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Surf City Half Marathon – Take-Aways and Happy Places

shirt medal

Last Sunday I had the thrill of running my third half marathon – The Surf City half marathon in Huntington Beach, CA.  It was a thrill for a couple of reasons:  1) I traded in the 2 degree temperature of Eastern WA for the 68 degree temperature of the beach: before after

2) I ran the race with my sister, Andrea.  We are both loner runners but we made an exception this time and ran together.  We even came up with little hand signals to communicate with each other so we didn’t have to take out our ear buds.

Andrea was really sweet and ran at my slow pace which, at times, ended up being a fast walk.  She was a great running partner and terrific cheerleader…which I really needed toward the end (as usual).

READY FOR HALF1BEFORE AT SUNSET  Beautiful pre-race sunrise

After a race, I like to think about what I did well and what I would do differently.  Here are my take-aways from the Surf City half marathon:

WHAT I DID WELL

  1. I finished – I savored each moment of the race, enjoyed the scenery, took my time, then crossed the finish line.  OK, that’s crap.  I did finish but I sucked air the whole time, I whined about my toes hurting, I took lots of short walk breaks toward the end, then I did that thing I do at mile 11 – I feel like I can’t do it.  Thankfully, Andrea was there doing the countdown for me, “We only have 2 more miles.  We only have 1 more mile.   Now only 5 more minutes. We’re almost done.”  That extra encouragement really helped!FOLLOWING ANDREA1
  2. I learned about the importance of stretching – I always stretch after a run.  Short run, long run, whatever…I stretch.  What I didn’t realize is that my body needs additional stretching so I have incorporated daily stretching into my hard core workout routine.
  3. New hard core workout routine – OK, it’s not really hard core but I did participate in a 12 week training program twice a week called Strong Runner.  It focused on running drills, TRX and core strengthening.  It was a great class and I learned so much about speed, form, strength (and I met some great people to boot).   Unfortunately, I was a little over zealous with the speed training and hurt my foot, which was actually the result of my hips being super tight, hence the significance of item #2 above….stretching.  Even though my program is over, I plan to incorporate the things I learned into my regular exercise routine.
  4. I can’t think of a 4th thing I did well.  Oh, wait.  I really enjoyed my post race beer.  I think beer should be the new recovery drink.  So long chocolate milk, hello brewski.

WHAT I WOULD DO DIFFERENTLY:

  1. Stick to a training plan – I’m usually pretty strict about sticking with a training plan.  This time, however, I was all over the place.  I started with Jeff Galloway’s Run/Walk program (which is what I always use).  Then I got into Chi running and threw a bit of that in there.  Then I made up my own schedule.  Then I changed my schedule because I didn’t like it.  Then I just did what I wanted when I wanted.  Then 4 weeks before the race I hurt my foot and stopped running all together.  Then I went to physical therapy for some help with my foot.  Then I did some indoor cycling training since I couldn’t run.  Then it was race time and I felt ultra unprepared.  Next time I’m sticking to a plan (and not getting injured).
  2. Do not run 13 miles 2 months before the race – Why?  Because deep down inside I became a little over confident of my abilities since I knew I could run the distance.  The result…I did not stick to my semi-non-existent training plan.   What usually works for me is to schedule my longest run at 12 miles so that there is a sense of excitement when I cross the finish line at 13.1.  Running 13 miles before the half was anti-climatic for me.
  3. Improve my mental preparedness – I do not know how to overcome that feeling of “I can’t” toward the end of a race.  It should be the time when I get excited that the end is near but my brain does not go to that happy place.  When I looked over at Andrea I could tell she was a happy runner.  She was running effortlessly, good form, energized, smiling.  Smiling?? What the what?  I have all kinds of things I say to motivate myself (“run the mile you’re in,” “if you feel pain,  that means you’re alive,” “smile…look like you’re having fun.”).  None of those things worked.  The one thing that did work was whenever we saw a photographer, we would pick up the pace and smile so there was evidence that we were running and having a blast!

    HAPPY RUNNERS1

It was a great day and I really did have a blast!  After we crossed the finish line, Andrea was chanting, “I feel so great,” and I was chanting, “I need to stretch.”  Then we made our way to the VIP lounge, enjoyed our recovery beer, recounted the race with other runners, and BOOM, my brain found it’s happy place.  I guess my endorphins kick in a little later than most (or I need a beer at mile 11).  I was proud of finishing this race and proud of my sister for sticking with me.  She could have left my sorry ass behind but she didn’t.  What a good little sister!

AFTER HALF1

So tell me, toward the end of a race, how does your brain find its happy place?

Trail running – A Beginner’s Observations

I recently signed up for an 8-week trail run training program.  I thought it would be pretty cool to get off the concrete, see some new sights, get some exercise and train for the Wild Moose Chase 10K trail run coming up on 9/29. (side note: I’m not crazy about the name of that run…I mean really, “Wild Moose Chase?’  Not enticing to a slow runner who is terrified of moose. )

Anyway, next Monday is Week 7 of the training program and, as a new trail runner, I have made some observations I’d like to share with anyone out there who might want to try out trail running.

OBSERVATION #1 – Trails are hilly.  I don’t know why I pictured trail running like this:                           photo source here

Green, lush, soft dirt for my feet to pitter patter on.  Hell no.  The trails I have been running on look like this:

trailrunning1 trailrunning2  hillytrails

If you can’t tell by the pictures, this is some seriously rocky,  hilly and steep terrain.  My feet weren’t quite pitter-pattering on this stuff…they were more like galumphing.

OBSERVATION #2 – Trails are dirty.  Sure, they’re made of dirt with a dash of basalt rock, but I didn’t know I would get so dirty.  I came to the conclusion that if a runner is  doing it right, at the end of their trail run, they will have a nice coating of dust around their ankles and legs.  Maybe even some mud!!   Nothing cuter that taking off your socks only to find a perfect dirt circle around your ankle.  Kind of like an ankle bracelet from nature.  And speaking of dirt, your shoes will get thrashed so don’t even think about trying to keep them looking clean.  Trail running will take your shoes to a whole new level of dirtiness and smelliness.

OBSERVATION #3 – Trail running is harder than I thought.  I assumed that since I have been running for the last couple of years, I would be in pretty spectacular shape (she wrote sarcastically).  Well, not so much.  Running on those trails, up those hills in 90+ degree heat was really hard.  I was huffing and puffing as if I had never run before.  My calves burned, my legs quivered and my sweating was profuse.  I was a hot mess…literally.

OBSERVATION #4 – Trail running can have some dangerous elements to it so running in a group setting is the way to go.  There is safety in numbers! We all have our little quirks and mine is being a runner with an over active imagination.  I can’t help it.  I could never run on trails alone because I would be worried about so many things.  I’d worry about a deer or moose chasing me.  I’d worry that a serial killer was lurking in the woods, stalking me until his moment of attack.  I’d worry that I might stumble on the remains of said serial killer’s other victims.  I’d worry about tripping, falling, breaking my leg and no one finding me for days or weeks.  So, with that said, I believe running in a group, or with a buddy, is a safe bet (safer, at least).

OBSERVATION #5 – Trail running often translates to trail walking.  As a beginner, I can tell you that I do a lot more walking/hiking than I do running.  I kind of feel like I’m misleading you when I say I’ve been doing some trail running.   Truth be told, when I go uphill, I walk.  When I go downhill, I walk (only when it’s steep and rocky).  I try not to get disappointed over the amount of walking I do because I’m new at this trail running business and I still have a lot to learn.

OBSERVATION #6 – Trail running can be hilly, dirty, hard and dangerous but let me tell you….trail running is also spectacular, rewarding, breathtaking and well worth the extra effort!  Last week I completed a 5 mile trail run/walk/hike and when I got to the top of Eagle Peak, I completely forgot the challenges I experienced getting there!  The panoramic view of the valley was amazing!

trailrunningEaglePeak

rantothetop

I made it to the top and was able enjoy the downhill run on the way back.  Most importantly, I was proud of my trail running/walking/hiking accomplishment.

Anyone out there an experienced trail runner?  I’ve got my big 10K trail run coming up and I’m a little nervous and could use your advice.

It’s Fun to Play ‘Butcher the Lyrics’

When I run, I prefer to tune out my ‘deep’ thoughts and tune in to my pretty amazing running playlist.  I plug those neon pink Yurbuds in my ears, crank up the music, and play a fun game I made up called “Butcher the Lyrics.”   It’s a game you play when you’re alone on a long run and need something to distract you to make your run go by super fast so you try to figure out the lyrics of each song.  Sure, my cool game may sound rather dull but for someone with hearing loss, deciphering lyrics is anything but boring.  It’s like solving a mystery or putting the pieces of a  puzzle together and I just LOVE puzzles….and mysteries!

Sometimes, when I think I have the lyrics all figured out, I Google the actual lyrics only to discover how deaf I really am.   Check out some of my recently butchered lyrics:

  • Cups by Anna Kendrick – There’s a verse in the chorus that I swear says:  WENDY’S LYRICS = “You’re gonna miss me by my walk.  You’re gonna miss me by my taco.  You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone.”  Now you know and I know she’s not talking about ‘missing her taco’.  REAL LYRICS =  “You’re gonna miss me by my walk.  You’re gonna miss me by my talk, oh.  You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone.”   Let’s face it, isn’t it more fun to sing “You’re gonna miss me by my taco?”
  • Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke  – I didn’t know “Blurred Lines” was the title of the song  for the longest time, which is why my interpretation of the lyrics is a little off.  WENDY’S LYRICS =  “I have these good times…..”  REAL LYRICS = “I hate these Blurred Lines….”
  • Brave by Sara Bareilles – Once again, not knowing the title of the song, I butchered the lyrics.  WENDY’S LYRICS = “Say what you wanna say, let the words fall out.  Honestly, I want to see you baby” (you have to stretch out the word “baby” so it sounds like “baybay”).  REAL LYRICS = “Say what you wanna say, let the words fall out.  Honestly, I want to see you be brave.”
  • Mirrors by Justin Timberlake – Ok so I couldn’t sing this song even with the lyrics in front of me because he sings so fast.  But the bridge is where I was thrown for a loop.   WENDY’S LYRICS = “Cause with your hand in my hand and a pocket full of soap, I can tell you there’s no place we could go.”  REAL LYRICS = “Cause with your hand in my hand and a pocket full of soul, I can tell you there’s no place we couldn’t go.”  Whatever JT.

I guess the one good thing about hearing loss is I have a new, fun game to play while running.   The bad thing is, when I do discover the REAL lyrics, I’m often disappointed and prefer my WENDY lyrics…they’re much more entertaining!  Wouldn’t YOU rather have a pocket full of soap than a pocket full of soul?!

Do you have any songs that you have butchered?  Did you ever find out the real lyrics?  Were you disappointed?

I Love Presents

Don’t you just love getting presents?  I do.  I signed up for subscription to StrideBox so that I could get a present in the mail every month.  It’s a present from me to me and for $15 a month, I’m all for it.

Stridebox is a company geared toward runners and each month they send you a box with various products geared toward running and fitness.  For those who have never heard of it, I’ll give you a run down of what happens when you get your StrideBox in the mail:

  • First, you go to the mailbox.   When you see your StrideBox box, you do a happy dance.

stridebox box

  • Second, you carefully open the box.

openstridebox

  • Third, you excitedly, but carefully, remove contents from the box and arrange them so they look pretty enough to photograph.

strideboxstuff

  • Fourth, you take everything out, examine it, read about it, add up the value of the StrideBox contents to see if your $15 was worth it, figure out what looks tasty and what looks not so tasty, then decide if you are going to share the energy foods with your spouse who is training for a century bike race.  Okay, maybe that last one is just for me but either way, you can decide if you are going to share with anyone or not.

strideboxgoodies

  • Fifth, start sampling the goods and take notes on items you would purchase in the future.

July’s box was pretty cool and included:

  • A water bottle and samples of 6 different hydration drinks.
  • Sample of magic sports tape.  I’m totally intrigued about the magic part.
  • A full size PR Bar energy bar – apple pie style.
  • An energy gel.
  • An energy bar by Bearded Brothers.  Fabulous Ginger Peach…sounds tasty.

The subscription has been fun so far and if I get tired of it or can’t afford it, I can stop at any time.

I love presents which is awesome because July is my birthday month!  Yessssssss!

10 Commandments of a Color Run

My son and I participated in our first color run last weekend.  It was the Color Me Rad 5k run, to be exact.  Not only was it the first Color Me Rad run for my son and I, it was the first Color Me Rad 5k for our city!   Based on the number of people who showed up and the energy level that morning, I’d say the event was a HUGE success.

If you’re not familiar with a color run, here’s how the Color Me Rad organizers describe it:  “When Zoloft and balloon animals can’t seem to raise your spirits, the best way to brighten your life is to run Color Me Rad 5k….Start out as clean as a newborn babe, and throughout the run, you’ll coat your chaffing thighs with blue, green, pink, purple, and yellow until your face, shirt, and body come out silkscreened like a tie-dyed hippie on the other side. Yup…that is how you turn regular running into The Art of Running!”

Since I have one color run under my belt, I think of myself as a color run expert now and in a position to give advice on how to prepare for a color run.  So for anyone considering signing up for a color run, check out these 10 Commandments:

COMMANDMENT #1:  Wear white.  Lots and lots of white.   Go to a thrift store and buy a white shirt, a white hat, white socks and a white handkerchief.  Just don’t wear clothes you care about too much.  They will get thrashed.

clothingaftermath

COMMANDMENT #2:  Speaking of a handkerchief…I suggest wearing one so that you don’t inhale the color bomb contents.  What is a color bomb made of, you ask?  Well, it’s basically cornstarch with pizzazz.  Inhaling it won’t kill you but I just didn’t feel like tie-dying my lungs.

Here’s a before picture.  I know, I know…we look like a couple of thugs getting ready to rob a bank.

colormeradbothbefore

COMMANDMENT #3:  Wear sunglasses.  Color Me Rad provides each participant with some groovy shades and all the runners were wearing them.  Not only do they make you look cool, they will protect your eyeballs from the color bomb dust that will surely make its way to your peepers.

COMMANDMENT #4:  Wear shoes you don’t care about.  This is not the time to break out your new kicks.  Wear the oldest, rattiest, gnarliest running shoes that you own.   Something that, if they turned into the color of cantaloupe, you would not be saddened.

COMMANDMENT #5:  Bring a trash bag to put your dirty shoes and clothes in after the race.  You will NOT want those nasty, colorful items in your car.  Bring some flip flops to wear on the way home and you are set!

COMMANDMENT #6:  Speaking of nasty, colorful things…your clothes will be wretched, yet beautifully colored.  You should bring a t-shirt to change into after the race.  Or do what my son did.  He just wore two shirts and when the race was over, he took off shirt #1 and was already wearing clean(ish) shirt #2.

COMMANDMENT #7:  Bring a sheet or towel for each participant.   When it was time for the ride home, I took off my shoes, put the clean sandals on, changed out of my dirty shirt, then wrapped a sheet around my waist so I didn’t get any color bomb matter on the seat of my husband’s car.  He really appreciated that.

COMMANDMENT #8:  This is an amazing race to run with friends and family so plan accordingly.  Don’t do this one alone…It’s a very social and fun event so make it a family affair or a girls day out.   I usually do races alone but this run is an exception.  Don’t be a loner.

beforeafter

COMMANDMENT #9:  Enjoy all of the festivities.  The Color Me Rad event had gigantic color bombs go off every 10 minutes.  Don’t miss out on that!  The volunteers had fire extinguishers filled with the color bomb dust and they would spray everyone in sight.  They also had tanks of colored water that they would spray on runners throughout the run.  When runners crossed the finish line they received a color bomb (baggie full of colored cornstarch) and waited for the color bomb countdown.  5, 4, 3, 2, 1,  Poof…Everyone simultaneously threw their color bombs in the air.  Visibility was zero in the midst of a color bomb.  It was awesome.  Music was blaring, people were dancing, kids were rolling on the floor getting covered in color, adults morphed into what looked like art class kindergartners gone wild.   It was a crazy scene.  My husband even had a fun time and he didn’t run.  The people watching was entertaining enough for him!  (Thanks to hubby for all of the great pics…like this one):

colorbombinsky

COMMANDMENT #10:  A color run is a happy occasion so be happy on the day of your run and be prepared to get messy.  Don’t hold back on the color bombs…in fact, buy some extra bombs to throw on your loved ones.  And don’t worry, the color will come out!

colorbombwar

Have you ever participated in a color run? Did I miss any important commandments?

Sometimes You Gotta Ditch the Plan

GASP!  You read correctly.  Slow Girl (the control freak, the planner to a fault, the one who should take a chill pill already), says, “Sometimes, you gotta ditch the plan.”  I never ditch the plan.  I make the plan, baby.  But a couple of weekends ago, I ditched the plan like one bad-ass plan ditcher.

You see, my half marathon is coming up this Sunday (as in three days from now) and I haven’t been following my training plan like a good obsessive planner would do.  It’s my second half marathon so it’s not like I haven’t run 13.1 miles before.  I’m sure I can do it even if  I’ve missed several mid-week runs, skipped a dozen or so cross-training workouts and missed just one long slow distance run.  Sure, it was the longest run of the training program that I missed but whatever…it was just 11 miles.  Besides, it’s not like I sat around on my butt that weekend and did nothing at all.  I did something just as challenging and strenuous as an 11 mile run.  I had a family dance off, yo!

A couple of weekends ago my youngest sister, Amy, graduated WITH HONORS from college.  Impressive, I know.  I flew to California and met up with my younger sister, Andrea, my mom, my step dad and my niece, Angela.  Since we live in different states, it’s a pretty special occasion when we are all under the same roof.  Throw in a college graduation and a good time is guaranteed!  Spending time with my family always brings me great joy and this trip did not disappoint!

On Saturday night, after all of the graduation festivities, Angela and Amy suggested we play a fun game called, “Just Dance 4.”  What?  You’ve heard of it before?  Well, apparently everyone in the universe has heard of it except for me.  It’s a Wii game and you follow the dance moves of the pretend dancer on the screen.  The better you follow the moves (using the remote thingy) the more points you get.  I’m not a dancer.  I have no rhythm, no groove, no grace, no nothing.  But when challenged to a dance off by my little sister and niece, I said, “Bring it on, you little whippersnappers.”  And so the evening began.  A snap shot of the night:

justdancedontpeepants Amy is on the left, she’s the one actually dancing.  I’m on the right, trying to not pee my pants from laughing so hard.  That was my second dance outfit of the evening.  Lesson:  Don’t ‘Just Dance’ after drinking a ton of water all day….jumping up and down does not mix well with hard-core laughter.

justdance I pulled myself together, put on my game face and danced to this fun song, “Call me Maybe.”  I lost but was given bonus points for best facial expressions.  Yay me.

justdancesister $h!t got real when the song, “Moves Like Jagger” came on.  A little dance off with Andrea was underway…I wanted to win SO bad.  I didn’t.

So you see…sometimes when you ditch the plan, there is a WAAAY better plan out there.  For me, it was dancing like a dork with my family all night long.  Did I deviate from my training plan and miss my 11 mile run?  Yep.   Did it really matter in the grand scheme of things?  Nope.  Was I sorry that my family made me laugh so hard  I peed my pants?  Not really.  Am I going to buy my own Just Dance game so I can secretly practice my moves for the next reunion/Dance Off?  Hell yeah!

As for my half marathon that’s coming up in three days…I’m feeling fine physically and great mentally/emotionally.  My head’s in a good place, I feel like I’m going to kill it.  I’ve completed a 10 mile run during my training so what’s a few more miles?  Honestly, I think spending time dancing with my family was more beneficial to my race preparation than running my scheduled 11 miles all alone.

To Sunday’s Half Marathon:  Ready or not, here I come!

Does emotional/mental preparation play a role in your training?  Do you freak if you deviate from your training plan?

We Should Use the Word “Super” More Often

I never hear anyone use the word “super.”  When I ask someone how they are doing, they never say, “I’m doing super!!”  No one ever says, “This froyo is super,” or, “I saw a super movie last night.”  I don’t know why…It’s a great word (even if it is a little on the dorky side).   It’s positive, fun to say, and you can make it sound better by adding “duper” at the end.  All I know is I’m going to start saying “super” more often and I’m starting now.

Supersource

I had a super duper 10 mile run yesterday!  Last week’s 9 mile run was bad and I whined about it in my last post.  I’m glad I whined about it because Kat from Travel. Garden. Eat reminded me that occasionally, a bad run is going to happen while training for a half marathon and she is right.  I did not want a repeat of my bad 9 mile run so I adjusted a few things to make sure my 10 mile run was…say it with me…super:

  • Hydration – 9 mile run:  I did not hydrate the days leading up to the run.  10 mile run:  I made sure to drink plenty of water all week long…which I should do anyway.
  • Food the night before – 9 mile run:  Pizza for dinner and a couple glasses of wine.  10 mile run:  Teriyaki chicken and rice and no tasty alcoholic beverages.  Just water.
  • Food the morning of – 9 mile run:  I tried out a new oatmeal.  It was a sample that we received in the mail…who knows how old it was or where it came from.  I think it had a bunch of sugary junk in it and it was a bad breakfast choice.  I knew better than to try something new the morning of a long run (yes, 9 miles is a long run for me).  10 mile run:  Toast with peanut butter and bananas plus a cup of coffee.  This is a breakfast I can count on.
  • Attitude – 9 mile run:  My attitude was fine until my hips and feet started to hurt.  At that point, my head just wasn’t in a good place, I didn’t feel great about the run and I was focused on the wrong things.  10 mile run:  I made sure any chatter going on in my head was positive.  I had some upbeat songs on my playlist, and when things started to hurt I just focused on putting one foot in front of the other.  I reminded myself that this is not rocket science…I am certainly capable of moving my body from Point A to Point B.
  • Post run thoughts – 9 mile run:  “This sucks.  How will I be able to continue for 4 more miles?  I’m sore.  Somebody call me a “wambulance.”  (Any Modern Family fans out there?)  10 mile run:  “This rocks!  I did great!  I feel great!  3 more miles will be a breeze!  I have enough energy to run to my car!”

There were some  big differences between my two runs and I now understand I cannot underestimate the importance of my food, water and attitude choices…especially as race day nears.  I have a feeling that May 19th is going to be a SUPER day!