Monday, April 7, 2014

Running in the woods!

A few weeks ago we went camping as a family. We drove a couple of hours to join friends at Fall Creek Falls State Park. It's chock full of great hiking and lots of fun. We did a few little hikes that day as a family and since I hadn't done my long run for the day I decided to run in the woods when I had a chance. It got me super pumped up.

I've been dealing with this nagging injury but it felt like running in the woods on the softer surface wasn't as painful as road running sometimes seems to be. So, when I got home from that trip I immediately registered to run my first trail race.

The Knoxville Track Club has a great trail race serious - Treadin' Troddin' Trails.
I chose one of the harder trail races on the schedule as my first trail race. I.C. King of Trails. When I told my PT I was running it he asked if I had ever ran there. I told him no and he told me that it was definitely legit.  I was even more excited.

Booty shot  my hubby got as we headed to the trail.

For $10 or 2 volunteer coupons I got to run a low stress, no pressure race in the woods with friends and got a t-shirt to boot! The weather on Sunday was perfect. I chose crops, a tank and a long sleeve to wear. I opted for a hat rather than one of my beloved BICbands for fear I'd have to deal with branches in the face and at least the hat could shield my eyes a little. My hubby bought me a new pair of trail shoes a couple of weeks ago so I also got to break those in. It was muddy too since we'd recently had rain. Fun!!

This race is stagger start based on age/gender. There were 4 women in my age group and we started roughly 10-12 minutes after the first person. We started on the paved road and  headed up into the trail. The uphill start was tough but there was plenty of downhill (narrow downhill, I might add) to make up for the uphills. I stepped to the side as needed for the fast folks to pass me. I walked when I felt the need to walk and I ran fast when I could. My friend Lindsay and I piggy backed each other the whole race, talking and making sure we stayed on the very well marked course.

I'd check my Garmin once in a while just to see where we were. She'd check hers too and we would compare  notes. I noticed mine was a bit short on distance but every time I stepped to the side for someone to pass or walked my Garmin would auto pause. Starting back up it took a while for it to restart. So, the whole time Lindsay was about .60 mi ahead.

There was a water stop at the half way point. Our buddies were working the stop so we took a break to chat with them for a minute or two before heading out to finish up the race. I had carried my own water but they had a sports drink and I opted to take a small sip of that.

The first half of this race is on the expert trails and we knew the last half would be easier. We were thankful for that. It seemed like we were able to run much faster and walk less on the last half. It went by much faster than the first half. The funniest part was when I hit a root, caught myself and hit another root. Thankfully I caught myself again!

We kept wondering based on the difference in our Garmins when we would hit the end. Then we saw vehicles and heard cheering. We'd reached the end!

6.93 miles

This race was so much fun. It felt so good to not worry about time or pace. It was fun to talk to a friend and just enjoy our surroundings without the normal race day pressure. I'm already planning my next trail race! I was amazed at how well I felt afterwards. I was sore but it was such a different sore compared to how I feel after road racing.

Have you ever ran a trail race? Do you prefer that over road racing?

Friday, April 4, 2014

Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon - Relay Recap

It all began this year with helping tag and label 8200 bibs on a Wednesday evening a couple of weeks ago with my friends. This is a little "event" that I have happily helped with for the last few years. I love it.

Volunteering for this event never stops there though. I missed goody bag stuffing this year because we were out of town camping, however I was happy to volunteer at the expo the day before the race. I was helping with checking in our wonderful volunteers. My little 4 hour shift turned into a  much longer (all day!) affair. I arrived around 8am and left just shortly after 6pm. Volunteering is one of my favorite parts of this event.

Race day -
Knoxville Endurance Ladies 4 person relay team before the race.

I was so excited when my friends and training buddies invited me to join them for the relay this year. 
I was given the last leg. It was the shortest at just around 6 miles (or less). I got my "race plan" earlier in the week. I was familiar with this leg of the course because it's also part of another race in town we run. The hardest part I thought would be waiting around for a couple or hours or so for my friends to finish their legs. 

Waiting on relay runner 3 to hand off to me.

I waited at the first exchange with my friends while my hubby ran his leg of his relay. Then he dropped me by Panera for a bagel and coffee. Hey! My 5am breakfast was gone by this point. 
We then headed over to my exchange. I warmed up a little and used the porta potty. Within a few minutes it was time for me to begin my run. My friend handed the slap bracelet off to me and down the hill I went.

I felt really good for the start of my run. Except I looked at my Garmin as I was coming down the hill into my first mile and was going way too fast. I hit my first mile 45 seconds faster than my goal. Given my current issues with a long time injury I have had I paid for this in my middle miles and the one hill I had to deal with.

It was great seeing my friends running the marathon and cheering them on as I passed them on their way out. I didn't take water or need to gel but did grab water at one stop since it had already began to warm up quite a bit. My only goal once I realized I was off pace was to run as fast as possible and finish the race with my friends. My leg was roughly 6 miles. I gave it absolutely all I had. I was excited once the stadium was within view and amped up my pace a bit despite that gross hill going into the stadium (hills are not my friend, yet). 

I could hear lots of cheering and looked up to see my friends! We all ran into the stadium together. We were stoked. We weren't sure exactly where we placed in the female relay division but we knew we had placed. We hung around a bit after the race to chat with friends and wait for a few others to finish before heading out and over to the Beer Market. One of our friends showed up later with these....

We finished as a group in 3:36:40 for the full 26.2 miles.
We were stoked to have placed and find out we got 2nd. Receiving an award was a bonus.

The best news is that we found out on Monday that we actually came in FIRST place in the female division. We'll be trading our lovely 2nd place plaques for first place plaques. YAY!

Posing w/our plaques and proud coach!

It was a fabulous day. I am so glad to call these ladies my friends and teammates. 
And I love this race every year. I have done a different part of the race each year for the last 4 years. I loved doing the 4 person relay this year so much that I am convinced it is my favorite way to run the Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Tom King Half Marathon recap

Two things I love - races and road trips! The only thing that makes the two better is when my friends are along for the ride and run! March 7-9 my friends, hubby and I all packed our bags and headed to Nashville, TN for a half marathon and lots of fun.

The details -
20th Annual Tom King Half marathon (and 5k)
Saturday, March 8, 2014
7:30 AM (limited to 1500 registrants)

My morning started like all race mornings. Up about 2-3 hours before the race, walk around, and eat breakfast before getting dressed and heading out the door. We arrived in plenty of time for a stop at the bathrooms and to hang around. We even saw THE Tom King as we were headed back out to meet the rest of the group before our warm up.

The weather was perfect at the start. It was cool enough to not have to bundle up and warm enough that I could've have switched my crops for a skirt if I had packed better. My friends and I did a half mile warm up then a few striders and lined up, ready to go.

I've been having some hip and tailbone issues and in therapy twice a week for that for a while now. So, I knew going in that this was not necessarily going to be the PR race I had hoped for. However, my race plan was pretty much laid out that it could have been a PR if my body was cooperative. The goal was to start at 9:25 pace and progress down from there. I knew this goal was attainable given my endurance and speed workouts lately.

The course is really flat (compared to K'ville). There were some inclines but nothing I'd even come close to calling a hill despite the volunteers saying, "You're downhill now," and "it's all downhill from here." The start and finish is at LP field. Start is on the outside road by the stadium and the finish is inside. The course itself is ran on some road then a paved bike/running path in a wooded park. We crossed a few bridges, one of which was bouncy and totally weird!

I liked this course/race well enough but not sure I'd rush back to it next year. I like the out and back but there wasn't really a lot of scenery. The finish was ok except once you think you're close to the finish line and see the stadium you then have to run around to the back side of the stadium which is kind of a mental challenge that close to the end. And that isn't all, once inside the stadium you have to run the entire inside loop to the finish. Not really fun when it's the end of the race and the goal is to pickup the pace for the final sprint. It's grassy and I'm just not a fan of running on grass.

My splits -
9:26 9:35 9:35 9:29 9:27 9:17
9:36 9:30 9:22 9:34 9:33 9:41
9:01 1:29

Obviously, I did not hit my goal paces nor did I PR. However, as I stated before my hip has been giving me fits so I knew going in this would be tough physically. I can stand about 8-9 miles before the tightness begins. Rather than stop and stretch wasting precious time on the clock, I push forward continuing to move. The best thing with that is that I was at least consistent and for this race that was a plus. My schedule did not have this race set up as my goal race for the year, so I was happy to run/race and collect a medal.

The only thing I'd have really done differently was carry my own water. I debated doing so because I thought there were plenty of water stops. However, it was warmer than I expected and around mile 9-10 we were in an open area of the park where the sun was beating down quite hard. That would have been the perfect spot for an extra water stop. This was also the time in which I needed to take another gel but was difficult without fluids to wash it down. Next time, I'd have my smaller hand held just in case.

The great thing about the out and back was being able to cheer on all my friends as they were headed back. Everyone did such a great job and looked awesome out there. They all came home with PRs!!!

Post race pic w/my hubby.

Finish time - 2:05:04
Age 35/39 - 48/107
Overall - 695/1283

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Best "What If" I ever heard.

You know we've all played that "what if" game before. What if you had a million dollars? What if you could have any car you want? What if you could take the trip of your dreams.
Well friends, here is an even better what if......

What IF Everybody Ran?

My friends over at Mizuno Running have come up with an awesome illustration and statics to show you what the world would be like if everyone ran. Less cigarettes smoked, better sleep, more smiles. The list goes on and on and on.

Here is my favorite -
More smiles! Why is more smiles my favorite?

Let me shed some light.
I've been criticized by others for my love of running (and the gym for that matter) especially in regards to my job as a mother. Some things have been said along the lines of time taken away from my kids. There was a time when it would bother me a little especially when my own kids have asked, "Do you have to run today?" But I've let any negativity with that go. Sure, there are times I feel guilt but let me explain as I have to my children.

If you've read here long enough you know where I was 6 years ago. For those that haven't let me share briefly. I was overweight, not just a little BUT A LOT! I weighed in at 248 lbs at my highest that I can recall even seeing on a scale. That number could very well have been higher. In 2008 a friend of mine knew I had desires to learn to run and at the same time lose weight. She signed us both up for a 5k. My friend was fit and in great shape. This was the kick in the butt I needed. I "ran" that race with her finishing in barely under 50 minutes. It was miserable but I was happy to have accomplished something.

Six years later I still run. My fastest 5k to date is 25:51 (summer 2013). I've completed the following:
13 - 5k
5- 10k
4- 8k
2- 15k
2- 10 miler
8 - 1/2 marathon
2 - marathon

Running has brought me a long way physically (losing 90 lbs!!).  Running has also brought me a long way mentally. Running has also helped me find not just myself but a ton of life long friends! What does all that mean? It means this mama is smiling more. It means this mama is happy and healthy and ALIVE!

So, when others question "WHY" I run so much or when  my kids ask "Do you have to?," I have an answer.

If I didn't run, I'd be unhealthy and obese. Being unhealthy and obese means I can't do all the amazing things I can do with my family/kids. It means being tired and grumpy and out of shape. It means not being around for very long because we know that being unhealthy and obese isn't just being tired and fat. There are SO many other related health issues that aren't just related to physical health. 

Along with all the other little things in my life that make me happy - running is my smile.

So, I ask YOU... what IF everybody ran? What if YOU ran? 

If you want to read more on this awesome project go 
here and here 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Weekend Recap

What a busy weekend we had around here!
Friday was my birthday and you know how it started. 5am on the track with 10x200 repeats. I killed them!! I worked most of the day before heading to a torturous PT session. Instead of starting with my exercises and finishing with the tens machine we started with the tens and ended with the exercises and some other stuff. The torturous part? An elbow digging deep into my super tight muscles. I thought I was going to come off the table.

Because my son's birthday is so close to mine (me - Feb 28, him -  March 3) we decided to have his birthday party on Friday night. I'm such a cool mom to share my actual birthday for his celebration. :) Anyway, we had 4 of his friends over which made for a houseful of smelly, rowdy 8 yr old boys! FUN! They spent the night. The fun ended Saturday morning.  I lost my train of thought. Did you catch that? Haha My hubby made a birthday cake for ME and we celebrated my day on Thursday.

He did such an awesome job with my cake and thankfully didn't light 35 candles. It was a nice night with my family.

Saturday  morning once all the boys left I met a couple of friends for my long run. I was suppose to run 12 miles but they were only going 9. We rode together to the park. They suggested leaving and heading to Starbucks for coffee while I finished my last 3 BUT since we'd ran a decent clip and the course was hillier than my usual I decided to call it done at 9 miles too.

I think I made a wise decision there since I'd been having some issues with my hip this week. I'm also going into a race week. I have a half marathon coming up this Saturday, March 8th that I want to be ready for. I am ready but what I mean is I need my hip/body to completely cooperate for the best possible race. Skipping 3 miles from long run this weekend didn't worry me at all. I know I have the endurance to complete 13.1.

Sunday was spent with family taking it easy and meal planning for the week. We made a menu and I spent the evening getting my food ready for tomorrow. I think pre-planning is the best and easiest way for me to stay on track. It always makes me feel good going into a new week with a plan.

Tell me about your weekend. Anything fun?
Do you meal plan/food prep ahead of time?

Friday, February 28, 2014

Believe you can!

It's been a while since I posted any kind of update. I had gotten a bit down on myself being back in physical therapy and not hitting my goals for workouts. BUT the negative thoughts didn't last long. This week has been awesome!

physical therapy 
I tore the labrum in my left hip in April 2012. I spent 4 mos straight in PT then and "recovered" well. I was able to keep running. I trained well and ran a 23 min marathon PR in November, injury free/little pain. However, I took a tumble late December and seemed to have jarred things on the ol' left hip a little. I wasn't having a ton of pain/issues but my tailbone was really bothering me. I didn't fall directly onto my tailbone so I ignored it for a long time.

I went to the dr, had an x-ray and got good news. No broken/fractured or bruised tailbone. He put me on anti-inflammatory meds for a couple of weeks and said to call back if I still had trouble. I did. I was sent to a PT specializing in women's health therapy (more on that later). It's so weird how all our "parts" connect and one thing leads to another. The tailbone was overcompensating for the hip stuff. So, once things were resolved with the tailbone after 2 visits, the hip flared up reallly reallly bad.

I've been in PT for 3 weeks with great improvements. I'm trying hard to remain positive in that I won't require another visit to the orthopedic dr OR surgery for my hip just yet. I believe if I just be patient in listening to my body and do my PT exercises as told that I can continue to run well and prolong any kind of surgery talk.

easy runs
It's been repeated to me over and over how important it is to take it easy on the runs labeled "easy run." I know why an easy run day follows a track/speed day. Your body has to recover. Easy runs should be done at an easy pace (for me during marathon training this was 9:45ish, now I'm told to stay around 10:00). The competitor in me, I guess, wants to always work hard. I'm motivated most of the time and like to run with my friends (who typically are faster). Going a bit faster on easy runs wasn't always easy but I got use to it and that became an easy pace for me.

BUT then the marathon and blah blah. My body was tired, this happened and that. And guess what? Yep, that "easy" pace became much harder especially on my easy days following a speed workout. Why? Because I wasn't allowing my body the rest/recovery it needed! Guess what happens when we push hard back to back? More prone to injury! I am not saying that is why my hip is a little flared up BUT it gives me a good reason to listen to what is being told of me and my easy run pace.

So, that all said - I take my easy runs easy and I feel so much better doing so and not letting the pace control my mood of the run. I believe that if I listen to what I have been told and am patient with the easy runs I will see the improvement I want in all my runs - long, short, easy, speed, races!

the track
In the last month or so I have been having a terrible time hitting my paces for track/speed workouts. This may be partly because I have gone to the track dreading what was on the schedule. A bad attitude rarely results in anything positive! It could also be that this winter has been terrible. So much cold, rain, snow and just too much winter around here.

However, this week has been great. I lost the attitude of "I cannot hit that pace for that workout," and I said, "Screw you mother nature and your sub freezing temps." I went to practice, listened to my coach when he told me my paces and then I ran them. Boom, bam, bizzle.

My training right now is based on speed and getting faster for my upcoming races.  Here is how this week looked. I do speed work at the track on Tues/Fri.
Tues - drills - 2mi warmup 12x400 2 mi cool down (goal 2:05-2:00 progress down, 1:00 rest btwn)
1:57 1:59 1:56 1:58 1:56 1:57 1:56 1:57 1:57 1:58 1:59 1:56

Fri- drills - 2 mi warmup  10x200 2 mi cool down (goal :53-:55, 200 m recovery jog btwn)
:53 :52 :53 :55 :52 :51 :51 :51 :50 :48
Coach ran the last one with me as a birthday 200!

I believe that if I go to practice with a positive attitude and tell myself, "I can," when I am given my paces then I WILL! 

What I learned this week:
When coach says be patient - be patient.
Lose the negative thoughts - you will see positive results.
Keep the easy runs easy and allow the body to recover. 

And for my biggest bit of advice (not that this is even an advice post, lol) ------

Believe you can and you're halfway there!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Strawberry Plains 10k - race recap

The details -
When - Saturday, February 9, 2014
Where - Strawberry Plains, TN
What - Strawberry Plains 10k/Half marathon
Weather - 38 degrees and cloudy

For the past few years I have not only ran this race but volunteered. Actually, my first time ever at this race I volunteered only. This race is one of my favorites. I typically would choose to run the half (and have in the past) but this time the 10k was on my schedule. I was thankful for that! Given my last race (10 miler a few wks ago) I wasn't overly thrilled to be racing at all but definitely was glad to be running the shorter of the 2 distances.

I had a very off week last week. I only got in 2 of my scheduled runs and one other workout due to my body not cooperating. I will get into that more, but let me just say that as a result I was totally unsure of how things would go on race day.

Since I was volunteering for food prep we had to be there by 6:30am. Worked out well for us. It gave me plenty of time to get up, dress and eat before we needed to leave. I usually struggle with pre-race morning breakfast but on this race day things were perfect. I should make myself a huge note of that and keep doing that for every race day. Note about food prep - I made a bazillion and 42 peanut butter sandwiches on race morning. I may never eat a pbj again.

About 20-30 minutes before the race start my running friends and I got ready to head outside for our warmup. I was pretty chilled when we started out but was happy after a mile in to be warm enough that I wouldn't freeze during the race. My lungs felt great and my body was doing well. 1.5+ warm up and we headed to potty one last time before lining up. Since I had eaten breakfast at 5am and race start was 9am I decided to take a gel before the start.

We are usually advised to line up close to the start so as to not have to dodge walkers. I knew what my start pace should be (9:00-9:10) and felt pretty good where we placed ourselves in line. Once the gun went off I was a bit faster going out than needed so I tried to slow up a little to save energy when I would need it. I felt good. Really good considering my week and the pain I'd been having.

The plan was 9:10-9 to start and then speed up, however here are the actual splits:
9:22 (dropped a glove, stopped to go back and pick up. DUMB!)

Overall, I am really pleased with my race. I didn't hit my paces according to the plan BUT I was consistent and felt good the  entire time. Other than the one tiny walk break to pick up my glove that I had dropped I don't think I'd do much differently. This wasn't a 10k PR for me but since it's the first time running this course it is a course PR.

Where did I finish up?

Garmin time - 56:59
Gun time - 57:01
Chip time - 56:58

95/284 overall

and..... 1st place Athena! I'll take that since it wasn't close to being a PR race for me.I scored an awesome beanie, scarf,  and gloves (to replace the ones I ditched, goodbye Nikes).

It was really great to run with my friends and team mates. We all celebrated our own victories on Saturday. Several of us placing in our age/divisions and setting new PRs.

Did you race this weekend or finish a long run? How'd it go?