Sunday, January 31, 2010

One Down...

I'm officially one month into my 2010/2010 Challenge - remember, the one where I said I'd run and bike a combination of 2,010 miles by the end of the calendar year. Here's how January went:
  • Run: 89.07 miles
  • Bike: 55.47 miles
  • Month Total: 155.54 miles
  • Left To Go: 1,865.46 miles
With cold, snow and short days, I'm pretty happy with the first month of my challenge. One down, 11 more to go!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Outside The Comfort Zone

It seems now as if running has always been a part of my life.

But just a couple of short years ago, I looked at someone in disbelief when they suggested I attend a Team In Training Info Night.

"You could run a half-marathon," she told me. And she said it with such conviction, like there wasn't a doubt in her mind.

Me? I don't run. There's no way that I could do 13.1 miles. And do it in a few short months? Never.

Of course, we all know how that turned out. I did, in fact, go from a non-runner to
someone who finished the Disney Half-Marathon. And then I did another. And another. And another. And then I did a marathon.

Running is surely part of who I am now - a part that helps me to live a healthy and happy life, a part that helps me focus, be alone with my thoughts when I need to and celebrate what I can do. Everyone should have something like that in their life.

Most importantly, it's a part of my life that I like to share with others.

Many people have told me I've motivated them, inspired them or impressed them along the way. It's always funny hearing that. I'm just me - nothing special. I don't do anything that anyone else can't do. I really believe that.

That's exactly what I told the group of new team members at Info Night for a new Manchester TNT team last night.

They, too, looked skeptical. I could tell some doubted they could run a half or full marathon, let alone train for it while raising thousands of dollars for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. But they can.

And they will.

I'm excited I made the decision to be a mentor for these new runners after taking a few months off from mentoring to concentrate on my own marathon training.

I'm perhaps even more excited that I decided to break away from my "old" team on the Seacoast and help re-start a Manchester team.

Don't get me wrong, it wasn't an easy decision. I really like running with the Seacoast team. I've made some wonderful friends and our weekly runs are always full of laughs and stories. I have a sense of comfort there - I know the roads, the routine and the faces.

But sometimes stepping outside your comfort zone is exactly what I need. Just like I did when I attended that first Info Night, convinced myself I could do this and joined the team.

I'll be working with a new coach, on new roads, with new runners. And honestly, I can't wait.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Shut Up and Get Up

I've never been a morning person. Ever.

I have a love-hate relationship with the person who invented the snooze alarm. I love snoozing. But why did anyone ever give me that option? If I knew the alarm would never go off again, I'd probably get out of bed the first time. (I'd have to, right?)

And lately, if it's possible, I've become worse.

I do all sorts of Snooze Alarm Math - made more challenging by the fact that I have my bedside clock set ahead of "real time" - in my head while in my groggy haze, figuring out to the minute just how much time I have left under the covers.

Two more snoozes = 18 minutes = shorter walk with dog. No problem, still plenty of time to get to work.

Yep, almost unconscious strategy to get 18 more minutes of sleep. And more if I come up with other ways to cut time of my morning routine.

Bring my breakfast to work = 1 more snooze? Finding something to wear that doesn't need to be ironed? Yep, could buy me another nine minutes.

The problem is, although I love the feeling of drifting back to sleep, I'm undoubtedly awoken by the beep-beep-beep of the alarm way too quickly. I mean, really, did I get a good sleep in nine extra minutes? I never wake up more rested than I did when the alarm went off for the first time.

If anything, it's the opposite.

In fact, on the days when I do get up and actually do something in the morning, I feel great. (I admit it's been a long time since that's happened.) Back when I was dedicated to morning runs (yes, there was a time I actually did all of my runs in the mornings), I felt more alert and productive during the day than any multiple-snooze day.

Why can't I remember that feeling in the morning when the alarm goes off?

And, as if I need more reasons to get out of bed, getting my morning run in takes the pressure away from having to squeeze it in after work. I might even, gasp, be able to eat dinner before 8 p.m. - imagine that!?

As I look as my schedule in the next upcoming weeks - with the evening hours getting filled up with various personal and work commitments, I might be forced to adopt a morning run routine. (TC might not like that news. Sorry!) I'm not willing to completely forgo my runs for the week.

I don't need to run every morning. Maybe I should start slow - one morning this week? Two if I'm feeling extra motivated?

I know, I know, I've said I was going to do this before. Now I just need to stop talking about it and do it. Just shut up and get up. (And maybe I need someone to ask me how I did.)


Monday, January 18, 2010

Difference A Day Makes

Don't like the weather in New England? Wait a day.

That saying was never truer than this morning, when after a weekend of near-50-degree temps, I awoke to several inches of snow on the ground.

Although I love mornings when the snow coats the trees (and the patio furniture I neglected to take in, as seen this photo), New Englanders - myself included - cherish warm winter days that take us by surprise. They're like little gifts - a warm day is like an island oasis in a dessert.

Mind you, the term "warm" is pretty relative.

This weekend's temps didn't even hit 50 degrees. Still, upper 40's - with sunshine to boot - allowed us to shed our many layers of clothing and experience just a touch of Spring Fever. (Remember, we'd been experiencing single-digits for the past couple of weekends.)

For me, it came in the form of a nice, long run - the kind that I didn't plan out or stress about. I just ran to run.

I toyed with the idea of wearing shorts, but couldn't bring myself to do it so I opted for my capri running pants - a lot better than the suffocating running tights that I'm usually relegated to during these winter months.

The sunshine felt great on my face - although it was somewhat blinding as it hit the melting snow on the roads. (I've never been one to run in sunglasses, but it's something I might want to investigate.)

My no-plan run took me along some familiar roads, combining several of my most frequent routes. In the end, I logged 11.88 miles at an impressive (at least for me) pace of 9:18 minute-miles. (It gave me a glimmer of hope that a sub-two-hour half-marathon will be done this year.)

I rounded out the weekend on Sunday with a trip to the coast for a run. I ran the Newcastle loop, the one that I've run countless times with my teammates. This time, with the team in Phoenix for the Rock n' Roll half and full marathons, I ran alone.

By the end, I had added another 6.57 miles (a little more than the "regular" loop to get me to and from the dog park where my dad was baby-sitting The Beast) at a 9-minute-mile pace. Yep, 9:00 even. Sweet!

The run helped me top the 30-mile mark for running this week. I had an additional 15+ miles on the bike (indoors), too. Quite a week, for sure.

In reality, it's pretty much on target (maybe slightly more, but it's nice to build up a cushion when I can) with what I should be doing to keep up with my my personal challenge to run/bike 2,010 miles in 2010.
Here's the latest:
  • Run (this week): 30.21 miles
  • Bike (this week): 15.19 miles
  • Total for year: 96.62
  • Miles to go: 1,913.38

Friday, January 15, 2010

Andy + Jeanne = 9.94

Sometimes I just need a nudge. Maybe a push. Usually, it comes in the form of a goal to work toward.

There's something about having a firm, tangible goal that somehow makes it more achievable. That's why signing up for races before starting the training has always worked for me. Once I'm officially on the roster, I know I need to do what it takes to get to the Start Line. More importantly, I need to get to the Finish Line.

I realized with somewhat of a panic recently that the Hyannis Half Marathon is rapidly approaching. It's six weeks from Sunday, actually.

Only six weeks? Yikes. I better get training, I thought.

Sure, I put in a 10-miler last weekend (recall that 10 miles was the longest distance I did before my first half-marathon), so I know I could finish. But I don't want to just finish anymore. I want to continue to improve my performance - that means everything from my finishing time to how I feel along the course. Most importantly, I want to enjoy the experience.

And there's that pesky 2010 goal to finish a half-marathon in under two hours that's hanging over my head. (My current PR is 2:07 from the Maine Half last October.)

With that in mind, I consulted an online training calculator and printed out my training schedule - or at least what will serve as my rough guide for training - for the next six weeks.

At a glance, it's definitely do-able. Will it get me across the Finish Line in under two hours? Who knows. Probably not in this upcoming race, but maybe in another.

The key is to just stay focused and motivated.

I'd say that I'm generally pretty good at focusing on a goal and staying self-motivated. But sometimes it helps to have others motivating you, too. Sometimes motivation comes in strange ways.

During the past two weeks, I've found motivation from a couple of online challenges posted by fellow runners on Daily Mile. (If you're a runner and haven't checked out this site, you're really missing out. Not only does it allow you to log your training, it comes with a super-supportive community cheering you on.)

The comments (and the fact that you log your runs for all to see) are motivation in themselves. As an extra push, one DMer recently created some personalized "challenges" to join.

Pass up a challenge? No way.

The first challenge, which was posted last week, called upon DMers to run "The Andy" distance - 6.52 miles. (There is a story about why the distance is called The Andy, named for one of the DM runners, but I came in a little late in the game to know the details.)

Post after post of 6.52-mile runs were logged on the day of The Andy challenge, along with the usual congratulatory remarks and online high-fives. This community of strangers (really, most of them wouldn't know each other if they passed on the street) was doing pretty cool things. And doing them in a fun way.

I mean, no one sets out to run 6.52 miles (except "Andy," perhaps). But with this, a whole slew of runners throughout the country was doing just that.

I was inspired and motivated enough by The Andy challenge to work through lunch and skip out early to steal a mid-week, daytime run. That hardly ever happens in January. I ran a new route, which was a combination of a couple of regular routes for me, to get to the specified mileage. And I, too, logged my Andy on the site.

Not long after that, The Jeanne was created.

Jeanne, apparently, was the first to complete The Andy. The baton, so to speak, had been passed to her. When posted, the challenge called for 3.42 miles - signifying Jeanne's finishing time at the Boston Marathon last year: 3 hours and 42 minutes.

Keeping my half-marathon training schedule in mind, I wasn't sure I wanted to "only" do 3.42 miles that day. Instead, I decided to use that 3.42 miles as a challenge within a challenge.

I headed to the gym for a tempo run - something I'm terribly bad at doing but know I've got to make a habit if I want to get faster. (And something that comes up weekly in my training plan.)

My plan was to run a total of five miles - a mile warm-up, then 3.42 miles at a fast (for me) pace, then a cool-down. (Normally, I'd do 1 mile, then three, then 1 mile - but The Jeanne provided the chance for an extra .42-miles at the faster pace.)

I chugged through the warm-up mile, keeping the pace a little under 10-minute-miles and resisting the urge to speed up. When I hit the mile mark, I tapped on the treadmill until I was at 8:48-minute-miles (6.8mph).

I can usually keep that pace only briefly before I fall back into my comfort zone - typically between 9:30-9:50s - but with The Jeanne looking over my shoulder, I kept it up for three whole miles. Personal victory.

Now at the four-mile mark, I was ready to add just little bit more. I clicked the speed up a bit and ran the next .42 miles at a 8:29 pace.

I returned to a comfortable cool-down pace to round out my five miles -
smiling like crazy on the inside and surely sweating and huffing and puffing on the outside.

As of this post, 95 people had completed The Jeanne - that's 3,249+ miles that were run as part of that challenge. I'm sure there are plenty more to come.

Thanks, DMers, for keeping running fun, encouraging each other - and getting an extra 9.94 good miles in my training.

What's next?


Monday, January 11, 2010

Double-Digits In Single-Digits

I used to have a standing date on Saturday mornings. During our marathon training, Shawnna and I would meet - no matter what - at the same downtown spot every week, ready to run the allotted mileage.

After the marathon, we allowed ourselves to have a less-structured plan, mostly running how much we wanted, when we wanted. The result is that our Saturday morning routine fell by the wayside.

Although I've enjoyed a little less structure in my runs lately, I admit I was itching to get back to a weekly long run - especially with my marathon training buddy whom I'd run many, many miles with this summer. I think it goes without saying that we've shared a lot - remember, we did even our longest runs without iPods. Lots of talking to fill the hours.

Our weekly meet-up was to resume last Saturday, but a weekend of snowstorms caused us to push it off a week. (After all, we've put in our "must" runs during training. Why be crazy? At least that was our justification for calling off the run.)

As the next Saturday approached, the weather forecast called for colder and colder temps. Definitely not my ideal running weather, especially when we were looking at 10 miles or so.

The nice thing about having a running buddy is that it's real motivation to get out there. I admit that the 5 degree windchill (and boy, it was windy!) might have caused me to stay inside or hit the treadmill on my own. I probably wouldn't have gone the whole 10 miles.

But with my marathon buddy waiting downtown for me, I bundled up, scarfed down a quick breakfast and grabbed some GU and water as supplies.

Shawnna was waiting for me (as she always is) and was all-smiles (as she always is) when I rounded the corner. The wind whipped at us fiercely, making us laugh and question our sanity.

We headed out for our 10 miles - a route that was almost a little mini-Manchetser marathon course, about six miles of the first half and another four on the second half of the marathon course.

We carefully navigated our way along snowy sidewalks, eventually opting to run on the side of the road. We got less-than-friendly looks from passing drivers - who may have had to slow down slightly as they passed us. It made us laugh, the drivers so grouchy and scowling - and cozy in their warm cars with the heat blowing right on them, I'm sure - and us, laughing and smiling. And freezing.

We passed the time catching up - we had a lot to catch up on - and laughing and listening. The miles passed quickly, and if it weren't for the fact that it was damn cold out there, we probably couldn have run forever.

With 10 miles in at a decent pace (and working extra hard to get traction on the snowy sidewalks), we looped back to our cars to finish our run. We donned hair-sicles (from sweat that had frozen in our hair) and had rosy cheeks and tingly legs. But it felt great.

Double digits in single digits? No problem - and it can actually be fun when you have a friend by your side.


2,010 in 2010

One of my personal challenges for this upcoming year is to do run/bike 2,010 miles in 2010. If you break it down, it comes to a little less than 40 miles a week. Or about 5.5 miles per day. Of course, that's assuming that you run or bike every day of the year. (We all know that's not happening - and probably shouldn't happen)

I figure I'll use this spot to give weekly updates - helps track my progress and serves as motivation as I see myself getting closer to the goal. Here's where I'm at now:
  • Run: 25.79 miles
  • Bike: 21.54 miles
  • Total: 47.33
  • Miles to go: 1,962.67 (!)
And, for my other weekly check-in, here's where I'm at:
  • Weight: 141.5 lbs
  • Week Gain/Loss: 0 lbs
  • Total Gain/Loss: -3 lbs
  • Activities: 22m running, 16 m bike
  • Notes: Honestly, quite frustrating. Despite the fact that I'm not really "supposed" to do many mid-week weigh-ins, I couldn't resist jumping on the scale a few times this week. I've really been watching what I eat and boosted up my running mileage a bit this week, so I thought I might see some payoff. And I did. One day a came in at 140 pounds. A day or so later, I was 138 - officially below the Filly Line. (A friend spelled it as "Philly" in a recent tweet - and I think I'm going to adopt that spelling. Less horse-like and just cooler. Kinda like spelling "fat" with a "ph.") Anyway, some mid-week loss made me anxious to see what Monday was going to bring for my official check-in. Needless to say, I was disappointed to see the same number as last week. Guess it just means I have to focus a little more and work a little harder. Sigh.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Dear Newbies: Resolve To Succeed

Any gym-goer will tell you, there's a phenomenon that happens, like clockwork, during the first few weeks of January. The gyms get packed - not just busy - I'm talking lines-of-people, no-treadmills-available packed.

When the calendar flips to the new year, people undoubtedly get the itch (or feel the pressure from society) to make resolutions. And, not surprisingly after the piles of holiday sweets that many indulge in at the end of the year, a lot of these resolutions focus on getting in shape, losing weight and hitting the gym.

A string of comments on Facebook caught my eye yesterday and one of my "friends" (truth be told, I'm not sure I've actually ever met him, although our circles certainly overlap a lot) was reporting about the jam-packed parking lot at my gym.

I chimed in, expressing some frustration with the busier-than-usual time of year and my thoughts on dreading the fight for a single treadmill. The comment thread included some snarky back-and-forths about how things will even out if we wait a month. Even in a few weeks, the crowds will die down.

They always do. Always.

One particular commenter chastised us a bit for not being welcoming of the newcomers. If we were more supportive, she said, maybe they'd stick with it.

Point taken.

Based on the conversation she saw (and if I hadn't experienced the January gym madness for many years), I might have had a similar thought.

What she probably didn't know was that I'd like nothing more for those resolution-ers to be there a month from now, six months from now, a year from now.

More than anything, I want people to succeed. I want them to stick to their resolutions. I want them to achieve - and be proud of their achievements. I want them to have the same feeling that I did (and do) when I accomplish something I never thought I could do.

So, as I put in my five-plus miles on the treadmill last night, I spent most of time thinking about why these people (the vast, vast majority of them anyway) won't succeed.

Why won't I see them on the treadmill in front of me next month?

The reasons are plentiful, I think - not the least of which is probably that they start off with too much gusto. I mean, really, it's hard to go from never going to the gym to trying to go everyday. Do too much right away, you're going to burn out.

I did some serious people-watching last night - a roomful of heads bobbing up and down as the ran, walked, biked or tried their hand at any of the other pieces of equipment there provided plenty to look at.

I saw lots and lots of shouldn't-do's - people running way too fast for their ability, wearing the wrong stuff (bad shoes and amounts of clothing that I wouldn't wear to run outside this time of year) and just not using the equipment in the optimal way.

The problem, at least at the gym I go to, is that there isn't anyone to help them. (
I did offer the girl next to me some help with starting the treadmill after I noticed her staring at it as if she was launching the space shuttle. My small part to help her succeed, perhaps?)

The gym staff is swamped with people just checking in the door and is busy enough setting up new accounts. Not even considering whether the staff has the know-how to give these new clients the steps to success, they just don't have the time.

The gym seems to feed upon these resolution-ers, offering ridiculously low deals (sign up for $1 with no commitment!) just to get them in the door. See that - "no commitment" - right in the pitch to join. How will anyone ever succeed if they can't commit?

So - how do I think they'll succeed? Here are a few things I've learned from personal experience.

HAVE A PLAN. The newbies' goals are probably vague - "lose weight" or "go to the gym more" - and, I'd suspect, not written down anywhere. To succeed, you've got to have a specific plan, in writing, that can be tracked and measured. Trust me, it works. Hold yourself accountable. Remember, this is the girl that signed for a half-marathon without ever running a mile. Now look at me.

HAVE A WANT-TO ATTITUDE. A little (or a lot) of determination and focus doesn't hurt. You've got to want to succeed - and not just because it's a new year or a new month. You've got to want to do it for some other reason - you should want to be a better you.

FIND YOUR TEAM. You also have to surround yourself with people who want you to succeed - a friend, a spouse, an online community, anyone. For me, it was my team. Their support was invaluable. They knew I could do it, they knew I could succeed. And they helped me get there.

WORK TOWARD SOMETHING. It doesn't matter what it is - whether it's a half-marathon, a 5K, a number on a scale, a mileage goal, a certain pace. Find a realistic goal and work toward it. It will give you something to celebrate when you reach it. And guaranteed, you'll be motivated enough to set your next goal. And your next. And your next.

SPREAD THE WORD. Once you've set your goal, tell everyone about it. And talk about it often. Talk about the goods, the bads and the uglies. Trust me, it's not all good. This in-your-face approach may annoy some of your less-than-supportive friends, but you'll quickly find who's there to motivate you, inspire you and help you. I bet you'll be surprised by who your cheerleaders turn out to be.

DO WHAT YOU LIKE. If you hate running, don't do it.
(But don't give up on it too quickly!) If you hate the gym, don't go. (But don't give up on it too quickly!) The point is, find something that you like, something that will make you feel good about yourself and what you can do.

I could go on and on about my thoughts on achieving your goals - isn't that what this whole blog is about? - and I realize it's different for everyone. Each person needs to find the formula and motivation that works for them.

Those who know me know it would be hard to find a bigger cheerleader for new runners than me. I was once in their shoes - scared, nervous, full of self-doubt.

But look at what I've accomplished - a marathon, 10 or so half-marathons (I can't believe I'm actually losing count!), the confidence to try new things ... and on and on. Part of setting goals and achieving them is that you also get to recognize them and pat yourself on the back, even if only internally, every once in a while.

I hope at this time next year the newbies, even just a handful of them, get to do that, too. It's a pretty good feeling.


Monday, January 4, 2010

I Don't Wanna Be A Filly!

For the past several Mondays, I've been doing a weekly check-in on my progress (and sometimes lack thereof) of shedding a few of these extra pounds.

Well, something happened today that pushed that brief, bullet-form update into a full-blown post.

I've been looking for a good winter challenge - something that would give some focus to my training during these months when finding motivation might be a little tougher.

That challenge, in previous years, has come in the form of the Hampton Half Marathon. But I was looking for something a little different.

I mentioned the Hyannis Half Marathon to TC to see if he'd be interested in making a weekend trip to the Cape. As luck would have it, he knows an innkeeper there so it's a good excuse for him to go for a visit (and possibly get a discounted room). Plus, the Hyannis race includes a 10K - and TC's game to run it.

Things were shaping up for a fun weekend together.

Today, before either of us changed our minds, I jumped online to sign us up. I filled in the usual stats (name, address, age, etc.) and proceeded through the registration process. Near the end, I saw a listing of categories for the heavier-than-average runners - the kind that get put into their own category and who don't compete against the other runners.

The Clydesdales and the Fillies.

Yes, folks, horses. Horses! And not the compact, speedy kind, like Mustangs. Nope, big, lumbering horses that are used to do farm work, pull wagons and things like that. (At least "fillies" are a little more refined. But still, what woman wants to be equated to a horse?!)

Actually, I know some runners who fall into these categories and enjoy the narrowed competitive field. After all, they have a much better chance of winning "something" in this category than against the whole field of racers.

Not me. I don't care about winning - at least when it comes to running.

I race against myself, against my last time and toward my own personal time goals. I don't really care who finishes in front of me (unless it's a 70-something, seemingly out-of-shape fella crossing just steps ahead of me at the Finish Line - that kinda irks me. See photo to the right on this blog).

The point is, I don't want to be in the category.

And today's rude awakening is that I am in this category. Fillies weigh in at 140 pounds or more.

This morning, I weighed in a 141.5 pounds. Sure, it was a half-pound lighter than last week. But that half-pound achievement is overshadowed, at least in my own warped mind, by the fact that I'm one-and-a-half pounds into the Filly category. (Yes, I'm freaking out over a pound-and-a-half.)

What does this mean? Well, a few things...

First, you can bet I'm gonna work by a** off (literally) to get below that 140 threshold. And quickly.

And secondly, there's no way on God's Green Earth that I'm going to be over 140 pounds on race day, Feb. 28. I don't care if I have to cut my arm off (okay, I wouldn't go that far), I ain't racing in that category.

Thanks, Hyannis, for lighting a fire under me!

While I'm at it, I might as well provide the standard weekly update.
  • Weight: 141.5 lbs
  • Week Gain/Loss: -.5 lbs
  • Total Gain/Loss: -3 lbs
  • Activities: 14m running, 5m bike