Wednesday, May 27, 2015

On the Mend

If you're a runner that's ever been injured, you know that every day you're sidelined feels like an eternity. So last week felt endless while I spent my days nursing an injured calf.

A recap:

Monday: No running - I think I overdid it a bit with all the walking on Sunday.
Tuesday: 5 slow miles - The run seemed okay. No discomfort during or immediately after. But later in the evening, pain and cramping kicked in.
Wednesday: No running.
Thursday: No running.
Friday: No running.
Saturday: No running, but a lot of walking.
Sunday: 4 slow miles! No discomfort during the run and everything seemed okay after.

Although I didn't get to do much running last week, there was a small silver lining - more time for doing other things, such as walks on the beach, going to happy hour, cuddling with Eddie, volunteering at a race expo, baking and eating all the food!

I had the beach to myself on Friday :)

The best blondies!

Mom and I volunteered at the Madison Half Expo for the MKE Running Festival!

Eddie likes me better when I'm injured ;)

This week should go a lot better. My main goal is to not get greedy. Since I don't want to re-injure my calf, I'm still taking things pretty easy. No strides. No sprints. No speedwork. I do have a workout planned but it will be a steady state run at half marathon pace. So nothing too crazy!

This week's training plan:

Monday: 4 easy pace miles
Tuesday: 7 mile workout, inc. 4 miles at half marathon pace
Wednesday: 5 recovery pace miles + TRX
Thursday: 6 glue miles + Y-Blitz (depending on how my calf feels)
Friday: Rest Day
Saturday: 10 mile run
Sunday: 5 recovery pace miles

Total: 37 miles

Tell me: When injured, how do you keep busy?

- ST

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Dead Last

As the saying goes, there's a first time for everything. And on Sunday, it was my turn to place dead last in a 5k race!

You're probably wondering - how did this happen?? Well, I'm so accident prone that I managed to strain my calf while walking down my apartment stairs. The initial pain was bad although initially I thought it might just be a cramp. The pain lessened after a few minutes and I managed to hobble down the rest of the stairs. But I knew something was off. 

As the day continued, I was able to walk but couldn't do a calf raise without discomfort. I went to bed hoping for a miracle and when I woke up Sunday morning and got ready for the race, I still thought there was a chance I could run. But doubt crept in as I drove to Mom's house and when I got there we talked it through. My main concern was making the injury worse by racing. Even though I wasn't planning to go all out, racing always takes a toll on the body - even when it's healthy.

I learned this lesson a few years ago when, similar to this situation, I had a mild calf strain the week of a race. But instead of skipping the race, I decided to line up and give it a try. I told myself I could always slow down if my calf started to bother me. And it did. But so suddenly that I had no time to remedy the issue. I can still remember the stabbing pain in my calf and how I could barely walk after, let alone run. Racing had made the injury worse and it took me out of training for a few weeks, effectively derailing any summer racing plans.

 No idea how I ran the rest of this race. I certainly paid the price after!

After listening to me go back and forth on whether or not I should try to race, Mom gently suggested it might be best to not run and that she would walk with me. As always, Mom knew best. I was having trouble letting go of the race, but once she suggested walking and offered to keep me company, it was an easy decision. 

Since there was no need to do a warmup or line up in just the right spot, Mom and I took a few selfies by the penguins (the race was at the local zoo) and went to stand at the very back of the pack. My heart still raced a bit when the race started but nothing like it would have if I had been running!

I heart penguins!

Even though Mom and I started at the back, I didn't think we'd actually finish last. But within the first mile it became apparent we were bringing up the rear. There were a few people in front of us that were run/walking but they were getting further and further ahead. Also, we couldn't walk very fast because of my calf. It didn't hurt during the race but was a bit stiff so I wasn't super mobile. At this event, there was a separate walk event - but only 3k distance - so Mom and I were two of only a handful of other walkers. And they were all moving faster than us!

About two miles into the race, Mom and I were all alone. We couldn't see anyone in front of us and didn't even know if we were going the right way. Finally we came across a volunteer and he looked shocked to see us. I guess we were way behind everyone else by that point and he assumed there weren't any people left on the course! He got my bib number and radioed ahead to volunteers on the course to let them know we were still making our way toward the finish. Ha! 

However, a lot of volunteers had already left the course and signs had been removed so Mom and I ended up taking a wrong turn. We had to do an extra loop of the course and by the time we got to the finish line, all the other 5k participants had finished and the timing mats were down. I guess when you finish dead last you don't get an official time! ;)

Although you might think finishing a race in last place would be a depressing experience, it was actually quite the opposite. Mom and I thought it was pretty funny to be so far behind everyone else and told ourselves someone has to be last in every race and it was our turn! It was also really nice to get to do the race alongside Mom and we shared a lot of laugh during the 1 hour and 15 minutes it took us to walk 4+ miles. 

My calf is still healing but I think I'll be able to get back to some easy pace running this week. I'll take it slow, knowing dead last is certainly not the worst that can happen :)

My questions for you:
  • Have you ever finished last in a race?
  • When injured, do you run, walk or call it a day and stay in bed?
  • What's a bit of wisdom you've recently received from your mom?

- ST

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

In Honor of Newbie Runners

This Sunday, I'm racing the Block Melanoma 5k at the Zoo. This event holds a special place in my heart as it was my first 5k race attempt when I was a new runner. Before that race, I had done only one other 5k - but it wasn't for time and was more of a run/walk to see if I could actually finish a 5k. Back then, I thought it was a really long distance!

Anyhow, in honor of the newbie runner I was four years ago, I'm using this post to poke fun at a few of my running and racing mishaps. These things happen to the best of us as we're learning!

I overdressed for a race - At that first 5k race, I dressed like I was going to run in sub-zero temps. It was around 60 degrees but seemed super cold to me. So I layered up in tights, a long-sleeve top, a fleece jacket, a headwarmer and gloves. Needless to say, less than a half mile in I was ready to rip off every layer. I overheated so bad but learned from the experience. Never again will I make the mistake of racing in too many layers!

I did too much, too soon - While training for my first marathon, I had it in my head that more miles was always better. As a result, my hamstring gave out two weeks before the marathon. Looking back, I can see exactly what happened. In the month leading up to the injury, I ran a hard half marathon, followed by two 60-mile weeks and then another half marathon when the injury occurred. As a result, I had to walk/jog my first marathon with a still injured hamstring. Definitely not the race I had been training for all summer. 

This medal serves as a reminder that more is not always better!

Training meant trying to run one mile as fast as possible - When I first started running, I knew nothing about training plans, weekly mileage, workouts, etc. All I knew was that I wanted to get faster. So to this newbie runner, that meant hopping on a gym treadmill and doing a tenth of a mile walk warmup followed by running one mile as fast as I could. I did this several times a week because I didn't know any better. Over time, I was able to run a mile faster - but I also ended up with an achy knee from all of my 'speedwork'. A blessing in disguise, the knee issues forced me to slow down and eventually I started training like a smarter runner.

I missed the start of a race - This happened at a race that had both half marathon and 5k races. I arrived one hour prior to the start to make sure I could get in a proper warmup and have time to use the restroom, etc. However, I somehow missed the fact that the half marathon and 5k races were starting together. So when runners lined up at the start, I thought it was just the half marathoners and I stood at the side and cheered them on. Only after almost all of the runners had gone through the start line did I realize it was also the 5k start. I had to scramble to the start line and begin the race in last place. 

I somehow salvaged the race and won an AG prize. Mom also won a trophy!

I fueled all wrong - Every runner is unique so correct fueling for a run or race is really dependent on what works for that individual person. For me, I quickly learned I was not going to get by on a diet of Special K 90-calorie cereal bars and gummy candies. I also learned to never, ever hit the Ethiopian lunch buffet before an afternoon long run. Unless you like to hiccup and burp throughout your run ;)

Even though I still feel like a newbie runner at times, I know I've learned a lot these past few years. It's been a fun journey and I can't wait to learn even more as the years go by!

My questions for you:
  • How long did/will you consider yourself a newbie runner?
  • What newbie runner mistakes did you make?
  • What running wisdom would you share with a newbie runner?

- ST

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Lightened-Up Chili Mac

Last weekend, I had a monster craving for mac and cheese. I was also feeling a bit adventurous so decided to tinker a bit with my usual recipe. The result is Lightened-Up Chili Mac!

I took my super easy, foolproof mac and cheese recipe and added a few of my favorite chili ingredients and seasonings. The result was both delicious and healthy! I definitely recommend giving it a try - it really doesn't get any easier than this!

Lightened-Up Chili Mac
Serves 8

1/2 stick butter, melted
2 cups dry macaroni
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup corn
1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies (do not drain)
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 cups reduced-fat shredded Mexican cheese
4 cups milk (I used 1 percent)
1/4 cup sliced black olives
Mexican hot sauce (optional, for serving)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat the bottom of a 9x13 pan with the melted butter. Add uncooked macaroni noodles to the pan, followed by the black beans, corn and diced tomatoes. Combine the chili powder, cumin and garlic powder, then sprinkle on top of the noodle mixture. Top with the shredded cheese, then pour the milk on top. 

Bake uncovered for 45-50 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes before eating to allow the casserole to firm up. Top with sliced olives and chopped cilantro. Serve with Mexican hot sauce.

Tell me: What are your favorite mac and cheese add ins?

- ST

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Nicolet Bay 5k Race Recap

Isn't it funny how a plan can go completely off the rains - but you can still, more or less, end up with the outcome you wanted? That's exactly what happened during this year's Nicolet Bay 5k race. Although I ended up falling off my race plan pretty early - like within a few steps off the start line - I still achieved two out of my three race goals, which were:

A. Run a new PR
B. Run a 20:XX time
C. Not get passed by any women after the first mile 

Let's rewind to the beginning ...

Before the race
I woke up about three hours before race start, took a shower and ate breakfast - a banana and apple cinnamon pop tart without icing. Mom and I arrived at the race about an hour before the start and took a 20-minute walk to check out the start and finish lines. Then we visited the bathroom, checked our bags and headed back to the start line. I started my warm-up but ended up having to cut it short because there were too many people milling around the area I was trying to run. I was nervous about not getting in any strides but didn't really have a choice. 

A welcome distraction from the usual pre-race nerves was running into my coworkers Michelle and Lisa. Michelle snapped a quick selfie of the three of us before we wished each other luck and lined up. 

Selfie by Michelle!

While standing on the start line, I reminded myself - run your own race and do NOT go out to fast!

Mile 1
And ... of course I went out too fast. My plan was to run the first mile at 6:49-6:50 pace and, depending on how I felt, either hold onto that pace or drop the pace for miles 2 and 3. I also planned to divide the 5k distance into quarter mile segments to help stay on pace. 

However, I wanted to stay within range to potentially place in the top 3 women so when everyone else went out fast, I had to as well. I ran the first part of mile one at 5:40 pace. And soon after felt like dying. It was a depressing way to feel knowing that I still had the majority of the race in front of me. And I was only the 4th female about halfway through the mile. 

Luckily, I was able to tuck behind a few runners and regroup mentally. I decided to toss my quarter mile segment plan out the window and instead focus on effort throughout the rest of the race. As soon as I did this, I was able to make it past two women in front of me and into the 2nd female position. 

Already feeling the fast start to the race

Mile 2
I really paid the price for my poorly paced first mile. But, at least there were things to look forward to such as the turnaround point. And then I knew I would get to look for Mom, as well as Lisa and Michelle. Getting to see all the other runners as I made my way back after the turnaround was just the boost I needed to get through this rough patch. Getting cheered on by other runners and being told I was the 2nd female helped me stay motivated to keep on pushing.

Mile 3
This is the point that I really had to start reminding myself of all of the training I did leading up to this race as well as playing little games with myself, such as you only have to make it to that tree 20 feet ahead. I couldn't hear any footsteps behind me so knew I must have a decent lead on whoever was in 3rd and also couldn't see the woman in 1st so knew I probably couldn't catch her. 

As I ran past the place where we started the race, I knew there was only about 0.25 left in the race. I had trouble working up a decent kick as I neared the finish line so pretended I was running a fast lap in Y-Fuse. There were a few times in Fuse this spring that I practiced running so hard that my legs went numb by the end of the lap. So even though my legs felt like jelly during the end of the race, I knew I could push through to the finish line.

With my 2nd female plaque and AG medal!

Although I didn't run quite as fast as I hoped, I was pretty pleased with how I did. It actually made it extra satisfying to know I was able to push through the challenges after a fast start and still PR. The struggle was real - but well worth it!

As always, I ran back on the course to find Mom and run her in. She had a great race and finished strong!

Now a few days removed from the race, I have a few takeaways that I'll use when planning my upcoming races. The first is that I really don't race well when tied to a watch. I race my best when focusing on effort and using my natural competitive streak to fuel the miles. The second is that I need to learn how to avoid going out too fast so I don't burn up extra energy within the first mile. It would be much better to save the sprint for the finish! 

A gorgeous new medal to add to my collection!

My questions for you:
  • What do you think - race by watch splits or race by effort?
  • What are your recent race takeaways?
  • Random - but timely: How are you celebrating Cinco de Mayo?

- ST

*Based on gun time