And so I ran 500 miles…

GOAL: 500 MILES!!!
GOAL: 500 MILES!!!

Today pretty much marks the halfway point of the year.  And what did I accomplish on my three mile hard training run this morning?  500 miles this year.  Exactly.

500 MILES!

I hit my goal.  Already!

I really wanted to make the last three miles count.  Seriously.  So I was very glad that it fell on a training day when a hard run was required.  This meant more speed, more inclines, more power.  And it meant that these last 3 miles toward my goal of 500 for the year would mean a little more at the end of it.

So I really worked it.  I made every moment of this run count.  I ran at a harder rate, getting my heart pumping, working for each mile.  And in the end I couldn’t be happier with the results.  Yes…inclines and speed work are tough.  But hitting that goal made it all worth it.

I am in a steady training schedule for my next half marathon, which hits in September.  So, I’m back to a strict schedule on my runs.  And after that, I have one more half marathon in mid-October to run.  I’ve been contemplating a fifth one this year and have it narrowed down to two.  One is up in Indianapolis (again), while the other one is closer to home…here in Louisville.

Additionally, I have a bunch of races I haven’t signed up for which I need to.  Perhaps that’s how I’ll spend my break today at the office.

With races in the works, looks like downtime isn’t in my future.  But that’s okay.  I like it like that.  Hell, I’m the girl who goes on vacation and keeps on training.  This is how you know you love to run.  I don’t have to convince myself to lace up my shoes.  I don’t have to talk all bad ass about my running (because I am not a bad ass runner).  I don’t have to comment about how great a run feels.  I just run for the love of it.  I finally found something in this life that I love.  And the best part is…I don’t have to be good at it.  I just have to keep my passion for it.  The key is to run smart.  If I hurt or ache…I take a day off or run slow.  If it’s hot…I run early or late.  If it’s hot on a workday, I keep the run short and I listen to my body.  That’s the key to any run…listen to your body.  If you go out too hard, too fast, do too much when your body isn’t ready for it…you get injured.

I know.  It happened to me last year in the race I’m running on Saturday in Frankfort, Kentucky.  Trust me…no runner wants to be sidelined for months with a stress fracture in the foot and runners knee that just won’t get better.  But it happened.  And I limped and hobbled my way through June, July, and August before I was able to get back into running.  And it sucked.  Far better to run smart than to do yourself damage.  It saves on medical bills…and a lot of unhappiness.

I’ve learned a lot in the time I’ve been running and I’ve learned to set feasible, reasonable goals.  With that said, my goal on Saturday is to run a good race.  Am I aiming for a specific time?  Yep.  I came in last year (on injury!) at 45 minutes.  I want to beat that.  But, it’s going to be warmer this Saturday, so we’ll see how it goes.  The most important thing is that I go out there and have a good run…and more importantly…have fun doing it.

So…with these 500 miles behind me…time to set a new goal.

I’m open for suggestions.

Troubleshooting and tears

I know, it seems a bit weird to mention troubleshooting in a blog about running.  But, like most things in life these days, even our running schedules hit snags and need a good system reboot every now and again.

I’m in the homestretch of my half marathon training for my second half marathon of the year.  This one is up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and runs on June 3rd.

This race is so important to me.  I chose to run this one for one specific reason.

My grandpa.

He lives up in Minneapolis and is quite the seasoned veteran of their road races in the area and beyond.  I really wanted to run a distance race that he could come out and watch, cheer me on to the finish, and celebrate with me.  He understands.  He gets it.  He used to be a runner.  At the age of 90, he can still walk a (surprisingly) hilly 5K in less than an hour.  I can listen to his tales of marathons, half marathon’s and shorter races all day.  He’s a great story teller.  But he was also a great runner.

And while I have been fantastic about making sure I get my runs in according to my training app on my iPhone, this week…I have done very little running.  This week and next week are the two most important weeks when it comes to the training program.  This week, the mileage is high, and next week…the taper.  So getting these runs in and getting those miles in are very important.

And on Monday, when I was to run 5 miles…I did nothing.  My legs were tired from running two races over the weekend and doing a 9 mile run on Sunday for my long run.  So…I took the day off.  Not something I like doing, but rain was moving in so going out to Louisville for my fun run was not looking like an option.  Tuesday was three miles and I ticked those off in good fashion.  Yesterday was to be my yoga for cross-training.  I have started running to and from my class now that it is light out and the weather is awesome.  But…I’ve had a bad week…so…I didn’t go.  I wasn’t feeling it.  I got overheated at the office and just felt drained and under-the-weather.  So…I nixed not only a run, but my cross-training as well.

And then I got mad at myself for it.  Really angry.  I started to cry, and when my roommate asked me what was wrong, I told her I felt like I wasn’t giving my all to this.  Here is one of the most important half marathons that I’ve been training for…and I’m failing on my training!  It made me really upset.  I should be at 13 miles of running by the end of today.  I’ll probably have 6 miles.  Which leaves me 7 miles short for the week when all is said and done.  I don’t like that.  I don’t like that sort of deficit.

But…it happens, yes?  We all have bad days.  And, let’s face it…this has just been a bad, bad week.  Am I a failure for not getting in those miles?  No.  Do I feel like one?  Yes.

It’s all mental.  It’s all in my head.  I just have it in my heart to run the hell out of this race.  I just want to do something brilliantly for once.  And since I’ve read how hilly this course is…I really want to be prepared to take on this hills and do it without slowing down…too much.  I want this…for myself…and for my grandpa.

And I think that’s why I’ve been so hard on myself about this.  And that’s why it upsets me to no end that I’ve come short on my training runs this week.  Will it affect my run overall?  Probably not.  But I’ve put a lot of time and energy into training and I just want to do it to the best of my ability.

So…this week I’m coming up a little short.  It happens, right?  It’s hard to tell a passionate runner that it happens when they look around and see people logging those miles despite what may be going on in their life.  I’m not a failure by any sense of the word.  I’m just having a hard time dealing with the fact that I’ve become so blasé about training right for this race.

I guess the fact that it has upset me so much doesn’t mean that I don’t care.  Crying about missed runs doesn’t solve anything.  Getting out there and running does.  So…next time I’ll lace up instead of curling up on my bed and having a cry-fest.

The culmination of a horrible week has pretty much been the reason for this.  I can pinpoint it.  But…damn…it’s hard to bounce back from that.  But I’m going to.  And in the end, I’m going to run that half marathon strong and make my family proud…no matter when I cross that finish line.

OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Maration – Indianapolis, IN (May 5, 2012)

Me with my finisher's medal at the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon - Indianapolis, Indiana
Me with my finisher’s medal at the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon – Indianapolis, Indiana

Race: OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon

Place: Downtown Indianapolis, IN

Date: May 5, 2012

Time: 2:04:51

It was going to be hot.  That’s all I knew coming into the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon.  That and this is the largest half marathon in the country.  One reason it was on my bucket list of races to run in my lifetime.  *places a check mark next to that one*  And, I’ll be honest, if it weren’t for a slew of other races that run this same weekend that I’m interested in, I’d be back again next year.  It was that amazing of a race.

But let’s get back to the heat.

All week the weather had said rain.  Then no rain.  Then…possible rain.  I’m no stranger to running races in the rain.  A majority of my races have been in the rain.  I just, really, wasn’t feeling 13.1 miles in the rain.  It would mean being wet the entire time…and the need for brand new shoes at the end of it all.  Then…the weather changed again.  Now…a high of 85 degrees…humidity of 97%.  In other words…HOT.

The gross kind of hot.  That sticky, humid, you just always feel moist kind of hot.  The worst kind of hot.

Time to dig out the race outfit I wore in Chicago (it was hot then too) and give it another spin.  And that’s what I did on Friday night when I started packing up my race clothes for this event.  I’d go to work that day, leave around 3 p.m. and hit the road to Indianapolis.  I’d arrive around rush hour (joy), attempt to find parking downtown that didn’t cost an arm and a leg (I didn’t have any to spare), and get into the Mini Marathon Race Expo to pick up my packet and check out the vendors.

It took a bit of lapping around the convention center, but my roommate and I pulled into a parking garage, parked, and headed into the expo with the hope of it taking less than an hour.  That would mean parking would be $5.00, not $10.00.  So…one hour.  It took us about 10 minutes or so to get from where we parked, inside the convention center, and to where the expo was being held.  Honestly, I think we parked as far away as humanly possible without even realizing it.  But, we got there…and ducked inside.

Now, my first half marathon was last year’s Chicago Half Marathon (which I ran in 2:20:59, fresh off of two very bad and debilitating injuries and in heat/humidity of orange flag proportions), which had a really, really big expo as well over on Navy Pier.  But this one dwarfed that one.  Honestly.  It was crazy big.  Lots of vendors.  Lots of races.  Lots of races that sounded really awesome to run.  This is the place for a runner to get inspired.  But first thing was first…packet pick-up.

I went all the way to the back of the expo center where the booths were lined up for racers to pick up their packet.  It was done by bib number.  I had just a short wait (2 people ahead of me) before handing over my postcard, receiving my swag bag and race number, and stepping away.  I was giddy with excitement and did a little happy dance of joy when I walked over to where my roommate was waiting for me.  Yeah…I was now getting into the mood.

We did a quick stroll around the expo, starting at the very end and wending our way up and down the multiple aisles.  As we started up one aisle, we spotted the booth for Tap ‘N Run.  And there, on the backdrop of the booth…was a photo of me.  So…we asked if I could get a picture of myself with their promotional backdrop as I was the girl in the purple.  The guy looked at the backdrop, looked at me, invited me back, high-fived me, and I got the picture.  I should be in race modeling, just saying.

After that, we continued on…picking up a couple of race brochures, seeing what races were represented, checking out the BlueMile running store booth, and other booths.  And making good time.  Until I hit the booth for BondiBand.  BondiBand and I have a race history.  I bought my first one (it simply says 13.1) when I ran the Chicago Half Marathon.  Since then, I have acquired quite a collection of them.  They (and colored hair extensions) have become a part of my race uniform on race day.  So…most of my one hour was spent pawing through the stacks, piles, and cases of BondiBands, and finally purchasing four new ones.  I couldn’t resist.  So…look for them in future races.

We walked through the rest of the expo…then figured it was getting really, really close to time on our parking, and exited.  A check of the watch did show that our time was almost up on the parking garage, so we hurried as much as we could back, took the stairs down to the level where you paid, searched for the pay booth, found it, and got the ticket marked and paid for…with only two minutes to spare.  We were two minutes away from paying $10 for parking.  Whew.  That was close.  From there…we were off for dinner at Don Pablos before picking up a couple of bananas at Kroger and heading to the Fairfield Inn and collapsing for the night.  When we got checked into the hotel and up to the room, I set out everything for the race the following day, changed into my pajamas, read the information packet in my swag bag, then turned in.  My alarm was set for 4:30 a.m.

It arrived way too soon.

Race morning!!

Race morning is, as usual when on the road, a frantic hustle-bustle to get dressed, get fueled (this morning it was dry gluten-free EnviroKidz Gorilla Munch cereal), drink some water, brush teeth, put hair extensions in, put hair in pigtails, take a couple pictures, pack up water and protein shake from fridge, pack up post-race snacks, pack up luggage, check out of hotel, get to the race.  So, it was a bit frantic, but we managed it all in and hour, and hit the road as planned.  In the car, I snacked on a banana with peanut butter as we headed into downtown Indianapolis again, parked for only $5.00 (yes…event parking that cheap) at an easy-access garage for post-race, and took a stroll toward the race site.

And it was during that walk that the butterflies finally hit.  The magnitude of this race was really starting to hit home.  I have a half marathon goal this year.  This is the first of four of them that I’m running.  That goal…is to hit sub-2 hours.  If it wasn’t so freakin’ hot at 6:00 a.m., this might have been the race it happened at.  But it was already sticky humid and the sun hadn’t even come up yet.  This was not the race to set a new PR at.  This was a race to run smart and finish.

We took a couple pictures at the start line then went and sat down at a  table to watch the runners, the news crew, the helicopters, and take it all in.  At one point, they started the music up and we glanced up to the hotel windows where curtains snapped back, giggling a little at the ones we could recognize as not being in town because they are running.  Check the event calendar, folks.  This is a BIG deal here.

After a little bit of lingering, we decided it was time to head down the corral line and find Corral O, also known as, my home until the race began.  But, as we were walking, I thought to travel down to Corral T, where my friend Julia was to be, as this was her first half marathon and I really wanted to give her a hug and wish her luck.  I got down to T and couldn’t find her.  So I texted her, but she was over at Military Park, where the post-race party was going to be held.  So, I headed back toward Corral O and slipped inside and began to stretch out.

No sooner had I done that, Keith from my Monday night fun run group arrived.  So, at least now I knew someone.  He introduced me to his running partner, Carrie, and we all stood around and talked while we did some last minute stretching.  The 5K race kicked off during all of this, but we were so far away from the start line that all we really heard was the countdown.  Most of our talk was about training and the upcoming run.  We took some pictures, stretched out some more, and then they removed the dividers for the corrals.  The wheelchair race kicked off at 7:30 a.m. sharp.  Again, we were too far away to see anything, but heard the countdown.  This meant the start of the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon was just three minutes away.

I gave my roommate a hug, wished Keith luck, and we heard the official countdown to the start of the Mini.  Lots of clapping and cheers.  And now the slow shuffle toward the start line began.  This part is actually really exciting.  Your heart is racing, you’re smiling, and the atmosphere is just electric.  No one is hurting or dehydrated at this point.  The mood is uplifting.  And you can lose yourself in it so easily.  The people I was around kept changing.  However, my “GO KAREN GO” sign that my roommate had kept appearing at various points of the long shuffle up to the start line.  The runners I was around tracked it the entire way.  One group I was near said, “There is that Karen sign again!” and laughed because they had seen it a ways back.  I turned and replied, “I’m Karen…and that’s my friend!”  Cathy was bobbing, weaving, and hurrying on ahead so I’d continue to see the sign as I made my way toward the start.  And soon…I had.  Twenty minutes after the official start.  And as Keith said at the fun run last night…I hit the start and was gone.

It was already sticky hot and nearing 8 a.m. at this point.  I was glad I carried a water bottle with me.  But there were tons of water and Gatorade “Pit Stops” along the way.  I started off much slower than I normally do at races, because I had 13.1 miles to cover.  So, slow and steady, especially in this heat.  The first mile ticked by quickly, but I still noticed the elephants on parade at the zoo.  That was cool.  As we turned onto Michigan, mile 2 came into sight…then three.  When I hit the 5K mark, I checked my GPS watch for the first time.  Definitely running slower than I had thought I would, but I wanted to beat the heat and not fall victim to it.  I would have other opportunities to break a 2 hour half marathon.  Today was not that day.  Today was a day to run smart.

The next two miles were a blur of bands, runners, and me focusing on breathing, pace, and what would be next.  As we came into the sixth mile of this, we would be running the track of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, home of the Indy 500 race.  Awesome.  And when I ran down a ramp and then back up to enter the speedway, I knew I was now entering my favorite part of the race.  For the first time, and only for a few moments, the sun was shielded by clouds.  And I managed to pick up my pace a little.  My roommate told me that at the 10K mark in the Speedway, I was on pace for my 1:59:00 finish.  But it was too fast for the heat of the day and I knew it…so I slowed down as the sun crept back out.  Two and a half miles were spent running this famous track.  It was awesome.  Runners were taking video, taking pictures, and just soaking up the occasion.  For some reason, this part of the race felt like it went on forever.  I felt like the track portion of the race was never going to end, but soon, I was exiting the Speedway and hitting the pavement once again for the last five and a half miles.

I want to say a big thank you to the people who lived on the streets we ran down, because some were out there with their hoses just spraying down the runners.  It was awesome and just what we needed.  There were rigs set up for misting that the runners could go through as well to cool down.  Very smart.  But all this time the flag on the mile markers stayed green.  I was surprised, because the heat was really intense.  I hit Mile 10 and decided to check my watch again.  I was about where I was on my training run, and only a few minutes behind where I was on the Papa John’s 10 Miler.  Ideally, that was the pace I wanted.  Realistically…that wasn’t happening today.  I was proud of where I was and told myself I only had a 5K to go.  Then…victory.

I didn’t want to hit the wall like I did in Chicago the previous September, so I dug out my package of Annie’s Organic Summer Strawberry Fruit Snacks (vegan & gluten-free), which I brought along for fuel as I didn’t have time to get beans and I don’t do the gels or gu.  So…I downed these as I went and then focused on the task at hand.  Mile 11 cruised by.  Then…VICTORY MILE!

After hitting Mile 12, you enter the home stretch.  This happens on New York Street.  The Victory Mile is adorned with banners in the infamous black and white checkered flags.  The crowd was awesome, just encouraging you onward.  “You’re almost there runners!”  “Good job, runners!”  “You can do this!”  Actually when someone shouted that, a runner right behind me replied, “I never doubted myself for a moment.”  And yes…I laughed.  Loudly.  It felt great.

I admit…running that last mile was emotional.  The checkered flags, the crowd, the cheering, and that final sprint when you know you are so close to the Finish.  You can see the finish line and you know if you just put all your heart into it, you’re going to get there.  So, you just give it all you have…and that’s what I did.  I pushed.  I could feel the finish with each footfall.  And as I got close, my roommate was right there with my sign, screaming at me to go, to push, to finish.

And I did.  Just five minutes shy of my goal.  In the heat and humidity.  Yeah…I’ll take that.  Any day.  I was so damn proud of myself for finishing as well as I did.  I was hot, I was ready for some water.  I needed my cold vegan chocolate protein shake.  But it would be a moment before that happened.  I had to get through Runner Services first.  No problem.  Just go with the crowd.  First…the finisher’s medal.  YAY!  Then…a plastic bag for you to put all your goodies…bananas, fruit cups, fruit strips, dehydrated fruits, cookies (I skipped those because gluten is the enemy)…and of course my bag ripped when the banana (the first thing I got) went in.  So I was juggling more than I wanted to.  But, that’s what happens with me.  I just laugh it off.  I made it to where they were taking photos of runners, got mine, then proceeded to Military Park and toward the Family Reunion Area.  I had to find the marker labeled B.  That was where Cathy was going to meet me.

She was already there.  And said, “Come here you sweaty runner person and give me a hug.”  I did.  I was still smiling.  I got my cell phone from her, laid down on the ground, propped my feet up on her and called my mom.  We talked for a little bit, then I stretched, stood up, and downed my protein shake and polished off my water.  I got my Smart Water from Cathy and downed that too.  She handed me the last bottle I had and I nursed that one as we went to the Convention Center to use the bathroom so I could get changed out of my damp running clothes.

When I was in the bathroom, I pulled open my bag to change and found a new t-shirt in there for me.  Cathy got me a “I Finished” t-shirt.  Which I wore proudly that day.  After changing, we walked around, then it was off to lunch at Cheeseburger in Paradise, where I was able to pick up my veggie burger and eat it like a real human does for the first time in ages, thanks to the gluten-free buns they have there.

And yeah…I was still smiling.

As for the official standings of the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon, I finished in 2:04:51.  Overall, I was 7271/31,129 finishers.  I was437/2737 runners in my age division and 2191/16825 female finishers.

Proud.  Very proud.

My first half marathon of the year…and it’s a BIG one!

OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon, Indianapolis, IN
OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon, Indianapolis, IN

The day has finally arrived.  Since February, I’ve put a lot of miles on my feet and a lot of time into training for this.  In some areas, I’ve fallen short (hello, strength training!).  In other areas, I’ve really seen improvements.  I’ve run through injury.  I’ve run through rain.  I’ve run in the cold.  And I’ve slogged it out on the treadmill…all for this.

The nation’s largest half marathon.  Yes.  As in the biggest one in the country.  And the best part is…it’s close to home.  Just a short drive north to Indianapolis.

Tomorrow, my dear friends, I’ll be lining up in corral O and anticipating the start of the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon.  I’ve had my eye on this race for awhile.  And, unlike last year when I ran my first half marathon ever (Chicago), this time I have trained properly and even learned a thing or two in the process.  Amazing how that happens.

I’m not going to lie…those pre-race butterflies are already kicking in.  I’m giddy with excitement.  I love running half marathons (despite only doing one and barely surviving).  I love a good endurance race.  And this one is a BIG deal.  I mean…it’s the largest in the United States.  Somewhere near 40,000 people run in this race.  That’s not an exaggeration.  And this year…I am one of them.

The weather on Saturday morning…hot and humid.  Yeah.  And it will only heat up as the day goes on.  I’ve done some running on hot days, and I tend to wilt.  So, I plan to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.  Just like I did when I ran the equally as hot Chicago Half Marathon back in September.  It worked then…I hope it works now.

I also know, now, that I have to eat more than a serving of cereal before running 13.1 miles.  So, last night I went to pick up a packet of peanut butter to throw on a banana pre-race.  I’ll also have my cereal and that should see me through.  If I need a boost while out running, I have one lonely pack of Annie’s vegan/gluten-free fruit snacks.  I’m still not very good at eating while on the run.  I have yet to master it without something upsetting my stomach or bringing on cramps.  But as I’m aiming for a marathon in the very near future, well, I best learn what works and learn how to do it.

This morning, I was up early to pack up my race clothes, shoes, and my overnight bag.  Right after work, I’m heading up to Indianapolis, stopping into the race expo, picking up my packet, walking around, drinking it all in, then grabbing something for dinner that won’t wreak havoc on my stomach, and then turning in for the night.  As I’m staying outside of the downtown area, it means rising earlier than I would like to head into the city, get the parking garage I hope to get, and getting to that start line.

I have quite a few friends who are running in this race with me.  One is in my corral.  The other one hasn’t told me where she is positioned, but I hope to run into her either pre-race or after.  This is her first half marathon and I want to wish her luck and congratulate her on finishing.  I hope it happens.

I have goals this year when it comes to my distance races.  Due to the heat that they are expecting tomorrow, I don’t think I’ll hit it on my first (of four) half marathon this year.  But…there is time to improve, time to work through some kinks, and other races that I can aim for those goals during.  I’d rather run smart in the heat then push too hard and not make it to the finish because of it.

So…first half marathon of the year and I’m doing it in a big way.

To all those running with me…best of luck!!  See you at the finish!

Returning to a race with high expectations

Tomorrow's Children 5K Fun Run and Walk
Tomorrow's Children 5K Fun Run and Walk, Frankfort, KY

It’s difficult, as a runner, not to try to compare races. And normally races do stand on their own. No race is exactly like another. Weather, people, and even how you feel that day can affect performance and overall mood.

But this is a first for me…because I am returning to a race for the first time. Ever.

Last year, I ran in the Tomorrow’s Children 5K race in Frankfort, Kentucky. The race basically benefits people in the Frankfort community who are struggling with infertility. It’s held as a fundraiser and a way to bring awareness of the organization to the community. I have quite a few friends who struggle with infertility…so, this was a good cause to run for.

Back in 2011, this was my second 5K I ever ran. Ever. As in the history of my running career…which at that point consisted of a couple months of running around the track at the YMCA…little runs on the treadmill at the gym…and one 5K race a couple weeks prior. So, I was still quite the newbie to the racing scene. And, the drive out there was interesting as we had s a bit of thunder, some lightning, and a lot of rain. The lightning was gone by the time we got to packet pickup, but the rain was still constant. Up until the race was about to begin. Then…there was a lull.

But that only lasted a moment. No sooner had the race kicked off, but the sky opened up again and down came the rain. But, runners run in rain all the time. This was a new experience for me. And guess what…it was kinda fun too.

Dripping wet, I crossed the finish line in 27:04.

And won first in my division.

In my second 5K race…ever.

So, let’s put it this way…I’m nervous about not living up to that this year. The weather is supposed to be good…during the race. Keeping with tradition of me running in Frankfort, Kentucky…rain is scheduled for that day…just after the race is run. So, the turnout might be better. The runners…might be stronger. And, I feel like I have to prove to myself that winning that division title wasn’t just a fluke of bad weather and a small turn-out. I feel like I need to prove that I rightfully earned it…even with it being my second race ever.

Yeah, that’s a little bit of pressure weighing on my shoulders. And, of course, I might feel like a little bit of a failure should I not clinch the title this year too. But, you know, I don’t run to win divisions or place. I run because it’s something I enjoy and love to do. But, a part of me feels like I have a crown to defend here. And, despite having been nursing a sore Achilles tendon all week, a part of me wants to run like I’ve never run before tomorrow and just see what comes of it.

In the end, I’ll run a smart race. And whether I place at all won’t matter in the end. What matters is that I finish…be it first or last. And that’s the hardest lesson for some runners to bring to each race…and take home from each race too.

Do I feel like I have something to prove tomorrow? Yes. It’s only natural.

But if I walk away just another finisher…I’m okay with that too. I’m a winner just for taking part and finishing. And if I can do so without limping due to a sore tendon…all the better.

Second verse…same as the first? We’ll find out tomorrow.

The final leg of the Louisville Triple Crown of Running

Papa John's 10 Miler, Louisville, KY
Papa John's 10 Miler, Louisville, KY

Today, on my lunch break, I’m heading into Louisville to stop in at Papa John’s Stadium.  Packet pick-up is going on, along with a race expo, for the final race in the Louisville Triple Crown of Running.

What’s on deck for Saturday?

The Papa John’s 10 Miler.

I’m super excited about the race.  I have a goal in mind, and hope to stay on pace to achieve it.  It’s been awhile since I’ve run this far in a race.  The last long race I had was just 3.1 miles further…the Chicago Half Marathon.  So, this race will also give me some key information on how I’ll do in my first half marathon, which happens in May.

The Louisville Triple Crown of Running has been a lot of fun to participate in.  I can see why it draws so many people and has so many spectators along the way.  I hope there are a good number of them out there this weekend, because 10 miles is a long time and some stranger in the crowd just cheering you on does help give you that extra push.

I was actually a bit concerned about this race yesterday, mainly because when I was hauling trash down at the office I twisted my knee weird and it was twinging the rest of the day.  This meant my afternoon run in the park was nixed, which I hated to do, but knew I needed to or else risk not being able to run on Saturday.  As it stands, I iced it a couple times last night and this morning it feels great.  So hopefully that will continue throughout the rest of the day.  Unfortunately, today is a rest day, so no running.  I’m despise rest days, but understand the importance of them.

So…I’ve come this far.  I have had really great races for the Anthem 5K Fitness Classic and the Rodes City Run 10K over the past couple of weeks.  This race is the one I have been anticipating.  Up until yesterday, they were predicting rain.  I was grumbley about that, because, honestly, 10 miles in the rain does not sound like fun.  But, it seems the weather moves through today instead which leaves beautiful temperatures and weather for the race on Saturday morning.

This will also be my first time running while wearing a GPS watch.  My Garmin is going to get road tested immediately in a race since I wasn’t able to go out and give it a whirl last night on a run.  I’m hoping the Garmin (which I named Dean after the Ultramarathonman, Dean Karnazes) will help me maintain a good pace throughout instead of having me go out way too fast (something I notice I do a lot on my training runs).

So, stay tuned.  My first ever go at the Louisville Triple Crown of Running is about to come to an end.  And I’ve really, really enjoyed myself throughout.

Papa John’s 10 Miler…I’ll see you on Saturday!

A good introduction to a triathlon

Tri at the Y, Indoor Triathlon, Jeffersonville, IN
Tri at the Y, Indoor Triathlon, Jeffersonville, IN

Another early morning this weekend.  And why not keep the activities going with one more little event before I kick up my feet and relax a little?  Because why stop after a 10K and a 3K the day before?

This morning I am participating in a local YMCA’s Tri at the Y, which is an indoor triathlon.  This is my first attempt at anything triathlon-like.  Honestly, the thought of running, biking and swimming has always sort of…worn me out just thinking about it.  The same can be said for this indoor one…except I’m fairly confident the run and biking parts will go well.  It’s that swim…

And, to make things even more interesting for me, this event runs all day in 2-person heats.  I’m am paired up with, naturally, the Aquatics Director of that very YMCA.  Because the swim wasn’t daunting enough, right?

Ah well…I think it will be fun and a fantastic way to get a feel for triathlons.  I’m actually pretty excited about it.

So expect a couple of race reports this week…including one from my first ever triathlon!

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.

The dreaded taper

First of all…YAY!  It’s race week!

After a couple weeks of nothing on my calendar, I have a fabulous four mile race coming up on Saturday morning.  It’s local.  Held in Cherokee Park in Louisville, Kentucky.  It’s a park I know well.  It’s the hilliest freakin’ park I’ve ever run in.

Secondly…BOO…race week means it’s time to take it easy on running to have well-rested legs for the race.  Granted, this is a shorter race, but I’ve found that the taper is a necessary evil when it comes to running.  Why give everything during the week only to wake up with tired legs on race day.

I’m still running…just not as hard and not as much this week.

And…it sucks.

This morning, I headed to the gym and got on the treadmill.  I was cruising for 2 miles at a fantastic pace of 7.2 mph, throwing in some varied inclines every couple of minutes, keeping the pace, finding that I wasn’t having to grab hold of anything.  It felt amazing!!

And I wanted to go for longer.  I wanted to change my mileage from 2 miles to 3 or 4…but…I didn’t because that little voice in the back of my head reminded me of my race on Saturday morning.

Let’s face it…the taper SUCKS!

Especially when you are so accustomed to running so much, as I have become.  Cutting back isn’t easy.  But…I know I’ll benefit from it on Saturday.  Hoping to see if I can best my last 4 mile race time.

Here’s hoping all this running, and the taper, pays off.

Treading through the winter running blues

Running on a treadmill sucks.

There is no easier way to kill the running spirit than to slog away on a moving conveyor belt, going nowhere fast.  Yeah.  I despise it.

But, during these cold winter months, it’s a necessary evil.

So, recently, I’ve been  playing around with new ways to liven up the treadmill as I run on it at the gym.  I usually tune into Food Network while my iPod is playing my run playlist, but sometimes that’s not even enough to get my mind off the fact that I’m running…nowhere.  The joy of running outside is actually making progress.  You’re moving.  You’ve got a goal in mind.  You move toward that goal.

Setting goals for a treadmill is not as easy.

And on Friday, I woke up feeling sluggish and not really wanting to get on the equipment at the gym for another mindless morning of running.  It was cold and rainy outside though and I had an office job waiting for me afterwards, so…I went.  For the past couple weeks, I’ve been playing with inclines.  Run at 0% incline for 5 minutes.  Then go to a 3% incline for 2 minutes.  Repeart.  One day I threw in an extra minute each rotation at a 4% incline.  On top of that, I slowly increase my speed (within my normal running limits) every mile.  So, yeah…I can change it up some.

But, since I was feeling MEH on Friday morning, my roommate issued a new challenge for me.  Set the treadmill for 26 minutes, and attempt to get a 5K run in during that time.  Why 26 minutes?  Because my current PR for a 5K is 25:59.  Seriously.  So…it seemed like a good run for a blah morning.  I accepted the challenge.

And I met it.  I didn’t play with inclines that morning.  I wasn’t feeling it.  But I did increase my speed slowly over the course of the run, once again, staying within my normal running limits.  And…I ran 3.13 miles in 26 minutes.  I was elated.  I high-fived her when my machine slowed for the cool-down walk.  I suddenly felt better.  My morning meh’s were gone and I was invigorated again.

All I needed was a challenge.  One that I was willing to meet and one that kept my mind off of the mindless machine I was using.  And it worked.

Mission: Accomplished.

And yes…it felt good.

So, when the winter time blues hit…I know all I need to do is set a goal and try to achieve it.  If I don’t manage the first time…try again.  Part of the glory of this sport is finding ways to improve on what you can already do.  This was the pick-me-up I needed.

Trapped on the treadmill this winter?  Issue yourself a challenge and then…crush it.

I dare you!