Take nothing for granted

I slugged through a 10 miler this weekend. It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t fast and it made me hate that I hadn’t run that distance in over a year. I miss the days of a 10 miler being normal. I won’t call it easy, but I could set out on the weekend and run 10 miles and know I wasn’t going to die. I took this for granted a few years ago. I assumed it would last. I thought running 10 miles would stay a normal part of my life. It didn’t for any number of reason. Then Saturday happened; I had grand plans of getting up early and getting it done with. Well, Mother Nature, the bitch that she is, had other intentions and there were a storm, including lightning and high winds and all the not fun stuff, so I couldn’t go early. Around 7:45 texted me with “are you more had core than me?” My response was something along the lines of “nope, I’m in bed watching Netflix.” We texted back and forth for a while stalking the weather. We had plans that day and getting the 10 miles done were part of them. I kept stalking the weather and finally decided to just go. I didn’t want to have to run Sunday and the weather looked not terrible.

I ran 8 hilly, hot, humid miles the week before so figured this had to be better. This thought process proved to be mostly true. The humidity dropped thanks to the storm and there was actually a lake breeze! I was slower than I wanted, but reminded myself speed didn’t matter on this run and let that go. I kept moving forward. Thankfully my route includes three places to refill my handheld if needed and a lot of shade. Not enough shade though; I am rocking a nice racer back tan line. wpid-photogrid_1437408225575.jpgThe miles really weren’t too bad until the last one. If this had been a 9 mile run it would have been great. That last mile was miserable and horrible and I hated everything about it. I thought about quitting and asking my parents to drive me home (they live a mile from my house). I thought about just walking, but that would take longer so I sucked it up and made it home. And promptly laid on the floor on my yoga mat for 45 minutes to stop sweating/not move. I thankfully recovered pretty well so that was nice. Recovery was assisted by a lovely afternoon at the local beer garden, dinner on the grill/breaking in my new patio, and a lazy day by the pool on Sunday.

I finally know I can do the Madison Mini and finish without wanting to die. I have another 10 miler next weekend and another chance to feel better out there. I have modest goals for the half next month. It’s really to see where I’m at and what I can do. Plus I get to run a beautiful course in Madison. Race day is 33 days and counting.

Getting Stronger

Turns out I’ve been working with my trainer for over three months now. I’m not really sure where the time has gone. I know I went to Italy, ran Ragnar, and summer is here, but other than that, how is it July? Whatever, that’s not the point. The point is I have been meeting twice a week for half an hour with a personal trainer for several months now. I can actually see a difference. In addition to the physical therapy I did for endless months last year I continued to work on my ankle strength andpush up as of now my right and left feet/ankles seem to be equal in strength which is huge to me. My left foot was weaker for so long; this is all very exciting. I can do push-ups, real ones. I can tell my core is getting stronger which is something I never did on my own. I only thought about it and talked about it; shockingly that does nothing to improve your core strength. The time and money is completely paying off and I’m glad I’m doing it.

I hope, and assume, it is helping my running. Stronger muscles and more well rounded exercise is good for you. I’m running semi-consistently and still have no idea what to expect for the Madison Mini next month. I vacillate between believing I’ll be ready and thinking I have no business running a half. I want/need another run like my second leg of Ragnar. That felt so magical and amazing and made me feel like my old runner self. I know it takes time, but I’m getting tired of it. I’m really glad I have my strength work. It keeps everything fresh. Plus she asks about my running and I can’t have no answer. Only 45 days until the Madison Mini. That’s not many so I better keep on running.

Ragnar 2015f

Ragnar Chicago 2015

Ragnar Chicago has come and gone again. It always amazes me how it seems like it is forever away when you register and then it sneaks up on you and is over. It was another fantastic adventure. No two years are the same. Year five brought rain, and lots of it. Thankfully rain is just water and I survived it and it cleared up for my other two legs.

Team [REDACTED] was a good mix of veteraned and new Ragnarians, which was fun. We picked up the van on Thursday evening and started assembling Van 1. The vans were a bit different this year and by a bit different I mean ginormous.

Giant Van: The Beast
Giant Van: The Beast
So gian in fact, I could stand on the seat on my head didn't touch the ceiling.
So giant, in fact, I could stand on the seat and my head didn’t touch the ceiling.

The giggles began before we left Milwaukee and lasted all the way to Madison. We have fun with this and at this point I wasn’t even thinking about the 16 miles I had to run. Instead we checked into the hotel and immediately crossed the street to find beer. Clearly we wanted to talk to each other.

Team Bonding!
Team Bonding!

Race morning came quickly and the first thing I did was peek out the window and it wasn’t raining! As runner 1 this was pretty exciting to me. We got dressed and out the door fairly quickly and then had to drive across town because the “official” race hotel was no where near the start. The rain started as we were parking so we grabbed jackets and umbrellas and went to check in. The rain picked up as we were standing in line and as we were watching the new safety video. It was strong enough I can only conclude they didn’t actually do our safety check because of the rain.

Van 1: Ready to go!
Van 1: Ready to go!

At this point I had to shed layers and leave my umbrella to wait for the start. I was surprised by the number of runners who ran in ponchos. That seems uncomfortable to me, but to each their own. I’ve run in rain before, but nothing like this. I was completely soaked very quickly and my shoes started to get heavy and then heavier. I stupidly wore my more cushioned shoes because it was my longest leg. I regret this decision. There was a bitch of a hill at mile 1.25 which I wasn’t expect, but then it wasn’t too bad. There was a point we were supposed to be on a “trail or path” but it was pure mud and there was no traction. It wasn’t a fast 6 miles or what I’ve been running at, but it was done.

Hand off #1 to Jen
Hand off #1 to Jen

I quickly changed in to dry clothes as I didn’t want to freeze. It was fine running, but I knew I would get cold quickly. It was fun to be runner 1 and to start the race. I just go to sit around and eat and cheer for my team after that. We were getting updates from Van 2 and looking forward to meeting them in Lake Mills. I had not actually met most of Van 2 until we got there. I also had big shopping plans. I spent too much at the merch tent, but don’t regret it. I found all kinds of friends there as well. It’s really fun to know so many people on so many different teams. After our runner came in we went straight to out Ragnar lunch place, Water Street Brewery in Delafield and then to naptime in Wales. It ended up being a nice afternoon to lie around. I didn’t sleep, but rested. And before I knew it, it was my turn again.

Dan V handing off to me
Dan V handing off to me

My second leg had perfect weather. It wasn’t cold, hot, humid, or sunny. I was able to fly and am still over the moon with my pace for these 4.2 miles. I just kept trucking along and passed the bracelet on to Jen again.

This was my third year in a row being in Van 1 so everything looks familiar as you are driving along the course and coming  into exchange zones. Although we got to one of the exchanges and realized it had been moved from one end of the parking lot to the other. No big deal, just threw us off a little. Once we made it to Martin Luther High School we chatted shortly with Van 2 and said our goodbyes so we could go sleep. They changed up exchange 24 this year so instead of sleeping on a soccer field at the YMCA, wpid-wp-1434547686932.jpegRagnar set up tents on the beach in Racine. I did sleep, some, but as I whined during the event, Van 2 was fast, which meant very little sleep for us and I was off running again at 3:00am. We have never started our last legs before sunrise before. I also had yet to run in the dark. My leg wasn’t very well marked, but I thankfully had done a screenshot of the directions. I did get high fives from a couple drunks in Racine. I just kept trucking forward watching the blinky lights of other runners ahead of me. I ran in some light mist and handed off to Jen telling her how humid and warm it was. About thirty minutes later it started downpouring on her. Van 2 texted us there was thunder and lightening in North Chicago so we were very careful to stay close to our runners while the weather was still bad. Fortunately the rain slowed and we made our way to Exchange 30 to find Van 2. Their energy level was not the same as other times we had met with them, but it was their turn to run so we watched Dan W hand off to Todd.

In Dan's words
In Dan’s words “Denny’s never tasted better. And probably never will.”

We went to breakfast. We ate and headed to the finish line. This year Ragnar had no parking for us so it was first come first serve to park The Beast. It wasn’t as bad as I expected. We parked, loaded up the beer and sunscreen and headed to the finish, but not without first taking a picture of us with the Chicago skyline. We found Mo’s team and hung out for awhile until they finished. I had a glorious finish line beer and we waited for Van 2 to get there. They brought Dan V’s shirt so we all finished together in our matching shirts. It was a great adventure and as always I loved it!

Foggy Chicago
Van 1: Foggy Chicago
Team [REDACTED]
Team [REDACTED]
2015 Medal
2015 Medal
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Ragnar Relay Series: Together we ran 200ish Miles

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10 Days ’til Ragnar

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I don’t really know where time went or how this snuck up on me, but my countdown widget tells me Ragnar Chicago is in 10 days! This will be year number five for me which seems crazy, but it’s my fifth summer in Wisconsin so I guess it makes sense.

Ragnar 2015 is another new adventure and I can’t wait. Once again it is a team full of new and old friends. We are team [REDACTED] and you can follow the shenanigans on twitter: @LikeAREDACTED. The good news is I do feel ready and have gotten in enough miles since returning from Italy. I am runner 1 this year and look forward to starting in Madison. Bring on the cheeseballs and no sleep!

Will we see you out there?

Half Marathon Training, Again

I suddenly realized my training plan for the Madison Mini starts next week. I guess I should finalize it. I have a general plan, mostly the long runs, scheduled out, but need the details. This is a get me through the miles plan. My only goal is to be under two hours. My real half goal will be in November when I have a good enough base to actually do speed training. I have Ragnar in basically three weeks so need all the miles I can get before then. I did not run a single step in Italy unless you count running to the train in Florence.

I’m actually looking forward to having a plan again and training for something. I’ve just been out here treading water it feels like. I’m still working with my trainer two days a week and still really liking that. I lost a bit while on vacation, but she won’t let me slack. I did walk a lot and hike in Italy so at least I didn’t just sit on my ass. And I didn’t gain any weight on a pizza and pasta diet.

Walk of the Gods, Amalfi Coast
Walk of the Gods, Amalfi Coast

After going through a million plans in books and online and based on my experience I adapted one I used a long time ago. It gets me up to 12 miles before the race with a short taper, all things I wanted. I really do think my body is stronger and I can’t wait to run through Madison again. It’s been too long since I last ran this race.

Trying something new: Barre Code

I finally tried Barre Code. I’ve seen things about Barre for awhile. Honestly the thing that kept me away was the cost. Friends said it was a great workout and it’s not that I didn’t believe them it’s that I already pay for the YMCA and for a personal trainer. Thanks to OnMilwaukee I came across a code for a free class. I thought, why not? Well, I’m the idiot who tried Barre for the first time the day after running 10 miles for the first time in months. I still loved it.

I think Barre would have been a lot more difficult if I hadn’t been working with my personal trainer for the last month and a half. It was a fantastic workout with cardio, core, and strength, mostly using the weight of your body. I’m pretty certain some of the pain I felt had to do with running pains from the day before. It was nice to see other people struggling too. I would definitely would try this more if it weren’t so expensive. There’s just no way I’m paying $18/class. Maybe if I wasn’t paying for other things, but for now I won’t be going back unless I can find a deal. I do recommend trying it.

The other awesome thing this week was my running. I’m back, really back. I was a bit lazy at the beginning of the week, but didn’t let the crappy weather (rain record) keep me from doing anything. Thankfully my Y has a nice indoor track. I am still really excited about Thursday’s run. I ran 3 miles at an 8:47 pace and can’t believe I saw that number again. Saturday Rachel and I were in charge of leading 2 mile group runs every hour during Fleet Feet Brookfield’s Running Expo. Now I had no intention of doing all 7 runs. I can do simple math and know that it would have been 14 miles and that would have just been stupid with where I’m at right now. We ended up leading 5 runs over 6 hours so I did 10 miles for the first time in who knows how long. The last two were a bit tough, but I made it. I don’t think I would have been able to do 10 straight, but I’m pretty tempted to run 7-8 next weekend. My foot is not bothering me at all. My body is exhausted, but not in a way I’m worried.

I am absolutely loving that I can see improvement and am feeling stronger. It’s fun to be reminded of what I can do. My goals have really been to get stronger and keep my body healthy, and while that remains I want to accomplish more. I don’t exactly know what that means, but I’m enjoying getting in better shape and starting to see muscles I haven’t seen in a long time.

Training Plans

I’ve run quite a few half marathons. I could go back and count, but I’m pretty sure it’s somewhere between 15-20. I don’t really care the exact number. When I started it was a brand new thing and 13.1 miles seemed so far and a huge accomplishment. I really had no idea how I was going to get to that mileage. I went to a bookstore and grabbed a stack of books on half marathons. I chose one based on the fact that I agreed with enough things that the author said that I would trust him to get me to 13.1 miles. I chose the beginner plan since I was very much a beginner. I think I had run up to 7 miles at that point. I know I had run a few 10ks and a quarter marathon. I had done a handful of sprint triathlons and one olympic distance, but never had really trained for long distance running. It worked, I made it to the finish line and right at my 2:10 goal. It was exciting and I fell in love with distance running. After that I don’t really remember how I trained for half marathon number two. I ran a full marathon three months after that first half so assume I didn’t have trouble keeping up mileage for a half four months later. I was able to cut 10 minutes off my time and break two hours with a 1:59:56. I was pretty stoked. I later worked with a coach. I didn’t really like how that worked out. It wasn’t the right fit. I ran a faster half. I got injured training for another full. Blah, blah, blah. Skipping over quite a bit that I’ve probably already rambled on about and cut forward several years to now: I’m once again coming back from injury and want to train for a half marathon.

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I know how to slowly build up my mileage. That’s exactly what I’m already doing. But I want a plan. I’m sitting here with books and the internet and I literally don’t like any of the plans I’m finding. They either run too many days a week or not enough or have you running way too many miles the week before a race. I currently think I know too much and too little at the same time. I know I can get back to the miles. I’m not worried about that, but I want a plan. I think I know why I worked with a coach over the last few years. At least this time was a lot more successful than the first time I used a coach. But right now I’m paying for a personal trainer and that is important to keeping me healthy. I do not have the money to pay for a running coach on top of that. I’m thinking about it for my November half, but need to decide what the hell I’m doing for my August half.

I think I’m going back to good old pencil and a paper calendar. I will make my own plan. I have written a few for a friend. I generally know what to do and I think a lot of it will come back. I’m not planning on any speed work right now. I’m still hyper-paranoid about re-injury so will stick with my painstakingly slow mileage build-up. On a positive note I did register for the Madison Mini so that really is happening. It will be awesome and there will be post-race beers on the terrace.