Monday, January 28, 2013

F^3 Lake Half Marathon Race Recap

Saturday I had the F^3 Lake Half Marathon in Chicago.  I had signed up for this race a couple months ago when it was on a discounted price.  I also remembered when people were doing it last year and it seemed like a good time but I wasn't in half marathon shape so I didn't sign up.  Therefore, I was excited to do it this year. 

Maggie was generous enough to get my packet for me.  The plan for race day was to meet at my house and carpool with Nicole, Kelly and Maggie.  I love that I know other runners now.  I used to do all of this stuff by myself but it's so much more fun to do it with friends!  The race start was at Montrose Harbor which is north of the city.  I was excited to start someplace other than the normal location near Grant Park where most Chicago races start.

The thing that I was unsure about the most was what to wear.  The week before the race, the temps in Chicago were the coldest we've had all season with lows 0 to negative 2 degrees and highs about 10 degrees.  Temps for race day were predicted to be about 24 degrees but at race time, it was supposed to be a high of 19 with a feel like temp of 9 degrees.  I decided to switch my gear from 2 layers (a thin layer and a thick layer) to 3 thin layers.  That way, if I had to take a layer off, I was still good with 2 layers.  After getting dressed, I realized I had 15 pieces of stuff on (clothes, socks, gloves, garmin, race belt, etc).  With my bib, it made it 16 pieces!  That's a lot of things!

We got there about 1.5 hours before race was going to begin and luckily found a great parking location right near the start.  We were able to keep warm most of the time in the car.  When we finally decided to get out, we met up with some fellow F'N Runners and some Chicago Running Bloggers.
Carpool group (Kelly, Maggie, Nicole and me)

Chicago Running Bloggers

F"N Runners
I also decided to wear my "bad ass" socks that I received as a gift in December to today's run.  I mean, running a half in "feel like" temps of 9 degrees with some snow...I think it's a little bad ass.  I also received many compliments on my socks in the first half of the race.  It was fun.

I don't particularly like my ass...but I wanted to show you my socks "bad ass"
My goal for this half marathon:  I wasn't going to try to PR.  During my half in December, I started to fast and completely fell apart at mile 8.  I PR'd that race but was a little disappointed in how I felt while running. So my goal was to start more conservatively and try to pick it up a bit the second half, basically I wanted to finish strong.

Waiting for the race to start, I was pretty cold.  My toes were numb and I just wanted to get going!  Finally, the race started but it was awkward to run with numb toes.  It was pretty crowded in the beginning too, which was fine by me as I figured it would help pace me slower for the first mile.  It worked and my first mile was a 9:41, which is just about exactly where I wanted to be (9:40-9:45).  I wanted to stay there for mile 2.  For about the entire mile 2, we ran in a snow covered path.  I didn't like that we had to do that at mile 2 as I figured we would use a lot of leg muscle running on snow!

When mile 3 hit and I looked down at my pace for that mile, I was running fast!  Too fast from what I wanted.  I wanted to stay near 9:30 for the first half.  Mile 3 was 9:15!  Since I ran that mile too fast, I kept trying to bring mile 4 back to 9:30.  I got it to 9:25 but before I knew it, mile 4 was over and it was a 9:19!  Ugh!  Yes, I was mad at myself for running too fast!  Haha!

I also was getting really warm for mile 3-4.  It was a sunny day, which I loved, but I was running straight into the sun and after mile 4 hit, I decided to strip off my jacket.  I had pinned my bib to it so I tried to do this all while running.  Pinning the bib back on was difficult so I stopped to walk for a brief second just to get it back on, and kept running.  This stop (and waiting for water at a water stop) brought this mile back for me to a 9:35, which I was happy about (even though I only stopped for very specific reasons).

Also during this race, I tried to master the "drinking out of a paper cup and running" skill.  First time, fail!  It mostly went up my nose and down my face.  Second time, fail!  See what happened the first time.  Now, I know you are supposed to pinch the cup a certain way and you should be good. I was trying and it wasn't working.  However, the 3rd time I got water...SUCCESS!  (The 4th time, see time #1 & #2...Fail).  That's ok, practice makes perfect, right?

After the turn around, it got cold again right away.  There seemed to be a bit of a breeze and we were right next to the lake.  I left my jacket off but put my gloves back on and my face mask up for a bit.  It was colder than the way out but I wasn't too bothered by it.  I think I dressed pretty appropriately.

The whole time, I kept trying to bring my miles back to 9:30.  Sometimes I was succeeding and sometimes I ran fast.  I was trying to figure out if this was the right thing to do.  I want to give the run all I have but if I give too much, I'll crash.  I just continued to keep doing what I was doing since I was feeling good even by mile 7 and still running good miles.  By mile 9, I decided to stop focusing so much on my watch and just finish out the race.  It was mile 9 so if I was going to push myself a little more, I could probably start now.  I checked my average pace which was about a 9:26 at that point and my PR time was a 9:35 pace.  Even though my goal wasn't to PR, it was fairly late in the race and I thought that if I could get a PR, I might as well try.  I still just wanted to finish strong but a PR was definitely in sight and if I kept a good pace, I was there. There were only 4 miles left and thought to myself, "It's just a normal Thursday night run with my group!"  I like to play those mental games while running races to help keep my mind grounded and focused.  I could do 4 miles at a decent pace.

After the mile 10 marker, I decided to push myself a little more.  I only had a 5k left and I was still feeling pretty good.  My mile 11 time was 9:09!  Mile 12 was a little harder and I brought it back slightly around the half way point.  Plus all the little hills they threw in and running on sand for a few minutes was a nice touch (sarcasm).  But I still wanted to finish strong and even though my legs were a little tired, I wasn't feeling too bad and I heard Maggie and Kelly in my brain telling me "It's ok to be a little uncomfortable!"  My last mile brought a 9:11 (for me for a half...that's fantastic as I'm usually closer to 10 mins at that point).  I decided to sprint to the finish (who is this person!?!).  Nicole told me after I finished that it looked like I was running fast...and I was.  Glad it looked like it because sometimes I think I'm sprinting and they have a video and I'm essentially walking!  Haha!

And I got a PR.  Finish time was 2:03:06.  My last PR from December was 2:05:15.  Now, the December race came up on my garmin a little short, but the race officials said it was a certified course, and so I just went with it.  It was a 4 minute PR and so even if it was a little longer, it still would have been a PR.  This race, the mile markers were all over the place.  In the end, my garmin registered 13.07 so pretty close to 13.1.  So I am going with this as an official PR for me.  I was thrilled!!  I wasn't trying to PR. I kept trying to slow my pace.  I stopped to walk to change my bib.  And most importantly, I felt pretty good the whole time!  Even though I still had trouble pacing myself, I accomplished my goal of finishing strong and the PR was icing on the cake!

My sub-2 hour half seems more within reaching distance now (possible goal race for that is the Indy 500 Half Marathon in May, which Jodi has offered to pace me at).  If she still wants to, I've been putting in the work to try to accomplish it!

The post race party was at the Cubby Bear near Wrigley Field (I'm a cubs fan so that was nice).
F'N Runners at Cubby Bear (Back L-R: Me, Maggie, Diane, Kelly, Becky..Front: Susan, Nicole)
Overall, I was very pleased with this race.  It was fun, well organized and the volunteers did an awesome job!  There were a few minor things that could have used changing...(hello 2 very tiny warming tents!), but the main parts of the race were covered!  I would definitely do this race again...although maybe a destination half in a warmer climate for January would be a better idea!  I'm also very pleased with my performance.  This was my first half under 50 degrees but I dressed appropriately and ran a smart race for me.  My next race is my "birthday race" which is the day before my birthday.  The race is February 10th in Channahon (Frosty 5-miler).  I'm just going to have fun at this one and celebrate my birthday!.  I've never done this one before but other friends have and they really liked it.

9:41, 9:37, 9:15, 9:18, 9:35, 9:20, 9:29,
9:24, 9:35, 9:25, 9:09, 9:26, 9:11

Splits are much more consistent that my last half and I'm very pleased with that.

(By the way, we got snow the day before the race, the most snow we have had in Chicago this year...about 1 inch.  And it's all gone now with temps today at upper 40's and tomorrow near 60!  The warmth is short lived though and it will be back to about 15 by Thursday.  I'm just amazed at the lack of snow we have had this year so far.  I'm afraid of what snow February might bring though!)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Happy Hump Day!

I just wanted to post briefly instead of not posting at all.  I haven't been motivated to blog because I don't feel like I have a whole lot to say regarding running right now.  If this was a personal life blog, I'd have tons to say...but it's not. 

My running has been going well.  Um...Yup, that's all.  Actually I have been running hills more often and I think I'm getting better at them.  Last Saturday I did 9.35 miles on hills with some of my Yankee Runners and a few F'N Runners joined us as well.  This was the same hilly area (Palos Park) that I trained for my spring marathon last year.  My friend Shelby was only going to do 6, so I looped back with her and a few others (including Jill and Melanie) and then headed back out with Jill and Melanie to finish up the 9 miles they wanted to do.

Melanie, Jill, me after our 9 mile hilly run.
I didn't run all week because it's been about 0 degrees (give or take) and I just felt running in those temps just wasn't really necessary.  I usually don't wimp out on the cold but I decided to do a few other things. 

Since I got that new gym membership, I decided to try a spin class the other day.  I've taken a couple spin classes in the past and what I have come to find out with that or any other classes, it's all in the personality of the instructor.  This instructor was somewhat boring BUT...I really felt like I got a good workout so I might go back anyway.  It was tough and I was all sweaty when I finished and my legs were burning!

I did finally run this morning.  What?  Are you confused?  Yes, I said this morning.  If you know me, you know I run in the evenings after work (with the exception of Saturday) because I hate getting up early.  I've run in the morning before work in the past and I feel like it's a struggle and that I'm half asleep while running!  But since I have "very important plans" after work, I decided to give it a try.  It was about 12 degrees (which was about 14 degrees warmer than the morning before).  I dressed appropriately (shocker!) and headed out.  I just wanted to do 30 minutes, whatever mileage that came out to be.  It didn't feel too bad temp-wise in the beginning.  And even though it wasn't completely light out yet, it wasn't as dark as the evenings when I run.  It seems more peaceful and I actually kind of enjoyed it!  However, by the 3rd mile, I felt as though it got a little bit colder and windy.  I was trying to keep an nice easy pace (maybe around 9:30 or whatever my body felt was easy) since I have the F^3 half marathon this weekend.  I'm guessing the cold had something to do with my pace.  I started easy and just got faster (without being aware of it).  My splits were 9:33, 9:19, 9:11 for the 3 miles (8:52 for the last 0.22 since I did 3.22 miles in the 30 minutes).  So much for easy pace.

The next big thing for me is the half marathon this weekend.  It's going to be a high of about 24 degrees so a little colder at race time.  I've never run a half marathon is temps less than about 50 degrees!  Luckily, I've run long runs and short runs in cold temperatures so I should be able to adjust.  I'm not really running for time.  My goal for this race is to try to start conservative and finish strong.  I have a big problem pacing myself at longer runs and generally start out way too fast! 

What time of day do you run and why?  If you are a evening runner, have you tried running in the morning before work and what are your thoughts on it?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Goals, Speed Work and Marathons

Sorry, I've been MIA lately.  I've been super busy at work.  Also, sorry for the upcoming, slightly boring, picture less post...I know you are just DYING to read it now!

Goals - I've been doing well with some of my 2013 goals so far.  I've been keeping up with my 30 minutes (minimum) of daily activity each day.  I've also been getting in my water (most days).  I'd like to up my water intake even a little more but as long as I'm getting the 8 glasses that I set my goal as, I'm happy with it.  I have been doing the bare minimum of strength training and really need to work on this.  I have been keeping up with my speed work and my hills, although I may be skipping my speed work day this week. I didn't have it in me yesterday and I can't see it fitting in anywhere else this week. 

Speed work - this seems to be getting easier for me.  I'm not one that really "likes" to run fast.  It's difficult for me to push myself past my comfort zone.  I used to feel like my lungs were going to explode!  It really doesn't feel that way anymore!  I tried a tempo run last Thursday (this was only my second attempt at a tempo run) and it went very well.  I had been talking to Kelly about tempo runs (and speed work in general).  It's nice to talk to someone about it that has more knowledge about it than I do (since I'm a speed work newbie).  I did a short tempo run because I was nervous about doing more miles since it was only my second attempt.  I decided to do 1 mile warm up, 2 miles at tempo, and 1 mile cool down.  The tempo miles I wanted to be between 8:45-8:55.  It turned out that my middle 2 miles were 8:45, 8:46.  I even had to slow down that first tempo mile because I was running too fast.  And I felt pretty good for about 1.5 miles before I started struggling the last 0.5 miles.  I think I can up my tempo miles to 3 miles next time!

Marathons - It's no secret that I was skipping a spring marathon this year to try to work on a few things (speed and weight).  It's also no secret that my plan is to do 2 fall marathons this year.  My reasoning for that is because I won't have to go through 2 separate trainings.  I can use the first one as a training run for the second one (which I'm planning on doing a month later).  It's actually been really difficult to fall into the spring marathon fever which is going around!  But I'm really enjoying not training for one.  I'm still getting in my runs and doing some long runs but I know I won't have to do 16 miles or more any time soon and I really like that.

With all of that said...I signed up for my first fall marathon.  I think it's kind of funny because one of the reasons I wasn't going to do Chicago this year (besides the price increase) was that I didn't want to sign up for a fall marathon in February!  I wanted to wait until later in the year and see how I was doing.  Of course, with all the marathon talk already, I signed up for the Fox Valley Marathon in St. Charles on September 22, 2013.  I knew people did the full last year (as well as the 20 miler) and I hear it's a really nice marathon.  I also know a few people doing it this year.  Also, my cousin lives about 15-20 minutes away so I can spend the night there (since St. Charles is about 1 hr 15 mins from my house).  My only trouble is that I hope it's not going to be too hot!  It's hard to tell with Chicago weather!  I'm still undecided as to my second fall marathon...but I'm leaning towards Columbus or Grand Rapids...more so on Columbus because my brother lives there so it will be free room and board.  That is all subject to change though.

I can't believe I signed up for a fall marathon already.

Lastly...  my parent's signed me up for a gym.  Actually, I belong to Charter Fitness.  For 16 years prior, I belonged to Bally's but when I was marathon training (and I wasn't happy with Bally's), I cancelled my membership.  About 6 months later, LA Fitness bought out Bally's.  My parent's belonged to Bally's as well as was able to change over their membership for their really great rate that they had with Bally's.  I was pretty mad that I had just cancelled my membership, because I would have loved to go to LA Fitness.  After my marathon training was over, I signed up for Charter Fitness because it was cheap and close to home.  They are a basic gym with no pool and only one location has any classes.  For several months now, I have been thinking of switching from Charter to LA Fitness because I love to swim laps and want to train for the triathlon.  My parents, as an early birthday present, signed me up for a year membership with LA Fitness!  I'm so excited!  My mom also worked her magic and got me the rate they currently pay.  I can't wait to go back and incorporate swimming into my cross-training for running.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Long Runs

I hope everyone had a nice weekend!  I sure did but it wasn't very productive.  However, it seems I have finally come down with a bit of a cold (like everyone else on the planet).  It's minor and I hope it stays that way, just a sore throat, slight cough and runny nose.  I have been around sick family, friends and coworkers (without knowing they are sick). My coworker gave me some Vitamin C mix stuff last week and I've started taking my vitamin C pills but probably a bit too late.  Oh well.

On Friday I had decided to run long on Saturday alone.  I have problems running long distances (over 6 miles) by myself.  I get lazy, or tired, or can't think about anything else but how many miles I have to run still.  I'm sure this affects my performance somewhat during races (half marathon distance or longer) because I find it hard to push myself if I'm running alone.  So I figure the first step is to try to run long more often alone.  Plus I could sleep in on Saturday and not have to meet my run groups at 7 am (not necessary all the time during these winter months!).

While I was thinking on Friday about my long run on Saturday, I had originally thought of doing a progressive run.  Sometimes doing something with each mile keeps my mind busy on that particular mile instead of how much I still have left to go.  However, I didn't get home until extremely late on Friday night (I think I said Friday night..."This is the advantage of not training for a marathon like I did last Spring, I can stay up later.").  It was really hard to push myself out of the door on Saturday around 10:00 a.m.  That is why I love meeting my run group early on a Saturday, it's so much easier to get yourself out the door!  I had also decided before I left that morning that I really wasn't into checking my pace and thinking about my time the entire run.  I was a little tired since I got home late (and hadn't been sleeping well for about a week anyway) and thought maybe I could just try to enjoy the run.  "Be one with nature."

I had seen Maggie use the "running blind" method before by hooking her garmin to her shoe so she wasn't tempted to look at it.  I decided to try this...
Excuse the cat hair on my pants...I just noticed that.
I ran the 9+ mile loop near my house which is mostly flat but with a few inclines.  About a half mile in, I realized I forgot my water in the car.  I was debating on going back for it but that would tack on an extra mile to my run that I really didn't want to do.  I decided to skip it (bad idea) and just keep going.  I survived without the water but I did want to ask every person I saw from mile 5 on if I could have some of theirs.  I didn't but I thought about it.  I would give water to a runner if they asked me.  Would you?

I don't know what it is about long runs alone.  My mind doesn't cooperate.  I wanted to stop at mile 2 and be done.  MILE 2!  All I could think about was having over 7 miles left to go (not that 7 miles is THAT long but still...).  I did sneak a peek at my garmin a few times but more so for miles than to see my pace.  Not much else to say about this run.  I managed to get through it.  It was definitely a rough run but those happen sometimes.

We still had no snow in Chicago Saturday.  I say "had" because it snowed some wet snow later that evening which made things incredibly icy for my run the next morning.  I took that run to the grassy area on the side just so I wouldn't slip and hurt myself.

I snapped a few photos during my Saturday run.

At the beginning of the show the lack of snow in Chicago

I love this part of this loop.  I'm a sucker for water.
I'm ok with there being no snow in Chicago.  It's heartbreaking for the kids though.  They are begging for snow!  I don't have kids so it's not bothering me too much.  There were a few really large flakes that fell the other day which were beautiful but that didn't stick.  Can we escape this winter season in Chicago without having a large snowfall?  Do you think it's possible?  I never remember being into January without having very much measurable snow.  And later this week, the temps will be getting into the 40's (and possibly a 50??).

How do you feel about long runs?  Do you run them alone?  With a group?  Are they peaceful for you?  How do you get through them without counting every mile and every step you take?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Happy New Year - 2013 Goals

I meant to post on New Years Eve but things got away from me!  I wasn't near a computer yesterday so here I'm am today!

I hope you all had a nice New Years Eve/Day!  I ended up going to my friend Becky's house for a few hours and then a friend's house of the guy I've been seeing most recently.  All in all, it was a low key night but fun.

On my last post regarding some Christmas gifts, I got a few questions so I thought I would quickly take a few photos on a couple of my favorite run gifts that I got.  The first is Knuckle Lights.

I first found out about Knuckle Lights last year.  I half heartedly asked for them last Christmas and for my birthday since I was training for the Illinois Marathon in the Spring and was going to be doing a lot of running in the dark.  I pretty much just used my phone light though and never got the lights.  This year I really wanted them though and told my mom that either she could get them for me as a Christmas gift or I was going to buy them for myself.  She needed some gift ideas and ordered them for me.  I only used them once since I got them but really liked them.  They are a little strange to get used to and I kept blinding myself by looking directly at them when I turned them on (don't do that).

They feel comfortable to hold, they have a conveniently placed button on the top to switch them on and off, and they are really bright and illuminate a really large area ahead of you.  The down sides from what I can tell right now are that they are battery operated and I can see that I might go to turn them on one day and they won't be working and also that they have multiple switch features so I go to shut them off and I have to click 2 or 3 times (which I keep forgetting about and then look at the light and blind myself).  These are easily fixed problems as I might just keep an extra set of batteries in the car and I should be able to get used to the switch features.

One of the other gifts I got from my parents, I wasn't expecting.  It was the Moji 360 Massager.

I first used the smaller hand held one last May the day before my friend Susan's first marathon.  She had one and I tried it and LOVED it!  The balls roll all directions and it felt great (and hurt like hell) on my calf muscle and my shoulder blade.  You can use this product on just about every body part.  I instantly wanted one but they are so expensive.  When I originally asked for this, I asked for it for my birthday, which is in February, and I just asked for the small handheld one.  Right before Christmas, I started having hip pain (when I took a week off of running) and wished I asked for it for Christmas because I thought it would be useful!  So I was extremely surprised when I actually got it for Christmas (and the bigger one at that)!  I'm testing it out on my IT band/hip area above.  I think my hip pain was more from my tight IT band anyway, and this product really has seemed to help (along with some stretching).  Have you seen this product before or do you have one? 
I also got a pair of purple running socks and purple running shorts (from my Aunt and my Goddaughter).  Purple is my favorite color so I will be excited to try these out.

I've seen my other run friends and bloggers list their goals for 2013.  I feel like a slacker.  I can't seem to really wrap my head around any goals. The only things I have right now are the following:

2013 Goals

1. Run a fall marathon and reach my finish time goal of 4:30 (I'm at 4:44:54 right now).

2. Run a half marathon and reach my finish time goal of under 2 hours. (Yikes!!)

3. Do 30 minutes of some form of activity EVERY DAY.  Now this can include walking and it also can include breaking it up throughout the day.  The only thing it does not include is walking from the train to work (since that's just part of my day anyway).  It will include walking from home to the train since I tend to get lazy and drive a lot.

4. Drink a minimum of 8 glasses of water a day.  I was doing relatively well lately at water but sometimes only got a required 6 glasses a day.  The past weekend I was really bad though and have been dehydrated.  Need to get into this water thing.

5. Do at least 1 strength training routine every week.  I have already been making this a priority and have been doing well the last few months with at least getting one in every week.  I'd like to get more but 1 a week is better than none.

6. Complete one sprint triathlon.  I had signed up for one last year but dislocated my shoulder 3 weeks before and therefore dropped out.

7. Lose 20 lbs.  This is actually my number 1 goal!  I'm not sure if 20 lbs is a realistic goal but I'm going to try.  I originally lost 90 lbs but put back on 20-30.  I've lost a few so right now I want to get back down 20 pounds to start.  I want to get back to looking like this...
This photo was right around 20 lbs ago.  Hello sexy lady!  :)

I know I felt better, looked better and until recently, ran better.  I'm actually getting back to running better and I know losing the extra weight will really help me.  Plus I'll be able to fit back into those clothes and my size 8 jeans I bought back then!  I can't lose weight while training for full marathons and that was one reason why I opted to NOT do a spring marathon.

8.  Be more confident in myself.  This is not running related although confidence in yourself does also play a factor in obtaining race goals.  I've noticed that even though I've really gotten a lot better with confidence in my 30's, I still have a tenancy to revert back to some old habits. I'm dating this guy and I find myself apologizing for "being difficult" or telling him jokingly "you are going to regret asking me out!"  I say I'm sorry a hundred times for really nothing at all.  I make things 10 times more difficult then they need to be.  He gives me no reason at all to doubt anything he says to me or does.  I've tried to just relax and realize that it's not an attractive quality at all to be apologizing for nothing all the time or putting myself down.  I actually believe the things he tells me so really I shouldn't be blaming myself for anything or putting myself down.  I'm not sure why I've always had trouble with this.  At first, I wanted to list all the things I consider "negative qualities" in myself so he has the opportunity to get out now!  lol.  I decided not to do that although a few of these have already come up...and he seems to have no issues with what I consider my flaws.

I guess I had more goals in mind then I thought.  That is why I love this blog.  Would I have sat down to write these goals if not for my blog?  Probably not!  I also reserve the right to update this list when necessary! 

I'm feeling pretty good about 2013 in lots of ways and really excited to improve my running in general.  I'm still doing speed work and hills and so far, it seems to be going well.

I wish everyone a very happy new year and I hope you all achieve the goals you set out to accomplish.