Tuesday, October 29, 2013

So You Wanna Be A Distance Runner

If you are one of those naturally speedy runners that looks good in lycra, gets excited at the mere thought of going for a 15 mile run or was able to run a sub two hour half on your first try, this post is probably not for you.

Actually, if you fit that description, you are probably not reading this blog in the first place. You are most likely a completely different caliber of athlete and I commend you. But I'm certainly not that girl....yet. But it might be in my future.

I was never a runner. I never played sports in school. I was a drama nerd and horse crazy. Even though riding takes a lot of strength and stamina (drama takes no strength whatsoever unless you count emotional fits as a work out) so when I randomly announced to my family that I was running a half marathon, they thought I had gone insane.

To be honest, pretty much the only reason I signed up for a half marathon was because a friend of mine said she was running the Disneyland Half Marathon. What?!? There were races at my favorite place?! What could be better?!

So I went home and immediately signed up the 2010 Disneyland Half  Marathon. Never mind that I had never run a race of any distance ever nor was a even a casual runner. I don't think I could even run to the mailbox without taking a walk break.

I signed up in April (can you believe it didn't sell out until sometime in the summer then?) and had never run more than a mile.

I wish I had been blogging back then. I was training for my first half in miserable AZ heat and truly wondered if I would be able to finish on race day.

Since then, I've run a whole lot of half marathons and one full marathon and I can pretty much say without lying that...I still don't love running. I'd rather be on my couch with my cats. Plus, there's a shit ton of good TV on these days.

I mean, seriously. How cute are they?

Now don't get me wrong, when I'm really dedicated in my training, I get a little obsessive about running. I also know that there are plenty of newbie runners that seem naturally gifted at running and I know there are plenty of really fast runners that also enjoy the "fun" races.

This post is for those of you that are like me: never thought about running until somebody dangled a golden ticket in front of your nose. And for me that golden ticket was running through the Magic Kingdom. And then suddenly you realize that golden ticket had morphed into something else.

I've been in a running and blogging slump for awhile now and that became very clear during and after Dumbo Double Dare. My life has changed for the better in the last year and therefore, it took me awhile to realize that my running wants and goals had changed as well. I no longer feel this insane need to sign up for every race that comes my way, but to stretch my comfort zone as a runner.


I've read several posts lately by other bloggers being in a blogging and/or running slump. Here are a few things I've learned on my running journey thus far:

1.) Don't let anyone convince you that you are not a "real runner". Yes, there are runners out there that are super snobby about running and would never dare toe the start line of a Disney race, much less wear a costume. Lucky for me, all of the runners I've met have been very cool and supportive of fellow runners, fast and slow alike.

2.) Everyone has different reasons for running. When I first started running, I was in a weird and unhappy place in my life. Running was something I did that I kept low pressure. I didn't care that I was slow. I could complete 13.1 miles and it was something I never thought I could do. I'm not saying that people shouldn't have goals, I just think that it's okay to run for whatever makes you happy. If you enjoy going for a slow jog, then don't let other people convince you that you should do anything other than what you want to do with your running.

3.) Don't compare yourself to other runners. Luckily for me, I had more non running friends than running friends when I first started running. Therefore, my friends were super impressed when I ran my first half. They thought I was crazy, but they were happy for me. They didn't ask me what my time was because they were so focused on the fact that I ran 13.1 miles. I'm grateful for that.

4.) If you want to run that marathon, but you think that you can't. You can. Yes, I've only finished one marathon. But it was under really crappy conditions, the day after running a half and I was under trained. If you don't want to, well, hey, you're probably the smart one here. If you do, but think you can't, well, you can. (Wow, I seem to be using a lot of commas today...and most likely incorrectly. C'est la vie.)

We look happy, but all three of us were crying.
But we are all marathoners.

5.) Most of all, run to be healthy and happy. If qualifying for Boston is your goal, train for it. If you want to jog with your dog for fun, do it. Do what you want. You don't have to explain anything to anyone and your reasons are just fine.

For the first time, I actually want to train to become a better runner. Things in my life are pretty good right now. I'm happy and I no longer need running as a form of escape. But I really think I needed these last few years to experience all of the fun races and have a good time. I've made some great friends and had a blast. Plus, I really need some new things to blog about. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Trail Tuesday - The Benefits of Running Up A Mountain

In my quest to become an improved and more dedicated runner, I've been trying to get out to run even when I don't have a lot of time. I've been running the mountain trail with my friend, Lara, on Tuesday nights for a few months. The problem is that it's getting dark so much earlier, so there's not a lot of time to get in much more than 3-4 miles. Now usually, that would give me an excuse not to go at all, but there's only a couple of more weeks left before I won't have any time at all before it's dark, so I'm taking advantage of it while I can.

Plus, the views are amazing.
I only managed to do 3.36 miles before it got dark, but every little bit counts. This trail is particularly rocky. All sorts of very colorful words fly out of my mouth every time I nearly break my foot on a rock.

The bonus to running on really uneven ground is that it actually strengthens muscles and joints that I hadn't realized needed strengthening. For example, when I first started running this particular trail, I swear, the muscles in my feet would fatigue. I would feel strain in spots that I hadn't previously felt any, like the arches of my feet. My ankles also felt really wobbly on that terrain. I'm happy to report that my feet and ankles feel so much stronger over all.

Easy to twist an ankle out here.
The other plus to running the mountain trail is that you get in a bunch of hill repeats without running the same hill over and over. And the scenery is a lot better.

I'm glad that I've been hitting this mountain trail, even though it sucked terribly to be out running it over the summer at 5:30 at 100+ degrees. But it really has paid off in increasing my speed from snail pace to turtle pace and strengthening my legs.

I've been doing some research on other ways to get faster like increasing my stride turn over and doing intervals. It's hard to put those to use on the trail, since the ground is so uneven and rocky. So I'll post more on that later after more experimenting on regular roads.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Run Chatting on Twitter and Hitting Up The Trails

Have you ever participated in #runchat or #runDisneyChat on Twitter? I've done it a couple of times now and it's really fun. I've found new people to follow and gained new followers each time I've done it. If you're a #runchat newbie, check it out, it's kind of cool. Questions are posted by the host(s) and then people reply and add #runchat or #runDisneyChat. (They're two separate chats, just to confuse things for you!) Anyway, it's pretty cool.

As for getting out of my rut, I actually managed to get in 3 runs this week! I know that's not really a lot for pretty much every other runner out there, but for me that's an accomplishment these days. I had been feeling pretty burnt out for awhile and I'm trying to get myself back into the groove of actually being a dedicated runner.

I met my friend, Lara, for a long run early Saturday morning. The sun is rising much later these days and we underestimated how early we needed to start.

Squishy Moon

It was surprisingly chilly, too. Last year at this time it was much, much warmer. The moon set was gorgeous, though. It's a good thing a like to take pictures when I run...

Looks like a picture from Africa or something!

I mentioned previously that I would really like to work on my speed. My advice? Find someone that runs faster than you and is a Nazi about running. That will do the trick. We ran 7 miles at least 30-60 seconds faster per minute. It was a tough run, but the good news is that I was able to actually keep running at that faster pace for much longer stretches and I took way fewer walk breaks. I was feeling pretty proud of myself.

I've also been reading and researching ways to improve my running. Since I ended up deferring my 2013 NYC Marathon until 2014, I don't want to have regrets when I toe that start line next year. I don't see a whole lot of full marathons in my future, and the NYCM is pretty damn big deal, so I want to do something different: actually be at my best. I know, I know, what's gotten into me? I hardly recognize myself! There's a story here, but I'll save that for a future blog post.

I feel really good and hopeful about my run yesterday. It felt tough, but I didn't feel like I was going to die while I was out there, so that's a plus. I also took my boy, Lou, on the trail, too. Lucky for him, we just took a leisurely stroll.

Trail time!
Sporting my Ragnar shirt.
I also downloaded some new music. I know some people hate Pitbull, but I love his stuff for running. I love this song. I listened to it on repeat on Thursday night when I went out for a quick 4 miler. It's dirty and totally annoying and awesome.

You're welcome.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

New Shoes and Getting Back To Basics

Ahoy there, mateys! So, as usual, I said I was getting serious and then slacked off in the running department for a week. I haven't been a slacker in general, just running. Life had been crazy and even though that's not a good excuse, it is what it is.

I did finally go get some new running shoes! I've always been a Brooks Adrenaline girl. I've had multiple pairs except my last pair, which were the Asics Kayano. I ran Goofy in them and I'm sad to send them to shoe retirement, but they're pretty worn. 

I hate when I fall in love with a shoe style and then they change them. That's what happened with my Brooks. I loved the first 4 pairs I had and then I got the latest and greatest pair and hated them. Well, I'm happy to report that I've fallen back in love with the Adrenalines.

The Brooks won me over once again. Sorry Asics.
My mom had asked me to go shoe shopping with her and she surprised me by buying not one, but two pairs of shoes for me. (I think my parents are feeling a little guilty about all of the money they're spending on my sister's baby. But who am I to argue over presents, right?) 

So I got two pairs of the Brooks Adrenaline. Of course, I needed the purple to go along with the more basic gray. I always get a whole size larger in my running shoes than in regular shoes so my running shoes make feet end up looking gigantic. I like that the Brooks are not quite as bulky as my Asics.

I'm in love.
I'm also a VIP member at Roadrunner Sports and so I can return any shoe that doesn't work within 30 days. I haven't actually taken them for a spin, yet, but they felt great in the store. Hopefully, I won't have to exchange them for something else.

I'm gearing up for a transformation experiment of sorts, but I'm mentally getting myself prepared for it before blogging about it. I did go running for Trail Tuesday and managed to get in 4 miles before it was too dark and I did another 4 miles in my neighborhood tonight.

Sometimes the desert is pretty cool.
Beautiful sunset on the mountain

Anyway, right now I'm concentrating on my form, building a better base and increasing speed. I'm really tired of being a slow back of the packer.

In other news, my medal arrived from Banana's Splits Virtual Race. I think my niece, Katie, is a perfect model, don't you?

Cuteness overload

She's pretty adorable. And her cheeks are so squishy! I just love her. I plan on being an awesome aunt. Disney Kids Races, here we come!

How's everyone else doing with their training? Any big goals on the horizon?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

It's Getting Serious 'Round These Parts

Wow, it's been over a month since I've blogged. I don't really have any good reason for that except that I sort of lost my mojo for awhile.

First - and I really hate to say this - I sort of lost my insane love for RunDisney events. I know. It's terrible. And I'm sure it's not forever. But the Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend wasn't the insanely amazing time I've come to expect from all things Disney. (Although, I must add here that I did have an amazing time with Team Freedom.) I'll admit that the horribly humid weather during Goofy Challange and Dumbo Double Dare probably contributed to a lot of my current feelings, which is beyond rD's control. I think too much of a good thing can become just that: too much. I'm signed up for the Glass Slipper Challenge in February with a few ladies that have never been to WDW, so that should be a blast, but after that, I might give myself a break from rD. I reserve the right to change my mind, of course!

Spending so much time doing themed types of races has left me - are you ready for this? - actually wanting to focus on races that are a tad more serious, like the New York City Marathon and maybe the Marine Corps Marathon.

Don't get me wrong, I've certainly enjoyed the wonderful experiences I've had so far, but maybe now it's time for a change. And maybe some more training effort on my part.

If you were reading my blog last year at this time, you already know that I was supposed to run NYC but it was canceled. My running BFF and I chose this year to run as part of the NYCM resolution process. Recently, I made the tough decision to defer that guaranteed entry until 2014. Trust me when I say, I had a really hard time actually canceling my entry for this year.

Just seeing that freaks me out a little. I mean, what if I've somehow screwed up my guaranteed entry for next year? What if I'm actually injured next year? It's scary.

Several people that were going to be going this year deferred, including Tara, and there's really no way I can afford to be in NYC on my own for that race. The hotel prices get jacked up that weekend and that city ain't a cheap place to be anyway. It really made the most sense to defer.

The other thing I didn't plan on was showing my horse as much as I have this year. Our state championships happen to be the same weekend as NYCM. I earned qualifying scores, but never nominated my horse because I wasn't supposed to be here. That's a little depressing, too. So I can't show in the championships this year and I won't be able to show next year, either. And I didn't get to compete in 2012. At least I can show in the regular classes that weekend. 

So when I say I'm getting serious, I'm referring to working on my speed as a runner. I'm slow. Like really slow. My half PR is 2:39 and I ran my ass off for that time. Part of the problem is that I'm so busy with my horse and work, that as soon as I start making any real progress in the running department, I slack off and don't run for a month. That sort of training protocol doesn't really yield results. Unless, of course, the results you are seeking to gain include losing speed and losing the same 5 pounds over and over.

It doesn't seem unreasonable that I could improve my base so that I could have a sub 5 hour marathon time next year. 

Why 5 hours, you ask? Well, supposedly, everyone with a sub 5 marathon time gets their name printed in the New York Times. Of course, I Googled that information and found a really interesting article about that very topic. Turns out not everyone gets listed. That would probably be my luck.

I also found this article in my search which you should check out if you want to get your panties in a bunch over people thinking slow runners don't respect the marathon. Just my 2 cents? 26.2 miles is still 26.2 miles, however long it takes. 

It also wouldn't hurt to lose 20 pounds before next year's race, either. Between training and weight loss, hopefully I can hit my goal of a sub 5 time. I'm pretty regularly running 8-9 miles on Saturdays, so I'm considering running the Fiesta Bowl Half here in town in December and trying for a new half PR. Also, no one looks good in white breeches unless you're a twig. Wouldn't hurt to slim down for that, either. And seriously? Who thought white was the way to go? Bleh.

Annnnnd, my coat is a wee bit tight. Siiiigh. But it used to not fit at all, so I guess that's something.

Side note: if you're looking for a good blogger app for iPhone, I highly recommend BlogGo. It's $2 but there's so many more options than the official Blogger app.

I still need to figure out some of the tweaks I need to make, but there's lots of options like alignment and inserting links. I give it a thumbs up. 

ETA: I tried to post and the pictures were all over the place. Guess I really need to work on my tweaking...