Friday, March 28, 2014

Miller Park Zoo Stampede 2014

Better late than never, that's my motto!  I was, however, MORE than on-time for the race the morning of March 2 for the Miller Park Zoo Stampede.  There was some confusion about the start-time of the race.  Packet pickup ended at 9:15am, and I was trolling the web the night before trying to figure out the start-time for the race itself, and found conflicting information.  My calendar said gun time was 10am, but the event's web site didn't have the start time listed (what??? I know.  They're great people, they run a local zoo for a living, they don't plan and organize races for a living.)  One of the running club sites indicated a 9:30am start, so I showed up at 8:30am.  Got a terrific parking spot and there was practically no line for the packet pickup (a nice change from prior years when the line was thick, crowded, and disorganized).  I confirmed with the volunteers at the desk that the start time was, in fact, at 10am.  I wasn't the only one wondering about it, they'd gotten quite a few questions, so I didn't feel too badly about it, but I was left with about an hour to kill before the race.

The weather was cold and windy, no snow this year, but sort of damp, so I went to my car to play with my phone, check my gear, and generally warm up.  I also needed to come up with a goal for this year's race.  Since I'm "coming back" I knew that going for a PR was just not in the cards, but that doesn't mean there's no goal.  I just need different goals for the time being.  I had such an amazing racing year in 2013, nearly every race was a PR - of 16 races, 10 were either PR or first-time running that distance or type of course (trail runs, etc).  Perhaps by the end of this season I'll find another PR, but for the time being, I need goals that are not time-based.  Since I've been struggling with endurance and taking "too many" or "too long" walk-breaks, I decided I wanted this to be a full-on run, with no breaks other than walking the water stop.  This, at least, would be the way I ran all of my 5ks last year, not as fast, but the "rule" for last year was "NO STOPS during a 5k."

Just before the start time, I got out and ran a little to warm up, found some friends, and got our "first race of the season" selfies:

Mid-Race - check out my cool new warm-weather running tights!  FLASHY!  Makes me look faster, right?

This is historically the first race of the season for most of us.  I did run the Chilly Chili this year, but that's really more of a "fun run" than a race.

So, off we went - and I did make this my first "real" run of the year - with no walk breaks other than the water stop.  That felt very good.  It seems like most races I end up with some sort of mantra going through my head, and for this one, that ended up being:  "Just be glad you have a body that will do this.  I feel grateful for this body."  I really focused in on knowing that I could run this full distance, even though I haven't run that long without a break in quite a while.  I knew that I could and that I wanted to, and I wanted to appreciate that ability, regardless of pace.

"We are all striving to build our own confidence and self-esteem. This sport of ours can do and has done just that. "

Several minutes into the race, I felt my legs begin to loosen up, and really started to feel like I'd found my groove, the pace I could maintain for the 3-mile distance.  I checked my Garmin and noted it was less than 8 minutes in.  I made a point of NOT looking at the pace, just the time.  With the cold temps I was surprised my body warmed up that quickly, to tell you the truth.  From then on, I just focused on keeping that rhythm and staying in that groove.  I didn't have my iPod, so no music, no dog... just me and my thoughts, and the run.  The Effort.

Speaking of No Dog - before the race, several people asked "Where's Coty?" - I had forgotten to check whether they allowed dogs in this race or not, and left her at home.  I've brought her to this race a couple of times, I think... and they noticed.  Oh, that dog is such a great partner, and everyone loves her.  I'm so glad to have her!

Race Encounters:
I have one funny thing to share with you about this race, and other than this, it was pretty uneventful... but I can't get this out of my head!
There was a woman, a fairly new (or maybe returning) runner, as I found out over the course, who was running just ahead of me at the start.  We leap-frogged many times during the race and I noticed she was doing something that I used to do when I was trying to learn how to run:  she would start running (SPRINTING may be a better term) and get ahead of me, but she'd run out of steam after just a few minutes and then walk, pretty slowly, to recover.  She was ending up pretty well in line with my slower running pace, but I think she was more tired than I was.  Wish I knew her name so I could see where she ended up... but if I remember correctly, I passed her for the last time with maybe a 1/2-mile to go and didn't see her again.  It reminded me of the importance of pacing myself and all the great tips and tricks I learned in my first year with the running group in 2010.

But here's the thing that's funny:  The course is on the neighborhood streets around the zoo so there were volunteers at each intersection keeping an eye on traffic and making sure we could run the course without interruption.  Typically, I try to say something to most of the volunteers, or if I'm out of breath, just a wave and a smile at the least, but usually a "Thanks!" or "Thanks for being out here!" as I pass.  This woman had a particular way of thanking each and EVERY volunteer. It was exactly the same, EVERY time.  She would SCREAM at the top of her lungs:

Exactly the same way, exactly the same tone, exactly the same insane VOLUME, every time.
I recorded a "voice memo" to give you the idea, but I don't know if it will work... I'm not sure how to upload it to the blog...

It was driving.  Me.  CRAZY.  She seemed very nice and it was a very thoughtful and I'm sure heartfelt gratitude... but the volume.  When we passed one another, I could hear the music coming from the ear buds on her iPod, so I'm sure the volume was affected by that... Oh, and she periodically stopped dead in the street and danced, arms all akimbo and hips moving.  She was having a blast, and running her own race.  I don't want to make fun of her or diminish in any way, but... Seriously, it was interrupting my whole flow and it was really distracting for me. At one point I got the giggles and could hardly contain myself.  If I wasn't so concerned with maintaining my pace and running the whole way without running out of gas and having to walk later, I would have sprinted for a few minutes just to get some distance from her.

Oh, and one other thing, through most of the race I was behind this woman - heavyset like me and wearing a really cool blue jacket which made her very visible in my sight line - and I wasn't really "trying" to catch up to or pass her, but toward the end of the race, I did catch up to her.  I could see she was flagging a bit, and as I approached I said, "I've been behind you this whole time - don't slow down now!!"  We ended up running the last bit together - a little less than half a mile I think.  Turns out she is returning to running after several months recovering from a serious car accident, and she'd driven up from Decatur to participate in the race with some family members.  This was her first race, post-accident.  She, too, was feeling grateful for a body, imperfections and all, that has the strength and endurance to do this thing.

Race Results:  
I came in 200th overall, 13th for my age group.  Official time (not a chip timed race): 40:02.4 with a pace of 12:55/Mile.  I started my watch just as I crossed the start line, so I'm sticking with my Garmin time of 39:46.
Past results for this race:
2013 35:49
2012 41:07
2011 44:59

Wow, look at that - yes, it was about 4 minutes slower than last year, but still 2 minutes better than 2012 and 5 minutes better than 2011.  I think I can feel pretty darn good about that.

I had a weigh-in on that Sunday and was down a bit, but still no real movement on the scale.  I did some research and decided to try increasing my calorie intake a bit - from 1,450 to about 1,600 - to see if that would shake things up at all and get my body back on track.  I decided to let that sit for a few weeks and see how it settles.  If I end up gaining several pounds... well, I guess that's probably not the solution.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

So hello again...

Since my last post, the blogging has been hard to make happen.  But this is important to me, so here I am, sitting down to write and trying to recapture in my own mind the various ups and downs of a little over two weeks gone by.

Highlight reel:
  • March 1 was the Miller Park Zoo Stampede - a 5k race I've done several times now, generally considered the kick-off to the racing season.  Race report partly drafted, forthcoming.
  • I got some terrible news, some of which I blogged about, and in the following week it was followed by some more bad news on the home front which I won't be blogging about - the sort of thing that affects me emotionally, but indirectly, and isn't really my news to share.  
  • Then I got some news at work... big changes on the forefront there, been on the horizon for quite a while, the sort of thing that is probably great in the long run but causes enormous uncertainty in the short term (accountants HATE uncertainty, so you can imagine this long wait is killing me).  I can't really share until everything is official, but anyway there was a really disappointing delay.
  • There's been some traveling, which is always tough on the whole diet and fitness routine.  Results on that front have been a mixed bag.  Some great, healthy meals, some terrific choices... and some seriously poor choices and fast food debacles.  I snapped pix of a couple winners:
    Healthy dinner, courtesy of the hubs.
    Healthy dinner, courtesy of Yours Truly.
  • This past weekend was my anniversary - we had 19 years to celebrate and we did it up quite nicely - hubs made a great dinner on Thursday, we headed to our local pub for drinks with friends on Friday and had a nice romantic meal on Saturday night with (well, it was St. Patrick's Day weekend) plenty of Irish whiskey to toast with.  
  • Anniversary Selfie!
  • Also this weekend, the Annual St. Patrick's Day 5k on Sunday afternoon.  This is a great, fast, flat 5k and I've run it several times now.  Last year I set a PR at this race.  This one is special because a) they have fantastic shirts!  b) it's super flat so MANY runners get a PR to start their racing season; and c) the weather is completely unpredictable.  Two years ago it was so hot, they ran out of water at the finish line before I was able to finish.  (MAJOR BUMMER.)  Last year the weather was just about perfect - chilly but not cold, not windy.  This year... well, I'll have a race report for you on that one, too.
After the race on Sunday, I headed home to walk the dogs, pack and hit the road for a short, two-night trip.  It's about a 3-hour drive, so I headed out about 5pm, happy I had gotten plenty of exercise.

Speaking of exercise... that's actually been going quite well.
  • I've been getting at least 3 runs in each week, plus the occasional dog walk.  
  • I've made it to all but one of my Ride The Wave group runs (one I missed because I was out of town), including a BRUTAL hill workout.  The hill workout itself mightn't have been so bad, but it was cold and damp and windy and I REALLY had to do some self-talk to get myself over there.  
  • We had such incredibly beautiful weather last Monday, I left work a bit early and joined a group training run on impulse at 5:30pm.  I hooked up with a running buddy and we did about 3.5 miles with Coty.  It.  Was.  Amazing.  I haven't been that excited about a run in ages - the weather was in the 50s and the sun was out... I could not have wished for better conditions and we took full advantage, including avoiding the remaining patches of stubborn ice that hadn't yet melted.
Sadly, those weather conditions have faded somewhat, but they'll be back in a matter of weeks and I really can't wait.  This winter has been so ugly and draining, the only way to avoid talking about the weather has been to Just.  Not.  Speak.

Which brings me to the weigh-in portion of my post.
As I've said, it's been a pretty good run (hahaha, get it?) for exercise during recent weeks, and a mixed bag on the nutrition side of the equation, so it won't surprise you that the scale has had this to say:
  • March 1 - down 0.8 to 184.8
  • March 8 - up 1.6 to 186.4
  • March 16 - down 0.6 to 185.8
Overall, up one pound.  I have some more to say about this, but this post is plenty long, I'll leave it to another time.

Being out of town early this week, I missed an opportunity to run on Monday, but yesterday I drove the 3 hours back home in the afternoon and arrived in time to change and join my Catch The Wave group for our Tuesday group run.  I wore my snazzy new St. Pat's 5k shirt and it was fun to see SO MANY other leaders (and a few group members!) wearing it as well.

Before the run, the CTW director had arranged to have my physical therapist there to show the group a pre-run dynamic stretching routine.  Most of the stretches were quite familiar to me, but I learned a new one.  After the run, I talked to him about some neck pain I've been dealing with.  He asked where, started to massage the area (for about 2 seconds) and immediately suggested I call for a free Injury Assessment.  Based on his IMMEDIATE response, I suspect he knows exactly what it is and what I should do about it.  I'd better make that call.  This neck thing has been bothering me for months and I've been wondering if I needed to see a chiropractor about it.  I've never been to one, and don't LOVE the idea, but something needs to be done.  I've been in pretty much constant but manageable pain.

Today I'm back in my office wrapping up a few projects and I'll be joining my Ride The Wave group tonight for a 3-mile run on the trail.

Well I may have left some things out, but that's the long and the short of it for the past 2 1/2 weeks.  Race reports to follow just as soon as I can get them done.  I'll close with a great quote I got this week from the wonderful folks over at Runner's World:

The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.