Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Chi Town 10k Race Recap

At races, there are certain things runners take for granted - a properly measured course, well-stocked water stations, an organized start/finish area - oh, and let's not forget being pointed in the right direction during the race.

At the Chi Town 10k Race, a major volunteer error resulted in many runners not completing the full race distance and others having to re-start the race. 

Here's how it all unfolded:

Race morning: 30 degrees, overcast and windy. Fortunately, the hotel Mom and I stayed at was close to the start and we were able to time it so we didn't have to wait long outside for the race to begin.

Before the start: Mom and I lined up by the 12 minute mile marker since I was planning to pace her to a 1:15:xx finishing time. Soon enough, the gun went off and we were on our way! 

Mile 1: Mom was running great and our mile one split was 11:5x. During this first mile, a volunteer directed us through a grassy u-turn area. I thought this was a little strange since the sign by the u-turn pointed another direction, but decided the the sign must be wrong. Little did I know this was the moment the race got screwed up.

Mile 1.5: I noticed a large group of runners walking by a water station. Then I saw a guy running toward us and yelling at us to stop. He told us we had been sent in the wrong direction and we needed to exit the course and go back to the start line. ???!!!

Back by the start: About 30 runners gathered to re-start the race. I was seriously annoyed by this set-back and felt bad for my mom and other runners who were trying to PR. When I race, I like going all-out to the point where I have nothing left when I hit the finish line. Adding an extra 1.5 miles would definitely screw up that plan. 

Miles 1-5 part 2: Mom took the re-start pretty well but once we got moving again, I could tell she was running slower. I tried to keep her at 12-minute miles, but we fell off pace within the first two miles. At that point, I focused on just pacing her to a new PR - without worrying about hitting the initial time goal. 

Mile 6-Finish: The final mile was a definitely struggle for Mom, and I could tell she was working as hard as she could just to finish the race. As we hit the 6-mile mark, I told Mom she was close to getting her PR - she just had to kick in the remaining .2 of the race.

We crossed the finish line with a time of 1:17:58 - more than a minute faster than Mom's old PR! 

I'm so proud of Mom for not giving up and still getting a PR that day despite the course issues. Many runners would have used that as an excuse to give up, but not Mom - she used her frustration with the situation to fuel her miles. That Mom - always an inspiration to me :)

After the race, the race director called the 10k participants to the stage for a brief meeting and explained the situation, what went wrong and that the race is offering runners a full refund. 

Most people assume there's no way I'd ever do the race again given all the problems. Perhaps it's the crazy optimist in me, but I would give it another chance. The course was super scenic and for the most part flat with just a few small hills. I think it could be a great race to get a PR, if the course was better marked and volunteers knew how to direct the runners. 

Sorry again for a lack of race pics - I'm the worst at taking pics before, during and after a race and there are not any posted yet for me to buy. If any turn up, I'll post them at a later date!  

I want to know: What's your worst race experience? Also, would you give a race a second chance?

I can't wait to hear all of your horror stories ;)

- ST

Friday, March 22, 2013

Turning Lemons Into Lemonade

I love racing and competing. I love the excitement of waiting for the gun to go off, the concentration that goes into pushing through those middle miles, and best of all, I love the agony of the final mile and putting everything that's left into one final kick to the finish. 

To me, that's what racing should be - an all out effort and nothing less. 

So when I realized Thursday morning that my hamstring injury will make it impossible to race this weekend's Chi Town Half Marathon, it kinda broke my heart.

Earlier this week, I had a feeling my legs wouldn't hold up for a half marathon, so I switched down to the 10k event. Thinking I could still race a shorter distance - and maybe even place in my age group - I did everything I could to rehab the area as quickly as possible. I iced the area, elevated my legs, wore compression tights, took ibuprofin, chowed down on beets, spinach, berries and such. I even took an ice bath after slow, easy runs. 

Eddie doesn't get the point of ice baths.

 None of it seemed to work. This week, I've been unable to run faster than 8:30 pace without pain kicking in or even sit at my desk at work for longer periods of time without major discomfort. I had to come to terms with the fact that I'm not able to race any distance this weekend. 

It's particularly frustrating because I know I'm fit enough to run a great time if I wasn't injured. I was pretty disappointed, but after thinking about it for awhile, I began to see that there was still a way this race could be saved . . . 

Just because I'm not able to "race" the way I'd like, doesn't mean I can't participate. And just because I can't get a PR, doesn't mean I can't help my mom get a new PR. She runs around 11:30 pace so 6.2 miles of that should be very doable for me, even with my current injury. 

So despite being unable to line up on Sunday morning with my usual race goals, I'm still very excited to put on my Oiselle singlet and shorts and help someone else achieve their race goals.  When life hands you lemons, make lemonade - there's always a bright side, a silver lining. You might have to adjust or re-frame what it is you're aiming for, but in the end, you'll be just fine.

Like that Fun song, Carry On, says: "We are shining stars/We are invincible/We are who we are/On our darkest day/When we’re miles away/Sun will come/We will find our way home."

So before I wrap this up, just a quick shout out for my friend Sheila's blog, SMW Roadrunner. I'm thrilled to be her featured MKE athlete this week, so check it out!

Your turn: Tell me about a time you've turned lemons into lemonade! Or, if you have any tips for healing a hamstring injury, I'd like to hear them!

- ST

Monday, March 18, 2013

Prepping for Chi Town

Good morning! I'm going to start today's post with a few random thoughts about this upcoming weekend's Chi Town Half Marathon.

My plan has been to use this race as a quality workout - not an A goal race. This means a nice steady pace and aiming to finish in the 1:48-1:50 range. 

Part of me thinks I could actually race this one and aim for a new PR. I believe I have enough fitness and since I didn't race last weekend, I'm mentally prepared for a race that hurts. 

But . . . my recent hamstring issues have put a bit of a damper on things. I'm not sure how long I can run at a faster pace before things shut down. 

So, that's where I am right now. I know the smart thing to do is to run conservatively so I can finish without risking injury and keep training for the Wisconsin Half Marathon in May (my A goal race). But . . . I also believe that the only way to get to the next level is to take a risk every now and then. On the other hand, I know firsthand that there is a difference between fearless and foolish. I will do anything to avoid another DNF race experience!

I'll wait to make any final decisions until I get a few workouts in this week. I want to see how my legs feel after taking an unplanned extended break over the weekend. I'm hoping they feel fresh and ready to crank out some fast miles!

My runs will be short and easy pace this week with small bursts of race pace running. A typical workout will be 4 miles @easy pace with the last quarter of every mile run at half marathon race pace + 30-45 minutes light strength training. Post workout, I'll foam roll, stretch and ice as necessary.

As for diet, one of my current favorite workout recovery meals is a salad topped with a veggie burger. 

I like to start with a bed of spinach and then add diced beets (cooked of course), a chopped veggie burger and a scoop of cottage cheese. I then sprinkle either Penzey's Sunny Spain or Sunny Paris seasoning on top. It's simple and only takes a few minutes to prepare!

Chat Time: Do you ever change your mind at the last minute about your goals for a race? What is your favorite post-workout meal? Also, anyone have a good veggie burger recipe? 

Let's get this week started!

- ST

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Guest Post: Best Apps for Runners

Hey Everyone! Today, I have a great guest post to share with all of you!

Bridget Sandorford, a freelance writer, researcher for and Eat. Host. Run. Style. reader, recently approached me about writing a guest post. She had a great topic idea, so of course I had to say yes. So, without further rambling from me, let's hear from Bridget!

Running is a pretty low-key sport. You don't need much: A pair of sneakers and your will. However, there are some tools that can make it a little easier on you to meet your goals. A good running belt can keep you stocked with snacks and water, a good pair of running tights can help you stay warm, and a few good apps can help you monitor your progress and meet your running goals.

There are many apps available to runners, designed to meet a variety of needs. Here are some of our favorites:

Run Keeper
Use this free app to track your runs, including your distance, time and pace. You can use it to track your progress and to plan for and reach future fitness goals. The app provides coaching through your headphones with audio cues and provides detailed fitness plans. Get notified when you reach milestones.

Map My Run
Use this app and the GPS on your phone to map your route. You can find out precisely how long the route is and get information on your pace (even split by mile). The app turns your phone into a fancy running monitor - for free. You can also connect with friends and participate in fun competitions. 

Couch to 5K
If you're new to running, this app can take you from couch potato to competitor in no time. Get training programs to complete your first 5K and track your progress. There are audio cues to guide you through each workout, and there is support for treadmill workouts. You can even get discounts to register for your first 5K.

Ghost Race
No, you aren't training for a race against ghosts - you're competing with a race against yourself. With this app, you set the distance and pace you want to achieve and then monitor all your work towards beating that goal. You can monitor your routes (with GPS support), calculate calories, speed and pace, get a countdown and more. 

Running can start to be tedious when you run the same route every day and when you've hit a plateau in your training. This app offers a welcome diversion. Turn your workouts into a fun game that involves running from the undead in the zombie apocalypse. There are 33 missions and over 45 runs that are pumped through your headphones to spice up your workouts and push you to complete new fitness goals. You even collect items like medicine, batteries and ammo while running (metaphorically) in order to help you on your mission. You'll shake off the dull routine of your runs and maybe even prep for the real zombie invasion.

Do you use any other apps for your running? Share your favorites in the comments!

About the Author:
Bridget Sandorford is a freelance writer and researcher for, where recently she’s been researching culinary school in France. In her spare time, she enjoys biking, painting and working on her first cookbook.

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Time it Made Sense to NOT Run

One thing all runners need to learn is the importance of adjusting training every now and then. Injury, illness, burnout are all reasons you might need to scale back or take a short break from your plan. Last week, I had to do just that when my hamstring started giving me grief. 

It's always a tough decision to skip out on miles. I'm very numbers driven and hate coming up short at the end of the week. I also don't like feeling as though I'm being lazy or weak - I prefer to pretend I'm invincible and that no injury or illness can knock me down :)

My Monday run was great - I ran 6 miles around 8:3X pace. Perfect for that day and exactly according to plan. Tuesday was another story. I had 8 miles of speedwork on my schedule - specifically a 15-10-10-5 workout. I was really looking forward to these miles and was excited to see how fast I could crank out the final five minutes. Sadly, I had to stop the workout after only four miles when my left hamstring went from a dull ache to refuse-to-be-ignored pain. 

I took Wednesday off and gave running another try on Thursday. This time, I made it through six easy-pace miles but my right hamstring was unhappy the entire run. Every time I tried to run faster than an 8 minute/mile pace, it refused to cooperate. When I woke up Friday morning with not one, but two very sore hamstrings, I decided to take the weekend off from running.

Today, I'm pain free and finally get to try running run again. I've scaled back this week's training plan since I don't want to risk re-injuring either hamstring - especially since I'm racing these next two weekends! 

Here's the plan:

Monday: 6 miles @easy pace; 30 minutes strength training; 4-6 miles cycling
Tuesday: 6 miles speedwork
Wednesday: 6 miles @easy pace; 30 minutes strength training; 4-6 miles cycling
Thursday: 6-8 miles @easy pace; 4-6 miles cycling
Friday: Rest Day
Saturday: Luck of the Irish 5k Race
Sunday: Rest Day

Weigh In: What's your strategy when faced with injury, illness or burnout? 

I'm trying to remember that a few days off won't make a big difference in the grand scheme of things. 

- ST

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Training Through the Worst of Winter

Hey Friends! What's everyone been up to this past week? 

Just like everyone else in Wisconsin, I'm sick of winter. I'm pretty sure at this same time last year, I was running outside in shorts. I keep having to remind myself that soon enough the weather will be perfect for running outside without fear of slipping on ice or bundling up in multiple layers. 

Until then, I'll stick with the treadmill and indoor track. Sure, they are boring but I figure at least I'm getting my miles in at the paces I need to run. Plus, I think all this indoor running has helped me build mental strength. I generally don't allow myself to watch the television on the machine, which means there's nothing to do but stare at the wall in front of me!

Here's my training plan for this week:

Monday: 6 miles @easy pace; 30 minutes strength training; 4-6 miles cycling
Tuesday: 8 miles speedwork; 4-6 miles cycling
Wednesday: 6 miles @easy pace; 30 minutes strength training; 4-6 miles cycling
Thursday: 6 miles @steady pace
Friday: 4 miles @easy pace
Saturday: 14 mile long run
Sunday: Rest day

What does your training include this week? Will you venture outside for a few miles or stick with the treadmill or indoor track?

This is no time to slack off - Spring races will be here before we know it! 

- ST