Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Another Training Cycle Begins

Yesterday was  Day 1 of my 12 week training cycle leading up to the Fox Cities Half Marathon in September.  The Fox Cities race means a lot to me for so many reasons.  First, it was the site of my very first half marathon back in 2007 where I finished in 2:37:37 (avg. pace: 12:02).  I remember being terrified before that race.  I had only been running for a couple of months at that point and I wasn't convinced that I could finish it...but I did.

Fox Cities - 2007

A year later, I ran the same course (2 weeks before my first marathon) and obliterated my previous time.  I finished in 2:21:49 (avg. pace: 10:50).  That was the most perfect half marathon I've ever run (it was my 3rd).  Everything went right.  The weather was outstanding. My legs worked perfectly. My head was in the right place. I ran my heart out.  If all races felt like that one, you'd never get me off of a race course!

With The Husband - Fox Cities 2008
2009 was a tough one.  I returned to run my 5th half marathon and I fell 29 seconds short of beating my PR and finished in 2:22:18.  The Husband had a great race that day. When he and my in-laws (who had come to cheer us on) congratulated me, it was hard to make myself thank them.  I was beyond disappointed in myself.  I had been so close, but I hadn't quite done it.  (I don't even have any pictures of that day.)

2010 was a disaster.  Somehow, The Husband and I got lost on the way to the Start Line Shuttles (after 3 years of doing this, you'd think we'd have it down to a science)!  We arrived at the Start a full ten minutes after the gun went off!  Talk about embarrassing!  We had two choices: Start running and laugh at our own idiocy or Quit and go home.  We chose to start running.  It's probably the only time you'll ever see us running a race together (he's a much better runner than I'll ever be).  We didn't give a damn about the time. We ran for fun.  (Finishing Time: 2:25:01 avg. pace: 11:04)

This year, I've got big goals.  You see, this year's Fox Cities Half Marathon will be my 10th half marathon and I want to make it a really good one.  At best, I'd love to finish right around the two hour mark.  At worst, I want to take down my PR.  It's stood for 2 years and it's time for it to go down in flames!  For that to happen, I need to run a 2:21:48 or faster.  I think it's very possible (especially with residual marathon fitness).

However, in order to achieve either of those goals, I've got to train and train hard.  Unlike marathon training, which lasts 18 weeks, my half plan is only 12 weeks long (look for all the details in a future post).  Another difference between the previous training cycle and this one: The Weather.  It's been getting quite warm and humid here (my least favorite conditions), so that's going to probably be my biggest struggle.  I guess we'll find out!

Last night was the last yoga class of the session and it was kind of a bittersweet class for me. Not only was it the last class of this session, but it was my last beginner class!  As of mid-July (when the next session starts), I'll be moving up to a more advanced class.  I'm really looking forward to growing in my yoga practice and challenging my mind and my body to do more.  To celebrate, my yoga buddy, R, and I headed out to a cute little local bar to celebrate - she's moving up a level as well.  I enjoyed a New Glarus Spotted Cow and a pile of spicy sweet potato fries and didn't get home until after 10pm which made my 5:30am alarm come way too fast!

This morning I rolled out of bed to run the first 3 miler of this training cycle.  When I headed out, it was a cool and breezy 63 degrees, which I loved.  The run felt good...really good.

Distance: 3.10 miles
Time: 29:50
Avg. Pace: 9:36

My training plan also called for a strength workout today.  By the time I was done with my work day, the last thing in the world I wanted to do was go to the gym, so I didn't!  I settled for a short yoga practice at home and mixed in a lot of core-strength elements.  I kind of love having the option to do something besides lift weights!

The last two days have been full of really good progress toward my goal.  Let's hope I can keep my motivation up for 11 1/2 more weeks!

What motivates you?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Weekly Recap

It's been a slow and lazy week in Rabbits & Runs land.  I ran a total of 7.94 miles due to a combination of torrential downpours (the water in my driveway was over my ankles) and pure laziness.  On a positive note, I finally made it out of bed early enough to run before work one day!  Could this be a turning point?

Run Statistics:

Total Distance: 4.71 miles
Time: 46:32
Avg. Pace: 9:53

Thursday: (aka The Day I Finally Ran Before Work)
Total Distance: 3.24 miles
Time: 31:26
Avg. Pace: 9:56

The rest of the weekend was spent digging around in the garden (photos coming soon) and hanging at my mom's house using her dryer and clothesline since my dryer committed suicide on Friday afternoon!  It may not have been a good weekend in terms of working out, but I was insanely productive, which is good.  My next training cycle starts tomorrow!  Stay tuned for details!

Monday, June 20, 2011

It's Like Riding A Bike

No, really.  I did something this weekend that I haven't done in a long time.  I rode a bike.  Actually, I rode 3 bikes. My dad, the 50-something biker dude somehow got roped into doing a century (100 miles) bike ride for charity and in order to train for this thing, he needed a bike!  So, Saturday morning we went bike shopping.  The sales guy at the local bike shop was extremely helpful and even hunted up a couple bikes for me to try out as I tagged along on Dad's test rides.  Within 3 hours, Dad had a new bike and was on his way home and I was left with a serious want of a new bike.  I realized that if my current bike was a human being, it would be able to vote! If you're interested, here are the two bikes I'm trying to decide between:
2011 Specialized Sirrus

2011 Specialized Vita
What's the difference, besides color?  From what I can tell, one (Sirrus) is marketed to men and the other (Vita) is marketed to women.  I'm planning on stopping back at the bike shop this coming Saturday and asking if there's any difference.  If there isn't, I'm picking whichever one comes in the most likeable color!

After my bike shopping endeavor, I came home, threw on some running gear and headed out the door for a quick and really hot 3 miles.  I would have liked to wait until it cooled down in the evening, but that was not in the cards.  We had a party to get to and there was no way I was going to be willing to run after a couple of drinks!

Distance: 3.0 miles
Time: 29:46
Avg. Pace: 9:54

Sunday was Father's Day and I knew right off that my plans for a long run were getting put on hold.  Per Dad's request, I wrestled my old beast of a bike into the car and headed for his place.  We ended up going on 3 rides that day! 

The first one was a 2.81 mile jaunt around his neighborhood.  My stepmother joined us for that one. I knew she wasn't in good shape, but that was just kind of painful to watch.  The 2.81 miles took 21:55 (Avg. Speed: 7.7mph).  And that was the moving time according to my Garmin.  The total elapsed time was 29:23. I could have run the distance faster!

Ride #2 came after dinner.  My 17 year old half-sister borrowed the stepmother's bike and the three of us set off (my half-brother was riding his motorcycle and kept looping back to check our progress).  If I thought the first ride of the day was slow, Ride #2 was even worse.  Little Brother and I spent a lot of time in parking lots waiting for the sister (who was being shadowed by dad for her own safety).  Total distance: 3.26 miles.  Time: 26:23 (Avg. Speed: 7.4mph).  Total elapsed time (this includes all the time wasted waiting in parking lots, etc.) 43:39!  It's sad when a 17 year old can't ride a bike much faster than average human walking speed. 

Ice cream was consumed and Little Brother was dispatched back to the house to get the car and pick up Little Sister and the bike.  Dad and I had to ride home and knew we'd sort of have to haul ass in order to make it home before dark since neither of us possesses night riding gear.  Ride #3 was infinitely better.  Total Distance: 3.31 miles.  Time: 14:50 (Avg. Speed: 13.4 mph). Total Elapsed Time: 15:58 (stupid stoplights).

Obviously, Ride #3 was actually worth the effort.  I definitely haven't forgotten how to ride and I'm looking forward to getting a new bike and improving my performance!

Tonight was Yoga Night.  Pretty standard, but definitely work!  Lots of strength moves involved.  It felt good.  Real good.

And on that high note, I'm headed to bed.  I've got a full day tomorrow and I need some sleep!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Inner Spirit & Aching Legs

Monday night's yoga theme was "Your Inner Spirit".  I know that my instructor spent a lot of time reminding us to focus on our breathing and be present in the moment.  Me? I was a little apprehensive.  This week always involves an attempt at doing the splits.  I can do a lot of crazy poses, but for some reason the splits always elude me.  Even when I was a flexible kid in gymnastics, I could never do them.  Now they're even more elusive since my hip flexors and legs are a lot tighter as a result of being a distance runner.  I was still determined to try and I actually surprised myself.  I was probably about six to eight inches off the ground on my right side (right leg back).  That's closer than I've ever been.  Maybe I'll get there someday.  (We won't discuss the left side...it just hurt right away and I gave up rather than taking a chance on injuring myself.)

Tuesday I was scheduled for an easy 3 miler before meeting a friend for dinner.  That run did not go anywhere close to what I planned.  I haven't downloaded the data from my Garmin yet, so I can't give you an accurate breakdown right now, but yeah...that was interesting.

I got started late, so right away I knew that I wasn't getting the full 3 in and making it to dinner on time, so I cut it down to just over 2 miles.  My legs have felt like two lead bars since Saturday's trail run, but being in a hurry dictated a rather fast pace, but since it was a shorter run, the speed wasn't so bad.  I had just turned into my driveway, with thoughts of a cool shower dancing in my head, when I was stopped by a cop!  You read that right.  He asked if I'd seen a girl running.  I must have given him a funny look because he asked again if I'd seen a blond female in her early to mid thirties running.  I said that other than myself (for the record: I'm 31 and have blond highlights), I hadn't.  Then he asked me if I'd just robbed a gas station!  Seriously??!?!  I said that I definitely hadn't and he finally went away!  I dove into the shower and headed off to meet my friend for dinner.  The Good: I got to catch up with my friend, the weather was fabulous so we were able to sit outside, and I was only 15 minutes late after my brush with the Five-O!  The Not So Good: My margarita was pure tequila and didn't taste very good, I stayed out too late and was a total zombie today (I can live with that), and my dinner did not sit well and I felt kinda icky all day.  Oh well, the good definitely outweighed the bad!

Rain, aching legs and a sour tummy dictated that today was a rest day.  The Husband and I hit the market for bunny greens (dandelion greens, italian parsley and baby carrots) and while we were there, we picked up a lemon rosemary rotisserie chicken for dinner.  We paired that with fresh italian bread, mozzarella, tomato and fresh basil from the garden.  Yum!  Dinner was consumed in front of the tv while watching this week's episode of Deadliest Catch and was followed by a Vosges Haut-Chocolat Red Fire bar for dessert.  It's been a really relaxing night.

What are your favorite things to do on a night in?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Run With Me

"If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always gotten."  -Anthony Robbins

Today was a "step back" week in the husband's training plan and since I've been a little under the weather of late, I decided to back off the mileage on my weekly long run as well, so we decided to hit the trails.  On the way out the door, I impulsively grabbed my camera thinking it would be fun to snap a few pictures along the way. As I headed out on the trail, the idea for this post began to take shape, so in the interest of doing something a little different today, I'm inviting you to go for a (virtual) run with me.  So, lace up your virtual running shoes, grab a bottle of water and let's get moving!

Standing at the Trail Head

As we set off, it's about 56 degrees, there's a light breeze and the sky is overcast.  When it comes to running, in my opinion, the weather doesn't get much better than this.  Today, we'll be running the 5 mile "Green Loop".

Almost immediately we're on a relatively flat trail, surrounded by an avenue of towering trees, and the husband has moved out in front of us.  (This is the last we'll see of him for 5 miles.)

About a half mile in, the trail turns and we start climbing our first real hill of the day.

It looks insanely steep (and it kind of is), but just take your time, breathe and you'll make it to the top.  Did I mention that it's pretty much a series of rolling hills just like this until we get to Mile 2?  Trust me, it's not that bad.

Oops!  Look out for random tree limbs!

Woo hoo!  We've made it 1 mile!  I kind of want to stop and rest on that bench too, but let's keep going  We've got a bunch of hills to tackle.

As we make our way to Mile 2 (and the end of the constant rolling hills, the forest on either side of us is really dense and the landscape drops off steeply on either side of the trail.

Yay!  Mile 2!

Around Mile 2.5 we come upon the Pinewoods Campground.  It's a little strange to be running this close to people's campsites.  I know that I wouldn't be a fan of being this exposed to a trail at a campsite, but seeing the tents and smelling the campfires is reminding me that I need to plan a camping trip soon.  What about you?  Do you like to camp?  By now, the smell of whatever they're cooking has whafted over the trail and it smells good.  I'm getting hungry, so we should probably push on.

Soon enough, all the sounds and smells from the campground are gone and we're running down a relatively flat expanse of trail, once again surrounded by towering trees.  I think this may be one of my favorite sections of this trail, both in terms of beauty and terrain!  I like flat ground...a lot, so let's pick up the pace a little.

We come upon this marker.

We could turn left and cut this run down to 4 miles or we can turn right and make it the full 5.  By now, I'm feeling warmed up, tight muscles have loosened and my body is fully engaged in this run,  (hopefully yours is too), so I think we need to take a right.

Before you know it, we're at Mile 3 and we've been getting progressively faster!

Even if you're in the mood to sit down and rest, I don't think you want to rest here:

Around Mile 3.5, we have the option of running the Observation Loop (and tacking on another 1/2 mile).

I think we should save that for another day.  There's only a mile and a half to go.  Have you noticed that there's a serious lack of wildlife out here today?  I haven't seen so much as a chipmunk or a squirrel.  Odd.

We climb another steep hill and just as we top out, we're greeted by this giant pile of pooch:

Holy crap, that dog is big!  I crouched down to take this picture (after getting permission from his owner), but when he was standing right in front of me, his head was as high as my chest!  Fortunately, according to his owner, he's really just a 200+ pound slobbering teddy bear.  I can definitely attest to the slobbery part as he was all about getting his ears scratched by a sweaty runner while slobbering all over the front of my jacket!

Okay, break time's over.  Back to running.

 You already know we're going with the green!

Looks pretty benign, right?
Or not.

It's just looks muddy, I promise.  We're at 4 Miles (and of course I forgot to take a picture of my Garmin)!

One mile to go and we're confronted by this sign:

I've only run this trail once before, but if I remember correctly, we're in for some short, steep, uphills followed by plunging, rocky downhills.

WTF?  Where'd that come from?

We climb over the first part and squeeze under the second. Time to really pick up the pace.  The first uphill is a tough one, but the momentum from the descent pushes us up the next hill with ease.  The pace has really ramped up. Everything's a beautiful blur.  Tired doesn't even enter into the equation anymore. We're practically flying!

  One more sharp turn and this is in front of us:

The trail is flat again and as soon as we take that little curve up ahead, we're back to the trail head.  We're done!

Distance: 5.0 miles
Time: 53:45
Avg. Pace: 10:44
Splits (time per mile):
  • Mile 1: 11:12
  • Mile 2: 11:51
  • Mile 3: 10:17
  • Mile 4: 10:41
  • Mile 5: 9:40
Thanks for (virtually) running with me today, it was fun!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

I'm Baaaack!

Tuesday and Wednesday did not provide good running weather.  It was well over 90 degrees even long after the sun went down and I am not built for heat, thus I stayed in the air conditioning.  A nasty storm last night ushered in a beautiful cool front so after work, it was time to run.  After my lack luster performance over the weekend I was worried as I set off.  I don't know what I was so worried about.  True to form, I went out too fast, but it just felt so good!  My first mile was a blazing 9:16.  I knew that I couldn't maintain that kind of pace, especially as my route heads solidly uphill after about 1.5 miles.  I could live with that.  I may have had to pause a few times - still coughing up weasels - but I almost felt normal!

Distance: 3.0 miles
Time: 29:34
Avg. Pace: 9:51

Now it's time for me to park it on the couch, pet some bunnies, and watch this week's episode of Deadliest Catch (the only tv show I watch on a regular basis).

Are you a tv watcher?  If so, what's your favorite show?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Chakras and Spotted Cows

Today was an interesting day.  I woke up feeling like death warmed over, so I called in sick to work and spent the majority of they day laying on the couch (and being greatly amused by two rabbits hanging out in the bathroom - I think they like the cool tile floor and the chill from the porcelain god) and resting. 

By the time 7:00pm rolled around I felt decent, so I decided to head for my yoga class.  I'm glad I did.  At the moment, the Dairy State is being gripped by 90+ degree temperatures which made the studio feel more like a hot yoga class than a normal class, but it was fun anyway.  Tonight's theme was the 7 Chakras.  Now, you're probably asking, "What the hell is a chakra?"  I'll tell you. The 7 chakras are energy sources within the body and each chakra is stimulated or opened by different yoga poses.

I'm not entirely sure I buy into the whole chakra thing, but it was interesting try to visualize and channel energy through each of them during class.

After class, my yoga buddy and I hit up a local establishment for a couple of drinks (New Glarus Spotted Cow in my case) and a snack.  It was interesting to hear someone who works in the same field I do talk about how much she doesn't want to do it anymore. It's nice to know I'm not the only one who dreams of kicking the desk job to the curb some day!  Her dream is to open up a bakery. Mine...well, I'm still working on the dream, but at the moment I think it has to do with the whole mind/body fitness thing (i.e. a yoga studio) and my developing love affair with the great outdoors.  I know the old saying goes, "Do what you love and you'll probably starve," but hey...Bill Gates did what he loves and look how it worked out for him!

Do you love what you do, or do you dream of doing something else?  If so, what do you dream of doing?

Sunday, June 5, 2011


This weekend's runs did not go well.  Between the rising mercury and this seemingly endless cold, I was dragging ass all weekend.

Saturday started out well enough.  The husband and I made a trip to Home Depot and set about the task of re-seeding a 1/4 of our front lawn.  After that, we barbecued and laid around (I may or may not have taken a 3+ hour nap) and finally decided to get the day's 3 miles out of the way.  The conditions were good.  In fact, it was cool-ish and breezy and I pretty much had the roads to myself.   Unfortunately, I kept coughing and couldn't catch my breath which resulted in a slow run.  I could have lived with that, but at one red light, I stopped my Garmin and forgot to restart it.  Ugh.  By the time I realized that I was still running and that time wasn't, I'd already gone a 1/4 mile.  That meant tacking on more distance and I still didn't quite manage 3 miles.

Distance: 2.98 miles
Time: 31:33
Avg. Pace: 10:36 (eew!)

Today, I woke up, ate something and headed out for my long run of the week.  I intended on doing 7 miles, head cold be damned.  I learned a couple of valuable lessons today. 

  1. If I'm going to run in summer, I need to get up earlier and out the door earlier.  Heat is not my friend.
  2. When it's hot out, I need to wear my fuel belt.  There were only two drinking fountains on my route and that wasn't nearly enough.
  3. Running while sick means painfully slow runs.
I felt pretty good for the first 1/2 mile and then it all went to crap.  I was coughing up a storm to the point that I had to constantly stop and catch my breath.  My calves hated me for doing 3 miles late last night and then demanding any more effort in less than 12 hours.  Somewhere in there, I lost my drive to do well...and the Garmin stats showed.

Distance: 6.86 miles (I didn't care enough to keep going to make the full 7)
Time: 1:19:23
Avg. Pace: 11:34 (gag me)

Simply put, next week has to be better.  I need to get better.  I need to run better.  I need to be better about strength training.  So, I'm hereby declaring next week "Try Harder" week. Let's see how it goes!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Current Score

The current score is:  Annoying Summer Cold: 2, Mary: 0.

I took yesterday off of running in hopes that a night of couch-laying and Paranormal State reruns would help me get rid of this cold.  I woke up this morning with big plans of grocery shopping and an easy 3 miles after work.  Not so much.  By the time I got home from Whole Paycheck Foods, made dinner (yay for spicy food that I could actually taste!), and let said spicy dinner digest I was out of energy.  Looks like another night of couch-laying and Paranormal State reruns for me.  Oh well, at least the bunnies seem happy that they get more play time tonight!


On the agenda for tomorrow is the 3 miles I've been trying to do for the last two days, a trip to the gym to start my new strength training program, and more yard work. 

I'm actually kind of excited to start the new strength program.  Normally I whine and find lots of excuses to avoid going to the gym to lift weights.  I have nothing against weight lifting (meaning that I'm not terrified of developing man muscles or anything), but I just find it incredibly boring.  I'm hoping that my new plan will change that.  Tomorrow I'm going to try Iron Yoga.  It pretty much looks like yoga (which I love) mixed with weights (which I have a love/hate relationship with).  I'll let you know how it goes!

What do you prefer: gym workouts or outdoor workouts?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

National Running Day

I think there truly is a holiday for everything!  In the spirit of the day, I went for a run!

Distance: 4.01
Time: 39:44
Avg. Pace: 9:54 (*still hacking up weasels-yuck!*)

In other news, I officially registered for The Full Moon Half Marathon last night.  I did this race for the first time last year and although it was my second worst half marathon time ever, I really wanted another shot at.  Last year, I went to the starting line feeling queasy, went out too damn fast, got sick at Mile 6, and developed a really painful blister on my left arch around Mile 8.  Quite frankly, I want REVENGE on this course!  It's a rather hilly race and it's at night...which adds to the challenge.  As badly as things went last year, I remember thinking it was pretty cool to be running all alone by the light of a glo-stick.  Not to mention, it benefits an animal sanctuary, so it's for a cause that's very near and dear to my heart.  One of these days I'll have to share the story of how I came to be a rabbit lover with a running problem instead of just another girl who likes to run!