Runner Confessional #3

I don’t always love running.

There. I said it.

There’s a myth that you either love running or you hate it. I’m here to tell you that not all runners love running all the time. Yes, I love the way I feel after every run, but I rarely enjoy mile repeats and I loathe hills. In fact, for the first few miles of almost every run, I kinda hate it.

If you ask me, I will tell you that I love the sport, especially the benefits therein, but I don’t live to run. In fact, I sign up for spring and fall races as a means to keep running because if I didn’t have a tangible goal, I might not do it at all — and that would be bad.

Here’s what happens when I don’t run:

  • I feel icky and soft, and this makes me irritable.
  • The stress of raising a family, running a household and kicking ass at work builds up.
  • The excess energy (and I have it for days) starts to manifest into cleaning, gardening and expensive shopping trips.

So, while I don’t always love to run, I dislike the natural effects of not running much more. Maybe you fall into the camp of just loving it all the time, but if you don’t, you’re not alone. Now, let’s go sign up for a race. — Amie

 

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Runner Confessional #1

I hate spring races.

I always do a spring race, but not because I love them. Let’s get real for a second. Racing isn’t always rainbows and unicorns, and here’s why racing in the spring isn’t my thing:  nose-running-spring-allergies-funny-ecard-z48

  1. Training in January and February sucks. I love cold weather running, but I hate dodging the ice and snow. If I must run on a treadmill, it will be for 30 minutes or less and this often (like, always) messes up my training schedule.
  2. Your body wants to hibernate, and you are asking it to migrate. Naturally we hold on to a little more body fat in the winter, and I think it’s harder to train. I feel sluggish and heavy, and I just want to curl up on the couch with a book. This is probably why we should train, but you know.
  3. Acclimating to the warm temps takes time, and spring races don’t care. You’ve been running comfortably in cold air, and then WHAM. You can’t breathe, and your face has a heartbeat. Racing before your body adjusts to the heat just plain hurts. But fall races are the opposite. You’ve worked your butt off in the heat and you get the cold crisp air to race in. It’s magical.
  4. Personally, it’s a challenging time of year. My husband is a soccer coach, and he’s gone basically from February until July. He was home this past weekend — for the first weekend in the last eight.
  5. Spring allergies blow. The experts say to stay indoors, but then, we’re back to the treadmill thing again. Nope.

So yes, I always do spring races, but I’m never really happy about it. That’s why I choose one where I can have fun with friends (like Nashville) to keep me motivated. I’ll be kicking and screaming from January until April, then I’ll be happy I did it. Because the one reason I do like spring races is that they get me into shape to start training for the fall — when the real magic happens. — Amie

Race Recap: Flying Pig Half Marathon 2015

When the alarm went off at 4:55 a.m., I was already awake. It was FLYING PIG MORNING, and I had been excited about it all week. The weather was shaping up to be absolutely beautiful, and as I slapped my running hat-turned-pig-head on my noggin, I was grinning from pig ear to pig ear.

I trained hard all winter in my quest to break the 2-hour half marathon barrier. My pace dropped, but the more I saw results, the less concerned I became with the actual number. I had begun to realize what I loved so much about running really had nothing to do with a specific finish time. So as I towed the line for my seventh Flying Pig Half Marathon, I was more concerned with having a good time than I was about running a good time.

WCPO_2015_Flying_Pig_2_1430671262368_17763431_ver1.0_640_480

FIRE POWER!

As we started the race with fireworks (a new and awesome addition to this year’s course), I couldn’t help but be pumped up. I just kept telling myself to rein it in, run my race and avoid reckless miles. I knew if I ran at my long run pace, I’d have a Pig PR, and I was thrilled at that prospect.

It had been a few years since I had run a big race like the Flying Pig, and I forgot just how much I enjoy the enormity and pomp of an event on a scale like this.

The first few miles of a half marathon are always exciting and shiny and new, and this year’s Pig was no exception. The city looked beautiful, the crowds cheered loudly, and I cruised comfortably through the first half of the race.

Then, I started up the Eden Park hill. Man, that thing is a beast. I knew going in that my pace would slow down during this two-mile climb, but I didn’t expect to slow down that much. Holy molasses.

As we came off the turn at the top of the hill, a pair of girls passed me. One girl said to the other, “Only four miles to go!” as she gave her partner a high-five. Well hey, when you put it THAT way … And just like that, the smile returned to my face and my feet found their rhythm again.

This lil' piggy went wee, wee, wee all the way home.

This lil’ piggy went wee, wee, wee all the way home.

I flew down the hill at mile 10, and as I churned into the final 5K of the race, I was feeling pretty gassed. Instead of turning on the after-burners and pushing for what would have been a really painful 5K, I elected to keep a steady pace and finish the race conservatively. I had another half marathon coming up in a few weeks, and I cared more about enjoying both race experiences than I did about an arbitrary finish time.

So I shuffled it in to the finish line. That last mile hurt. Bad. I wanted to enjoy every minute of the Flying Pig, and I managed to do that for about 12 miles. That last mile was a blur, and when I looked up and saw the finish line within reach, I breathed a sigh of relief.

I crossed the finish and felt the elated swell of pride that comes with every hard-earned race’s end. I grabbed my space blanket and medal and looked around with salt-encrusted contacts — and a huge smile on my face.

This was the first big race I had run without my phone (another of my running resolutions for the year). The time I thought I would miss it most — at the finish line, trying to locate friends and family — was the time I missed it the least. Instead of burying my nose in congratulatory texts, logging my virtual miles or snapping post-race pics, I was able to enjoy the after party and really be present in it. I saw hugs, happy tears and throngs of exhausted, exhilarated runners.

Where pigs fly.

Where pigs fly.

So that’s what I’ll take away from this Flying Pig Half Marathon. Truly immersing myself in a race and embracing the experience. When people ask me how it was, I merely respond that it was awesome … because it was! Besides, most of my feelings about this race are deeply personal and hard to explain in a one-sentence answer.

While I don’t know how to translate this race experience into water cooler talk, I do know one thing: I love Cincinnati, and I love it in a way I never thought I would as a transplant from Iowa. And the city never shines as brightly as she does on Flying Pig Sunday. — Aidz

Nutrition Basics

Breakfast of champions.

Breakfast of champions.

If you’re just getting into running, you’re probably like I was: hungry, all the time. Now that I’ve been running for awhile, I have developed some strategies for balancing my nutrition during training. No joke, I actually gained weight when I trained for my first marathon. I ate everything in sight, and I suffered injury after injury. I blamed my shoes, but in hindsight, my poor diet might have had something to do with it.

I’m not a nutritionist, but I can safely tell you that what you eat and drink during training makes a huge difference. I know that it sounds like a no-brainer, but if you’re like me and you run 25-30 miles a week during training season, you feel entitled to eat whatever the heck you want! But not so fast, you still need to be mindful. Here are a few tips that have helped me along the way.

  • Don’t skip breakfast. Like, ever. Eat it before you get in the car or before you open your email at work. Heck, whip up a smoothie and drink it on the way in! This will help you avoid the mad rush to Chik-Fil-A at noon.
  • Try to eat more protein than feels possible. Its benefits are real and important. I’m not a huge fan of fake food, but I will drink the occasional Muscle Milk if I’m protein-starved. And a scoop of protein powder in your smoothie helps after a hard workout. If you can drink milk, make it chocolate and recover with a yummy treat.
  • Hydrate all day, every day. If you are going to be doing speedwork or long runs, you better be hydrated. In addition to water, I’ve added green tea to my afternoon for a little caffeine and extra hydration. There are other good things about green tea, and every little bit helps when you’re in the throes of training.
  • Get snackin! I eat all day. Try keeping nuts, dried fruit, chocolate or whatever you love stocked in your desk or car. Don’t feel bad about snacking; just don’t keep cookies and candy around. They’re empty calories and not worth the investment.
  • Alcohol. When I’m training, and I mean seriously training, I cut out alcohol (save for a couple very special occasions). It sounds lame, but I promise you’ll feel the difference. Your pants will fit better too. And when your race is over, you’ll be able to celebrate, very cheaply.

My daughter recently reminded me of an interesting phenomenon that happens when you eat better and run more: you don’t want to eat junk food, you actually crave the healthy stuff. Maybe it’s evolutionary, like when we migrated across the plains and there was less time to find and eat Taco Bell. Or maybe, as you log your miles and become more aware of your overall health, your diet just follows suit. Either way, the world of physical fitness and diet are inextricably entwined. You can’t really do one really well with out the other. — Amie

Race Recap: Chi Town 10K 2015

I spent 2014 busting out PRs left and right, and it felt fairly incredible. I became faster, stronger, even happier. I was proud of myself, proud of the way I rose to each challenge and recorded more notches in my racing belt.

Then last weekend, I busted out a “reverse 10K PR” — a.k.a. my slowest 6.2-mile race ever — and I still felt completely victorious. Fancy that.

My finish time at Saturday’s Chi Town 10K was 17 minutes slower than last year’s PR at the same race and 7 minutes slower than my previous 10K reverse PR (2012 Polar Dash, in a snowstorm).

Saturday’s race wasn’t about time goals, though; it was about running 6.2 miles without literally limping to the finish.

Coming back from injury has been difficult, to say the least, and I’m still not healed. But I needed this race to prove to myself that I truly am on the road to recovery.

Mags Chi Town 10K 2015I didn’t have my usual pre-race jitters, and I lollygagged a little getting down to the start line. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever been less nervous about a non-goofy-5K race. I was excited about returning to the Lakefront Trail for the first time since marathon training, and despite the brisk-bordering-on-cold early-morning air, it was a beautiful day for a run.

I made my way back to the 10- and 11-minute start corral, and my ego took one on the chin as I pined over the Ghosts of Races Past, when I was way up front with the rabbits. Then I told my ego to shut the hell up, stop worrying about the past and live in the now (as Garth Algar would say).

I glanced down at my Timex watch as I crossed the start line: 8:22 a.m., 7 minutes after the gun went off. After that, I just ran. My ego would crop up every so often when someone would pass me, and I’d forcefully remind myself that it didn’t matter. I checked my watch a couple times to estimate how much longer I’d be running (the miles were not, shall we say, very clearly marked). I reveled at the new construction and paving on the trail. Damn, it HAS been a long time since I ran here.

My pace was steady, and the pain stayed away until about mile 4, when my left hip flexor started to feel little sore. Sonofa. It wasn’t awful, though, and all of my other “problem areas” felt fine, so I pressed on. Endurance-wise, I felt surprisingly strong — especially considering that I just started running regularly three weeks ago after five months of very little cardio of any kind.

When I reached the final stretch, I picked up my pace and picked off a few people to beat (hey, it WAS still a race), and I finished with a smile.

I hope all my races this year have the same happy ending. — Mags

ChiTown10KSwagA few notes about the race:

  • There were nearly three times as many runners for the 10K and half marathon races this year. Plus, they added the Deep Dish Dash 5K to the mix (which only had 50 finishers, but still). So much for my quaint little neighborhood jaunt. (I’m guessing it’s because everyone read my NBC Chicago Stride post, in which I sang the event’s praises, so I really only have myself to blame and/or congratulate.)
  • When we reached the Lakeshore Drive underpass near North Avenue beach at mile 3, a shouting volunteer informed us there was knee-high water in the tunnel. Um, what?! So we were re-routed out to LaSalle Drive and met back up with the course. It turns out, a pipe burst after the race started! Race organizers said it happened so quickly that the water in the tunnel was only inches deep when the lead runner went through and it was impassable just a couple minutes later. (My friend Troy was with the 8-minute pace group, and they trudged through ankle-high water). Volunteers and race organizers acted as quickly as they could, and police got in position to re-route runners through traffic. All told, it added .12 miles onto the half marathon and 10K courses. Never a dull moment, kids!
  • Once again, thumbs up on the race swag. The medal is fast becoming one of my favorites, and I also enjoy the light-weight zip hoodie race shirt.

Sixth Time Around

Even though I’m still gimpy and recovering from a litany of problems stemming from bursitis in my left hip, I registered for my sixth Chicago Marathon this week.

IMG_3546My finishing time last year was good enough to earn me a guaranteed entry, so I didn’t have to wait out the lottery process.

And, you know, I can’t NOT run the damn thing. It’s just too awesome and too important to me.

(Side note: I’ve also applied to be a pacer for summer marathon training with both CARA and CES, so here’s hoping one of them accepts me!)

Registering this time around felt different. It wasn’t the grand, momentous action it had been in years past. It felt familiar and far less nauseating, but there was still that split second of hesitation before clicking the “submit” button to pay my $185 and commit myself to another summer of early Friday nights and even earlier Saturday mornings.

Because I’m coming off a major injury, I might not be able to train as hard as I did last year — or as hard as I want to — so that thus-far elusive BQ likely will have to wait another year. And that’s OK.

Either way, the Chicago Marathon will still be waiting for me in the fall, a trusty old friend with whom I spend the second Sunday of every October. — Mags

Bad Angel Rule #199

Ease Back In.

As I’m discovering, coming back from a prolonged injury is a real beast. Along with the obvious physical adjustment comes a large mental adjustment. In some ways, it feels like starting at zero, but the truth is, you’re not really at zero. And that’s a good thing! You have a whole host of experience and knowledge to help carry you through.

Here are a few things to consider as you ease back into running.

Leave the GPS at home. Pace should be a VERY low priority when you’re just getting moving again. Your speed will return with time. For now, just enjoy the fact that you’re running and don’t beat yourself up about being slow(er). A slow run is better than no run!

Run for time instead of distance. As we discussed in this space a few weeks ago, running for time helps take the pressure off, which is especially important when coming back from injury. Instead of heading out for a 3-mile run, head out for a 30-minute run.

Reassess often. Did you push too hard and now you’re aching again? Pull back. Do you feel great and think you can step it up during your next workout? Awesome. We get used to sticking to our training plans NO MATTER WHAT and that’s often not feasible, especially when injury is in the mix. Check in with yourself and adjust as necessary.

Listen to your body. We take pride in pushing through pain, often to our own detriment. And, in the hurry to get out there again, the chance for re-injury increases. You don’t want to end up back on the disabled list, so if your gimpy knee starts screaming at you, listen to it.

Set realistic goals. Again, we’re easing back in. If you have a race on the horizon, instead of trying to PR (like you’d intended when you first signed up), dial it back a notch. This goes for more than just racing. Set small, attainable goals along your road to full recovery (i.e. make it through your workout without walking, add a third run per week to your regimen etc.).

Be patient. This one sucks the most. I know. I’m struggling mightily with it. Unlike when you first begin running — and you have nothing to compare your progress or ability to — you can’t help but recall your previous successes. “I used to run 6-8-10 miles easily, and now I can barely run 2!” The good news is, because you have already done those things, you know it’s possible to do them again. You didn’t just wake up one day with the ability to run 10 miles, it took work to get there. And it’s going to take some work — and a lot of patience — to get back there. — Mags