A New Plan!

After finishing up the Wineglass half, I knew that I didn’t want to schedule any more races before Pittsburgh. It doesn’t mean I won’t do any local small races, just that I’m not signing up ahead of time with thoughts of a particular goal. On the other hand, I know that I need something. I’m not someone that is motivated enough to just go day to day and do the right kind of things to work out.

Liz has been touting the benefits of heart rate training for a while now. I bought the 80/20 Running book by Matt Fitzgerald, but I found myself just not able to commit to finding the heart rate threshold he recommends. Because of that, I never went anywhere with the program. I’m sure the start up was not as hard as I was making it out to be, but I just couldn’t devote the mental energy or time to do it. But I did like the idea of using an HR program for training.

Enter: Another Mother Runner. I’ve listened to the podcast for some time now and it’s been a great place to learn about running but also hear about people with the same struggles I have. I knew from listening to the podcast that they had several Train Like a Mother plans that served different purposes. They have several plans depending on goals. They have some normal progressive plans that work you up to a certain distance (including an ultra marathon!), some specialty plans for a triathlon or nutrition. Then they have a group of HR plans. They have HR 101, HR 102 and then several distance plans for half marathons and marathons which depend on your current fitness and goals for your race.

Because I have a while before I need to train for my next goal race (Pittsburgh Half Marathon!) I decided to try the HR 101 plan. This plan lasts 8 weeks, and is meant to build up your aerobic base. The plan calls for 5 runs a week and most of them are done at a pace where your HR stays below 140. There are also short strength, resistance loop and BOSU ball work outs that are specified in the plan. I’m only 4 days in but so far I am really liking it. There are some definite pros and cons.

Pros: 

I am not that tired after runs

I have been good about doing the strength circuits so far

It gets me to run more often than I would otherwise (I was solidly 3 days a week before)

Hopefully I’m building an aerobic base to work from for my next Half Marathon

The runs are done by time, so I’m not guessing how long it will take me to run X milles

There is a Facebook group where you can ask the coaches questions and talk to other people who are in various stages of the plan

Cons:

I have to come to terms with running alone sometimes (On a side note I’ve been lucky the one of my BRFs is on board for the 8 weeks and it seems like I will occasionally have other company)

It doesn’t leave much time for me to get to my gym

I am already toying with the idea of doing another HR plan for Pittsburgh, even though I’m just starting the base building. That will be a bigger commitment since it is a 20 week plan and I will have a lot of long runs that I know will be lonesome and 5 runs a week for 20 weeks may be a little much to take on. If not, I may do a distance plan through Train Like a Mother. Either way, I am enjoying this plan so far and hope that it works as advertised. I am really hoping to start my next training cycle with the strongest base possible.

 

 

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Wineglass Half Marathon

 

Wineglass 2017

PR!

It’s been a while since I posted, but I was in a running funk and didn’t feel like posting much. I definitely over scheduled the races this year, and was feeling it. To be honest, I was really close to backing out of this race. I had race insurance and could have easily skipped it had I gone to the doctor with any one of the number of my legitimate aches and pains, and I know he would have written a note, told me not to run, and then I could have gotten my money back. It was certainly tempting. As I like to tell my friends who have a lot of confidence in me “you don’t know me, I’m a quitter.”

Because of a crazy race schedule and then a crazy personal schedule, my training was not as solid as I would have liked. That’s actually an understatement. I skipped or cut short lots of long runs and some of my 4-5 mile runs on weekdays ended up being 3, just because that’s more fun. My Hubs was away a lot for work, or had to go in early, so some weekday runs were on the treadmill and some were just skipped altogether. I think, had I been more excited about this race, I would have tried to make things work out a little better. But honestly I was just over racing for the year.

Encouraged by my friend Liz, I did manage to get in a 10 mile run 2 weeks ago. It was hard but not awful and that boosted my confidence that I could finish. There is a common theme in my life, and that is that Liz is always right. In all honestly, Wineglass has a 7 hour time limit for their half (because it’s point to point and the marathon starts behind the half) so I could have walked the whole thing and still come in under time. But who the heck wants to do that. I’d be out there ALL DAY.

I was also bummed about the race because two of my good friends were originally going to be there too, and for various reasons were unable to make it. I was lucky that I had some other friends that were still able to make it and Becca let me crash with them in their hotel room. This included our Ragnar team mates, Day and Bruno, who were staying in the  room and running too. It was good motivation to be surrounded by people with big goals before the race.

I went to Corning the night before and hit the expo for a few minutes. Becca had picked up my bib, so I just wanted to wander and see what was there. Because the Pittsburgh Marathon expo has ruined all other expos (because it’s so awesome) there wasn’t much to hold my interest. I thought about buying something from the Another Mother Runner booth, but I stopped myself since I am trying to minimize what I own, not add on. In what is now a ritual, I bought new socks. I don’t know why, but I end up buying socks at every race expo. Now I feel like I just have to continue it. We walked around a bit and enjoyed the town. Day called it “precious” about 10 times and I have to agree with her.

wineglass 2017 1

Don’t ever tell me to act natural or pose. My answer is always “huh?” I own my dorkiness

We ate dinner at a little places call Louies  which was located in Horseheads, NY. (As a side note, that town OWNS it’s name. There are horse heads everywhere. No whole horses. Just the heads.) Dinner was pasta and chicken and then it was time for bed.

The next morning we planned to be at the buses around 5:45. Wineglass requires that you take the bus to the start line. We were a little later than planned, but it was a good thing since it was COLD and any additional time was really just time to try to keep warm. Parking was fairly easy and for some reason they grabbed us and stuck us on a bus while we were walking by, despite there being other people in line.

After a short bus ride we arrived at the start and were allowed to wait inside the school that was there. We were required to be on the way to the start line by 7:30 in order to start the race. I made sure to give myself plenty of time to use the bathroom since I was in the porta potty when the gun went off at this same race last year. (Seriously, nothing scarier for your FIRST half marathon than to be not at the start line when it was time to go. It all worked out though)

I positioned myself between the 2:30 and 2:45 pacer. I don’t think it was as much wishful thinking as it was learning that going behind the 2:45 pacer often leaves me stuck with people who are walking from the beginning. There is nothing wrong with doing that, but it makes me go faster than I should as I get caught up in passing people. Also It can get annoying when you can’t get around people when you want to.

I probably had the 2:30 pacer in my sights for at least the first 5 miles if not longer. I started out feeling pretty good. I was going faster than planned, but I was feeling like it was an easy conversational pace, so I wasn’t too concerned. The first uphill at Wineglass has been a confidence builder both times I have been in the race. Since I live where you pretty much have to run hills if you’re going longer than 3 miles, they aren’t something that really intimidates me. This is especially true in this race where the uphills are really nothing compared to what I train on. As I went uphill, there were a ton of people walking, and I kept up my normal pace as I passed them.

I stopped to walk while I took a Gu somewhere between mile 5 and 6. I planned to stop at mile 5, but a song came on that was sent to me for my playlist by my friend Jeannie, and I couldn’t walk while her song was on. After that Gu I was good until around Mile 8.5. There was a timing mat around that point and once I crossed it I hit the wall, hard. There was nothing about the course that made it make sense. I think it was all mental. I had expected a 10K mat, and there was none, which for some reason made the milestone of crossing that mat seem mentally like it was less than halfway when it was, in fact, more than half way. I struggled, walked the water stops to drink, and honestly just was feeling awful. My paces slowed because I was walking water stops, but they never dipped all that low (at least not compared to my normal long run paces). There was a point around mile 11.5 where I could not remember how many miles I had run or how many I had to go. I had taken another Gu around mile 10, but it hadn’t kicked in so my brain was totally fried. I was afraid to look at my watch to see where I was, since if I was at mile 9 or 10 (which was plausible to my fried brain) I probably would have stopped to walk and been devastated. So I kept going and tried to occupy my mind with something other than the mental math I normally do with how long I’ve gone and how long I have to go.

When I saw the sign mile 12, I was SO happy. Not just because it was 1.1 miles to go, but because then I knew where I was mileage wise and that I was not in fact still on mile 9 (I feel like this could be a future recurring nightmare where I’m just always running mile 9 of a half marathon and never getting farther.) Once I hit mile 12, I realized a PR was an easy task at that point and under 2:40 was possible if I kept pushing. I was really excited and ready to do it until I saw the bridge. There is one thing that I have a completely unreasonable hatred for, and that is the final bridge. It’s less than a mile from the finish and after you cross it, you turn and are on the final stretch where you can see the finish line. That bridge is a minor incline, but it feels like the worst incline that I will ever run at that point. It’s small and a short distance, but sometimes my lack of mental toughness makes me curse at a tiny little bridge near the end of a half marathon.

Once I crossed that stupid jerkface bridge, I started getting a stitch. It wasn’t the first time that day I got one, but this one was different. It hurt more than any stitch I’ve ever had. As I turned to the final stretch, I could no longer take any sort of deep breaths. I was breathing like a woman in labor does in bad pregnancy comedies. Just short shallow breaths. I wanted to walk so much, but anyone that has run a race like this knows that there is no walking the final stretch. The sidewalks are full of spectators cheering you on, and honestly you just want it to be over. My legs felt like they wanted to sprint to the end, but I just couldn’t do it without being able to take any deep breathes so I just ran a slow steady pace to the end.

I crossed the finish at 2:38:36, which is almost a 7 minute PR for me. I was so happy to be done, but also so excited for that time. When I finished I went through the corral where this race has apples, bananas, chicken  soup, veggie soup, bagels, and pizza. I grabbed a little bit of everything and went to go to the clock to see my official time before me and my fried brain went to try to locate everyone else.

Overall, I’m really happy with how the race went. Before I started, I really thought I would be running the slowest half I’ve ever done. I was surely not expecting to PR. If I’m honest with myself, my mental toughness while running is always a struggle. This time I was thinking of a friend who is inspirational to me and who also recently found out that she is fighting cancer. According to her, her prospects of recovery are good, but at the very least, she will not be running for a while. She always has said that we should think of the people who want to run and can’t and I kept that in my mind when I just wanted to stop. We had even written her name on our bibs and sent it to her so she knew we were thinking of her. This was also motivational to me. No way could I just give up while her name was on my bib. I’m not known for being emotional or for expressing my feelings all that well (or hugging) but this was honestly an emotional race for me.

As a side note, Day, Bruno and Becca all got big PRs, and a friend of ours ran the marathon and got his BQ time, so all in all it was an exciting day!

wineglass 2017 2

Showered and ready to head home

Prowl the Sproul 10K

Sproul2

A few friends (including Becca) decided to do the Prowl the Spoul 10K last weekend. We were trying to remember how we ended up doing this crazy race, and I think we figured out that it was actually my idea. Oops! Anyway, I was definitely in the mood to sign up for a ton of races after my half last fall, so I believe them when they tell me that I suggested/demanded that we try it.

This was my first ever trail race, and boy did I pick a doozy. It’s billed as the “toughest 10k in PA” and I don’t doubt that is the case. The race boasts a 1600 plus elevation gain and then a steep downhill to the finish.

 sproul 3

To say that I had no actual idea what that meant is somewhat of an understatement. We had done a few practice hikes on areas with similar elevation profiles, but our distance was always shorter. I was more nervous for this race than I was before my half marathon. I think there were two factors at play. The first was that I had not trained for this race the way that I did for my half marathon, and the second was that there were things beyond just being last to worry about.

We had been told of several hazards. Some of those were rattle snakes, bears, wasps and heat. I had experience with all of those to some degree. First was the heat. It was hot humid and I don’t think I ever sweated as much as I did during the uphill portion of this race.

Sproul

You can see the beads of sweat on my face and this was at the top after I had just stopped at the water station.

Next, were the wasps. It was fairly close to the starting line where we must have all run through a nesting area, because several people were stung. Having started way back so that I wouldn’t slow down the experienced climbers, most of the runners had already gone through. I heard some people talking about getting “bit” and then I felt a sharp pain in, of all places, my butt. Yep, the wasp stung me right through my shorts and it HURT. I was a little worried since I didn’t see just what had stung me and I had bad experiences with getting stung by yellow jackets in the past. My friend Loren did see it, however, and assured me it wasn’t a yellow jacket but she wasn’t sure what it was. I knew several people that were stung, and a few that had 3 or more stings. It still hurts but it’s certainly not something that would keep me away from the race a second time.

After a while, during the huge climb, I came upon a guy standing there shirtless, with a stick and his dog. He was telling people that there had been a rattle snake there, and that they chased it off the trail, and he was there to make sure that it didn’t come back. Some others thought he was joking, but I was fairly sure that given the specifics he was giving me, he was serious. Also, it’s well known that this race is prone to having snakes on the trail.

When I was near the top, right where the climb started to even out, I ran past a huge pile of bear poop. I was told by some friends that there are glad they aren’t me, because they didn’t know enough to know it was bear poop. But there it was, on the trail. No actual bear, but it did make my heart race even more for a bit.

Overall though, while this is one of those things where I know my description doesn’t SOUND fun it was a blast. Trail runners are awesome people. Not to bash those who run road races (because hey, that’s what I do and will continue to do), but I talked to more people in this small group (race registration was capped at 300, though I think there were a few more people than that) than I had at any road race. The whole feeling was more relaxed even though it was really hard. The swag was awesome – a pair of custom running socks and a nice tank top – and there was a fun after party with music, beer, pizza, and hot dogs. All this and the registration price was only $25. It was more than worth the cost of registration, and the joke among some of us was that we would register just for the socks. But I might register next year to get the socks AND try to beat my time.

Spoul 3

After the race, a little sweatier, dirtier and wasp stung but still smiling. 

Hikes, hikes, hikes

In the depths of my winter doldrums, I signed up for all the races. This included a trail 10K that I was warned was pretty hard, but I was having a moment of confidence and thought I could basically conquer anything. The Sproul 10K is on July 22, and let’s just say that my winter confidence was left back somewhere between the Pittsburgh Half and Ragnar.

In order to try to get into some sort of shape for this race, a few of us have been hiking on the weekends instead of our long runs. I have only been able to make it to 3 of these hikes. We have done Spruce Gap twice and Mount Nittany once in the past few weeks. I had gone up Mount Nittany a few times in the past, but not recently. Spruce Gap was totally new to me, but I was told that it was the most similar in elevation gain to the Sproul.
elevation

I’m really glad that I was able to get out there twice because I think the shock of the elevation gain beat me down a little the first time up. The two hikes I was able to do there were about 2 miles up and then 2 down. The actual race will be 3 miles up and 3.7 down. There are also apparently rattlesnakes milling about. I will say, I grew up with brothers that had pet snakes and spent more of my fair share of time going to Clyde Peeling’s Reptile Land among other places that had snakes and reptiles that you could look at and handle. My crazy brothers used to CATCH rattlesnakes for FUN. I’m probably less afraid of all things slimy and slithery than the average person. But the idea of being on a single track trail with a rattlesnake on it and not being able to give it a wide berth? That scares me.

Spruce Gap

The hikes that I have done have also given me some confidence in navigating the downhill portions. This may sound silly. But honestly there is some skill and some confidence that go into descending a trail. There are a lot of spots where your foot placement is important if you like staying vertical. While most people I go out with can smoke me on the uphill portions, I’m usually able to make up some of that time going down. The only bad thing is that given it is a single track trail, I may get stuck behind someone who is slower than I am. Apparently this is a time to say “passing when I’m able” which seems super rude, but I’m sure my frustration and the fact that I have trouble slowing down on the descent might get me to that point.

Other than this adventure, I ran the Firecracker 4K with my daughter and my mom was recently successful in teaching her to ride her bike, which has gotten me back on my bike for the first time in years. I’ve also been trying to stick to running 3 days a week, usually 3, 3, and 5 miles and getting back into the groove of strength training at BodyPump. I had several injuries that didn’t curb my running all that much, but that kept me out of strength training. I’m glad to be back to it, especially since I think it was the cause of some of the secondary injuries I picked up after I initially hurt my knee during a fall.

I’m going to keep on being in denial that I’m signed up for a half marathon in October, and hope to get back to getting a little more enjoyment out of my runs and put a little less pressure on myself to complete all these challenges.

 

Ragnar!

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I haven’t started this before because I honestly don’t even know where to start! I finished my Ragnar last weekend and I’ve spent the past week being completely exhausted. So much happened in such a short time, I can’t figure out what’s important and what’s not. Here are the basics of what we did ahead and what we packed.

  1. We ordered 2 vans for the race. We got two 15 passenger vans, but the seats were all the way to the back. Next time I’ll have them take out the back rows of seats, because organizing things with no “trunk” space was nearly impossible. But other than that, it was fairly easy.
  2. I reserved 3 rooms in Lancaster at the Days Inn through booking.com  and I will tell you that I will never stay at another Days Inn and I will never use booking.com again. When we got there, they did not have our reservations. We ended up sleeping in 3 rooms with King sized beds instead of the 2 queens in each that we had reserved. On top of that they then double charged my card for 6 rooms and neither Days Inn nor booking.com has been willing to help me. I’m in the process of disputing the charges for the second set of 3 rooms, but the whole thing is a logistical nightmare.
  3. We ordered Shirts and Magnets for tagging vans. We got the shirts from Customink.com and the magnets from printrunner.com Our awesome teammates designed the shirts and I stole the design for the magnets as well.

shirts

  1. We couldn’t agree on the food situation. Nothing terrible but Van 1 gravitated toward sharing and Van 2 wanted a more bring your own approach. I bought a few things to share with van 1 -PB&J, chocolate milk, cold coffee drinks, Gatorade, water, pretzels, hummus and probably a few other things. Debbie in our van brought Nutella and banana bread which was pretty awesome. Other people brought other things and shared as well.
  2. Packing! I packed 3 running outfits in ziplock bags. Then I put PJs in a ziplock bag, safety and other gear in a small pack (I used the free one from the Pittsburgh Half Marathon) and “warm” clothes in an old plastic bag that I had to check gear from some race in the past. I stuck all of that in a duffel. That worked pretty well overall, and would have been even better if we had some trunk room.
  3. We had a cooler in the van, but we could have utilized it better. We had a little food and some drinks, but I think because of the aforementioned lack of trunk space we had some issues.
  4. We used chalk markers to mark up and decorate the van.
  5. We, of course, had Nick the T-Rex.
  6. We started a Whatsapp group message the day before. Actually we started several. A team one, and then each van had their own message going. We were pretty good about keeping everyone up to date on things.

Some things I learned:

  1. Never ever use booking.com again
  2. Liz is always right! She took a look at our original pace calculator and saw that people were not putting in accurate 10K paces. Ragnar makes adjustments for you, so use what your 10K pace actually is, not what you think that you will be running because of the elevation. I put an accurate pace in and mine was pretty close to spot on. Liz did some Strava stalking and asked me about paces so she could adjust ours to be more accurate and we still finished HOURS ahead of what was projected. Trust the pace calculator and put in an accurate pace.
  3. Bring a tent– I was on the fence and decided not to bring a tent because I thought the set up take down wouldn’t be worth it. I do think since I have a simple tent to set up, that it would have be nice to sleep in at night. It was too cold and buggy or too hot and buggy to sleep outside and I had bruises for a week after sleeping on the seat belts.
  4. Van 1 Forever! – I liked starting early and being done early. I think I would have been stir crazy in Van 2
  5. There is no such thing as too many lights at night. It’s could be really dark on your night leg. Someone told me they saw me from a mile away and that’s exactly what I wanted. I had brought extra to share, and did share, but I had a headlamp, flashlight, and 3 blinky lights in addition to my reflective vest.
  6. Plan food after your van is done. We all got hangry and needed caffeine and had trouble finding a suitable place.
  7. Know yourself – I was so sure I was going to be upset that I didn’t get to sleep over in Lancaster, but honestly I wanted to get home to my family and my bed so I was happy to leave a few hours after we finished. This was especially true since we were at the finish line for quite a while before the last runner came in.

That’s all for now, I might do a recap of the actual race, but I think I’m overwhelmed by the enormity of it all!

The Chronicles of Nick the Dinosaur’s First Ragnar

One thing I promised myself going into Ragnar this past weekend was that I was going to embrace some cheesiness. I always miss out on stuff like that and then regret it in the end. My particular fun (for me) thing for this race was that I brought a mascot. He didn’t have a name before, but somehow by the end he was called Nick. Our team was Runnersaurus Rex (how about that) and so it was an appropriate mascot to have. As a side note, I didn’t purposely name the team after my blog, I’m just not that creative.

Nick 31

Here is Nick watching the sunrise while we were waiting for Debbie half way through her last leg

Nick was a resident of whichever van had active runners and then was passed on to the next van after that. We tried, for the most part to get a picture with Nick either before or after each leg and he was passed on to the incoming runner. We didn’t run WITH him since that would have been insane, but he definitely had some adventures.

We had a few people ask if they could take pictures with Nick and also he found a few other dinosaur friends along the way.

Towards the end, we were all going off the rails a little. Nick’s eating and drinking went down hill too:

 

He was there, of course when our last runner, Becca, came in at the finish.

Nick 23

Not sure who is more excited to be done

Nick 22

Nick 25

Van 1 and Nick!

Nick 4

All of the medals together and Nick protecting them

After the finish he also decided to partake in some libations and to roll out his tired muscles.

I had a blast passing Nick back and forth and most of the other teammates got into the spirit if not right away then at least by the end. It was also fun to take home the pictures and show my kids, who then decided Nick should tell his friends about the adventures he had.

Nick 1

Back home in his natural habitat

I think if (when) I ever do another Ragnar, I want to do something like this again. In all seriousness I think it helped bring the two vans together a little bit. It gave us something fun to take pictures of, led to me talking to a few people who were not on me team and was just overall fun. And really, that’s what this whole thing was about for me. It was a challenge for sure, but I really just wanted to have a good time.

I’ll post more about non Nick related Ragnar things when I can get my act together and try to remember everything that happened. Right now I’m still fighting a cold and some sleep deprivation, but I hope to get around to doing a few more Ragnar related posts.

May Challenge

Ragnar is THIS WEEKEND!

But first things first. My May challenge was to eat one meal a week from the deep freezer and it didn’t feel like much of a challenge. I definitely met my goal, but I think that I need to also add that I can’t ADD anything to the freezer also. It was pretty boring and it’s done and now I’m hoping to bring back the challenge I was supposed to do in January, which is Meatless Mondays!

I’m all packed and ready to leave for Ragnar this afternoon. We have vans, hotels, food, running clothes and that’s the best we can do. As long as we have shoes and money we should be good! I’ll try to take lots of pictures and updated. After this, nothing until Sproul next month and then I think my calendar is pretty open!