Monday, July 30, 2012

Racing Sausages 5k Race Recap

After a series of disappointing spring and summer races, I couldn't help but wonder if I'd ever race well again. Falling short during four consecutive races shook my confidence and made me question if I'm really capable of the goal times I set earlier this year. Once enjoyable races turned into anxiety filled events where I wondered if I could finally pull through and get the job done or if I'd fall flat once again. 

Needless to say, I had very low expectations for Saturday's Racing Sausages 5k race. After the Chicago Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon, I had little motivation to run. I even broke one of my race week rules and did heavier strength training in a boot camp class on Thursday. It was a tough class and left me pretty sore. Standing up and sitting down were difficult and running at any pace seemed like it would be a challenge. After a painful warmup jog the morning of the race, I decided I would have to run at a slower pace and - gasp - maybe even walk a bit.

Getting started
So I lined up near the 8-minute mile runners. The start was a bit congested because of the large number of participants and I ended up running around a few people right away. The first mile went by fast even though I ran slower than usual - about 7:30 pace. I felt really good at this point - somehow my leg pain had disappeared and I knew I could run faster. I picked up the pace just a bit, but kept it controlled and relaxed. I wasn't after an AG prize or PR - I just wanted to finish strong and avoid the side stitches that have plagued every single one of my recent races. 

I still felt great after mile 2 and as we entered Miller Park Stadium for a quick turn around the field, I knew it was time to pick things up. I ended up running the third mile in 6:48 and even had some left for a short kick through the finish! 

Crossing the finish line (Photo from WISN)

Here are my results:

Time: 22:18
Average Mile Time: 7:11
Division Place: 10/540
Gender Place:29 /XXX
Overall: 156/2,500
This somehow ended up being a new 5k race PR! It was just what my lagging confidence needed and gives me hope I'll be able to meet this year's 5k goal time of sub-22 minutes. At the finish, I felt like I still had a bit more left in the tank and I know it's just a matter of shaving a few seconds off the first two miles during the next race.

It's all I needed to get back on track. This week, it's back to a normal schedule as I get ready to increase my miles again. Here's the plan:

Monday: 6 miles at easy pace
Tuesday: 8 miles at easy or steady pace
Wednesday: 6 miles at steady pace; 45 minutes strength training
Thursday: 8 miles at easy pace
Friday: 4 miles at easy pace
Saturday: 18 miles at easy pace

Total: 50 miles

Have you ever surprised yourself during a race? Also, what are you currently training for? My next race is Run/Walk to Milwaukee Irish Fest - another chance to hit that 5k goal time!

- ST

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Chicago Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon Race Recap

So . . . I once again missed my goal time. Yes, I was extremely disappointed to fall short - and will now have to work my tail off to make up for it - but there were other things that happened that made it a great experience, including watching my mom finish her first half marathon!

We took the train to Chicago early Saturday morning. After checking into our hotel, we went to the race expo to pick up our bib numbers and race packets as well as check out all the vendors. It was quite fun seeing all the merchandise, learn about other races and just soak up all the excitement and anticipation that was in the air.

Race day
My alarm went off at 3am. After getting dressed, packing our race bags, eating a bit and drinking plenty of water, it was time to head over to the race. It was completely dark outside when we arrived and there were only a handful of other racers. I think it made Mom nervous, but I thought it was kind of nice to have a moment to collect our thoughts before the start of the race madness.

Soon enough, it was time to line up and what an experience - there were thousands of racers trying to get in the corrals. To give you an idea of how big the race was, I was in Corral 3 out of 30. Mom was in Corral 29 because this was her first half marathon and we weren't sure what type of pace she could maintain.

And then we were off! Because of the crowd, the first mile was very slow. The next few miles picked up a bit and while I didn't think I could drop the pace like I wanted, I thought I could at least maintain an 8 minute mile pace. Soon after though, things got tough and I found myself repeating a manta over and over. "The tides will turn. You will get this done. You will finish strong."

 A finish line never looked so good

Unfortunately, it just wasn't my day. I ended up getting a side stitch somewhere along Michigan Avenue and had to pull off to the side of the road. After massaging the area for about a minute, I started up again . . . only to have it return about a block later. Had to pull off to the side again. It was incredibly embarrassing, as this is where a bunch of spectators were lined up to cheer on the racers. I tried running through it, but the pain just got worse.

The sun, heat and humidity were just too much for me. I sprinted in through the finish and was pretty much in a daze after that.

After crossing the finish line
I walked through the finish area and went to collect my bag from gear check. I was so out of it that I even went to the wrong table to get my stuff! After, I sat on a curb for awhile, drinking as much as I could and trying to work up the energy to walk back to the finish area to wait for Mom.

I was pretty disappointed in myself for not being able to hit my goal time and giving into the heat and side stitch. It kind of made me question why I train as hard as I do if I can't perform on race day. I was completely spent both physically and mentally.

Mom was quite a bit behind me so I had awhile to wait at the finish line area. I watched other racers as they finished and it kind of made me tear up a bit. Just watching how much fun everyone was having made me realize that it didn't really matter that I missed my goal time that day. In fact, the time that I considered so terrible was probably a goal time for some people! I finished in the top 6 percent of all the women in the race and that isn't too shabby!

It was all the motivation I needed to run back on the course, find Mom, and help her get to the finish area. I was so proud of her when she finished. I mean really - how many other 60-something women are out there running half marathons? I think she's such an inspiration for getting started, sticking with it and accomplishing a huge goal.

Mom having fun while racing

So in the end, it wasn't such a bad race after all. It might not have been the race I wanted, but I still enjoyed the course, loved running the streets of downtown Chicago and soaked up all the energy and excitement that comes with a big racing event. It was a great experience and one I definitely recommend.

And after the race, we indulged in delicious cupcakes from Sprinkles!

The salted caramel (left) was my favorite

Up next
You may be wondering what's next. In just a few weeks, I'm racing the Lake Country Half Marathon. Since I didn't hit my goal time in Chicago, I will be working hard to get it at this race. It will also serve as an important time trial to help me determine how I will run Lakefront Marathon in October.

The rest of this week, I'm taking it easy and will do the Racing Sausages 5k on Saturday. Next week, it's back to normal training with a 50-55 mile week. Within the next month, I plan on increasing to 55-60 miles per week.

It's going to be busy. It's going to be tough. And I wouldn't have it any other way :)

How do you deal with race disappointments?

- ST 

Friday, July 20, 2012

My Chicago Race Plan

After the Rockford Half Marathon in May, I left the race timing strip on one of my shoes. I could have removed it, but I like the constant reminder to keep training for the goal times I've yet to run this year.  

It's easy to blame the heat for this spring and early summer's less-than-perfect performances. After all, temps in the 80s and 90s do not generally result in new PRs. But I recently read that the odds for optimal race conditions are only about 1 in 5. Unfortunately, this weekend's weather forecast looks far from ideal. 

My plan for Chicago Rock 'n' Roll is to break the race up into four segments:

  • Miles 1-5: 8 min/mile pace
  • Miles 6-10: 7:45 min/mile pace
  • Miles 11-13: 7:30 min/mile pace
  • Last 0.1: Kick it in with everything and anything I have left

This plan should get me to the finish line in about 1:42, which I would be more than satisfied with given the forecast. Although I decided on this strategy before I knew about the heat, as of now, I have no intention to change anything. I want to push myself and know that I put my full effort into the race.

The first five miles will be the real test. If running 8 minute miles is a struggle, I will change my focus to holding that pace for the remainder of the race. But hopefully I will be able to follow my plan and start picking up the pace! 

This is my first big city race with thousands of participants and spectators and the energy is bound to be crazy. I'm excited, nervous and also a little scared. I think these are all signs that point to a great race :) 

Are you racing any of the Chicago Rock 'n' Roll events this weekend? If so, what's your plan for dealing with the heat?

- ST

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Guest Post: She's on the Run

Pretty much everyone has that one friend who is an ace in the kitchen. Among my friends, that person is Alysha, who blogs over at She's on the Run

Over the years, I've sampled many of Alysha's creations, including Lightened-Up Spinach Artichoke Dip, Coco Banana PB Crave Balls and Whiskey Tiramisu. She's also the one who introduced me to Tater Tot Casserole, one of my all-time favorite comfort foods!

Anyhow, today, we're in for a treat, because Alysha agreed to do a guest post featuring a healthy AND delicious recipe that will help fuel your workouts this summer.

Thanks so much, Alysha!

 We bond over sweets and running!

Hi, Eat. Host. Run. Style. readers! I’m so excited that Sun is letting me guest post on her blog.

My name is Alysha and I blog over at She’s on the Run. I started my running journey in high school. I was a sprinter on our track team. Unfortunately, I only lasted one season because I would get so nervous that I would practically puke before every race. After that I took a hiatus and found running again about 3 years ago. 

 At the Fox Cities Half Marathon

I’ve always been into fitness and love taking classes like BodyPump and kickboxing. I decided to start training for half marathons to spice up my gym routine and to lose a few pounds. What I didn’t know is that it’s hard to lose weight while training for a half marathon because you are hungry all the time! I never ran more than 22 miles a week on my Hal Hidgon novice training plan, so you still have to be very mindful of what you put in your body.

I’m the type of person who’s always had a healthy appetite, so I look for meals with a lot of protein and fiber when I’m training for a half marathon. The meal I’m about to show you isn’t the most glamorous looking, but it is delicious, healthy and it fills me up.

The main attraction is a Balsamic and Honey Glazed Salmon. On the side is a roasted sweet potato and green beans. 

 Also delicious served atop a salad

Balsamic and Honey Glazed Salmon
Serves 4

4-6 ounce salmon fillets
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon white wine
2 tablespoons honey
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
1 ½ tablespoons Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper, to taste

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray.   
  • In a small saucepan over medium heat, cook garlic, white wine, honey, balsamic vinegar, mustard and spices. 
  • Simmer for about 5 minutes or until slightly thickened. 
  • Arrange salmon fillets on your baking sheet. Brush with about half of the balsamic glaze. 
  • Bake for 10-14 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Brush on remaining glaze. Enjoy!

In case you are looking for more meal ideas that have staying power during your training, you can check out my Black Bean and Vegetable Enchiladas with Pumpkin Sauce, Gnocchi with White Beans, and Pasta with Spaghetti Squash.

Thanks for letting me take over, Sun!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Fun With Guest Posts

Check out my guest post on my friend Alysha's blog, She's on the Run! It's all about decoding training plans and setting yourself up for a great race! 

 Enjoy and check back in a few days for a guest post from Alysha featuring a healthy and delicious recipe!

- ST

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Running in the Dog Days of Summer

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how this is going to be my Kenyan Summer because of all the miles I plan on running. Little did I know at the time that it would also feel like a Kenyan Summer with near 100 degree temps for days at a time! 

Fortunately, I've still managed to get most of my miles in, although more have been on the treadmill than I'd like. I did take a break from the 'mill on Thursday and ran at the Pettit National Ice Center track. It was a chilly 50-some degrees and felt great! I was surprised there weren't more people there to run or skate. It's a great option to escape the heat for a bit. 

Running at the Pettit during the Icebreaker Marathon Relay

Temps finally came down on Saturday morning, just in time for my long run. I planned on doing 16 miles. Which turned into 18 miles. And . . . then it turned into 20 miles. It was such a gorgeous morning and I was happy to be outside running so I decided to keep going. Ended up finishing the run in 2:54, which I was happy with considering it was only my second 20-miler! 

One thing that I think really made a difference is I took in more nutrition during the run. Here's how I fueled:

Pre-run: 1 plain PopTart (no icing), 16 oz water, 1 Hammer Endurolyte Capsule
Throughout: Hammer Endurolyte Fizz beverage
Mile 7: 1 Roctane gel
Mile 10.5: 1 Hammer Perpetuem solid
Mile 14: 1 Accelerade gel
Mile 17.5: 1 Hammer Perpetuem solid

Not the tastiest fuel, but gets the job done [Source]

Normally, I'd start a taper period right now, since my next half marathon - Chicago Rock n Roll - is less than two weeks away. However, since my number one goal is running well at Lakefront Marathon, I won't begin tapering until the week of the race.

Here's this week's training schedule:

Monday: 9 miles easy pace (Ended up picking up the last 2-3 miles to sub-8 minute pace)
Tuesday: 9-10 miles speedwork (1 mile easy, 6 miles half marathon pace, half mile recovery, 4x400 @5k pace, cooldown)
Wednesday: 6 miles easy pace
Thursday: 8 miles steady pace
Friday: 4 miles easy pace
Saturday: 14 miles easy pace
Sunday: Rest Day
Total = 50 miles

What do you have planned for this week?

- ST

Monday, July 2, 2012

My First 20 Mile Run

It's been awhile since my last post and things have been busy!  But don't worry, in between a lot of socializing - company picnic, bachelorette party, dinners with friends, Summerfest - I still managed to fit in all my miles.

Over the weekend I did my first 20 mile run! In the days leading up to it, I was excited but also really nervous about running so far. As it turns out, I had nothing to worry about. I ran around the South Shore Park/Grant Park area with my much-more-experienced runner friend Chris, and the time flew by. We kept the pace easy throughout and I'm really grateful Chris was willing to run at a slower pace with me.

Because we ran easy, I felt really good after - probably better than a person should feel after running that that many miles. Overall, it was a total confidence booster and I'm already excited to run my next 20 miler - in less than 3 hours :)

This week, I'll once again hit 50 miles, which keeps me on target for my goals. Here's what the plan includes:

Monday: 6 steady pace miles; 45 minutes strength training
Tuesday: 8 miles speedwork
Wednesday: 8 easy pace miles
Thursday: 8 steady pace miles; 1 hour boot camp class
Friday: 4 easy pace miles
Saturday: 16 easy pace miles
Sunday: Rest Day

I'm still debating if I want to do a Fourth of July race. It's supposed to be really hot that day so it will likely be a last-minute call. If I decide to do a race, it will be on tired legs, as I'm doing speedwork on Tuesday evening. However, I have the feeling my new Sparkly Soul headband might help me run faster!

This pic is a bit dark and really does not do the headband justice!

If you haven't already checked out Sparkly Soul, I recommend you do so, stat! The headbands are as functional as they are cute. They never slip and come in two widths - my favorite is the wide band. I always receive compliments when I wear one and they are a perfect way to add a bit of sparkle to a race-day outfit.

Anyhow, that's about it for this update. Tell me about how you've been. Anyone running a Fourth of July race this year? Or, tell me about your first 20 mile run!

- ST