Thursday, April 29, 2010

About That...

Before I decided to pick up some tennis-ball yellow or blaze-orange spraypaint to beautify the the Brooks Defyance 4 shoes I'm wear testing, I thought it'd be smart to channel my 4th-grade science roots and perform a little experiment first.

Hypothesis: Pink spraypaint will make the best shoes in the world even better.

First, I made an old pair of Glycerin 7s rise from the dead. I don't know why I keep these around since they are so far beyond their lifespan that I wouldn't run in them. I think it's because they were my first pair of Brooks shoes, they saved my knees, and they are what turned me onto the brand. I have a place in my heart for those shoes, but earlier this week they volunteered to be my guinea pig.

Secondly, I dug up a can of florescent pink spraypaint I had around. Don't ask.

Third, I brought the shoes outside and spraypainted a couple of coats. I went back out the next day and spraypainted a couple more coats.

The result?

Figure 1. Spraypaint test fail
  • Spraypaint completely doesn't work on the shoe's mesh. All of the little holes make it entirely impossible for the paint to coat evenly. I realized very quickly that I would have to do multiple layers of paint on the mesh area alone to try to match the color that was taking on the other parts of the shoe. I wasn't about to tape off all the non-mesh parts.
  • The retroflective silver areas on the shoes also don't hold spraypaint well. I noticed that it was dripping straight off of the material, leaving some pretty heinous streaks. Not that this pink isn't already heinous... To each their own.
  • The sole of the shoe was the only part of the shoe that somewhat held the paint, probably because it was white and rubbery. I imagine that a few runs in some loose gravel will strip that paint right off, though.
Conclusion: Spraypainting shoes was probably one of my dumber ideas.

Figure 2. Don't try this at home
Beautification Plan B? Find the flashiest shoelaces possible to spice up these suffering soles. I'm at a loss for what I can do to these shoes to give them a life, but I'm definitely open to suggestions. Bueller?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Peak Week No. 1

I'm getting a kick out of these pictures that were e-mailed to me from the race on Saturday. Don't be fooled -- my enthusiasm for the camera isn't representative of how I was feeling during the actual run. And yes, I totally raised the roof as I crossed the finish line. The cameraman was standing right there ... what was I supposed to do? Stare blankly like a fool? Hell no. Raise the roof! I just ran 13 miles in the rain!
This week is one of two "Peak Weeks" in my marathon training. It's tied for being one of the two highest mileage weeks I will have during this entire 18-week process. To start off the week, I had a 7-mile run yesterday (following my half marathon the previous day), today was a cross-training of my choice kind of day, Tuesday will be a 5-mile run, Wednesday will be an 8-mile run, Thursday will be a 5-mile run, Friday will be a carb-load/hydration day, and on Saturday I will be attempting my very first 20-miler.

As if my joints weren't already being tortured from the incessant pounding my body has been taking, my second toe has also been giving me a lot of attitude. It was already pretty calloused to start, and then a blister formed on my long run a few weekends ago, and then the blister popped and started taking the callous with it, and then running for 2 hours in the rain sort of turned my foot into a wrinkly mess as skin starting dissolving inside my soggy socks. Not giving your imagination enough, am I? I'll let you look at it instead. Ouch!
My main concern was to give my toe a bit of a break during my cross-training today, or else break down and buy some toe caps. I debated a few options I had for cross-training tonight that would give my tootsie a nap: an hour of Spinning? A half-mile swim? A Latin Dance class? Some time on a rowing machine + weights? Oh, the possibilities LA Fitness brings.

I got home, checked my mail, and realized I had the best present in store for me: Brooks' upcoming Defyance 4 shoe!

The wear tests I do for Brooks asks that I run "as many miles as possible" in the shoes... so is it really that bad to skip my cross-training day and tack on a few extra miles to my already-heavy week of running? Does my toe really need a break? Yeah, I didn't think so either.

Look at these sweet little babes -- given to me just for the sake of running in them and giving some feedback on how they feel on my feet and how my body feels after I test them. Pretty sweet deal!

I ran to the gym (no really, I ran), jumped on an elliptical glider to mimic the motion of running, and ran back home. I treat the elliptical machine like a treadmill without all the stress on my joints, so I'm moving at a fairly good speed and don't slack off. Thankfully, the Defyance 4 has more wiggle room in the toe box, so I felt like I was running but without the pain on the Little Piggy That Stayed Home. The shoe is snug in my heel and offers a tight hug of support in the mid-foot and arch, but there is definitely space for my toes to move around. This is a lot different than what I'm used to wearing -- I'm a fan of not giving anything on my foot any room to slide around in my running shoes -- but this could be the perfect break The Toe With 'Tude needs. There's just enough space where she's not throwing a hissy fit inside my shoe.

I'll be wear testing this shoe until May 5, so I'm sure I'll come up with some more productive things to say after I get a few more -- nay, a lot more -- miles in during the coming days. Right now my only gripe is the white color I like to call "Grandma's Walking Shoes White", but the sweet silver accents and bright yellow logo can maybe make up for the white in the meantime ... until I pick up a can of bright spray paint to liven things up.

Enjoy your week! Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to get back to mine.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Race Recap: Get In Gear Half Marathon

The Get In Gear Half Marathon was a pretty demanding race for me yesterday. Not only was it raining pretty hard and lightly thundering at the start, I wondered if the race was on the verge of being delayed because of a few cracks of lightening I saw while waiting in my car. It was windy on the River Road, the rain was cold, and yet 8,500 people still showed up, leading to some overcrowded streets.

The following photos are courtesy of Competitive Image because I didn't bring my camera with me, and clearly I ran the race instead of photographing it. :)
The following photos are courtesy of frequent-Twin Cities race photographer Wayne Kryduba -- I feel like I personally know him because I see him all the time!
That's pretty much what the course was like ... all 13.3 miles I ran of it.

I started out running the race in one of those 50-cent camping ponchos. I knotted it tightly around me so I wouldn't have a lot of lag from the wind, and I wasn't going to feel bad ditching the poncho if the rain lightened up or stopped altogether. I thought it was good for waiting around at the start since it acted as extra insulation. I wore it until about mile 6, when I decided that I was already pretty wet and decently warm, and the poncho wasn't doing me much good any more.
I wasn't checking Mr. Anastos any of this time because I was trying my hardest to keep him shielded from the rain. I saw a few other people wearing Garmins on the outsides of their sleeves, but I wasn't sure what the ruling was on its waterproofness. I am sure it was fine, but I chose not to risk it. I ended up having more fun monitoring my pace based on how I felt, how many people I was passing, concentrating on my form, and trying to keep the rain out of my eyes. Around mile 10 I checked my watch for the first time and noticed that I was running much slower than I thought I was going. I thought I was on pace to run a 1:52 or 1:53, but looking at my Garmin I saw I would have to speed up to even get under 2 hours. Those windy, rainy, cold conditions are deceiving!

I tried to pick it up from there on out -- but picking up what you thought was already a decent clip in wicked conditions -- and after running 10 miles -- was no small task. I averaged a rough 9:10 for the first 10 miles, then ran the last three miles at an average of 8:41. My fastest mile ended up being mile 13, with a 8:21 split. Awesome last mile!

Official finishing time: 1:59:22
Distance: 13.3 miles (half marathons are technically 13.1 miles; thanks to Don for explaining on my last post how I tacked on an additional .2 because of the course tangents)
Average Pace: 9:07
Overall Place: 440/915
Gender Place: 140/454
Age Group Place: 52/161

I ran into my coworker who switched from the half marathon to the 10k at the last moment. She cheered me on as I crossed the finish line, then I went over and stood with her, her brother-in-law, and her nieces for a few minutes while she waited for her sister to finish the half. That was definitely the worst part -- at this point it was raining the hardest I had seen all morning, it got colder, and I was starting to chafe, shiver, and get clammy from feeling relatively warm (while running) to freezing in my wet clothing (while standing).

Nonetheless, I was happy for the practice and found a few other benefits to waiting around: Free stuff!

I noticed a promotional Team Ortho booth outside the main exhibition area of the race. During the half marathon, I saw my Kona Ironman finishing friend leading the pack. (He ended up placing 7th overall!!) I went over to say hi, tell Team Ortho I enjoy their races, and wished them a good day hanging out in the rain. Apparently they had a secret code to any tent-goers: Anyone who went up to the booth and said "Team Ortho rocks" would get a prize. My (genuine) version of "I love Team Ortho" was good enough to win me the same prize: a free Minneapolis Marathon visor! This will sure come in handy during my upcoming hot summer runs.
I also got some fantastic Get In Gear waterproof gloves for signing up for the half. I didn't wear them yesterday because my hands would get too hot, but they fit nicely despite being one size fits all. The outsides look something like gardening gloves, and the soft rubber materials has a lot of grip. I bet they'll be great for fall or winter running when I'm trying to grip water bottles or open Sports Beans.
Freeeee stuffffff!

The Get In Gear crew was adequately prepared for the post-race commotion with plenty of food, beverages, and entertainment. Immediately after the race they had lots of water, orange juice, Gatorade, scones, bananas, and salted peanut rolls.

I didn't stay long since I had plans to go for a swim then head to a vegan grill-out in the afternoon, but I grabbed some Gatorade and a banana before jetting out. For being a last-minute race-goer, I felt they were able to accommodate my needs well and everything moved along smoothly. I was in and out of the packet pickup/bib number/t-shirt tent in about 5 minutes and the food dome in maybe 2 minutes.

Overall, a big kudos to Get In Gear. I'm happy to have been part of their first and second half marathons and I hope they have many more successful races in the future.

Yes, I think it actually lightened up on my drive home... :)

Get In Gear Half Marathon splits (1h 59m 22s):
1: 9:09
2: 9:17
3: 9:13
4: 9:19
5: 9:12
6: 9:09
7: 8:59
8: 8:48
9: 9:03
10: 9:02
11: 8:49
12: 8:53
13: 8:21
.3: 2:01
Air Temp: 52F, heavy rain

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Get In Gear Half Marathon (aka "The Race That Started It All")

Early in 2009, a coworker invited me to run Minnesota's annual Rite of Spring race, Get In Gear. This race had a 33-year history of being the largest 10k in Minnesota, and it supposedly places in one of the top 15 most-populous 10ks in the nation. Last year was the inaugural half marathon and a coworker wanted me to get in on the "Be a Part of History" action that consumed 2009. It was also a good way to shed winter hibernation pounds and get out for some spring exercise.

"Running is for people with OCD."

I was hesitant to sign up. Very hesitant. I had done my very first half marathon (Urban Wildland) the year before and thought I had trained hard -- nevermind the fact I trained as a nearly pack-a-day smoker -- but it just wasn't my day. I had no supporters at Urban Wildland, I had no idea what pacing or fueling for 13 miles entailed, and when an extremely overweight run-walker got ahead of me and told me that drinking water at the stops was slowing me down, I swore off long-distance running. With a finishing time of around 2:32, I was disappointed and decided I never wanted to do that distance -- or any race -- ever again. Running 13 miles was not my preferred form of masochism.

But the more my coworker talked about the historical Get In Gear race, the more interested I was in reuniting with the half marathon. When I broke down all the thoughts in my head, I had things I wanted to accomplish rather than the ability to simply say "I did it." I no longer smoked. I had a little more experience running and fueling, even though I still only worked out recreationally, and mostly on an elliptical glider before work. I secretly wanted to beat my coworker as she is one of the most competitive people I know. I had a time goal from Urban Wildland I wanted to better. And I wasn't going to let an obese walker tell me how to run as she waddled by.

I ended up finishing the 2009 Get In Gear Inaugural Half Marathon in 2:11:51, setting a new PR by an astonishing 21 minutes. I also passed my coworker at mile 6 with a smile on my face. And I didn't see any overweight run-walkers get by me.

"If I can improve that much, what more can I do?"

I signed up for another half marathon, Heart of the City, with a different coworker in May 2009, exactly 35 days after Get In Gear. I figured I was already in decent shape to cover the distance and being high on a 21-minute PR, I wanted to see if I could pick it up just a little more. I surprised myself by finishing in 1:58:58, setting another 12-minute PR from a month earlier. This was also the first time I vomited at the finish line, in front of my manfriend who flew in from California to surprise me no less; but I broke the 2-hour mark!

Puking aside, that's when I realized I had some talent deep inside. Not everyone can run a half marathon in less than 2 hours, and I actually placed above-average when looking at the average time of all racers, guys and girls.

After plenty of 5ks, 10ks, 15ks, and even a 25k, I decided five months later to run another half marathon, the Monster Dash. I cut off another 3 minutes from my time, and I did the race in 1:55:11 ... without puking. In the span of a year, I had shaved 37 minutes off my half marathon time and developed a full-blown obsession with the sport.

"Wait a minute; I have OCD!"

My coworker asked me again this year if I wanted to run the Get In Gear race. Like last year I turned her down, because this year I was focusing my attention on the marathon. She understood and didn't bombard me with incessant nagging to join the race. I am happy and content with my Intermediate II training plan and I love not deviating from my schedules and routines. In fact, I've come to live by and love them.

The Minneapolis Marathon training group was repeating 16 miles this morning and the half marathon training group was slated to run 8. My training plan had me running an "easy" 13 miles this weekend since it was a step-back week from the high mileage I put in over the past two weekends. I couldn't think of an easy way to incorporate a crowd into my 13-mile training run in case I needed emergency assistance (yes, I STILL worry about that), so I settled on running loops around the lakes by my apartment since there are water fountains and bathrooms and lots of people nearby.

I got up early this morning for my long run and saw it was raining out. And not just that fun little sprinkling rain -- it was raining HARD with cracks of thunder. Instead of heading out to the trail to suffer on my own, I scooted down to my car. I showed up at the Get In Gear 2nd-Annual Half Marathon and suffered through the rainy race with 8,500 of my friends.

Never in a million years did I think my life would come down to this. I can just run a spur-of-the-moment half marathon!

This morning was not "my race" in terms of a PR, but I do think of it as great practice. It could very well rain on the day of my marathon and I won't be able to back out of it. I didn't check my Garmin to monitor my pace because I was keeping it protected from the rain, but I did feel I was going at a good clip. The cold rain and blowing wind made for a challenging run, but I feel that I did well considering the conditions. This weekend was supposed to be an easy run for me, and while I felt like I put everything out there, I don't feel like I killed myself. My Intermediate II training plan would be as pleased with myself as I am.

As little as a year ago, I never thought running 13 miles could be "easy."
(Official race results and race recap coming shortly!)

13.3mi splits (Who measured this race?!!): 1:59:23
1: 9:09
2: 9:17
3: 9:13
4: 9:19
5: 9:12
6: 9:09 (breaking free from the 10k chaos at this point...)
7: 8:59
8: 8:48
9: 9:03
10: 9:02
11: 8:49
12: 8:53
13: 8:21 (awesome last mile!)
.3: 2:01
Air Temp: 52F and rain central

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy 40th Birthday, Earth Day!

Being an animal-loving freak sort of walks hand-in-hand with being an environmentally conscious person. I'm not a perfect preserver, but I can acknowledge that I do a fairly substantial part.

When I first moved from my company's Omaha, Nebraska headquarters to a satellite office in Minneapolis, I was disappointed to see they didn't recycle. For a state that prides itself on having crisp air quality, clean water, and plentiful parks, nature preserves, and wetlands, I couldn't believe that the Omaha building was doing a better job with recycling basic office materials than our much smaller Minneapolis office. After doing some investigating, I learned that the tower I work in is a LEED-certified building and had recycling options within the janitorial realm; we just never bothered to do it within the confines of our half of a floor.

The front-desk admin at the time and I went to work to get this implemented. We learned we could get free recycling bins (we didn't even need to sort anything) for everyone's personal office, as well as five 30-gallon bins for the overall space. Free?! Why wouldn't we do this? Within a week the building gave us all the bins we needed to outfit our more-sustainable floor. I put two of the large bins in the printer/copier room for all of the paper, two in the kitchen for all of the bottles and cans, and the last in the back-up printer area. Each bin has a sign of what is recyclable and what is not.

We have to bring our recyclables from our personal offices and dump them into the larger bins, and the janitorial team takes care of the sorting and disposal. It really couldn't be much easier. While I can't get everyone to believe that recycling is important, we're at least doing more now than in the past. I'm happy to say we've been recycling since 2006, and I'd like to think I've played a big part in saving more trees, cans, and bottles than the average Joe.

In addition to recycling at home and in the office, I also drive a fuel-efficient and low-emission car (a Subaru, which is also a very conscious company), I ride my bike/walk/run everywhere and anytime I can, I reuse canvas bags instead of plastic bags, I shop organic and local at farmer's markets when in season, and there's plenty of research to show that vegetarian and vegan diets are also good for the environment.

One thing I am not good at, however, is picking up trash. I'm a little bit of a germophobe and would prefer to not touch someone else's waste.

Instead of going on my 5-mile run this afternoon, I decided to focus on cleaning up the nature preserve in my backyard. It's a nature preserve, for crying out loud! Let's try preserving it by keeping it clean. Coming out of winter, the ground is especially polluted because so much trash gets buried in piles of snow throughout the cold months. And once that all melts, things can get ugly. I received plenty of "Thank you", "I clean up trash around here, too!" and "Happy Earth Day" comments, but I did hear a couple "That's an endless job" and "Why bother" statements. The latter comments were fairly insulting, but then I realized that most of the year I'm also fishing for excuses to not dirty my hands.

The nature preserve has a 1.2-mile trail surrounding the marshy cattails, and my original plan was to clean all the trash I saw on my run that was on my right-hand side, and then I'd make second loop, looking for all the trash on my left-hand side.

When I'm not reusing bags I have laying around, I have a collection of BioBags. They are biodegradable, compostable bags that are lightweight and break down in a very little amount of time. They are reasonably priced, and when considering that plastic bags take up to 500 years to biodegrade, this is a simple solution to part of the problem. (Sadly, they are only available for purchase in retail stores in Minnesota, California, Washington state, and Texas, but they can be ordered online.)
I realized during my first lap that there was no way I had enough material to carry all the trash I was finding and I wouldn't be able to do both laps. The nature preserve is beyond beautiful -- but the trash makes parts of it ugly. I could go back out and do this for a few more hours with many, many more bags. If I had mud boots, I could have ventured into the swampy parts and picked up a bunch more.

I also realized that there was no way I'd get even a 2.4-mile run in. I could only run a few steps before stopping to pick something up, so I more or less went on a walk. Most of the trash was buried deeper into the woods, and it required a lot of walking through saplings, prickly trees, and branches to get to it. I ended up with a lot of scratches today, but who knew ducking and squatting was such a good leg workout!

This Styrofoam coffee cup will take more than 5,000 years to biodegrade.
These pieces of paper will take break down in 2 to 5 months. This aluminum can will sit here for 200 to 500 years.This Ziploc bag will take up to 500 years to break down.Cardboard takes 4 weeks to break down, but the plastic film around a cigarette box will prevent that from happening until 20 to 30 years from now.
I actually picked up a second bag, which proved to be very handy.
Sadly, this plastic bottle will never biodegrade. It will ALWAYS be there. I don't know about you, but the thought of "forever" blows my mind.
Very creative, you polluters! This bottle will break down in 1,000,000 years. See that duck in the water? I raced him to the Coke can. It will be there for 2oo to 500 years, so it was a quick race to pick that up and recycle it.
And then I found a third bag which was the most helpful of all, because the two smaller bags I had were overflowing and tearing from all my hiking in the woods.
If these geese knew that I was taking this trash away from them so they wouldn't eat it, I'm sure they'd be thankful.Although now all the trash I picked up will just rot in a landfill for thousands to millions of years, at the very least it's not uglying up this wonderful place we share. The nature preserve is just a little bit cleaner today.
Facts about biodegradability were taken from here.

What did you do for Earth Day?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Training Run No. 7

I could think of a million other titles for this post ("Yowch", "18 Miles Hurts", "Slowing Down", "Why Did I Sign Up for This?", "One Wouldn't Think 18 Miles Feels Like a Lot More Than 17 Miles -- Boy Is That a Bad Assumption" and/or "I Would Rather Die Than Run That Far Again" just to name a few) but sticking with my previous training recap titles, I went with Ole Faithful.

Let's get the bad news out of the way. And let's keep it short and sweet, if I can.
  • 18 miles was hard. It's never a good sign when you start counting the remaining miles at mile 5. ("Only a *grumble grumble* half marathon to go.")
  • I was hurting. Not only has my hip been giving me some trouble lately (vegan glucosamine purchased, icing and anti-inflammatories mildly helping), that blister on my toe is back. I was trying to shorten my stride as to not aggravate my hip, and that in turn started hurting my knee, which in turn started hurting my foot, which in turn led to the reemergence of the second-toe blister. Not a fun long run.
  • Even though I know in my heart of hearts I have nothing to compare myself -- or my performance -- to, I was somewhat disappointed in my splits. Last weekend I averaged a 9:15 pace; this weekend I slowed, unintentionally, to a 9:25 pace. I won't bore you with a list of mile splits, but they ranged from a 8:50 to a 10:07. In the grand scheme of things, I know this isn't a big range ... at all. Besides for those two, my 16 other miles were in the 9-minute range. But I still felt like I was falling behind. Not that I was even racing anyone or anything; I just felt slow.
And now let's forget everything that makes me want to quit and focus on some happy news! Things I love about running!

Eating! Instead of eating my pre-long run pasta/tomato/salt/lots-o-water combo yesterday, I opted for a vegan pizza. Amy's makes a wonderful no-cheese, cholesterol-free organic pizza, and while I'm sure it does no wonders for my physique, carb loading is awesome! If I had a bigger stomach I would have eaten the entire tasty thing. I sure tried!
And then when I was putting together my post-long-run recovery snacks this morning, I got so excited to eat it. I'm sure my snacks also don't exactly help me win the Best Runner's Diet award, but hell! I just burned 1,800+ calories. Chocolate soymilk and accidentally-vegan Oreos are in order.
Cross training! I know that running all the time isn't feasible for my joints when I'm participating in a high-mileage marathon training program, so I've really fallen in love with cross training. Aside from Spinning and switching my single-speed bike into a fixed gear (best decision I've made with that sweet little bike), I've recently started ... you guessed it! Swimming! I found this entirely too-cute swimsuit a few weekends ago, and I've basically become a fish when I'm not out running. Could a tri be in my future?

Brooks! I really do believe that Brooks is the best running company on the planet. They are environmentally conscious, the employees are super happy and helpful, and since they specialize in running, they make top-of-the-line products because they have no other sports to distract them from studying the science of this single activity. I have been wearing their Glycerin 7 shoes for a long time now and the only time I plan to switch is when my 7s die and I must move into the 8. The shoes led me to investing in their clothes, which lead me to wanting to spread the word about how awesome they are, which led me to applying for the Brooks ID program, which essentially changed my running life -- at least for this year.

And if the company couldn't get any more cool, they asked last week if I want to wear test next year's Defyance 4 model. UMMM, more free pre-release Brooks shoes!? You friggin' better believe I responded to their e-mail with so much excitement before I even got to their signature line. Probably not the best idea to switch shoes mid-marathon training, but I can't wait to see what the shoe will be like! I've never run in their Defyance line, so this will be all new for me. Stay tuned for some sneak peaks on the 2011 shoe!

Minneapolis! This city is seriously so beautiful. I love that there are lakes and trails in the middle of the city, and yet I can still get my big-city fix. I love that Minneapolis was named the No. 1 city for biking and the No. 6 city for running. I love that everyone here loves being outdoors. And I love love love that small but shiny blue skyline.
Great weather! Once a year, I wake up and suddenly realize that everything is green. Sure, it takes a while for things to turn green, but it happens. There's always one day where this strikes me more than any other day. Today was that day. :)
Friends! Last weekend when I had my awesome 17-miler, I recognized someone running in the half marathon group. Not Pablo. Not Benny. Not Caleb or Marius or Ana or any of the other friendly faces I've been seeing week after week. I saw a girl I sat next to in 2nd grade elementary school in small-town Wisconsin. I yelled her name as I passed, she waved (thus confirming it was indeed her), we got in touch via Facebook, and we decided to meet at the group run early this morning so we could catch up a little more. I met her and her fiance this morning, found they are running the Minneapolis half marathon together before they tie the knot, found out she lives in my apartment complex (INSANE?!), and heard her tell plenty of stories of us growing up (none of which I remembered offhand, but can recall with a bit of her reminding me). Apparently she was the new girl and I took her under my wing... awwww. It was really good to see her again! Running brings the world together. :)

Anyone else planning on taking Monday morning off just to watch Boston?!

Enjoy this beautiful weekend!

18 miles: 2:49:38
Air Temp: 58F

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Training Run No. 6

The Minneapolis Marathon training group run this morning was nerve-racking for me. The farthest I have ever run is 16.16 miles (last summer), and this morning was going to be my first attempt at running 17.

I don't dream often, and when I do I can't remember much, but I distinctly remember waking up three times last night: the first time I dreamt that I finished the run flawlessly; the second time I dreamt that I had to walk miles 13 through 17; the third time I dreamt I missed the run altogether.

If my dreams hadn't messed with me enough during the night, my mind was playing very conscious games with me during my drive to the route this morning. The group was planning on running 14 miles this week, but I headed out a half hour early to fit in my additional 3 miles beforehand. I wore heavier gear while it was still chilly out, and planned on shedding those clothes as I stopped at my car before the group took off for the "real" run. I distinctly remember thinking, "Bring your phone, because you're going to break your hip during these 3 miles, and you'll be stranded before anyone even gets here."

Break my hip? Sure, I've been a little sore and the idea of finding a vegan glucosamine has driven me to do a bunch of internet research lately, but how's that for positive thinking going into the longest run (to date) of my life?

The three miles I had this morning to myself were wonderful. The trees are still bare along the Mississippi River but they are beginning to bud, and the river was perfectly still this morning. Still water is not atypical for lakes, but it was very strange to see the Mighty Mississip so calm.
I was keeping my eye on my watch during my introductory 3-miler. I didn't want to go out too fast and expend too much energy, but I also didn't want to be late for the group run. Last week I got there after the 11-minute milers left, forcing me to play catch up for the first mile. I told myself to go slow and pace myself for how I wanted to run the entire route -- and not fall and break my hip.

This was Team Ortho's 14-mile route for this morning. Before the run, I ran miles 14 - 12.5 on this map, and then headed back before everyone got there, essentially running the tail end of the training run twice. Gooood morning, everyone! I got back as Caleb was giving announcements, and I headed off with the 9:30 group within maybe a minute of dropping off my extra gear at my car. It couldn't have worked out any better in terms of me not waiting around and letting my heart rate drop.
I seriously don't think about much when I am running. I find that I hardly listen to my music and I don't have very many thoughts I can pinpoint. I've been more conscious about trying to remember what I think about, but I really believe my mind goes blank and I completely zone out. This is bad when I'm running near traffic, but I think this mental quietness is what makes me love running so much.

This morning I was trying to force my attention to keeping my pace slow, watching my breathing, and making sure I didn't get too thirsty. I packed two peanut butter tortilla wraps (thanks, Kathleen! Works like a charm!) and was trying to gauge when I should eat them. Instead of doing my usual "take one at 1 hour, and then eat a bite every 30 minutes after that" routine, I was trying to tune into when my body wanted me to take them rather than what I thought it needed. I ended up eating a half of a tortilla at mile 12, but that was it.

Some crewers out this morning; they created pretty much the only motion on the water.
Between watching my breathing, watching my footing (I ran on the trails instead of the pavement as much as I could because of the soreness I've had in my hips), and watching my water and food intake, I felt like I was fairly distracted from noticing how far I was running. Starting the group run with 3 miles on my watch made me feel accomplished early on in the run. The 8-mile mark meant I had single-digit miles remaining. The 10-mile mark is always a big one for me because it's one of my favorite distances to run. The 11-mile mark told me I had a 10k left. Every mile from then on was another mile I could mentally check off.

Mile 15 was when I began to feel tired and sore. I felt like my knees were throbbing and my hips weren't moving (but again, my splits prove to me that even if it is physical pain, it really isn't slowing me down). It's been a while since I've taken a crappy video, so I took one this morning when I was approaching what I thought was a race right around my mile 15. Now I remember why I don't take videos often -- people are actually out running when the weather is nice! In the winter I could take a long video without running into another soul. I put my phone down when someone approached me as to not look like a complete fool, so apologies for the few seconds of watching my legs move. :)

"I think I'm running in a race, uhhhh, and I didn't know about this one."

As I passed this group, I saw signs that it was a cancer survivor reunion. A few were running that race on the road, others were doing jumping jacks in the grass, and another group was doing yoga down by the water. The energy from this group of survivors gave me exactly what I needed to finish my final two miles strong. I reminded myself to not slouch, to hold my head up and keep my posture straight, and just run really slow until I got back to my car. I didn't need to prove anything or finish in any amount of time -- I just needed to get there.

I took every water stop available to me but one. With so many running groups out, it's hard to know which belongs to us and which belongs to someone else, so the one I missed was purely accidentally. Team Ortho is good about labeling their coolers, but because they've had a lot of sponsors volunteering to provide fluids during the group runs, the logo wasn't on their stops today. I brought my Amphipod handheld and filled it with water every chance I had, and I took a cup of PowerAde at two of the four stops. I did a great job of staying hydrated, if I might say so myself, and this is usually an issue for me.

By the time I got to the end of the route, I felt pretty good physically and even better mentally! If you take a look at my race times on the right-hand sidebar of my blog, you'll see that I finished a 25k (15.535 miles) in 2:35:46 last summer. I'd say adding on 1.5 miles in less than two additional minutes is pretty good progress!
My first dream last night must have been some sort of premonition because I can't imagine doing a better 17-mile run than I did this morning. Except ... I did get my first "injury" of the season. Toes are funny things and mine are certainly no beauts either, but isn't this the weirdest spot for a blister?
I have a feeling I'll be losing a toenail in the near future, as this one constantly gives me trouble. I even cut it down before the run today in hopes it wouldn't bother me.

I hope you are all having a great weekend. :)

17.02mi splits (2h 37m 35s):
1: 9:11
2: 9:29
3: 9:04
4: 9:27
5: 9:13**
6: 9:16**
7: 9:11**
8: 9:13**
9: 9:13**
10: 9:12**
11: 9:13**
12: 9:12**
13: 9:18
14: 9:23
15: 9:17
16: 9:08
17: 9:12
.02: 0:15
Air Temp: 55F

**The consistency for these middle miles blows my mind...