Monday, September 29, 2014

Marathon Training Weeks 15 & 16


Pre run looking happy.
Note: I had this great post written last Monday about my wonderful 20-mile run and how great CARA is, and how great Ready to Run is, and how great my pace group leaders and training buddies are, and how great the weather was, basically just how great everything was, but then I did something and it didn't save and then it was gone. So instead of trying again later, I threw in the towel, figured you all had enough of me going on and on about marathon training anyway.

Short version is: Great run, as I mentioned, nice day, felt really good after the run and am now feeling pretty confident I can achieve my goal of a 4:45 finish time barring some unforeseen event.

There were a few things different between the first time I ran 20 miles and this last time. First, the weather was much nicer - cool and overcast for most of the run. More importantly is the amount of training I've done and the base I had coming into marathon training. It has made all the difference. I figured out the other day I missed almost 100 miles of training in 2012; this year, I've missed less than 20. Consistency is the key.

Post run - amazingly, still happy.
But putting in the miles does take a lot of time. I've had people ask me how I find the time to train with a four year old at home. And while it can be challenging, especially more so when you're married to someone who also spends a good amount of time running, it's totally doable - if that's the thing you want to do. I get up early a few days a week, I run home one day a week and I hire a babysitter on Saturday mornings, or he stays over at my sister's house the night before. Sure, there are times I think that my son will one day be sitting on a therapist couch talking about how we would have rather gone running on Saturday mornings for hours at a time instead of make him pancakes. But honestly, if this is the worse thing we do to him, I think he'll live. Of more concern to him right now is why we don't buy him every single toy he sees.

Back to running. I wisely took the Monday after the 20-miler off to rest and relax. So I went to a yoga class which was a wonderful way to stretch out. All day I was surprised at how well I felt. The next day, when I went out for my morning five mile run, didn't feel as great. It wasn't a terrible run, but I definitely felt the 20-miles. The terrible run came the next day. The eight miles home felt worse than the 20 miles. My legs felt like lead the entire time. I kept waiting for them to warm up which finally happened at mile seven. However, by Saturday morning, with only a 12-mile run, I was back to my usual self. There was even part of me that wanted to push it toward the end. I settled with running up Cricket hill.

So now I'm at the point where I'm figuring out my game plan for the day of the race. I'm going to try to keep at a 10:50 pace for the first half and then see if I can either negative split or stay at that pace to finish. I'd hit the finish line around 4:44 - and that would be 39 minutes faster than my first marathon. But we'll see - I'm still not totally confident that's how it will turn out.

Stats for the last two weeks:
Miles run: 69
Miles left to go: 56.2
Raised so far: $1075.20
Left to go: Nothing - just seeing how much I can raise now.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Backpack Review - Osprey Verve 9

Yesterday I did my 10-mile mid-week run - the longest Wednesday run. The weather was once again really nice, and I kept a pretty good pace the entire time. It was also the second time I ran with my new backpack.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I bought a new backpack for my runs home. I had been using an old Camel Back without the bladder. The only things that fit were my phone, wallet, keys and glasses. I was leaving everything else (clothes, lunch box, coffee tumbler) at work and bringing it home the next day. It worked fine, but I started coveting something that could carry a little more and actually have room for the bladder.

So I searched and researched and talked myself out of getting anything and then wanted something and then finally, spur of the moment, I went by REI, they were having a sale, and I got this one: The Osprey Verve 9.

The first thing I like about it is that it's a women's backpack. I did try on a regular one thinking that if it felt OK it would be better because then Mr. H. could wear it. But the one that fit the best still didn't feel anywhere near as cozy as this one. I can cinch it pretty tight in three different areas - the shoulder straps, the chest strap and the waist strap. And the more I can minimize bounce and the more it feels like it's part of my back, the more comfortable it is. I will admit that it does start to hurt my shoulders after a while. It's not unbearable, and it pretty much goes away once I take it off, but it is a downside. However, this is probably an issue when running with just about anything on your back.

On the positive side, it has lots of cool pockets and features. I can carry Gu or Shot Blocks in the shoulder strap pouch for easy access. The water tube attaches with a magnet so it's not swinging around. The first time I ran with it I had a hard time re-attaching it without looking, but I have it down now. It also has a way to connect your bike helmet.

Of course, it is heavier than the minimal Camel Back and, since it's bigger, I'm tempted to carry more stuff. And while water isn't necessary on the Lakefront in summer since there are fountains everywhere, when they turn them off in winter, I can imagine this will be nice to have. And, even if it does add a little weight, now I can bring home my clothes and coffee tumbler.

Osprey markets it as a hiking/biking bag, so it's not technically a running backpack. I'm sure biking with this would be nice - not too big, but able to carry stuff. The most hiking I do is around the city - and for that it's great. The first time I used it was when Baby H. and I went to Navy Pier and spent the entire day downtown. I was able to carry my wallet and phone, plus snacks, a couple of toys, sunblock, a camera and water. But I think it also works well as a running backpack. I looked at a lot of bags that were smaller, but then I wouldn't be able to carry anything defeating the purpose.

So while there wasn't an actual "need" for this bag, I do love bags, and this one is now on my list of ones I love.

Note: I did get the purple color because that was the only one in stock at REI. Purple is not really a color I like very much. However, many things lately have been coming into my life that are purple so I've decided to embrace it rather than fight it.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Marathon Training Week 14

This picture is from week 1, but we're all too tired
to take pictures after our long runs now.
Week 14 nicely coincides with a 14-mile long run, which is actually a "short" long run compared to last week and what's a head at the end of this week, the 20-miler.

Again it was a nice cool day, actually chilly - I wore a long sleeve shirt - and so the weather was perfect. It was never hot and we had a great run.  The whole week was nice, the only day that posed a problem was Wednesday. Due to scheduling issues, I needed to run before work and was prepared (or was trying to prepare myself) to get up to run 9 miles at 4 a.m. I know, right, insane. However, the weather had other notions and by that night storms and wind made running in the dark, in the park, not a good idea. So we didn't. I did four miles on the treadmill at work and told myself I'd make up the five sometimes later in the week - just like I told myself last week. But then several people told me I was being silly and that there wasn't a real need to make up those miles. Since they all were either training for a marathon, had run marathons or were my sister, I listened to them and let it go (sorry those of you with little girls who now have that song stuck in their heads).

I've stuck to my training schedule much more than I did the first time around, but I am starting to get the jitters about being able to complete 26 miles. I know I can do it, but of course I want to do it faster than the first time and I'm worried I'll get to mile 20 and just fall apart.

But even if on the off chance I do fall apart, which I probably won't, at least I will have raised more than $1,000 for CARA Road Scholars. My wonderful brother donated $25 last week - though I know that was an in-kind donation since he wants me to give for his theater company (it's on it way John). But regardless, I'm just grateful that all of you out there have supported me through this, again.

Stats for the week:
Miles run: 28
Miles left to go: 126.2
Raised so far: $1075.20
Left to go: Nothing - just seeing how much I can raise now.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Marathon Training Week 13

Week 13 turned out to be quite a lucky week for us runners. After a couple of weeks of sweltering humid days - which is par for the course in Chicago but still sucks when you're running long distances, temperatures finally dropped to the low 70s with hardly any humidity last night after a rainstorm. It got into the lower 60s overnight and this morning, when I left to bike down to the lake, I put long sleeve shirt on over my running top because it was a bit chilly.

Like 15 and 16 miles, I haven't run 18 miles since I ran the Chicago Marathon in 2012 and I was a little nervous. I kept thinking back on my last 18 mile training run. You can go back and read the old blog post if you so desire, but I was pretty nervous about that run. And I knew that after the 16 miles two weeks prior to it, there was no way I was going to make 18 miles by myself. So my wonderful sister road her bike next to me. While that was great, and I did mention to her that she could do the same thing for our whole group this time, it was even better running with a group. It's great to have so many different people to chat with, catch up on what's been going on with their training and lives in general over the previous week. And then to top it off, the weather was perfect. It never got too warm and we had a great breeze. I definitely felt the miles, but I also felt pretty good at the end of it. Certainly much better than the hellish 16-mile run and even last week's half. Hell, I felt better than my mid-week 8- (supposed to be 9) mile run.

So yeah, I only did 8 miles because I Divvied (that's a verb right?), down to the lake with a co-worker instead of running along the river path. So I lost just under a mile. I realized I'd be short before I got off the path to go home, but decided that 8 was close enough. I also ended up not doing my Thursday 5 mile run at all (or yet - if this weather holds, I might do it tomorrow). I wanted to do it on Friday, but didn't get up early enough to do it in the morning and then when I had time to do it was way too hot. I hate missing runs now, but honestly I don't feel that bad about it with how crappy the weather has been.

Sorry this has turned into a weather report, it just that these things are important to runners. I could tell you about my fueling strategy. I've recently switched from Gu to Shot Blocks to Honey Stingers chews. I like the Stingers cause they're smaller than the Shot Blocks and the chews in general just seem to sit better in my stomach than the Gu has been lately. 

I didn't think it was possible to have too many shoes.
Or I could talk to you about running shoes. For the past several months, I have been alternating
between two different sets of shoes: a pair of Asics and a pair of Brooks. It's nice to go back and forth between two pairs to let one rest. But after adding up my mileage on both sets of shoes I realized it was time for at least one new pair. I have miles left on both of them, but not enough to get me through the marathon. So yesterday off to the shoe store we went. My plan was to just get another pair of the Asics. I like both, but those were what I've been doing my long runs in. Of course, I forgot they were Asics and said Sauconys (I have a pair of those at work that I use when I go to the gym). Unfortunately my most recent shoe purchase wasn't in the store computer, so we went online looking for the specific pair of Sauconys, until Mr. H. said, "aren't you running in Asics?" So then we looked on that website, found the shoe. Then they asked what size and I said 8.5 because I was sure I was running in a shoe a full size up. Turns out I was, just not in the Asics, only in the Brooks. So that's weird, I'm wearing an 8 in the Asics but an 8.5 in the Brooks. Of course, I didn't figure that out until I got home last night and it was too late to do anything about it. I had planned on running in the new shoes this morning since it wasn't a "different" shoe, everyone assured me it would be fine. But I couldn't risk running in one not the right size. So I ran in the old Brooks, and then went back to the store today and exchanged the shoes for the right size. (Special thanks to the guys at Universal Sole for putting up with my nuttiness). I guess I should keep a note about my different shoes in my phone or something.

I'll spare you the story about my quest for new shorts until next week. Now on to the stats: 

Stats for the last week:
Miles run: 28 (though I may very well still make up that 5 mile run)
Miles left to go: 159.2
Raised so far: $1000.20
Left to go: NOTHING!

You read that right, after three more donations (thanks Uncle Tim, Amy and Claire) I have now made my minimum fundraising goal. That doesn't mean I won't remind people that, should they choose, they can still give money, but I'm super happy, and grateful, that I've raised the minimum.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The steps I take today

A few weeks ago I realized that I am a runner. I finally feel I can truly call myself a runner because when I missed a run in my schedule, the first time in weeks, it felt weird. I felt off the entire day. I used to feel like that with writing. I still do in some respects, but not in that down to the core way.

To help, I picked up my copy of One Continuous Mistake by Gail Sher. I've had it for quite a while - 15 years. I know this because my sister inscribed it when she gave it to be way back in 1999. I've read it before, or at least some of it, and it's been sitting on my bedside table for several months now. Finally today I started to re-read it.

And, as with so many things, I have these moments of inspiration where I feel like I need to do everything at once. But of course I can't. Like right now, I have three different blog posts in draft form because I have all these ideas. Which is great - and weird. Normally I feel like I have no ideas for blog posts. But that is part of the process. Getting into a habit of putting things down, even if it's just in a draft form, and working on it. Not making it something that has to be done today, right now, all or nothing. That all or nothing part is where I get stuck. It's overwhelming and I end up doing nothing. But if you do just a little bit, it adds up.

The book talks about kaizen - a Japanese concept that little steps, gradual progression leads to improvement. I also have an article hanging on my wall at work that references kaizen. I look at it to remind myself of the little steps I need to take. And really that's all it is; just little steps.

My transformation from a runner to a Runner was little steps (literally). I just kept at it. I gave myself goals and broke them down into plans (actually Hal Higdon did) and then I did them. No one goes from non runner to doing a marathon in a week or a month. But if you've put in all those little steps for weeks, and months, and years before hand, you can - I did.

Today, I have put ideas into draft form for several blog posts. This is my little step. I have also read something specific to writing. This is my little step. And tomorrow, I make a vow to work on one of the blog posts even if it's just for 10 minutes, and do that every day until the habit becomes something that defines me. That leaves an empty space if I don't do it. So when I call myself a writer, which I do, I don't feel like I'm fudging, which I do, because even if I'm not "published" or being read by anyone, I am still a writer.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Magnificent Mile Chicago Women's Half Marathon

Some of the lovely ladies from the 11 min. pace group.
Instead of doing a 12-mile run on Saturday with my CARA training group, I decided it would be more fun to pay to do a 13.1 mile run on Sunday with several hundred women (and about 50 men) including four gals from my training group.

I'd been thinking about doing a half during marathon training pretty much since I decided to run the marathon again. It's nice to break up training with something different. There were a couple of places I could have slotted in a half, but I kept not getting around to it. And then a couple of weeks ago one of the ladies in the group mentioned doing this race. Then there was the whole back and forth, if you do it, I'll do it, and finally someone signed up and then the rest of us signed up and then there was no going back.

By the time I uploaded this picture
to Facebook, all the cherries were gone.
Of course I wish I had committed to this race much earlier as the $90 registration fee was a hit to the wallet. Especially when it was basically a training run that happened to come with a t-shirt and a medal. There were a few other aspects to the race that were less than appealing. The first being packet pick-up only available at the south loop Fleet Feet. I live within walking distance of a Fleet Feet, and wouldn't have even minded traveling to the Lincoln Park store if necessary. But to have to take the train or drive all the way to the south loop was a bit obnoxious - though to be fair, they did offer a morning of pick up option, but that would have just made me nervous. So I made the best of it of the trip. Since Baby H. and I both had no school/work, we took advantage of the day, rode the train (which amuses him much more than me), played on the playground that's right outside the store, and then headed over to 11 City Diner for lunch and a banana split.

The other major downer of the race was something the race director can't really control other than by scheduling the race in December - the heat. The last couple of weeks have been sweltering, and after a hellish 16-mile run last week, I was hoping for a cooler half marathon. No such luck. It was pretty warm when I left my house at 5 a.m. and stayed that way. 

Running this race was different in a couple of ways. This is the fourth half marathon race I've done, but the first time I haven't specifically trained for a race of this distance. So going into it I didn't have a goal time, only to keep within my training pace. Of course, there was part of me that wanted see how close I could get to my PR, and originally I had a plan for that. But I was loath to leave the ladies I train with, so we stuck together for the most part until the turn around at about mile 8.5. After that I sped up and dropped my pace down by a minute. But I could only keep it up for a couple of miles due to the heat, and ended up finishing just under my training pace.

The race itself was pretty par for the course. We started going North on Congress and headed down Michigan Ave. turning around at Superior. Michigan Ave. is so much nicer when there are no cars/taxis/buses on it and everyone on the sidewalk is cheering for you as you run by. Heading back south, we made our way over to the lake front path turning back north at 48th. While I was still with some of my training group, we debated the merits of an out and back course. Generally we dislike them. You kinda get bored, and if you're on the path, it can get crowded. But it is nice to do a race south of downtown since I rarely go over there. The path conditions are so nice, it makes me want to change my training location.

I've done a couple of women's races before and it's fun to not have men on the course. It's not that it's better necessarily, just different. For some reason, however, there were actually about 50 men who were signed up for the race. I'm not sure what that was about and I didn't really mind the guys who were clearly running with women (wives, partners, sisters, friends). But the fast guys, the ones actually racing, that seemed a little odd. It was funny, because those two guys in the lead, they didn't get any cheering as they ran past. But the first few women, they certainly did.

The course support was great, lots of water stops, a couple of places with water misters, one stop with a band. Unfortunately one stop had a rap song with some pretty strong language - basically every other word was bitch or fuck or n***er. To each his own on their musical choices, but not something I really enjoy while I'm running by.

In the end it was a good race and I think I'm ready to train and try for my goal of running a 10-min pace half. Pretty much everyone I know says I can do it and Mr. H. said he'd even pace me if I wanted. So now all I have to do it pick out a race and start training (after the marathon of course).

I finished in 2:21:20. That's 4/100ths of a second faster than my time at the winter half when it was basically zero degrees. Now we know that 2:21ish is my extreme temperature half marathon time. So there's that.

Marathon Training Weeks 11 & 12

Clearly I took a couple of weeks off of blogging, but I did not take any time off of training.

Week 11

My first day of vacation on Aug 21 I celebrated by doing my mid-week eight-mile run in the rain. Since the weather has decided to be summer at the end of August, the rain felt pretty good and it was never too heavy. By Saturday, the temperatures were topping mid 80s and the humidity levels were hovering around 90%. So the 16-mile long run was nothing short of brutal.

It was one of the rare days I wished I had my phone with me to take a picture. The lake was so foggy that you literally could not see the buildings on the other side of Lake Shore Drive. And even though we all know the path like the back of our hands, it was very disorienting not having immediate visual clues. I was pretty much praying for rain by the end, and with the amount of sweat on my body, I looked like I had jumped in the lake mid-run rather than at the end. It was the first time we had several people drop back and/or not complete the full mileage. But, as I've been saying all summer, I would rather have this weather now than on October 12. I'm just worried that it's waited too long to get here and it won't go away in time.

Despite my smile, I am a little freaked out about being
this high up, even though I've done this before

Week 12

Even though I was on vacation all last week, I still managed to get up at the crack of dawn to do my Tuesday/Thursday runs with my running partner. It was nice to get them out of the way. Those runs are going up to five miles now, which means I need to map out a new route around the 'hood. I shorted my Thursday run by one mile because (a) I needed to get home to so Baby H. and I could make our way to Navy Pier to ride the Ferris Wheel and (b) see below. Since I was on vacation, I was able to do my mid-week long run early again. I could totally get used to being a mom who drops of her son at pre-school, goes out for her morning run and then goes home to have a leisurely coffee and breakfast. But alas it's not to be. Besides, I'm eager to try out my new running backpack tomorrow.

It was a cut-back week this week, which meant "only" 12 miles. Rather than do that, I and a few other ladies from the training group signed up for the Magnificent Mile Women's Half Marathon. This is the same race I did a couple of years ago for Team Colleen. I remember how happy I was that day I was doing the 5k rather than the half because it was so very hot. This year was a repeat of the hot weather, but that's a separate post.

Now to the stats. Unfortunately that extra tenth of a mile from the half marathon won't be deducted from my miles left to go, but such is life. Even so, I'm down to less than 200 miles before this whole journey is over. On the fundraising front, I had a flurry of donations the past couple of weeks thanks to several people including Dave, Sarah, Michelle, Aaron and Katie, and I'm less than 100 bucks away from my goal.

I'll link to my half marathon review once I write it. In the meantime, feel free to make a donation while you wait: http://www.razoo.com/story/Melanie-Higgins-Fundraising-For-Cara-Road-Scholars-2014-Bank-Of-America-Chicago-Marathon-Team?referral_code=sw

Stats for the last two weeks:
Miles run: 61.1
Miles left to go: 193.2
Raised so far: $909.20
Left to go: $90.80