Thursday, May 31, 2012

May Wrap Up

How is tomorrow June 1st already?  I mean, wasn't it just May 1st last week? No?  Oh well.  

Looking back at my Garmin data for the month I definitely started with a bang and ended with something slightly louder than a whimper, but all in all, it was a solid month of training.  Back at the end of April I had set up 3 goals for May, and I've succeeded at two of them - and barely missed on the 3rd.

My first goal was to beat my April mileage total of 97.27 total miles(between running, cycling and hiking).  I really wanted to see if I could put 100 miles on my legs this month and it turns out...I could. My May mileage total was 101.50!

I decided to subdivide that 100 miles into 2 sub-goals: 50 miles of running and 50 miles on the bike.  The Madison half put me over the top of the 50 mile goal, and I tacked on another (fast for me) mile during my mini-brick workout last night, bringing my total running mileage for May to 56.26 miles.  I didn't quite make my 50 mile cycling goal.  I could have done it if I would have either A) not cut last night's ride short because I was freezing or B) dragged my sorry butt onto the trainer tonight instead of going out for a few drinks.  I'll live with 45.24 miles instead.

I'm feeling pretty much recovered from my adventures in Madison last weekend, so I'm ready to face the next challenges on my racing calendar.  Next Sunday is the South Shore Rock 'n Ride Duathlon.  This will be my first real attempt at a multisport event and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little freaked out by the whole thing.  I've never done this before, so I'm going in completely clueless how it works. How do you rack a bike? What if I blow a tube? What if I accidentally find myself drafting off another cyclist and get penalized?  What if I hit a massive pothole and am launched over my handlebars?  I'm sure I'll figure it out. I gotta learn somewhere...right?

What I can't get over is the run course.  I was talking to Walter & Spot's veterinarian of all people (turns out she'll be racing that day too) and she warned me that the run course is a tough one.

See that cute little red arrow I added? Yeah...that's apparently a run up a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan - on the second mile of both run legs.  If you've been reading here for any length of time, you know how I feel about hills!  This is definitely going to be interesting - and possibly a bit painful.  Here's hoping my downhill splits make up for my uphill splits!

If the Duathlon on Sunday and the required packet pick up on Saturday weren't enough, my little sister is graduating from high school on Saturday afternoon and her party is on Sunday afternoon.  I'm really hoping that I don't have to go to the ceremony with body-marking sticking out of my dress and that I can stay awake for her party!  I'm pretty sure she'll kill me if I embarrass her with body-marking or by falling asleep!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Madison Half Marathon Recap

I knew that today's half marathon was going to be tough, but I think I underestimated just how tough it would be.  When we left for the starting line it wasn't too awful out, which was surprising.  It was in the mid to upper 60's and there was a light breeze.  We found on-street parking (a small miracle in that town) only a few blocks from Capitol Square. The starting area was jammed with runners.  When the gun went off, it took several minutes to get to the starting line and there was a lot of weaving around runners and avoiding getting stepped on once I crossed the chip mat.

Mile 1 was all downhill, so I tried to play it conservative, but found myself running just off the shoulder of the 2:10 pace leader.  Mile 1 time was 9:39 - much faster than the 9:55 pace that would lead to a 2:10 finish. I knew there was no way I could run that kind of pace today - not given the temperature (which was rising) and the humidity. I backed off the pace as we approached the first water station.  Talk about a disaster! People mobbed the first table and were pushing and shoving trying to get to the water. The volunteers were trying, but they couldn't keep up with the demand. I stopped at the second table and it was a little less crowded and there were a few less elbows being thrown.  Mile 2 was a more reasonable 10:03, and I was quite amused by the spectators that were handing out beer and bacon to the runners (I didn't indulge in either) as they passed by! I was still feeling pretty good at this point. The course was winding its way through a residential neighborhood with lots of trees providing shade so I picked up the pace again and finished Mile 3 in 9:40.  That was my last really good mile.  We turned onto an unshaded stretch of road and the heat and the rolling hills started to become a major factor.  I was getting really hot and starting to feel a little dizzy. As a result, my pace shot through the roof. The next 6 miles went by at paces between 10:10-11:06. One of the highlights of that stretch was running past the governor's mansion. It looked nice, and I couldn't help thinking that it would be nice to take a swim in the fountain out front!


 There was a particularly unpleasant stretch of road before the Mile 9 marker. We passed through a tunnel under the Monona Terrace Convention Center and while it was nice to get out of the sun, the air was so stagnate in there that it was hard to breathe.  I've never been so happy to get out of the shade!

Miles 10-12.5 were an exercise in misery. It was a long, hot, unshaded out and back stretch with only one water stop. On top of that, the first half of that out and back was all uphill.  On a positive note, the water station at Mile 11 was also handing out cups of ice.  I can't tell you how good that felt. I dropped a few cubes into my water cup and had my first cold drink in almost 2 hours.  I shoved half the remaining ice under my hat and the rest went down my bra!  It helped a lot!  Once I hit the turnaround point, I started feeling a little better since I was being cooled by ice and running downhill, and managed to get my pace back down to the 10:20's.

The water station at Mile 12.5 was by far my favorite.  The Madison Fire Department had a hose raining cold water down on us (even from a distance those things pack quite the punch) and the volunteers were again handing out cups of ice.  More ice under the hat and down the bra, Jay-Z & Linkin' Park blasting on my iPod, and one more up hill and it was time to make the final turn back to Capitol Square. And there it was...the nastiest uphill I've ever seen so late in a race.  I ran up as far as I could and then power-walked to the top where it flattened out. The spectators were amazing as I entered the final .1 mile stretch. They were screaming and cheering as though their lives depended on it!  I dug down deep and poured myself into that last 1/10 of a mile, completing it in 28 seconds (6:03 pace!).

Both sides of the street were jammed 2-3 people deep with screaming spectators.
I finished in 2:18:55 (10:36/mile avg.). It wasn't my fastest 1/2 finish by a long shot, but it wasn't my slowest either.  All things considered, I'm not too disappointed by the time.  I met all four of the big goals I had set for myself going into this race once I knew that the conditions were going to be so tough. 

Goal #1: Finish the Race - Check
Goal #2: Finish the Race without needing medical attention - Check
Goal #3: Finish with a time better than my PW (personal worst) - Check
Goal #4: Beat my previous Madison 1/2 time (set in 2009) - Check (by 5 minutes)

I made my way through the finishing chute, collecting my medal, gatorade, water, a tiny turkey and cheese sub, and bag of chips. Then it was time to try to find The Husband.  We had designated a meeting spot, but in my post-running haze, I didn't realize that said meeting spot was actually behind me! I ended up doing a complete loop of Capitol Square (made extra confusing by the fact that each side of the square is a mirror image) before locating The Husband (who finished in 2:10)!  We were both exhausted and agreed that the whole race could be summed up in three words: That. Was. Rough. But, we did it. And that's what really matters.


Saturday, May 26, 2012

The 3 C's: Car Ride, Capitol and Cupcakes!

I only live about 90 minutes from Madison, but for some reason, I never come out here.  Maybe it's because the city is usually crawling with intoxicated college kids on the weekends. Maybe it's because I didn't go to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, so I have no real ties to the city. Maybe I'm just an idiot!

The day began with the usual routine of getting the house ready for the bunny-sitter (known to Walter and Spot as Grandma Naner), triple checking that neither of us forgot to pack anything important, and rubbing two pair of furry ears for good luck before we embarked on the short drive to the state captiol.  It was a beautiful, sunny day, so we drove with the windows down and the radio cranked.  (Confession: I have an embarrassing collection of miscellaneous mix cd's in my car).

After checking into our hotel, we drove over to the race expo, which was held at the Monona Terrace Convention Center.

The expo was a little...lackluster. We picked up our race numbers, shirts, and swag bags (which were pitiful - 2 packets of Udder Cream, 1 packet athlete's foot powder, 1 packet creamy peanut butter) and were about to leave when something unusual happened.  We were directed to meet with the medical crew for a pre-race weigh in!  I'm no race newbie and I can say that I've never heard of this practice outside of Ultra-Marathons such Badwater and Western States.  Whatever. I rolled my eyes, stepped on the scale, and got away from them as quickly as possible.  I seriously don't think I'll lose a dangerous percentage of my body weight tomorrow, so I really don't see the point.

Holy crap...a race shirt that actually fits!

After a quick map check, we realized we were only about 2 blocks from the Capitol building.

As we approached, we saw something a little unusual.

Yes, that is a bride, a groom, a man in a gorilla suit, and another man in a banana costume! Only in Wisconsin.

After that spectacle, we continued a few more blocks onto State Street - a famous institution in this city.  It extends from the West side of Capitol Square for about 5 blocks where it meets the University of Wisconsin campus.  The street is closed to vehicular traffic, although bicycles are very popular, and is loaded with shops, restaurants, and of course, bars.  State Street is always a little nuts, and Halloween on State Street is legendary and insane!

As we made our way to the University end of State Street, we noticed a small street festival - and the Recall Walker groups were out in force (sidenote: Wisconsin is holding a special election on June 5th to attempt to throw the governor out of office.  It's a pretty hot issue here right now.)!

We did a little more wandering/people-watching before settling on a Turkish place called Husnu's for dinner since neither of us was terribly concerned about what our pre-race meal was since we'll both be taking it easy tomorrow.  We started off with homemade bread with Turkish olive oil for dipping.  The Husband had the lamb curry, while I had the 'almost vegetarian' combination plate - the dolmathes had ground lamb in them.

After dinner we stopped in at Madison Sweets for dessert!  The Husband had a Chocolate Cappuccino cupcake (chocolate cake filled with cappuccino cream, topped with cappuccino frosting and a chocolate covered espresso bean). I went for two mini-cupcakes: the key lime and the D'oh (chocolate cake with a cookie dough nugget baked in the middle, topped with chocolate frosting). Yum!

Now, my race gear is laid out and I'm in relaxation mode from now until bed time!  I can already tell that the alarm is going to come too early!

Friday, May 25, 2012

It's Gonna Be A Hot One In MadTown

In my last post I complained about running in the heat. Well, I should have kept my big mouth shut, because the heat we've been experiencing on and off for the last two weeks is nothing compared to what I'll be facing at the Madison Half Marathon this weekend.

Oh yes, the mercury in Madison is supposed to soar to 96 degrees on Sunday.  Fortunately, it's only supposed to be about 70 degrees when the gun goes off, but the predicted humidity at that time is supposed to be about 84% - in essence, it'll be like running in a steam room as the temperature rises during the course of the race.  I have officially thrown all pace goals out the window and am strictly focused on staying hydrated and finishing the race safely. I have less than no desire to visit the medical tent!

The forecast has already caused the race organizers to cancel the full marathon because it's too dangerous to have runners on the course for up to 6 hours in that heat.  While I believe that the race organizers made the right call (especially in light of what happened at the Green Bay Marathon last weekend - medical tents were overwhelmed and the race had to be cancelled 2 hours and 49 minutes after the gun went off), I can't help but feel a little sorry for the 1,700 people who were registered for the full marathon.  Yes, they've been offered the opportunity to run the half marathon and they're all being offered $20 off the price of next year's race, but that doesn't make up for the disappointment of not being able to do the race they've trained for.  Ultimately, safety has to come first, but I can only imagine what some of those runners are feeling right now - especially those runners who were preparing to run their very first marathon. My heart breaks a little for them.

On to the details.  The course has changed since the last time I ran the Madison race (2008 & 2009). It begins and ends in the shadow of the state capitol.

The elevation profile doesn't look too bad, except for a pretty big uphill around Mile 9 and the nasty looking hill between Mile 12 and the finish line - I guess we'll see!

As I write this, my race clothes are in the wash, my GU's & Clif Bar are laid out on the counter, and my iPod and Garmin are charging.  I'm as ready as I'm going to be.  See you in Madison!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

So...It's Been A While

I was originally going to post about Date Night (Part 2), but there's really very little to say about it.  It did NOT go well. No matter what we did, our pace didn't match our efforts (running a 10:20 mile while putting forth 9:30 effort), the whole thing was riddled with horrible GI discomfort, we cut our planned 10 miles down to 9, and eventually the I had something of a nervous breakdown.  I seriously wanted to cry from pain and frustration for the last 3-4 miles.  On a positive note, Coach Husband refused to leave my side - even when I begged him to so I could fall apart alone.

Last week was a damn disaster in the running department.  The weather sucked. It was hot. It poured down rain. Nothing went well.  We managed to sneak in one little run in between rainstorms last Tuesday night.  Since we knew we didn't have long between one storm ending and another beginning, we settled on a series of intervals (15x30 seconds w/ 1 minute rests).  It was a good workout, but it. was. brutal.  Starting out, it felt like 'Hey, this is easy. I could do this all night!'. By about the 6th interval, I was pouring sweat, gasping for air, and digging way down deep to make my legs keep going.  I resorted to repeating the mantra: It's only 30 lousy seconds' in my head over and over.  I'm pleased to say that all the interval paces looked good - between 5:56 and 7:19.

I had grand plans of running Friday night after work, but that got pushed aside for a much needed night out with The Husband. We realized we hadn't gone on a 'real' date in...too long and decided to rectify that situation. It was fun getting dressed up and going out downtown - as evidenced by my Twitter feed!

We started off at Balzac - a wine bar with some of the tastiest upscale bar food I've ever eaten.  We shared a 1/2 bottle of wine and two items from the Small Plates menu: crab cakes and duck nachos.  The crab cakes were good. The duck nachos were out of this world delicious! The nachos consisted of tortilla chips topped with roasted duck, bacon, gruyere cheese, scallion creme fraiche and pico de gallo.  I usually don't eat duck - or bacon - but once we saw them being delivered to another table, we had to try them, and I'm really happy that we did!


After dinner, we moved on to Indulge for dessert. We'd never been there before, and were pleasantly surprised when we walked in.  It was gorgeous inside!
We chose the  Made For Eachother Truffle/Wine flight. 5 truffles were paired with a 5 wine tasting - perfect for sharing.  My favorite pairing was a merlot/fleur de sel combo. The Husband's favorite was the blueberry truffle paired with a zinfandel.  We agreed that our least favorite truffle was the bananas foster.

The rest of the weekend was filled with yard work (there is now a granite rock border around one of the trees in the front yard and flowers in one of the flower beds) and other domestic chores.

This week...well...we'll see.  The Madison Half Marathon is this weekend and the temperatures are expected to top out near 90 degrees again.  If it gets that hot, I'm not even bothering to put a pace prediction out there, because at that point, it's all about finishing without passing out.  There's also a very real chance that the race will be stopped at some point due to heat - much like what happened at the Green Bay Marathon this past weekend. 

I squeezed in 5 miles yesterday and I'm hoping to cram in a 4 miler and a 3 miler before the weekend, but again...we'll see. Life always seems to happen when I'm busy making other plans!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Date Night (Part 1)

I can't think of a more cliche date night than dinner and a movie. So in order to avoid being a total cliche - and save a few bucks - I proudly present: Date Night - Rabbits and Runs Style!

Our date night began in the kitchen.  While homemade pasta sauce is delicious, it's also time consuming, so I did what I always do: modify a store bought sauce!  (I'm sure there's an Italian grandmother screaming somewhere.)

Cheater Cooking At Its Finest
While the pasta water was coming up to a boil, I chopped up about 1/4 of an onion and tossed it into a saute pan with about a tablespoon of olive oil until they began to sweat, dumped in a package of pre-sliced baby portabella mushrooms, and added some assorted seasonings (garlic, salt, pepper, and some dried thyme that was lurking in my cabinet) and let the mushrooms cook down a bit.

Happy 'Shrooms

Once everything was looking happy, I poured in a jar of pasta sauce, stirred everything up, and let it heat through - along with a few shakes of one of my favorite pasta seasonings.


Too Bad This Isn't A Scratch 'n Sniff!

In under 30 minutes we were sitting down to eat. (As a bonus, the price tag on dinner was about $3/plate instead of $15/plate at a restaurant!)

The Lighting In My Kitchen Leaves Much To Be Desired
A glass of wine would have been a nice touch, but I stuck with a big old glass of ice water since Part 2 of date night is a long run, so the need for adequate hydration supersedes my desire for a pinot grigio buzz.

Oh, The Irony

I'm really looking forward to Part 2 of date night.  I've always liked running at night.  There's something kind of magical about running when the rest of the world is sleeping (or out partying) - and it's even better when you get to share it with someone else!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Paging Dr. Google

Okay, okay, I already know that Dr. Google is not a good substitute for an actual M.D., but I also live in a world where my health insurance (which I'm grateful to have) makes running to the doctor for every ache, pain, and twinge cost prohibitive.  And most docs, aside from those who specialize in sports medicine, will tell you "if it hurts, just don't run." rather than trying to actually find out what's causing the problem and treating it.  Um, telling me not to run, unless I'm truly injured, is like telling a fish not to swim. But...let's rewind a bit.

Coach Husband and I set out to run 7 miles tonight.  The first two miles were good. Actually they were better than good (9:38 and 9:26 respectively).  By Mile 3, I was starting to experience a nifty, stabbing feeling just inside my ribcage on my right side. WARNING: GRAPHIC DESCRIPTION AHEAD: Actually, it felt like someone was shoving a blunt metal object into my gut and twisting it.  It hurt like a beast.  Originally, I attributed it the big increase in my activity level over the last week and a half, figuring that my abdominal muscles were just a little twinge-y.  As we progressed through Miles 3 and 4, the stabby twisty feeling got progressively worse and, as the my pace got slower and slower, it occurred to me that it was sort of like a side stitch, but not quite in the usual side location, since it would go away if I walked or stopped moving altogether. I tried to ignore it/run through it, but by Miles 5 and 6, I couldn't ignore it anymore.  Those miles just plain sucked.  I couldn't catch my breathe. I alternated between wanting to cry or scream because I was so frustrated.  My head was in the game, but my body wasn't cooperating.  This is new. Usually my mind wants to quit long before my body runs out of gas.  On top of that, I felt like crap because Coach Husband was feeling just fine and I felt like a total failure and like I was holding him back.  To his credit, he was incredibly kind about the whole thing.  During my frequent walking/gasping/whining breaks, we tried to figure out what the hell was causing this. By the start of Mile 7, I still felt pretty crummy, but not as bad, so I was able to do what Coach Husband wanted: run the last mile in less than 10 minutes (9:58).

After dinner, I turned to Dr. Google.  And, as it turns out, I'm not the first runner to experience this problem.

From what I gathered, my stabby, twisty pain is a type of side stitch - caused by the stretching of the ligaments that extend from the diaphragm to the internal organs - particularly the liver.  And apparently exhaling as your right foot hits the ground can cause even more stress on those ligaments and the liver, which is located on the right side of the body.  (source)  Guess which foot I was exhaling on? Yep, my right.  I certainly don't have this problem every time I run, but I'm willing to try anything to try to prevent it from happening again!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

May In Motion

We're only 8 days into May and I'm already well on my way to kicking the crap out of my April statistics.  To say I'm happy would be a gigantic understatement.  It all started last Tuesday (May 1) when The Husband (who should probably be referred to as Coach since when I run with him, I get pushed beyond every perceived limit I have) and I went for a 7 mile run.  It ended up being one of the best runs I've had in a very long time.  The mile splits were very even, except for Mile 4 which was a bit faster due to a couple of kids on Razr scooters nipping at our heels, and even that wasn't too bad.

Wednesday involved an outdoor bike ride which was cut short by an unholy number of bugs on the route.  I would have liked to ride longer, but I'll take what I can get.

On Thursday night, Coach Husband and I headed out to do a hill repeat workout. Yes, that's exactly what it sounds like: Run up long, nasty hill as fast as you can. Jog/Walk down.  Rinse. Repeat.  Naturally, my Garmin died about a mile into the run, so the only data I have, I "borrowed" from Coach Husband.  The overall average was kind of pathetic, but after a fairly fast warm-up and sprinting up hills, I did a lot of walking on the way home.  I swear that by fall, I'll be doing hill repeats and running home at a decent pace.

Friday night was a whole 'nother animal. I spent an hour on the trainer and by the time I was done, my legs were jello and I was a happy, sweaty girl.  Did I seriously hit almost 30mph at one point?!?!?!

I took it easy on Saturday, and The Husband and I considered a 2 mile walk to be a nice form of active recovery.

It was really craptacular outside on Sunday.  It was non-stop thunderstorms all day, so obviously getting outside wasn't happening.  I resigned myself to the trainer and an episode of my favorite tv show on Netflix and by the time the show was over, I had racked up some pretty good mileage.

By the time Monday rolled around, I was definitely feeling the previous 6 days of workouts, but Coach Husband talked me into a 5 miler - and then proceeded to try to kill me!   Mile 1 was easy enough. On Mile 2, he turned up the heat!  Miles 3-5 were spent trying to catch my breath/not throw up!

I wasn't sure if tonight's workout was such a good idea.  What I wanted to do was swing through the Dairy Queen drive thru in search of Heath Bar Blizzard and then park my butt on the couch with a book.

What I wanted
Fortunately, I took to Twitter in search of motivation and what I got was some much needed tough love and it motivated me out the door to do a brick workout. 
What I got
I initially planned on a 1.5 mile run, 7 miles on the trainer (due to some evil looking clouds), and another 1.5 mile run.  The first 1.5 miles went really well.  I nearly fell over when I ran the first mile in under 9 minutes.  The 7 bike miles were awesome.  The last 1.5 miles didn't go so well.  I made it a mile before my body said 'enough'.  Oh well, at least I went!

I'm definitely on a roll this month.  I know I said in my last post that my total mileage goal for May was 100 miles, but I think I may need to revise that goal upward because 8 days into the month, I've racked up 61.82 miles (18.88 running miles/42.95 cycling miles)! I know I'll need to take a rest day soon, or I'll be a prime candidate for getting injured, but I'm pretty amped about my 8 day streak.  Of course, this is all coming too late for the Madison Half Marathon, but I have 2 other half marathons, a duathlon, and mud run on my summer/fall calendar, so hopefully I'll see the benefits of all this training at those races!