Friday, July 31, 2015

Race for the Bacon 5k Recap

Most runners have a favorite local race - one they can't wait to do every year. For me, it's Race for the Bacon and I've done the race every year since it's first running in 2012. Although it's newer to the area, it grows each year as more people discover it. 

This year's race was a tad different for me because the only goal I had was to grab and eat a piece of bacon from the midrace Bacon Station! I've never eaten anything while racing but in past years have seen other people grab bacon during the race so thought I'd give it a try!

Mile one of the race was all about a nice, controlled pace. Things felt pretty comfortable during this mile and I was mainly focused on conserving energy and not overheating too early in the race - the temp outside was 85 degrees!! During this mile, I could smell bacon - not sure if it was the approaching Bacon Station or from the bacon feast awaiting runners at the finish line. 

The Bacon Station was located about 1.5 miles in. My mouth was feeling pretty dry at this point due to the heat but I still made my way over to snatch a piece of bacon from a volunteer. As soon as I stuffed it in my mouth ... whoa. The piece of bacon immediately sucked up any remaining moisture in my mouth. I chewed it up as quickly as I could and then tried to swallow. But since my mouth and throat were so dry it wouldn't go down. So I choked and ended up having to spit out the bacon. Mega gross. Especially since I had to spit a few times to get the bacon out of my mouth. I'll definitely have to work on my bacon eating technique before next year's race!

The last mile of the race was super slow for me. I was overheated and had leftover bacon bits sliding down my throat. Bacon bits were also up my nose from choking. Fortunately this was a nice shady portion of the course and I told myself it was okay to run slower since I didn't have a time goal. Finally the finish line appeared and I was able to pick up the pace a little bit. I was ready to drink water and blow all those bacon bits out of my nose! 

Upon crossing the finish line, I was given a box of bacon!

After drinking a full bottle of water, I started back on the course to find Mom, because it's tradition to run her in to the finish line! When I found her, she looked great - it was like the heat hadn't even affected her. She was smiling and talking and was running strong. Way to go, Mom!

Mom and I after the race!

Post-race is the best running party - the Bacon Bash! All runners get to indulge in delicious bacon treats (my favorite this year was the bacon cookie!) and Sprecher beer or soda. There's also a band that was an absolute hoot. Unfortunately I had to leave before the awards ceremony this year to give Eddie his pill (he needs it at a particular time every night) but my friend Laura texted to let me know I won an AG prize! :)

This is one of the most awesome running events in MKE. Even if you're not a runner, you can still enjoy it with the new 0.0k. Participants line up at the start line - then go right to the Bacon Bash. Haha ;)

I enjoyed seeing so many people I know through running - and was excited to see so many friends win awards and even set new PRs. A fantastic evening all around!

My questions for you:
  • Have you ever done a theme race? If so, what was the theme?
  • Have you ever eaten food during a race? If yes, what was it? If no, would you if it was offered?
  • Who's already excited for next year's Race for the Bacon?? ;)

- ST

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

On The Upswing!

So the good news is that running the Rock 'n' Roll Chicago 10k seems to have been the kick in the shorts I needed to get motivated to run again! While I didn't exactly follow my plan from Coach Matt last week, it's only because I wanted to get every workout in and do a bit more. I'm definitely feeling more like my normal self :)

A few highlights from last week:

Wednesday Glue Miles
Glue miles = Miles that hold the week together. This week, they were also miles that made the week better. Although it was pretty hot for a lunch-hour run, I felt great! I ran the first mile on the slower side but was able to pick up the pace for the remainder of the run. I was so happy during these miles - the kind of run when you end up smiling the whole time like a crazy person. It totes gave me hope that things are on the upswing!

Long Run at the Pettit
Because I wanted to go to Y-Beach Camp on Saturday morning, I had to do my long run on Friday after work. Lately, it's been pretty hot in Milwaukee, so I decided to treat myself to a run at the Pettit indoor track. Although it meant running in circles for 11 miles, I didn't mind one bit. It was nice and cool and running seemed easy compared to how it felt in the heat earlier in the week. I'll likely run at the Pettit more often this summer if this heat keeps up! 

Y-Beach Camp
I didn't sign up for Y-Beach Camp this summer but Lonnie, one of the instructors, invited me to join the group on Saturday morning since they were going to the Marquette University track. How could I say no? ;)  

 Pic by Lonnie - because I forgot to take one!

It was a grueling workout in the heat but I still had loads of fun. We ran a fast mile on the track, did a bunch of hurdles, walking lunges, shuttle drills, core work and finished up with some 100m sprints. I definitely recommend this class to anyone, at any fitness level.

This week, training is set up so I can do what I want at Thursday's Race for the Bacon 5k. If I want to race it, I can. But if I also want to take it easy and use the run as a workout, that's fine, too. Right now, I'm planning to use it more as a workout, but I reserve the right to change things up as the race gets closer. 

This week's plan includes:

Monday: 4 glue miles
Tuesday: 5 mile workout, inc. 3x800m + Y-Blitz
Wednesday: 4 recovery miles + Y-Fuse + Y-Core
Thursday: Race for the Bacon 5k!
Friday: Rest Day
Saturday: 15 mile run
Sunday: 5 recovery miles

Total: 36+ miles

So that's the update! Hopefully I can keep last week's momentum going this week. If things get tough, I'm going to remember this page from my Oiselle Flight Manual:

"You never know when the window of opportunity will open. Be ready to fly through it."

Have a great week everyone!

My questions for you:
  • When was the last time you had a really great run? What made it special?
  • What is on your training plan this week?

- ST

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Chicago Rock 'n' Roll 10k Recap

Back in the nice, cool spring months, I made plans to use the Chicago Rock 'n' Roll 10k as a goal race. I told myself it wouldn't be too hot or humid. I told myself even if it was on the warm side, I would accept the weather conditions as a challenge to be pushed through. 

But when race week arrived and the forecast for Sunday showed temps in the 80s with high humidity, my plan had to be adjusted. Coach Matt and I decided I would use the race as a workout and pick a different race as a goal race. 

Thankfully the storms stayed away on Sunday!

That's not to say Sunday's race wasn't difficult. Even though I knew I wasn't 'racing', I was still freaking out over the weather. I was also a bit nervous about the start area. I've run the half marathon distance the past three years and the start line area in Grant Park was fantastic - super organized, high energy, etc. But the 10k start area was about a mile away from the half marathon start and in the middle of a random intersection. I passed the area on my way to the expo on Saturday and it didn't look like much - so that added to the stress. 

I woke up at 3:30am on Sunday morning and showered, dressed and at a Picky Bar, banana and drank about 16oz of water. I also took an Endurolyte since it was already in the upper 70s with 85 percent humidity. I usually wear compression socks during races but decided to skip them for this one - I couldn't bear the thought of having on any extra layers in the heat!

Mom and I arrived at the start line area around 5:30am. It was very unlike the usual Rock 'n' Roll race starts - very low key and no music playing that I can recall. We walked around for a bit to find where the gear check was located then I decided to use a portapotty. There wasn't a line yet and plenty of open stalls. But ... I quickly discovered there was a reason for this - the first five stalls I looked in didn't have any toilet paper. It wasn't that they had run out - it was clear none had been put in them. That was when I noticed a line at the opposite end of the line of stalls. It wasn't too long at that point but when everyone is waiting for the one portapotty that has toilet paper, it takes quite awhile to get through the line. 

Finally I got through the line and quickly ran back to the gear check area to tell Mom to get in line to use the bathroom. She decided to line up at the portapotties on the opposite side of the street in hopes they had toilet paper ... but it turns out it was the same situation. Only two had toilet paper! So once again, a super slow line and at this point the race was about to start. It was a mega stressful situation. Right before Mom got to the front of the line - the portapotty ran out of toilet paper. Fortunately she had tissues with her. But the people behind her were pretty upset. 

At the half marathon start, runners are assigned corrals to ensure faster runners start at the front and slower runners at the back. At the 10k, there were three waves, but runners were allowed to start wherever they wanted. I lined up in the first wave but could tell there were people around me that were probably slower runners so I was worried about getting stuck in a traffic jam. When my wave started, I glanced over toward the portapotty areas and could see there were still dozens of runners in line. 

The plan for this race was to start at 7:30ish pace and get a bit faster every mile. I ran the first mile a bit too fast - closer to 7:20 pace. I was already feeling the heat and humidity at this point but the first 2-2.5 miles went by pretty fast because I was able to run and chat with another woman which made everything a bit easier. She told me she just graduated from Michigan where she ran the 800m. When she said this I knew I wouldn't want to be anywhere near her at the finish because she'd probably kick right past me! Haha :) 

Unfortunately she ended up dropping behind around the 2.5 mile mark and then I was on my own for the rest of the race. One thing I love about Rock 'n' Roll races is there are usually tons of people around running a similar pace so you can run with a group and it makes the race easier. This was not the case with the 10k. Occasionally there were a few runners around but the last half of the race I ended up mostly running alone with the nearest runner about 30 feet ahead of me. It was hot and lonely!

One thing I really appreciated were the number of water stops, a wet sponge station and a misting station. On a hot day, these things were greatly appreciated. Normally I wouldn't stop at water stations during a 10k, but on Sunday I walked through all but one water station and it felt good to take the small breaks!

The finish line at a Rock 'n' Roll race can't be beat. I love the wide finishing stretch that is lined with cheering spectators. 

After crossing the line, I caught my breath before collecting a beautiful finisher's medal and a bunch of post-race goodies. 

Love this year's medal!

Considering the weather conditions, I think I ran an okay race. I wasn't able to follow the race plan from Coach Matt but ran smart and did what I could with the weather and stressful pre-race conditions. 
I'm really glad Chicago Rock 'n' Roll is offering the 10k distance now but hope they make a few changes for next year. Things I would like to see include:

  • Starting the 10k with the half marathon race and have the 10k course run the first half of the half marathon course instead of the second half. I missed running the city streets!
  • More portapotties and plenty of TP stocked in each and every stall
  • Music at the start
  • A better organized start line with corrals (not runners starting wherever they want)

So what's next?? Since I didn't get to race this one as planned, Coach Matt and I have discussed using the upcoming Brewers 10k as a goal race. Given the race is at the end of September, the weather shouldn't be an issue although I hear the course is pretty challenging with a bunch of hills!

My questions for you:
  • Have you ever participated in a Rock 'n' Roll race? If so, what was your experience?
  • What's the most stressful thing you've ever faced pre-race? Did it affect your race performance?
  • What is your strategy for racing in the heat?

- ST

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

In Search of Motivation

Lately, I've been missing a very important training tool: Motivation

It's been a fair-weather friend that comes and goes. Sometimes, all I want to do is crank out my miles. And other times, I have to use every trick in the book to get myself to lace up my shoes and get out the door. I've been told this is just how it is sometimes. A phase that will pass. But it's uncharted territory for me - I'm not used to this icky feeling of wanting to skip miles and workouts. I'm the girl who can't wait to crush every run. 

The normal me: Excited to run every mile

Part of it is that after Eddie's health scare, I've been wanting to spend every extra minute at home with him. I know it's a bit silly since he's back to normal and during his follow-up visit over the weekend the vet said he is doing really well. But I still worry about him whenever I'm away from home. 
My little shadow!

Showing off his hospital shaving!

Another factor is my confidence has been a bit shaky, which sometimes makes me want to not run at all. I get nervous I'll fall short during workouts or that I won't be able to complete my long runs. Some workouts have been a struggle. For example, a workout a few weeks ago during which I failed to hit the paces Coach Matt gave me because I got too tense. The irony is that once I relaxed and told myself pace didn't matter, I hit the paces. Go figure!

Sometimes, I can barely make it up the steps to my apt after a hard workout!

But at times, the worry has been completely unfounded. For example, I ran a 14-miler after work last week and it was one of my most successful runs this year. During those miles, I thought about nothing but all the things I'm grateful for in my life. And that's when I decided this season's mantra is all about gratitude. Be grateful for what you have. Be grateful you can run at all.

But even the wonderful moments sprinkled in, I'm still faced with not knowing sure what to expect during most runs. Being only two weeks away from my next race that makes me nervous. Chicago Rock 'n' Roll 10k is supposed to be a goal race - one where I get to chase my PR - but I find myself wondering if I can do it. All I can do is remind myself to believe - take things a day at a time and know that the tides will turn for the better again. Eventually I'll find my usual fire and motivation again. 

Until then, there's this fantastic quote from Alysia MontaƱo:

"You don't have to be 100 percent but you can still give 110 percent."

So that's the goal right now. Take things a day at a time. Run with gratitude. Give 110 percent.

My questions for you:
  • Have you ever experienced a running slump? If so, how did you pull yourself out of it?
  • Do you believe there's such a thing as a perfect race buildup?
  • What are you grateful for right now?

I'm grateful for my family, friends and good health!

- ST