Friday, December 30, 2011

Looking Back on the Year

It has been a rocky year with injuries, running, amazing travel, good memories and even a little drama. I ran my first race and my first half marathon. I started this blog and I ran consistently most of the year, covering over 450 miles (I hope to at least double that number in 2012). I ran a total of three races, starting with the Gladiator 5k Mud Race and ending with Santa to the Sea. I’d like to average at least one race a month in the New Year, but that will depend on my foot.

I’m going to be bringing in the year with an Indiana Jones marathon (movies not running), cheering on my cousin who will be running her first 5k and running a 5k bright and early on the first.

Can’t wait to see what the New Year will bring!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Foot Update

I haven’t run in ten days, five hours and fifty three minutes… ok I’m really not that obsessive, but it’s been pretty darn close to that. My foot held up relatively well in Santa to the Sea, but I was convinced by some very intelligent people that I needed to rest my foot before it got worse and as a result took much longer to heal.

Plantar fasciitis seems to be the verdict. I was told I could do biking, swimming and the rowing machine. I immediately started riding our stationary bike in the garage only to determine that it was irritating my foot (apparently reclining bikes are bad). I switched to the rower and faced the same problem. So that leaves buying a bike, getting a gym membership or finding a pool. I haven’t decided which.

I am treating my foot with heat and cold, Aleve for any swelling, I stretch before putting my feet on the ground in the morning and I never walk around barefoot. I’ve gotten heel cups for my shoes and I haven’t worn high heels in months… well except for my company’s fancy Christmas party. You can’t wear a cocktail dress with running shoes or so I’m told. I don’t do that many strengthening exercises I’ve found online. They were making my foot worse and I only stretch in the morning because stretching it more then that was making it irritated.

I see the podiatrist on the 9th of next month. I couldn’t get in sooner *sad face*. He will be able to tell me what I can and can’t do.

On a side note, I am going to run the New Years Resolution 5k on January first. With three weeks off, I’m not expecting to PR, but I’m hoping my foot will be good as new by then and hopefully I can jump back on my marathon training!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Santa to the Sea

I did it! I conquered the half marathon! I was starting to wonder if I ever would. As you could probably tell from my last post, I was kind of feeling down about running. My foot has been giving me problems and with words like plantar fasciitis being thrown around, I was starting to get a little worried. I decided to keep training, but keep the mileage low and slow as the race approached. I didn’t want to loose all of my hard work, but I also didn’t want to do anymore damage to my foot. After my last visit to the doctor, I was even considering selling my number, but I was having some great runs with minimal pain, so I didn’t have the motivation to pursue that. I really wanted to run.

The night before Santa to the Sea wasn’t anything like my last race. I knew with the state of my training and the way my foot was, I wouldn’t get a great time, so there was no reason to worry. I had my alarm set and my gear out and hit the hay prepared for a fun run with my Dad the next day.

Santa! The land mark for the beginning of the race and where we dropped off toys for the toy drive.
Daddio and I arrived an hour early to the starting line, it was cold by southern Californian standards, so we were standing against a wall shivering as we waited. I wore a festive bright pink and zebra stripped Santa hat and knee high snow flake socks, Dad was in his normal running gear. A lot of fun costumes and Santa hats were worn by our fellow runners. Even with the cold, I was already starting to have a fun time. We checked our warm clothing with fifteen minutes till start and went and lined up in the 2:20 section.

The start, early in the morning.
The fog horn blared and we were off. The large crowded group of a thousand plus runners and walkers slowly passed over the starting mat and set their own individual paces. Dad and I planned on running together as long as one of us didn’t get hurt, so we fell into step together. He joked about going on without him if he face planted or cramped up, I joked about my foot. He kept glancing down at his Garmin and announcing that we needed to slow it down, so we would try for a few steps, but somehow find ourselves back at a 9:45 pace. I was determined not to check my own watch except for mileage. I didn’t want the pace or total time to disappoint me.

About a mile in we got passed by a penguin with a pounding boom box and a girl with a pine wreath bouncing around her hips. I winced for her, ouch! Around mile three we caught a girl in a big snowman costume and ended up pacing with her. Our original plan was to start intervaling at mile three but I was feeling super good, so I asked to put it off.
The snowman/girl. An example of me trying to get out of the picture.
 I grabbed water at each aid station, managing to get a few sips down and get the rest all over myself. Around mile four, I grabbed a chocolate GU (a flavor I absolutely love) and took in the calories. Daddio consistently took down GU about every forty minutes or so. Around mile five, I finally agreed to start intervaling, afraid that I’d run myself into the ground. So we started walking for one minute and running for nine. I later found out that our pace picked up big time at that point. We were playing tag with the snowman, falling behind, catching up, falling behind, catching up, until around mile eight we left her behind and didn’t see her again. Which was a relief, I was tired of trying to get out of the way of people taking pictures of her (the costume really was cute). And honestly, who wants to loose to a person in a big snowman costume.

We ran through decorated neighborhoods and waved at the neighbors that had come out to cheer us on. I made a point to thank volunteers and police officers that had given their time to work the event. Everything was running so smoothly and seemed so well organized that all the runners had to do was focus on putting one foot in front of the other.

I could tell we were doing well. We were tag teaming people, splitting apart to go around people, each of us on either side of them and then coming back together when we were further ahead of them. We were moving at a good clip and catching people we hadn’t previously seen. I received a text message from a good friend that made me smile and carry on. We had kept the 2:10 pacer in sight from the beginning and we were starting to wonder if we might catch him.

Around mile nine, I could tell Daddio was feeling very confident. He kept expressing how happy he was with our progress and throwing strategies out for the end of the race. We decided that at mile ten, we would walk for two minutes and then run it in from there. I was feeling good and ready to bring it in strong. That feeling didn’t last.

I hit the wall at mile 11 almost on the dot. My legs weren’t tired, my breathing wasn’t heavy, I just suddenly had no energy. At this point, we were weaving through the beachside neighborhood and I could even smell the ocean. I really wanted to be at the finish. A volunteer told us we were on the finishing stretch and I wanted to yell that two miles wasn’t anywhere near the finish. All the distance we had crossed seemed like nothing compared to those last two miles. And on top of it, we’d lost sight of the 2:10 pacer in the twists and turns of the streets.

About a mile and a half out I got a little schizo. I kept telling Daddio I needed to slow down and then I would speed up. At one point I told him “I don’t know why, but I’m just so tired”, he responded with “Well we are going a 9:20 pace.” We caught a glimpse of the 2:10 pacer about a quarter of a mile up on a long stretch. We discussed trying to catch him, but my tank was dangerously empty. Daddio was chomping at the bit to finish fast and I kept encouraging him to take off, but he wanted to finish together. I’ve got the best dad!

The 2:10 pacer was leaving carnage in his wake. We were passing people left and right that looked like they were dying. I kept telling myself, that at least I don’t look that miserable. We found ourselves running by the sand with the ocean just about 50 yards away, I joked about stopping, we were at the sea after all, but there was no way either of us was going to even slow down this close to the finish.

Finally I announced that I didn’t think I could go much further and Dad responded “The finish is literally just around this corner”. Suddenly I could hear the blasting music and the finish line announcer. I was sprinting! Well till I realized Dad was getting left behind and then I slowed down a touch to let him catch up. He later told me that one second I was there and the next I was gone.

We crossed the line together, big smiles on our faces. The announcer proclaimed that the Hopwoods were in the house. We were done! I felt giddy and zombiefied. I had to literally tell myself to stop running. I tried to lift my leg up on a chair to get my chip snipped off my shoe and almost fell on my face, my legs were done. Someone handed me my medal and I smiled even bigger. A minute later I remembered to stop my watch and was shocked to see 2:09 glaring back at me. What the heck happened to the 2:10 pacer?!? My official time turned out to be 2:08:31, which I was more than happy to get.

Hopwoods in the house! We finished together smiling.
I ate some fruit with Sean Astin, dropped my brownie bite AND mini cinnamon roll and tried to coordinate with mom where to pick us up. I didn’t come out of my zombiefied state until I had a nice fat juicy tri tip sandwich and then I suddenly felt wide awake. It was at that moment that I realized what I had done wrong! I didn’t take in enough calories! DOH! I only ate one GU in the first 45 minutes and nothing after that. I could kick myself! Another newbie mistake for the books.

Daddio looking great and me zombiefied
My stylish outfit.
Overall the race was fantastic! I would highly recommend this event to anyone that is interested. It was very well staffed, tons of volunteers, a flat and fast course and great atmosphere. I’m seriously considering running it every year.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

One Frustrated Runner

Here it is, the final day of November and I’ve only blogged twice this month and my mileage is the lowest it’s been since I started running. Well I kicked the cold only to come back with an odd pain in my right foot. At first I just thought it was a cramp and then I just thought it was a bruise. I guess I was more hoping than believing it was either of those things. Two days before my relay race I went to the doctor and heard the two dreaded words… plantar fasciitis. On the positive side, he thought I caught it early enough that it was just bruised and not advanced. He told me to take ten days off of any activity that made it hurt after my relay race. I followed his advice and unfortunately that meant I had to miss the Santa Barbara Turkey Trot which I’d been looking forward to. Guess I’ll have to slip it on the list for next year.

For ten days I iced, stretched and exercised my foot. I didn’t run except for the couple times I forgot and ran down the hall or played with my brother’s puppies. I took the stairs slow at work and I basically babied my foot as much as possible. Monday was the end of my ten days and I went for an easy and slow 3.5 miles. My foot was unhappy by the time I got down the street. It wasn’t hurting, hurting so I finished the run. 

I love running, I really really do, but I don’t think I’ve ever done any activity that has made me this frustrated. I have the Santa to the Sea half marathon in less than 11 days. I’m doing it with or without foot pain. I’ve been looking forward to that event for over five months! The question is, do I rest or do I push through? My marathon is looming before me and at this point I’m almost back to where I started.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Santa Barbara International Marathon Relay Race

My first race is now in the record books and I got to run it for free, what a bonus! I have to admit, I was a nervous wreck the night before. Not sure why… I wasn’t out to win or set any records, I was just out there to have fun with some coworkers.

Saturday, November 12 2011, the Santa Barbara International Marathon Relay Race. I got to my exchange zone 40 minutes early and I knew that almost down to the second. I’m a computer programmer and my office consists of half programmers and half analysts. We are very mathy people. Of the four on the relay team, three of us made mathematical predictions of when each leg would finish. We based our predictions off training data we had been exchanging (like I said, mathy people).

My leg was the third leg, only listed as 4 miles long, but I already knew from my practice runs it is actually 4.5. I jogged around trying to loosen up my nervous tight muscles, but it just didn’t seem to be working. My breathing was a mess, my form felt off and I was tired from the restless night before. My parents had tagged along to cheer on the runners and to crew for me. Mom had her loud cowbell and was banging it like mad every time a runner came by. Daddio was giving me his best last minute advice.

As the predicted time approached, I moved closer to the exchange zone, jogging easy loops up and down a short street. Finally, finally I started to relax. When my coworker came barreling in, out of breath and looking spent, I was ready. I ripped the time chip off his ankle like it was nothing, but fumbled to wrap it around my own leg. I felt like it took ages. Later, looking at my Garmin Forerunner data, it appears that the exchange took approximately 15 seconds. As soon as it was secure, I took off with the passing marathoners. Not even two blocks down the street, I glanced down at my Forerunner to discover we were at a 7:15 pace, way faster then I can maintain, so I dropped back letting them pass. A girl I later started to refer to as blue shirt was probably about 50 yards ahead of me, another relay runner that had started shortly before me. I made it my goal to catch her, but starting out, her pace was too ambitious for me, so I was determined to keep her in sight. In order to do that, I was moving along at about an 8:30 pace. My predicted pace for the race was around 9:30.

A mile into the race, I came across my Dad near an aid station. He yelled at me “Catch them, catch them”, I wanted to yell “Do you have any idea what pace I’m doing!?!” My Dad will never tell anyone to slow down when racing. Somehow I found a little more speed and blue shirt was a little closer.

I'm so fast, I'm blurry ;)
I kept my pace between 8:30 and 9:00, my heart was pounding in my chest. Marathoners zoomed past me, only to have me run past them later down the route as they started to wear out. Blue shirt started to slow down around 2.5 miles and I sped up, almost disappointed when I finally passed her. I latched onto another relay racer further up and soon overtook her, she looked like she was starting to struggle. One and a half miles to go and I was starting to feel the same way. I’ve never run that fast for that long and my body was reminding me. I just kept telling myself, you have to finish strong, don’t let all the work you did at the beginning get erased now. The Magnificent Seven theme song started playing on my ipod and I found a little speed. I played tag with a marathoner who seemed paranoid the way she kept looking back at me before I finally left her behind. I caught another relay racer without realizing it till I was passing.

The last mile seemed like it was never going to end. Starting to feel parched, I grabbed some water out of the outstretched hand of a volunteer. I knew if I slowed down, I wouldn’t be able to find my groove again, so for the first time, I tried drinking while running. Most of it went down my front, but some of it did find its way into my mouth. Down the path I smiled at a lady cheering us on and she exclaimed “I wish I was still smiling at 16 miles,” I wanted to respond, “Me too”, but the moment was passed.  

I caught an afro haired marathoner, who was looking like he was starting to hit the wall. He sped up as I came by and we paced each other for about a quarter of a mile. I encouraged him to keep it up and we chatted about marathons. It was exactly what I needed to get my mind off my body. As I came around my final corner, I could see my exchange zone ahead, so I took off, leaving him behind without saying goodbye. I hope he found his second wind and finished strong! Liz, my teammate, shouted out my name and I somehow found myself sprinting. And then it was over, Liz took over from there. I stumbled out of the way and tried to wrap my mind around the fact I was done.

I later met my teammates at the finish line, where Liz finished strong and all our predictions were blown away. We finished with an overall time of 3:30:37, beating our team’s previous record by over a minute and coming in 12th out of 63. My average pace came out to be 8:47, nothing to write home about, but a huge personal accomplishment for me.  

It was a beautiful day!

Overall, I was extremely happy with the race. It seemed well organized and well staffed. There were tons of volunteers, that all did a great job. I can’t thank them enough! I wish I could do a more thorough report, but I only saw a small window of the race and that small window went down without a hitch. 

My bib and finisher's medal on my desk at work

Monday, November 7, 2011

Feeling Good, Feeling Strong, Feeling Excited

Three weeks ago today I started getting sick and today… today I started feeling better. I’ve been chugging along, getting my work done in the office and getting short runs done in the evenings. Not pushing myself, but also not throwing my hands up in defeat. The Santa Barbara International Marathon Relay race is this Saturday, so I knew I had to get back on track sooner rather than later.

Slowly, my short runs have gotten faster, each one just slightly better than the one before. I’m no where near what I was doing before the trip, but I’ve definitely won some ground back. As the congestion is my chest gets better, so does my breathing. Last Saturday I did a practice run of my leg of the race and it went relatively well. It’s an easy leg, only 4.5 miles and very level. When I had first been assigned this leg, I had been disappointed in getting such a short distance and now I’m thankful for it. It’s the perfect distance for where my body is at this point in time.

I went for my run today and decided for the first time since I got home, to do some fartleks. As soon as I kicked up the speed, I felt amazing. My breathing was lining up, I wasn’t coughing or clearing my throat, I just felt good. I feel good! Instead of dreading this race, I’m looking forward to it again!

Wish me luck! I’ll do a race report this weekend.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Geek Girl Fights the Killer Cold

I’m not one prone to getting sick. I’m not a germaphobe I just tend to stay pretty healthy. If I’ve been around someone sick, I usually take some extra vitamins, but overall don’t worry about it. The last three days in the UK, I started to come down with something. I tried to take cold medicine before it really caught me in its grips, but it was too late. By the time Risa and I got to the airport to fly home, I sounded like I had the plague. I probably had half the plane groaning about the sick girl in seat 39D. I had hoped to hit the ground running when I got home, but the sound of my wheezing and coughing, soon made me realize that it wasn’t going to be possible.

Deciding to do the best thing for my body, I rested that weekend, sure that I could kick this bug’s butt and be back on the road and in the office on Monday. I lasted five hours at my desk before I got sent home. Tuesday I only lasted one. Finally, realizing this was out of my control, I went in to see the dreaded doctor. We went through the usual formalities before I asked the doc the important question “Can I start running again”, the response I got was a burst of laughter. It probably hadn’t helped that my voice sounded like a frog and every few minutes I’d sound like I was coughing up a lung. For the first time in my life the doctor prescribed no exercise.

I did my best to follow his advice, but I went back to work that Thursday and since I’d survived the whole day there, I decided to go for a three miler when I got home. It was a pretty pathetic effort, but I finished. Saturday I went out for five miles and made it four and a quarter. I’m terrified of the ground I’ve lost, but at the same time conscious of the fact I’m still battling the cold. This is one of the hardest things I’ve faced since becoming a runner. Mentally, I’m ready to get back out there, but physically, I just can’t yet. Sometimes it’s hard to be patient.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Running UK Style

I’m back! What a trip! I had very little time, so no blogging for me. I managed to fit in two really great runs. The first run was three days into the trip. I had been itching to run the whole day. The bus ride felt like it would never end. We arrived in Plymouth with a couple of hours of free time before dinner and drinks with our fellow travelers. The instant the bus stopped, I jumped out, grabbed my luggage and made a beeline for our room. I threw on my jogging clothes and headed out the door. We were staying right on the water front. It couldn’t have been a better location. I started at an easy pace, running along the cobblestone walkway along the harbor.

People greeted me with friendly smiles and waves. A couple of young men waved from their perch on a boat moored nearby. I felt exhilarated and a little nervous to be running in England. What if there were unspoken rules that I didn’t know? What if people didn’t run along the harbor like I was? After about half a mile, I just let all the worries go. I was in England, Plymouth of all places and I was going to have a great run.

Once I reached a dead end at one end of the harbor, I turned around and headed back. I continued past my hotel heading down to the other end of the water front. I ran past pubs with loud drunken singing and souvenir shops. I reached the Mayflower steps, where the pilgrims started their journey to the new world, my home. I felt like I was running through a movie, a place from the past.

Mayflower Steps

Finally, I reached the Royal Citadel, an old fort dating back to the 1660s and instead of turning back, I braved the steep incline and attacked it with vengeances. I was feeling good. It went up and up and up till I reached an expanse of green grass and some steps. I jogged up the steps, sucking air like crazy. I reached the top, finding the base of the ferris wheel that I had seen from a distance when we drove in and to my surprise, found several beautiful memorials to British naval history. At that time, I stopped my watch and took a breather, reading each plaque and enjoying the awesome view. The ferris wheel rotated slowly behind me as I took in the beauty of the moment.

When my breath was finally back under control I ran back down the hill, running into several other members of our tour group and encouraging them to venture up the path that I had just come down. It was a wonderful run.

The second run I did was half way through the trip. We drove into Aviemore Scotland after a long day on the bus. I’d been feeling the running itch for a couple days at that point, but hadn’t had the opportunity to bust out the running shoes. That night, LingGeek and I had decided to skip the sheep dog show and go ahead and make our way to the hotel. We explored Aviemore’s high street, which didn’t contain much before breaking off to head our separate ways. I’d already heard from our tour guide that there were some great running trails in the area, so I set out to find them.

I didn’t have much luck. I jogged around, trying to find the infamous trails and was just about to throw my hands up in defeat and do some street running when I jogged by a local fisherman. He waved me over, so I slowed down to chat. He told me right off that I looked lost, and I confirmed it. He had a wonderful Scottish accent and he must have noticed my own odd twang because he promptly asked me where I was from. When I told him California, he got excited, stating he knew where that was, “It’s in America” he stated proudly, I smiled in response.

When I travel, I love talking to locals, but I’m usually too shy to initiate it. The fisherman was easy to talk to and we discussed local running and the upcoming half marathon Aviemore was hosting in just two days. He pointed me in the right direction to the running path and I set off bidding him good bye and hoping he would still be there with his fishing pole when I jogged back by later.

The jogging paths where all they had promised to be and more. The path wound around a small loch, surrounded by trees. Smaller trails shot off, heading up the mountain and here and there were benches tucked in among the greenery. The area was quiet and peaceful. I jogged along the lower path, finding my rhythm and working out all the kinks and stiffness I’d developed from sitting on the bus for so many hours. I then ventured up the mountain paths, having to walk when it got too steep and exploring the new trails that split off. I discovered a second loch and took a breather, my breath puffing from my lungs as I looked over the still water. Scotland is a truly beautiful country.

I started running again, coming across a hiker and later a young man sitting along the trail, his back leaning against a tree, a beer in his hand and the expanse of the town far below. I slowed down to enjoy the view, but moved on, trying not to interrupt his moment of solitude. It started to sprinkle, the small drops feeling refreshing. I headed back down to the low path, wound my way around the loch a few more times. Somewhere along the way it dawned on me, I was in Scotland, Scotland! And I was running around a loch. Just how often in my life would I experience anything like this?!? Motivated by the thought, I did a few more laps before heading in.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

UK Bound

Naturally, I can’t sleep this morning. I fly out for the UK this afternoon. I’m starting to get more and more excited.

I got in a good run last night. Daddio and I made it 10 miles at about a 10 min per mile pace. It felt good! We talked about scifi shows and time paradoxes. Yeah, we’re geeks. I’m just happy I’m taking a break on a high note. I’ve had a few rotten runs lately due to fatigue and I had really hoped to get a good run in before I took a two week break. It is always a bummer to end on a crummy run. The rest will do my body good and help my sore feet heal up before I hit my race season.
I'll try to post if I can, but I don't think I'll have time. This trip is going to be amazing! 

I’m so ready for vacation!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

On Call Mom

I have a couple things to report, some good, some bad. I hit another big benchmark today. If you are one of my lovely friends that has been following this blog, you may have already noticed this from the little mileage counter up in the corner. *Drum roll* I hit 100 miles in 30 days today! One stinkin’ hundred! It wasn’t that long ago that I was trying to reach 40 miles in 30 days and 100 snuck up on me. It was an exhilarating moment for me as I saw the last mile get completed on my Garmin Forerunner. I felt like fireworks should be going off or something. Maybe they were somewhere in the world at that very moment.

I’ve been really busting out the miles lately because of an exciting event coming up. I’m going to the UK for two weeks with LingGeek my bff. We have been talking about seeing England and Scotland for years and now we’re finally doing it! We leave on the 6th and won’t get back till the 20th. I’m really looking forward to the trip, but I’ve also been dreading what it will do to my training. I’ve read in more than one place that you loose roughly 20% of your fitness if you take two weeks off. Twenty percent! That’s a killer. It’s going to be a busy trip, but I’m going to sneak my Garmin Forerunner along for the ride and see if I can squeeze in some miles. Hopefully I won’t end up getting myself lost!

So I’ve finally gotten to the point in the post where I’m going to explain the title I have chosen for this post. No, I’m not the mom on call in this instance. I’m very single and, at this stage in my life, childless. The mom on call is my wonderful awesome mother. So a little about me that will help you understand the situation. I am currently working as a code monkey and renting a room from my parents in beautiful Santa Barbara, California. Yes you heard right, I’m a 27 year old renting from her parents. Have you seen the rent prices in Santa Barbara?!? Anyway, to the story. My Dad and I often run together, he inspires me and also is my coach. Just about everything I’ve learned about running, I learned from him. So it’s not unusual, that almost every Saturday we go out for a run together. Today we planned on going about 14 miles. We got a late start because I put in a few hours at the office this morning, trying to get all my projects in order before I take off for my pre-mentioned trip and Daddio takes FOREVER to get going on Saturday mornings. He’s slower than a girl getting ready for her first date.  ;)

From my first step, my legs felt tired (did I mention I ran 100 miles in 30 days). I had a dreadful feeling I wasn’t going to make it 14 miles. Around mile seven my legs felt like I was dragging a ton of bricks and I was starting to really take notice of the heat. Daddio was sounding good and strong, but he usually doesn’t let on till days later if he was struggling. Around mile 8, I asked him if he had his phone with him (he did). I hate quitting, but when you are miles away from home, it’s somewhat of a comfort knowing a ride is just a call away. I tried to push on and stay focused, but I knew I was hitting the dreaded wall. When we hit 10 miles, we were finally in the shade (I have to admit I was hogging the shade the whole run) and Daddio pointed out that if we were going to call for a ride this would be the place to do it. I tried to put it off, but my tank was empty, I had nothing left and we were still a good three miles out. So, finally admitting defeat, the call was made. Mom came swooping in for the rescue, picking both of us up and getting us home.

Overall, it was a good solid run, but my body was tired and God had turned up the heat. The last few Saturdays, I’ve been blessed with tempts around the low 60’s so the heat today took more out of me than I had expected. It’s also a good idea to carry a phone on longer runs. You never know when you’ll twist an ankle or hit the wall. This is the first time I’ve had to call for a ride, but I was sure glad to see that car pull up with my smiling mother.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Geek Girl and Her Nemesis

I overcame a wall yesterday, a big looming wall that seemed to mock me each time I approached it. Thirteen miles has been my nemesis this month. I have attempted it twice and failed miserably both times. The first time it was because I was attempting it too early in my training and the second time was because I was dangerously close to burnout. This week I set out with a mission, I would end my week with a thirteen mile run if it killed me! Ok not killed me, but maybe if it ran me into the ground… or something.

I set out more than a little anxious, the last two attempts flashing through my mind, but around mile two I was starting to get into my flow. I was feeling good and having a hard time keeping my pace under control. Around mile seven I reached LingGeek's neighborhood and I got a surge of excitement. When I started my marathon training I’d told her that “One day, one day I’ll be running out to your house.” Back then, one day had seemed so distant, like a dream you hope to one day accomplish but you’re never sure you will. In that moment, it really sunk in how far I had come. I was doing it, I had done it! I wanted to shout, I wanted to sing, and instead I just smiled widely and greeted passer-byers a little more vigorously. I road the wave all the way home, breaking the thirteen mile wall and accomplishing 13.67 miles for a new PR.

Which brings me to another running rule I have, celebrate each new accomplishment. If you focus too much on the big picture, you miss the journey. Every new PR, time or distance, deserves a victory dance. Don’t compare your accomplishments to others. So what if Mary Sue has been running as long as you and has already run three marathons, she’s not you. Her journey was different and just as precious, but this is your experience and you only get to live it once. Be the running freak that smiles through each mile and waves at each person you pass, throw your arms in the air, or bust out a move when you’re done. If you don’t make running fun, what’s the point in doing it?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Life of a Runner

So I wake up this morning, climb out of bed (and I mean climb, it’s quite a tall bed for a short girl like me), put my feet on the ground, take a step and… oh no it didn’t! My left knee was sore as all get out! Somewhere between raving about what a great run I had and counting sheep last night my knee decided to play a trick on me.

So grumbling, I took some ibuprofen, grabbed an ice pack from the fridge and balanced my bowl of cereal while letting the offending knee get nice and cold. Finished, limped to my room and let it freeze a little longer while I read the Good Book. It still wasn’t happy with me, so I took a fresh ice pack to work.

While typing away, I rotated the ice pack on and off. My office mate came in about an hour later and I did my best to hide the evidence. He asked me how my run went (I’d eagerly told him yesterday how I’d been looking forward to it) and I raved about how great it was. He asked me how my knees were holding up! I swear, people can read my mind! I just mumbled that they were doing fine. Don’t give me that, they had been doing just fine.

A couple hours later, my email box tells me I have a message. It’s from the boss of the bosses. He’s the one that recruited me for the relay team (Santa Barbara marathon in November). He proudly announces that he’s running 8:42 a mile. I sigh in frustration. I’m going to be the youngest person on the team doing the shortest leg and going the slowest! What’s a geek girl to do!?!

The moral of the story is... if you decide to take up the wonderful sport of running, you will have days like this. You'll have awesome runs followed by days of aches and pains. No matter what you do and how much you prepare and listen to your body, it will still happen. Don't be frustrated, it's natural. Sometimes it's just your body's way of telling you that you did a good job or it's telling you that you need to back off. Learning to tell the difference is key to staying healthy.

P.S. The knee is feeling a lot better this evening ;)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Girl with the Plan

Yay, I had a great eight miler today at a nice easy pace. I couldn’t have been more in the groove! The weather was wonderful and everyone I passed either smiled or waved. It was just one of those runs that I really treasure.

So where am I at and what are my goals? I am currently training for the Arizona Rock’n’Roll marathon which will be my very first! I'm a marathon virgin. I started running again this year in February and got the crazy idea in my head that I wanted to do a marathon, so I started training in May. Since that time, I also decided to do a half marathon in December (good practice for the full). I’m a big fan of themed runs, so the one in December is the Santa to the Sea in Oxnard California.

A few weeks ago I was offered a spot on my company’s relay team for the Santa Barbara marathon and I jumped at the chance to join in on the fun. Since then, I’ve come to my senses and realized I need to do some speed work (I don’t want to let the team down!), so I’ve just added some fartleks and tempo runs to my schedule. I probably bit off more than I can chew, but I’ll love every minute of it.

I currently run four days a week. I was doing five days a week when I first started, but my body was telling me it was too much, so I cut it back and I have really benefited from the change. Monday is my tempo run or fartleks. I go 3 to 4.5 miles on Monday, depending on how I’m feeling that day. Tuesday is a rest day. Sometimes I’ll throw in 30 to 45 minutes on the bike. Wednesday is one of my long days. Today (Wednesday) I went just over 8 miles and I try to increase the distance around a quarter to half a mile each week. It’s usually an easy pace, similar to what I’m aiming to do in the marathon. Thursday is another rest day with possibly some bike. Friday is an easy three miles and Saturday is my second long day. Unlike Wednesday, Saturday is an interval run. I run eights and twos. So I run eight minutes, walk two minutes, run eight, walk two, etc. I’ve built up to 12 miles on my Saturday run and I try to increase about 3/4's of a mile each week. Sunday is a total rest day, nothing extra thrown in (most of the time). My goal is to have every third to fourth week be an easy week to help keep me from overtraining, but sometimes I get too eager for my own good and don’t take the rest.

So far, my training has been going pretty good. The only problems I run into (no pun intended) is when I try to push myself too far too fast or smash my toe in the door. Hopefully I can keep myself under control and make it to the marathon without anymore mishaps!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Watch Out for Toes

Well, I made another newbie mistake this week. I thought I had just about made all the silly mistakes a new runner could make, but apparently I was wrong. I now have a new rule to add to my list: “Take care of your feet”.

Let me explain what happened. After an easy 5k on Tuesday, I was hanging around the house walking barefoot… can you see where this is going? I went to take out the trash and somehow in the most uncoordinated or as my best friend says “very talented” way, I managed to catch my middle toe in the door, smashing it and ripping up the toenail. It was a bizarre moment of shock and searing pain. Blood was dripping everywhere and all I could do was pray my toe wasn’t broken. I thought for sure I was going to find a bone sticking out of my skin with how much blood and pain there was, but it was all because of the displaced toenail (I now understand why ripping up nails is used as a means of torture).

I ended up having to take two runs off, explain a very embarrassing story multiple times and I’ve got a lovely bloody spot on my socks when I do run, but thankfully it’s not broken and I wasn’t benched for longer. So the moral of the story is, when you are in training, don’t walk around barefoot and it’s probably best to leave the flip flops in the closet for awhile.

On a side note, how about that Doctor Who episode yesterday?!?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Birthday Girl

My birthday was last week and thanks to my wonderful parents I got a new pair of running shoes. I of course already knew I was getting them, since I went to Road Runner Sports with them and tried them on. I had headed to the store expecting to get either the Asics Cumulus 13 or the K-SWISS KEAHOU II and ended up walking out with the Nike Vomero+ 6. I personally tend to stay away from Nike, not for any particular reason, but I haven’t had much luck with them. Nathan, the shoe salesman talked me into trying on the Vomero and I loved them the second I put them on. I jogged around the store twice, smiling the whole time.  So far, I’ve done three runs in them, two short ones and one long and they’ve been great. I’ll do a more thorough review when I’ve had them a little longer, but so far I give them two thumbs up.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Girl and Her Shoes

I’ll be honest, I love shoes, but really, what female doesn’t?!? Which leads me to the first and what I believe is one of the most important elements a newbie needs to know, the shoes you run in matter. Shoes can make or break a new runner.

When I first started running, I made the mistake that many new female runners make, I went to the shoes section at the local big sports equipment store, went to the running section and picked out the cutest pair of running shoes I saw. I tried them on, they felt great and I walked out the door with a new pair of shoes (they were pink). I spent my first two weeks of running in those shoes and honestly, they felt fine, but the rest of my body didn’t. I knew there would be some discomfort from starting a new physical activity, but I was really hurting. My back hurt, my knees hurt, my ankles hurt and even my neck hurt. The only thing that didn’t hurt was my feet. I called my sister-in-law and she declared it was my shoes. I didn’t believe her. The next time I visited, she took a look at my running form and the wear on my everyday shoes and announced that I underpronate. She recommended the Asics Cumulus to me.

To make a long story short, I ran in Asics Cumulus 11 till they needed to be replaced and then I got Asics Cumulus 12. They were a great shoe for me.

So if you don’t happen to have an awesome sister-in-law that used to sell shoes and is now a physical therapist, then I suggest you go to your local running specialty store. Many running specialty stores will have treadmills that you can run on and get your form examined by trained employees. The employees are usually more than happy to help newbies find the right type of shoe and get them off to a good positive start.

Sorry girls, the shoes that work for you aren’t always going to be the cute ones.  

Monday, September 5, 2011

How it all began

My running journey began in the fall of 2009. I was a young naive thing stressed from too much homework and not enough downtime. I decided to try my hand at couch to 5k after hearing about it from a friend. There wasn’t much love in the beginning, but it did help me unwind. The love affair didn’t start till much, much later.

I’ve made just about every mistake a newbie could and most of them I have learned from. I love to discuss running and encourage others to join in on the fun. I decided to start this blog after receiving multiple emails asking for advice. So we’ll see how this goes.