Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I promised photos. . .

From Tri Glenwood last year. I have been seriously slacking. Unfortunately, I only have "before" pictures. So, without further ado -

If you were to see this picture on my tiny camera screen, you would ask yourself, "Where's Waldo?"

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Grand Valley Half Marathon Review

First half marathon? Completed.

I kept meaning to make posts on my blog about things that were worrying me leading up to the race; parts of my training that didn't go quite as planned. By the time the race got here, I figured they could become part of a longer entry of survival and accomplishment.

Now, I've been running a pretty consistent 12 minute mile. Ryan Hall, I am not. But, I can keep that pace over the distance and that works for me. The great thing about the town where I live is that there are hills *everywhere.* We live in a valley, so in order to get out of it you have to climb somewhere! I didn't realize just how important those hills would be in my training.

Worry #1: I haven't driven or run the course.

Friday night, we went to go pick up my race packet. We made our way to the Twisted Brick Studios in Palisade (which is very cool inside). I had been trying to pull up the race map on my computer for weeks now, and every time I went to the site all I would get was a map of Palo Alto, California. Pretty, but not western Colorado. I tried my husband's computer only to get the same result. I did the normal techie things (cleared cache and cookies) and tried again. . .only to get the same result. I tried my work computer only to get a map of Mount Vernon, New York. I e-mailed the race director to let them know of my issue; they could not recreate it.

I finally tried M's iPhone on Friday night to see if I could get the race map to pull - success! I knew there was one substantial hill around mile 4, so I found it on the tiny screen and asked M if we could drive it. We made our way to 38 Road and made the turn. This is a winding road with a small 2-3% incline that is covered in trees, so you really can't see beyond it. "This is the hill? This can't be the hill."

It wasn't.

We made our way past the trees to see the hill in front of us. I don't remember exactly what I said, but there was swearing involved. M's response to me was, "it's not that bad." Really husband? Because you're not the one that has to run it tomorrow! It turns out my husband was just trying to make me feel better. We drove to the top and turned around so I could map the distance with the car - 1/2 mile from top to bottom. I didn't know the grade, but it certainly reminded me of the widowmaker from the Highline Hustle Triathlon.

I woke up at 5am on Saturday morning, ate half of an english muffin with peanut butter, grabbed my stuff and we were out the door by 6am. M took the required "before" picture, which really looks like the pictures your mom took of you before the first day of school. I started to take in a Clif Shot as we drove the 30 minutes to Palisade. I didn't end up taking another one for the entire race, but I did have some Gatorade with me in my Nathan hand held bottle.

We parked, walked around, and I warmed up and stretched. We arrived just as the marathoners were starting at 6:30am. The wind was blowing something crazy, so most of the half-marathoners were hiding behind a set of buildings on the opposite side of the street. Looking at the race results now, the half was the most popular event and doubled its number of racers from last year (from 80 something to ~160).

M was kind enough to fill a Shuffle with new music for me. This Shuffle had been sitting in the closet for over a year now; my dad got it when he opened a checking account and gave it to me. I have a Sansa that I like, but needs to be cleaned out. For the past 2-3 months, I've been running with M's iPhone, which is great because I can turn to Pandora and hear new stuff I probably wouldn't have heard otherwise. Because of this, I now have some mad love for Owl City. I asked M to put a bunch of music on there, preferably Christian, and fast tempo. I listened to his efforts about 4 days before the race.

David Crowder Band? Gone.
Casting Crowns? Love them, but too slow.

He added a couple of songs I specifically requested, along with some other albums and called it a day. I really had little idea what was on the Shuffle, which to most people might be off putting as they begin a 2 1/2 hour run. The funny thing is, if I could have written a soundtrack for the race, it would have been the same songs I heard. I queued up my music player to get ready for the start and began to hear Every Little Thing by Hawk Nelson. This song holds special meaning for me and was the perfect way to start my journey.
With a minute to go, we lined up, I kissed M goodbye, and the air horn went off. The first 2-3 miles weren't bad at all. I average running a 12 minute mile, but was posting consistent 11:40 splits. All the while I was trying to pick a pacer, but everyone kept running away from me! It appeared early on that I would be one of the last to finish, and I was okay with that.

Worry #2: My longest training run was only 8.8 miles.

I had planned on my last big run being 10.4, since I ran 8.8 the week before. It was the day before my friend Stacie's wedding, and to be honest I waited until far to late in the day to go out. It was a warm (for running) day, I was under a time crunch, and because of the weather and stress my heart rate shot up and would not come down. I finally cut my losses at 8 miles that day, and started tapering the next week. I was worried I would hit mile 9 on the course and be done. Well. . .I made it to mile 10 before my legs gave out. I still finished the race, but those last three miles were more brutal than I expected. My real race began at mile 10, and I feel like I didn't do as well as I should have. I did finish however, within the 10 minute range I said I would.

Miles 1-4 were great. I heard The Bird and the Worm by Owl City around mile 3 and was literally bopping my head back and forth while running. I'm sure I looked like an idiot, but I loved it. The weather was great, and for those who have ever been to Palisade, we ran by 14 different wineries with the Grand Mesa and Mount Garfield as our backdrop. I don't know how you can get much more beautiful than that.

Mile 4 was the hill. Remember the one I told you about earlier? About 30 seconds into the climb I made the decision to save my legs and walk it. I don't regret doing it; I'm sure had I ran up that hill I wouldn't have made it as far as I did before I had to walk. Of course, as I'm starting up the hill I begin to hear Forward Motion by Relient K. That was pretty timely, if I do say so myself.

Cause I struggle with forward motion
I struggle with forward motion
We all struggle with forward motion
Cause forward motion is harder than it sounds
Well every time I gain some ground
I gotta turn myself around again

The course was an out and back, so on my way down the hill at mile 8 I notice a yellow warning sign for trucks that gave the grade of the hill. . . drum roll please. . .fourteen percent! I'm very thankful I didn't know that going UP. The big hill on the Bay to Breakers course is only 12%, and that almost killed me.

Miles 9-10 were spent mostly running with a couple of walking breaks. Miles 10-12 were spent mostly walking with a few running breaks. Mile 13 I did my best to run so I could finish strong. At the beginning of that last run, I began to hear a song I still can't find (and haven't heard on my Shuffle since); all I remember is the first line being something to the effect of, "I'm so tired of running." Like I said, I couldn't have written the soundtrack to this race better if I had done it in advance.

I saw M at the finish and he took a photo of my crossing. He hugged me and told me how proud he was of me, and didn't make fun of me when I started to cry. I had finished my first half marathon, and no one can take that away from me. My final time was 2:47:58, which I'm happy with. I expected to finish between 2:40 and 2:50, given my twelve minute mile and a little bit of cushion time. That put me at an average of 12:48 per mile. With the first few miles at a consistent 11:40 pace, the walking is what did me in. Oh well, there's always next time.

"Next time?"

Yes my dear readers, I am doing this craziness all over again this Saturday. I'm running in the Geist Half Marathon in Indianapolis. If I'm stuck here for work, I might as well get something enjoyable out of it. As my co-worker Jen from Phoenix told me, "I'll be running the other half of my marathon." I just hope they don't count the lag time.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

I stand corrected

We won the costume contest for the "Worst Day of the Year" ride after all. We picked up our prize yesterday, $30 to a local mexican restaurant. Yum.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Worst Day of the Year!

Modeled after Portland's Worst Day of the Year Bike Ride, our fair town started their own tradition this year. Come rain, or sleet, or in this case, snow, you show up and ride.

Unlike the Portland ride, which is takes 2-5 hours, the ride here this year was a scant 10 miles. I don't think I've actually been on my bike since the Glenwood Triathlon, which is pretty sad. With the snow finally melting off the road, I'm excited to get back into 20+ mile rides in the country around Colorado National Monument.

We spent our ten miles on various trails down by the Colorado river. It was nice to go for a ride with my husband. Our tickets included lunch, and costumes were encouraged. M dressed up as a cowboy (including a cowboy hat cable tied to his helmet), and I dressed as a flapper girl complete with gloves and a feather boa. M got interviewed by two of the three news stations here; he got comments from his co-workers this morning asking where his "six shooters" were. He showed them off for the NBC affiliate.

Here we are after the ride. Sadly, we had already put our bikes away or you could see how dirty the back wheels got.

The sponsors gave out prizes for the best costumes. I really thought we had a chance, as only 6-8 people actually dressed up, but it was not meant to be. We left before the end (you could show up anytime between 11am-3pm), so maybe you had to be present to win. Oh well, we're already planning on how to go "bigger" next year.

Monday, February 15, 2010

No longer a hamster on the wheel

I have been struggling the past month or so, trying to figure out how I want to set up my training schedule, what I want to get out of it, and how to balance work/home/fitness/life. The fact that my husband makes incredible chocolate chip cookies is *not* helping.

I had the day off today, and planned to take M's car to have it detailed as his V-Day gift (thanks to my friend Jill for this suggestion). The car wash is 2 miles from the house, so I drove down for the appointment and got my run in coming back to the house.

What a difference being outside makes! Its been so long since I've run outside that I almost couldn't remember why I hate the treadmill. Don't get me wrong, the treadmill has its purpose; speed intervals, hills (when its hard to find a safe one in town), and help with maintaining a constant speed. It also gives me a chance to watch NBC Nightly News and drool over Brian Williams. But, all of this fails in comparison to actually being outside. To see that you are actually going somewhere. To smell fresh air instead of gym sweat. To no longer feel like a hamster on its wheel, spinning and spinning but going nowhere. Oh outdoors, how I've missed you.

It has been an unusual winter here in our valley, we received more snow here back in December than we have in the past 20 years. That snow (and the subsequent storms) have finally melted enough that we can take down our Christmas lights. Because we live in a valley, we often get an inversion over the area. This traps in a lot of smog and pollen; it is not very conducive to running outside. It lifted this past weekend, so I took advantage this morning. All 25 degrees of it. I also walked back those two miles to pick M's car up. I tried to get M to go swimming with me today also, but that was a bust. Maybe I will go tonight after dinner (and after they put the lanes back. 5:30 is "aqua fitness" at our gym).

Inspirational Music Monday

I would have thought that starting a weekly blog "feature" would have made me more likely to update this thing. Baby steps Julia. . .baby steps.

This week's IMM is brought to you by the number five, the periodic table element Fe, and the Tasmanian Devil. Why him? Because when he spins around, it looks like he's working himself into a frenzy. Get it? Five Iron Frenzy?

I know, I need to work on my Sesame Street humor.

My husband turned me on FIF when we first started dating. He is a big fan of ska and punk. The band scores bonus points because they are local (Denver), but sadly they broke up in 2003. According to their Wikipedia page, a DVD called "The Rise and Fall of Five Iron Frenzy" is scheduled to come out next month. Its on the interwebz, so it must be true.

I don't remember exactly what my husband told me when he played this song for me; actually, I think he put it on a mix tape for me to listen to during my 30 minute drive between our apartments. I do remember him telling me I'd like it, and I do. This week's inspirational song is called, "Dandelions." Its about seeing the beauty that is beyond the surface; and, its got a good beat to run to.

I found the song on YouTube, which includes the lyrics. A more whimsical video can be found here. Viva la FIF!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Inspirational Music Monday

A lot of the blogs I follow have "theme days." I would like to think that by starting one here, it might encourage me (or force me, whichever) to post more. So ladies and gentlemen, I bring you Inspirational Music Monday. These are songs that encourage, push, and are just fun to listen to while you run, bike, or whatever you choose to do.

When I first started running, I chose to follow the C25K program. There are several podcasts designed to help you run/walk, but I wanted something a bit more inspirational. After Googling for a bit, I found a podcast of Christian Indie Artists (CIA) started by the front man of Buried Talents Band; he was looking to run the 5Ks he used to when he was younger. I downloaded the first four weeks and hit the pavement.

It was about half way through my first run that I heard my first song for Inspirational Music Monday. Something came over me when I heard it; I knew from then on I was running for something bigger than myself.* I look forward to hearing this song every time it comes up in the shuffle of my MP3 player.

This week's selection: Run, by After the Chase. Here is a sample of the song, along with the lyrics. Another sample can be found here.

I'm sorry that I am unable to find a full length sample on the interwebs; the song is much more powerful when you hear it from the beginning. However, I can certainly understand why I can't find one.

*Yes, most of the songs for Inspirational Music Monday will probably be religious in nature. These are the songs that inspire me and I wish to share them. If you find offense to the post, then just move along to another post more suited to your needs; and realize that you probably offend a little too easily.

Holy Crowded Gym!

Tis the season for new year's resolutions! I am stuck working out inside for a bit longer; we finally got above freezing here this week and the roads are still far too slick. All I want to do right now is get on my bike and go anywhere.

It's near impossible to find a parking spot at my gym right now. Thankfully, once you get inside its not so bad (they have a ton of machines and weights). I think the majority of people right now are going to classes instead of working out on their own. This is the time of year that everyone resolves to lose weight, get healthy, and become a better "you." I understand the frustration of those who go to the gym year-round who complain this time of year; the majority of those crowding the treadmills and free weights will be gone in six weeks. But at the same time I have to ask, "Do you remember your first time at a gym?"

I do; I signed up for a 24 Hour Fitness not too far from my work back in 2007. M and I had been married for less than a year, and I had put on the "newlywed nine" and then some. At this point I still cared about the number on the scale, so my goal was to lose 25 pounds (and I still haven't gotten down to that weight). I spent my lunch hours there, watching trashy soaps or Montel while speeding away on the elliptical or jamming out while going around the circuit. I remember feeling out of place and unwanted by those on the machines next to me. I felt like I had to work out harder and longer to prove I "belonged" there. Now that I am a little more "seasoned" in the language of the gym, I try really hard not to put on the same airs I met when I first starting going. Those people are simply trying to do what I did two years ago - feel better about themselves. If my biggest issue is that I have to look a bit longer for a place to park, then my day is going pretty well. Sadly, most of them will be gone in six weeks; discouraged by their lack of progress or motivation or any number of other reasons. But I choose to not be a reason for someone quitting. I encourage all others to do the same.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

One of my biggest obstacles. . .

Is working out while I'm traveling. Whether I'm traveling for work or pleasure, as soon as I get out of my normal routine, everything goes out the window.

Why can't I be more disciplined?
- I know exercise makes me feel better.
- I know exercise makes me sleep better.
- I know exercise gives me a sense of accomplishment I can't find anywhere else.

My goal in 2010 is to get better about exercise while traveling. I hope to set up a series of strength training exercises I can do in my hotel room if all else fails.

Right now, I'm blogging to the world from the business center of the Hampton Inn - AFTER 3 miles on the elliptical. Woot!

So riddle me this Internet; how do you stay motivated to exercise when you're not in your "normal" routine?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

A New Year, A New Goal

I spent the holidays doing some soul searching, trying to figure out what I wanted to get out of 2010 (race wise). I was incredibly inspired by my friend Jill who finished her second marathon in 2009. I'm sure that training with a toddler was a challenge! My sister-in-law Anne ran her first half marathon in October, and countless ladies on the Health & Fitness board I lurk on are meeting their race goals and feeling great. That's not to say I didn't feel an incredible sense of accomplishment with Highline and Glenwood last year; but I want to take it up a notch.

As a recommendation from several H&F ladies, I picked up "The Non-Runner's Marathon Guide for Women" as a fun read this summer. When I brought it home, my husband's first response was, "you thinking of running a marathon now?," followed by his usual jolly chuckle. At the time, I had no plans to run that kind of distance, I just wanted a fun girl-trying-to-be-an-athlete read. But I have to admit, that remark has been gnawing at me for almost 6 months now. So, the question then becomes. . .

Why couldn't I?

Thumbing through the newest copy of Runner's World over Christmas, I noticed that the Rock n' Roll Marathon series was going to have its inaugural year in Denver. They don't have a set date yet (its listed for Fall 2010), but it looks like it will be in October and take over the slot of the ING Denver Marathon. I've heard from several people how fun the RnR series is; the date would give me plenty of time to train (and throw a 1/2 marathon in there somewhere).

So, while I'll still do a couple of tri's this year to try and better my time, I am going to try and focus my energy on running. 26.2 is quite a jaunt, but over the last year I've really enjoyed running and what if offers to me physically and psychologically.

Now, to convince my husband I'm not crazy. . .