Saturday, December 26, 2009

2009 Year In Review Mega-Post

2009, what a year. Running-wise, I’m not sure how 2010 is going to be able to top it. I had some amazing races, some huge training breakthroughs, tried some new things and loved them, and overall had a pretty incredible year. If I had to pick a theme for my athletic endeavors this past year, I’d have to use the line from the Gavin Degraw song “Meaning” – ‘sometimes the only way is jumping, I hope you’re not afraid of heights’.

2009 Race Stats
Miles: 4 [all track]
Best – 5:58, Carthage College Tadd Metzger Invite
Worst – 6:10?**, UWSP Invite [ugh, what a disaster...never try to race a mile less than an hour after the 3K...death]

3Ks: 3 [all track]
Best – 11:50, Wisconsin Open
Worst – 12:34, Carthage College Tadd Metzger Invite [first attempt at the distance, almost missed the start, got tripped...and still wanted to do it again]

3K steeplechase: 1
Wisconsin Twilight – 12:54

5Ks: 7 [5 track, 2 road]
Best – 19:54, Phil Esten Challenge @ SMU
Worst – 22:11, UW Running Club Valentine’s Day 5K [worst time, but by no means the worst race, that honor goes to my 20:47 at the Loras Open]

10Ks: 0 [eh, I really don’t like the 10K anyway. Maybe I’ll try to get one of those on the schedule in 2010]

Half Marathons: 2
Best – 1:42:25, Madison Half Marathon
Worst – 1:48:28, Madison Mini Marathon [exhibit A as to why you should not run a half marathon with a bad cold]

Marathons: 1
Baystate Marathon – 3:39:15, BQ

Triathlons: 1 [sprint]
Elkhart Lake Triathlon – 1:18:44

Total Races: 18
PRs set: 6 [PR in every event run except the mile]
Top 3 Best Races [no particular order]: Baystate Marathon, Elkhart Lake Triathlon, SMU 5K
Bottom 3 Worst Races [no particular order]: Madison Mini Marathon, Loras 5K, UWSP mile
Most Ridiculous Weather Award: Baystate Marathon [38 degrees, 20+ mph winds, rain...and over 3.5 hours to enjoy it!]
Runner Up: WLC 5K [35 degrees and windy up to 40 mph a track meet!]
AG Awards: 2 [1st place AG/overall female, Black Tie 5K, 1st place AG Elkhart Lake Tri]

This year has been the year that I really found out what it means to be a true long distance runner. My mid-distance running in track was limited to a few outings in the mile, all but one of which were pretty unsuccessful and one which was downright dreadful. I sucked it up and decided to give the 3000 meters a try, and ended up really liking it [despite almost missing the start and then getting tripped and going down hard 800 meters in in my first outing at the distance]. My best race at the distance came in January and was probably one of my better executed races of the year. And then...outdoor track.

My journey into the 5K began ridiculously enough on a 35 degree, windstorm day in March, at possibly the smallest track meet I’ve ever been to in my life...and that includes some JV duals in high school. Running the 5K on the track was a terrifying thing, I really had no clue what I was doing or why the hell I thought running a race that was almost 13 laps around the damn track was a good idea...but one way or another, I LIKED it. As soon as I finished that first race, steeplechase was no longer going to be my primary event of the season...I had to see what I could do in this crazy LD world.

Track season was nothing short of awesome – breaking my 4 year curse at Oshkosh, PRing at almost every meet, and just generally surpassing my wildest expectations of what I thought I could do in a distance event. As my race times kept getting better and my training was going perfectly, I started thinking that my goal of breaking 20 minutes, a goal which I had pretty much randomly pulled out of the air as a good thing to shoot for but really didn’t think I stood a chance of actually accomplishing, was actually becoming a possibility. And one magical night at St Mary’s University, it did. That race, that 19:54, running alone and in the back the entire race, I think was one of the top 5 best races of my running career. I ran like a total idiot [going out in 6:07? Not really that great of an idea] but somehow, everything came together right, and crossing that line to the number 19 on the clock was absolutely one of my top 5 running moments of 2009. The leap of faith into the 5K paid off...I had one of the best track seasons of my life, proved to myself that I could do it and that training hard paid off.

With track season over, my attention turned from track long distances into LONG long distances. First up, a half marathon, which was pretty much just an afterthought to the track season. The result? A 6:30 PR, though it was the result of one of the hardest races I’ve run in my life. Then, the BF talked me into doing a triathlon. I really had no clue what I was doing, but I rocked the swim, survived the bike, and kicked some serious ass on the run...and finally achieved my coveted 1st place AG award...hilariously, NOT in a strictly running race. Triathlon is slightly on the back burner in 2010 due to my lack of a bike and money to buy one, but don’t worry...this isn’t the last you’ll hear of that crazy sport here, because I smiled through the entire race and loved every second. I can’t wait to do another one, perhaps I’ll do more training than 5 trips to the pool and 2 bike rides this time...

And finally, I made the biggest jump of all...into the big kahuna of distance running, the marathon. I tossed the idea around for awhile, chickened out and started contemplating a half marathon instead, but when the HM closed and the pieces started coming together for a marathon, I took the plunge and signed up. Clicking “submit” on my marathon payment? TERRIFYING. And so began 4 months of figuring out how to train to run 26.2 miles. There were good days and bad days, and I’ll be the first to admit that I had no idea what I was doing, and I’m sure I made some mistakes. But in the end, on a freezing, raining, wind blowing October day, the result was a beautiful thing. For once in my life, I had a race plan, I knew what I wanted to do, and I executed. And that right there is why the marathon was the absolute proudest running moment of 2009 for me. I have a long history of choking in big races or races where I set my expectations high and am like “THIS is the day I’m going to do this” [see: NIRCA Nationals 08, high school track sectionals, Loras Open 5K, and plenty of other races throughout my career]. But here for once, magically and perfectly, everything came together and I stuck to my plan, and knew I could do it. I didn’t get freaked out by the competition, or get caught up in things and go out too fast, or pick a goal time too lofty for my training. I did exactly what I needed to do, when I needed to do it...and wow, was it incredible.

After the marathon, 2009 kind of whimpered out, as I’ve been struggling with IT band issues ever since the race. Things are starting to look up though since I’ve joined a gym and am incorporated cross training and a whole lot of foam rolling into my routine, and little by little things seem to be healing. I’m confident that even with a few setbacks at the beginning of this training cycle, running the Boston Marathon in 2010 is going to be an experience that I will never, ever forget.

So now that I’ve rambled on for awhile about the highlights of my running life in ’09, here are some things that I’ve learned as a runner:
~I’ve learned that marathons are AWESOME, and the journey there is like 95% of the reward...but a great performance on race day is the icing on the cake.
~I’ve learned that a 22 mile solo run will really show you what you’re made of.
~I’ve learned that it’s OK to have a bad race and that it’s pointless to dwell on a poor performance. I still beat myself up over bad races, but I’m trying to be more positive and focus more on things that I can do to make the next race a success.
~I’ve learned that I really like racing and I get antsy when I don’t do it for awhile.
~I’ve learned that it’s actually possible to smile during a race
~I’ve learned that you don’t get bored while running marathons
~~I think, in general, I’ve become a much smarter runner. I am slowly but surely learning how to run EASY on easy days and why it’s not necessary to hammer every single day. I feel like I’m much more in tune with my training and figuring out what things are working for me and what things aren’t, and I think in general I’ve just become more serious about the sport and am working to improve all aspects of my training to make me a better runner.
~I’ve learned that sometimes, you have to take a risk and do something that totally scares you, and while you’re training for it you think to yourself “why the hell am I doing this?” and on race day you’re terrified that you’re going to completely fail. It’s like that quote “only those who risk going too far can find out how far they can possibly go”. If somebody had told me a year ago that I’d be running 2 marathons, one of them being Boston, before I turned 23, I would have laughed in their face. You just never know what a new distance has in store for you...and you’ll never find out unless you give it a try.

Finally, as I say goodbye to 2009, time to put in place some GOALS for 2010! Dare I say new year’s resolutions?
-Be SMART about injuries, and don’t run through an injury again. If I hadn’t been an idiot and tried to run through this IT band crap, I probably would be fine by now. Sometimes taking a break from running is completely necessary and it’s not going to ruin all of your fitness and strength.
-Along those same lines, working on injury prevention and strengthening. I’m really going to try hard to keep up with my core work and get in the gym to lift a couple times a week, because strength training is something that’s always been missing in my running routine and I’m sure it hasn’t helped my injury problems.
-Cross train on days off of running. Now that I belong to a gym, I don’t have an excuse. I actually really, really enjoy swimming, and I’ve found that it can mimic the intensity of running pretty well. I’m still keeping my 1 day off of running a week [it keeps me sane], but I’m hoping to at least get some workout in on that day.
-Run at least run race of 5K, 10K, HM, and marathon. The marathon is obviously Boston. I’m really interested to see what I could run in a 10K in a couple months. The 5K I’m kind of scared of because I’m sure I’ve only gone downhill from that glorious 19:54, but my road race PR is only 21:47, so I’d love to best that. And the HM...well, we have some unfinished business to take care of. I’d love to have a GOOD half marathon race.
-Try some new distances. I’ve already got my eye on the Eastern States 20 miler as Boston Prep, but I think a 15K or 10 miler would also be fun to add to the repetoire.
-Run a couple of XC meets. I miss XC. I want to get more involved in GBTC too, it’s been hard since the marathon with being injured and all, but hopefully that’s on the road to recovery.
-Try to eat healthier. I’m blessed with a combination of a great metabolism and being really active, so I basically eat whatever I want, but I really WANT to do a better job of eating more things that are actually good for me. More fruits and veggies, and more cooking instead of making crap from a box [difficult at times as a poor grad student, but at least making the effort would be good :)] If nothing else, at least take my vitamins every day. :)
-Have a healthy, injury-free, successful 2010 filled with fun, races, and many PRS :) this long enough yet? I’m writing this at 35,000 feet or whatever airplane cruising altitude is because I’m on my way back to Wisconsin for Christmas...yay! First time bringing a laptop on a plane...oh so thrilling haha. I’m also running on approximately 2 hours of sleep which is awesome...our flight left at 6:15 am and the trains don’t run that early, so we decided to just go the night before and hang out at the airport from midnight on. FUN TIMES! Luckily my quickie 4 mile run [yes!! I’m running again, and my knee doesn’t hurt!!!] at 9 pm woke me up for awhile. Airport floors/seats are not as comfortable to sleep on as I would have hoped haha, but I did snuggle under my pea coat and catch a few Zs. And wrapped all my presents! Hehe. Actually funny story...I am bringing my Stick home so I can keep up with my IT band rolling while I’m there...and my bag got called out of security because of it! Not because of the scissors I used to wrap presents, oh no, the guy was like “’s some sort of exercise bar?” It kind of made me laugh.

I guess this is what happens when I don’t post for like...forever, and then I’m bored and caffienated on a plane and need something to do haha. But I’m going to wrap this up. Hope everyone has a WONDERFUL Christmas and holidays, and a happy, happy new year! I hope you all had a fantastic 2009 and that 2010 is just as good. :)

In the immortal words of NSYNC...”Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays!”

Edit on 12/26: Finally getting around to posting this! Sorry I have been absent for quite some time in blogland, my google reader has 49 new blogs for me to read which is A LOT for me! Thanks a lot, crappy home internet.  I'll be back to commenting and whatnot soon :) Hope everyone had a very merry Christmas...I'm now back in the airport at Milwaukee [thanks, Google, for the free WiFi!] and headed back to Boston on a slightly delayed flight. AND I ran 6 miles yesterday [Christmas day], outside [in the rain :)], pain free [longest run with no knee pain since the marathon!!].  Talk about a great Christmas present... :)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Where have I been?

A mulitple choice quiz: What have I been doing that's been keeping me from blogging this past week?
A) Joining a gym and discovering the "joys" of ellipticalling, pool running, swimming, and lifting
B) Making best friends/becoming a slave to the foam roller
C) Working almost 50 hours, including 28 in the past 2 days
D) Running 5 miles pain free today!
E) All of the above

If you guessed win!'s been a CRAZY week at work [everyone wants their dog groomed and looking snazzy for the holidays, oh boy], I finally sucked it up and joined a gym, taking an entire WEEK off of running [um, TORTURE!] I have found that I can swim for 45 minutes straight and enjoy it, that the elliptical destroys my soul, and that the foam roller is both amazing and evil.  And I have been formulating a master plan for making it to Boston without my knee exploding or my training sucking.  For now, I'm just starting back up running every other day again and working up the mileage relatively slowly.  On the non-running days, I'm cross training like a beast and becoming one of those cool people who actually lifts...haha oh geez.  Anyway, hopefully I'll manage to start posting more often again once my work schedule calms down a little bit, at the very least I must post a review of 2009 before the new year begins!

For now I'm basking in the glow of the fact that I ran 5 miles today [albeit on the treadmill of doom] and my knee didn't poop out on me, and that I'm going out to dinner and the Nutcracker with my favorite boy...don't worry, I'm back in the holiday spirit, no bah humbugs here :)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Bah humbug

That's what I think about my knee...turns out, I will NOT be running Walter's Run 5K tomorrow [good thing I was planning on signing up day-of, right?] because my knee decided to completely poop out on me after 3 awesome days of running.  8+ miles, 6 miles, 8+ miles, all pretty much pain-free...then after ~2 miles yesterday, I was left unable to go up & down stairs without pain.

I think this is the final straw and I finally have to swallow my pride and admit: I can't run through this injury.  I have tried and tried to make it OK, and I've thought that just a little pain vs. a TON of pain meant it was getting better...but clearly, it's not.  I'm really frustrated since I had zero problems when I was running crazy high mileage leading up to the marathon, and now I can't do anything - clearly, something happened during the marathon that...wasn't cool. I've been trying so hard to slowly get my mileage back up and see what I can do while still keeping the pain in check, but it just doesn't seem to be working.  So...I'm forcing myself to take a week COMPLETELY off of running.  You heard me right - zero running.  I am planning on taking advantage of a "7-day trial" that a fitness center with a pool in my area has and rocking out the swimming/pool running/elipticalling [ugh, gag me] for the next week, and seeing if things improve.  This is going to be SO HARD for me...but all I've wanted for the past 2 months was to be able to just go out and run and not worry about my damn knee falling apart on maybe, if I give it a little time to rest and take the stress off, while continuing to stretch and roll it out...good things will happen [maybe a Christmas miracle?]

I'm sort of freaking out because my marathon training program for Boston is supposed to start in 2 WEEKS...and obviously, I am nowhere near ready for that kind of intensity at the moment. My cardio, and for the most part my muscles, feel relatively ready, but it terrifies me to have to go into this training program without a real, solid week of base where I've made it over 37 miles, and ONE damn 10 mile run which was pretty much a failure thanks to my stupid knee.   I've been trying to run within the limits of my injury issue, but I'm starting to wish that I had taken the time off when the problem STARTED, not after it's continued and potentially gotten worse over the past 2 months.  Unfortunately, I only just got a job a couple of weeks ago, so getting into the gym wasn't even a question when I didn't have any income...

One other thought: my self-diagnosis of my problem is IT band syndrome, something I've dealt with before pretty successfully by just taking a week or two off [I vividly remember being on a run with my friend Nicole and literally being in tears because I felt like my knee was being ripped apart from the inside, and ending up having to walk ~3 miles home, after going on a 6 day vacation to Mexico where I didn't run at all, and then another week of just cross training, all was fine].  I've heard some pretty amazing things about ART, and I know there are at least a few decent practices in the Boston area, so for anyone who has any experience with this: is it worth the money? I do have a job at this point, but I'm still trying to save for student loans and various other things, so $75 for a 30 minute session seems like a lot to me...however, if it would let me run pain-free again, and let me train fo a PR in Boston?  I can't even put a price on that.

I am also wondering if my shoes are playing a role in this problem?  I did train for the marathon in a pair of apparently higher stability shoes, Etonics Kendaris [won in a small road race, I didn't even know that Etonics made running shoes, but I was a poor college student and figured I should take what I could get!] I went back to my old standby, Mizuno Wave Inspires, after 550+ miles on the Kendaris, but I'm starting to feel like the 5th edition of this shoe has less of the stability of the 4s.  I noticed that they came out with a 6th edition of the Inspires [already??] so I wonder if those would be better...if anyone has any experience with those, I'd love to hear about it!

Anyway, I'm pretty frustrated.  I'm trying to look on the bright side and hopefully I'll be able to work these trial memberships for all they're worth and advance my fitness in other ways...but really, all I want to do is run, and not worry about my knee falling apart or ruining my day halfway through a long run.  I wasn't worried about training for another marathon just because of the distance, but now with this issue hanging over my head....I'm really worried.  :(

Monday, December 07, 2009

Oh hey, 5K

So I've realized I'm really boring and have absolutely nothing to write about on this when I'm not in training for something - LAME! And then I realized that right now is the first time in a looong time that I haven't been training for something...I mean, the past couple of months of just doing whatever I've wanted in terms of running have been great, but I'm getting antsy! I need to go fast! And I can't help feeling that I've lost fitness so at the same time I know the first few weeks of hard training are going to be a beeeyotch, especially if my knee continues it's on again-off again act. [Saturday's 5.5 miler: total disaster that ended in me having to walk part of the way home, Sunday's 6.1 miler, just peachy keen!]

Sooo in the spirit of changing things up a little bit, I think I'm going to run a 5K on Saturday...ahhhh yes. I don't even remember how to run a 5K. When was the last time I even vaguely tried to go fast? May? Haha yeah... Interestingly enough, it can be kind of hard to find races out here that I can actually get to without a car...obviously Boston does have quite a few pretty major road races, but it's a little harder if you're looking for just kind of a cheap, local 5K that isn't going to sell out...well, that appears to be basically what this one is. The proceeds go to a kids charity, after looking at the results from last year it looks like I would at least have a shot in the dark of placing in my age group if I ran decently [not that that's really a reason I run a race, but it's always a bonus], and who can say no to a festive Christmas run? Not this girl! I also think I'm going to run in "costume" which isn't something I've ever done before...I've always been super hardcore about racing, but who says you can't run well while wearing a green tank top with red underarmor and socks that say "Santa Paws" on them? Haha.

For real though, I think this will be a great opportunity to see what kind of shape I'm in and how my knee will hold up to a few miles of faster running. I'm actually a little scared that I'll end up running some awful time because I haven't run fast in so long, and I KNOW it's going to be painful and suck...but it will be fun, right? I need a new race number to add to the board, anyway. :)

Other than that...this week has been crazy in terms of weather, it was 68 degrees on Thursday, which was just...INSANE! I never thought I'd see the day I could run in shorts and a t-shirt in December...but that's exactly what I did! It was a little weird to be honest. Then later in the week it snowed, and I had to remember how to dress for running in the winter...and of course how much I adore UnderArmor! Yesterday I did my favorite reservoir run and it was absolutely beautiful...the snow was clinging to the trees and the grass and the cluster of houses that are on the hill across from the reservoir looked like one of those little Christmas pretty! I actually kind of like running in the winter...maybe it's my Wisconsin upbringing haha...but I always feel badass when I'm running and it's cold...there's a special camaradrie between the runners who are crazy enough to go pound out some miles when it's sleeting or below freezing.

Weekly mileage: 35.5
2 weeks straight of 30+ mileage? Whoa...let's not get ahead of ourselves here. :P

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

It's the most wonderful time of the year!

It's Christmas season, in case you didn't get that. I'm one of those people who refuses to give in to the day-after-Halloween-let's bust out the carols business, but when the day after Thanksgiving does arrive...I am FESTIVE...and my festivity is doubled this year because I don't have winter finals hanging over my head before the holidays...glorious! Yesterday I went to Yankee Candle and bought my 2 faaaavorite Xmas scents...balsam/cedar and now the apartment smells amazing, and today I had to hold myself back from buying out the entire holiday decoration section at Marshalls...I mean...who DOESN'T want dishtowels with reindeer on them or santa wine glasses or glittery Christmas trees? I'm such a nerd haha. I did pick up a couple of things for the Toys for Tots drive that the alumni association is doing, so that made me happy...I love doing that sort of thing around the holidays, and it kind of makes me laugh that I spend way too much money at Christmas because I absolutely LOVE buying stuff for other people!

So, I admit I've been neglecting this blog a little bit this past week...I have just been BUSY [lol, I just accidentally wrote "busty" for that...which I most definitely am not haha]...and when I'm not busy, I'm sleepy. I've been training at my job which has been a lot of work and time, but I'm playing with puppies and making money, so I'm pretty happy. Running wise, I finally managed to get in a decent week last week - 37.7 miles. After the sad 20-25 mile weeks I've been putting in since the marathon, I was really happy to actually put some semi-respectable mileage on the board. I actually did 2 "long" runs this week - 9.25 miles on Thanksgiving, and 10.1 on Sunday. The Thanksgiving run was crazy. First of all, I was running really fast for most of it - there's another reservoir near me that is almost exactly 1 mile around, and I clocked one of my laps there at 6:54...tempo run what what! I had planned on doing 6 or 7 miles, then stopping at the grocery store to pick up a bottle of wine [which the BF and I had forgotten for our stuffing recipe] and taking the train home...buuut then Trader Joe's was closed, so I ran around to all the nearby grocery/liquor stores [there are a LOT within a ~1 mile radius!]...unfortunatly none were open. Duh Audrey, why would a liquor store be open on Thanksgiving? I wasn't THAT sad about it because I was happy to get in a longer run. :) And no worries, the wine turned out to be a pretty minor ingredient and the stuffing was perfectly amazing without it!

My knee started bugging me about halfway through my 10 miler on Sunday, which was too bad. The weather was was like 55 and I actually ran about half of the time in just a t-shirt and shorts, then threw on my arm warmers when it started to get darker/colder. That's pretty much unheard of for me at that time of the year! I had to keep stopping every few minutes after about 7 miles to stretch out my leg, which was pretty frustrating...this damn knee keeps faking me out, making me think it's all better! Boo. But I was happy to get through it and realize that I do still have the fitness to do some longer runs.

Hmm...well I ended up with 112.6 miles in November, which is honestly more than I would have expected considering I've been semi-injured the whole month. It's kind of hard to believe that the marathon was a month and a half ago! I started off December with a very nice 5.5 mile run on my one and only spectacular "night run route" [well lit, busy streets, tons of runners, & Boston College!] and as a fitting beginning to December, I actually had to bust out my running tights! Sad? Kinda, but in my mind winter doesn't start until December, so I can tolerate it I guess haha. The thing I hate about winter is how early it gets dark...seriously...completely dark at 5 pm?? That's practically still afternoon! The only positive is that there are plenty of people finishing up work at that time, and so plenty of runners out and about which always makes me feel better. Another thing I don't mind about winter running? I have a full Christmas playlist on my iPod, and I don't feel bad about listening to it. Don't even worry about it. Manheim Steamroller = AMAZING!

And finally, to start off December right, I give you a holiday "classic"...always makes me laugh :)