Posts Tagged ‘running advice’

I’ve got the blues. Mississippi Blues Half Marathon Report

Date: January 9, 2016

Distance: 13.12

Location: Jackson, MS

Time: 2:41:16

Denise and I had plans to run the MS/AL back-to-back races last year but, as luck would have it, we were both injured so we weren’t able to run the series. Months ago, I signed up for both races again (Mississippi Blues and First Light), expecting that 2016 would work. Unfortunately, Denise is still rehabbing and wasn’t ready for the timing of these again. As much as I hated to do these by myself, I really didn’t want to forfeit the race entry fees AGAIN, and my Mobile hotel reservation was non-refundable so I decided to go ahead and knock these out by myself. This gave me the blues.

Getting There & Race Packets–To save money, I decided to use flight benefits to fly non-rev to these races. This plan worked getting there–as long as I got a bit creative since all of the SLC-ATL flights were oversold. (On Delta, one must fly through Atlanta in order to get to Jackson). To get there, I had to fly through San Diego, then Atlanta, then Jackson. A pretty circuitous route to take, but I couldn’t see any other options. That made for a very long travel day on Friday–the day before the race–and I arrived to the race expo with only minutes to spare before they closed. Still, I got there.MississippiBlues

The race packets, by the way, were nice. Not only did they include a solid, reusable tote bag, but–in honor of the race theme–they also included a B.B. King CD and a harmonica. Nice touch and very unique as far as race packets go. The race shirts, too, were a nice long-sleeved tech material. The race medals, too, were great.

The Race–The weather forecast warned of rain and possible thunderstorms which, unfortunately, turned out to be accurate. This really gave me the blues. Luckily, I had brought a throw-away rain poncho to wear as I was waiting for the race to start so I wouldn’t be drenched and freezing before the race started. Also, about three miles in, the rain started to subside. That was great for me, but the runners completing the full marathon were not as lucky because even more forceful rain–including lightning–arrived as almost all of them were still completing the course. We were warned ahead of time of possible race delays or even a cancellation if the lightening created dangerous conditions, but luckily, the race went on as scheduled for everyone.

The course was deceptively hilly, which I wasn’t expecting. The course map showed elevation changes of about 500 feet total, throughout the course, but there was a lot more up and down than I expected. That, too, gave me the blues. My race strategy, then, was to take things really easy–particularly since my training regimen included about 10% of the long runs I SHOULD have run in preparation for the race, but didn’t. I also didn’t want to be completely spent for the next day’s race.

While I started with a very defined run/walk strategy, that went out the window about four miles in when I pretty much started walked up the hills and through the aid stations but ran when the course was flat or downhill. I really liked that the course took us through the downtown area and some nice residential areas. That’s always a great way to see the local architecture and get a feel for the city.

I finished in a fairly respectable time, considering my lack of preparation, the race day conditions, and the course. Good race–definitely recommended. I was also particularly happy about the fact that the hotel was so close to the starting/finishing locations. That’s worth a lot.

Highlights–I wouldn’t say there was a lot of crowd support at this race, but that would be expected because of the weather. The people who were out cheering the runners, though, were among the best. A few people were having all-out parties on their front lawns as they watched the runners. One group even had a bonfire going and had set up a table–similar to an aid station–that offered free beer. I passed on that offer, but was amused nonetheless. A couple of other families offered donuts to runners as they passed by. One sign read, “Sorry for all the potholes–have a donut hole.” Clever.

Travel Between Races–I could have signed up for bus service that shuttled racers between the races, but I decided I really didn’t want to have to follow other people’s travel times so I rented a car and drove the three-and-a-half hours to Mobile. I really missed Denise during this part of the weekend. She’s always a great navigator and helps me decide when to listen to the navigation instructions offered by my phone and when to ignore them. We also use that travel time to talk and catch up. I missed that. I’m also really glad I decided to drop off my car in Mobile rather than return it back to Jackson. After driving that route once, I really didn’t want to do it again the very next day.

Race Etiquette/Tips–This race and the Mobile race the next day, prompted me to think a lot about how so many people have taken up running and are new to racing. I’m really happy about this because that means more and more people are seeing how enjoyable races can be. Because so many are new, however, it’s pretty clear they are still learning some generally accepted race protocols. Here’s what I wish everyone knew.

  1. Your race number goes somewhere on the FRONT of your body–not the back. It needs to be visible to race officials and photographers at all times during the race, otherwise they cannot identify you. This can be a little tricky when you dress in layers. In consideration of this, when I start with a top layer and expect to remove it at some point during the race, I will usually attach my race bib to my shorts or other race bottoms instead of my shirt.
  2. Be considerate of everyone else and keep your noise to yourself. That means: don’t have your headphones turned up so high everyone around you can identify the song and artist you are jamming out to. Even worse, don’t be that person who listens to music without headphones at all. No, we don’t all love your playlist selection. Please don’t share. Also in the “too noisy” category? Runners who wear bells on their shoes. Really? People do that? Yes. And it’s downright annoying.
  3. Not everyone likes conversation. Be mindful of the fact that while some people might appreciate your company and conversation during a race, others will find it irritating. If in doubt, ask or learn to read body language.
  4. Spectators and their pets are not there to receive unsolicited hugs or attention. For some reason, I see more and more runners who act like they are celebrities on stage–out there to greet their adoring fans–to the point where they feel a need to pet every dog they see or hug every child or person in uniform along the course in a much-too-enthusiastic way. I don’t know where this is coming from, but I’m pretty sure not all of the people (and pets) on the receiving end don’t enjoy it. A quick wave, smile, or “thank you” to volunteers along the course is a nice courtesy. An all-out hug may not be appreciated. You also don’t know how a dog might react to your invasion of his/her space.
  5. Signal your fellow runners when you are about to slow down or change course. When you stop running and decide to walk instead, remember there are people behind you still running who may trip over you or plow you over. Before you decide to abruptly change pace, move over to the side of the course and signal those behind you. The most common signal I see is a raised hand to indicate you are slowing down. To those of you who use some sort of “I’m getting out of your way and slowing down” signal–I thank you. (I know, as if I’m a fast runner and can’t possibly slow down in time). That’s rather funny.
  6. Don’t block the course. This applies to walkers who insist on walking right down the middle of the road, but even more so, this applies to pairs or groups of people. If you are walking two or three abreast, the middle of the course is NOT where you should be. In fact, some courses really aren’t good for walking in groups at all, depending on how wide the course is. Think about this when you go through aid stations too. Get your beverage and keep moving. You don’t want to make faster runners have to constantly swerve and dodge you and your pals.

Thanks for considering these etiquette tips. As more of us are sharing race courses, these are ways we can make the race experience a better one for everybody. Happy (friendly) running!


Me time

Date: April 14, 2013

Distance: 9.93 miles (I know, I should have gone the few extra yards to make it an even ten).

Time: 1:57:53


me time

from Google images

It’s been so long since I’ve run, I’m surprised I could find my running shoes.

My week-long vacation in Hawaii put me in the “be lazy and enjoy the food and drinks” mindset that most vacations tend to do. And then, unfortunately, I was hit with a pretty bad cold right when I got back home which forced me to put off my runs and yoga sessions even further.

I’ll also admit that the past few days I felt well enough to resume my workouts but lacked motivation. “It’s too cold.” “It’s too dark.” “I’m too busy.” “I really need to (fill in blank) instead.” You get the idea.

Yesterday, I paid the price.

I was hit with a migraine headache–only the fifth or sixth one I’ve ever had–and I’m sure it was triggered by the fact that I haven’t been exercising and I decided it would be a good idea to eat three sugar-laden donuts.

Wake up call.

Put simply, I was reminded that I feel great when I am eating well and exercising regularly; I feel like crap when I don’t.

Just two days ago, I was talking with someone who shared with me that her doctor has told her she needs to lose weight and has instructed her to start exercising. While she acknowledged that would be a good idea, she said, “I’m just really busy and when I have to choose between exercise or ‘me time,’ I choose ‘me time.'”

Her comment sounded so odd to me because, to me, exercise IS “me time.” Going out for a run or attending a 90-minute yoga class often feels like an indulgence to me. It’s time when no one bothers me and when I am forced only to focus and breathe. Sure, I also know that exercising is good for me and I know it’s something I should do, but I also get so much reward from it. When I’m running or in a yoga class, I can’t do laundry, wash dishes, check email, pay bills, or whatever other mundane chores fill my daily life.

It’s all about mindset. If we look at exercising as a chore, we often avoid it. If we look at exercise as medicinal and therapeutic, we would find more reasons to fit it into our daily life.

I know, for me, running and yoga are my therapy and my medication. It’s not selfish for me to take the time to exercise–it’s absolutely essential to my well-being.

What Else Besides the Long Weekend Run?

Date: September 23, 2012

Mid-way up Emigration Canyon–one of my favorite long run locations.

Distance: 8 miles

Time: 1:26:43

Fall weather is perfect for those long weekend runs. Not too hot, not too cold, and still a reasonable amount of sunlight.

Every long distance training plan I’ve seen places a lot of importance on the long weekend run. Of course, runners can adjust the actual day they do the long run based on personal schedules, but if you are looking to build mileage or train for a full or half marathon, it’s important to schedule in that LSD (long, slow distance) once a week. Simply put, regular long runs prepare your body physically and psychologically for the longer distance you plan to ultimately run.

Beyond the long run, though, training plans vary quite a bit–with some advocating running five or even six days a week and others suggesting only three runs per week.

After running for about six years now, I’ve settled into a routine that seems to work pretty well for me–and I’m in the “three runs per week” camp. My training week includes a short run (2-4 miles), a medium run (4-6 miles), and the long run (5-12 miles), all supplemented with core & strength work (usually Pilates or yoga) two to five times per week. Also thrown in there are walks with my dog, an occasional hike, and rest days when I feel like I need them or when life gets in the way.

Anyone who talks to me about running knows within the first five minutes that I’m a big fan of cross-training and building a strong core. A training plan that has runners doing other types of activities such as biking, walking, swimming, yoga, or weight training is most likely to prevent running-induced injuries and create a better overall level of fitness. Perhaps equally important to me is my own personal experience of finding out first-hand that when I do a variety of workouts in support of my running, my running efforts are more likely to be maintained long-term.

You see, what we are going for here is long term.

I recently came across a great quote from one of my favorite running gurus, Hal Higdon. He observes, “It’s not that I started running, it’s that I continued.” Love it. We all know it’s easy to start almost anything but much harder to continue. New Year’s resolutions are the perfect example of that.

So far, my 2006  New Year’s resolution to walk a half marathon has turned into a way of life that I have happily continued. With luck and a bit of continued cross-training, I hope to enjoy running for many years to come.

I’m certain I will if I:

  • stay injury free.
  • keep signing up for races.
  • continue to surround myself with friends who motivate me with their own running and workout stories.
  • keep enjoying those long weekend runs where I get to escape for one or two hours and simply meditate, contemplate, and rejuvenate.

Mojaves part deux

Date: July 14, 2012

Distance: 8x400s timed runs; 8x400s walks; approx 3 mile run/walk (almost 5 miles total)

Times: 2:07, 2:04, 1:43, 1:49, 1:50, 1:48, 1:51, 1:42

google images

It’s been ten full weeks since I tried Mojaves for the first time and today I was prompted to do them again. I was curious to see how my times may have changed plus I’m always looking for motivation to do speed work.

I had skipped a planned three-mile run earlier in the week so I ran the 1.5 miles down to the local high school track figuring the to-and-back would make up for that lost mileage. Running downhill to the track was no problem. The temperature was relatively cool and I had fresh legs. Coming back up the hill after doing the set of sprints and with the sun now bearing down on me was a different story. I walked the whole way, but that ended up being a great cool down and I feel like I got in a great workout today.

My average lap pace in May was 1:50 and today it was 1:53 so I certainly haven’t increased my speed. Of course, today’s run was at least twenty degrees hotter, but I have to also admit that I haven’t done much in the way speed training. I just hate it so much. It’s hard!

I probably need to get over that, though. There are many compelling reasons to incorporate interval training, like Mojaves, into my workouts.

This New York Times article, which first appeared in 2007, explains the findings of a 2005 study that showed how interval training “can dramatically improve cardiovascular fitness and raise the body’s potential to burn fat.” The best part? Improved results are seen almost immediately and, by incorporating interval training into workouts only once or twice a week, the body appears to do a better job of burning fat even during moderate-intensity workouts the rest of the week.

That certainly sounds good to me. And, if I happen to eventually improve my race times as well, this could be a very nice outcome.

Next time, I won’t let ten weeks lapse between my Mojave training.

Drug free racing

Date: June 3, 2012

Distance: 13.1 miles

Time: 2:23:30

I’ll start off with a warning. Adding a race weekend to an already-packed week makes for one helluva time-management conundrum.

I completed the Minnesota Half Marathon on Sunday–the beginning of a week that included a week-long visit by my parents, the last week of school for my kids, high school graduation for our oldest child, a week-long workshop and presentation for work, and the need to grade twenty papers and post end-of-term grades for my class by noon today. Needless to say, I’m a bit behind on my social media endeavors and I’ll probably be a bit less optimistic when scheduling future races during times my calendar is already overbooked.

I flew out to Minneapolis on Friday to meet up with Caree and Denise who drove twelve hours to our destination. Now THAT’S racing dedication.

As with almost all races I run with these two wild women, the race weekend started with some long-awaited festivities to kick things off. I’m placing most of the blame for my all day Saturday headache on them, and placing the rest of the blame on our shot-pushing waiter for putting mystery drinks in front of me that I had no business drinking–especially two days before a race.

Such serious athletes we are.

We took things easy on Saturday and were happy that, instead of the thunderstorms that were forecast for the next day, we woke up to blue, cloudless skies on race day morning. Caree, who showed us up once again by running the full marathon, started her race at 6:30 while Denise and I had the luxury of hanging out at the hotel for another hour before the half marathon started.

Not only is Caree the marathon wonder woman, but she knows how to book great hotel rooms too. We stayed in the same hotel that hosted the pre-race expo and packet pickup–also conveniently located across the street from the starting line. It’s so nice to not have to take a shuttle across town to the start!

The course was beautiful. It started in downtown Minneapolis and followed the river, with fairly minimal hills for the half. (Caree reported some killer hills on the full course). The finish area included a great classic rock band, plenty of food, and a well-organized gear bag pick up. The shuttles conveniently took us back to the hotel and I was able to make my early evening flight to be home and face the reality of my “to do” list and work schedule with ease. My foot gave me no trouble, and I really enjoyed running the entire race with my BFF, Nis, who was nice enough to talk with me throughout the race even though I’m sure she would have preferred to focus on her music.

The talking part generally doesn’t happen a whole lot when we run together–mostly because we are both huge proponents of running while listening to music. This time, however, I experienced a rather major glitch during the race–I neglected to verify that my iPod was charged before the race and only realized at the starting line that I would be running the next two hours without any music. And I had spent so much time creating the perfect “Minneapolis 2012” playlist! Darn it.

I quickly got over that minor disappointment and realized that it was easier to take in all of the race sights and sounds without numbing music blasting in my ears. Nice, sure, but I will admit that there were several points along the course when I really wished I had music. Running to carefully selected tunes really does help me through a race and I’ve always claimed that music enables me to run faster.

That’s not a far-fetched claim. This website article explores whether or not music helps runners run faster during a race. The article notes that Dr. Costas Karageorghis, author of Inside Sport Psychology, suggests that “listening to music while running can boost performance by 15%”. Dr. K is even more direct when he writes, “music is a legal drug for athletes”. Wow. A drug?

So, if music for runners is considered a drug, I guess I can proudly say that, while my alcohol choices on Friday were not very admirable, I can at least say that I was completely drug free for the race on Sunday.


P.S. This post was going to also include the very funny story about the life-sized cardboard cutout of President Obama wearing a super hero suit that surprised me as I walked into the hotel room but I couldn’t get the photos to download. That story begs for photos. Thanks, girls, for the Minneapolis welcome!

Negative splits. NOT


Date: April 8, 2012

Distance: 11.02 miles

Time: 2:00:54

Glorious Easter run, although I got a little carried away and started off way too fast and then paid the price at the end.

At first, I intended to do a gym workout today but the 70-degree temperature and clear blue sky beckoned. I had my husband drive me 11 miles up Emigration Canyon and drop me off. That’s one sure way to make certain to get the intended mileage in.

If you are from Utah, you know how beautiful the mountains are. We are surrounded by pristine landscapes and we sometimes take it for granted because we are so used to them. Today, I took it all in and appreciated the natural beauty all around and began my run, surrounded by snow-covered mountains.

In addition to being outside, I was looking forward to this run for a couple of other reasons as well–I had just downloaded some new running music on my iPod and the eleven-mile run was all downhill. I couldn’t wait to begin.

I guess I got the adrenaline going a bit too much right from the beginning either due to my motivating music, the downhill course, or the simple fact that I wasn’t paying attention to much else other than the mountain views around me.

For whatever reason, I looked down at my Garmin at about mile four and realized that I had been running nine-minute miles. Oops. I knew right then that I was going to hit a wall before my training run was completed. Nine-minute miles are too fast for this old lady. To put things into perspective, a two-hour half marathon averages out to 9:10 per mile. My ultimate goal would be to run a sub-two hour half, but it’s likely not going to happen. The best I’ve ever run has been 2:03 and that was about five years ago.

Anyway, runners are advised to attempt to have negative splits–that’s defined as running the second half of a race faster than the first. Or, running each consecutive mile faster than the previous. That ensures that you don’t deplete your energy early on and hit the proverbial wall before the race is over.

I certainly did NOT do that today and it was a good illustration why training runs are so important in preparation for races. Figure out your strategies BEFORE any planned race and you won’t make mistakes when it matters.

Since I’m dishing out advice, here’s more…

1. Chocolate milk IS a good post-recovery workout snack. At the very least, it’s yummy.

2. Coconut water is good for hydration. Depending on what source you read, it is sometimes touted as being as good as or better than drinks such as Gatorade or Powerade. I like the taste and I like that it’s natural. The kind I buy is pure coconut water–no additives. I filled my water bottle today with half coconut water and half filtered water. That’s a strategy I’ll probably keep. Also yummy.

3. Vanilla Bean Gu is the best, but Espresso Love is a close second. I do NOT recommend chocolate or margarita flavors. A real margarita or real chocolate post race, however, is highly recommended.

4. Bodyglide is one of the best inventions ever. I’ll spare you the full details.

5. A motivating playlist can get you through anything. Latest song recommendation? Check Yes, Juliet by We the Kings.

Nashville Half is less than one month away. Foot is good, training is going well, and I can’t wait to run this race with mi esposo. Should be a very fun weekend.

Hand me my metronome, please.

I walked in to today’s physical therapy appointment discouraged. After six weeks of treatment and virtually no running, my foot still hurts.

Google images

I walked out of today’s physical therapy appointment encouraged. We may have identified the cause of my injury, and the treatment is easy–take shorter strides.

I’ve read a lot about how shorter strides are better in distance running, how it’s bad to land on the heel, and how the ideal cadence is about 180 strides per minute. That’s all great information to have in the back of your head, but what good does it do if you don’t know how that information applies to YOU?

Today I found out.

After a lengthy session of being filmed and timed on the treadmill while running barefoot and with shoes, I learned that my cadence is WAY OFF–148 strides per minute. And, I land forcefully on my heels with every stride. It was painfully clear, as I watched the videos, how wrong I’ve been running all this time. My poor foot simply couldn’t take it any more.

According to my PT, an increase in stride rate of just 10% has been proven to help virtually every running injury known–whether it involves knees, hips, or feet. She set a metronome to 163 BPM and showed me how running with shorter, quicker strides, naturally caused me to land much further forward on my foot.

You know, that’s the claim of all the new minimalist shoes out there–they mimic barefoot running and that forces runners to land more forward on their feet.

My assignment? Visit the website and download 163 BPM mixes so I can listen to my own personal metronome while running. And, I’m relegated to the treadmill for the next few runs while I learn what that length and speed of stride feels like.

I have to completely re-learn how to run.

If it solves my foot problem–I’m more than happy to oblige! Wish me luck.