Monday, December 19, 2011

Morning Workout Rage: Part 1

My Running Partner is Back

At the beginning of February, I wrote that I'd been joined on my runs by a partner. A furry, long, low-to-the ground partner. I remember that on our very first run she was basically dragging me around the small lower loop of Central Park. I even named one of my frequent streak routes (the Phoebe Loop) after her.

She wasn't very well behaved on our runs, thought. Unfortunately even as time passed, she didn't get much better. When we'd start running, she would start jumping and barking. At some point, I stopped bringing her along because running with her was going to require more training than I had time to provide. And so it went for 9 months. I kept running the Phoebe loop without Phoebe and Phoebe stuck to her normal walks.

When I came home from my Thanksgiving, I was shocked when I was greeted by a fat Phoebe! I had no idea how out of shape she was and was unsure how she had reached that state. But I was determined to put her on a diet and exercise regimen so she could lose weight and get back to her lean Corgi self. So, Phoebe has been getting a little bit less food than usual and has been going on the Phoebe Loop once or twice per week. Here she is, say "hi!"

Oh, by the way, we did solve the mystery of Phoebe's impending obesity. She'd accidentally been receiving a cup more food per day than she's supposed to, which is nearly twice as much food as she needs. It shouldn't take too long to get her back in shape, though.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

2012 Race Calendar Starting to Take Shape

As you may have read, my A race for 2012 is the Ironman US Championship in August. I'm trying to arrange my race calendar so that I can keep my focus on the Ironman while avoiding boredom. In all honesty, I doubt I'll find myself bored. Still, though, there should be more rhyme and reason to how I select my races this year versus those prior.

In choosing my race calendar, I should also evaluate my goal progress for 2011. I achieved a fair few of the things I set out to do, but I also missed a good number. In my goal analysis, I'll have to determine which unattained goals will carry over into 2012 and which ones I'll shelve for later. Ultimately, today is not the day for my goal analysis. It probably should come first, but I'm very much the type of person who acts before (or often without) thinking and thus, have already begun registering for races next year.

Which brings me to the point of this post. With the Empire State Building Run-Up out of the picture, my winter is freed up for other training. I've already signed up for the Manhattan Half-Marathon on January 21st as well as the Gridiron Classic on February 5th. The Gridiron always takes place on the day of the Super Bowl. I've always wanted to race it but have run one reason or another why I haven't been able to. Not this year!

Also, I decided that this is finally my year to do the New York City Half Marathon. Unlike the NYRR Half Marathon series, which consists of a half in each borough, the New York City half is a separate event that runs from top to bottom of the island and through iconic parts of the city. Incidentally, the course passes right by my building. The cost of this race is over four times as much as your typical half marathon series race, which is why I've avoided doing it for the past few years. It was always one of those races that I thought I should do once, so when I realized I accidentally qualified for it this year, I took it as a sign. The NYC Half takes place on March 18th, 2012.

There may or may not be more road races during that period, but they're what I have planned for now. As for multi-sport races, I plan to start off 2012 with participation in JackRabbit's Indoor Triathlon Series. I did a few of these last year and they're a pretty cool way to stay into tri during the winter time. Team Lipstick, the triathlon team I train with sometimes, is doing the race on February 5th. Now that I'm writing this entry, I see that there will be a conflict with that and the Gridiron Classic. I'll still do both but it will decrease my edge for the tri, at which I'd hoped to be competitive. Ah, well.

So as far as that goes, there are four events: January 8th, January 22nd, February 5th and February 19th. The way this series works is that if a competitor makes it in the top ten for any of these four, she is automatically qualified for the Indoor Triathlon Championships, which take place in March. Last year, I just squeaked into the championships, so I hope to do so this year by a more definitive margin. The plan right now is to race until I qualify. With any luck, I won't have to do all four. Not that I would mind, but it gets expensive.

So that's how my winter season is shaping up. I'll spend more time talking about the rest of the year at a later date. For now, stay tuned for a new rage comic. I hope you all are enjoying the holidays!

Monday, December 12, 2011

The ESBRU Squirmies

Although it's not official yet, my hope of doing the Empire State Building Run-Up 2012 is quickly slipping away. My sources (aka Twitter) are saying that notices have been sent and credit card charges have already been made. I have gotten neither of those things and my status on the website says "In non-guaranteed entry drawing." I'm really hoping they'll at least update my status so I don't hang around refreshing the screen all evening (is it bad that I'm admitting I'll be doing that?).

I'm not sure why I got myself so worked up about this one. Perhaps it's because I find the prospect of running around iconic New York City to be an unparalleled experience. Also, this race is simply very different from most of the ones I've done. It should scare me, but it doesn't. Ah, well. Here's hoping for ESBRU 2013!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Note on Streaks

So my big streak ended awhile back and it was a sad day when it did. Fortunately the day after, when I realized what happened, was also a very happy day because it was the same day that I destroyed my old marathon PR by 24 minutes. Anyway, that's neither here nor there.

The point is, streaks are one of those things that's most effective the first time around. I tried restarting the streak between then and the marathon and didn't have much luck with it. I think if I was to have another really successful one, I would have to take a break from streaks for a good long time first.

After that second little streak ended just before the marathon, I wasn't really sure what to do about the whole thing. On one hand, I felt like I was cheapening the principles behind the streak every time I reentered it halfheartedly. On the other, I was really afraid not to have anything to motivate me to run at least almost every day. I don't want to get back to the point when I feel comfortable not running for a couple of days in a row!

That's when I saw it on Twitter. The Runner's World holiday streak. It was an RW challenge to run every day between Thanksgiving and the New Year. I figured I can do that. It doesn't solve my streak/motivation dilemma in the long term, but it does give me something for another few weeks. I'll figure it out then. For now, it's been a good adventure. Definitely different from much of the time I've spent streaking in the last few months since it's now starting to get really cold. Granted, when I started my streak in February, it was also really cold but it's harder getting back into it than you'd think.

So, yes. I'm on Day 16 of the Runner's World streak. How about you? Anyone else keeping a streak, Runner's World or otherwise? Let's keep this thing going until New Year's Day!

DEALWATCH: Asics Shoes on Sale!

Yes. It's true. A sale on my blog that doesn't involve Xterra wetsuits. Asics shoes for $50! Again, this is not my brand, nor are they women's shoes, but still. Maybe there's a man in your life who would love some Asics Gel Nimbus shoes. Also, I'm partial to Academy because we have them in Texas.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Race Report: The Dallas YMCA Turkey Trot

The second race I completed while in Texas was the Dallas YMCA Turkey Trot. It was a last-minute deal. I sort of wish I'd decided on it sooner so that I could have been better prepared. As it was, I was still very excited because I read on the website that they were trying to break the Guinness record for largest number of people dressed as turkeys and doing something or other. I'm not exactly certain what the record is, but they were trying to accomplish it by having as many people as possible dress in head-to-toe turkey costumes while racing.

Some people might be turned off by this prospect, but I was thrilled and immediately began making plans for a head-to-toe turkey costume, even though it was the evening prior to the race and my costume options were quickly shrinking. But when you're in Texas and need something for cheap at odd hours, there's always Wal-Mart, which is where I ended up going on my turkey costume quest.

The criteria for this costume were that it had to be both a shirt and pants of the same color, and that color had to be black, white, or brown. I decided on white, because the instructions also mentioned that the chest area could have different colors. In this little stipulation, I saw my opportunity to reGen-ify my costume.  Additionally, each turkey had to have a headpiece (beak), feather plume in the back, and turkey feet. In order to achieve this, I purchased white long johns, colored pencils, and brown colored paper. Out of these materials, I created my turkey accessories. My brother, Matthew, was a big fan of my feather plume.

I stayed up finishing my creation until 1am. Generally, I'm pretty good at not getting very much sleep but still being able to wake up when I need to, but not on this evening. Again, I might have planned this all a little better. But if there's one thing I'm really terrible at, it's planning things in advance. The race was supposed to start at 9am but the website noted that turkeys should be there at 7:30 to be verified and lined up properly. I set my alarm for 5:30 accordingly.

I woke up to a nasty surprise when I opened my eyes, checked my phone, and saw that it was 7:46. I was supposed to be at the race 16 minutes prior to when I woke up! And races in Dallas are not like races in New York, the majority of which take place in Central Park, which is a fifteen minute walk from my apartment. No, getting to this race was going to be a trek. I threw on my turkey top and turkey bottom, grabbed the rest of my costume and threw it in my rental car, and flew out the door a little after 8am.

Between not being good at directions and not being able to use the major highway that should have gotten me down to City Hall, it took me 45-55 minutes to arrive and park. At this point, I knew I'd missed my opportunity to be a verified turkey and was worried about missing the start of the race entirely. Fortunately, I volunteered at this race in 2009 and knew that I had a little extra time because it takes so long for all the runners to cross the start line. After parking, I jumped out of my car, grabbed my costume (I was determined to race as a turkey, even if I had to be an unverified turkey) and started following the crowds of people wearing race bibs. Keep in mind that I hadn't even registered and the race was minutes from starting.

Finally, I found the start line area only to be confronted with an enormous mass of people standing between me and where I needed to register for the race. Wearing my turkey suit and beak, I began weaving my way through the crowd with my feet and plume in hand, aiming to acquire safety pins to finally put them on once I'd registered.

After a lot of pushing and utterings of "excuse me" I found myself in the parking garage where registration is conducted. I hurriedly registered for the untimed race, as I was a good 15 or 20 minutes too late to be timed. Then I discovered more horrifying news: they were out of safety pins. I had to tape my bib to myself. Forget about my turkey accessories! I was moderately heartbroken at this news. Not to mention concerned about having to carry so many things for 8 miles since there was either no bag check or I was unable to find it and probably didn't have time even if there was one I could find. By the time I had taped my bib to myself and attached my turkey feet (I was really determined to wear as much of the costume as I could), it was already ten minutes past 9. The race had technically started, though you never would have known it by the number of people who still hadn't seemed to have moved an inch.

Crossing the start was slow going. I was clearly in the back since I had started so late and it was tough navigating through a sea of walkers, strollers, adorable puppies and babies, etc. If you intend to PR, this is not the race for it. It is just too crowded. And the crowds continued like that for the entire duration of the 5k. I was weaving in and out of lines of runners and groups of families. It was only at the split that I felt I was able to keep any sort of decent pace. Plus, I was carrying my wallet, keys, phone, turkey plume, and eventually race bib IN MY HANDS. It was a juggling act, that's for sure. One that I didn't really enjoy. At one point all my cards almost fell out of my wallet! Toward the end of the 5k portion I even lost a turkey foot.

All that said, the race course after the 5k racers split off was cool. I'm not very familiar with downtown Dallas so I can't say exactly where we were (though I can post the race course, which I will do now):

It's the picture at the bottom of the second page. Anyway, the coolest thing about the course was that we got to run a nice stretch of elevated highway that had been closed just for this race! It was very cool. I kind of wish I'd taken a picture of the view.

As far as pace goes, I'm not really sure how I was doing. From the clocks I saw at the mile markers, I felt like I was running somewhere between 8:30 and 9 minute miles after the first 5k of the race. 8 miles seemed a lot shorter than I anticipated it would feel. After the 5k split I ran a couple of miles before coming across the 5 mile marker, which is when I realized there were only 3 miles to go. Only 3! The race felt like it was practically over!

It wasn't, clearly, but I was glad it felt like it was passing quickly instead of dragging on. I was also glad that the 8 mile finish was separate from the 5k finish so that I was able to avoid the same mess from earlier in the race. Afterward, I got my banana and Activia yogurt and asked a little boy to take a picture of me, reGen half-turkey abomination that I was. I wasn't even wearing my beak at that point because it had gotten twisted around my neck and I wanted to make sure that didn't cause problems down the road. This is the result:

There is nothing even remotely turkey-ish about this photo. I just look like someone who made the awkward decision to wear white after Labor Day. And run 8 miles. And wear my race t-shirt around my neck like a cape. Ah, well. It was still a good race and my first ever Dallas Turkey Trot. Hopefully, my race day execution will be a little smoother next year!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Speedwork: Necessary Fun

I'm trying to go chronologically through all the things I've wanted to write about since my trip home. This is one of them. As I think I mentioned before, I did a pretty decent job running almost every day while I was in Texas. For the few days around the 5k, I ran a couple of loops around my dad's neighborhood. Although it wasn't hot, per se, it was very muggy. But they were still decent runs. In San Antonio I did loops around my grandparents' neighborhood. While I was running I couldn't help but think that if I lived there I'd start a running club so fast...I was imagining the things I could do while I was running! Kids races, occasional 5k's and race series, it would be great. Maybe I should put those thoughts to use at some point.

For now, though, I'll focus on my own racing. Once I got to Dallas, I found a new, more exciting running experience. It wasn't that the scenery or the weather was better, it was that I found a place to run that energized me. I went to the Tom Muehlenbeck recreation center in Plano to work out. It's a gorgeous facility, and if you're ever in the area for one reason or another I'd recommend checking it out. Especially if there's a possibility that you'd move there.

One of the things I like most about it that I'd nearly forgotten about is their indoor walking/jogging track. It's not a regulation sized, indoor track, but it does provide a different running setting than I'm used to. There are 11 laps to a mile. Normally when I hear that sort of thing I roll my eyes because the thought of circling that many times to do one mile makes my head spin. But not this time. As I started running, I had the urge to just go fast. So, I did. I started doing impromptu speedwork which consisted of sprinting every other lap and just running the others at a normal pace. At times I'd switch it up and do two lap or half mile repeats. But what became even more evident to me during the few days I ran there was that I like running fast. When I started, I convinced myself that speed was not my thing and that I just did distance better. I almost felt like runs less than 6 miles in length weren't worth the time.

Throughout the course of this year, that perspective has changed drastically and it's beginning to show in my races. Not only can I go fast if I work at it, I LOVE going fast. That indoor track only inspired a greater love of it in me. Now I'm looking to do speedwork every chance I get. I should have been doing it the whole time, but better late than never, right?

My goal is to start racing short distances (10k and shorter) at close to an 8 minute per mile pace. After running as an adult for almost four years, I've come to the full realization that not only can I be fast, I love being fast and I'm excited about the prospect of getting faster in the coming months.