Friday, June 29, 2012

Singin' in the rain, and racing aerodynamics

The Chicagoland area underwent some heavy rainfall today.  (The rainfall has been much needed, given drought-like conditions for the past several months!)

As soon as I saw the ominous grey skies and the raindrops pelting my windows, I did what anyone would do in this situation.  I laced up my running shoes and darted outside.

Running in the rain is a great way to mix up the running routine, especially in the summertime!  It's been so hot and humid outside that the rain is actually incredibly refreshing.  It's fun to slosh through puddles and to smell the wet grass.  It also makes me feel like a hard-core runner.  Especially when I see other people huddling underneath overpasses or walking around waving their umbrellas.  Comparatively, I'm tearin' it up in my running shoes and actually wishing that it would rain harder.  No drizzle for me - give me the good rain!

I've actually never seen this movie.  But I hear it's a classic!

My one question is regarding lightning.  Is it considered unsafe to go running if it's lightning outside?  I think I've read a lot of instances in which events take place "rain or shine, except in the event of lightning."  I'm no meteorologist, but don't they say that the odds of getting hit by lightning are literally one in a million?

Maybe someone could design a lightning rod hat for runners.  I can see it now: "A guaranteed deterrent for all-weather electricity!  Run safe and run confident with your own custom-designed lightning rod hat!

Manufacturers of running gear, you heard this new product idea from me first!!!!!

A lightning rod suit. 
Who wouldn't want to run while wearing this?

On a related note - my running shoes obviously got wet this morning while I was out in the rain, which made them significantly heavier.  When I was putting them away and rearranging my other shoes, it made me observe that certain pairs of my (dry) running shoes are also noticeably heavier than others. 

I was thinking ahead to the Chicago Marathon this October and considering which shoes to wear for the big day.  Based on my current running shoe rotation, I was debating between the Brooks Glycerin 8s or a pair of Mizuno Wave Rider 15s.  The Brooks (after adding my prescribed Superfeet berry insoles to them) feel a little more supportive, which I like.  But they are also comparatively heavier.  For shorter training runs, I don't think it makes a huge difference - but over 26.2 miles I think everything will make a difference. 

(NOTE TO SELF: Pick up a racing suit like the below.  Anything to improve my aerodynamics.)

(In case you're wondering, these are from an episode of Blackhawks TV from a few years ago.  It's some of the funniest television known to humankind for all Blackhawks fans.  And yes, I am anxiously awaiting the start of the 2012-2013 NHL season even though it is months away.  But I digress.)

I've heard many folks talk about the feeling of running while wearing bricks on their feet.  Is this the reason that doing a combination workout of two triathalon activities is called a "brick workout" - because of how heavy your legs must be afterwards?  Speaking of wearing bricks...

Lego-brick shoes!
(These can't be comfortable...)

Back to the original question.  For all you marathoners out there, any opinions on marathoning in heavier, more supportive shoes vs lighter, less supportive shoes?!? 

(No Lego shoes, sorry.)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

What's the harm in believing?

Aloha folks, my apologies for having been MIA this last week.  It's been a crazy time for me with a lot of ups and downs.  As a result, I've been experiencing a bit of blogger's block with a lot of things on my mind that I haven't been able to string together into meaningful posts.  But I will catch up with all your blogs soon - and I look forward to your inspirations!

Now - a recent topic that has been on my mind:

Many folks have told me that marathon training is just as much, if not more about building up your mental capacity as it is building up your physical capacity.  In short, our bodies are already capable of running 26.2 miles or even more - and we just have to train our minds to handle it.
I've struggled many times throughout my life with thinking realistically versus thinking optimistically or pessimistically.  The lines can be blurry.  However, in general I am great at thinking positively for other people, but have a very difficult time thinking positively for myself.  Why is it so hard to do this?

I love this.

I've been paying attention to many recent instances in which people have said they have to think positively about their challenges in order to get through them.  This applies to any situation - injuries, career, relationships, etc., etc.

When I type out that "thinking positively can help" it sounds ridiculously obvious.  But what I've been pondering is the opposite consideration - and that is when thinking positively means putting yourself at risk for greater disappointment.  Which is better or worse?  Is it better or worse to have low expectations and then set yourself up for pleasant surprises?  Or is it better or worse to think positively but then set yourself up for a potential letdown?
Much has been written and said about self-affirmations, methods of attracting different types of energy, and self-fulfilling prophesies.  Call these things scientific, psychological, kinetic, religious, spiritual, or any combination thereof.  But the ultimate question is...

What is the harm in believing?
Switching gears, let's talk about my training from this past week.
  • After taking a week off of running and really, really focusing on muscle stretching and foam-rolling, my wonky hip has shown some improvement.  I ran a total of 20 miles last week with almost no hip pain, including a 12-mile training run last Sunday.  Unfortunately, after doing a 3-mile run yesterday morning, I am experiencing a little bit of a setback today.  However, I am still encouraged by the fact that things appear to be trending in the right direction. 
  • Excluding my half-marathon races, my 12-mile training run this past Sunday is the longest training run I've ever done.  The thought of doing the 15+ mile runs on the training schedule used to daunt me to no end, but I'm finally starting to think that they may be achievable after all.
  • Amidst all this, I almost overlooked the fact that my knees have also been holding up very well over the last several weeks, too.  This is a huge victory for me.  After struggling with so much stubborn knee pain in the past, I don't want to lose sight of this as something to be celebrated!

Some thoughts that are both related and unrelated to my training:
  • I watched the Dream Team documentary last week and was captivated.  Back in the Jordan era, I was a huge Bulls fan and remembered the thrill behind the Dream Team when it happened.  This documentary is fantastic - such great coverage of player personalities and behind-the-scenes footage.  Magic Johnson is so personable and likable, Charles Barkley steals the show with never owning an unexpressed thought, and Michael Jordan's competitiveness continues to bring the stage to new heights.  This documentary is going into the DVR vault.

  • The 1992 Mens Olympic Basketball Team, aka "The Dream Team."

  • I just heard about the inaugural BTN Big 10K race on July 28.  Being a loyal alumnus of the University of Illinois (and with Adam being a loyal alumnus of Penn State), this race intrigues me.  For various reasons I don't need to and shouldn't sign up for any more races this year, but this one is tempting.  I'm not a fan of the hot dogs they are giving to the runners at the post race party, but the custom-selected race shirt is cool and it's always fun to do things that involve representing my alma mater.  Food for thought (but still no hot dogs).
  • Speaking of Big Ten schools, I'm headed to Ohio State University next month for a White House Initiative on Asian and Pacific Islanders.  I was planning to be in Columbus just for the day, but a change of scenery is always nice and it would be fun to go running through the OSU campus.  Would it be bad to stay an extra night with that being the primary motivation for doing so?
  • I am itching to go on a quick vacation someplace.  I always prefer to travel to places that are off the beaten path, but I haven't been to Disney or to Vegas in a few years and it would be fun to make a jaunt to either.  This is partially driven by the fact that Adam is in Anaheim this week on business, and I am wishing more than anything that I could join him there.  I want to go to Disneyland, plus visit my dear friends Ed and Myhien and their daughter Kai, who live nearby.  Sigh.
  • If I ever become fabulously wealthy, the first thing I want is the ability to travel at the drop of a hat.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Keyword accusations, and calling all Mizuno fans

My ever-expanding collection of running shoes continues to ooze insanity in my closet.  I think it's gotten to the point where my blog is triggering clandestine keyword intelligence search alerts to purveyors of running shoes all across the galaxy.  I'm sure I am also triggering keyword search warnings for endangered deep dish pizza afficionados (and the cheese manufacturers that love them).

We'll talk in more detail another day about the search keywords that lead to my blog.  But here is a recent sampling:

"Chicago deep dish pizza"
"Lou Malnati's"
"Too many carrots"
"Placebo effect"

I'm no psychologist, but I see some funny potential interpretations of these key words.  Interestingly, most other bloggers' search keywords are complete doozies.  Not me!


Add the "dun-dun" sound from Law & Order

Back to me being a very targetable demographic for running shoes.  The folks at Mizuno have launched a campaign called the Mezamashii Run Project.  (The word "mezamashii" means "eye-opening" or "brilliant" in Japanese.  In this context it is meant to capture the euphoric feeling of a brilliant run (which, incidentally, I haven't experienced for quite awhile...but that's yet another topic for another day).)

Mizuno is inviting runners to receive a FREE pair of shoes and join their community (which gets you early access to product launches and Mizuno events).


If you are a fan of Mizunos, then go check it out.  You can apply for an invitation if you're interested.

Personally, I used my shoe sleuthing skills to buy a pair of Mizuno Wave Rider 15s several months ago, and they are great!  So I am all over a potential opportunity to try more Mizunos.  =D

The Wave Rider 15

In the meantime, maybe I will work on my own campaign to strategically change the search keywords that lead to my blog.  I will focus more on including words in my blog that I WANT searches to lead to.  Ask and you shall receive, right? 

OK, here goes:
Lottery winner!
Lottery winner!
World peace!
Lottery winner!
Lottery winner!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

What Not To Wear - my home edition!

Many years ago my friend Helen introduced me to the show What Not To Wear on TLC.  For those of you who are not familiar, it's basically a makeover show on steroids.  In each episode, one woman gets a whole new wardrobe (via a 2-day shopping spree!), a new hairstyle, and new makeup - always with a stunning before and after transformation.  (On a side note, my friend Pete used to joke that one of his hobbies was to be a "before" model.  =D )

I've always wanted to go on a true shopping spree, similar to what the made-over women receive on TV.  Similarly, I've always envied the scene in Pretty Woman where Vivienne spends an obcene and "really offensive" amount of money on new clothing. 

Obviously the biggest limiting factor in going on a true shopping spree is the lack of funds (especially in places like Rodeo Drive).  I bring this up because my work wardrobe has been getting to the point where some change is in desperate need.  Yours truly would really like to freshen up thy dying sense of style without spending a ton of money (translation: no shopping spree for me).  Anything to avoid another day of wearing neutral-colored pants and a button-down shirt.


Kim suggested that I contact Erin over at Loop Looks for a free closet consultation.  (Erin also authors Eri-Thon, one of the running blogs that I follow!)

Erin came over last night.  She took one look at my closet before spinning out a seemingly endless array of mix-and-match ideas and tips for new outfits that I would never, ever, ever have thought of myself.  She generated a ton of ways to utilize the many items I previously had laying around serving as dust bunny receptacles.  She also taught me that some of the fashion "rules" I always abided by can actually be "broken" with absolutely fantastic results.  For example:

You CAN mix a printed top with a printed bottom! 

You CAN pair an animal-print neutral with a bold jewel tone! 

You CAN wear a belt on a skirt without belt loops!

Here are a few of my favorites from the outfits that Erin put together:

(OK, OK, the last picture is my own creation so it doesn't belong with the others.  But aren't the obnoxious day-glow colors fabulous?!?  I think style guidelines can be more outlandish when it comes to running gear.  =P)

Thanks to Erin, I am excited once again about the contents of my closet!  It'll be so invigorating to express some unique style in the workplace and beyond - NO MORE COOKIE CUTTER.  Not to mention how pampered I felt to have a personal stylist for an evening!  I could really get used to this.  And my wallet is very happy, too.  =D

Friday, June 15, 2012

You can't touch this

My training/workout log this week is empty.  Zero.  Zilch.  Zippo.  The big fat doughnut.  (Chocolate glazed, please.  Although, I am an equal opportunity doughnut-eater.)

After the stinging hip pain that I experienced last week at the Chicago 13.1 Marathon, I decided to take some time off and try to let things heal.  I thought I'd give myself three or four days where I did nothing - no cross training, no yoga, no strength-training, no PT exercises (much to my PT's chagrin, I am sure). 

I went in for a PT appointment this past Wednesday and told them about how my hip pain had flared up over the weekend.  They examined it and determined that my hip flexor basically has a muscle knot the size of Texas.  Also, the muscle knot is about as tight as the waistband now on my high school jeans.  (Don't ask.  But stretchy pants are a good thing.)

MC Hammer pants. 
(Children of the 80s will fully understand.)

The PT did some intense massage on the offending area - and wow, did it hurt!  I also received an ultrasound on my hip flexor, and was instructed to take the entire week off of running.

I am certainly happy to rest my hip for an extended time period.  I am also enormously relieved that the hip pain is apparently due to muscle issue rather than a bone injury!  However, after nearly a week without any major exercise, I am starting to feel antsy.  I'm not sleeping as well at night, either.

This must be what taper madness feels like.

Since I'm on a roll with the MC Hammer-isms today and have already thrown in a zillion references to him, here's the obligatory video:

I think it's time to do some cross-training or some yoga, or something to alleviate my sluggishness.  (Slam dancing?  Food fight?  Visiting my alderman while dressed in a yellow rubber chicken suit (full-body) that is two sizes too small?) 

In the meantime, I've also lost some mental momentum.  Now I'm pretty much just counting down the days until my week off has passed and I can go pound the pavement again.  I don't really feel like doing anything else until then (other than reminiscing about music and fashion icons of the 80s, apparently).  Fun, eh?

Self portrait

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A field of dreams for my next race

OK, folks, it is summertime and marathon training is upon me.  But rather than get bogged down by the thought of doing 2- and 3-hour training runs for the next few months, I thought I would take a different approach to keep my training revved up.

I just signed up for the Strike Out ALS 5K run on July 10!!! (Which, incidentally, is also two days before my next birthday.  It's a great way to celebrate!)

There's nothing like a good 5K race to mix things up and keep the blood pumping.  For the past several months, I've been so focused on middle-distance races like 10-milers and half marathons that I've pretty much neglected the shorter races.  Not anymore!!!

As you might surmise, this race is baseball themed.  But even for people like me who are, shall we say, "mild" baseball fans, this race sounds like a lot of fun.  First off, it starts at 6:30 PM, and for the record, I happen to love love LOVE evening races.  I think they are much more festive (probably because I'm much more awake).  I really enjoy NOT having to set my alarm at some ungodly hour on a weekend morning, not to mention dragging poor Adam up to be my chauffeur.

The race takes place at U.S. Cellular Field, home of the Chicago White Sox.  The course finishes on the warning track inside, which I hear is quite a rarity!  (Pretending that you're a baseball star, e.g. Frank Thomas, is optional.)

    We'll be stepping in Bo Jackson's footsteps.
The race location at US Cellular also means great options for public transit and parking.  This is a very welcome respite from the many logistically-challenged races I've done in the past.

OK, some requisite non-running thoughts on this topic...

For those of you who aren't already familiar, there is an intense rivalry between Chicago's two baseball teams, the Cubs and the White Sox.  It is an extremely controversial topic in Chicago to proclaim your local loyalties between the two teams.  It's comparable with the lines of religion, politics, and your favorite deep dish pizza (you may think I am kidding but I'm really not).  For some reason it is considered verboten to root for both teams - which I've never been able to understand.

Since I've already tackled the highly controversial topic of deep dish pizza (which, incidentally, spawned many a heated debate!), I'll go ahead and disclose my Chicago baseball views:

(There, I said it.) 

I used to live on Chicago's South Side, walking distance from US Cellular Field.  For many years I was surrounded by residential Sox fans.  However, Adam used to live less than a mile from Wrigley Field, home of the Cubs, so you can guess how he was influenced.  And lots of my coworkers and friends are diehard, vocal Cubs fans.  Translation: I am the subject of many, many territorial wars.

Now, getting back to the Strike Out ALS 5K.  For the post-race party, they'll be broadcasting the 2012 MLB All Star Game on the Jumbotron!  Since the All-Star game represents ALL of baseball, dare I say that the festivities can bring fans of both teams together to unite?!?!?!?  They are letting nonrunners attend the post-race party, too, by donation.  This will be fun!!!

The Jumbotron at US Cellular Field. 
If you build it, they will come.

(I had listed on my 2012 Summer To-Do List that I wanted to see some live baseball games, and for this event I'll give myself some extra credit. =D ) 

On a related note, since I missed the running blogger photo meet-ups at the Chicago 13.1 Marathon this past Saturday, I would really love another opportunity to meet you all in person at these festivities!

For all you baseball fans and all you runners and spectators out there in Chicagoland and beyond, come join me at this race and/or the post party!!!!  We will celebrate the gloriousness that is an outdoor summertime evening at one of the great ballparks of the country!!! 

(And you are free to try to influence my baseball loyalties in whichever way you like.  =)  )

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Chicago 13.1 Marathon Race Recap

Half marathon #4 completed this past Saturday morning.  Official finishing time: 2:31:22.  Not too bad.  I wanted to finish sub-2:30, but it was a hot one out there (temps in the 80s) so I knew it wasn't going to be my best day.  All in all, though, the race was fun, with great support and a beautiful course, and I enjoyed the festivities.

The race took place on the city's south side in an area with limited parking and select public transit options.  Therefore, the race had free shuttle busses departing from a few pickup points throughout the city.  I had every intention of taking a 5:30 AM shuttle bus from downtown.  But, BIG HUGE thanks go out to Adam, who volunteered to drive me there and did so very cheerfully.  I felt so, so bad waking him up at 5:55 AM on a Saturday morning and if the roles had been reversed I would have been much grumpier.  (Actually, even without reversing the roles I was still much grumpier than he was.  He's an amazing person.)

Things got a little frenetic as we approached.  Cars and busses were packed, and police were redirecting folks in different directions.  We had to detour through some side streets and wind our way back.  A bunch of running bloggers were meeting at gear check for a photo at 6:30 AM, so I rushed in with the hopes of still making the photo.  I was met by an enormous gaggle of runners.  This is what it felt like:

After walking back and forth a few times and pushing my way through the crowds like an NFL running back, I still hadn't found gear check and it was well after 6:30.  I gave up and was disappointed that I missed the photo meetup, but dutifully got in line for the portapotties.  I was still in line when they blew the starting airhorn.  Thankfully I was in a later starting corral so I didn't actually start until about 25 minutes later.

I tried to start out slowly.  I was still nervous about the left hip pain I'd been experiencing earlier in the week, and unfortunately my hip was stinging me here and there.  Every time it did I winced to myself, and started counting how many miles I had left (which is not a good thing to do when you're at, say, mile 1.3).  While the occasional stinging was uncomfortable, thankfully it wasn't debilitating.

The course afforded gorgeous views of the Chicago lakefront and skyline, and wound through some beautiful parks. 

I was focused more on hugging the corners of the path and on my hip pain to enjoy the scenery as much as I would have liked to.  But I am enjoying seeing the pictures that other runners posted from the race.  =)

There were plenty of water/Gatorade stations, some fun live performers (men in kilts! taiko drummers! color guards with flags!) and deejays along the course, plus several misting stations.  They also provided some cold towels and ice chips.  The race was very well prepared for runners dealing with the heat, and for that I was very grateful.  I never felt like the heat was overwhelming.  Also, the volunteers on the course were amazing - such great enthusiasm.

Same as my last half marathon, my longest training run prior to this half marathon was an 11-miler done two weekends prior.  However, once again fatigue started to set in around mile 8.  I was disconcerted and for the zillionth time calculated how many miles I had left to go.  I started visualizing the 5K loop that I run at home, and using that to keep things in perspective (e.g. "Less than two of my 5K loops to go!")

If only I looked this serene...

Throughout most of the race, the 2:30 pacer was nearby.  I kept using the pacer as my "leapfrog" guide.  I was somewhat fascinated by the large crowd that initially started with the 2:30 pacer, which dwindled down further and further as the race progressed.  (The 2:30 pacer ended up crossing the finish line by herself, which I hear is actually somewhat typical?)

Using the Jeff Galloway method, I had been taking periodic walk breaks throughout the course but once I hit mile 9 I tried to take as few walk breaks as possible.  It was tough.  Mile 11 felt like it would never end and mentally, it was the longest mile of the entire course for me by far.  We were along a stretch of the lakefront where the path curved so you could see the runners very far ahead on the course - and they looked tiny and so far away.  Not wanting to get discouraged again, I tried to avert my gaze so that I was only focused on what was directly ahead of me.

I saw Adam around mile 12.9, and started feeling relieved that the finish line was close.  I did pick up the pace a little bit in those last few minutes but I didn't even attempt to sprint across the finish line.

Prior to the race I had been looking forward to eating the Lou Malnati's pizza they were serving at the finish line.  But after crossing the finish line I actually had no desire to eat pizza - which is incomprehensible for me (although, I made up for it later that night at dinner).

What was I thinking when I passed this up at the finish line?

I got some water and a banana, and Adam and I found a shaded patch of grass to sit.  (There was another photo meetup after the race, but due to my later starting corral and fatigue, I ended up missing the second photo, too.  Grrrrr.) 

While we were sitting, some people nearby started shouting, "Medic!  Medic!"  We watched as one of the medic carts zoomed by.  I lamented to Adam about how it must be so nervewracking to work as a medic for these races, and that I'd heard horror stories about working the medical tents at marathon finish lines.  I was also lamenting to Adam that the half marathon distance was challenging enough, that I couldn't possibly imagine doubling this distance, and what the heck had I gotten myself into in signing up for a full marathon (this is the edited version, I actually used much more colorful words).

After getting home, though, and having some time to recover, I started getting excited about my next half marathon (the Rock N Roll Chicago on July 22).  Only six weeks away until the next one!  =D

Runners have selective memories when it comes to the challenges of running these races.  =)

Friday, June 8, 2012

Bowling with DA BEARS, and final thoughts before tomorrow's race

Every year, my firm sponsors the Charles Tillman Cornerstone Foundation.  In past years, this has meant sponsoring celebrity flag football games, given that Charles Tillman is a longstanding member of the Chicago Bears.  However, this year Charles Tillman hosted a Celebrity Pro Bowler Tournament. 

Sponsoring companies got to send a team to bowl with a member of the Chicago Bears, or to participate as a spectator.  I was fortunate enough to win one of the firm's spectator tickets.

The Pro Bowler event took place last night.  I got frazzled enroute to the event after getting stuck in horrible traffic for over an hour.  Then I had trouble finding parking.  Then I got confused trying to find my way out of the parking structure, which was quite large and is also shared by several different venues.  After walking back and forth a few times trying to find the right exit, I ended up riding in the parking garage elevator with a very beefy man.  He was very polite - he held the elevator for me, gestured for me to exit the elevator first, opened doors for me, etc.

It wasn't until much later, when they were making player introductions, that I learned that the man was NFL offensive lineman Marques Sullivan.  Oops.

A picture I surreptitiously took of Marques Sullivan a few hours later

For the rest of the evening, Marques was besieged by autograph seekers and photo requests.  Whoops on my part for not realizing who he was while in the elevator.  Clearly this event would have been better attended by someone who knows a lot more about NFL football than me!

Here are a few more pictures from the event:

Alex Brown, defensive end.

Anthony Adams, defensive tackle

Charles "Peanut" Tillman, cornerback, and our host for the evening

Gabe Carimi, offensive tackle

Silent auction memorabilia

NOTE: I relied heavily upon fellow spectators and Wikipedia for the above photo captions (excluding the silent auction photo of course).

I am much more into NHL hockey than I am into football, but it was cool seeing the players in person.  They all seemed and looked like very normal, down-to-earth people.  Alex Brown, in particular, seemed so friendly - he was always smiling and laughing.  With the exception of some of the beefier guys, I could have walked by them on the street and not had the slightest inclination that they were pro football players!  They all seemed to be good bowlers, too.  =D

Switching gears now to a much less interesting topic...

I am a mixture of excited and nervous about tomorrow's half marathon
  • Tomorrow we're forecasted to have a high temperature of up to 90 degrees.  For the last few days, we've been getting communications from the race director stating that "We recommend you use caution when running - this is not the best day to try to set a PR."  Woo hoo!
  • My left hamstring and piriformis continue to be tight, despite foam-rolling and stretching like a madwoman.  I've also been experiencing minor left hip pain all week.  Sigh.
  • I went for a 3-mile "sanity-check" run yesterday afternoon.  Forget 90-degree temps, the 80-degree temperature already dismayed me.  Plus, my hip pain flared up afterwards to the point where last night I started to seriously consider whether or not it was safe for me to run the race.
  • At the recommendation of my PT, I used a heating pad last night.  Thankfully my hip feels a lot better this morning, so I'll be heating throughout the day.  I even brought the heating pad to use at the office.  I'm sure I look bizarre.  But I've done stranger things in the past in the name of running.
In short, as much as I want to run a strong race in order to gauge my recent training progress, it may not be in the cards tomorrow.  And I am telling myself that that is okay, and besides, these races are supposed to be fun.

After watching me wrestle with the heating pad last night, Adam reminded me this morning that I don't HAVE to run this race.

My response?  "Yes, but they are serving Lou Malnati's pizza at the finish line!" 

Hey, whatever it takes.

Will run for deep dish pizza!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Seeing the signs, and breaking the rules yet again

Thank you to everyone for your supportive comments and feedback after my training lull last week

In lieu of running, I spent the last few days really focusing on my physical therapy.  I.e., I've made a conscious effort on a daily basis to complete my FULL physical therapy routine (which takes over an hour).  No corner-cutting allowed this time - which has made a difference.  Also, I finally got a good, solid run in last night - which means I am feeling a lot better now.  But more on that in a minute.

Everyone say, "Ooooooohhh...."

On another positive note...
Today is National Running Day.  In celebration, the Rock N Roll Competitor series is offering a $20 discount on most of its races today.  To honor Adam's beloved hometown Pittsburgh, I was excited about potentially running the inaugural Rock N Roll Pittsburgh Half Marathon in August 2013.  But I've spent the last 24 hours waffling on whether or not I should take advantage of the discount to sign up for an out-of-town race 14 months in advance. 

Who knows what could happen between now and then?  Dogs and cats might start living together!  Pancakes may be banned due to their inherent riskiness!  Bizarre sports injuries may become more and more rampant!

What to do?  What to do?

They say that when you want to, you will always find signs guiding your path.  Last night Adam and I were talking about how frequently he sees his family/friends in Pittsburgh.  Despite going there several times a year, he says that it's still never enough.  Then later last night, Adam was on the phone with his mom in Pittsburgh, who, coincidentally or not, mentioned that we don't see each other enough, and asked if we were coming to town next month for July 4 and her birthday. 

Sadly, for various reasons we are not going to Pittsburgh next month (although, they are coming to visit us next weekend!)  However, after hearing about this discussion, I saw the sign and it opened up my eyes, I saw the sign.  Life is demanding without understanding.

[Cue Ace of Base:]

SOLD!  One race registration to Rock N Roll Pittsburgh, plus another opportunity to see Adam's clan in Pittsburgh next year, coming right up! 

How's that for following the guidance given to you?!?!?

On yet another positive note...
I recently uncovered a $50 Foot Locker gift certificate in the kitchen's junk drawer.  It immediately burned a hole in my pocket.

To quell the burning, I decided to give in to one of the current trends in the running community and experiment with a pair of more minimalist running shoes.  These shoes were on ridiculous clearance and came with free shipping. 

The Saucony Kinvara 2

After giving these shoes a whirl last night, all I can say is WOW.  Just WOW.  These shoes may not have been the only reason that I am suddenly feeling better about my training, but they certainly made a big splash!

As I've mentioned before, I've never really noticed many differences in any of my existing pairs of running shoes.  But these shoes are awesome.  They are incredibly comfortable and flexible and light and fluffy.  They are so amazing that I am considering trying to pick up a second pair of them before the clearance inventories are gone.  In fact, I love them so much that for my half marathon this Saturday, I'm tempted to break the cardinal running rule that thou shalt not try anything new on race day!

I know, I know... (I see the sign.)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Karhu 5K Winner

Congratulations to Xaarlin, who is the recipient of the free Karhu 5K registration!

See you at the race this Saturday!

Monday, June 4, 2012

A strangely bad training week

Happy Monday, folks! 

Usually I am never happy to see the weekend end.  On most Monday mornings I have to be dragged out of bed kicking, screaming, and crying.  Even on my "good" Monday mornings the whole building will shake with the sound of my uncontrollable sobs permeating the drywall.  (You may think that I am exaggerating, but really I am not.)

Today, though, was an exception.  Not an exception to my aversion towards all the unpleasantness of having to wake up early.  Rather, an exception to ending one week and starting another.

I had a strangely bad week of training.  I can't really pinpoint what might have happened to trigger this, but the fact remains that this is easily the worst week of training I can ever remember having. 

I am trying to stay positive to avoid a meltdown of epic proportions.  There is never a good time for a bad training week, but official marathon training is scheduled to start this week.  Now, of all times, is not the time for me to lose focus.  But I am about as unmotivated now as I've ever been.

Let me back up and recap my week in order of occurrence.

Sunday, May 27
I ran 11 miles, which was my first double-digit training run since May 6 (the gap was attributable to me having been out of the country on vacation).  It was hot out that day, and the running got pretty tough (not to mention boring) towards the end.  I felt very depleted and blugh afterwards.  But I chalked it up to the heat and to not having run very much in the weeks preceding.

Tuesday, May 29
I ran 3.1 miles early in the morning and felt awful.  My left heel felt wonky before I started out, I felt dehydrated for much of the run, and my left hip and hamstring were stiff and achy.  This time I chalked it up to muscle stiffness and dehydration.  I just felt very clunky overall.  I almost felt like I was fighting the pavement. 

In hockey, people will describe goalies who are having bad days to be "fighting the puck."  Now I understand the feeling.

What's wrong with this picture?

Thursday, May 31
Normally I run on Thursdays, but the weather wasn't great and I was just not feeling a run.  It didn't help that I must have slept with my head in a funny position the night before, because my neck was sore and I didn't have a full range of motion with my head.  I did some yoga instead.

In retrospect the yoga was probably a mistake.  This was because my neck soreness really became apparent while I was trying painfully to hold some of those yoga poses.  Again I felt stiff and lethargic.  Normally I feel good after finishing a yoga workout, but this time I almost felt worse afterwards.

Friday, June 1
I got out again on Friday night for another 3.1 miles.  The weather was nice that night and I felt okay.  But my left hip started twinging and the twinging lingered for days afterwards.  Then when I looked at my splits and final time, I was unpleasantly surprised to find out how slow I had been going without realizing it.

Apparently some of these were starting to catch up to me.

Sunday, June 3
I had every intention of getting out for at least 10 miles, if not 11 or even 12 (since I have a half marathon this Saturday).  But when I woke up on Sunday, I had exactly zero motivation.  The thought of getting out there for two-plus hours daunted me to no end.

I had breakfast and then decided to go for a shorter (6- to 8-miles) run.  I figured that it was just a case of having to push myself to get started, and once I got going I'd be fine.  But I was just not feeling it, even after a few miles.  I had brought a hand-held water bottle with me (which I normally don't do, but was trying out a new route where I didn't know how much access I'd have to water).  The extra weight from the bottle felt burdensome and awkward.  Carrying the water meant that the water wouldn't stay cold, and I was hating the warm water.  My left hip was still twinging as I plodded along.

I pushed myself through 6.5 miserable miles during which the distance on my Garmin seemed like it would never move.  Then I came home and was frustrated that I didn't run further.
And now what?
What does one do after a full week of uninspired and unmotivated training in which you begin to doubt yourself and your ability to bounce back?

I'm considering taking a few extra days off this week to try to recharge myself and rest this hip pain (never mind my half marathon this Saturday, great timing as always!).  I am also considering just pushing myself to maintain my usual training schedule, with the hope that I'll eventually clear the rut and feel better.  Finally, I am considering a hybrid of the two, whereby in lieu of logging miles I focus on the bike or dust off my pilates workout video or find some other cross-training to mix things up a bit. 

All the while, though, I am getting apprehensive about possibly reaggravating my injuries when I have some hard weeks of training in the very near future.

Has anyone else ever been through extended periods of complete lethargy?  What do you do when you're in a training funk?  Any thoughts or suggestions on effective remedies would be greatly appreciated!