Sunday, October 27, 2013

Miami Beach Halloween Half Marathon and "How To"

This post is a little race recap and a little advice. Starting with the above quote. Sometimes a particular race or event will feel like hell. Follow Mr. Churchill's advice.

The "How To"

  1. Check yourself. Before beginning to train for any event, see your doctor for a complete physical including blood work to make sure that you are healthy and your body can handle physically intense training. I'm afraid I don't say that enough. Yesterday at the finish line, I witnessed EMT's performing chest compressions on a man who had collapsed. It was scary. His wife was hysterical, never dreaming that a fun, yet difficult event could turn into a life threatening situation.
  2. Find a plan. I've used plans from Runners World, Hal Higdon, and also the plans from Train Like a Mother successfully. Most plans are 12 to 16 weeks, depending on your current fitness level.
  3. Work the plan. For the plan to work, you must work the plan. Including speed work. Including rest days. 
  4. Live right. Eat right and sleep right. Food is fuel. And in order to perform optimally, your body needs sleep to recover and build muscle. (I really hope I didn't have to say this.) And be sure to fuel and hydrate properly during your long runs. 
  5. Gear up. Get some good running shoes-- for best results, get fitted at a running store. (If your shoes are right for you, you should NOT have to "break them in.") Get some comfortable, moisture wicking clothing (You don't need Nike to run well). Watches are helpful. Some would argue that they are absolutely necessary, but don't underestimate the power of running by feel (perceived effort, if you want to get fancy). A Garmin or other GPS watch is a bonus, but you can live without it.
My almost costume

Miami Beach Halloween Half Marathon Race Recap*
First of all, the title of the race is a mouthful! 
I was drawn to this race first because of the pictures I've seen-- fun costumes, great bling. And of course, there's the location-- Miami Beach, my ABSOLUTE favorite place to race! (Well, if we are talking road races.) But the thing that sealed the deal for my registering was that it would be taking place on my birthday. 

Packet pick-up-- I was really happy that they had packet pick-ups at three places in Dade and in North and South Broward locations the week of the race. Unfortunately, I was out of town, which meant pick-up the morning of the race. However, I got there early (about an hour before race start) and had no problems. Except they ran out of shirts. I was told they would mail mine.

Race Start-- The race began at Parrot Jungle. There was parking offered at the start and the finish line (with shuttles running back and forth). Getting there an hour early, I had no trouble and got a great spot in the parking garage. There didn't appear to be a whole lot of parking spaces at the start, so I'm not sure about those who were running later. (**Note-- always arrive early!) Bag check was available, but I didn't use it.

The Course-- (not sure how long the link to the course map will be active, but I thought I'd include it) Miami Beach is beautiful-- lots of views of the ocean and most races involve running over at least one bridge or causeway.  This course had us running on the board walk all along the beach for the bulk of the race. We even ran ON the beach for about a mile and a half (NOT ideal for a road race!) Mileage markers were few and far between-- I remember seeing miles 4, 6, 7, 8, and 10. No time clocks on the course. And although water stops were promised at approximately every mile, running on the board walk made that difficult, but there was plenty of water.

My major complaint-- the course was a little whacky. Lots of out and back turn arounds, including the last mile-- we were running towards the finish line and as we approach a volunteer yells, "Keep going straight (past the right turn and the finish line)! It's a half mile to the turn around!" UHM... EXCUSE me?! Had I the energy and lower morals, I would have punched him in the face. Apparently there were a few last minute course changes due to road construction, and I think the odd finish turn around was one of them. 

The Finish-- Medical help was available and competent (as I saw them in action), plenty of food (apples, oranges, bananas, 1/4 bagels--love it! with PB or Jam, an organic food catering/delivery service had various foods samples) and various types of bottled drinks, including coconut water, water with electrolytes, drinks with electrolytes and carrot juice drinks. I only wish the area was a little more spread out-- as soon as I crossed the finish they shoved a medal at me, then I practically tripped over the water coolers. I left the area to walk a bit and had to come back to the finish line for the food. There was also a local restaurant that was hosting a post race party and awards ceremony, including a free beer for runners-- but I didn't stay around for that. Shuttles were running efficiently.

Overall-- this was a beautiful course, especially for a destination race. And I didn't even mention the costumes-- which were highly encouraged and awarded! There were super heroes, villains, zombies, cross dressers (even a male pregnant zombie cheerleader!), and just regularly dressed runners. 
*There is also a 4 Miler option for this race. 

My Finish-- I earned my second best time and 9th in my age group-- 1:56:06.
Photo courtesy of Diana Dardio

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Fight or Flight

My apologies for labeling this post incorrectly. This isn't a medical breakdown of the actual fight or flight response. I actually probably shouldn't have even titled this post "fight or flight," but as I was thinking about my problems with running, this came to mind.

My problem with running comes down to this: I don't really have a problem with running. I love it. As a matter of fact, my last post was a list of why I love running. So, why is this the problem? Because I'm not pushing myself hard enough on my runs. I've fallen into the "plodding along" pace. On nearly all my runs. I once read that most people make the mistake of doing training runs too fast. I can officially state that running too fast is NOT my problem. I'm an expert on NOT doing training runs too fast. So, now I do them all too slow.

This is why I thought of "fight or flight." Our bodies have been incredibly designed to preserve themselves. We avoid pain. I've even caught my brain making up fake pain on very long runs. How do I know the pain is fake? Because it travels. First my right foot will begin to be uncomfortable. Soon I'm convinced that it's broken, and I must stop running. Then something distracts me. And then it's my left knee. It begins hurting. No, wait. Is that throbbing? A dull or sharp pain? (Sharp pain is the sign of injury.) And so the internal dialogue continues. On a single run, I've had everything from a broken foot, to stress fractures in my shins, to a torn ACL, to a blood clot in my brain. All imagined, of course. But I'm digressing a little.

Most of us will never be elite athletes because of our affinity for avoiding pain (and I'm not talking injury, I'm talking about discomfort). The moment my brain starts to register the lactic acid build up in the muscles-- pain, I back down. Let up. "Flee" the pain. The really good athletes don't choose the path of flight. They fight-- they stay with the discomfort instead of backing down and avoiding. The discomfort comes and they push deeper into it. It takes some serious mental toughness to overcome that "flight" reaction. 

So, what's the plan to fight? How do we train mentally to overcome? I wish it were easy. (*frowns and shakes head at self*) I think it just comes down to training. Hard. Of course it's not a matter of going 100%, as hard as possible in every training session. But it's doing what makes you uncomfortable, regularly. (For the record, that would be speed work every week. And something like Fran every week.) Jillian Michaels says it best, I think: "Get comfortable with being uncomfortable."

Any mental training tips? Please share them!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Reasons I Love Running

So, lately, I have not been running's biggest fan. I know why-- Wendler's Advanced 5/3/1 program is wiping me out. Add to that peak mileage for my birthday half marathon, and all I want to do is sleep in. Every day. And take a nap every afternoon. The last 3 long run Sundays have seen me dreading the run. I place I don't like to be. So, I thought this would be a good time to remind myself why I love to run.

1. Running provides much needed "me" time-- no one repeats my name over and over; I can talk, sing, cry and lol on a run.
2. It is an intense, calorie burning exercise-- not sweating while riding a stationary bike = pretty easy. Not sweating while running = impossible.
3. No equipment necessary-- thanks to the growth of the barefoot movement, shoes are not even required.
4. No gym membership necessary-- 'nuff said.
5. It provides much needed prayer time-- just me and Jesus, that's how I like my runs.
6. It allows me to work through my problems-- I've planned lessons, curriculum units, race strategies, written blog posts and chapters of a novel,  and even invented more than a few products that would make life easier (but are unbelievably impractical).
7. It helps me stay sane-- maybe.
8. It's cheaper than therapy-- yes, it's a common t-shirt quote, but so very true.
9. I get to see some interesting sights-- I once saw a bobcat (yes, it was pre-dawn, but I promise it was a real, live furry bobcat); just the other day I saw a hawk with a turtle dove firmly pinned to the ground.
10. I sometimes find some pretty cool stuff-- best find: $7.
11. I sometimes find some pretty creepy stuff-- creepiest find: large carving knife in the road.
12. It makes me feel like a kid again-- rain? No problem; put on a pair of old shoes and splash through all the puddles.
13. Fresh air.
14. Opportunities to better myself with each run. Run faster, or farther, or stronger.
15. It improves my math. How many miles have I run; how many to go? Mile split calculations. Pace per mile calculations.
16. Vitamin D-- more miles = more time outside in the sun.
17. Run more; eat more. (This should probably be reason #1).
18. It makes me eat healthier. The higher the miles, the more I crave healthy food.
19. Bling. Races = bling. At this point, I think I have more race medals than pieces of jewelry. (Not that I've run a bazillion races, I just don't have lots of jewelry.)
20. Post race parties. Some are better than others. The best I've found is the 13.1 Miami Beach post race event-- complete with arroz con pollo. Some provide free beer. Some cookies. Some Starbucks. Nearly all give bananas and bagels.

To be continued...
So, tell me. Why do you love to run?

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Wendler's 5/3/1 Program

My husband has been a body builder, a power lifter, a generally all-round fit guy, and most recently is leaning toward competing in CrossFit (but, shhh! Don't tell anyone.)

I have been a generally fit person, a runner, an obstacle course racer, and now... I guess CrossFitter would be the best description because the idea of CrossFit is that the athlete is among top competitors in a variety of sports. Although I really love running long, my body is more built for short outputs of energy, like sprinting, weightlifting, etc.

I did my first CrossFit competition this year and I LOVED IT! And I did well. Much better than I've done in races. (Plus there is the fact that, although the competition lasted a few hours, the work output was just 10 to 12 minutes in each event-- compared to 23 minutes of pushing into pain during a 5k or 2 hours during a Spartan Super or half marathon.)

But... to get to the point of this post:
On June 27, 2013, I began using the Jim Wendler 5/3/1 program. It's a strength building program. This is a really good article that breaks down the program. The program is based on using percentages of your 1 rep max to train. Before you begin this program, I will say-- don't just follow the website link I gave, invest in purchasing the actual program. And WARNING-- 1) Always check with your doc before beginning a training program of any kind. 2) Your workouts will now involve using lots of math. 3) Wendler has the mouth of a sailor.

Bonehead that I am, I didn't really find a 1RM. I worked backwards and looked at a 1RM calculator. I based my 1RM off the weights I was lifting for 3 at that time. For dead lifts, I had done 205 for 8. That was the most weight I had ever dead lifted at the time. So, I estimated that my 1RM was 260. DO NOT DO THIS. FIND YOUR TRUE 1RM!

So, on June 27, I did 210 for 5. This was supposed to be 90% of my training max. Really, though it was the max weight I've ever done on a dead lift. On October 3, 2013, I did a true 1RM at 260.

Anyway, I've learned MUCH from all of this heavy lifting:

  1.  Following a program is absolutely necessary if you are serious about gaining strength.
  2. Tracking your workouts in a training log is absolutely necessary if you are serious about improving yourself.
  3. Respect, but DO NOT FEAR the weight. (I've realized that I am afraid to lift heavy weight. I have an incredible imagination-- some days I picture the weight breaking my body in half. Not a healthy place to go when you are lifting heavy. It's not true. If it's really too heavy, it won't come off the ground-- it will not break me in half.)
  4. Recording!!! In the lift in the video, the weight felt extremely heavy. I had already felt my brain thinking-- Wow! There is no way I can pick up more weight than that next month. But then I watched the video. It came up really smoothly, really easily. Watching it, I know I can totally pick up more than that.)
  5. Coaching!!! Get a coach if you are serious about competing. They will motivate, correct, and just generally help set your mind right.