Saturday, March 31, 2012

The smart decision isn't always easy

The Birch Bay Road Race starts in less than 10 hours and I'm still trying to decide what my plan is for the morning. Not what am I going to wear or what type of fuel to pack? But I'm not sure whether to even run or not!

I'm having an issue with my left foot. I can't pinpoint exactly when it started, but the first moment of pain that I distinctly remember was Monday night when I put my workout shoes on to go the gym. There was a slight pain like something inside my shoe was pushing against a tender part of my foot. The pain went away when I took my shoes off for yoga class.

On Tuesday morning I put on my regular running shoes as a test and everything felt okay so I decided not to call my physical therapist. That was probably my first mistake. The second mistake was going out for a run that night and not calling it quits after my foot started hurting about a mile in. Instead I stuck it out through 2.4 miles in my Brooks Defyance than got a silly notion that maybe a different pair of shoes would help and went back out for another 2.4 miles in my Newtons. I actually ended up with a pretty decent average pace, but afterward it hurt just walking around the house.

On Wednesday I finally called the physical therapist's office but they didn't have any appointments this week, so I went to my primary care physician instead. X-rays showed that it wasn't a stress fracture. The doctor said it was probably an overuse injury and that I just needed to rest and heal. He said that if I felt better I could try to run but not to expect amazing results.

So I took the past few days off from working out and I've been icing my foot twice a day. Now I'm back to the point where I can walk normally again without any pain. I've even tried a short jog around the house with no problem. But I don't know what's going to happen when I put on my running shoes again. And that's what brings me to my dilemma.

I think the smartest decision would be to take more time off and not run tomorrow. I only have one month until the Expedition Everest Challenge and 12 weeks until the Rock 'n' Roll Seattle Marathon. Those are my key races that I need to focus on. The Birch Bay Road Race is nearby and I can always try again next year.

But then comes the question of should I still go in the morning to at least pick up my shirt that I've already paid $50 for? Which then got me thinking if I'm going to get up that early, maybe I should go ahead and start the race and then just drop out when my foot starts to hurt again. After all, as the saying goes... DLF>DNF>>DNS (Dead Last Finish > Did Not Finish > Did Not Start). I'm not sure that really applies in my case though since it's more about injury than motivation.

Or I could ask about switching from the 30k option to the 15k option. Maybe I could get through that at a run/walk without too much pain. But it's still probably not worth the possible injury and setback to my marathon training. What about walking the 15k?

There are so many possibilities and I can't decide what to do! Actually I think after typing all this out I know what I should do, but I can't get myself to commit to it as my final decision. I'm trying to tell myself that the registration fee is a sunk cost and to just forget about it, but it's so much easier said than done. I don't even know why I'm so stuck on this race. I guess I feel like by not making an attempt that somehow it's almost like failing. Maybe it's good for me to have the experience of a DNS now so I realize that ultimately missing a race isn't that big a deal. Especially when I have a valid reason and it's not like I didn't put in the training or I just didn't feel like getting up that morning.

Well, whether I run tomorrow or not, it's time for bed. I'll fill you in later on what happens.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Exploring the Lake Padden trails

For my long run last Saturday, my boyfriend and I went out to Lake Padden.

He's just starting to run/walk (yay!) so we couldn't run together, but the idea was that we might see each other a few times while running loops around the lake. I ended up wrecking the plan because I wandered up into the adjacent trails instead. I'm not much of a trail runner (yet?), but I was feeling adventurous that day. It was fun to do something different than my usual road running and I enjoyed the peacefulness of the trails and the interesting scenery like this moss-covered tree stump that caught my eye.

What I didn't like quite as much was the hills and the muddiness. Overall the hills weren't too bad, but I did have to hike up a few like this one.

There were also some super muddy patches where I had to slow down and gingerly make my way along the edge of the path. The variation in the terrain really showed in the randomness of my splits.

Mile 1 - 8:39
Mile 2 - 10:25
Mile 3 - 14:08
Mile 4 - 8:59
Mile 5 - 9:55
Mile 6 - 9:14
Mile 7 - 10:58
Mile 8 - 13:45
Mile 9 - 8:49
Mile 10 - 9:25
Last .4 miles - 9:01 pace

I finally caught up with my boyfriend about half a mile from the car so we walked it in together and I got him to take my photo.

It was a fun outing and I liked the change of scenery and the challenge of the trails. I'm hoping to try and work more trails into my weekend runs over the next several months.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Impressions of the Skechers GOrun

On Saturday I saw a review of the Skechers GOrun in the Runner's World spring shoe guide. Up until then I really hadn't paid much attention to the shoes. Skechers? Quality running shoes? Despite Meb's endorsement, those two concepts just didn't go together in my mind.

What caught my eye in the Runner's World review was that the GOrun shoes are designed to help with running form and it actually hurts when you heel strike. The idea of getting real time feedback from the shoes intrigued me. I was curious enough to stop by the mall to hunt down a pair to try on. After several tries, I finally found the Skechers GOrun at Finish Line and luckily they had one pair left in a size 6.

When I picked them up, I immediately noticed how light the shoes were... only 4.9 oz! Then I put them on and it felt like a perfect fit. I liked that there was plenty of room in the toebox but at the same time the rest of the shoe felt snug. Sometimes when I try on running shoes it feels like the heel is too loose, but that wasn't the case with the GOrun. Also, you know how sometimes when trying on a new style of shoe there'll be something about the construction that just rubs your foot the wrong way for whatever reason? There was none of that for me with the GOrun. For being a minimal shoe, I also liked that there seemed to be a decent amount of cushioning.

What makes the GOrun unique is that there's a "bump" under the midfoot area of the shoe, and then it has a lower heel drop (4mm) than traditional running shoes. These features are designed to encourage forefoot running. It did feel a little strange when I was just standing or walking in the shoes. It was almost like I'd have to lean back in order to distribute any weight onto my heels. But the bump wasn't really noticeable at all when I tried jogging around the store. The shoes seemed to fulfill the purpose of pushing me toward a forefoot landing. As for the Runner's World claim that it hurts to heel strike, I didn't experience any pain during my short test. The shoe design does make it harder to heel strike in general so maybe my form wasn't bad enough to the point of causing pain.

I almost always run with custom insoles, but the GOrun shoes don't have a removable liner. The shoes felt so comfortable that I didn't miss my custom insoles at all. Skechers claims that the shoes can be worn sockless. I did try the shoes without socks and while it felt okay, I'd still be worried about potential rubbing or chafing while running. But it could be just me being overly cautious because I had a bad experience going sockless in regular running shoes.

Overall I was quite surprised by how much I liked the Skechers GOrun. I was very tempted to buy them, especially since they were on sale for $70. (Regular price is $80.) What held me back was:

  • I don't particularly like any of the colors that the GOrun comes in.
  • I'm interested in the Brooks PureFlow but haven't been able to try them in my size yet. I want to see how they compare to the Skechers GoRun first before buying something new.
  • I already have a pair of Newtons that still have plenty of miles left in them. They were free, so it's not like I spent $175 on shoes that I barely wear, but I don't really need another pair of minimalist shoes.
For now I'm willing to admit that Skechers was indeed able to create a quality running shoe with the GoRun, and they'll be under consideration next time I do decide to buy new shoes.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Runnin' O' the Green race report

Last Saturday I ran the Runnin' O' the Green 5 mile race in Bellingham. For once I had a plan going into the race, which was to run an 8 minute pace and finish under 40 minutes. I ended up finishing in 40:31 which is an 8:06 pace. I know it's a good time, especially since I'd been sick and hadn't worked out for a week, but I'm still a little disappointed because I can do better. Unfortunately my legs just weren't feeling like they were ready to race that day.

The course wasn't flat, but I wouldn't call it hilly either. There were some small inclines, similar to what I run occasionally during training. They shouldn't have been a problem, but I really struggled with them during the race. In my mind, I felt like we were running uphill for 75% of the course, even though there's no way that could be true since we started and ended on the same street.

It was cold and rainy on Saturday morning... 36 degrees when I arrived about an hour before the race. It even hailed for several minutes during the race. I wore compression sleeves under my pants for an extra layer of warmth. I love wearing them around the house as a recovery aid, but I'm starting to wonder if maybe I shouldn't race in compression sleeves. It could be just a coincidence, but both races that I've worn them in, my legs have bothered me. I think the compression sleeves might be too constrictive. Instead of improving performance, the compression sleeves seem to be causing greater fatigue in my legs. I'm going to have to try wearing the compression sleeves during training and see how it feels.

Here are a couple photos from somewhere during the last mile of the race.

I was smiling for the camera so I look happier than I felt. In my mind I was thinking "can I stop running yet?"

And I know shame on me for not wearing something green to a St. Patrick's Day race, but I only have one piece of green tech clothing and it didn't work with my Coconut Kenny's jersey.

Afterwards my initial feeling was that the Runnin' O' the Green wasn't a race that I'd want to do again, mainly because of the poor organization. It seemed like they weren't prepared to handle such a large crowd. There were long lines before the race to check in, and long lines after the race to get food and water. The start of the race was delayed by over 20 minutes. And at the finish line the clock was off by a couple minutes. I sprinted into the finish thinking I had made my goal, and then had to face reality when my Garmin told me otherwise.

However, there were positive aspects to the race too. The early registration fee was only $15 and included chip timing and a shirt. I liked the fun touch of having green D tags for the occasion. I've only seen them in orange before this.

I had forgotten that a shirt was included so that was a nice surprise. It was an even better surprise to find that it actually fits!

Although I had some difficulties with the course that day, it really isn't a bad course. No super steep hills but enough variation to be interesting, both in elevation and running surfaces. The second half of the course is pretty scenic too.

Now I'm thinking that if it fits into my schedule I might have to go back next year for redemption. We'll see, I have plenty of time to decide.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

A treadmill PR

The forecast for today included a slight chance of rain. Even though the skies looked as though it would be a clear day, I still decided to head to the gym for my long run. I didn't want to risk being stuck five miles from home if the weather turned.

I have to admit that I was actually looking forward to a long treadmill run. I've started to get more comfortable with the treadmill over the last couple months so I was kind of eager to test my endurance and see how I'd hold up for two plus hours. Before today, I think the longest I've spent on the treadmill is 90 or 100 minutes.

Initially I had been thinking about doing 16 miles today, but I dawdled a bit and ended up leaving home too late. With the gym closing at six, I only had enough time for a 140 minute run. I picked a treadmill and set myself up with a water bottle, fuel, and my trusty post-it note to block the time display.

Sometimes I run looking at the mileage, but today I changed that display to show pace and instead ran based on the little blinky light that marks off each segment of the workout. I broke the run into 20 minute chunks, then within each chunk I focused on getting through the segment which lasted about 2:50. All of this definitely helped because I never once had a thought along the lines of "ugh, still 80 minutes left".

After each segment I'd typically change either the pace or the incline to add some variety to the run. Then every 20 minutes I'd drink some water and take a short walk break. I had a little bit of a Clif bar after the first hour and two GU chomps after the second hour. I meant to put some Nuun in my water bottle, but forgot.

It turns out spending that much time on the treadmill wasn't really that bad, especially when broken up into smaller bits. The first hour passed quickly and I got in 6.4 miles. The second hour I started to lose a little steam but I knew all I had to do was make it through the next 20 minutes and then I'd get a break. I did 6.1 miles the second hour. The last twenty minutes were the worst because my legs were getting stiff and didn't want to cooperate with me anymore. I really had to push myself mentally to finish off the last 2 miles.

So overall that's 14.5 miles at a 9:39 pace.

I'm kind of glad that I didn't have enough time to do 16 miles because I know I would have stubbornly tried to finish even if it wrecked my legs. I walked from the gym to the grocery store next door as a cool down, then once I got home I spent a good half hour stretching which felt really good.

I don't think I could do every long run on a treadmill, but it's good to know I have the mental fortitude to stay on for at least two hours. That is, as long as I have some entertaining podcasts to keep me company. Maybe someday I'll even try for three hours...

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy St. Patrick's Day

I don't drink alcohol, so this is how I celebrated St. Patrick's Day...

The Irish mint and banana caramel cupcakes are mine. The third "O'Lucky" cupcake was for my boyfriend... Guinness chocolate cake with Irish cream buttercream.

(Excuse the messy hair. I still hadn't showered yet after this morning's race.)

Friday, March 16, 2012

Cleared to run and travel planning

With tomorrow's race looming, I decided to go back to the doctor's today for a follow up appointment. Even though he's my primary care physician, today was actually the first time I met him because I've seen the nurse practitioner at past visits. He was nice, but talked very fast. After prescribing an antibiotic for me, he was almost out the door before I had a chance to get to the real reason I was there... to see if it was okay to run. If left to my own devices, I would have gone ahead with the race tomorrow. But since I do make stupid decisions sometimes in the name of running, I figured I'd better get a professional opinion. I was fully prepared to skip the race if the doctor said no.

Luckily for me he said that as long as I have the energy, it's okay to start running and working out again and it won't adversely affect how quickly I get better. I also asked whether in general it would be better to stick to the treadmill versus running outdoors in the cold when sick. I think he might also be a runner or some type of endurance athlete because when I said I'm training for a 30k, he replied that the treadmill is too boring for that kind of distance without even asking how far 30k is.

So with a race in the morning to get ready for, I better try to rush through the rest of this post...

This is an obvious exaggeration, but sometimes I feel like I spend almost as much time planning for a race as I do actually training. This is mainly because I do quite a few destination races. Even when it's a day trip like when I drove from Baltimore up to Wilmington, Delaware last year for the Caesar Rodney Half Marathon, it still involves some research finding the best local restaurants. For the most part I don't mind the planning because I want to get the best deals and make the most out of every travel experience. But sometimes I think we'd be better off without so much information right at our fingertips. For example the first time I drove across the country, it was a true road trip using physical maps to plan the route and just driving until we were tired and then finding the next highway exit with a hotel. Last summer, some of that spontaneity was lost because I was constantly checking TripAdvisor for reviews, comparing prices, and calculating which city was the best to stop in for the night based on the driving time from Google Maps.

Anyway, with my downtime this week I started finalizing travel plans for May which is good because it's approaching so quickly. Even with the switch over to daylight saving time and more hours of sunshine, it doesn't feel like spring yet because it's so darn cold outside that I'm still wearing my wool pea coat.

The first thing I did was get a hotel reserved for Rock 'n' Roll Portland. I've been debating this for awhile and I finally decided that it wasn't worth paying an extra $100 or so just for the convenience of staying near the race start. Although of course as I type this I'm starting to change my mind again. Do I really want to deal with driving and parking on race morning? Maybe I'll do some more number crunching this weekend.

I also booked my hotel and airfare out to Orlando for the Expedition Everest Challenge. For me it's really a no-brainer to stay on property at WDW. Flights were a bit more challenging because of the distance now that I'm in Washington, but I ended up with flight times that I'm happy with. I didn't set out to do this deliberately, but both flights connect through Denver which means that during the layover I can stop by the Paradise Bakery equivalent and get a yummy turkey cranberry sandwich and some chocolate chip cookies. I'm almost as excited about that as I am about going to WDW. I'll probably do a more in depth post later about WDW trip planning in conjunction with a race.

The last thing I did was register for the Tower of Terror 10 Miler in October (wanted to be sure to get in before the price increase), so that's yet another trip to plan but at least it's still six months away. I've been tracking my "cost of running" this year and the registration fees are really adding up! I'm going to have to do another post about that later too.

If you live in or have visited Portland, please leave some tips on good restaurants and other things to check out while I'm there. Thanks!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A different kind of training

On Saturday afternoon my throat started to hurt a bit. When I woke up Sunday I could tell that I was definitely sick again. My head felt foggy, it hurt to swallow, and I knew I was in no shape to do any running, even indoors on the treadmill. It was disappointing because I was actually looking forward to my long training run, but I know the best thing to do for now is rest. I saw the doctor yesterday and the good news is that even though I feel crappy, at least I don't have strep throat, probably just a virus. I'm hoping it'll pass by Saturday so that I don't have to miss my first St. Patrick's Day race.

I have to admit that it feels kind of nice to sit at home and not feel guilty that I should be heading to the gym or doing something more active. I've even been productive and finally finished filing my income taxes. It was slightly more complicated this year because I had to figure out the right amount of moving expenses to deduct and also do the part-year resident calculations for Maryland. One of the pluses of being back in Washington is no state income taxes!

On Saturday night my boyfriend and I went to see the high school production of West Side Story. Even though it's been 10+ years, the auditorium still felt familiar. It brought back so many memories of the days when I was the one down there in the "pit" playing the piano. On Sunday while I was cooped up at home, I got the urge to sit down at the piano and try playing again. Usually I gravitate straight toward my favorite pieces of music, but this time I decided to take it slow and start with a book of exercises. It's kind of like running. After taking an extended period of time off, you can't just jump right back in with a 20 mile run or pick up at your previous pace. There's part of me that would like to seriously take up the piano again, but I don't think I'm ready to devote that much time to it on top of my running.

When I was starting out as a runner, I had just finished my first 5k and was checking out the table of information about upcoming races. A friendly couple stuck up a conversation with me and encouraged me to register for the local summer series. I wasn't as knowledgeable about running lingo as I am now, and I said something along the lines of "I guess I'll have to keep practicing so I can improve my 5k time." The husband immediately asked if I was a musician and said he knew because of my use of the word "practice" instead of "training". Ooops. Thinking about that story is always a good reminder for me that I was a newbie once too. But to this day, I'm still not sure what the difference is between practice and training, other than the context in which you use it. I suppose I'll have to Google it eventually.

One last random topic... with the release of the The Hunger Games movie, I decided it was time I finally read the book before I accidentally stumbled across a spoiler. I watched the first Harry Potter movie before reading the book and it definitely had an effect on how I visualized the characters in my mind for the rest of the series. The timing was perfect because I received a library notification yesterday morning that the book was ready for pick up. Since I didn't have to head to the gym, I was able to spend the evening reading straight through the book. It really did live up to all the hype. (Uh, oh. Does that mean I'll have to give in and read Twilight now too?) Sure, there were a few predictable points but overall it kept me hooked and wondering what would happen next. Now I'm waiting in line for the second book to become available from the library.

Did you ever play a musical instrument? Have you stuck with it or do you miss it?
Have you read The Hunger Games? Do you plan to see the movie?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Shamrock Shuffle 5k (aka the Girl Scout cookie run)

Another Saturday morning, another race. Well, actually this one was a fun run. The Shamrock Shuffle 5k Fun Run/Walk to be exact. Only $5 for early registration and proceeds to benefit the Lynden Girl Scouts.

It was a nice flat course, well marked with either signs or volunteers to direct traffic. I started off a bit fast at the beginning trying to break away from the pack. This time my Garmin was fully charged and when I looked at my wrist and saw that my pace started with a 6, I knew I had to pull back a little.

At fun runs it's hard to predict who will show up. Sometimes there are some really speedy runners and other times it's mostly families with strollers. After the first mile, I found myself in fourth place and first female. I couldn't hear anyone close behind me, but that didn't mean they weren't there.

I focused on trying to maintain my pace. I knew I couldn't catch up with the three guys in front of me, but I could at least try not to fall further behind. I did a pretty good job staying with them until the end when they ran an all out sprint to the finish.

Splits from my Garmin:
  • Mile 1 - 7:28
  • Mile 2 - 7:35
  • Mile 3 - 7:35
  • Last .14 miles - 0:56 (6:36 pace)
Although the run wasn't officially timed, there was someone stationed at the finish line shouting times as each person crossed. My time was 23:32, which matches right up with my Garmin's 23:34 time.

Not my fastest 5k time, but I'm happy with it all things considered. Right now I just want to stay under an 8 minute pace during these 10k and shorter races. I think I need to lose a few pounds and be in better health before I can attempt a new 5k PR.

The tough thing about 5ks is that it hurts so much in the moment, but it's a quick recovery afterwards. I had a couple cups of water, a few orange wedges, and I felt like I was ready to run again. Not necessarily at 5k pace, but I think I could have knocked out my long run today if I really wanted to. The quick recovery makes me question whether I really gave it my all out there on the course. Like maybe I could have gotten my pace down to 7:30 if I tried a little harder. I don't know.

I had no expectation going in that there would be awards, but I was still a little bummed not to get any recognition. Oh, well. If it hadn't been a fun run I'm sure I would have faced more competition anyway.

I was quite impressed with the raffle prizes being given away. Is there a Girl Scout badge for fundraising or soliciting donations? Unfortunately I didn't win anything from the raffle, so I ended up treating myself by buying a couple boxes of Thin Mints to add to my stash.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Mail and trails

As I've mentioned a few times on the blog, I took on a challenge earlier this year to run at least 1.5 miles a day for 30 days. The challenge was organized/sponsored by a local store called Fairhaven Runners. I was very excited a couple weeks ago to get an envelope from Fairhaven Runners in the mail. Inside was the Bellingham trails map awarded to all challenge finishers, plus I won a random prize of a free pair of socks.

Of course I can always use an extra pair of running socks so that's a nice bonus, but the map was my whole reason for sticking with the challenge. It's an awesome full color map of the Bellingham area that shows all the trails (and other notable running locations) in the area.

On the back of the map are the description, distance, and directions for each trail/location. They range from tracks and stairs to flat rail trails and steep mountain climbs.

I love having all this information in one place and being able to see how the trails can connect to form longer running routes. Once the weather gets better, I can't wait to make use of this map. (I'm kind of a neat freak and don't like getting my shoes wet and muddy unless it's during a race when I have no other option.) It'll be fun to check out some new places to run and to get more into trail running.

How do you find new running routes?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Honeywagon Runs Half Marathon - Race Report

The Details
  • Date: Saturday, March 3, 2012
  • Location: Everson, WA
  • Price: free for Greater Bellingham Running Club members, $8 (4 miler) or $10 (half marathon) for non-members
  • Course: primarily flat with a few insignificant changes in elevation, not closed to traffic
  • Weather: upper 40s and windy
  • Other: chip timing, ribbons for all finishers, raffle prizes

My Thoughts
This race was intended to serve as a long training run but I forgot to charge my Garmin after last weekend's race so I ended up running "naked". Even if I had my Garmin I don't know that I would have been content to run at a slower pace when I was feeling good enough to go faster. I guess rather than being a long, slow training run, it was a race pace training run. Which actually kind of makes sense since I'm training for a 30k (18.6 mile) race. 

Start of the Honeywagon Runs.
I'm on the right in the purple and blue with the white hat.

I had a hard time finding the right pace at the start and kept leap frogging with other runners. It wasn't anywhere near as bad as large races, but the course felt a little congested until the 2 mile mark when the 4 mile and half marathon races split. From there it was a little easier to run my own race, although I still had some worry about whether I had started out too fast. Around the halfway point I was passed by a couple women and didn't know whether I was slowing down or they were speeding up.

I had some GU chomps that I planned to take at mile 7, but I felt like I needed the caffeine boost earlier so I had two chomps at mile 5 and two at mile 7. 

Since the course wasn't closed, we were told before the race to stay to the left of the road and run facing traffic. There were a few points on the course where this meant running to the outside of the curve. I'm so used to running the tangents during a race that I actually did cross the road (after checking for cars of course) to minimize the distance, but I noticed that the other runners around me didn't. It made me wonder whether I was shorting the course because I don't know if the course is measured based on use of the entire road or based on sticking to just the left shoulder.

It was very windy the entire run. There were times I had to fight to keep myself from being blown sideways. Like last week, it seemed that the worst wind hit towards the end of the race. I was watching the guy in front of me and he looked like he was running in slow motion. There was nothing to do but keep trying to move forward, one step at a time.

About half a mile from the finish.

To reach the finish line, the course sort of took a U-turn behind a building where we finally had some protection from the wind. I was able to give a strong finishing kick and passed one guy right at the end. With the chip timing, the results were posted pretty quickly and I was very happy with my time... much better than I expected!
  • Time - 1:45:19 (8:03 pace)
  • 38 out of 179 overall
  • 6th female finisher
  • 2 out of 21 in the female 19-29 age group

I guess this is just further proof that I don't need my Garmin to run a strong race, but I wish I could see my splits and distance ran. I'm curious how much my pace varied throughout the race.

I stuck around for the raffle because I'm always a sucker for the possibility of free stuff. This time my patience paid off and I walked away with a $35 gift certificate to the Pepper Sisters restaurant in Bellingham. That means my $20 GBRC membership has now more than paid for itself... and there are still several more free races that I'm planning to run later this year.