Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Am I gonna be a High Tech Mama?

The jury is still out on this one.  Santa (aka Tom) got me a Garmin Forerunner 110 for Christmas this year.  The poor guy was tired of seeing me either cuss at my blackberry when I accidentally reset the gps without looking at it and/or recording it, or seeing me drive my car around to check the mileage of certain runs that I did.  Both methods seemed inefficient to him.  Because I seemed to be insistent about knowing how far I ran (no, I'm not one of those free running types that doesn't care -- I WANT CREDIT!!!), he decided I needed a GPS gizmo that I could wear.

Yes, I have a Masters Degree in Electrical Engineering.  That is a fact.  However, I got my degrees in 1985 and 1989, which were way before all of these personal electronic items hit the streets.  I used to take my computer cards to the computer center and give them to Randall (my pal that worked there).  I would head off across the street to Town Hall (a local watering hole near University of Maryland) and have a pitcher of beer (or two) and then head back to the computer center to get my printout.  I would make the necessary corrections (Randall was kind enough to fix some things for me!) and then repeat the process.  Needless to say, I am quite clueless about techno geek things.  Ask me to compute the Electromagnetic Field of a coil of wire and I can give you a lovely equation.  Ask me to program my phone and I need to call my college age daughter or one of the lovely children that I tutor.  Now you get it, right?

Tom asked me what my requirements were for a gps device.  I told him that I wanted to know how far I went, how long it took me, if it calculated pace that would be nice, and it had to be SIMPLE to operate.  I mean SIMPLE.  After careful research, he settled on the Polar Forerunner 110.  A very simple device that has an awesome gps capability (works MUCH better than my blackberry roadrunner gps) and has only 4 buttons.  One is a light.  I run during the day, so we can forget that one.  One is a menu button.  You use that to ask it to find the satellite, which is does in under a minute!!!  Some days my blackberry NEVER found the satellite.  What's up with that?  The third is Start/Stop.  You press it to start your workout and press it again when you are done.  The last is Lap/Reset.  I have no idea what "Lap" is for, but I know you hold RESET to save your run and reset the gizmo.  Very easy.  Even a clueless 49 year old "has been" engineer can operate it.

Now, another thing about me  (and a lot of runners and a lot of  people who do Weight Watchers - I'm both) is that I tend toward obsessive behavior.  I've been a bit concerned about tracking my miles.  I'm the sort of person that if I buy a bike, I become Lance Armstrong.  It sort of sucks the fun out of it when you are riding your bike in frigid temps to get that last 10 miles in so that you can meet your yearly goal -- which doesn't matter to anyone but you.  That was before I tumbled off the bike and decided to run.  I cancelled my membership to bikejournal.com (a site the feeds mileage counting obsessions). 

It didn't take me long to want to chart my running.  I decided that I would do it, but not get all knotted up about it.  I would use it to gauge my progress.  So far, so good.  I joined dailymile.com, because a bunch of my Weight Watcher C25K Graduate buddies log their miles there.  It makes it easy when we do  "piles of miles" challenges.  So far, I use the data to feel good because my times are getting faster!

Well, I strapped on my new gps wrist watch and put on a few layers of clothes (we are still talking about wind chills here) and off I went.  I didn't have a lot of time for a run today so I decided I would stop at 5K.  5K is better than nothing, right?  My goal was to have a nice run and to not look at my watch every 10 seconds like I do the display on the treadmill.  I pulled my sleeve down over the display (a trick I try on the treadmill with a towel that never works -- I still peek).  My "deal" with myself was that I would only look at it at the "usual times".  I have points in my run where I checked the timer on the ipod.  I managed to do just that, however, it calculates that pace so I didn't have to do math in my head. 

I found a few things interesting.  My mileage for the 5K was right on (my car and blackberry were correct).   Also, I find I run faster up hills than downhill or on flat stretches.  What is up with that?  After pondering that fact,  I came to the conclusion that I see the top of the hill and decide that the faster I get there, the quicker it's over.  I also run faster at the end of my run than in the middle.  Same principle, I would think.

I have lots more to learn about my running.  Maybe using a gps will be a good and healthy thing.  Maybe it will be a bad thing.  Only time will tell.  Do you use a gps and if so, how do you curb obsession? 

Monday, December 27, 2010

Winter Running and a Very Merry Christmas!

When I started running in July, I was battling triple digit heat.  I would drag myself out of bed and try to run by 7:30 in the morning (late by most of my running friend's standards, but heck, I don't have a day job!).  I managed and kept wondering how I would brave the cold.  I don't like cold weather.  I don't ski for that very reason.  I figured that the winter weather may be the end of my running career and I'd be back shopping for another sport.

I didn't want to shell out a lot of money on winter gear, mainly because I didn't know what I wanted or needed.  I got a vest (which I really like) from Athleta, a windjacket (also from Athleta), a pair of winter running pants (not tights ---  I just couldn't go there yet), gloves, and a skull cap.I dug out an old Under Armour turtle neck that I wear to Maryland football games (it says Terps on the turtleneck) and a very light weight silk turtleneck that I have worn in the cold forever.  I experimented with layering.  A friend told me to dress for 20 degrees warmer than it is (e,g.  If it's 20, dress for 40).  I was doing okay with temps in the 30's. 

The week before Christmas brought temps in the 20's with windchills even lower.  That was too much for me.  I hit the treadmill.  What torture that is.  I think I would rather freeze.  The treadmill is necessary when the roads are icy and snowy, but I think I'd rather deal with the cold and wind.  That is my plan anyway.

Christmas morning rolled around.  Jessica was at her Dad's in the morning so we wouldn't open gifts until about  noon.  I decided to take a short run.  I had time before making the meatballs that I needed to take to my sister's house.  What the heck.  I would feel better for it.

I put on my turtleneck, vest, hat and gloves (winter running pants go without saying -- no capris in this weather) and off I went.  I decided to do a quick 3 miles.  My gift to myself was to not worry about my pace, just to "run in the moment".  The snow flurries were coming down around me, there wasn't a car on the roads and I was the only one out.  I would pass an occasional dog walker and shout "Merry Christmas".  I had Christmas music on my ipod.  Towards the end of my run, I passed my running friend, Grace, who was also out for a run.  It was truly the best run I had done in ages, possibly ever.  Surprisingly, my pace was 11:21, which isn't far off from my usual pace. 

I came home refreshed and ready for the rest of the day.  It was such a good decision to run. 

Santa also supported my running habit.  I'm notoriously hard to shop for, so everyone seemed to jump on the running bandwagon.  Tom got me a Garmin Forerunner 110.  I wanted a VERY simple GPS unit that I could use easily and that would not become an obsession.  I'm hoping this fits the bill.  Santa brought me a neck warmer and one of those hats that you pull over your head that just your eyes and nose show (mine is made by Brooks).  I look like I could rob a bank, but I'll be toasty.  I also got some neon Under Armour turtlenecks.  My mom gave me a Sugoi microfleece and a new pair of winter running pants (now I have 2!!!  way less laundry!!!).  I also got my own copy of "Run Like a Mother", which is an awesome book, and a copy of "Chi Running", which I have heard good things about.  A great Christmas!!!

I told my daughter that I was going to bring the "bank robber" hat to Nashville to do my run in so that I can embarass her in front of her friends.  She said "That's okay, Mom.  I'll just tell them that's my Crazy Mama that likes to stay warm when she runs."  That made me smile.

Now to hope for good weather to run outside tomorrow so that I can try out my new GPS unit. 

Merry Christmas everyone!

The 2010 Alexandria VA Turkey Trot

It's hard to believe that when I started running on W1D1 of the C25K that 4 months later, I would be running in a Turkey Trot.  When I signed up for the 5 mile event, I don't think I believed that we would actually do it! 

During the two weeks leading up to the race, I continued to add distance gradually.  I was using the B210K program, which was getting me up to an hour run.  I still had walk breaks on the week before the race.  I made a decision that on the Tuesday before, I would just run straight for 5 miles and see how I did.  I honestly didn't think that I could do it.  I did and finished in just under an hour.  My goal for the race was to finish in under an hour, so that worked.

Debbie had agreed to do this with me, so I felt much more comfortable.  We discussed our running attire, our parking arrangements (parking is a bear for this event), and strategies. The weather forecast was not good, calling for chilly rain.  However, we were committed; so unless it was a down pour, we were running.  I was also chided on facebook by another friend that runs that I need to "man up" and run in the rain.  So, not to walk away from a challenge, I was running.

The morning of the run, I had Tom drive me to Del Rey (the community where the run is held) about 8:00.  We wanted to get there by 8:30.  Deb and I met up at a good friend's house, where we were able to stay warm and dry until it was time to head to the starting line.  The race attacts about 4200 registered participants.  However, a bunch of people just show up with 2 can goods and hop in the line, so it's more like 4500 folks.  We had picked up our racepackets and t-shirts the night before so all we had to do was get in line.

It was our first time wearing timing chips on our shoes.  We carefully attached those and once again felt really cool.  We were getting to be "real runners".  We were running a 5 Mile Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning with thousands of others.  We were no longer "posers", we were runners!  My goal again was to finish in under an hour and without walking.  Debbie's goal was to finish ahead of the "sweep".  We thought both of our goals were achievable.

We tried to line up where we thought that we belonged, ahead of the dogs and strollers but behind the "elite runners".  The gun sounded and off we trotted.  My one regret to this point was not having a festive Thanksgiving themed hat.  People were wearing feathers, turkeys, turkeys that looked cooked, pilgrim attire, etc.  I felt a little left out.  I need to come up with a cool hat for next year.  If anyone sees a REALLY good one, get it for me and I'll reimburse you!

I started out a bit fast.  I was caught up in both the moment and in a pack of runners.  I knew I was a bit fast, but had no real choice.  I just ran.  I figured things would spread out in a mile or so and I could slow down a tad.  Running up Commonwealth, at about the 1.5 mile point, I passed the leaders coming the other way.  How the heck do they run so fast????  These weren't kids, either.   I think the winner did a 5 minute mile or something.  I glanced at my ipod at the 2 mile point and I was doing under 10 minute miles.  I was afraid I wouldn't finish at that pace.

Have I mentioned that I am trying to develop "mental toughness" but am  not quite there yet?  I don't leave it all on the course.  I usually have energy to walk home.  Anyway, I decided to dial it back just a bit to make sure that I finished. I had never done a 5 mile event and didn't want to have to walk across the line.

The race went really quickly.  It was fun to see the streets lined with folks cheering everyone on.  Lots of houses had tents in the yards and tailgate-like atmospheres.  Plus, it was mostly flat. I didn't know the course so each turn was an adventure.  I was really regretting wearing my winter hat at about mile 3.  I was getting way too warm.  Luckily, I knew that my buddy, Roger, would be along the route with his camera to cheer us on, so I was able to toss it to him and I ran by.

I turned it up a notch the last mile to the finish line.  Now, when I say "turned it up", I speed up my pace.  However, we are not talking "collapsing at the finish line", wanting to puke, or anything like that.  Like I said, I need to work on my mental toughness.  This time, I was careful to look at the clock when I passed the finish line.  My time was 54:45 on the clock (from the gun).  My chip time was.....drumroll please......54:18 which is a 10:51 pace, my best to date!

I went and got some water off the truck for both Debs and I.  I didn't want them to run out.  Debbie drinks water along the way.  I don't do that.  I'm way to uncoordinated.  Luckily, I haven't ran far enough that it's an issue.  However, I knew that she would be thirsty.  I got a spot along the chute and waited for her to cross.  She did, well ahead of the sweep!!!!  We both met our goals.  We were so happy and proud.

We decided, as we walked back to our friend's house, that we would DEFINITELY run again next year.  It was just so much fun.  However, I do want a Turkey Hat!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

New York City (Central Park) and the St. Rita's 5K (November 21, 2010)

After my first 5K, I started training for the Alexandria Turkey Trot.  The Turkey Trot is a HUGE race (by my standards) with about 4500 runners.  I was very excited, yet intimidated.

After the 5K, my husband, Tom and I headed off to New York City for one of the things I love most in life, watching College Basketball.  My Maryland Terrapins were playing in the Coaches vs. Cancer Tournament at Madison Square Garden.  I have always wanted to visit MSG and with Jessica being off at Belmont, this was a perfect opportunity, so off we went.  We stayed at the Sofitel on W. 46th Street, our favorite hotel. 

I needed to run.  I needed to get ready for the Turkey Trot, but more importantly, I just needed to run.  I decided to run in Central Park.  I tried to read the maps on the internet and plan my route.  I wanted about a 5 mile run.  Tom was going to walk the shorter 2.5 mile loop while I ran.  We would meet up afterwards. 

It was nippy (in the 30's) on the morning when we headed out to Central Park.  We walked up from the hotel because it would have been embarassing to take a cab to the park to run.  We got to the park and I took off.  Before we split, I asked Tom how far uptown the park went (we were at 59th Street and 6th Avenue).  He said "About 20 blocks".  Seemed reasonable so I popped in my earbuds and trotted off. 

I was totally enjoying my run and taking in the sceneray and feeling immensley cool.  Heck, I was RUNNING in Central Park.  People do that in movies, books and on tv.  I was running those same trails.  This is what it's all about. 

I was running along and all of a sudden I saw a street sign. It said "Exit to 102nd Street".  What the heck????  Tom said "20 blocks".  Where the heck am I?  I also saw a sign for the resevoir, which is where I wanted to turn.  I had to believe I was still good.  I didn't have a lot of options, so I turned at the resevoir and kept following the trail.  Lots of other runners were turning there, so I turned, too.  At this point, my run became very interesting.  Where I was on "auto pilot" before, I was highly alert now.  I kept trying to discern a sense of direction.  Have I mentioned that I have absolutely no internal compass?  Probably bad for a runner, huh?

I decided that I was there to run and I was going to do just that.  If an hour went by, I would stop and call Tom and tell him to wait for me.  I kept running, up hills and down hills.  The weather was awesome.  I was amazed by women who were running in just a sports bra in November in NYC.   I loved running in the park.  Just about an hour after I started, I saw signs for the South End of the Park.  I was "okay" after all.  I ran the 5 mile loop that I planned.  It was just a lot more blocks than I thought it was.  I found Tom and we walked back to the hotel.  It was a great walk.  Oh, I let him know that the Park was more than 20 blocks!

We came back home and the weather was still awesome.  Grace, a running buddy, was running a 5K right near my house.  I called Deb and we decided to run at the last minute.  Our other friend, Nancy, ran, too.  The race was a very civilized 1 p.m. and the day was "balmy" for November, in the 40's. 

The race was through Huntley Meadows Park.  You ran back into the park about 1.5 miles and back out.  Nice and flat.  I was totally into the run.  I was listening to my tunes, checking out the fall foilage, and noticing that I was actually passing people.  I was so "in the moment" that I totally forgot to look at the clock when I crossed the finish line.  Have you ever done that?  I know that I beat my 35 minute time because of the clock on my ipod, but that is all I know.  So far, even months later, they haven't published the results.  Damn my bad luck.  I may never know.  You know what, the run was worth it.  Who cares about the time!

Sometimes, it's just about the moment.

The "Jack T. Farrar Jr. Fill the Shoes 5K" - November 6, 2010

Race Day was circled on my calendar.  Debbie and I talked daily about our preparations.  A few weeks before the race, I started running the course.  It was very convenient for me since I could run out my front door and be on the course in half a block.  It was also nice to know what a 5K looked like.  I liked that I didn't have to go out on the main street.  I didn't like the hills.  You can't have everything.

My goal was to run the race in 35 minutes.  I didn't think that I could do an 11 minute mile, but I wasn't going to concede to a 12 minute mile.  On the Thursday before the race, I ran the course in about 36 minutes.  I was hoping for that "boost" people had told me about.  You know, the one you get when you run with a bunch of people?  Well, no, I didn't, but I hoped I would find out. 

The day before, Debbie and I had lunch with our friend, Jean, in Springfield.  After that, off to Metro Run and Walk to pick up our packets.  To say that we were excited was an understatement.  It had also turned cold the week before (earlier than usual) and we didn't own any winter weather stuff.  We needed gloves, a hat, and something with long sleeves.  When I say we were rookies, I meant it.  They outfitted us with a Sugio fleece, which I still love, and a hat and gloves and wished us well.  We got our t-shirts and packets and headed out.  I was honestly excited.  I would have never believed it.

We finalized our plans:  Debbie was going to meet at my house and we would walk to the starting line.  Now to wait.

As we were walking to the area where the runners were to gather, we passed tons of runners "warming up" by basically runnning the course.  We joked that we only had enough run in us for once so we would just have to warm up quickly!  It was a small event (200 runners) so it was a nice race to start on.  Not a lot of chaos.  We ran into lots of folks that we knew who were also running.  They were very encouraging and gave us some pointers.  We lined up and waited for the gun.

I ran the course fairly well.  I was used to the hills so they didn't give me any trouble.  I think I could have run faster, but I didn't want to bonk out and I wanted to run the whole way.  Baby steps, right?  At about the 2 mile point, I had to stop and tie my shoe.  No biggie.  I knelt down and tied it.  Better than tripping!

As I ran the final bit of the race, I pushed the pedal a little bit (at least for me).  I crossed the line at 35:01.  Dang that shoelace!  I wanted a time of under 35.  Oh well.  It's a good story.  "If only I hadn't had to stop and tie my shoe......"

Debbie and I both finished the race and were extremely proud of ourselves and each other for making it this far in our running journey.  We immediately signed up for a 5 mile (yes, I said 5 MILE) Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning.   We had to up our game.  We needed the challenge.  We were runners now!

Why am I the reluctant runner?

I'm a 49 year old mother of one, who's only just went off to college, leaving me with an "Empty Nest". I guess I have been trying to figure out how to "fill" the nest, once my daughter headed to Nashville, for several years. I have also battled a weight problem for most of my adult life. It's a constant struggle for me. I was afraid that my life would become "dinners out" or "carry out" once it was just my husband and I at home. In short, I needed a hobby that would give me socialization, get me out of the house and preferably burn calories rather than consume them!

After years of gym classes, and a few aborted attempts at long distance cycling, I was at a loss. Last spring was my "aha moment". I had decided to ride a "Century Ride" with my friend in October 2010. I kept getting out my bike and trying to train. In April, I took a spill off my bike (in traffic) when I blew a tire. I broke the pedal, the day before a 35 mile "Fun Ride" that my husband and I were planning to ride in. I took my bike, which I had never felt comfortable on, into the nearest bike shop and told them I wanted to sell it. The bike is a high performance bike that I was basically talked into. I have always felt unstable and unsafe on it. I just wanted a different bike.

I bought a commuter bike, a nice Raleigh with a slightly wider tire and a heavier frame. It felt like riding an old friend. However, at that moment, I knew that I would never be any more than a recreational cyclist. There would be no centuries for me. A gal that is afraid to clip into pedals because of a fear of falling is not a cyclist. I needed a new sport.  (BTW, my husband and I DID complete the "Fun Ride" and we plan on doing it again next year -- for FUN!)

During High School and College, which were light years ago, I was an athlete. I played Field Hockey and Lacrosse in high school and club Rugby in college. Running was my least favorite part of sports. It was a necessity that I did as little of as possible. No extra laps for this chick.

I had been attending group aerobic dance classes at my gym, my knees and ankles were getting really beaten up by the side to side motion. My body felt old and I didn't know where to go. Pilates Reformer, which I love and swear by, was keeping me in my clothes!

My online friend, Marsha, was starting a running program called "Couch to 5K". Being a "gadget girl", I was intrigued by the ipod touch app. I bought the app and decided "What the heck?". Worst case, I'm out $5. Of course, I decided to start my running program on July 10, 2010, right in the middle of one of the hottest summers on record. Who said I was smart? I just needed something and I needed it NOW! I had a lot of stress, getting my daughter off to college. I couldn't wait for the weather to cool. My BFF, Debbie, who is also the kind of gal that starts a diet on Thanksgiving, said she would do the program "with me". We don't live near each other, but we kept each other moving.

The first few weeks were torture. I felt like a "poser". However, I kept to the "run/walk" regime. During Week 3, I went to a running shop and was professionally fitted for a pair of running shoes. I tend of "over pronate", who knew? Once I learned not to fight my new shoes, I was running pain free. I was actually starting to like it.

The next thing that we needed (Debbie and I) was a concrete goal. My neighborhood was hosting an inaugural 5K in memory of a resident that had died from Pancreatic Cancer. Our good friend, Hugh, had just died from Carcinoid Cancer, which affected his pancreas. It seemed like a perfect fit, plus it was several months away. We tailored our training plan to get to November 6. (Oh, by the way, my girlfriend that I was supposed to cycle with, joined up with "Team in Training" and completed her first Century in October. I was very proud of her. I didn't feel even a tinge of regret, just pride for her!)

I completed the "Couch to 5K" program in September, right on schedule. My journey included running in 5 states; Virginia (where I live), Maryland (where we have a condo at the beach), Delaware (I run into Delaware from my beach place), NY (where I ran in Central Park on vacation) and Tennessee (where I ran on my way to take my daughter to college). What a journey.

I would definitely recommed the program for anyone that wants to start running. My advice is to be patient. Do the program as written. You will be stronger, healthier and better mentally for it. It has made me a runner. Hard to imagine.