Sunday, October 27, 2013

Another race week

This week:
M: 4.7 / 31:07 /6:37
W: 10.1 / 1:13:16 / 7:15
Sa: 13.1 / 1:32:49 / 7:05
Su: 3.69 / 28:48 / 7:48
total : 31.59

Monday I started out on my run and felt good, so I kept picking up the pace.  Was shocked when I got home and found out exactly how fast I went.  I knew I had been flying, but an avg 6:37 pace has got to be my fastest training run ever. 
Tuesday I was super busy, left home at 7:25 in the morning and didn't return until 7:45 that night.  I briefly contemplated running instead of eating dinner, but my stomach had been growling since 5 and I didn't want to pass out in the dark 2 miles from home, so I skipped the run.  
Wednesday I planned to run about 5.5 miles, thinking I might add a mile or two if I felt good.  Well, I added a mile, still felt good, added another, and just kept on going.  Never looked at my watch til I got home.  Figured I had gotten 8.5 or 9.  Was pleased to see that I got over 10 miles!  It felt really good, and the pace was great too.  
Thursday was another busy day, got home after school and had just enough time to whip up a batch of cookies and get back to school for our annual Italian Night.  If I hadn't run 10 miles on Wednesday, I probably would have tried to run either before school or after the dinner, but since I had such a great run on Wednesday, I just took Thursday and Friday off.  
Saturday was the Run United Half Marathon in my town, which I was on the planning committee, and won.  (No, it wasn't rigged, it was just a small race that didn't attract any big-shots.)
Today I was a bit stiff, and wanted to go for a jog to loosen up a bit.  

In other news, I have been getting photos of some absolutely stunning sunrises from outside my classroom. 

Driving home from Italian Night on Thursday, 
I had to pull over and snap a few photos of the stunning sunset.

And in more photography-related news, I took some photos for friends today, and we could not have asked for a more perfect day.  The sun was shining, the sky was blue with puffy white clouds, and the leaves were pretty colors.

I am absolutely loving this photography hobby of mine, and hoping to start growing it into something slightly more than a hobby.  I'm just taking photos for friends so far, but will happily start taking photos for others if I get asked to!

Inaugural Run United 1/2

My 15th half marathon so far, and my 6th this year.

I knew it was going to be cold on Saturday.  I was thinking it would be in the low thirties, but that it would probably be at least high thirties by the end of the race.  However, when I woke up on Saturday morning, it was nineteen degrees!  That solved the problem of whether or not to race in shorts.  If it had been in the 30s, I probably would have worn shorts and just hoped my knees would deal with it.  But 19 degrees?  No way.  19 degrees still isn't cold enough for long pants though, (I'm not sure I could ever race in long pants no matter how cold it is...) so I opted for cut-off tights under my shorts.  Just long enough to keep my knees semi-warm. As for the shirt, I quickly ditched the idea of the thin long sleeve under my short-sleeve "It's a Hill, get over it" shirt, and dug through my box of shirts until I found my fleece-lined moisture-wicking running shirt.  I can't believe I had to pull it out in October, and for a race at that.  Oh well.  I don't have any pictures of my running outfit, but it was pretty bright.  Lime green long sleeve, turquoise short sleeve, bright blue shorts, gray tights, and black and white striped gloves.  The gloves were another thing I debated, but in the end I was glad I wore them.

I walked downtown to the race area and hung out inside the community college for awhile getting ready, then changed into my bright blue racing shoes, stripped off the sweats, and went out for a warm-up jog.  It hurt to breathe.  At least I had that fleece-lined shirt keeping my lungs a little bit warm.  I was able to break a sweat though, so I figured that was a good thing.  Other than the fact that I did not want to be wet with sweat while standing on the start line.

The race started promptly at 9, and we were off.  2 guys jumped into the lead pretty quickly, and I let them go.  My right foot fell asleep in the first half mile.  It woke up again at some point... I kept a pretty steady pace, working hard, but not hard enough to really hurt my lungs.  I was worried about how they would handle the strain in the cold, and I didn't want to overdo it too soon.  The miles rolled by, and no one passed me.  I loved seeing the signs my student's had made posted out on the course, they were great!  The turn-around was somewhere around 7.5 miles.  The hills getting there were pretty tough, but thankfully they are a bit easier coming back.

I don't like out and backs, but the one nice thing about them is that they let you know how far behind the competition is. My friend and former running-buddy Jim wasn't too far behind me at the turn around, probably less than a minute.  I'd never been ahead of him before, but he hasn't been able to run as much as me lately, and he sprained an ankle about a week ago.  The next guy was probably another minute or so behind him.  I was running along, surprised at how spread out everyone was, and surprised that I was barely seeing anyone coming towards me.  I knew the race was small, but I figured there'd be a few more people within 5 minutes of me.  I was at mile 8 before I saw the 2nd place girl, roughly a mile behind me.  Any motivation I had to push for a PR died at that point.  I already suspected that due to the tough course and the cold air, I wouldn't be able to pull it off.  And it was pretty obvious that I didn't need to pull it off in order to win.  With a marathon in 3 weeks, I figured staying healthy was more important than a PR.  So I kept on chugging along, trying not to really slow down, but not trying to push the pace either.  Miles rolled by.  I noticed that there was still heavy frost on the grass along the side of the road.  I passed by mile marker 10.  Shortly after that, it occurred to me that I normally start my kick at mile 10.  I started to pick up the pace a little bit, but it was more of a struggle than usual, and I didn't feel like trying that hard, so I settled back into my previous pace.  I never saw mile marker 11.  I know it was there, because I saw it on the way out, but somehow I missed it on the way back.  As I was thinking that surely I had passed it (right?!) I saw mile marker 12.  That was a relief.  I still didn't really feel like I could comfortably pick up the pace, so I just kept on keeping on.  As I rounded the 2nd to last turn (from that point, it was one block up a hill, then turn right and run about 3/4 of a block to the finish) the 2nd place runner came up behind me saying "they sent me the wrong way!"  I still hadn't really kicked, and I wasn't about to kick just to beat someone who rightfully should have beaten me by a minute or more.  So I just stuck to his heels.  Beating him wasn't important anyway.  I just wanted to beat all the other girls.

I crossed the line in 1:32:49.  4 minutes slower than Beckley, but the course was a lot harder, and the air was a lot colder.  Normally, I would be upset with a time that slow, but this one really doesn't bother me.  I made the decision not to push the pace, and I know it was the right decision.  Besides, there's always next year to get a faster time.  I beat the 2nd place girl by about 18 minutes, so there really wasn't a "race" involved.  I came in 3rd out of 54 total runners.  Not a bad turnout for our first half marathon, and 20 degree weather.  (It was still in the 20s when I finished the race shortly after 10:30!) We had 36 runners pre-registered, so it's nice to see that we got quite a few more on the day of, despite the weather!

Some of my friends and students were cheering for me at the finish line, which was also really nice.  One of my students ended up hanging out with me for the rest of the morning, as I waited for the awards ceremony.  I got some great pictures of her playing in the fallen leaves.

I let her use my camera during the awards ceremony and she took these.

Here's another picture of my gigantic, heavy, trophy. 

A local welder made all our trophies for us, they were really unique, which is awesome.  
Generic medals and trophies are so boring.
I got several compliments on the finisher medal which I had a hand in designing. 

All in all, it was a great race experience.  I think that overall the day was a success, and I'm looking forward to the 2nd annual Run United next fall.  Hopefully I will get to be a part of the planning committee again, it was a great experience.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Pumpkin Ravioli

It's been awhile since I made pasta from scratch!  But I've been wanting to make pumpkin ravioli and I had some time this evening (for once I wasn't too hungry to wait for dinner to cook), so I made them.

Pasta Dough
1 egg
1/4 c wheat flour
3/4 c + white flour
2 tbsp olive oil
garlic powder
ginger powder

big scoop of pumpkin
big handful of shredded colby jack cheese

Pumpkin Ravioli, 
with a Pumpkin Cream Sauce*, 
on a bed of Kale, 
with some Pumpkin Chicken** on the side.

And don't forget the Pumpkin Porter!

*Pumpkin, Heavy Cream, Sage, Ginger
**Boiled in pumpkin and Shock Top Pumpkin Wheat Beer

Yes, I love pumpkin!

Picking up the Pace...for an Upcoming Race!

Since I decided that I needed to work my lungs harder, I started really pushing the pace on my runs instead of going out for leisurely jogs.  It was awesome to see my average paces go from over 8 min/mile to below 7:20 min/mile.  And it felt great, too.  My legs are strong, and it just feels really good to go out and run hard and fast.

This week:
M: 4.7 / 33:57 / 7:13
T: 3.85 / 27:24 / 7:07
W: 6.75 / 48:45 / 7:13 
R: off
F: 8.36 / 1:06:07 / 7:54 (the last 6+ w/Birch)
Sa: off
Su: 3.76 / 29:12 / 7:45 (middle 3.1 w/2 local race buddies)
week total : 27.42

Birch wanted to run on Friday, but I had a lot of adrenaline built up after a busy day of classes, so instead of driving back to school to meet him after I changed, I sprinted back to school, and then we jogged a 6+ mile loop. Saturday I ran to the start line of this coming weekend's 5k, and then ran the course with 2 guys who I often see at races.  They wanted to see the course before the race, and I had no problem running it with them.  If they lived in Lewisburg and schedules coordinated better, we'd be good training buddies.  

I'm not so sure that 2 weeks of running hard will be enough to prepare my lungs for the half marathon on Saturday.  Especially not since I found out it's supposed to be in the 30s that morning.  Brrrrr.  We had our first frost yesterday, and the second today.  I'm going to have to remember to get out the door 5 minutes earlier now that I have to deal with thickly iced car windows.  Yuck.  But hopefully these two weeks of running hard will at least get my lungs a little bit stronger than they were at Beckley!

In other news, my middle school students have been hard at work making inspirational posters and mile marker quotes for the half marathon this Saturday.  Here's a few of them:

and the best : these are both small parts of a bigger poster
I love this depiction of someone getting stuck in my dust

Also, the finisher medals arrived at my door in the middle of last week and they are awesome!
I like finisher medals that show something special about the race or race location, so I had ours designed with our "Coolest Small Town" logo. 

Our final committee meeting for this race is tomorrow!  I drove the course with Jim today to see approximately where the mile markers will go so he can paint markers on the road.  I originally didn't want to be on the planning committee because when it started up about a year ago I was ridiculously busy and stressed beyond belief.  But I wanted to help design the course, so I said I would come to a meeting or two to help with that.  Then it turned out that we were meeting for less than an hour a month, and I ended up going to every meeting and helping with all sorts of little details.  It's been fun, and I was happy to give advice and ideas based on my various race experiences in various places.  We weren't able to use my preferred course options due to law enforcement not wanting to close certain roads, but maybe if this year is successful enough they will let us have a better course next year.  This year's course is an out and back on a hilly road.  It will be a nice challenging course, but out and backs are rarely enjoyable. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Avobroc Dip

3/4 c chopped broccoli
1 avocado
1 tbsp ranch dressing

Throw everything in a food processor and blend til smooth.

Good with chips or your favorite crackers.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Rest and attempted recovery

My lungs are making me angry right now... I just about took the whole week off trying to give my lungs time to recover from last Saturday's race, but I still have a bad cough every time I lie down.  I only ran twice this week, and really didn't have a problem with coughing during or after the runs though.  So now I'm thinking that time off wasn't necessary.  Also, in the last day or two I could feel my leg muscles start dying a slow and painful death.  I had to run today because I could tell that restless leg was about to set in and that is not something I want to deal with right now if it can be avoided. (Actually, it is not something I EVER want to deal with again.)

I clearly strained my lungs during the race at Beckley.  It's possible that I need a new asthma medication, but I suspect that that is not the problem.  See, when I have an asthma attack, the only thing that will make it go away is medication.  No amount of "waiting and seeing" or water drinking or rest will ease my breathing when I have an asthma attack.  I just struggle for breath until I give up and use my inhaler.  However, when I lost my breath during the Beckley race, I regained the ability to breathe within 10 minutes of crossing the line.  Without medication.  Therefore, I don't think it was an asthma attack.  I think my lungs were just weaker than normal.  And I have a hypothesis about why.

I was proud of myself for learning to "jog" this summer.  I have always had a tendency to make every run as fast as I feel capable of.  I've never been good at "conversation pace" or slow jogs or anything other than going out the door and running hard.  If I wasn't out of breath and tired at the end of a run, it wasn't a good run.  But as I've started racing more, and increasing my weekly or daily mileage, I've gradually learned to slow it down.  I've learned to start out at an easy pace and keep that easy pace until I'm done.  I assumed that this could only be a good thing.  I was taking it easy on my legs so they could be fresher for races.  I was decreasing the chances of an overuse injury.

But over the past week as I have been wondering why I had so much more trouble breathing during the race than usual, it has occurred to me that while my legs still get exercise during a jog, but my lungs probably do not.  When I jog, I don't get even remotely out of breath.  When I get home, my breathing is just as easy as it was when I left.  So, I am suspecting that I have begun to un-condition my lungs.  I had just about cured my asthma from all the hard running I was doing.  My lungs were much stronger than they used to be.  And then I stopped exercising them.

My plan now is to start running harder at least a few times a week.  Just because I learned how to jog doesn't mean I should be jogging every day.  And if I do feel like I need to jog on any given day, I think I will skip the inhaler so that my lungs still get a workout.  I have jogged without the inhaler before; there was awhile where I could run without it as long as I didn't push too hard.  At some point, I caught a cold and went back to using it, and then never got around to trying to run without it again.  I think it's time to go back to trying to run without the inhaler.

Obviously my hypothesis could be wrong.  It could be that since I've been on Albuterol for so long, it is time to start a new medication.  But I wouldn't want to switch medications if that is not actually the case.  So I am going to give it some time and see if this blows over.  I'm going to give my hypothesis a chance and see what happens.  I've got 2 weeks til my next race to try and shock my lungs back into submission.

This week:
T: 3.87 / 30:23 / 7:51
Su: 11.21 / 1:28:26 / 7:53
total : 15.08

I got the new "Great Gatsby" from Redbox last night and watched it this morning.  While I was on the couch watching it, I was getting more and more restless.  I hadn't run since Tuesday and my legs were dying to pound some pavement.  I could hardly sleep last night because I was coughing so hard, but it seems that as long as I don't lie down, I don't cough much.  I decided it was time for a run, before my legs could drive me crazy.  I figured I'd start out with my normal loop, which is a 4.7 mile minimum, and that I would see how it felt.  If I felt like I needed to keep it short, I would do the bare loop.  If I felt good, I could add a neighborhood for 5.56, or a second neighborhood for 6.3.  It felt GREAT to stretch my legs and pound some pavement.  I added both extra neighborhoods and was still feeling fabulous.  So I just kept going.  I didn't start to tire until 1:10/9 miles.  I had a plan for the end of my run by then, and knew it was only about 2 more miles, so I decided to stick to that plan and not take a shortcut home just because I was starting to get tired.  (I am supposed to be training for a marathon, after all.  Gotta get some miles under my belt.  And practice running tired.)  I was really pleased with the overall run.  I ran strong until the last 2+ miles, when I was doing more of a jog.  I didn't cough at all.  

equine therapy

pretty lights

from one of my students:

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Meaty Pumpkin Lasagna

1 cup pumpkin
c. 15 oz tomato sauce

1 cup water
16.5 oz alfredo sauce
2 eggs
garlic powder
large handful of shredded cheese

Cook 1 lb ground beef in the sauce & pumpkin.

1) cover the bottom of a baking dish with the white sauce mixture
2) lay down 3 ready-bake lasagna noodles
3) cover with the meat mixture
4) pour a layer of white sauce
5) lay down 3 more noodles
6) cover with meat mixture
7) lay down 3 more noodles
8) pour the remaining white sauce mixture on top
9) sprinkle with cheese

Cover with a double layer of foil and bake at 375 for 1 hour.

Beckley Half Marathon

I finally won a half marathon!  
(Never mind that it's only because the crazy-fast people didn't show up...a win is a win!)
(and I did run an incredible race)

At the Parkersburg 1/2 back in August, I started out really fast, decided to stay fast, and ended up closer to my PR than I had ever come since I set it in February 2012.  So, I decided to try that strategy again.  I knew that the Beckley course was the perfect place for me to PR, it's the perfect mix of flat and rolling hills for me to run fast and strong.

Standing on the starting line with Terry, who I often run into at races, a guy on the other side of me asked me what time I was shooting for.  I said definitely under 1:30, hopefully under 1:28.  He said he was hoping to get 1:30 and that he would try to stick with me.  The 3 of us went out strong and together.  There was one guy who sprinted ahead at the beginning and gained ground for the whole race. There was nobody between him and our little group.  We ran the first mile in 6:29.  The three of us stuck together for the first 3 miles, then Terry fell back.  His goal had been to stick with me as long as he could and then drop back.  The other guy stuck with me until around mile 6.  It was really nice to have someone to run with for so long.  Usually I'm stuck by myself. I was hoping we'd be able to help each other out for the whole race, but I'll take half over nothing!  He ended up finishing around 1:30, which was a big PR for him.

Here we are, I think this is shortly after the 5th mile marker.

As we reached the 6th mile marker and I started pulling ahead, I felt great.  My stride was smooth and holding the fast pace felt almost effortless.  My right hip had been hurting at the beginning of the race, but I don't think it was really bothering me.  At some point during the second half of the race I realized that the pain had shifted to my left hip.  I was running alone after the 6th mile marker until about the 11th mile marker. I got passed by 1 guy early in the second half of the race, but I didn't even try to stay with him as he passed me, because I knew I had a good pace and that it wouldn't be a good idea to push it any further.  By the 9th mile marker, I was feeling the strain on my lungs from maintaining the fast pace, but I did my best not to let it slow me down.  The guy who passed me with about 2 miles to go is someone I see at a lot of races.  I beat him easily in the last few races.  (Although he would have beat me by a landslide at Charleston if I hadn't had that crazy kick at the end and 5k sprinted the last few miles.)  When he passed me yesterday, I tried to stay with him, and we went back and forth for a minute or two, but I was really struggling to breathe, and had to give up on staying with him.  He ended up beating me by 17 secs.  With a mile to go, another guy passed me.  I was miserable at that point, having a very difficult time getting oxygen into my lungs.  I went back and forth with him as I alternately slowed and surged forward.  Since I had absolutely no idea whether or not there were any girls gaining on me close enough to pass, I was reluctant to slow down, but I needed oxygen.  I kept telling myself the sooner I got to the finish line the sooner I could breathe again.  (I can survive for a mile without oxygen...right?)  I was familiar enough with the course to know the layout of the streets/turns coming up to the finish line, so I knew exactly at which point I could go into a complete sprint and make it to the finish line before collapsing from lack of oxygen.  I was in 4th place as I reached that point, and then I turned on the speed and gave the end of the race absolutely everything I had to give.  The last 50 meters or so is downhill, and it's steep enough where it hurts to pound it out.  With the way my left hip was hurting, pounding it out was probably far from a good idea, but I had to get across that line.  I was so focused on getting across the line so that I could catch my breath, that I completely forgot to look at the clock.  And so I had absolutely no idea if I had PRd or even come close.  (Although I was fairly certain I had to be close, I knew I had run a great race.)  

After the finish line, I managed to maintain a jog just long enough to prevent my legs from cramping up.  It was hard, as I was gasping for air, but I held the slow jog until I knew I was out of the danger zone for my legs, and then I walked.  It probably did not take much more than 5 minutes for my breathing to return to normal, but it was a rough 5 minutes.  I knew that if I missed my PR, it would be solely because of my lungs at that point.  

Turns out I did miss the PR, by 19 seconds.  I know that if my lungs had stayed strong, I would have easily gotten that elusive PR that I have been struggling to get.  I'm going to blame the crazy weather we've been having.  30s at night and 80s during the day always wreaks havoc on my health.  

My time this year would not have gotten me the win last year or the year before, buy lucky me neither of those winners showed up this year.  So even though I didn't achieve my time goal, I did achieve my goal of winning!

As I was typing this blog post, I got a message from a friend with the newspaper article from the race.  Complete with a picture of me dying on the finish line.  And a quote from me proving to the world that I'm a terrible hill snob.  Apparently everyone else thought the course was really difficult with huge hills.  

Oh, and by the way, the weather was absolutely PERFECT during the race.  Not too hot, not too cold.  Just cool enough that I didn't need to stop at a single water table.  The race started at 8, so I finished around 9:30.  By 10:30, it was about 85 degrees and blazing sunlight.  Glad I got the race over with before that!  Gorgeous day though.  

This week:
M: rest day
T: 4.7 / 35:31 / 7:33
W: 4.7 / 34:18 / 7:17
R: off
F: off
Sa: 13.1 / 1:28/20 / 6:44
Su: rest day 
total : 22.5

Now it's time to rest for a bit...and then attempt to condition my lungs so that I can have a strong race here in Lewisburg on the 26th without having to worry about dying from lack of oxygen.  

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Pesto Avocado Pasta

Slather some chicken thighs with mustard and pesto.  Make sure to get some underneath the skin too!  
Bake at 425 for 50 minutes. 

Mix up some olive oil, pesto, and half an avocado.
Toss it with some angel hair pasta.

Saute some garlic in olive oil, then add bok choy and steam til done.

Eat up.