Thursday, March 29, 2012

Rest, Rehab, Reflection

Since Sunday, I've been resting. I haven't done any workouts at all; just letting the quad heal. Four days after the race, the quad soreness is completely gone. In fact, nothing is really bothering me, except paranoia. In the past, I've been dumb and almost always denied my injuries, which just led to a longer (and more extensive/expensive/frustrating) recovery period. Now I am doing the opposite and being overly cautious. I reached out to my NY physical therapist and he said to strengthen the quad when it calmed down. Luckily, I'm familiar with the exercises for strengthening quads and hip flexors. What I don't want is for my weak quad to affect my hamstring, which happened before. So that's the current plan of action. I'm also continuing the icing, stretching, and rolling.

she thinks they are toys

apparently, the stick can also be used for teething purposes

she's "sticking" her leg! imitation is the best form of flattery, i guess
I'm hoping to nip this in the bud so I can resume my Grandma's training. I'm on the fence about my next run, but whenever it is, it will be a short, easy one with lots of attention paid to my cadence (to make sure nothing is out of alignment). 

In some ways, this week off might be in my best interests. I ran a hard race on Sunday, which I haven't done in ages. Had I not fallen, it's possible I would've (stupidly) thought that now I run at sub-eight pace and resumed training accordingly. Without the forced rest, maybe I would've ended up in worse shape. That is the optimism I'm sticking to right now. 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Shamrock Shuffle 8K - PR!!

Today I took down an eleven year old 8K PR - I ripped it to shreds this morning at the Chicago Shamrock Shuffle! My original pie in the sky goal was to flirt with my 8K PR (which was 39:47, run at the 2001 Shamrock Shuffle - I was 22), but I bested that and then some.

post shamrock 2001 with Team Stick
I remember running that race and feeling the typical awfulness that accompanies sprint-like efforts during an almost five mile race. And while I didn't want that feeling this morning, I was expecting it. Boy was I in for a couple of surprises. Here is the full race report.

Background: For the past couple weeks, I've been distracted with this marathon training business. It's really a whole new ballgame since becoming a mom. You cannot exactly immerse yourself in anything, except the baby. But I've had a good quarter of my mind on running lately, and maybe two percent of that on the Shamrock Shuffle. I'm not a huge fan of short races; they, in short, suck. But they are also good fun and involve minimal training/recovery. And there was no way I was passing up the Shamrock. It was on my to-do list ever since moving to Chicago in the fall. And I was pretty excited. As race day drew near, I decided I would attempt to actually race it; something I rarely do in races these days. My strategy was to run comfortably hard, try not to go out too fast, and burn the last "mile." I was hoping to hold eights, but that didn't seem too realistic, seeing as how I never run consecutive eight minute miles. But I had visions of my finish time somewhere in the low 40's.

Race Week: My training this week tried to accommodate today's 8K. After Monday's easy three, I did 8.5 miles on Tuesday (around nine minute pace) with my Dad on his bike. My long run was actually on Thursday; a 12 miler on a beautiful day (1hr52; 9:21 avg). I was elated that the fountains were on and bursting with COLD water! I took this pic around Fullerton when I stopped to get a drink - spring is awesome!

I enjoyed rest days on Friday and Saturday, and honestly, it was kind of nice to focus my attention on other things. But there was an expo to attend, and that sort of put my focus right back onto running! I attended the expo with Baby, who enjoyed it as much as her mama ;) 

Race Weekend: C, from Team Stick, was also signed up for the Shuffle. Since we wanted to spend a night out on the town, she came down on Friday. We dined out at Green Zebra (a fantastic vegetarian restaurant in West Town), and downed a few glasses of wine. As usual, it was great to catch up with C! Love her!! Saturday was a blur of activity, but it ended with a big bowl of my mom's homemade spaghetti sauce and meatballs over whole wheat pasta. Delicious! 

Race morning: It's a bit different with a baby in the house, but race morning primarily consisted of typical race prep activity: coffee, water, toast and PB, sunscreen, going over race plans, feeding Baby, and giving her lots of hugs before I darted off to the start line. 

First Problem: While jogging over to the start area, I went to turn on my garmin and nothing happened. Gaaaahhh! It was a crisis, obviously. How was I supposed to "race" without knowing my pace?!? Luckily, this has happened once before and I knew the solution involved simultaneously pushing some of the buttons, but I didn't know which ones. A quick call to my husband begging him to google "dead garmins" stat did the trick and I was relieved to watch it find a signal within minutes. Thank you, M! 

Start Line: The Shuffle had an intricate corral system which included waves and numbers and sorted runners accordingly. I was in wave one, corral B, along with C and some of our friends. I was happy to see that the corral entrances were actually being patrolled, and I was "carded" three times on my way in to corral B. Thumbs up, Chicago! (Otherwise, what is the point of the corral system??) 

entrance to seeded corrals, policed by folks in yellow vests
more yellow vests checking IDs
It was quite roomy in corral B, and I could easily see the start line. But it did fill up as go-time drew near. 

start line 
with friends at the start

C and I
Oh yeah, I decided to wear green and white striped arm warmers. It was not only a fashion statement (read: st pattys day flair), but also served another very meaningful purpose which I will get to in a moment. Also, please notice the silver bic band holding back the wispies.. But I digress. Soon we were off and running!

Mile One: My tactic was to try a tempo pace; comfortably hard, but maintainable. When the horn blew, I watched C and our friends take off, and I just tried to find my groove. As we passed under Randolph street, I spotted my family (the p's, my husband, and baby in the bjorn), but they didn't see me. This mile was flat and fast and I hit it at 7:59. My first thought was to slow down. But I was comfortable, so I kept cruising. 

Mile Two: We came barreling down State Street, which was really awesome! I loved knowing my whereabouts, and I just thought the image of all these runners in the heart of downtown Chicago was amazing. I quickly took this pic, which is a bit wavy, but I was running!

State Street
I hit mile two in 7:45. Whaaa? I'm sure I did a double take, but I was feeling good and kept it going.

Mile Three: Chicago has a river. If you recall, it was dyed green last weekend for St Pat's day. Today's race course crossed over the river a few times. Crossing over a river involves a bridge, and the particular bridge that matters here is the metal grated one on Jackson Boulevard. Here's a sample pic of these metal grates I'm referring to as seen from beneath. 

Anyway, I'm not entirely sure what happened, but I must have caught my toe in a grate and down I went. Hard. Seriously, I fell with the velocity of a clumsy stampeding animal into the side of an unforeseen barn. I'm no stranger to falls, but this was the first time I've fallen during an actual race. And, sadly, it was a race I was doing well in. But I didn't dwell on that fact, and instead, found myself taking the usual inventory as several other runners stopped to help me up (hooray for good Samaritans!!). At least three of them asked me if I was ok, and another one told me to take it easy for a bit. I was wheezing and jogging it out - falling is rather traumatic. But soon I was revving it back up to my previous pace. Mile three clocked in at 7:49. Not bad, considering I spent some of that time on the ground. 

Mile Four: I quickly shook it off and was running strong again. I knew there'd be cuts and bruises (the latter are still popping up as I type), but I was mostly concerned about my screaming quad. The last time I fell, a similar thing happened to my quad. Time will tell what happens this time, but I'll get on with the race report. I kept glancing at my watch, noticing my pace was increasing in speed. With less than two miles to go, I had to give it all I had. Mile four was 7:38. 

The last 0.97: An 8K is practically five miles, but it's not. So I knew this last part would be fast. Again, I glimpsed my watch and saw a current pace in the 7:20's. And I had more in the tank. It was hard to understand what was going on. I am *not* the type of runner who regularly cranks out this many miles in the sevens. But it was happening today. Turning the final corner (after a slight "hill" on roosevelt road) was just magical. There was the finish, and I was on my way to a PR. I was basically wiping the floor with my 22 year old self..and I had a baby to boot. I don't mean my 22 year old self any disrespect, but I really thought my PRing days were behind me. Not so much ;) 

Final time: 38:35 (7:46) omg

Post race: It was somewhat surreal. I was elated about my PR (and shocked!) but I was also distracted by my nagging quad. I was able to meet up with C and our friends in the finish chute with ease, and I eagerly reported my results. They had all done well (despite clubbing til all hours the night before!) and we headed off in search of my fam. Once we found everybody, we shared stories and hugs and took lots of pictures. 

with my fave girl!
explaining myself
so you ran SEVEN minute miles, mommy?!

with the girls post race

another angle
speaks for itself
It was at this point that C pointed out I was bleeding through my left arm warmer. After some inspection, I realized that I had scraped up my elbow good. If not for the arm warmer, I'm sure I would've shredded myself to pieces on those metal grates. Thank god for my desire to be so festive this time. I also noticed that my silver bic band was gone :( It must've been quite the fall to shake a bic band loose - those things stay put pretty well. I wanted to get home quickly and initiate RICE for my ailing quad (not to mention someone needed a nap), so we didn't stick around too long. But we did make plans to meet up later for lunch.

ironing out the quad with the stick 

C with Baby at lunch.. 
..who tried to steal her sandwich!
and playing with Daddy while we ate
And that's a wrap! What a day. Once again, a huge thank you to my ever supportive awesome family! It was great to have them out there today! I'm going to get going on my recovery plan and hope for the best. 

Monday, March 19, 2012


It's hard to believe the following things:

1) There are only 13 weeks until Grandma's.
2) It is basically summer in March.
3) My baby will be one yr old in 3 weeks.

My long run this weekend was 13 miles, done in summer-like conditions. Considering the previous week's long run was done in tights and a jacket, running in shorts on Saturday was not so much as a luxury as it was a necessity. The sun was a presence, which was nice if you were strolling around the city (decked out in green and/or sipping an irish brew), but a bit of a nuisance if you were partaking in a long run. I wasn't alone out there either; plenty of runners wanted to get the miles in before the st paddys day partiers took over the lakeshore path (and everywhere else). So my run went a bit like this:

* oatmeal and coffee (not enough oats; I think I was hurting for fuel)
* deliberation over whether or not to bring the handheld water bottle (decided to bring it)
* thorough sunscreen application
* cool breeze for the early miles
* felt tired at mile 3 (which is never good)
* pushed on as the sun ventured higher in the sky
* passed many group training runs
* gave thanks over good decision to bring handheld (no fountains on yet)
* sipped water every mile or so
* felt muscle soreness and overall fatigue around mile 9
* knew I could make another 4, but also knew it wouldn't be pretty
* pushed on as the path got more crowded with "irish" celebrators
* stopped to stretch around mile 10
* felt somewhat revived after more water and a bit a of sea breeze over the lake
* avoided more drunks
* saw the garmin hit mile 12 and knew I'd make it
* most muscles were screaming at this point
* the desire to sit down overwhelmed me
* the last bit was uphill but it was also the last bit
* 13 on the garmin (2hr 8 min; 9:52 avg pace)
* splits: 9:28, 8:37, 9:40, 9:37, 9:50, 9:48, 9:50, 9:56, 10;00, 10:00, 10:10, 10:19, 9:58)
* gaaahhh..clearly wall hittage as is evidenced from latter splits
* but 13 miles in the bag and I'm stronger for it

This run wasn't terrible, but it wasn't great. Many early training runs are just like this; it's hard to ramp it up. As an experienced marathoner, I know this and always try to keep these things in perspective. In fact, it's probably a good thing that I bonked, because next time my body will adjust and handle it better (or so I hope). Things would've been much worse if I didn't have that water bottle. And they might've been a bit better if I had a gel or something. I definitely felt "empty" throughout most of this run. But moving on..

The rest of the day was picture perfect! Donning green, we joined the masses and paraded around the city checking out the green river and spending some time chilling at the beach.

chicago river dyed green for march 17

pretty hue

beach time

I planned on doing a short recovery run on Sunday, but the day was too busy to squeeze in a run. Instead, I took Baby out this morning to shake out the legs with a three miler along the lake. She loved it and humored me by waving hello to all the dogs ;)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Pi Day Run

In a previous life, I was a math teacher. Every year, on March 14, the Upper School kids would host a bake sale in honor of "pi day." They all knew what that meant, but to the Lower School kids, it was a just another chance to indulge in a sugar high and go even crazier at dismissal. As the fourth grade math teacher, I felt it was my duty to at least provide some background knowledge to my students as to why they were being given this chance to eat pie (for a nominal fee) on some "random" day in March. I created a mini lesson on the magical number and a simplified version of how it's used to find data about circles. They seemed to eat it up, both my lesson and the aforementioned pie. This year, I am without a (captive) audience with which to dazzle re: pi. And I probably would've forgotten all about it if I had not seen this sign in the grocery store last week:

My first thought was that this was really just a way to sell more pie. And why not. Whatever it takes. Marketing knows no bounds. But my second thought was why not go for a pi day run? So much more up my alley. Pie is rather low on my list of favorite desserts, but I'm also not opposed to gobbling it up should it come my way. And I was a bit nostalgic for those after school bake sales. 

So today, the fourteenth of March (3/14), I took Baby on our first "pi day run." Since I did an eight miler yesterday, I just wanted something easy and slow, recovery style. It was summer today, so that added a heat acclimation element that I did not expect, but it was also beautiful and humidity-free! We ran along the lake and Baby babbled and pointed and occasionally waved at passersby. I kept an easy pace and thought about how nice it was to be running in a tank and shorts in the middle of March (in Chicago?)! After our run, someone was thirsty ;)  I'll admit, I've been tempted to steal her sippy cup on days I forget my own water bottle. 

As you can see, it was short sleeves weather! 

our pi day run stats

post run pie, duh
Happy pi day!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Thirty One

Spring is in full swing! Little buds are sprouting and temps remain mild and very pleasant. It's nearly impossible not to get out there and run! My weekly mileage topped out at 31 miles; it's a great start to my official Grandmas training. My long runs are still rather short, but there is time. 

After Monday's bit of hills, I was ready for something longer. Tuesday was another gorgeous spring-like day, and I took full advantage of it with a nine mile run. My dad happily accompanied me on this run (on his bike), which went on the bike path / north shore chicago. (stats: 9 miles; 1:21 (~ 9 min pace)). 

I took Wednesday off, but Thursday I was back at it with Baby in the Bob. We ran 6 together and ended this run at Universal Sole so I could get (badly needed) new shoes

While Baby babbled on and on in her stroller, I tried on the shoes and hopped on the treadmill for a little test run. Luckily, I was told that the shoe holds my foot nicely and that I have good running form. I can't imagine trying to change my form after running for nearly 15 years, so it's a good thing I don't have to. 

Saturday was my planned long run of 11 miles. It was also Baby's 11 month birthday, so 11 miles it was. It was also a very busy day for us, so I had to start this run off early and keep things moving. (Stats: 11 miles; 1:42 (~9:27)) Sunday I went out for a recovery run of 3 miles; it was so gorgeous out I couldn't stop myself! 

So far training is going as well as it could. I know it's still early, but I am optimistic. My plan is to gradually increase my long runs and fill in the week with whatever I feel like (hills, tempo, short run, mid-distance, intervals (hey, it could happen), rest day..). I want to keep things light, airy and fun. 

Monday, March 05, 2012


Apologies for the long lapse between postings. Vacay is to blame first, followed by vacay prep and vacay recovery. Now that I am somewhat back to normal, I can begin to think about catching up on the blog.

First order of business, Ab Month is OVER!! In sum, it was another annoying yet satisfying experience.  Right now I'm almost in "ab work withdrawal" and seriously contemplating some crunches, but that would be silly since it is now March. This year's experience turned out to be pretty mundane and routine; I didn't do too many new workouts, but I did complete 27 out of 29 sessions, usually with Baby at arm's length (sometimes even closer). Here's a look at the second half of it:

Feb 17: 3 x 30 second iso's (side, plank, side) x 2, and 50 crunches

Feb 18: 100 crunches (mostly obliques and some bicycle crunches)

Feb 19: 100 crunches

Feb 20: 125 crunches

Feb 21: 50 crunches and 3 x 30 second iso's

Feb 22: SKIP (I actually forgot!)

Feb 23: 100 crunches

Feb 24: 100 crunches

Feb 25: 3 x 20 second iso's and 50 crunches

Feb 26: 20 crunches, 2 x 20 second iso's and 50 sit ups on an apparatus I discovered mid-run (pic shown later in this post)

Feb 27: 100 crunches (lots of bicycles)

Feb 28: 60 crunches and 3 x 20 second iso's 

Feb 29: 150 crunches!


This year I decided to take "before" and "after" pictures to see if a month of ab concentration did anything positive aesthetically (which is, obviously, the most important reason for core work followed closely by the possibility that it makes me a stronger and/or better runner). Other than the being slightly less ashen due to the graciousness of the Hawaii sun, I don't see much difference. But I will admit that I do feel a smidge stronger and have had some excellent runs lately, so maybe all that effort wasn't for naught. 


after with my little "ab partner"
Til next year, Ab Month! Next up, running. Where I last left off, there were some shortish runs and an eleven miler the Sunday before vacation. I can barely remember the details; usually eleven milers aren't very memorable but I know it was fairly successful and clocked in around an hour forty-five. I did a family recovery run the next day and then boarded a plane to Hawaii. Traveling typically requires a few days of adjustment in order to feel normal again, which is compounded when the traveling includes a baby and a four hour time change. Needless to say, getting up in the threes every day had pluses and minuses. One perk of being up and at 'em before dawn was watching the sun rise.

Another perk (besides guzzling Starbucks at 5a and watching the waves roll ashore) was getting in a run and still having the whole day to play. I went on three runs - the first was Friday morning, which started right along the beach.

As the sun came up, I ran along a path with many other runners, but I hadn't done my homework and didn't really know where it headed. A mile or so in, I asked two runners about where we were going. They were incredibly nice and not only told me about their nine mile route but encouraged me to join them. One was a triathlete training for a half ironman, and the other was just starting to train for a half marathon. We swapped running stories and they gave me the local's perspective about things to do in Hawaii. 

the path
another look

The niner was pleasant and scenic, and it was really nice to have some running company to make the miles fly by! We stopped to admire the ocean (and the surfers!) near the end of the run, and I thanked them for including me on their run.

My other two vacation runs were Sunday and Monday. I ran around Diamond Head both days, which we hiked up shortly after my return from the aforementioned niner. Sunday was a brisk five miler (around 8:30 pace), but included a short stop off to do some ab work on this apparatus that I spotted in a park. 

Monday was about six and a quarter, which included a portion along the Ala wai canal, which was very flat and fast. 

Ala Wai canal

the golf course is on the other side
I wish I had more time to explore more of O'ahu on runs; the trip went way too fast! But I got in a few memorable runs which was a nice way to segue into my official training for Grandmas! In a previous post, I mentioned my start date for training would be March 1. Typically I take a rest day on the first day of marathon training which is arbitrary, but still something I tend to uphold. Why rush into it when you have three or four months to beat yourself up? I would've continued the pattern this year except for the fact that March 1 is my birthday, and I almost always do a birthday run!  (Sorry if I "flipped your world upside down," CB, but Birthday Runs trump arbitrary first day of marathon training rest days ;)) 

So I kicked off Grandmas training with a birthday six miler with my favorite little running partner. Baby and I held a nine minute/mile pace and while she didn't exactly respond, I shared with her my thoughts and feelings about turning another year older. She may experience some of these sentiments in about six weeks when it's her turn to celebrate a birthday, so I didn't think it would hurt to prepare her. This is more or less the look she gives me whenever we have these heart to hearts. 

This past weekend I did a twelve miler, which was fantastic! All the things that need to click in order to have a good run were present - don't ask me what those things are; I have no idea. But I really enjoyed myself out there and kept my pace right around nine minutes.

Today, I headed out early this morning to take on some hills. I've been eyeing some nearby natural inclines ever since we moved here in September. I had this idea that I could do some kind of speed work or hill repeats (with the Bob) if I was ever pressed for time and/or feeling completely out of my mind. Today was one of those days, so Baby and I tackled four one fifth of a mile hill repeats (with a headwind!) keeping our pace around 7:40. It was mostly a get-it-done mentality, so I congratulated myself on my participation and refrained from judging my actual performance. But here are my stats just for the record:

One: 1:39 (7:43 pace)
Two: 1:28 (7:25 pace)
Three: 1:34 (7:41 pace)
Four: 1:35 (7:41 pace)

Inbetween each repeat, I jogged about a quarter mile at 10:15 pace or so. After the first one, I literally felt tightness in my chest - the kind that brutally signaled what kind of shape I am in re: hills (ie. bad). But after a couple more, I was feeling pretty pumped up and would've kept 'em coming except for the shortage of time I had. In any case, I'm hoping for a rematch in the near future. The whole run ended up being 2 miles.

I am now fully up to date on the blog!