Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Use It or Lose It

Less than two weeks to go... the training plans recommend to still keep up the same level of intensity but just with shorter distances. You don't want to lose any of the "fitness" that you've been developing.

I know my legs feel off, but I've decided to just suck it up and keep pushing myself to keep up with my regular training. I took a Spinning class yesterday and it was awesome - didn't feel any discomfort at all! My legs felt better afterward as well... I think it's good to keep them moving. I took a yoga class after that which helped, too.

This morning, I decided to go for what used to be my regular 4 mi Tuesday morning run. I had to skip the last few weeks because I was still sore from the weekend runs. I walked a little bit at first... and I know this is weird, but I was actually scared to start running. I just didn't know how my legs would feel. When they're sore, they feel heavy I guess and my left calf feels kind of weak, like it might cave in under me.

I know, I know - I'm over-reacting. But here's the thing, I'm not and have never been a real athlete. I've never had any real physical problems (KNOCK ON WOOD!) so I'm not used to having my body not respond the way I want it to. Woops - double negative. Anyway, running lately has just been weird. The legs feel off.

But back to this morning. I walked at first and then I cautiously started to slowly jog. I was happy to discover that it was much better than Sunday's attempt! It went so well, that I was able to run the whole 4 miles without walking. I know it's weird for me to be so happy about this when I just did 12 mi on Sat but oh well. Maybe because last Tuesday I could barely walk. :)

The main point is that this morning, I finally felt like I was on my way on the recovery path. Spinning again tomorrow and then TNT workout on Thursday. I hope to report continued good news after then.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Week 4 and 3 Wrap Ups: I'm still surviving...

I'm glad I waited a bit to write this post. If I had written this last weekend, it might have been filled with colorful language like ^*&( or %^& or ^%&&, etc. In fact, while I was running last weekend, I was thinking my recap post should be titled, "What the &*( was I thinking???"

The "highlight" (or "lowlight" as the case may be) of Week 4 was my 20 mile peak run. It started OK - I mean, I really tried to enter it with a good attitude. It was my last super-long run so I just needed to get through the next 4-5 hours and it would be all downhill after that. Well, long story short, it wasn't my best run. There were some very painful downhill moments at the end and I spent a good portion walking to finish the 20 mile course.

As usual, I was ok until ~mile 12 and then my legs started to feel like poop. I am starting to think that maybe I am more designed for the half rather than the full.

I was supposed to do a 5K the next morning through TNT but that definitely wasn't going to happen. Instead, I spent the day running around LG with my cousin and her two toddlers. Oh boy, the 5K may have been a more restful option. :)

I spent the next few days resting and limping around work. Finally, someone asked if I had taken any Advil and as soon as he said that, I literally wanted to smack myself on the forehead. It was a total "DOH!" moment, because, no, I had not taken any Advil or any other painkillers in general. I had been icing, stretching, foam rolling, etc. but had forgotten the most simple, obvious approach.

A couple hours after popping those little orange pills, I was feeling a lot better and was back to zipping around the hallways at work. I managed to make it to spinning on Wednesday with no problems. Thursday, I got back to running at our TNT track workout - my first interval session. One of the coaches gave me this lotion to use on my legs that had some aspirin in it which helped to relieve some of the soreness. Who knew there were all these fun shortcuts to pain relief???!!!

The interval workout ended up being a lot of fun. I couldn't run very fast but I felt better toward the end.

Friday, I rested to get ready for the Saturday long run. I had to run 12 miles and normally I always do my long runs in the city with the Nike running club but I looked at the route and there was no way I was going to tackle another hilly run during my "taper". So instead, I did my first long run with TNT which happened to be on the Coyote Creek Trail right by where I work. Sure, it's not exactly an exciting run, but it is flat, so yippee! Unfortunately, weather did not cooperate as it pretty much rained the whole time. I didn't mind, though, it actually felt kind of nice. The first few miles were kind of hard but I started to feel more comfortable by mile 5. I was so proud of myself because I managed to run the whole 12 miles through. I have to say, it is a lot more fun to do the long runs with TNT just for the cheering alone. :) Especially at the end when you can actually hear people cheering your name.

I had thought about doing a short run with Nike in Danville on Sunday but I wasn't feeling well. I only managed to do a short 3 mile run/walk around the LG trail. I'm sort of freaked out since this is two weeks before I'm supposed to run 26.2 miles???

But all in all... I'm hanging in there... I don't know how the marathon will go, but I *will* cross that finish line! :) Plus I watched this video clip from last year's marathon and I'm really excited for it now. I'm also a little intimidated because this race is going to be huge!!! Definitely the biggest race I've ever been in. I was so lucky with the Nike Half because we had "VIP" status so we got to start at the head of the pack, just after the elite runners. I wonder how long it will take after the gun goes off before I actually cross the *start* line???

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

I feel like an old lady

Sometimes I worry about how the heck I'm going to finish this marathon when I can't even manage to get around at work without hobbling like an old lady! It's a little ridiculous, although I guess I am sort of amused with myself. (Someone should be, right?) Every time I get out of my car, or get up from my desk, I feel a little limpy. Nothing serious... but I am constantly aware of what I'm putting my poor legs through.

Anyway... last long run this weekend!!! And here it is... my peak run - 20 miles through San Francisco!

Looks like a different route from what we usually do... we're heading south of the park this time around... all the way to the SF Zoo! But I like the finish... it will hopefully feel nice and quick. Sucks for the 22 mile peeps... they have the same course as us and then when they get back to the marina they have to keep going for an out and back 2 mile add-on run. I hate those... once you see the finish line, you don't want to have to go past it for another two miles!!!

Here's something that cracked me up... as I've mentioned before, my boss is a workout-aholic. He's run over a dozen marathons with a PR of 2:49. (No, not a typo.) So yesterday, we were chatting about our weekend runs, my 18 mile run and his 4 mile cross country race. Coincidentally, both were in Golden Gate Park. Anyway, he was disappointed in himself because his goal for his race was 24 minutes. Again, not a typo - four 6:00 minute miles! But he only "managed" to finish in a little over 25 minutes. Can you even imagine running that fast?

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Week 5 Wrap Up: TNT Memorial Run and Second 18 mi Run

After a nice, relaxing recovery week - I'm back on track with my training plan.

I'm trying to incorporate a little more speedwork during my short runs. I did some strides during my Monday run - where I alternated short "pseudo-sprints" (it wasn't *that* fast, hence the "pseudo") with running at my normal, relaxed pace. Thursday's TNT workout was a fun and special one. We first started out by running one mile on the track. Then we did a memorial run for the husband of one of our coaches who passed away from cancer a year and a half ago. There is a bench in his honor on top of a hill by the LG reservoir so we ran there from the high school track, each of us carrying a red carnation which we then used to decorate his bench. It was very touching. We took some nice group photos there so hopefully I can post one of them here later. We also managed to squeeze in some speedwork during the memorial run as well. We ran "back-to-front" style where we all divided up in groups of five and then ran single file where the last runner would then run to the front of the group and then set the pace for the group until the next runner comes up to the front. It sounded fun at first, but once we started doing it, I realized it was actually kind of hard! Basically, it's run, run, run, run, sprint! Run, run, run, run, sprint! And we did that for over 3 miles... at least on the way back, it was more downhill so it got easier.

Then came Saturday... 18 miles again! First of all, I have to mention that it's a miracle I even made it this week. Normally, I try to be up by around 6AM to eat, drink water, etc. and then be out the door by 6:45AM. Granted, I usually don't make it out by then, but that's the goal. Yesterday, I must have turned off my alarm because when I woke up, it was 7:07AM!!! Luckily, I organized everything the night before so it was easy to get ready and leave quickly. And I managed to get there right before my group left - very important! Even though I have the printed course map and directions, it is still really easy to get lost! Especially when we're in the Presidio and the Golden Gate Park. So that's why I need to run with my group - people running at my pace and my distance so that way when we get lost, at least we're not alone! :)

I'm trying not to get nervous, but these past two 18 mile runs have really been tough on me. I was OK up to our 16 mi run, but I'm definitely feeling the soreness during the 18 mi runs. Yesterday, it started around mile 13. Same area - the right side of my knee. I don't know how to explain it - it's not a shooting pain or anything, I guess just a soreness (or tightness?). I get tired so I look forward to the aid stations, but at the same time, it really hurts to start running again after the break. We don't even stop that long and I try to keep walking or moving my legs, but still - I almost have to limp a little before I get back in my stride again. The sucky part is that there are always these downhills toward the end of the route, and they are so painful!!! Sure, uphills are hard, but I can always walk up those and feel OK. No matter how I approach the downhills, it's all - ow, ow, ow!

Anyway, I'm preparing myself to fight through the pain during the actual race. Don't get me wrong, I'm still excited - I'm just more focused now on actually finishing this thing vs. my time and stuff.

With this past run and the next, I'm practicing how I plan to run in the real race. So I wore my iPod this time and I carried five Gu gels in the back pockets of my shorts. They worked out fine. Although, I'm thinking about getting an iPod arm band for my final long run this coming Saturday. I'm undecided on the fuel belt ... I really like not wearing any extra load but I might try some on this week to see how they feel. I also realized I definitely need to get some of that Body Glide stuff, definitely for the inner thighs (I hope it's not just me... I'm not Miss Thunder Thighs, am I???) although people have recommended it for other areas as well.

I also did the Nike Danville run on Sunday - just a light, 5 mile run. Shout out to Gee for hanging with me during our snail-pace run! I wasn't sure if I should run the next day, but I actually think it helped with some of the pain. Plus, with this particular run, I've now fulfilled all my run and shoe trial punches on the Nike frequent runner card. I still need to bring two more friends (any volunteers???) to finish out the buddy punches and then get these random retail and mystery punches, after that - VIP access, here I come!!!

Free stuff this week: On-site massages, Jamba Juice Protein Berry Workout smoothies and honey berry bran bread, Nike dri-fit socks, and more tix to Alice Now & Zen Fest. I passed on the massages... I just don't like the idea of people touching me when I'm all sweaty and gross. Although I am always impressed by the perks of these Nike runs since they are free after all.

I've also gone back to working on my marathon mix. I got a bunch of new tunes from my spinning teacher during Wednesday's class so I'm excited about that. I have five hours now so just need to add a little bit more. After watching "Superman Returns", I've decided to use the Superman theme as the opening track. :)

So on a final note, I'm at 31 miles for the week. I plan to really focus on stretching and using the foam roller this week. Hopefully, I won't skip yoga again. (I don't know why it's so hard to get me in there!) This coming weekend is a big one... not only is it my "dress rehearsal" (heehee) but AY is coming back to town!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Picture of the week (not)

Haha... here's me during a recent TNT track workout. We were doing time trials... I guess I was more focused on my pace than on the camera that was apparently on me. DOH!

What's your motivation?

Some people love working out - like my boss, for example, who often goes on 2 hour bike rides at 4AM in the morning with those headlight helmets. And that's on a work day! I am not one of those people. I don't necessarily hate it either... the hard part is getting me out there. Once I'm in my workout clothes and in the gym or out for a run, I am fully committed.

I like having this marathon goal because it keeps me honest about my workouts - for the most part anyway. Before I started my training, I would go weeks without exercising at all. Bad Audrey. Maybe I don't work out as often as I'd like, but I'm not doing too bad. Even in the laziest of weeks, I'm still working out at least three days of the week - better than nothing, right? :) And without fail, I've managed to always make the Nike club runs on Saturday mornings. Only because I know there is no way I could manage double digit distances on my own.

If you need some motivation, here are some interesting tidbits from a Men's Health article, 20 Ways to Stick with Your Workout. This was obviously written with guys in mind, because there are some that I know guys do, but I don't often see with girls (see #2, "Make a friendly bet"). I am an example of #1, "Sign up for a distant race".

I found the last one particularly funny:

20. Blackmail yourself

Take a picture of yourself shirtless, holding a sign that shows your e-mail address. Then e-mail it to a trusted but sadistic friend, with the following instructions: "If I don't send you a new picture that shows serious improvement in 12 weeks, post this photo at hotornot.com and send the link to the addresses listed below... " (Include as many e-mail addresses—especially of female acquaintances—as possible.) "It's nasty, but extremely effective," says Alwyn Cosgrove.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Week 6 Wrap Up

My schnazzy new Polar watch lets you program an "event" and provides a countdown on the default display. Today my watch tells me that I'm 34 days away from my marathon. 34 days! That's like a month away!

With almost a third of my training completed, I feel like I should have progressed a little bit more at this stage - maybe a little fitter, a little faster - but I am definitely logging the miles so I feel good about that part.

This past week was our recovery week which I definitely needed. Taking CW and JL's advice, I've been using my foam roller more often which seems to be helping. I felt sore during the week so I only managed one 2 mi run on Tuesday. I had to skip my TNT workout because I had a conflict but also because they did hill repeats this week which would not have been good for me. I was back in business by the weekend - I did the Nike 12 mi run in SF on Saturday (which, as I had expected, was the Embarcadero route, aka Tourist Central) and the Nike 6 mi run in Danville on Sunday. Both routes were flat out and back courses. The Saturday run was the longest flat course I've run this season so I felt that sort of gave me an idea on what to expect for Chicago. More on that in a separate post.

Nike freebies this week... two pairs of Nike dri-fit socks AND two tickets to the Alice Now and Zen Fest! Woo-woo! Performers include James Blunt, Joss Stone, and Gin Blossoms. Not sure if I will go, though...

In total, I accumulated 20 miles this week. This weekend, we'll be back in the Presidio and our long run will be 18 miles.

I swear I am not being paid by Nike! (although I should be...)

So FINALLY I have my new running shoes... a little late in the game probably, but I think I will be OK. I've selected the Nike Air Zoom Vomero+2. No surprise I picked Nike... I mean, all these free Nike runs are just a big marketing push to promote their running shoes. You're encouraged to take advantage of the free shoe trials so during last year's training runs, I ran in both their Pegasus and Percept shoes - they both have good cushioning and are designed for neutral feet.

So this year, I planned to get one of those but I wanted one that would be Nike+ compatible, meaning they have a built-in socket in the sole of the left sneaker for the Nike+ sensor that would then communicate with your iPod nano.

I sort of had a good idea of the kind of shoe I needed, but just to be sure, I got a proper fitting at a local running store, Running Revolution in Campbell. They checked my arches and then videotaped my feet from behind while I ran outside down their shopping strip. My feet didn't really pronate (turn in) so I was good to go with a neutral, cushioning shoe.

I first bought the Air Pegasus+2007 which is a decent deal at $85. My normal shoe size is 6 1/2 so I bought that first but then I decided it was a little too snug so I exchanged that for a 7. But I don't know... it still didn't feel right and it didn't have the same form factor as my previous Adidas and Asics running shoes. So that's when I switched over to the Vomeros. I guess it's little bit more of a higher end cushioning shoe with the higher price tag of $120. It felt more comfortable and it got a good review in my recent Runners World magazine. Plus I found out it's actually the newer version of last year's Percept (there actually isn't an older Vomero) so I knew it would be a good match for me. But I made the same mistake of getting too small of a size so I had to exchange it for a 7 again. Problem is that this shoe is sold out everywhere so I had to deal with a lot of shipping time...

Anyway, after purchasing and returning three pairs of running shoes, I finally got my winners for this season. Even though I just received my personal pair this weekend, I had been training with them anyway during the shoe trials so I know they work well during the long distances. I just need to break in my new ones now. Sometimes I think I could maybe have gone with a 7 1/2 since they don't feel that big when you're actually running but I don't have any more time to putz around and the 7's still feel pretty good.

On to my second Nike purchase - the Nike + iPod Sport Kit. I actually bought this a long time ago, probably with the first Pegasus sneakers, just haven't used it. I took it out for a run on the treadmill to test it out and it gave me really bad data... I was jogging at a really slow pace, maybe 12:00 min/mi, and it was telling me that I was doing 9:30 min/mi! I tried calibrating it on the treadmill, but it still gave me bogus numbers. I was so disappointed... especially since I had been waiting to get these Nike+ compatible sneakers. I talked to some of the other runners on the Nike runs that used the kit and I learned they calibrated theirs on a track since your stride is probably different on a treadmill.

So this weekend, I finally took it to the Campbell track on my way up to the Nike Danville run and got it calibrated. It's easy to do - you set your iPod for a 400m run and then run one lap around the track, being careful to hit the buttons exactly at the beginning and end of the 400m loop. And I'm happy to say that the thing actually works!!! It was definitely accurate with the mile markers on my training run and the pace readings were the same as what other runners were getting. Not only that, the numbers it gave for "calories burned" pretty much matched exactly the ones on my Polar watch (which uses my heart rate to calculate).

It's a pretty cool tool. You have a sensor in your shoe and then a small receiver that connects to the base of your nano. The screen will actually display your pace and distance completed. Not only that, there's a voice that will speak and let you know your distance and pace. There's different settings you can use and it doesn't really bother me at all. When I did my 6 mi run on Sunday, I just selected "Basic Workout" mode, so it only spoke once around the 20 min mark and told me my pace and how many miles I've run. Today, I selected "Distance" mode for a 4 mile run so it let me know every time I completed 1, 2, and 3 miles (but didn't mention my pace) and then when I had 400m left - it would give me updates every 100m and then "congratulated" me when I finished the 4 miles. There's also another feature called "Power Song" where you pick your song which it would then play anytime you hit the center button.

And there's more! You then hook it up to your computer and then when you visit the nikeplus site, it will automatically read your data and store it for you. Here's a screen shot listing all my stored runs so far:

And then you can select a specific run and get more details:

There's other things you can do, but I still need to explore all that. I definitely recommend the kit if you already have a nano. It's only $29! And you don't necessarily need a Nike+ compatible running shoe. I've seen runners stick the sensor in the laces of their shoes and I think they also sell little pouches as well that you can lace up. It may not be as accurate, but I'm sure it's accurate enough.

And that ends the Nike endorsement for today... (actually, I may have a couple of other comments, but I'll save those for a separate post.)
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