little life plan, in other words, just underwent an unexpected major revision.

While none of this will have any direct effect on my running plans, it will probably throw a crimp or two in my well-honed routine. My treadmill runs are all done at the East Boulder Rec Center, which is about five minutes from our house. My bootcamp class is at the North Boulder Rec Center, about fifteen minutes from our house. I'll still have the free membership at these centers thanks to my job, but getting to them will take longer and burn more gas than it does now.

And while all of the towns around here have good trail systems and are runner-friendly, none of them can compare with Boulder's network of foothills trails and other beautiful places to run. I've been spoiled!

I do believe these things happen for a reason. I never wanted to live in this condo forever. It's getting tight with two increasingly active four-year-olds (kids really do need yards!). We'll make the best of it no matter what. But it does give me a new stress that I'll need lots of hard runs to manage.

Thanks to Top of Utah, hard runs will not be in short supply around here!