Wednesday, September 26, 2012

My First Race DNF

To make a long story short, the Alpine Races Half Marathon ended up being pretty far from what I expected. I ended up with my very first DNF - a Did Not Finish for those of you not into the running scene.

There's a first time for everything . . .

It was heartbreaking for sure - I made it through the first 10 miles on pace to set a new PR and finally hit my half marathon race time goal. It was my favorite type of course - rolling hills around a lake and through residential areas. But it just wasn't meant to be. Shortly after the 10 mile marker, every stride became progressively more painful until I had to stop and walk. I tried running a few more times after that, but my left hamstring hurt so much that I ended up having to pull out of the race.

There were definitely tears when I finally got back to the finish area. I hate falling short and don't like giving up on anything. But I told myself I only had 24 hours to dwell on the race because Lakefront Marathon is my priority this fall and that's where my focus needs to be - not a little half marathon race.

Once I got past the sting of the race, I began worrying that I'd jeopardized my upcoming marathon. I tend to think of myself as invincible and able to run through anything. I haven't ever been seriously injured and as a result was probably a bit over confident in thinking I could race a half marathon all out just two weeks from my first marathon. Definitely should have listened to my professional runner friend, Ariana, on this one :)

Fortunately, I think I got off lucky. I can walk without any problem and the pain in my hamstring has all but disappeared. Since it's well into the taper period, all my training for the marathon is done and I can relax a bit with lower mileage. I took all speedwork off the schedule for now and will probably cap my "long run" this weekend at 8 miles.

My take away from all this is be patient, don't get cocky and keep your eyes on the prize. Take a long-term approach and remember how months of training can easily be lost by making one silly/stupid decision!

On that note - who else has taken a DNF? What forced you out of your race? Or, what's the silliest/stupidest decision you've made before or during a big race?

Don't be embarrassed to share - There's a good chance I've done everything and more :)

- ST

Thursday, September 20, 2012

I Can't Let it Go

People say that part of becoming a mature adult is learning when to let things go. I clearly have a ways to go. 

But before we get into all that, first the exciting news - my new shoes arrived earlier this week!

Nike Lunar Glide 4

They're a tad clunky for racing or speedwork, but will be perfect for easy and steady pace miles. The only thing to figure out is where to keep them as my apartment is already filled with running shoes and other running related items!

Anyhow, it's my first week of the marathon taper period and all I can think about is getting out there for one last race before the really big race. It started on Monday with a twitch in my legs and a little voice in my head that told me I'm ready to race. I figured there could be no harm in signing up for a 5k race this weekend so I started researching my options. 

But I quickly realized that I would need to first run 10-12 easy miles before racing a 5k in order to get my weekend long run miles in. It's definitely doable, but I don't really like my chances of getting a PR under those circumstances. 

I decided to turn my attention to finding a half marathon and came up with three options: 
  1. Try to get into the sold out Brewer's Mini
  2. Sign up for the Fox Cities Half Marathon 
  3. Head down to Illinois for the Alpine Races. 
At this point, I'm 95 percent positive I'm going with option three. 

During last night's steady pace 8-mile run, I thought about it some more, and as I flew down Brady Street at the end of the run, I thought to myself, I can't let it go. This is an opportunity that I won't pass up.

Stats from Wednesday's run

I realize it's a tad crazy to think about jumping in a half marathon at the last minute. I also know it's risky to race a longer distance two weeks out from my marathon. But sometimes you have to listen to your heart and mine is telling me I can't give up on my half marathon racing goals for this year and this is my chance to get the time I've been chasing.

Your Turn: Have you ever decided to do a race at the last minute? Also, is anyone else racing the Brewers Mini, Fox Cities Races or Alpine Races this weekend? 

I hope you all have a fabulous Thursday!

- ST

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Marathon Countdown Begins!

The other day, I realized . . . Lakefront Marathon is less than one month away! 

During these past few months, several people have asked me what training plan I'm following. Even though it's my first marathon attempt, I decided to write my own plan. I knew what I wanted: Higher mileage with lots of easy pace running, at least one quality workout every week, multiple 20-milers and one rest day each week. Whether or not this will prove successful has yet to be determined :)

At this point, I'm in my last week of peak training before going into a gradual three-week taper. Here's the plan from last week and this current week:

Monday: 10 miles, easy pace
Tuesday: 10 miles, easy pace
Wednesday: 10 miles total: 6 morning miles, easy pace + 4 afternoon miles, easy pace
Thursday: 8 miles speedwork, fartlek workout
Friday: 4 miles, easy pace
Saturday: 18 miles, easy pace
Sunday: 5 mile walk with Mom :)

Monday: 12 miles total: 4 morning miles, easy pace + 8 afternoon miles, half marathon/easy pace combo
Tuesday: 8 miles speedwork, ladder workout
Wednesday: 12 miles total: 4 morning miles, easy pace + 8 afternoon miles, easy pace
Thursday: 6 miles, easy pace
Friday: 22 miles, easy pace
Saturday: Briggs and Al's Walk: 5 miles + about 3 miles total to and from the event
Sunday: Rest Day

Oddly enough, it seems like the more miles I run, the more motivated I am to run. However, since I'm running more miles than ever before, I'm taking extra precautions to avoid injury. Most of these miles are slow (read this excellent article about the benefits of slow running!) and I'm doing lots of foam rolling, stretching and ice baths after long runs (14 miles+). 

So with that, it's time to start the countdown - Just a few short weeks remain until I can finally call myself a marathoner :)

Who else is doing a fall marathon? Also, what are your thoughts on training: Same pace every day or do you change it up?

- ST

Friday, September 7, 2012

Nut Brownies

Since it's only fitting that the week should end with a bit of a treat, today I'm going to share a brownie recipe I recently tried. 

If you've known me for awhile, you probably know my feelings on homemade vs box brownies. In my opinion, there just isn't a comparison. Homemade wins hands down, every time. For about 10 percent extra effort, you get brownies that are about 100 times better than the ones from the box. 

So if you haven't tried making brownies from scratch yet, now's your chance :) This recipe is super simple and uses just a few basic ingredients. The key is using high quality chocolate and cocoa powder - both are needed for the richest brownies. 

Brownies are best served with a scoop of ice cream :)
Nut Brownies 
*Recipe from Everyday Food

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, plus more for pan
1 cup all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup coarsely chopped nuts (I used walnuts)
8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush a 9-inch square baking pan with butter and line with parchment paper. Butter paper, and set pan aside. 

In a small bowl, whisk flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

Melt butter and chocolate together, being careful not to burn. Add sugar; mix to combine. Add eggs, and mix to combine. Add flour mixture; mix just until moistened (do not overmix). Add nuts. Transfer batter to prepared pan; smooth top.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 50 to 60 minutes. Cool in pan for 30 minutes then remove brownies from pan and cut into squares.

What are your thoughts on homemade vs box brownies? If you have a favorite recipe, I'd love to try it out!

- ST

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Lake Country Half Marathon Race Recap

Happy Thursday! To start things off, I'm going to apologize for this late race recap. The race was on Saturday, but it seems like the rest of the weekend and first part of this week have just flown by. On the plus side, this means it's almost time for another weekend :)

Anyhow, here's how the race went . . . 

Last year, was my first time racing Lake Country and it was a major breakthrough race for me. I did the 5k race and improved my PR by well over a minute. I went from trying to break 24 minutes to finishing sub-23 minutes. It was a fantastic race for me and proved to me that if you're willing to train hard and push even harder during races, you can accomplish anything. 

This year, I did the half marathon distance as a tune up for the upcoming Lakefront Marathon. Based on my half marathon failures earlier this year, I decided to not set a time goal and instead race purely by effort and . . . without a watch. Well, without my Garmin at least. I wanted to be less focused on hitting a certain pace and instead just run at full effort the entire time. So I strapped my extremely basic watch to my wrist and lined up at the start. 

It was a tad chilly and I was happy when the race started so I could begin running. But after taking maybe a dozen steps, a girl shoved me. That's right, shoved me. So rude and unsportsmanlike. Naturally, I decided I would have to beat her. She quickly sped away, but I was confident I would catch her in the later miles. 

The first few miles flew by. The course wove around a Lac La Belle and was hilly but very scenic. I felt extremely strong during these miles, and around this time I also caught up to and passed the girl that shoved me. After that extremely satisfying moment, I started focusing on reeling in as many other runners as possible. 

Feeling strong during these early miles

Of course, it just wouldn't be a half marathon in 2012 without, you guessed it, the dreaded side stitch. It hit around mile seven and stuck with me through the start of mile nine. This was a killer painful one and I spend these two miles run/walking with the occasional stop on the side of the course to try to massage it out. Nothing worked. Finally the pain subsided and I was able to start running again. During this time, the girl that shoved me passed by. Ugh!

After falling so far behind, I wondered if I could possibly salvage my time. I figured if I could run this bit in about 23 minutes, I would end up okay. 

And that's what I did. It felt like I was flying during the last few miles of the race. My legs were not very happy but I had lyrics from a Gym Class Heroes song in my head "If you fall pick yourself off the floor/And when your bones can't take no more/Just remember what you're here for." I caught several people that passed me when I was down with the stitch. And then in the middle of mile 11, I saw my pushy friend up ahead and just like that, I passed her again. 

I was so happy to see the finish line. After getting a finisher's medal and cup of water shoved in my hand, I collapsed on a curb for awhile and thought about the race. The stitch messed up two miles of my race, however I was happy with how I pushed through and ran a strong 5k at the end of the race.

This finish line was a welcome sight!

So where to go from here? Well, I did some reading up on side stitches over the weekend and it turns out weak abdominal muscles can sometimes be to blame. I don't really think of myself as having a weak core, but if putting in some extra time in the weight room will cure me of this problem, I'm all for it. 

Now it's your time to tell me - have you ever witnessed rude behavior during a race or training run? How did you react? 

Ironically, the current Runner's World addresses Race Etiquette. Read it if you get a chance!

- ST

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Quick Check In

Hey Everyone! Sorry I've been a bit MIA so far this week. I will have a race recap and yummy dessert recipe up later this week. In the meantime, check out my interview on Healthy Page - a website that promotes a healthy lifestyle with articles, recipes and free offers.

Let's catch up soon!

- ST