A Run in Connecticut


So happy to be writing on such a beautiful summer day – hot and sunny but still breezy, just the way I like it!

I flew home to Connecticut on Friday night, to attend a surprise birthday party for my aunt, one of my absolute favorite relatives (I think everyone in my family feels the same way!). So Saturday morning, instead of running with my Chicago group, I headed to a beautiful paved path about 20 minutes or so from my parents’ house, to take on my 10-miler. I felt so nervous ahead of time – not sure why, since I’ve definitely done 10 miles (and longer) on my own before, but I calmed down once I was a mile or two into the run. I started running around 7am and maybe saw 5 people; the path was deserted! But after being on there an hour or so I started to have more company. I used RunKeeper and kept up a comfortable pace to me – averaging just over 11-minute miles, including the walking breaks. I know my Chicago group runs faster but walks slower – this felt more manageable to me. The best part was that I miscalculated the time it was going to take me to return, so in my head I thought I had an additional 5 minutes to run before I could stop – what a lovely feeling to realize I was wrong and it was time to finish!

One thing I noticed was that I felt sluggish around mile 7 or so, and that’s been my trend in recent long runs. I always eat a banana before running if I’m going to be out longer than 5 miles, and once I’m out an hour I eat two Shot Bloks. I think I might try eating them 45 minutes into the run the next time, to see if I can ward off that 7-mile slump. Usually I just eat two but my running coach suggested I go for three, so that could make a difference too. This weekend we cut back to just 7 miles, so I’ll wait until the following weekend to test out my new game plan.

This morning I got up at 4:30 am for my return flight – I slept a little but went back to bed as soon as I got home. My neighbor texted to see if I wanted to accompany her on her dog walk, just about a 3-mile loop. Before we took off, I went to Google and just searched “yoga for runners” – my legs were still a bit tight from yesterday’s run and I thought doing some stretches would help flush them out. I found a really nice 20-minute sequence and it felt great. I think that’ll be how I incorporate yoga into my routine from now on – ideally I’d go to the class I like at the gym every Wednesday, but for the days when I want to sleep in or run, I’ll just do some poses at home.

Off to take another walk in the sunshine! I hope everyone’s weekend is as lovely as mine!

Final Mid-Week Run of Month One!

I can’t believe I’ve already been training for 4 weeks! I’m feeling great (in spite of being out of the circuit with my little neck injury) – it’s funny that my long runs seem to be so much easier than my mid-week shorter ones…probably because I have a coach and other people for distractions. But I’m so happy with my short ones too – really proud of working on my “speed” and endurance. Tonight I had another quick 3 miles and I decided to run them straight through. My RunKeeper app told me I was keeping up a good pace – about a full minute slower than what my marathon pace will hopefully be. A note on that app – I love how the voice chimes in every 5 minutes with your distance and average pace; I’ll be real runners find that annoying (or fixate on it), but for me it’s just a great way to keep up. I was also pleased that my first mile was my slowest, my second was my fastest, and my third was just a few seconds longer than my second. Sometimes my goal (like last night) is to finish fast, but today it wasn’t really a goal – it just happened!

This morning I was supposed to get up and go to my favorite strength training class at the gym, but when the alarm went off I wanted to kill it. So I slept in. I felt guilty for missing it because I know how important it is to continue to lift and maintain muscle mass, plus I know that squats and lunges are so good for runners. So after I got home I popped in one of my workout DVDs and used my hand weights – I did that for about 35 minutes or so, and then finished up with a series of weighted squats and lunges. I feel much better now.

The marathon organizers (Bank of America) send us these cutesy emails from time to time, and today’s just really sunk in – the official route has been published and there was also an overview of all 29 neighborhoods we’ll be running through. I got a stomach ache just reading it! Looking at the map, the first 13.1 miles will all be roads I’m very familiar with (all along the North Side, where I live, and the Loop, where I work); I’ll be familiar with some of the second half but not nearly as much. I’m trying to decide if that’s a good thing or if I should get some area familiarization before the run…do I want it to be a surprise or do I want to be more comfortable with the terrain. Clearly I have time to decide this – just something on my mind!

Tomorrow is my rest day and Saturday’s long run will be 10 miles. I know that for me it’ll start to get REALLY real once we exceed 13.1, since I just did that distance in April. I haven’t run more than 13 miles since 2003!

Off to eat dinner and get to bed. Love “sleeping in” till 7 on Friday mornings!

Fast Feet!

Not much to blog about this evening! I had a quick 3-mile run on the treadmill this morning and it felt great – I started just a little quicker than usual and built up, finishing my run with 8 fast minutes. And my legs feel really tired now – I think the two fast runs so close together (last night and first thing this morning) used up a lot of energy. Tomorrow morning I’ll just go to my strength training class and will not run until after work, so I expect to be back in top form by the evening.

Alas I did not make it to yoga this morning. I don’t know why I get so fixated on sleep, but I woke up around 4am and just kept tossing and turning since I knew my alarm was going off at 4:50. Finally I decided sleep was more important that yoga, so I reset my alarm with enough time to run…and immediately fell asleep. Go figure. That’s why tomorrow I’ll divide up my workouts – as much as I’d like to get it all done in the AM so that I have my evening free, it’s not worth it to me to be sleep-deprived.

I just ordered a bunch of the Cliff Shot Bloks in bulk. Normally I buy them one packet at a time from my local running store, but I realized I’ll be building up a lot of mileage in the coming weeks and I don’t want to worry about making it out there. When I trained for my other marathon I relied on Gu – personally I didn’t think it was the WORST thing, but the little bloks are so much better, just like snacking on gummy bears. For my half marathon and a recent 10-mile race I ate a banana about a half hour before I started running and 2 bloks once I got past an hour. My pace leader suggested I increase it to 3 when we start to really go long distances, so that’s what I’ll do – 3 per hour of running. We’ll see how it goes!

Not much else to report. I’m tired and very ready for bed…at 7:13 pm. I am so old!

Great Night for a Great Run!

Good evening from another chilly Chicago summer night!

I felt like a tool when my alarm went off this morning for my run and I promptly reset it so that I could sleep in – but I knew I had a free evening and could run after work. It was pouring this morning and I definitely made the right call – by waiting until the rain passed, I was able to run outside in some beautiful fall-like weather.

This week my mid-week runs are supposed to be 3, 5, and 3 miles respectively. But I like to get the highest mileage done with first, so I tackled the 5. I used the RunKeeper app and challenged myself to run quickly – I felt great! My splits were funny – my first mile was the fastest, then a bit slower for my second, my third was my slowest, then I picked back up again, and my 5th mile was right between my first and second. This made me pleased for two reasons – one, I really tried to pick up the pace and I’m glad I proved to myself I could, and two, I’m really aiming to finish on the faster side of things. I’d like to make this a habit on my practice runs – end fast(er), end strong, so that when the actual marathon comes I’ll still have some energy at the end. I can’t exactly employ this technique during my group runs because my pace leader keeps us even (which is appropriate), so it’ll be up to me to work on this stuff during my mid-week runs.

Also, I ran to the soundtrack of Crazy For You! I’ve been on a showtunes kick at work lately and decided to stick with it!

Off to dinner and an early bedtime so that I CAN get up in time for a morning workout tomorrow! Hopefully will make it back to yoga!

Loving This Holiday Weekend!

Hello from a beautiful summer day in Chicago – we have been having simply perfect weather these past few days! It makes me want to be outside as much as possible!

Yesterday was my 9-miler group run. I was nervous about it, to tell the truth, because the 5-miler the week before was unexpectedly challenging. And apparently I wasn’t the only one to feel jittery – my pace leader emailed our group on Friday and said that she knew a bunch of us were nervous about Saturday’s run because the 5-miler had been tougher than anticipated. She said that’s really common – to take the lower mileage runs for granted and to be worried about the longer distances – and said that all we should think before a group run is that we’ll finish one way or the other. I think it took me a good two miles before I really started to relax. I stayed behind my pace leader the whole time (whereas last week I let myself drift towards the back of the pack to chat with some of the other runners), and I think that helped. I will say though – I’m still worried about the 11:30 pace. I think when we actually stick to that exact speed I’m fine, but when we start going faster (my pace leader tends to speed us up vice slow us down), it gets challenging for me. I’ve been able to keep up but I just worry that I won’t be able to sustain a higher speed as we increase our mileage. So that’s on my mind. Other than that, though, it was a great run and I felt great afterwards and the weather could not have been more gorgeous!

Afterwards I indulged in my new favorite post-run snack – a cup of plain, fat-free kefir yogurt. Admittedly it’s not for everyone – the plain flavor is tangy, to say the least – but I LOVE it. Low in carbs, low in sugar, almost no lactose, and high in protein – plus the probiotics are tummy-friendly – it’s perfect for after a run or a good workout in general. Then I went downtown and had lunch with a coworker from my very first job – it was so great catching up with her! After that I took my customary post-run nap, then walked to the grocery store. I was pretty laden down with bags for the return walk, but it was just too nice to drive, plus the walk felt good on my legs. I made my dinners for the week (this bizarre sweet potato/almond flour-crusted pizza…I cannot exactly endorse it!), then accompanied my friend as she walked her dog, came home to grab my wallet, and then she and I took another walk to get a drink and see some fireworks along the way. All in all a really great day, lots of time outside, and lots of walking after my long run, to help flush out my legs.

This morning I did something I’ve wanted to do for years – I took a paddleboarding lesson! SO fun! I was easily the 2nd worst one there (I fell off the board 3 times but a guy fell off 4 times!), but it didn’t matter – I had a great time. Falling off was actually fun – the water was chilly but felt really refreshing, and afterwards some of the other people said they’d wished they’d fallen off because they got really hot with all the paddling! The water was calm and my instructor was great – I would definitely do that again.

And now I have the rest of the afternoon ahead of me -my plan is to watch the women’s world cup championship and go walk to get ice cream – I want to be outside again, I want ice cream, and I figure the walk will help offset some of the calories, right?!

Enjoy the rest of your holiday weekend!

So Much to Say

Another lovely but cool evening in Chicago…we are supposed to be getting actual summertime temperatures and sunshine this weekend, not a day too soon!

I was out late last night and didn’t get a chance to write, so I have 3 workouts to write about. Yesterday morning I did my 3 miles on the treadmill at the gym – usually I much prefer to be outside but I wanted control over my speed, so the treadmill came to the rescue! I started running at a 5.5 and increased by .1 every 5 minutes, until the end when I pushed it to 6.5 for the final two minutes. I felt great during the trip and afterwards, and definitely would like to repeat this particular track – next time starting at a 5.6 and moving steadily up. I love pushing myself with “speed” (which must be typed in quotes because my speed is the warm-up for most runners!!), and these mid-week runs are, to me, the perfect time to challenge myself.

The only drawback was that I didn’t get up early enough to run and then go to yoga, which I really do want to focus on. My goal was to go to class twice a month, but lately it’s been more like once. Admittedly part of that in June was travel, but I can make more of an effort. Let’s see how I do in July.

Last night I went with friends to Ravinia, the most beautiful outdoor concert venue in the world. It’s really magical. We saw three acts (Aimee Mann, Pink Martini, and…the Von Trapps…as in THOSE Von Trapps…Kurt the Incorrigible was their grandfather!) and even with leaving before the show ended, I still got home really late (it’s very north of where I live). So consequently I had a morning and afternoon workout today; tried as I did, I couldn’t get out of bed early enough to get them both in this morning.

So instead I went to my strength-training class because I knew I needed it – squats and lunges are so good for runners, and we do a million of both in this class. My neck felt absolutely fine and my back (which had been stiff earlier in the week) also felt great. I still need to put a lot of work into my core – it’s easily my weakest area. And I have no excuse; my gym offers quick 30-minute core-specific classes that I only make on occasion. I should make just as much an effort to go to those as I do yoga.

Anyway, we got out early from work in advance of the holiday weekend (yay!), so my friends and I sat outside for lunch and then went to a bar to meet up with some other friends. I felt kinda lame since I wasn’t drinking – I knew I still had to get my miles in. And of course I know that technically I could have had a drink and I would have been fine (I wasn’t running for several hours), but why bother – running is hard enough for me; why give myself an added challenge, right?! So I didn’t last long at the bar, maybe an hour or so, then headed home and promptly took a nap.

Finally it was time for my last mid-week run, just a quick 3 miles, and it was great! I went outside and used the RunKeeper app again; this time I’m pretty confident it was accurate – all of my mile splits made sense, hovering around 10:30 or so. Which is great, since my goal is to run faster during the week than during my long runs. I also tried to work on my form a bit. And I purposely started running with the wind at my back so that I’d have a head-win for the return trip; I certainly don’t love running into wind but I know it could be like that on the actual race day so I should get accustomed to it. When I was training for my half marathon I had a particularly cold and windy day for my 9-miler, so I ran 4.5 miles against some pretty fierce resistance – okay I hated it, but I got through it and I know it made me stronger as a runner. So it’s good to have those challenges from time to time.

And with that I am done for the evening! Really excited to sleep in tomorrow and luxuriate in my rest day. Happy pre-holiday weekend!