Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Crazylegs Race Recap

A funny story first--they posted the times for Crazylegs yesterday and my boyfriend, J (I'm tired of calling him "boyfriend") and I got the exact same time! We weren't running together at all--in fact, he started probably about 15 minutes or so after me.

Here's the race shirt from this year:

Better than it's been in previous years.

The race ended up being a lot of fun. I didn't get to run with my friend from work--it was a little cold and I wanted to get going as soon as possible. My parents, sister and her boyfriend came up for the run as well...it's kinda become a family thing. My parents were walking it and my sister and boyfriend were running it in the same wave as me. I wore my new booty shorts with my new long-sleeve running shirt and a t-shirt. It was pretty exciting to have some new clothes to wear!

The race started at the Capitol square, just a few blocks from my apartment. You'd think that being so close we'd have definitely been on time, but by the time we got there, they were already sending out wave G. The thing, though, is that wave G was barely the beginning--the waves went all the way to KK! They set a new record for participation--almost 20,000 people! It never rained, but it was a little cold and windy. I wanted to jump in to an earlier wave, but I didn't want to disqualified and lose my opportunity for some free beer at the end. We patiently waited until wave Y came around and then went through the gates to join our group. As we headed towards the starting line, they had some of the Badger football players giving high-fives to the people as they walked through. They were huge! These guys were all at least 6'5" and I'm pretty sure at least one of the guy's hands was bigger than my head. It definitely helped pump me up going into the starting line.
We lined up at the starting line and waited for our turn to start. They had to space out the waves since they hadn't completely shut down the first road we ran across. Finally, though, we were off! My sister ran cross country in high school and, despite her claims of not running a lot recently, she's got a pretty good pace. She's always told me that I can probably run faster than I think, so I was anxious to see if I could keep up with her. I also got a few tips about my running--loosening up my form and "letting go" on the downhills. The first mile included running down Frat (and sorority) Row and the guys definitely came out in full force. At one of the frats, the guys were standing outside in their boxers and one guy wore a Speedo! It was great to see everyone in Madison out to cheer on the runners! We eventually came to the first mile marker way before I expected. I looked at my watch and it said 8:30! That's definitely the fastest mile I've ran since my one year of track.
The end of that mile, though, meant the crazy awful monster that is Observatory. I tried to keep up with my sister, but I'm not quite used to those speeds (8:30!). The first part of the hill wasn't too bad, just a long gradual incline. The next half, though, is where legs are killed. It's so much steeper and it curves around so that you can't see the end. I walked up that part of the hill--if I had run, I'm not sure my legs would've lasted the whole race. Fortunately, there was a nice downhill after that hill--which immediately led to another big (but short) uphill and then another big downhill. This is the hardest part of the race and it's nice to just get it done at the beginning.
So, then came the out and back near the UW Hospital. Even though I've done the race before, I once again got sucked in to thinking that the turn around was earlier than it really was. As I was coming back in from the out and back I looked at my watch and started to wonder where the hell mile 3 was. I had already been running for over 30 minutes and started to wonder if I had slowed waaay down. I tried thinking back through the out and back to figure out if I had just missed it, but I couldn't remember seeing one at all. I focused on finding people ahead of me that looked like they were running about my pace or slower and worked on passing them. I didn't push it too hard, but I needed a goal to make sure that I kept moving. I also kinda wanted to walk, but I kept telling myself that I'd walk after I passed "blue headband girl", "old man", or "talkative sorority girls". They had one water station during the run, so I took advantage of it and tried out my water station skills. It went pretty well--I almost missed grabbing the cup, but once I got it, I pinched it in half to make it easier to get the water in and took a sip. And then immediately threw it. I didn't want to push my luck and get water all over.
Eventually I was heading towards the stadium and I saw a mile marker coming up. I couldn't tell whether it was 3 or 4, and when I looked at my watch it said 38 minutes. My mind quickly went to work trying to calculate what pace I must be running if it was only mile 3. Eventually the mile marker came into view and, thank God, it was mile 4. Just 0.97 miles to go. As I got closer to the stadium, there was a guy out on the street who was playing the Rocky theme song. Apparently, he's been doing this since 1989 and comes every year to cheer on the runners. Finally I got to Breese Terrace, the street that runs along Camp Randall. It has a slight incline at first, but as soon as I got to the top of it, I kicked it into high gear and started going full out. I passed a bunch of people and flew down the chute into the Camp Randall. The finish line is right at the 50-yard line. Almost right when I passed the line, I ran into my sister and we started looking for the rest of our family.
As for my goals--I'd say I did pretty well. Except for the first mile, I really didn't push that hard. In fact, even the first mile wasn't horrible. I felt really proud of how I finished, even though I walked, because I came in at 48:03! It was under 10:00/mile which has been my "goal" pace during my practice runs. I didn't run the whole thing (monster Observatory took care of that), but I made sure to keep running even when I wanted to walk. I feel really confident about the half-marathon now--I was able to pace myself pretty well so that I finished tired, but strong.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Crazylegs Goals

This is the first time I've ever really put some thought into goals for a race. Usually I just go out and run it--occasionally, I dread it and wonder why I ever thought to sign up (kinda like buyer's remorse--racer's remorse?). Anyways, Crazylegs is upon me. It's an 8K (4.97) run through downtown Madison, mostly the UW-Madison campus, that benefits the UW-Madison Athletics Department. I last ran it two years ago and was not ready. I had maybe run 3 miles a few times before the run and I actually thought I could drink (a lot) the night before and run. No, I felt like shit. And I had to pretend I was just "tired" because how do you explain to your 10 year old cousin that you have a hangover and would love to be in a dark, quiet room to sleep?

I'll be honest, the route isn't my favorite. It starts with a decent hill right off the bat, and within a mile, you run up one of the steepest, longest, curviest hills in Madison. The beast that is Observatory Hill. Because of all the curving, you can never quite tell when you'll be done. Then you run down the backside of the hill and straight up another and down that one. The view is great since the path is right along Lake Mendota, but the hills blow. Then, near the end of the race (around mile 3.5) is the awful out and back. I hate out and backs. I want to feel like I'm going somewhere!

The great thing, though, is that you finish by crossing into Camp Randall (the UW-Madison Badgers football stadium). They have a band playing, free beer (it is Wisconsin after all), and food. As long as the rain stays away tomorrow, it could be a good time to relax and hang out before lunch. Otherwise, it'll be a mad dash back to my apartment.

Back to the goals for this run, though.
  • First, I want to enjoy it and have fun. I'm not really going to push it, especially since my left shin has been hurting. I'm mainly using this as just another training run that I get to do with thousands of other people.
  • I will end feeling good and knowing that I ran decently.
  • I want to run the entire thing (should be easy now that I've been actually training).
I'll probably end up running about a 10:30/mile pace. Faster if the rain does come. I'm also running with a friend from work, so I'm looking forward to just chatting while running. Maybe this will help me figure out if I really could be a social runner...


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

It's official!

Today I signed up for my second half-marathon--the Madison Mini-Marathon. I still can't believe that I'm now going to do two half-marathons during this summer--and just last year running 13.1 miles wouldn't have only sounded ridiculous, it would've seemed impossible.

Of course, I haven't actually encountered the full 13.1 mile distance--but I've learned to love running again and I've really enjoyed the training. Having time set aside (most) nights of the week for myself has really helped my mood and has made me feel proud. Not that I really have any sort of obligations at night. I think it's just knowing that I can put myself first, that I'm doing something that makes me feel good, and that I'm making sure I stay healthy.

I'm looking forward to seeing whether (and how much) I'll be able to improve from the Madison Marathon to the Mini. We'll see how it goes!


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Since when does 10 = 3?

I had another longest run ever this past weekend--10 miles. After the horror of my 9 mile run a couple weeks ago, I'd be lying if I said I was excited about this run. I was looking forward to it, but the memories of how painful my knees and hips were afterwards, not to mention the three-hour nausea, were there in the back of my mind asking, "are you really sure you want to do this to yourself AGAIN?"

And yes, I did. I had read a few articles during the last week about proper hydration and how important it is to not only replace the fluid lost through sweating, but also the electrolytes. I had always thought that I was covering the electrolytes by eating some Sharkies along the way, but I probably only ever ate 3 or 4 at most during the 9 miler--not quite enough to replace over an hour and a half worth of running. So, I did some shopping last Friday to stock up on my run day fuel. I have a hard time finding good sports drinks, though, because my stomach isn't such a fan of artificial sweeteners--drinking one will send me to the floor with crazy stomach cramps, which isn't something I wanted during the run. If a bottle listed "low calorie", "sugar free", or "diet" that's my immediate sign that they're not for me. I also ended up going through the ingredient lists (which I hate, I'm not that concerned with what's in my food usually) of every sports drink at Target to check that there wasn't anything ending with "-ame" or "-lose"--usually indicative of an artificial sweetner. Luckily I found one from Powerade--the ION4 (they seem really into the ION4...I couldn't get past it to their main website). Took a sip when I got home to test it out and the fruit punch was delicious!

The Madison Marathon is still about 5 weeks out, but I only have two more long runs to go (after this one), so I wanted to use Sunday's 10-mile run as a practice for the real thing, at least as far as sleep and food went. I had big plans to be responsible on Saturday when we went out for the Badger's Spring Football game and be home in time to make a good pasta dinner, relax and go to bed early. My plan completely failed when I tried to get a friend of mine drunk, even though he's got about 70 pounds on me. At least I was home early like I planned.

I set my alarm for 7am on Sunday and actually woke up feeling alright. I made a bagel with peanut butter and had some orange juice for breakfast while I plotted my route. It took me three attempts, but I finally came up with a route that met all of my requirements for the day: a) I had to be familiar with the majority of the route, b) it had to include parts of the Crazylegs race (except the awful out and back by the hospital and the Observatory Hill--no one needs to run that hill more than once a year) I'm doing on Saturday, and c) I had to finish .25 - .5 miles away from my apartment so that I would have a decent length cooldown. I was all set to leave with my Powerade in my Fuel Belt and my food--Gu and Sports Beans, both new to me. And then, I realized that Polly was dead. I needed to leave by 9:30 in order to meet a friend for a late lunch, so I charged her up for about 20 minutes and hoped that would be enough for 1.5-2 hours of running. And, I was off...

I don't remember much of the actual run, except that I really felt good the whole time. Things weren't getting too tight, so the urge to constantly check in and find out how far I had gone (and then how much was left) didn't really come until the end of the run when I wanted to find out what my pace was. I found some beautiful new areas to run through that go along yet another lake in Madison--Wingra Lake. And I did get a little lost near the end--one of my new areas had construction going on, but I feel pretty confident that I still did the full 10 miles. I kinda want to map it out just to check, so if I have time this week (ha!) maybe I'll do that.

The Sports Beans were pretty good. The after taste was a little strange, but nothing that wouldn't make me want them again. I was also trying Gu because they'll be handing it out at some of the water stops during the Madison Marathon and I figured that it'd be better to try them out before the real deal. I've had Gu once before--they handed it out with the goodie bags after a 5K that I did a few years ago. My friends and I tried it after the race and found it completely disgusting (not to mention unnecessary). But, the second try was much better. The consistency is kind of like slightly warmed canned frosting (think, like, Funfetti frosting) and the taste (I had the lemon-lime flavor) isn't terrible, but it's definitely an energy food. I did really like that I didn't need to chew it--my chewing is usually suspect under normal circumstances (I don't follow the Danny Tanner 25-chew rule) and while running, it's even more questionable. Since I could just swallow the Gu, I didn't need to worry about feeling sick because my food wasn't chewed.

By the time I got near the end of my run, I couldn't believe it. I felt like I had only run 3 miles. I had at least another mile in me, probably two or more. Sure, I was sore, but I wasn't curled up in a ball and shivering while forcing myself to eat some food (again, see here). I went home and had my usual post-workout drink, ate a Luna bar, and was so hungry for lunch (the huevos rancheros at Daisy's Cafe are awesome! and it's super cute there--if you're in Madison, I would definitely recommend it!).

I'm not sure how long the run took (major fail). I turned Polly on right away when I started my warmup, and forgot to stop her timer until 5 minutes after I got home. But, I could make a guess-timate. Door to door (plus the 5 minutes), it took me 2:04. So, subtract those 5 minutes and about 25 minutes for the warmup and cooldown, and (wait...what?) it comes out to 1:34, or an average 9:24/mile pace. That doesn't seem right. I know that near the end of my run, I was at a 9:40/mile pace (according to Polly). Maybe I really didn't run 10 miles...I'll have to check if my route change ended up shortening my run.

I made quite a few changes from my 9 mile run, so here are a few things that I think helped and made a HUGE improvement in how I felt at the end:
  • My last meal before the run was much closer to when I ran
  • Powerade (slightly watered down) instead of just water. More electrolytes and nutrition.
  • More breaks. During my 9 mile run, I stopped just twice for 45-60 seconds. This time, I stopped each time I ate a Sport Bean or had the Gu. These stops were 15-30 seconds and there were maybe two or three stops that were a minute. But even during short breaks, my legs got to recover and I actually ended up going faster and finishing stronger!
  • Drinking and eating earlier and often. In my past long runs, I've waited until after mile 3 to start drinking because I could do a 3 mile run without drinking--the difference is, during the 3 mile runs, once I hit 3 miles, I'm done and can let my body recover. This time I started drinking once I got to a half mile. To make sure I kept drinking regularly, I would take a few sips every other song. I also started eating before mile 5 (old way) since by then, my body might not have time to digest and send out the fuel.
  • More food. Okay, so I still only had maybe 5 sports beans, but I also had the Gu. I think in my other runs I was eating 2-3 Sharkies throughout the whole run. And I really could feel a difference in my body and energy level after the Gu.
Today is the THREE YEAR anniversary for my boyfriend and me. I can't believe it's already been that long. So, no run today, but a night out on the town with this wonderful guy.


Friday, April 16, 2010

The Farmer's Market Returns!

The Dane County Farmer's Market is starting it's outdoor season this weekend and I couldn't be more excited! The market is set up around the State Capitol building, which I think is one of the most beautiful spots in Madison.

Imagine walking around this building for an hour or two. And eating at the same time.

This farmer's market is the COUNTRY's largest producer-only farmer's market. That means that only items produced in Dane County can be sold at the market and the actual producer has to be there selling the products. It's amazing because then when I have a question about how to keep my newly-purchased herbs from dying in a week, the farmer is right there to explain it to me.

Granted, since it is still mid-April and I'm in Wisconsin, there won't be a ton of produce yet (that'll get going in a couple months), but there are usually a lot of vegetables and lettuce, flowers, fresh meat and eggs, and lots of bakery. My main focus for this weekend's trip will be some goat cheese. I don't know what really got me started on this kick, but I had a salad in Miami with goat cheese and I want more. Last summer I stopped at one booth to sample some and it was creamy deliciousness. Hopefully she'll be back for this first week.

Have a great weekend!


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Let's Do Another!

I don't quite have my first half marathon under my belt, but I'm going to sign up for another one! I've been looking around for other races, but somehow, even though it's only mid-April, my summer weekends have become wildly packed with just a few spare weekends. Out of the two possible weekends I could do another run during the summer I found one! And it's in Madison!

It's the second annual Madison Mini-Marathon. The course (well, last year's course) looks like a great route. The race starts and ends at the Union, which is THE place to be during a summer in Madison--right on Lake Mendota with a huge terrace to sit outside and enjoy a pint (or pitcher) of beer. The course then goes through downtown Madison and along different Madison highlights--the state capital building, Camp Randall, the Arboretum, and, of course, Lake Mendota. They're going to have bands that play along the route (love that!) and you get a free beer at the end. Hopefully by then I'll be willing to eat and drink after a long run.

Another great highlight--I might become a social runner! Fleet Feet in Madison is organizing a training program (that includes the Madison Mini race fee). They'll send weekly e-mails with training details and then there'll be a group long run every Sunday. This seems like a great way for me to meet some other runners in Madison and maybe it'll even get me moving a little faster. Time isn't really one of my major goals for the Madison half-marathon, but I have a feeling I could probably go faster. I've never ended a run feeling out of breath or having my muscles hurt...just the joints. So, some fellow runners might have some tips for me to get rid of the knee/hip pains and help me speed up my run! Win-win in my book.

Oh, and one more great thing about this race--they also have a 5K. Perfect for people who want to run in the race, but are looking for a shorter distance. Which means, the boyfriend might join in too!


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

That Magical Runner's High

Since Miami, my runs have seemed to easier. Maybe the heat and humidity loosened things up...maybe only running twice (3 miles each) in a week gave my knees/hips a much needed break.

Yesterday I had a 3 mile run and it was one of those magical, straight from heaven runs. The uphills felt like it was flat and level, the flat areas seemed like downhills, and I flew down the hills. I'm not even sure when I reached the one mile mark, but I certainly wasn't feeling bored. My pace felt good the entire time (I didn't have a watch or Polly's Nike+ attachment) and my knees held their own. I finished and felt like I could do the whole run again. It was only at the very end that my left shoulder started to burn--not sure where that came from, but once I moved my arm around it went away. I was probably just keeping my arms too stiff.

I have another 3 mile run tomorrow and I'm really excited to see how it goes. Unfortunately the weather doesn't look like it's going to cooperate, so I'll probably have to go to the gym...

Also! I got some new running clothes today. Using some of the tips from Chic Runner, I went in search of booty shorts. I have been wanting a pair of great shorts since I started running again--most of my shorts are a bit boyish. You know the style--sort of long, baggy, low crotch. Not attractive. I doubt I'll try them out at the gym. It's a lot easier to possibly look foolish if I know that the people will likely see me for a maximum of a minute.