Snowman Shuffle 4 Miler – Louisville, KY (February 4, 2012)

Reaching the finish line of the Snowman Shuffle 4 Miler - Cherokee Park - Louisville, Kentucky
Reaching the finish line of the Snowman Shuffle 4 Miler - Cherokee Park - Louisville, Kentucky

Race: Snowman Shuffle 4 Miler

Place: Cherokee Park, Louisville, KY

Date: February 4, 2012

Time: 33:17

FINALLY!

Yes…finally!  After about a month off from having a race on my calendar, my second race of the year finally arrived.  I had been out running every day prior to this, tapering the week of the race to keep my legs in shape, but rested at the same time, and mentally preparing myself for the hilly wonder that is Cherokee Park in Louisville, Kentucky.  I swear, that last mile and a half is always straight up hill.

As I mentioned yesterday, I wasn’t feeling the usual bit of excitement that preludes a race.  I don’t know if it was other things going on in life, or the usual grumpiness from not being able to clock the miles that I normally would, but I was down.  Like, down and out down.  So, when the alarm clock went off this morning, I shut it off and had to have a pep talk with myself to get out of bed, get dressed in my running gear, and down a light breakfast.

But, I managed.  And, as I had heard that we were likely to get rain today, I thought to wear my older pair of running shoes instead of the new ones.  My old pair have seen me through many, many, many wet races.  What was one more, right?  But, at the moment, no rain was falling.  In fact, it was rather dry outside.

Until I polished off my bowl of Cinnamon Chex with a splash of almond/coconut milk.

Then, as if on cue, the running gods joined forces with Mother Nature to make sure that they made up for the gorgeous weather we got to run in back in January for the Frostbite 5K (or race #2 of the Polar Bear Grand Prix).  Today, the Snowman Shuffle 4 Miler (the third and final race of the Polar Bear Grand Prix) would be run…in the cold, pouring rain.

Sigh.

Oh well.  This is second hat for me.

I decided (thankfully) to wear my running jacket over the tech shirt I had on.  I didn’t think it was going to be that cold, so I had on a pair of my shorts.  Wow…was I ever surprised.  So, if my legs were going to be frozen blocks of ice, at least my torso and arms would be warm.  Oh…no gloves either today.

Call me unprepared.

The entire drive to the park, I keep hoping the rain will let up.  But it didn’t.  So, it was going to be a wet, cold race today.  Four miles wasn’t too bad though, so I sucked it up, went and got my bib number and the backpack we got as swag, then hurried back to the car to keep warm for a little bit.

Stretching commenced about twenty minutes before the actual race kicked off.  I limbered up and then went to head out to line up at the start with the few runners who ventured that way.  As the race got closer to kicking off, the stream of the rest of them joined in.  There were a total of 650 finishers at this race.  It was one of the smaller ones, probably due to weather.

The race kicked off right on time, and I started off slow.  I finally got to a point where I could break away from the pack of runners that were all crowded together and find a good pace.  I had my iPod going on my running mix and as I came up on the half mile mark, U2’s “Beautiful Day” began to play.  Given that it was in the low 40s and raining, it made me smile.  And it really lifted my spirits.  I don’t dislike running in the rain.  Most of my best times have been accomplished in such weather.  I just don’t like doing it if I don’t have to.

Mile 1 ticked off fast.  I couldn’t hear my time as I ran by, but I didn’t care.  The rain was splashing all over me.  The wind was starting to pick up, but I was off and running.  Coming up on Mile 2, my hood came down and I just let the rain pour all over me.  I was feeling great.  And then…the hills hit.

Cherokee Park…your hills will always hinder me until I get more accustomed to running them.  (Note to self: Run more hills!)  This did slow my pace some as the last 2 miles are pretty much a steady climb.  Up.  Up.  Up.  Mile 3 passes.  You start to wonder if or when it will ever level off.  And you keep thinking…eventually you have to go back down.  And then you reach the peak…you see the fountain where the race kicked off.  You can see the finish line just ahead.  And finally, the terrain levels.  I sprinted as fast as I could manage then to the finish line.

And totally blasted my previous 4 mile time by a full 3 minutes 26 seconds!  How is that for an improvement?

So, despite the rain, despite the cold, and despite my attitude the day prior…I ran the hell out of this race and I had a  lot of fun doing it.  Yes…even the dreaded hills.

My roommate met me at the finish line with a towel (bless her!) and my dry hoodie.  I got out of my very heavy, very soaked running jacket and hunkered down into the warm (yes, warm…she ran them under the hand driers in the park bathroom) towel and hoodie until I got back to the car.

We went to the local running store, Blue Mile, where they were kind enough to let me use their dressing room to change into dry clothes for the rest of the day.  Thank you awesome people at Blue Mile.

I really think all the hard work, dedication, and joy that I find and put into running is really paying off.  I am definitely improving speed-wise.  I know there will be bad races and bad running days, but I also know that I can overcome them and press on.  And, in the end, I’m there to run.  That simple!

Thank you, Polar Bear Grand Prix.  I had a blast doing my first ever winter runs!  See you next year!


Building up and breaking down

This week on my designated gym days, I’ve had some pretty amazing runs.  I’ve run strong.  I’ve run quick.  And it’s felt amazing.

On my non-gym days, when I just go for an easy run, the runs have been challenging, but good.

And tomorrow…I race!

And normally, this is an exciting thing and I’m bouncing off walls and it’s all I want to talk about.  But today, it’s different.  I’m not excited.  I’m not thrilled.  In fact, I am sort of dreading it.  Some of it may be the weather prediction for rain.  Not that I haven’t run in rain before.  Most of my races have been in downpours.  But, perhaps, the combination of cold and wet that’s getting me down.  Two things that my body dislikes, especially congruently.

But such is the life of a runner, right?  And I know when I get to the race, I’ll get more in the mood for it.  I’ve been feeling fantastic about this race all week and then…BAM…Friday hits and it’s like every ounce of excitement and readiness I felt throughout the week leaves and I’m just down and not really feeling it.

I’ve run strong and great this week.  Why the sudden blahs?

Well, whatever the case and whatever the weather, I’m going to hit the 4 mile Snowman Shuffle run tomorrow morning and hope for the best.

For now, I’m going to attempt not to let my mood affect my running.  Cross your fingers.  Wish me luck.


Frostbite 5K – Louisville, KY (January 7, 2012)

Crossing the finish line of the Frostbite 5K - Cherokee Park - Louisville, Kentucky
Crossing the finish line of the Frostbite 5K - Cherokee Park - Louisville, Kentucky

Race: Frostbite 5K

Place: Cherokee Park, Louisville, KY

Date: January 7, 2012

Time: 26:12

First race of 2012 and what a way to kick it off.  I think the running I did in December has definitely been a big help to me, so I hope to keep up this trend as the year progresses and maybe, just maybe, set a new 5K PR.  I came close on this race.

Here’s the deal.  Cherokee Park is loaded with steep climbs up hills.  This is no exaggeration.  While I have run it numerous times before in various other races, nothing ever prepares me for the hills.  They are killer.

And this race…we started off with quite a long uphill climb.  I was determined to keep my pace as much as possible without wearing out my legs before I even got to the first mile marker.  So, while I felt I was moving slowly, I suppose I was doing better than I thought.  I would like to thank my incline training on the treadmill in recent weeks for that.  Because at Mile 1, I was clocking in at 8:41 seconds.

But there is a bit more to this story…

I had it all planned out in my head.  Get up in the morning.  Relax online.  Perhaps do a pre-race blog.  Drink water.  Have a light breakfast.  Drink more water.  Charge iPod Nano.  Add to playlist of iPod Nano.  Get dressed.  Wait for roommate to consume her breakfast.  Head out to race.  Run.

But the best laid plans never quite work out that way.

Around 2:00 a.m., unknown to me, the batteries in my alarm clock died.  So, I just happened to wake up randomly and reach out to check my iPhone time and saw that it was 6:43 a.m.  My roommate was set to be awake at 6:45 a.m. so she could eat breakfast and we could head out to Cherokee Park and find decent enough parking since it is always an issue when I run there.  Like I said…the best laid plans…

Getting out of bed, immediately I had a sour feeling in my stomach.  Great.  Just what I needed was an upset tummy on race day.  I hurried from my room to preheat the oven and then dashed back into my room, grabbed my running clothes and changed.  I laced up my shoes and by the time I came back out, my roommate was on the sofa, wondering what the hell was going on.  I poured cereals, did up some scrambled eggs and a slice of Ghost Toast for her to nosh on, and then consumed my cereal and drank one glass of water.  My stomach didn’t feel any better.

Dishes were done.  She was changed.  And we hustled out the door to get to Cherokee Park over the river.

We got there in good time, but the normal start place was not bustling as usual.  So, we began following others, who apparently were also looking for the start of the race, and we ended up making some turns as the lead car (bless their hearts) finally asked for directions.  We found our way to what looked like the start, parked all the way at the crest of a steep hill and made our way down.  I went to get my packet, tech t-shirt, and some pins for my number.  I got pinned up (I was number 89, WOOHOO!) and then began to do my stretches and get warmed up.

As I was standing there, I learned a lesson in patience.  Not because I was eager to get on with the race (although, I was), but because beside me was a couple who had two children in the race.  And the entire time we were standing there, they were barking orders at the kids, about proper pace, technique, who is going to be who into the finish line, etc.  And it angered me because that’s the quickest way to make a child hate a sport.  You take the fun out of it and they no longer what to do it.  I had to move away for fear that I might turn and say something, when it really is none of my business.  But I really, really wanted to shake them and tell them just to let their kids enjoy the race.  Winning isn’t everything.  Needless to say, they encouraged their young children to be at the very front when the race was to start, and those in charge of the race insisted they get moved back for safety reasons.  Oy.  Stage parents for runners.

The time to line up at the start came and I positioned myself, as I normally do, toward the front center to keep my pace steady.  I find this to be a good strategy for me, who isn’t out to win, but just to run.  I have my own goals in mind when I line up at that start.  Normally, it’s just to do my best and just run the entire thing…no matter how steep the hills may be.  And at Cherokee Park…they’re pretty steep.

We were huddled at the start for a few moments and then, the whistle blew and we were off.  I was feeling better.  My stomach was beginning to settle, and I started off at a decent enough pace, I figured.  And then…ahead was a hill.  And it just kept going up…up…up…up…(you get the picture).  I braced for it, and began the steady climb, feeling my legs fight gravity, slowing down just so I could keep breathing normally.  Hills always get me.  It never fails.  I watch other runners power up them with ease at these races where I fall behind, fight for breath, push myself harder just to make the climb.  Some make it look so easy.  I envy them.  I don’t think hills will ever be easy for me.  But I do want to get better at them.  There’s a goal there…

At mile 1, my time was called out at 8:41.  I was already running faster than normal.  I took it for what it was worth, considering hills were involved.  I did whisper to myself to ease up…not to get going to fast because tired legs at the end of a race suck.  The goal is to finish strong.  Before I knew it, mile 2 was creeping up.  My time wasn’t called out, but I was feeling a little tired.  I pressed on though.  Made the turn and headed back.  And then I saw people who had already finished.  I had runners shouting to finish strong.

FINISH STRONG!

Unaware of any timing (I do not wear a watch when I run), I just pressed on harder, sped up as much as I thought my body could take.  And when I crossed the finish line, I saw that I was in 26 minutes with some low seconds.  It was an amazing feeling.  Second fastest 5K time and the official time wasn’t even known to me yet.  I went and got some water to rehydrate, walked around a bit, and then, since I had to get things done and get ready to head out of town for the rest of the day, head home.  No award ceremony for me this time.  I never win, but I do love cheering for those who do.

It was while I was at lunch that the official time was posted for the Frostbite 5K.  I let out a squeal of joy when I saw 26:12.  I couldn’t believe it.  Only 14 seconds short of beating my fastest 5K yet.  And my fastest 5K time came on a really, really flat course back in October during the Louisville Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure event.  So, coming that close on a hilly course made me feel unstoppable.  I have been working intervals and inclines into my running prior to this, and it seems to be paying off.

I texted my mom the news of my time and she came back with words I will treasure always.  She said:

“Baby, you don’t run…you fly.”

First race down…2012…bring on the next!


My first race of 2012

The big day is tomorrow.

The Frostbite 5K in Louisville, Kentucky will kick off at 9:00 a.m. at Cherokee Park.  And I am really looking forward to it.

First of all, it’s my first race back from the holidays.  I was having one of my best races before Christmas, when my shoelace with the timing chip on it came undone and I had to stop to secure it again.  I came in at a respectable time, but I knew I might have come close or even sat a new PR had it not been for that snafu.

But these things happen for a reason and we live and learn from it.

My training for the Frostbite 5K?  Well, I ran every day in December, as part of the Runner’s World Run Streak and my friend Armand’s own REDD (Run Every Day in December) campaign.  Then the New Year hit and I took two days off.  Which, from my prior post, you know stressed me out beyond belief.  But then I came back, with some short runs to get to 7 miles as of today toward my 500 goal.

And it feels so good.

I don’t care if I set a new PR tomorrow or not (but this course is hilly so I’m betting…not!).  I’m just happy to be hitting the race circuit again.  I’m going to make sure my shoes are laced up tight, my hair is out of my way, and that I’m dressed properly for the weather.  Given that today is a 63 degrees, I’m thinking the “frostbite” part of this race may not be the case.  I’m okay with that.

I’ll be running.

And nothing makes me feel more joy in life than hitting the road with my own two feet.


And I will run 500 miles…

This wasn’t the first post I intended to do in this blog…but it’s how it worked out in the end.  It’s the close of an exciting year.

I took up running early in the year, got sidetracked by illness, got back into it, ran my first 5K…followed by many more, ran my first 5 miler, got injured, ran my first half marathon, ran my personal PR, and have just kept on going, even after saying my season was over on Thanksgiving.  There were more races to run, so I entered them.  Thinking, as I am a cold weather wimp, that I would not like running in the cold.  I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite thing to do, but I love going out to races and participating.

I’m not fast enough to win.  You’ll normally find me in the middle of the pack in races.  I’ve won my age group twice this year in small races.  The fact is…I LOVE TO RUN!

It doesn’t get any simpler than that.

This morning, on the eve of the eve of the New Year, I pulled out my Training Log and began to tally up the miles from when I first started keeping track (April 4, 2011 – for those wondering) to today (December 30, 2011), I have run a total of 327.12 miles.

That’s a lot of mileage.

A few days ago, my roommate told me to set a goal for 366 miles (one mile per day…because it is a leap year), for 2012.  I was satisfied with this.  But then a fellow running friend of mine threw it down…to aim for 500 miles in 2012.

So here it is…my pledge to log 500 miles over the course of 2012.

And this blog will hopefully be my place to discuss why I run, where I run, how I do, and just…in general…keep track of the mileage I put down this year.

500 miles.

Best get started…