Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Goes Out Like a Lion

The chinook winds returned, just in time for my last long fast-finish long run ahead of the Houston Marathon. I sat in the car at the rec center, thinking maybe I should just do it tomorrow. But that's fool's thinking, and I know it, so I got out, shouldered the CamelBak one last time and hit the pavement.

It only took about a tenth of a mile before I was loving it. I loved the whole slow ten miles I did out in the wind. I loved the guy smoking a cigarette in the parking lot of the used-car lot who asked me, "Aren't you freezing your tush off?" and laughed at me when I told him sincerely that it wasn't that bad. I loved the three super-fast runners, two men and a woman, whom I saw on my favorite hill up 9th Ave. (the same hill that broke me on a tempo run during my ramp-up for the Top of Utah Marathon last summer). I loved the wind that chilled me when it blew and allowed the sun to bake me when it briefly dissipated. I loved the sight of the mountains on the horizon when I turned around, and even the feeling of my calves being blown around when my stride had them airborne.

At the end of the ten outdoor miles, I knew this run was charmed. I entered the crowded rec center and against the odds walked right onto an empty treadmill. A weight lifter dude I see there sometimes shook his head and smiled, asking me if I had food with me. I brandished my Shot Bloks with pride. I started the treadmill at a 9:05 pace and as seven miles flowed by ratcheted it down every mile until I finished at with 3/4 of a mile at an 8:13 clip. I threw in three 2-3% hills of a quarter mile each in the last three miles. I was hot and purple-faced, but I felt good.

Why did I stop at seven fast-finish miles (McMillan allowed eight and I definitely could have done that last one)? Well, three reasons: 1) my left hip and low back were bugging me again, probably because I took my kids ice skating yesterday and the hip didn't like that inside turn over and over again for an hour 2) a very polite lady asked me for the treadmill at the end, and I felt so lucky to have gotten seven miles that adhering to the rec center rules seemed more like a sign from the cosmos that I should stop than an imposition and 3) I feel like the hay is in the barn; what would one more mile today have gained me?

I'm very happy about how the long runs have gone this cycle--the only one that was rough for me was the 16 miler I did right before we flew to Virginia for Thanksgiving, and it turned out I was coming down with a stomach virus. I still don't know what to expect in Houston, as the speedwork was deliberately NOT run as fast as last time. But I strongly feel I can at least PR if the weather is favorable.

For now,'s taper time. Ahhhhhhh! I have big plans for this taper. They involve tasty, nutritious meals....good sleep....a massage this week AND next week (yes, I'm splurging.....). But perhaps most exciting....yesterday I found out I won an hour on the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine's Alter-G Anti-Gravity Treadmill!

I'll be using this machine on Tuesday, Jan. 10 (five days before my race) for an easy wind-down run. Dan will cut work to photograph me. So stay tuned for a post on that next week!

Happy New Year everyone! I'm off to eat homemade pizza and drink some Riesling (not too much, I promise!).

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Looking Back, Ahead and Other Weighty Matters

I'm going to take Miss Zippy's format from a few days back for my 2011 year-end review.

Best race experience? The Top of Utah Marathon; it was a big PR, it was my return to marathons after six years, it was a road trip, it had crazy weather, I got to meet Erin, and it showed me how close to (and how far from) my goal I stand.

Best run? Because I don't really think I can call it a race.....that crazy Rock Canyon Half-Marathon in the snow and wind earlier this month. I love a good story, and that one involved Kathy and Jill (yes, we're all mad, MAD, I tell you!), as well as an epic drive and the nutty weather.

Best new piece of gear? My CamelBak; no more carrying bottles on long runs.

Best piece of running advice you received? “Patience, grasshopper.” This was in a Tweet from Greg McMillan, who wrote my training plans for both Top of Utah and the upcoming Houston Marathon. Though I often wish this were easier for me, I’m not going to be an overnight BQ person–I have to work for it. And that’s OK. By the way, let me put in a quick plug for McMillan's custom training plans here. They are FUN and varied. They make you feel strong. They've been worth every penny to me (and I don't have a lot of extra pennies).

Most inspirational runner? My friend Kathy (see link above), who went from zero to marathon in a year and a half. She has fallen in L-O-V-E with running, and who doesn't like to witness a good love story?

If you could sum up your year in a couple of words, what would they be? A slow comeback. That said (and this next bit makes me happy) I set PRs in every distance this year except the 5K. And I just realized....I didn't run any 5Ks in 2011. Not one!

Which brings me to....looking ahead to 2012.....

My husband Dan has asked me not to train for a marathon again until the summer. He's been doing kid duty on Saturdays during my increasingly-long long runs for six months now. It's harder in the winter because I don't get up as early as I do in the summer, and thus don't get back as early. He's fine with me training for half-marathons and anything shorter...but he doesn't want any more 24-milers until the weather and the light favor earlier starts again.

After some initial worry about the possible impact on my hard-won endurance, I decided that not only is it a perfectly fair thing to ask (he's been a total trooper!), it might even be the case that a scale-back and a change of focus would be good for my body.

I don't know yet exactly which races I'm going to do this winter and spring (though of course the Bolder Boulder 10K will be in there and almost certainly a half-marathon nearby). I don't plan to sign up for anything until after the Houston Marathon. BUT.....I'm wondering if it's possible for me to topple that 5K PR. Could be tough....22:34, set in 2005....the last 5K I ran, the Colder Bolder in December 2010, was almost 2 minutes slower than that, at 24:24. But I think it's a good spring goal. And Lord knows there are plenty of 5Ks to choose from, so I can just keep hammering at it until it's time to go back to distance training starting in June.

Jill tells me that a focus on speed will likely help my fall marathon plans, too. If you put it that way.....yeah....shorter distances could be good......stay tuned for more on this later......

Finally (and then I promise I'll stop this interminable ramble), I wanted to check in with the weight and nutrition side of things. Despite immense quantities of cookies and champagne consumed over Christmas, my weight and body fat on Tuesday were sitting semi-pretty at 127.4 and 21% according to my home scale. This is the good side of marathon training through the holidays. It does make me wonder where those numbers would be WITHOUT all the extra sugar and fat.

My pledge for the last three weeks before Houston is to eat in nutritiously. I'm not eliminating all treats (for Christmas Dan gave me some yummy French chocolates, which I'm using as day-end rewards for eating impeccably otherwise). But the focus is on lean Mario Lopez recipes, good carbs and lots of fruits and vegetables. In addition to being the best kind of fuel for a marathoner, these foods will hopefully have the added benefit of helping me stave any cold viruses and other nasties that might assail me during taper. Fingers crossed! With Houston so close, watching my food is easier and less boring than it usually is for me.

Any foods that are your must-haves when you're close to a big marathon? How do you avoid colds ahead of key races?

Any advice for my Spring of Speed? Do you think I can beat that old 5K PR?

Monday, December 26, 2011

Finals Week

Upcoming is the last hard week of my training plan for the Houston Marathon. After New Year's Day, I will begin tapering (or, as McMillan calls it, "the peaking phase"). The two toughest runs this week will be a track workout of 3000-meter repeats on Thursday and a fast-finish long run of 18 miles on Saturday. It's sort of like Finals Week!

But it was actually the past week that marked the most miles I'll do in this cycle. For the first time since 2005, I ran over 50 miles in the week (51, to be precise). I'm really happy about how good my body feels. My long runs have gone MUCH better this cycle than they did leading up to September's Top of Utah Marathon. And while I'm still not sure I can qualify for the Boston Marathon when I toe the line in Houston in three weeks, I do think, if the day's weather favors me, I can set a personal record in the marathon, run much stronger (and hopefully smarter) than I did in September and inch closer to the Boston standard of 3:45.

The biggest chunk of my miles this past week were run on Christmas Eve. I ran 24 miles under bright sunshine. Part of me didn't want to go because it meant being away from my family for most of the morning and I wasn't looking forward to negotiating sidewalks and roads still snowy and icy from a huge storm we had on Thursday. White Christmas=wonderful! White Long Run=tedious! But I couldn't face 24 miles on a treadmill either.

I did two things to combat the boredom: 1) I listened to music only for the second six miles and the fourth six miles of the 24, thereby "rewarding" myself for getting through the first and third six-mile segments and 2) in the spirit of the season I tried to think of a blessing for each mile, so that by the time I was finished I'd have a list of 24 blessings (on top of the blessing of a 51-mile week!).

The first 13 miles were all about people.

Mile 1--My husband Dan. He is always first. He always will be.

Mile 2--My son Will. I thought about what a loud, passionate little soul he is. I thought about how he is like me--much nicer when he gets some endurance exercise.

Mile 3--My daughter Ruthie. She is sharp as a tack and has a silly sense of humor. I don't think anyone will ever pull one over on her (unlike me!).

Mile 4--My mom. She was back home helping Dan with the kids. Always a great example of optimism, good humor, sociability, kindness. I need to be more like her.

Mile 5--My dad. He's funny and empathetic. He was my first running partner, back when I was twelve and we'd knock out two flat miles every other day. If it weren't for him, I wouldn't be running today.

Mile 6--My friend Kathy. She went from zero to marathon in a year and a half. She is the definition of game, the definition of tenacious. I'm glad she's going to be my roommate in Houston.

Mile 7--My bloggy friend Jill. She unfailingly says the right thing in all of her comments, on my blog and everyone else's. She's a blessing to so many people, even amid injury and tough times for herself.

Mile 8--My friend Christine. She was there when I conceived this Boston idea and she never fails to believe I can do it (even when I'm failing to believe in myself). I'm looking forward to getting back to our hike-spin-hike routine.

Mile 9--My friend Angela. I've known her since first grade. She's a great runner and a great person. She continues to inspire me and make me laugh, even though we don't talk nearly often enough.

Mile 10--My friend Max. Compared to what he goes through daily, nothing I do is a marathon.

Mile 11--My sister Mandy. You will never meet a more honest or genuine person than she.

Mile 12--My brother John. He's probably the only person in my family who understands why I like running long distances and going on other uncomfortable adventures, even when I run the risk of pooping in my pants and other unpleasant consequences.

Mile 13--My smart, practical sisters-in-law, Kate and Jessica. Kate, like Dan, is a true Renaissance person. Jessica has a dry, incisive sense of humor. They say you can't pick your family, but if I could I'd totally pick these two.

The next half of the run my brain got less focused, and I started being thankful for things and circumstances:

Mile 14--People who actually follow the rules and shovel their sidewalks. This was a purely practical blessing for that moment, that mile.

Mile 15--My health. During this mile I passed a guy limping down the street on crutches. My pace wasn't fast, but I am lucky nonetheless to be able to run under the bright sunshine. At all.

Mile 16--My (knock-on-wood) lack of running injuries so far. My lower back was twinging me a little, and I was thinking I need to work hard on my core during the next training cycle....but even with these concerns, I have stayed solid and strong.

Mile 17--The beautiful place I live. At this point I was working my way west on a highway in the county. On the horizon loomed Long's Peak and its companion, Meeker Mountain. Cool breezes and the smell of horses (which I like!) wafted over me.

Mile 18--Music. Of all kinds. The kind I had just turned back on--yay Mile 18 (I'm loving Pitbull these days). The kind I'd been listening to at home with Dan and the kids (all Christmas, all the time!).

Mile 19--That that truck next to Target back in Mile 10 didn't kill me when he tried to run a red light and then braked/honked at me as he skidded into the cross walk. There were lots of crazy drivers out. Last minute holiday shopping?

Mile 20--That I was finally headed home.

Mile 21--For my wonderful church, St. John's Episcopal, where we'd be taking the kids later for an afternoon Christmas service. Part of me will always be Roman Catholic (if you're born into it like I was, it's not something you can ever NOT be, no matter how much you disagree with certain points of church dogma), but I've never felt as at home and spiritually cared-for as I do at St. John's.

Mile 22--For my job. I'm so lucky to have one, and even luckier that the one I've got challenges me intellectually and helps me in forging a better character for myself. I'm thankful for everyone who uses a public library, even the crazy people. (I can't quite be thankful for the mean and entitled types yet.....the customer is NOT always right.....)

Mile 23--That this was now a two-mile run. And that Pitbull was still with me.

Mile 24--For that last hill up to my house. And that I was able to run up it, feeling strong, all the way home.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Blog Exchange: Thank You Lindsay!

So earlier this week I got a box in the mail and didn't open it right away--we're getting a lot of packages these days and most of them are for the kids. When I realized what it was, though, I tore into it and found this T-shirt inside:

It was my blog exchange gift, from a blogger I didn't know but now am following, Lindsay of Lindsay on the Go. Unlike me, Lindsay also bikes and is working towards a triathlon, though she says running is her first love. She also has Type 1 diabetes and writes a lot about how she works that with her running. I'm looking forward to reading about her goals for 2012.

Meanwhile, I LOVE this shirt. I've always wanted something from Oiselle (for female runners, it's sort like what Guess jeans were for me as a middle-schooler)--and now I have something. If you look close, each of the lines on the shirt represents a race, with the top one being a 5K and the darkest one, on the bottom, and wrapping all the around the back of the shirt, being an ultra.....Haven't done one of those, but never say never, right?

Anyway, THANK YOU, Lindsay (and thanks to Jill at Run With Jill for organizing the exchange--I know it was a ton of work). Here's a photo of me in the spirit of the season saying it again:

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Book Review: Running the Edge

I live in Boulder, domain of runners but also of Deepak Chopra, Eckhart Tolle and other New Age-y, self-help-y, laughing-all-the-way-to-the-bank-at-our-neuroses types. I'm not a fan of this stuff, or of the self-help, self-love and self-improvement movements or pop psychology in general. The ideas of "because I deserve it" and other Oprah-esque cloakings of hedonism are big turn-offs. I (and I'd wager many middle- and upper-class Americans) actually do plenty for ourselves. It's other people we should be focusing on.

That said, I do believe that while perfection isn't possible and happiness isn't reached via a check-list or a particular spiritual practice or a set of goals, improving one's character IS a worthy process to embrace. That's where Running the Edge: Discover the Secrets to Better Running and a Better Life comes in.

Adam Goucher and Tim Catalano were teammates on the University of Colorado cross-country team made famous (among runners anyway) by the book Running With the Buffaloes. Goucher went on to become a professional runner and an Olympian, while Catalano coached runners and taught. In the introduction to this book, they say they wrote it because "both of us realized that as good as our lives were, we could do better."

Though non-runners won't relate to a lot of the material here, becoming a better runner is really only a sub-point. The point is becoming a better person--in your family life, your education and other facets--by examining yourself in what Goucher and Catalano called the "six mirrors," among them initiative and personability. There are exercises at the ends of the "working" section of the book to help you do this.

It took me a long time to read this book, not because it wasn't enjoyable (Goucher and Catalano's anecdotes are funny and inspiring, and the writing is unpretentious and clear) but because I actually tried to work through the "mirrors" and really absorb what the authors were trying to impart. In the days leading up to the Top of Utah Marathon in September, I read Running the Edge daily.

Does it work? Well, I'm still a work in progress. I don't believe any one book can change a person, or a runner, overnight. But the authors know that. I liked their no-excuses attitude, their frequent references to the truth that we are all "in progress" and that ultimately the only way any of us can make a positive change in the world is to make positive changes in our selves. A sprinkling of philosophy gave their ideas some intellectual heft. Their sense of humor and humility made them appealing guides.

The Houston Marathon is in a month. I'm already re-reading parts of this book as that big day gets closer. I'll never be an Olympian or even very fast. But I do like the idea that I haven't reached the edge of my potential in running or in anything else.

This book would make a great gift for the runner in your life. Want to buy it? Go here.

[Disclaimer: Goucher and Catalano answered questions from my readers on this blog last summer. I purchased this book myself before they did so, and my review is my own.]

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Beauteous Pre-Christmas Run

I am enjoying being in "marathon" shape.

Runs like today's help with that.

I woke up before my alarm, a little worried because I hear that interrupted sleep is a sign of overtraining and yesterday during the day I was super tired. But awake is awake. I got out of the house and was on the road for a nine-miler by 5:30 a.m.

For some reason, nine miles is a nice distance for me. Maybe it's because if you're running super easy (like I was supposed to do today), it comes out to an even half-hour for each three mile chunk. I named the three three-mile chunks in honor some characters in my favorite Christmas book: the Ghost of Runs Past, the Ghost of Runs Present and the Ghost of Runs Yet-to-Come.

The Ghost of Runs Past (the first three miles): This part of the run featured a port-o-john stop (I might have eaten some French fries at a brew pub last night), but it also featured gorgeous stars, a waning crescent moon, cold still air and glowing Christmas lights. I was the most "in my head" during this part of the run, fretting about work, my friend whose situation last week was so worrisome, when I was going to get Santa gifts for my kids. That all blew away like smoke as I got further into it.

And soon I was cruising along with the Ghost of Runs Present: This was the most in-the-moment time of the run for me. Some barefoot prints on the snowy sidewalk caught my eye. Yes, barefoot! I followed them for about two miles. I figure they must belong to an owner of a pair of Vibrams. I certainly hope so. Running barefoot in the would be either hard-core or....stupid. I wondered about other footprints I saw too. Who, I wondered, was up walking or running earlier than I? Or had they been out the night before and the windless night preserved their tracks? The other thing I noticed was a train whistle. I love this long mournful sound. I never saw the train, though. By the time I circled back to the tracks, it had come and passed on, headed for Wyoming.

Before I knew it, an hour had passed and it was time for the Ghost of Runs Yet-to-Come: I wasn't running out of gas, but I was definitely thinking about breakfast. The sun was turning the eastern sky pink, and the mountains to the west were glowing in their white mantles, as if they were ghosts themselves. I came to a downhill stretch before turning up again closer to home. The snow ahead of me sparkled in the pale streetlights. It was as if my path were heralded by fairies and elves. My instructions were to pick up the pace for the last 10 minutes of the run, so I did. I felt like I was flying through that cold morning. And in the spirit of "yet-to-come," I prayed for a similar feeling during my marathon next month.

I arrived at home right as my hour and 30 minutes ended. The spirits of the run have stayed with me all day. I smile whenever I think of it. Especially that sparkling white carpet of snow.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Mid-December Update

This Christmas season has been like a roller coaster. I'm enjoying the ride, but I gave up thinking I had any control over it last week sometime. I am managing to get my runs in on schedule, at least so far.

Here's a summary of my running life right now:

After last Wednesday's rest day and some good sleep, I had some great runs. Thursday's was 7 miles with some fartlek stuff thrown in. Friday's was an easy run. And yesterday's 16-mile Fast Finish Long Run......nailed! First I ran ten miles outside at an easy pace, taking in the beautiful fresh air (chilly, but no longer frigid for now) and the clear Colorado sunshine. Then I moved inside and did 6.2 more miles on the treadmill at marathon pace, throwing in three 3-3.5% grade hills of a quarter mile each to mimic the Allen Parkway hills that come in the last push of the Houston Marathon.

Why the treadmill for this part? A wise reader pointed out to me that Houston could feature all kinds of weather, but it's highly unlikely to feature sub-15-degree cold and darkness of the CamelBak-valve-freezing variety, and that perhaps I should prepare for something warmer than I can get outside right now. Seemed sensible to me (especially since I am *not* a warm-weather runner), so I'm going to mix in a bit more treadmill than I usually care for in these last weeks, making sure to play with the incline and the speed so I'm not letting myself off easy.

Those of you who have read this blog for a while might remember that I have a friend in Michael Sandrock, the running columnist for the Daily Camera in Boulder. Mike comes into my library to use the computers, and we often chat about running (he is one of those cool old-school runner dudes, and he's involved with a really good charity, One World Running). Mike will be in Haiti at the time of the Olympic Marathon Trials, which are in Houston the day before my race, so he won't be traveling down there to cover them. He suggested I apply for a media credential to cover the Trials. I figured what the heck, submitted my application....and got the credential!

This means I will get to access the media areas of the trials race on Saturday and will be able to interview at least some of the elite runners after the race! This will be especially cool if any Colorado runners make the Olympic team because my "dispatches" might actually make the paper here. But even if nothing I get ever sees the light of day anywhere but this blog, the inspiration from being around runners of that caliber will be priceless. Maybe it will rub off on me like Tinkerbell's pixie dust and bring me some extra oomph for my own race the following day.

The coming week will feature the hardest runs and the most miles of my Houston ramp-up. It will also be the   first time in several years that I will have exceeded 50 miles/week. The capper? A 24-miler on Christmas Eve. I fully expect to hear about this from my mom, who arrives for the Christmas weekend on Thursday. She thinks I run too much. :^) Does anyone in your family think you run too much????

Four weeks until the Houston Marathon!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Rest Day

Today I didn't run, cross-train or lift weights. I had the option of doing a 30-minute easy run, but my McMillan plan for the Houston Marathon had a big yellow highlighted cell in the spreadsheet for this week that said: "This is a good week for recovery. You may want to run on the low end of the mileage or take an extra day off."

Usually on recovery weeks I try to do the lower end of the mileage range. I always have Sunday off and have felt good on just one full rest day, so I haven't felt the need for more.

This week has been different. I went to spin class on Monday morning as usual and felt no leftover soreness from Saturday's 22-miler. But the rest of Monday was stressful. A friend of mine had something terrible happen, and I was worried about him. This resulted in one of my insomnia nights. I woke up at 1 a.m. Tuesday and couldn't return to sleep. At 6 a.m., my daughter came into our room. I decided up was up and went out for my planned track workout, which was supposed to be eight to ten 800s.

In retrospect, I should have done this on the gym treadmill. It was really cold outside (our window thermometer said 15 degrees when I got back after the sun had come up, so it may well have been colder when I set out). Due to the lack of sleep I felt like crap. Somehow, though, it seemed easier at the beginning to bundle up, skip scraping car and just do it at the high school.

I could never get warm and managed only six 800s before I flat ran out of gas. The six I did were good, right in the range where McMillan wants me to run them, but I hate falling short in a workout. I hate when my mind isn't strong enough to make my legs go. Even now, part of me is still telling myself...."You should have done should have done the minimum...." But I didn't. Instead, I jogged home, sad to be wasting all the fast songs I'd put on my iPod for the occasion.

Now that I'm clear-headed (last night's sleep, thankfully, was good), it's evident to me that I needed today to be a real rest day. 22-Mile-Long-Run+Hosting-a-Party+Personal-Stuff+Insomnia=One Tired Runner. Often on rest days I feel draggy, and also like every morsel I put in my mouth is making me fat. That hasn't been the case today (though I probably shouldn't have eaten all those pita chips....pita chips are like crack....) I'm still sleepy, but it's a good kind of sleepy, un-tinged with grouchiness or that deep malaise that I associate with over-training.

I get to run on each of the next three days. I'll be back in the weight room in the morning.

But today is for rest and recovery. I'm going to bed early tonight. I may or may not do some stretching first.

I'm OK with that.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Week's Summary

My husband and I hosted a cookie exchange yesterday, my job has been busy and my kids turned FIVE on Thursday, so this is the first time I've been able to think about blogging since Monday.

I don't write much about my twins on this blog, mostly because like running itself I see this journal as "my time," where I can focus on my non-motherhood obsession. But nonetheless they are a huge part of my life, and I'm very proud of them.

Here's how we looked five years ago:

And here's how we look today!

Five years old is a great age. While they were adorable babies, I kind of always wished they could have just emerged about five years old, so I could skip sleep training, potty training, separation anxiety, and preschool illnesses. Yep, I'm a lazy parent. But despite my laziness, we've made it to five the old-fashioned way and most of that stuff is behind us (I know there are more illnesses lurking, and lots more to learn about manners, not to mention the teen years....but at least the latter are a ways off). Bring on the Wonder Years!

Back to running......

This is the only palatable photo from last weekend's Rock Canyon Half.

I had two *great* runs this week.

On Thursday, I did 10 miles with the middle six at marathon pace. I decided to do this one on the treadmill because the streets and sidewalks were still really icy from the prior weekend's storm. While I don't mind negotiating a bit of ice when I'm doing an easy run or a long steady one, I don't like having to think about it when I'm concentrating on holding a tougher pace for any time longer than a fartlek. So the 'mill it was! I got to the rec center early enough (5:30 a.m.) that the time limit wasn't a factor.

The other issue with this run was choosing what the heck to call marathon pace. My Top of Utah time, on which I'm still basing most of my paces for my runs, has 9:05 miles as my marathon pace. So when the two warm-up miles were over, I put the treadmill at 6.6 mph, which is right on 9:05. At the end of that mile, I punched it up one notch, to 6.7, and so on, until for the last mile I was running 7.1 mph. On that mile, because I was still feeling good, I notched it up one more on the last half-mile, so that I finished at an 8:19 pace. I also threw in four 2.5 to 3% grade hills of about a quarter mile each on the last two MP miles. Then I cooled down for one mile on the treadmill and one mile on the indoor track. Afterwards? No obvious achiness, no ill effects at all either the rest of that day or Friday!

However, I was worried that having pushed my pace on that run would affect the weekend's long run of 22 miles. After all, running too fast on midweek runs is what I believe made almost all of my long runs ahead of Top of Utah so unproductive. Until Thursday's run, I had deliberately avoided exceeding the prescribed paces this time, hoping to avoid any hint of over-training.

Happily, this didn't appear to be an issue at all in the end! The first part of the 22-miler was rough, but not because of any fatigue. I was running outside again and got myself out the door by 7:30 a.m. because I wanted to be back well ahead of the 2:30 p.m. cookie exchange. I had all my clothing and equipment lined up (water, fuel, toilet paper in a baggie, cell phone). Unlike last weekend, the weather was still (no wind! yay! it's much better to have to run a half-marathon in wind than to have to do a solo 22-miler in wind; if you're going to be miserable, you need some company).

But I didn't plan on the valve to my CamelBak freezing by mile two. It didn't thaw out so I could drink from it until mile 10. So what did I do? I did what I tell my kids never to do: I ate snow. Yes, I tried to find the cleanest snow I could. Yes, I avoided the snow that was anywhere near the many prairie dog colonies I ran by (I was on the Boulder County backroads). Yes, it's still a little gross. But I needed liquid and it seemed like an OK risk to take. Fortunately it paid off in the form of a wonderful distance run where I felt great the whole way (and better in the second half than the first AND didn't have to find a bathroom once!).

My calves are a little stiff today, but I think that's less from the run itself than it is from wearing uncomfortable but cute leather boots all afternoon at our party. Which also was an excellent time, especially since after running 22 miles I didn't worry too much about how many cookies I ate or that glass of champagne Dan and I enjoyed by the fire after the kids were in bed and the guests gone home.

Monday, December 5, 2011

November Highlights, December Goals...and a Winner!

(Thanks I <3 to run on Facebook for this!)

November was a roller coaster month. I didn't manage to write everything down, but here's my best shot at capturing it.

--I ran 112 miles. This isn't as much as I ran at the same point in the build-up to the Top of Utah Marathon. More on the possible implications of this below.....

--I missed several weight training classes. I was doing great with this until Ruthie's hand-foot-and-mouth illness erupted. Between that, the stomach virus she got the following week, our trip to Virginia, my own stomach virus and a kindergarten visit last week, not a lot of weight was lifted. I'm back on the wagon, but I'm tabling my one chin-up goal until after the Houston Marathon.

--I made it to spin class only once. Part of this is because some days it was just easier to do an easy run while at work.

--Considering it was a holiday month and there was a lot of illness in my house in the latter half, I did a good job sticking to the Mario Lopez Extra Lean Family eating plan. We're still planning meals and eating out less as a family. As of last week at least, I had maintained my weight and body fat percentages. Expecting to lose weight at this time of year (even with marathon training) is setting oneself up for disappointment.

--I held my own in the Rock Canyon Half Marathon last weekend and the weekend before ran an 18-miler that I can truly say for the first time since I started training for marathons again post-pregnancy felt good the whole way. I also ran well despite wind in the Longmont Turkey Trot on Nov. 12, setting a 10K PR of 50:55 (I'd originally reported a time of 51:04, but when the race folks emailed my results to me they'd given me back 9 seconds--sweet! sub-51!).

December is going to be quite a ride. The Houston Marathon is six weeks away. Over the next four weeks, I have two long runs (a 22-miler this weekend and a 24-miler on Christmas Eve), two McMillan fast-finish long runs (one on the 17th and the other on New Year's Eve), lots of medium-long mid-week runs, and various tempo, marathon-pace and track workouts.

I mentioned above that my monthly mileage ahead of Houston has been lower than it was for Top of Utah. This isn't what I expected, since I've missed only one of my Houston plan's scheduled runs (a fartlek that fell right after I got sick in Virginia--I did make up the miles, but not the speed part). I really have no idea if less mileage has helped me improve or has held me back. The two test races that were in my plan (Rock Canyon and the Turkey Trot) were both run in wind and in the case of Rock Canyon on some icy terrain. The Turkey Trot time was right on where my Top of Utah Marathon performance predicted my best 10K finish could be, which I guess is a good sign considering I felt I could have been faster without the wind.

Doing my best to be objective, I'd say at this point running a BQ in Houston (sub-3 hours 45 minutes since I will be 40 for Boston 2013) looks unlikely. If I can run smarter than I did in Utah (slow down in the first miles, Terzah!), a PR (sub 3:59) might happen.

Still, I do have lots of good hard workouts ahead. If I can stay healthy (no more stomach viruses or colds!), get 'em done and get good conditions outdoors for one of those fast-finish long runs, I will know more about what I should realistically be shooting for on Jan. 15.

A Winner: Another fun thing about November was my Banana Blossom Press Giveaway. Thanks to all who entered--I really wish I could get cool T-shirts and cards for all of you. The winner (according to was #18 (I couldn't get the screen capture to translate into a usable file for Blogger, but I do have it if you want the proof). By my count that makes Marcia of The Studly Runner my winner. Marcia, email me with your address and let me know your final t-shirt and card preference.

Marcia, by the way, also won my only other giveaway back in the spring. She comes by her good karma naturally, but I think she was also helped by the karmic fact of her donation to my Run for Food cause. Want some of that good karma for yourself? If you can help me get to $600 (my original goal was $500), please go to my fundraising page and donate. I'm going to do a gratitude giveaway if I make it to $600 before I run Houston.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Race Report: Rock Canyon Half Marathon

Before the race--the snow was still coming down, the sky was gray, the road was icy! But we were there!

The night before the Rock Canyon Half Marathon (in Pueblo), I (in Boulder) called my friend Kathy at 6:30 p.m. and suggested maybe we should bag the race.

You see, Pueblo is a 2.5-hour journey from Boulder. A storm, complete with snow and 40-mph winds, followed by frigid temperatures, was the forecast for race morning. I'd had a long day with my kids, whose birthday party was scheduled in Boulder on Saturday 3.5 hours after the time I would probably finish this race. I knew if I missed my kids' party because I'd driven to Pueblo for a race in bad weather that I'd feel like a terrible parent.

I hadn't run that day. You know what that means: cranky pessimism triumphing briefly over my accustomed sunny outlook.

Since I put the picture up there, you know that ultimately I changed my mind and drove to Kathy's place. In her cozy Tahoe we made the rest of the drive down to Pueblo before the storm hit. By 10:30 we were fast asleep in our hotel room as planned. It was a risk. We decided if we awoke to weather that looked so horrible it would require hours to get home, we'd skip the race after all and set out first thing so I wouldn't miss the party.

The risk was still there in the morning. We both woke up well-rested between 6 and 6:15 and checked the weather. Kathy belongs to a tight running group, and her phone was full of texts from her buddies who had been turned back by the storm in the wee hours. But where we were, though the snow was falling, the wind wasn't horrible and the roads looked passable. We decided to race. Kathy agreed to pick up her running buddies' sweatshirts for them (this race offered comfy old-school sweatshirts instead of the now-ubiquitous tech tee--I love mine despite the men's size small). I called Jill, who was actually on her way with her son!

I took my requisite pre-race shower (and afterwards used the hair dryer, which I almost never do in bone-dry Colorado). We bundled up in our best cold-weather gear (not counting my hat, which is a hand-knit one not meant for racing at all; I couldn't find any of my running beanies on Friday) and set out to get our numbers and sweatshirts. That errand was accomplished quickly (after we found the park where the start and finish line were, passing a frightening looking accident on the slick streets on the way). We fueled up at Starbucks, then returned to wait for the 9 a.m. start in the Tahoe. One more bathroom trip, a quick meet-up with Jill (she and her son made it with about ten minutes to spare, so we didn't get a picture) and we were off!

Do you always hope for PRs? I do! Despite the conditions we observed driving over there, I was still fantasizing about a big half-marathon PR (I do like cold weather)....until we actually started running. The first two and a half miles were on park roads. They were flat but slick, basically ice on pavement. The wind, on the portion of the loop when it blew in our faces, was bitter and relentless. Kathy and I stuck together for most of this part. With the footing what it was, we didn't talk much. I watched my feet, which at least had warmed up quickly once we started.

Eventually we left the park and veered down to a paved trail that runs along the Arkansas River. I lost Kathy on a steep little downhill (I found out later she was developing a wind-induced headache that really slowed her down). The wind was fickle. Sometimes it seemed full-on in our faces, sometimes it seemed to be shoving us from behind. The whole thing was relatively flat, and the trail (which ultimately changed to gravel under snow) no longer slick, but I still couldn't muster much speed with that wind.

Not bad for Colorado! Too bad about the wind.
Jill had told me some serious Colorado trail runners needing an organized training run would come out for this one. And I figured some hard-core road runners might venture down from nearby Colorado Springs (very much like Boulder in its daunting running scene). Sure enough, with about three miles to go to the turnaround for me, the frontrunners met us coming the other way. A guy behind me counted out their placement so they could hear him: "Twelfth.....thirteenth....fourteenth...."

I caught up with Jill on a weird little bridge on the loop by Pueblo Dam that finally turned us around near mile 8 (thank you for wearing the bright pink jacket, Jill!). She asked me how I was feeling and I said I wasn't sure. (What I meant was, I wasn't as miserable as I know I could have been, but I also wasn't running as fast as I'd hoped. Hence, the uncertainty.) I was about to ask her the same question when suddenly we felt the bridge bouncing underneath us. It's a disorienting feeling when you've got a rhythm going. We came upon an aid station right after that, and I moved ahead of her. I wondered how Kathy was doing.

The wind was less intense at this point. I had turned on my iPod at mile 6.5. An old favorite ("Goody Two Shoes") and two new-to-me songs came on (both by Pitbull: "Shake Senora" and "Give Me Everything"). This put something that passed for a spring in my step. I managed to pick up the pace just a little. At that point, I hoped to finish this beast under 2 hours, but even that wasn't to be. My final time was 2:01:16, average pace 9:05 miles, good for 19th out of 56 in my age group and 254th out of 558 runners (750 had registered, selling the race out, which gives you an idea of the number of no-shows in that weather).

At the finish line, I tried to wait for Jill and Kathy to cheer them in, but I was too cold. I headed for the Tahoe, sponged off with some antibacterial wipes I had in my purse, changed into my party clothes (yoga pants and the race sweatshirt) and was about to go looking for them again when Kathy arrived. She'd finished slower than she wanted to as well, but was feeling good again. Very quickly we were on the road, Christmas tunes pumping, and in the end I made it to the party in Boulder with 10 minutes to spare. I traded some texts with Jill, who was hilarious about the race and how miserable it was (what she didn't mention was that she finished 8th in her age group--may I please have her base in ten years?! the woman's an animal).

I am really grateful to the brave volunteers and race organizers who turned out for this icy race. I definitely plan to send them a big thank-you email. My biggest thanks go to Kathy!! She's always up for an adventure, she's a great driver (not too fast or slow in whatever conditions) and she didn't mind skipping the post-race festivities to get me back north in time for the party. She earned her baking and her time by the fire that night, in more ways than one. I'm so glad that she'll be my roommate in Houston just six weeks!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Good Things About Winter Running

Gonna close my eyes
Girl, and watch you go
Running through this life, darling,
Like a field of snow
--David Gray "The One I Love" (in my iPod playlist right now)

I have a half-marathon tomorrow morning down in Pueblo. The forecast for race time? 27 degrees, 70% chance of precipitation. "Precipitation" in this case="snow." And it goes on to add my very favorite: "windy." So let's just say I'm throwing out any PR hopes and just plan to do my best, whatever that might be in those conditions.

Since this seems like a good time to focus on the positive I'm going to echo a post I did back in July about summer running and give you.....

My Top 10 Reasons Winter Running is Good
  1. You're always eager to start just to get WARM.
  2. The "who's that crazy running lady out in sub-20-degree temperatures?" looks you get from people scraping their cars or getting their newspapers make you smile, even if you can't smile because your face is frozen.
  3. The ice bath actually feels balmy.
  4. You've earned that hot chocolate, baby. And you need it, too, to help with the hypothermia.
  5. I've heard (somewhere) that it's good for the immune system to spend time outside when it's cold.
  6. You avoid some summer running symptoms that aren't so attractive. In my case those summer running symptoms include a purple and white blotchy face and salt tracks.
  7. The stars (whether you run in the evening or the morning--both are dark) are beautiful, unadulterated by summer heat and humidity.
  8. Christmas lights! Cozy houses! Running outside in the winter makes your own cozy house that much more appealing, especially because you know you got your run done.
  9. You're primed for any other outdoor chores you have to do (including shoveling and helping your kids with a snowman).
  10. At least you're not on the treadmill!
 I did have a wonderful one-hour run in the falling snow yesterday. I was on the road by 6:30 a.m. The streetlights gave the flakes a pink tint, some houses still had Christmas lights on and there wasn't any ice under the soft carpet on the sidewalks. I took it really slow at first, getting used to the terrain, but soon I was able to get into my usual easy run pace. At the end I did eight 20-second strides in a park near my house. The David Gray song I quote above came into my head.

My friend Kathy (who is doing this crazy half tomorrow, too) reminded me recently of that silly scene in Rocky IV where Rocky is training in Russia and runs up a craggy mountain. I didn't exactly feel like Rocky yesterday (couldn't even see the mountains), but the rest of the day was fantastic.

Have you entered my giveaway?