Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Humidity, Bugs and the Final ORC Summer Series 5k

Tonight was the final 5k in the Ocean Running Club's Summer Series. I felt far less grouchy about it than I had last week, mostly because my legs were feeling pretty strong after Sunday's run and three solid days of yoga. When this morning dawned grey and rainy, I took that as a good sign that maybe the weather would be cool enough for the race. Unfortunately, the only thing the rain brought with it was heavy humidity, so much so that it felt more like you were wearing a wet blanket than standing outside. And with the humidity came the tiny bugs that are common here at the beach. I figured that at least the threat of bugs biting me would motivate me to run faster!

As race time drew near, it started to pour outside. I had high hopes that it would keep up, so that the rain would keep me cool. But it eventually stopped, leaving us with a pocket of humidity and bugs right in time for the race. Good times.

But I was ready. The kids headed out for their one-mile run, and the first runners back were hitting 6-minute miles - pretty impressive! Then, the race-walkers headed out. There were only four of them this week, and I managed to pass two of them during my run, so I thought that was a vast improvement. Finally, it was race time. We lined up, slowpokes in the back as usual, and a woman standing next to me asked if everyone racing was a serious runner. I told her that a lot of them were, but that she wouldn't see any real competition from me. She had just come to the park for her regular run and heard about the race, so she signed up. I thought we'd pace each other throughout the run, but she was much faster than me from the get-go!

The race finally started and we headed out. I kept a slow-ish pace to start with, not wanting to push myself too hard and burn out from the humidity too early. After the first mile, I was at 10:07, five seconds faster than last week's first mile. I knew I'd have to push myself the rest of the way if I wanted to finish faster than last week's time. I dug deep for the second mile, rounded the water stop and hit the second mile marker at 20:34, MUCH faster than last week's time of 21:14. I knew if I kept it up, I would be on pace to beat last week's time at least, if not my first 5k. So despite feeling the effects of the humidity, I continued to push myself through the third mile. I alternately felt nauseous and lightheaded, but figured as long as I didn't pass out, I was in good shape!

Coming into the last tenth of the mile, I kept the finish in sight and it looked like it was just moving further and further away. But finally, I was there! Finishing at 32:03, a full minute ahead of last week's time, also a full 44 seconds ahead of my first 5k! Still a minute more than my PR, but someday, I'll be faster!

Afterwards, I was soaked with sweat, so bugs were sticking to my legs and the rain was picking up again. It didn't look like too many people were sticking around for the limited pasta, so instead, I headed out to Sonic for the first time, to celebrate with a strawberry limeade, which tasted remarkably like key lime pie in a cup - delicious! And now it's back to more week-day runs, starting with Friday!

**Update: Official results from last week put me at 101, with an official final time of 33:04.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Run, Lindsay, Run and Good Causes

Though I have been remiss in blogging lately, I actually haven't been remiss in running...well, mostly. But since I'm working on dedicating any time away from the office to becoming a professional beach bum, I haven't been as vigilant about keeping up on blogging about my athletic pursuits.

Last Sunday, I was too unmotivated to run, so I made the decision to delay it until Monday. Although the weather was beautiful this weekend, there have been a couple of odd humid days (which you know I love), so on Monday, I decided to follow some of Cool Running's advice for beating the heat and planned to break up a thirty minute run into three ten-minute runs. I'd had a nagging pain in my right knee for a couple of days, so I'd also picked up a knee brace to run with. My first ten-minute run went pretty well. It was definitely hot, but I made it just over a mile in the ten minutes, so I felt pretty good. My knee was sore afterwards, but I pushed on for the second ten-minute run around lunchtime, slowing my pace to account for the increase in temperature and running in the direct sun. After that, I was really feeling some soreness in my knee, so I decided to nix the third run for the day.

The following day was week three (week two for me) of the Ocean Running Club's Summer Series 5k. The weather was beautiful, but despite this, I had little to no interest in driving thirty minutes north to run 3.1 miles. My leg hurt and I was in a bad mood, and I just felt like sitting on the couch and watching tv. But of course, Coach J got wind of my malaise and threated to come down here to kick my butt, so off I went. I tried to psych myself up for it, first watching the kids one-miler (which, by the way, is not billed as a kids race on their website. And I think that's why there was one adult running in it. He came in slower than my one-mile time would have been, so I felt pretty good about that). The first five kids to finish were all girls, which meant a lot of cheering from the crowd. But as I looked around, I realized that again, most of the group was serious runners. I had high hopes for myself in my age group, since when I registered I was only the second one on the list, but I was still feeling my amateur status. We finally lined up after the 5k racewalkers had taken off - and let me tell you, they may look funny, but they are FAST - and again, they told those of us who "weren't competitive" to head to the back. I like starting in the back anyway, because I'd rather pass people than be passed. But it's a little disconcerting to run with the group that has strollers and dogs with them, and they're keeping pace. Also, when you only pass one racewalker the whole time. That's just sad.

Anyway, the race got underway, and I pushed it. I knew what my time had been the week before, and I wanted to improve on that. After all, my first two 5k's were much faster than last week's, though I am trying to take into account the fact that they were both in early May, when it was cool and overcast, versus high 70's/low 80's in the middle of July. The first mile was tough again, but knowing the course helped a little. I tried to start out slower than I had last week, and managed to get to the first mile at about 10:12. I knew I'd really slowed down after that in week 1, so I tried to keep my pace, and came in to mile 2 at 21:14. Not fast, but better than the previous week. At this point, I felt like I was running through a rain forest. Even though it was less humid and cooler than the previous week, it still felt tropical for a run to me. I kept telling myself that the end of the trees and the finish was just around the corner, and finally it was. Despite being one of the last few to come in (still no idea of overall placement, because they don't post full results), I managed to come in at 33:03 and 101st overall. Unfortunately for me, two other girls had signed up in my age group and both had come in much faster than me, so I was fourth out of four. I have a long way to go if I ever want to be fast.

Afterwards, I was dripping with sweat and hurting. My knee pain had morphed into knee pain, plus some sharp and dull calf pain, so I was super excited to drive thirty minutes using that leg. But I knew a lovely ice pack and some ice cream awaited me at home, so that was good motivation. I was glad that I'd be taking a couple of days off, and figured rest, Aleve, ice, and sports cream would make the difference. Unfortunately, though my knee seemed to loosen up, my calf seemed to get worse every day. By Friday, I had a dull ache constantly, with sharper pain whenever I was walking, especially on stairs. Very strange. I decided to nix Friday's run in exchange for more rest, but yesterday, I knew I needed to get another run in before Tuesday's final ORC Summer Series 5k if for no other reason than to be able to tell myself mentally that I could do it. I thought stretching would be in order, and I've been trying to motivate myself to return to yoga, so I did thirty minutes of yoga last night, took some Aleve, put on some sports cream and headed to bed.

When I got up this morning, my calf was worse than yesterday. I still knew giving a run a shot would be the only way to know if this was a sidelining injury or something I could work through. I wanted to do a 35-minute run, and although I normally like to hit a certain distance with that, I decided that the more important thing was just running. My leg actually felt worse when I put on my sneakers, which I thought didn't bode well, but I headed out anyway and started running.

Strangely enough, though both my knees hurt (which they always have), as soon as I started running, I couldn't feel the calf pain anymore. There was one point in the run where that whole section of my leg went numb, but otherwise, it didn't really hurt. Because of my love of sleep, I was running later in the morning than you really should in the summer (though I wasn't the only one out there), so it was pretty hot. But I trudged along, doing my best and not running much slower than my normal pace (which, let's be honest, is pretty darn slow already). I turned around at 17 minutes, and around 20 needed a walking break. Cool Running's website says walking breaks can be important for new runners, and I still consider myself a fairly new runner, having been at this for only 5 months. After three minutes of walking, I picked up the pace again, and took another two-minute walking break with five minutes to go. I finished the last three minutes pretty strongly, and was surprised at how good my calf felt. Even stranger, it's been fine the whole rest of the day. I can feel a twinge of residual pain now and then, but it seems that the run actually helped! I also followed it up with another round of yoga, and plan to do some more tonight, so we'll see how it holds up over the next couple of days and during the last 5k. And although I think it's been good for me to do something structured like the ORC Summer Series, I'll be glad to get back to more of my preferred MWF routine the following week so I can sleep in without guilt on the weekends!

In other running news, I'd like to direct everyone to a blog from another Hamilton graduate - Tim Marman's sister is running in the NYC half-marathon to raise money for the American Cancer Society. Tim was diagnosed with cancer just before Christmas of 2008, and has been chronicling his battle on his blog, Beat My Cancer. He was recently able to announce that he's currently cancer free, which is awesome, but since there are so many people still battling this terrible disease every day, I think it's important to continue to support the cause. So check out Ally's page here, and please donate. I know it's tough in this economy, but even $5 can help. She's about $500 shy of her goal, and I think it would be awesome for her to blow by that!

Also, another Hamilton graduate, Carlin Mallman, will be running in the Chicago marathon this year to raise money for Team McGraw, on behalf of her mom, who's been battling a brain tumor. She kicked butt in her fundraising and I know training for a marathon is TOUGH, so if you wanted to donate to her cause, I encourage that as well! I think it's pretty awesome when running and good causes come together!

This week, I've got the ORC 5k on tap for Tuesday, and then I'll do a Friday run again. But right now, I have to nurse today's sunburn and do some yoga!

** As an addendum, I just noticed that ORC DOES in fact post the full race results. For my first 5k, I finished in 33:22. Last week's results are yet to be posted.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Run for the Fallen

Despite the best intentions, I gave myself two days off after running on Tuesday. Even with that break though, today's run was still tough for some reason. I think I'm still getting back into the swing of things and have to give myself a break. I figured I'd run 30 minutes today - an easy run, and shorter than the 34 minutes I ran on Tuesday, without being too light. I have to keep in mind that I'm running 5k's for the next two Tuesday's after all!

Ah, but my best laid plans...

I started out feeling pretty good. Even though it's the middle of the day (I should have run first thing this morning, but I just like sleep too darn much!), it's still beautiful out. Low seventies, cool breeze, no humidity - PERFECT weather. At this point, I know you're asking why I'm sitting at the computer writing this blog instead of enjoying the weather outside, and that's an excellent question. But I digress. Once the first couple of minutes went by, I felt the fatigue set in, and the weird ache I've been getting in and around my right knee since yesterday started up. I reminded myself how much I hate the first mile, and thought about how good the second mile had felt on Tuesday. So I hung in there. Unfortunately, the second mile was just as tough as the first, so after twenty minutes, I gave myself permission to walk. Because I'm not training for anything really hard or long, I feel like I can mentally give myself a break sometimes because the point here is to really love running, not to make myself do it until I can't stand it anymore. So I gave myself five minutes to walk, and then ran the last five minutes, pushing myself to go a bit faster. Although I didn't run for 30-minutes, I still got a 25 minute run in there, and my muscles are definitely feeling the burn. And hey, the important thing is that I got three decent runs in this week, and it's been a WHILE since I could say that!

As I mentioned, I'm not training for any big races, but yesterday, I got some news that will motivate my running for the next month. Run for the Fallen was started in 2008 by 1st Lt. Michael J. Cleary's best friends and classmates from Hamilton College (my alma mater). Michael was killed in Iraq on December 19, 2005, only a few shorts weeks before he was to return home and marry his high school sweetheart. Although I didn't know Michael (he was a year behind me), I certainly saw him around campus - Hamilton is a small school where everyone knows everyone, and everyone's business. The team that created Run for the Fallen wanted to honor Michael and the other military men and women who have lost their lives fighting in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. Beginning Flag Day, June 14, 2008, a dedicated team of runners ran across America from Fort Irwin, CA to Arlington National Cemetery, one mile for every Soldier, Sailor, Airmen, and Marine killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom. For ten weeks, team members marked each mile with an American flag and signcard in an apolitical reflection of remembrance of each service member.On August 24, 2008 runners from around the world joined Run for the Fallen in remembering our fallen. Over 9,000 participants ran over 35,000 miles in remembrance of those fallen in OIF and OEF. Just incredible.

I remember learning about Run for the Fallen last year, and I really wanted to do it. But I wasn't a runner, and I thought my inability to run even a mile wouldn't do justice to the sacrifice that these men and women, and their families, have made. But this year, I am a runner! I thought about Run for the Fallen yesterday, and googled it to see if they were doing it again this year. It turns out that a team of 24 dedicated runners will run from Cape May, NJ, to Holmdel, NJ, and they will be running right up Route 9 through Barnegat, a five minute walk from my house. They didn't say anything about signing up other runners, but I thought maybe they'd let me run some of it with them. So I emailed the guy in charge, who said they'd love to have me and now I'm just waiting to hear back about when they think they'll be hitting Barnegat - it's a two-day run. I'm so very honored to be able to remember our fallen heroes this way. I don't think the miles I run will ever be more meaningful than the ones I'll run to remember those we've lost. In particular, I'll be running for my cousin's West Point classmates and friends, Lt. Todd Bryant and Cpt. Tim Moshier, as well as Michael Cleary.

Although no contribution is required to run and remember the fallen, I'd like to raise as much money as I can for this important cause. Run for the Fallen NJ is to raise awareness for the fallen soldiers of New Jersey and their families. All proceeds above the event expenses will be donated to the Gold Star Mothers' Monument being built in Washington DC. A Gold Star Mother is a mom that has lost a son or daughter while in defense of our country. If you'd like to make a donation, I've set up a page to do that. As you may know, our military means a lot to me, since I've had a number of friends and family serve, so any donation you make really means so much to me personally.

So now my running takes on some new meaning - nothing spurs you on to push a little harder than thinking of the soldier or the marine who faces danger every day, just so I can run down the street freely.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Ocean Running Club's Summer Series

So tonight was the big test for my running comeback - the Ocean Running Club's Summer Series. The series started last Tuesday, but I had a migraine and there were thunderstorms, so I nixed the first week (although that means I'm not eligible for a tee shirt - darn!). But today, I was determined to get there. I knew thunderstorms were again on the agenda for today, so I figured I'd play it by ear and make a game-time decision about whether I'd run the one-mile or the 5k based on how humid it was. I knew the one-mile would be a piece of cake (-ish anyway) and that the 5k would be the real test of how much my running has suffered lately.

When I got there, it was decently humid, but pretty nice with a good breeze, so I decided to run the 5k. It turned out to be a good thing that I skipped the one-mile race anyway, since that seemed to attract more kids, and it would be tough on the ego to be beaten by the kiddos, even though I know they're much, much faster. The 5k attracts the more serious runners, which is always a bit disheartening to me, but I put my game face on and headed for the back of the pack. As one guy put it, "Rabbits in the front, turtles in the back."

The race started out pretty decently. We were running in a park in Toms River, NJ, and it was quite nice in there. The course was not as flat as promised - it was pretty flat, but when you train on a road with literally NO incline, you notice every tiny hill and bump. The first mile felt like it took forever, but I managed to make it in about 10:40 (though it turned out my stopwatch was off by a few seconds). I reminded myself that I usually struggle the first mile, and started to relax into the run a bit. I also tried to slow down a bit, because the humidity was starting to take a toll on me a little. The second mile was better, though a bit more up and down, and I got to the second mile marker at about 22:36. Then, it was time to nail the finish. I had been pacing myself behind these two women for most of the race, and managed to pass them right around the halfway point at the water stop. There was another girl, right around my age, still keeping pace with me, but I pushed myself a bit and managed to lose her behind me. I passed a couple of other people, but most of them had a reason to be slowing down - one guy had a baby carriage, and his baby was crying, so he'd picked him up and was walking, another guy had a dog who needed to stop for a minute...you get the picture. But hey, I didn't come in last!

I finished right under 34 minutes, which is 3 minutes slower than my fastest time, and about a minute 15 slower than my first 5k, but I'm pretty happy with it. Being my first 3 mile run in 2 1/2 weeks, I was expecting it to be a tough one, and the heat and humidity (although relatively mild), still played a factor. I was definitely dripping with sweat by the end! I came in 127th place and beat three other girls in my age group, so I'm happy with that. The series goes on for the next two Tuesdays, so I'll be curious to see how I can reduce my time (if I can) and how I feel at the end of it! They're having a pasta party afterwards, and judging by how hungry I am tonight, I'll be ready for it!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Back in the Saddle Again

Despite hosting a 4th of July party that lasted until 1am (ending with a viewing of Quantum of Solace - love that Daniel Craig!) and kept me up until 2:30 putting my house back in order, I was determined to get up and run this morning. If I was one of those people who could survive on five hours of sleep, I would have thrown on my shorts, tee shirt, and sneakers at 8am when the puppy got me up because it was GORGEOUS outside - cool, sunny, not humid and with a lovely breeze. But alas, I love sleep way too much and instead slept a bit longer before finally getting up and easing into the day. Which meant that I started my run just before noon, the hottest part of the day. Awesome.

Fortunately, it was still beautiful out, and though it was really warm, it wasn't that humid and the breeze was still nice. I could have easily put the run off in favor of heading right to the beach, but I'm determined to get back in the habit of running. I decided I'd run 20 minutes today, and I did stick to the plan. The distance felt manageable, but I was still tired at the end, which tells me that so much time off lately has definitely affected my endurance (no surprise there!). But again, the important thing today was that I got out there and ran. Also, my body felt pretty good, and I'm taking into account the weather for the next two months as a big factor in my running, so I think it was a successful run today.
Next run will be a 5k on Tuesday night, with the Ocean Running Club. I'm a bit apprehensive, both about the weather and my ability at this point to run a full 3.1 miles, but I'll give it my best shot! With that run on Tuesday, I'll do a Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday schedule this week and see how it goes!

Friday, July 3, 2009

A big decision to make...

Wow, it has been a WHILE since I wrote a running blog. And that's mostly because it's been a WHILE since I've gone running! I will say that after my 10k, I did do a 6 mile run the following Sunday, which just about did me in. I was so miserable and thirsty the whole run, and ended up walking about 8 minutes of a 70 minute run. Ugh.

When I got home from that run, I didn't feel very accomplished. When I first started running, and right up through my 5k's, whenever I ran, I would come home feeling like I'd really accomplished something. Even on days that I didn't really feel like running or when I had a tough run, I was always glad after I'd pushed myself to run. It was very...satisfying. But as you know, after my 5k's, I just couldn't seem to get back into the groove of running. I would take a few days off, more than 2 in a row sometimes, and each time I ran, it was a tough run. It didn't matter what the circumstances were, I struggled. And it was a much tougher battle with myself to get out to run in the first place, and to hit my goals each run. There were a couple of bright spots in there with good runs, but mostly, the longer distances I was running, the more miserable I was becoming.

Finally, the 10k was upon me, and you all know how that went. I realized last week that after my two 5k's, even though I was so tired and sore, I felt so invigorated and exicited. I felt like I'd really done something, accomplished something. But after my 10k, I was just glad to have it over. I'd wanted to skip out on doing it the whole four weeks leading up to it, but because I'd signed up already, I pushed myself to do it. And I didn't feel accomplished; I just felt relieved. And very, very tired.

Because I was so unhappy, I started to give my running some serious consideration over the last couple of weeks. I was on vacation, so I had a lot of time to really think about it. I talked to a few people, and I realized that I was really starting to hate running again. I dreaded pushing my mileage up instead of having that feeling of "cool, I can now run x miles." I even dreaded the "shorter" runs, which to me, still felt so long and exhausting. I started to think that I couldn't carve out that kind of time in my schedule or deal with the humidity, all just excuses to put off running. In short, I was done.

So I had to make a decision - continue to train for the LBI 18-mile race or content myself with being a 5k-ish runner? I knew that physically, I could probably get myself in shape to do 18 miles in October, but that mentally, it might destroy me to do it, and I'd probably never run again after that. But I also had the internal battle of having put the LBI race and running a marathon on my life goals list. Also, I had told a lot of people of my plan to run the 18 mile race - would I be letting them down? It finally came down to a question of what would make me happy. And the answer was to put off the LBI race for at least a year, and instead focus on really learning to love running and to make it a part of my life permanently.

Let me tell you, what a relief it was to come to that decision!

I talked to a few people and they all agreed with me, which made me feel a lot better. A friend reminded me that just because I won't be running the LBI race this year, doesn't mean I can't do it in the future. Even my coach said "Good for you." So that settled it, and now I'm starting to feel excited about getting back to running again. I've decided to go back to the three-day a week schedule (because 4 days was just too much to wrap my brain around), to run 2-4 miles at a time, and get myself to the Ocean Running Club's Summer Series - of which I missed week 1 last week thanks to a migraine.
So the next hurdle was actually starting to run again. I've been away from running for almost two weeks, and in between my 10k and the 6 mile Sunday run, I'd only run for about 10 minutes maybe. I've run about 14 miles in the last 3 weeks, most of that in two runs. I knew I just had to get out there once, see where my body was, and not beat myself up too much about what I've lost. After all, now that I'm not training for a long distance race (though I plan to keep up with 5k's), I don't have to panic if I'm not in top form!

With it being so humid lately, I figured I'd start out with an easy 1-mile run today, follow that up with 2 miles on Sunday, and then head to the ORC summer series 5k on Tuesday night. I really wanted to run about a mile and a half today, but it was pretty humid (since I didn't make myself get up early on my day off or anything!), so I didn't push myself too hard. The important thing was to get back out there. I ran about 0.9 miles in 10 minutes (about an 11:06 pace) and I think it's a good start. I think if I can get myself to keep a consistent schedule, even in these hot, humid summer months, my running will really start to blossom in the fall.
So I plan to be back to my regularly scheduled blogging, and I hope that the shorter runs will do their job of keeping me healthy and lowering my stress, as well as reminding me of how I fell in love with running a couple of months ago. Tomorrow, I'll be celebrating the Fourth of July with friends and family, and especially thinking about our troops, and the sacrifices they've made and are making to give us the freedom we celebrate tomorrow. Have a safe and happy Fourth of July, and if you see a service member, remember to thank them!