Monday, June 30, 2014

Running While ...

I intentionally failed to mention in my Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run recap that I ran Cherry Blossom about 20 weeks pregnant.

I signed up for the Cherry Blossom lottery in December. I didn't even look into it last year, and it was literally on the day I moved to Washington, DC the year before that. After a series of injuries in 2012 and 2013, I was finally back to regular mileage and in the range of my pre-injury speed. It was time to pick a race and actually race it.

Two days later, I found out I was pregnant. Of course I was going to get picked in the lottery. And I did.

My plan was to keep running as long as I could. Generally, as long as you don't have any complications, you can keep doing whatever pre-pregnancy exercise activities you were doing. Sure, I had to be careful to not push too hard or get dehydrated or overheat.

That meant I had to approach training for Cherry Blossom differently. I used a modified version of Hal Higdon's intermediate 15K/10 mile training plan. Believe it or not, I had never trained properly for a 10 mile race. I couldn't attempt a PR or do speedwork, nor did I want to. My goals shifted from "run fast and PR" to "run for a healthy me, healthy baby, and healthy pregnancy and have fun." I gotta say, I was really frustrated in the beginning that I had to slow down. A lot. Running wasn't all that fun. I used heart rate as a general guide and quickly learned how to run by perceived effort level. I would try to keep my heart rate in the high 140s-low 150s. Mid-150s was (and still is) my threshold for easing up.

I knew Cherry Blossom had an official transfer period in February, so that was an option in case I couldn't run. I reached my second trimester during February. I was still running, and in fact running started to be fun again. I got some of my energy back. My pace started to pick up. The weather was terrible this winter, but I didn't stress if I missed a training run. Baby measured on target and had a nice strong heartbeat. OK. Baby and I were all in for Cherry Blossom.

I had a great time running Cherry Blossom, in part because my only goals were to have fun and finish. And run around 1:40-1:45. Check, check, and check. Better than check on that last one. Baby has a 10 mile PR of 1:39 and change. Good work, Baby. I did the work for you this time. Next time, you're on your own.

When I went past 30 weeks, I was still running. I didn't go very fast or very far. Most runs were in the 3-4 mile range. I took frequent walk breaks. I didn't run up hills. I stopped if something didn't feel right or I just wasn't feeling it. I carried water most of the time. And I didn't feel bad if I had to cut a run short or switch to walking.

I made it to about 31 weeks and decided I just didn't want to run anymore. It was more like run-walking at that point anyway. It wasn't that anything hurt or felt uncomfortable (other than my calves and sometimes my hips). Running wasn't enjoyable. The heat and humidity in particular are getting to me. But have no fear, I am not a total couch potato. I switched to low-impact activities, such as walking, the stationary bike, and pre-natal yoga. Maybe the elliptical if I I feel like hauling my gear to the gym at work. Probably not, though, since I have to deal with public transportation. That's difficult enough as it is without extra stuff to carry.

The wee baby bump at Cherry Blossom
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Same outfit and the baby bump at 30 weeks
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Oh, and in case you're wondering, Baby is a boy due to arrive in August.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run Recap and Review

This is way overdue, but I figured better late than never!

I ran the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run on April 6, 2014. Cherry Blossom is one of the largest road races in Washington, DC.

Overall, I really liked Cherry Blossom. I knew from the beginning of my training that it was not going to be a PR or even close to one, so my goal was to treat it like a fun run with thousands of other people. And a fun run it was!

This year's course started at the Washington Monument, went around part of the National Mall, went over the bridge behind the Lincoln Memorial just barely into Arlington, VA, then back over the bridge, along the Potomac River to the Kennedy Center, turned back down along the Potomac, around the Tidal Basin to the Jefferson Memorial, down and around Hains Point, then back up to the Washington Monument. Most large races in DC have several miles around Hains Point, which can be windy and lacking in spectators. But it was relatively calm, and a group of people were at the tip of Hains Point giving out beer. The peak of the cherry blossoms was a few days after the race, but most of the cherry trees were turning pink.

None of these pictures are from Cherry Blossom, but here are some of the things you will see along the course.

Washington Monument, near the start and finish area
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Bridge to Arlington and the Lincoln Memorial
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Jefferson Memorial (inside, you'll see the outside and the Tidal Basin
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Potomac River
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Based on my training, I thought I would finish around 1:40-1:45. I had no pressure to run any particular time. It was the easiest 10 mile race ever. I crossed the finish line in 1:39 and change, including a 2-minute bathroom break just before the 10K/6.2 mile mark. Go me!! Beat my time goal? Check. Had fun? Check.

I liked:
The entry fee was reasonable. You could pay extra if you wanted a medal or technical shirt.
The course is flat/pretty and took us along the National Mall, the Lincoln Memorial, the Tidal Basin, the Jefferson Memorial, the Potomac River, and the Washington Monument.
The weather was good. Cold at the beginning but clear and dry. Not too windy along Hains Point. Pretty much perfect weather during the race.
There is an official transfer period in February. This is a nice option. Most race entries are non-refundable and non-transferable.

I didn't like:
The course was crowded the whole time, although you had enough space to move after about the first mile.
The corrals were not enforced and people pretty much started wherever they wanted to. I actually moved one corral back because I knew I was nowhere capable of running the projected time I put down on my registration. Based on the corral cutoffs, I should have moved back two corrals. But one corral ended up being perfect. I was running with people at about my pace the whole time, and I passed and was passed by about the same amount of people. So I seeded myself appropriately. Not everyone else did, though.
The hassles of a large race. Getting there early. Crowded course. Allowing extra time to check your gear, use the bathroom before the race, and get into your corral.
Entry is through a lottery. This is not a downside for me, since I think lotteries are fairer and work better than opening registration at a certain time and having the system crash because too many people tried to register at the same time. But it means you can't just decide to run Cherry Blossom close to the race.

Bottom line? I would run Cherry Blossom again.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Thoughts on Boston

One year since the 2013 Boston Marathon. Seems like forever ago and yesterday at the same time.

I was one of the last few thousand people to experience crossing the finish line of the "old" Boston Marathon. Last year, 17,580 people finished. I was the 15,961st.
It makes me sad that no one else will get to experience the old Boston Marathon.
It makes me angry that the Boston Marathon has changed for reasons that have nothing to do with the Boston Marathon. Road races in general have changed ... extra security, clear gear bags, restrictions on costumes and spectators and backpacks, and a whole bunch of reactive measures that may or may not make races safer.
I have no doubt that the 2014 Boston Marathon will be the best Boston Marathon ever. It will be different, though.
Maybe it will be different in the way that everything after 9/11 was different. I spectated at the 2002 Boston Marathon. I don't remember whether it was or wasn't different, but I do remember waving an American flag. Back then, I had no idea what a big deal the Boston Marathon was.
One year later, I am happy to report that I have zero long-term effects. Sure, I was hypersensitive to sirens on emergency vehicles for a while, but that is barely noticeable now. Part of why I am fine was self-care in the days following the Boston Marathon. My coping skills kicked in without even thinking about them. I knew what I had to do, and I knew what I had to look out for.
But I will never unhear those explosions. I do not walk the streets of Boston the same way. I will never use the expression "Have a blast" again. Ever. I have to be careful about media coverage, especially around anniversaries.
I am still counting my blessings that of all the things that could have put me or my husband in the wrong place at the wrong time, not a single one of them happened.

Boston Strong.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Night before Cherry Blossom

Originally, the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run was a tuneup race for DC area people running the Boston Marathon. Well, that is exactly why I didn't try to run Cherry Blossom last year. It was too close to Boston. Cherry Blossom is typically a week or two before Boston (depending on how the calendar lines up). A 10 mile race fits well into most training plans the week before or two weeks before a marathon.

Now, Cherry Blossom is way more than Boston Marathon tuneup race. It is one of the largest road races in DC. The course is reasonably scenic. We'll forget about that loop down to Hains Point, but hey, if the cherry blossoms are out, you'll see cherry blossoms at Hains Point.

I haven't done a 10 mile race in several years. Given my focus on marathons since 2011, it is a significant step down to train for "only" 10 miles. But that is the point where I am in my life right now. Ten miles sounds just about right.

Bring it, 10 miles.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Cherry Blossom Training Halfway Update

Halfway already? Whaaa? Well, I guess that's what happens when you are used to 18-week marathon training plans.

So far, so good. I have ran 5 times a week (averaging in the low 20s for the week), strength trained once a week, and did yoga once a week. I need to be better about foam rolling my calves, but other than that everything is good.

I can't say I am a fan of this winter, though. I don't mind snow and cold, but it's just been one storm after another. We're all tired of it. March looks like it will come roaring in, so that must mean it will leave quietly. Yes? Please please?

In comparison, the last two winters, where I was training for marathons, were relatively mild. The winter of 2011-2012 was the warmest winter on record. It barely snowed. My usual long run path stayed clear the whole winter. There were some days where no cold weather gear was required. The winter of 2012-2013 was not as warm, but it didn't snow much. I only needed to bust out my Yaktrax once. In late March. While I was just beginning taper. Can't say I can complain about that.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Spring Is On Its Way

This is the last week before I officially start training for the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run on April 6. Lucky me got picked my first time in the lottery.

I've done 10 mile races in the past. I ran the Blessing of the Fleet 10 mile run in Narragansett, RI many times. But despite that, I never followed a formal training plan.

This time I am adapting Hal Higdon's intermediate 15K plan. I haven't run 5 days a week in almost 2 years and I am not doing speedwork, so I may swap out one of the runs for cross-training. We'll see. I tend to be rigid with training plans, but I'm just not at a place in my running where I need to or want to be rigid. I won't be trying for PR. The only place I will be rigid is my rest day. Thursday has been my traditional rest day for several years.

My general plan for the week:

Sunday - yoga & strength training
Monday - short run & strength training
Tuesday - sorta long run
Wednesday - short run & strength training (might do a boot-camp style class in the evening)
Thursday - rest
Friday - short run
Saturday - long run

By strength training, I don't mean long sessions. More like 15-20 minutes at a time. Typically, I will leave some extra time at the end of a cardio workout at the gym for strength training, or I will do some exercises while I am doing laundry or watching TV.s

Friday, December 20, 2013

2013 in Review

 1. Bought a house. Other than some routine maintenance, it has treated us well.
2. As the finishers certificate states, I successfully completed the Boston Marathon. That is about the most accurate thing I can say about the Boston Marathon.
3. Ran a road race in Hawaii.
4. Didn't do a whole lot of running otherwise. I will cap out the year at just over 600 miles. My major focus was getting over a series of injuries. So far so good on making a careful return to running.
Here's to lots of good things happening in 2014!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Back on the Rhode

I ran 20 miles on the nose this week.

And 65 miles in November. And 27 miles in October.

Dare I say I am back?

I still don't have a specific training plan or target race, but I am starting to think about races again. My ankle, while still not 100%, is getting better. No more just tolerating not getting worse. Actually getting better. There is a different feeling when you are healing. Almost like the injured part is letting you know it's there. But it definitely isn't pain, more like a slight discomfort or itchy feel. That's where I am.

My paces are well within my normal range, if not faster. Some runs bring me back to the peak of Shamrock training where I was easily running fast paces and building confidence in my mind and body. Today's run was a perfect example. I had a couple of sub-8 miles in the middle of my run. I didn't even know I ran that fast until I looked at my Garmin data at home. That did not happen when I was training for Boston about a year ago. I really struggled to maintain my normal pace. So what's different? I think I eased back into running more slowly. I don't have the pressure of a non-refundable race that I need to train for. I learned more about my body.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Oh hai again

So yeah. I have not fallen off the face of the earth again. I am still somewhat on the disabled list. I've been fighting with Achilles tendonitis in my left foot for the last, oh, forever. Before the Boston Marathon. And then my piriformis started acting up. I cannot make this stuff up. It was just one injury after another.

By the way, you know you are a runner when you can correctly pronounce piriformis.

The good news is that both issues are subsiding. I have to spend lots of quality time with my foam roller and be very careful about stretching. The other good news is that I eased back into running 2-3 times a week. Nothing is getting worse. I can feel slow healing. My endurance is lacking, but my pace is within my Shamrock training range. Score.

I still have nothing on my race calendar. I need to be fully healed. I gotta get back to pain-free running. I almost don't remember what that's like.

My workout routine (or sometimes more like lack of routine) needed a shakeup. I started going to a boot-camp-style class. It is hard. My core appreciates it, though. I work harder than I would on my own. And I volunteered to lead a staff run group once a week.

I ran the last 2 miles or so of the Marine Corps Marathon with a friend. Seeing someone else fight with those last 2 miles gave me a different perspective of what happens at the end of a marathon. There is no glossing over how hard those miles are. I have no plans to run another marathon anytime soon, but I will say that the end of Marine Corps made me excited to take on 26.2 again. Someday.

In somewhat running-related news, the Red Sox won the World Series. Yay Red Sox! Not only was it is a worst to first comeback for the Red Sox, but it showed the resilience of the city of Boston. A city that needed to celebrate after the Boston Marathon bombings. Maybe I am biased because I ran this year's Boston Marathon. And maybe I am biased because I lived in New England for over a decade, but no city deserved it more than Boston.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

On Washington, DC

The last couple of times I've moved, it was bittersweet at first. I liked the place I moved from, and I was never totally sold on the new place.

And then I gave the new place a chance and find out that, hey, it's not so bad, and there are some things about the new place that I really like.

Moving to DC was no exception. DC is finally growing on me.

1. The Smithsonian Museums. Yes, museums. The Smithsonian is many museums, not just one. Free museums. My favorite is the Museum of American History. And the National Gallery of Art and Sculpture Garden, although that's not a Smithsonian. Still free, though.

2. The arts scene. I have already been to four concerts at The Fillmore and have seen a documentary at the A.F.I. Silver Spring (Sound City ... highly recommend it if you like Dave Grohl, or if you like rock music). These venues are across the street from each other. The Fillmore is not too big and not too small. Kinda like the way I like my marathons.

3. Rock Creek Park. You'd never guess you were in the middle of a city. It is quiet and peaceful. Some of the roads are closed to traffic on the weekends so people can walk, run, or cycle. I did all of my longest long runs in preparation for Boston in Rock Creek.

4. The National Mall. The fastest, cheapest, and most fun way to see the monuments is to run. If you have far enough to run, you can visit the U.S. Capitol, the Washington Monument, the White House, the Jefferson Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, and even Virginia if you want to. All on the same run. See? I did this back in 2011.

5. Decent public transportation. I pretty much do not take the Metro on the weekends because of trackwork and closed stations. It's not pleasant when there are delays. And lemme tell you about the time I got stuck on a disabled train. However, the Metro is way better than the alternative. Drive? No thank you. Been there, done that, and have no interest in doing it again. Going to Boston a few months ago made me appreciate Metro more. I get my commute time back to do stuff. Read. Play with my phone. Listen to music. Nothing. My car was acting fritzy, so I didn't drive for over 3 months. And I didn't need to.

6. My job. There are some days when I feel like I haven't worked because I like what I do that much. Yes, there are challenges and it's not all puppies and rainbows. But it is interesting, meaningful work with a limitless supply of questions to address. I get to use my data skills and research skills on a daily basis. I couldn't ask for anything better.