16 Weeks ’til Richmond

I can’t believe that the Richmond Marathon is only 16 weeks away!  Tomorrow, marks the first day of serious training for the upcoming marathon, which will be my third time running it and my fifth marathon overall.  I’m thrilled that my coach will be there, The Running Blonde, as well as many of my Virginia friends.  The only problem for training right now is the excessive heat… so many of my runs will be super early before the sun is up or really late after the sun goes down.

Besides Richmond, I have a 5K Race and the Crawlin’ Crab Half Marathon in Hampton that I get to run with my 6@6 peeps, especially my running twin! I’d like to run a PR in the marathon and in the half, so I have a lot of work ahead of me. Run on, people!

The Importance of 6@6

6@6 is my morning coffee, a chance to talk with friends while running an easy pace. Without 6 miles at 6am, I am not the same person, and I dearly miss my 6@6 group since I’ve moved to Pennsylvania.  I see a lot of runners out in the early morning hours on the road and on the trails–some say hi while others are tuned into their headphones.

I miss the politeness of the South where everyone says, “Good morning” even if they don’t know you.  I miss the flat terrain, the water views from the bridge, the foggy, misty mornings where the only sounds were our feet hitting the pavement or conversations that pierced the soupy air.

Since I’ve moved, I’ve lost my running community, my triathlete training partner in crime, my running twin, and my running mojo.  I took a whole two weeks off of running after the move to unpack and sort things out, and now that I’ve begun to run again, I have seemed to run into a wall–not like the wall in a marathon, but one that’s more difficult to break through: a wall of slow, hot, and lonely morning runs.

I need my own running community.  It certainly won’t be the same because I can’t transport my BRFs here to my new town–I see their faces smiling at me in photographs as I write this. But, I can have a different running group.  And that’s just what I began.  I now have more than 15 runners in my Meet Up, and I hope more will join soon.

I’ll continue to run into the sunrise and think of my friends from my first 6@6 group as I start another one here. I know that no matter where they are, they’ll be running into the sunrise too.

Running in the Heat

hotrun

As summer temperatures climb along with humidity that makes the heat index unbearable after early morning, there are a few things to consider when training in the heat.

  1.  Run early.  Run before the sun comes up.  You’ll thank yourself later.  I know this morning I decided to sleep in past 8:30 and go for a run around 9:30.  Bad idea.  It was already 80 some odd degrees and humid outside.  Let’s just say that I walked a few times. At least I ran under tree cover, but then I lost my breeze.  Either way, my run this morning was hot, hot, hot.
  2. Bring water.  Even if you’re only going for a few miles.  I sweat so much that it looks like I showered with my running clothes on.  I leave wet footprints on the pavement when it’s not raining, and I can squeeze sweat out of my shirt when I’m finished.  Gross.
  3. Slow down.  Did I mention that you should slow down?  SLOW DOWN.  You are not superhuman and don’t need to get heat exhaustion or heat stroke. No one wants to find a passed out runner on the side of the road.
  4. Consider skipping a run or running inside on the treadmill.  There I said it.  Sometimes a rest day or running indoors in the air conditioning is preferable.
  5. Rehydrate after running.  Drink plenty of water all the time so that you’re hydrated BEFORE you go on your run.  Believe me, this is something I need to remember too.

There you go!  Happy summer running!  You’ll thank yourself in the fall.

Keep this reference chart in mind from Runner’s World:

 http://www.runnersworld.com/race-training/training-in-the-heat

DEW POINT (°F) RUNNER’S PERCEPTION HOW TO HANDLE
50–54 Very comfortable PR conditions
55–59 Comfortable Hard efforts likely not affected
60–64 Uncomfortable for some people Expect race times to be slower than in optimal conditions
65–69 Uncomfortable for most people Easy training runs might feel OK but difficult to race well or do hard efforts
70–74 Very humid and uncomfortable Expect pace to suffer greatly
75 or greater Extremely oppressive Skip it or dramatically alter goal

Where I’ve Been

Every once in a while, it’s nice to reflect on past races and how much time does matter when focusing on improving your running.  Here’s a post from my very first 10K.  My time was 1:08:18 (11 minutes per mile) when I first started running, and now my 10K PR is a 56:57 (about 9:15 per mile).  What a difference a few years makes! Anyway, here are my thoughts on my first 10K and my first 5K.

From My First 10K:

When registering for a race, lesson #1 is understanding the importance of what the name of the race means. The Bayou Hills Run does not disappoint its runners because hills are guaranteed even in this mostly flat land of Florida, and there’s Bayou Texar nearby too that runners can admire while taking on the hills. What? Hills? And a Bayou? Wow. The idea of running is always better than actually running, so signing up for a race like this sounds challenging and badass until I reached the first hill: there was a collective groan from all of the runners that summed up how I felt too.

BayouHills
I ran the 5K portion of this race last year, but this year I ran the 10K instead. All of the 5K runners had a white bib number as opposed to yellow so when the course splits between the 5K and 10K, the volunteers manning the streets can easily sort weary runners if necessary. I did ponder what would happen if I made the 5K turn since most of the runners went that way; the 10K course thinned out quickly, and I was afraid I would come in dead last. This was a real possibility because when I looked back there weren’t that many people behind me that I could see (turns out there were 56 people behind me–yay!). So, lesson #2 is never look back. Even if the cops are taking a head count of the stragglers at the end and are turning on their lights to open up traffic flow, whatever you do– don’t look back. There may not be too many people behind you, but you’ll probably not be last. Out of the 368 runners in the 10K, I was runner #312–pathetic, but not last (if I ran the 5K, I would have placed in the middle of the pack).

That brings me to lesson #3: never stop running. Ever. I observed lots of the 10K runners, who ultimately beat my butt to the finish line, stop and walk up the super steep hills. It was tempting to do that- oh, so tempting when your calves are burning and your knees ache. I considered it with each hill, but even if I could have walked faster up the hills than jog, I still ran up each and every hill. I lost count of the hills because it was demoralizing.

Overall, today was a good race for me since I finished close to my racing pace at 1:08:18, which is a flat 11 minutes per mile pace, 30 seconds per mile slower than what I usually run, and Phil finished at 51:13, an 8:15 minutes per mile pace. We have a half-marathon coming up soon, and I plan to run a full marathon next year around this time. Wish me luck! And speed!

And, My First 5K:

It all started when I read What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami. Murakami talks about why he started running and how running is closely linked to being a writer. Before I read the book, I had already counted myself out when it came to running. I couldn’t understand how other people could run without passing out from a lack of oxygen or without severe pain in their ankles or shins. I remember watching many track practices in high school from the bleachers with my legs stuck in a bucket of ice for shin splints. During a track meet, I almost passed out after the 300 meter hurdles. Sometimes, I’d look back to see how many I knocked over, but it was better not to. Running just wasn’t for me.

Here’s what would happen to me when I ran: after a mile when the pain from my ankles wore off, or I just forgot it was there, the inability to breathe took over my thoughts, and I would have to walk off the wheezing stupor caused by running. The only time this didn’t happen was when I played soccer in college, and I ran two miles with our goalie during practice one day. That fall of 1994 was the first time I ever ran two miles without walking. Ever. I was 18 years old and have not been able to repeat that feat. Until now.

Over the past few months, I’ve been running about three times a week and can actually run a 5K. I get lost in the rhythms blasting in my ears and put one foot in front of the other. During today’s 5K I did just that, and this reluctant runner ran and didn’t walk. I placed 131 out of 278, and I ran faster than half of the women in my age group.

“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional” (taken from an interview cited in the book).
131  610 Laurie Hardway 36 F  33:54.35  10:55 pace

 

Breezy Point Triathlon

tri
I should begin at the end, or maybe at the beginning. Swimmers behind me pushed my legs down into the brackish depths of the Willoughby Bay as feet in front of me splashed water in my face. The current and the wind caused me to drift off course, lost in the waves save for the bright orange buoys. I searched for the lifeguards on kayaks or surfboards, hoping for a break. Nah, I can do this. And besides, no shark in their right mind would swim in this water. In fact, other than the oyster shell that sliced my foot open before the start of the swim, I don’t think anything can live in this water.

The current washed over me in waves so that I felt like I was a kid at the beach, body surfing to shore and letting the waves pull my legs back out to sea before pushing me to shore again. I opened my eyes under water and couldn’t see anything. Dizziness and the nausea that accompanies it stayed with me throughout the swim. I turned over on my back often and did the sidestroke to help me figure out which way was up because I certainly didn’t want to go down. Three swimmers were pulled from the course and didn’t finish. Eventually, I found my groove en route to the boat launch, but then the waves slapped my face again, replacing air with saltwater.

The rocky asphalt near the flight deck hurt my feet, and that annoying oyster cut throbbed while I was speed walking to my bike in the transition zone. I plopped my anxious butt down on the hard surface and threw my bike shoes on while chatting with Cathy and Laura. Talking to them calmed me down, but the fear of the swim stayed with me for a few miles on the bike until I fully realized that I didn’t have to go back in the water again today.

On the bike, the course is flat, albeit windy. Really windy. My legs couldn’t catch a break for those twelve miles. I focused on my speed while others cruised by me at over 20 mph. I did my best to hold on to 16 mph while my legs burned and churned those pedals.

By the time I racked my bike, I knew I only had the run left. I can run on tired legs–I’ve done marathons; however, nothing ever truly prepares you for the numbness in your toes or the lead-leg feeling from the bike. I ran like I had no legs, only peg legs. At mile one, I saw Cathy, then Laura (they were just past mile 2 of the run). It sounds cheesy, but their smiles made me run faster and kept me from walking more.

There’s something to be said about the running community: you’re never alone. Through her meet-ups, Cathy has created a positive running group (and swim and bike groups) and has shown me that no matter where you are or where you go, you create what you want in the places where you live. So, this race isn’t about the end of competing in the Hampton Roads area, it’s the beginning of something better.

I am privileged to have competed in the same race with Cathy and Laura, and other triathletes I know like Krissa, Kirk, and Dan. Gene didn’t compete, but volunteered, helping the swimmers navigate the course. I love all the runners from 6@6–my twin, Mira, Megan, Hua, Kelly, Gene, Laura, Jen C., Jen, and all the runners who come and go. Thank you!

Tri

RRCA Coaching Certification

 

Boxes stuffed with paper lined the basement walls, pictures lay stacked in between furniture, and I packed a few sets of clothes, mostly running clothes and my two pairs of shoes in my carry-on that I unpacked only a week ago. The whole house smelled of damp cardboard from moving day rain.  But, this weekend is for me.  The sun was already setting when I left for a drive down to Springfield, VA, leaving everything behind.

The weekend promised to be hot and sunny, and I was going to spend the vast majority of it inside learning as much as I can about how to become a running coach. I didn’t know what to expect, so I arrived forty minutes early to the seminar room to ensure a good seat near the front because even with my glasses on, it’s difficult to see in the back. To my surprise, two other runners were already seated and eyeing the breakfast in the back.  No one wanted to be first to eat.

Runners soon started pouring into the conference room, laden with notepads and water bottles. The thick course books sat in piles on a table at the front of the room, and each person took one and made a name tag out of the cardboard for their seats at the table. Personalities were propped up on the cardboard, written in black Sharpie–some names were all in caps, others had first and last names, but most had only first names. Some names hid in the corners of the cardboard while others ran off the edges. As the runners took their seats, conversations started and continued until the beginning of class.

Our instructors had a wealth of experience between the two of them, and I learned so much and laughed so hard that I thought my head would burst.  I’m still processing everything and rereading  or studying even after taking the certification test and uploading my CPR/First Aid certificate.

At my table of three was Jess, busting with enthusiasm about running.  After the class, I needed to find some runners who were staying around for awhile to go for a run, and Jess was one of those runners, eager to get out in the 90 degree heat with high humidity. Surprisingly, I wanted to go for a run too after sitting most of the day.  Usually, I don’t do heat and opt for a swim instead.

Chris and Jesse joined us and knew the route we were going to take.  I planned to do my best to keep up with everyone in the high humidity.  By the time we reached the lake, three miles later, heat swirled around my head despite gulping water the whole way there. Chris and Jesse ran ahead on the way back, but Jess stayed behind with me.  We walked and talked a lot, making plans for dinner and making some wrong turns from delirious heat running. Sweat dripped off of me as if I just took a shower with my clothes on.  It was hot, hot, hot! And, I was out of water.

The sun reflected off of the asphalt as we neared the hotel.  I shook my empty water bottle, hoping to hear a slosh of water in it.  There was none. That’s when we noticed the Dunkin’ Donuts that saved our lives with the extra large bottles of cool Gatorade behind frosty windows near the counter.  Donuts were the last thing on my mind– I wanted that Gatorade.  Relief.  Jess paid for mine, and I promised her that I’d buy her drinks later at dinner. We walked over the last overpass before reaching the hotel, sipping Gatorade the whole way.  We walked like giddy kids, giggling over silly street names. I think I had an orange mustache, but I didn’t care.  Chris and Jesse came up the bridge to check on us, and we ran the rest of the way back.

Because of the heat, Jess and I decided to go running early in the morning before Sunday’s class, and I’m so glad we did.  It wasn’t crowded yet at 6am, just peaceful.  The trail was soft with rolling hills, and Lake Burke glistened to our right. It was just what I needed before the last day of the coaching certification: time to relax and reflect.  Even though we only ran twice together, I’m going to miss Jess.  She has a spirit like no other.  And, she’s now a running coach in North Carolina.

Go to RRCA Find a coach to find Jess or me!

Hail, Why Not?

 

CLE

“Everything is unfolding as it should,” Chris told me as we turned toward downtown Cleveland with the Terminal Tower in view for the second time since the race start. The clouds merged and intertwined in a death grip like a kid holding mom’s hand during a scary movie, light rain continued to fall.

I wasn’t sure if I could keep up with Chris: her half marathon time is better than two hours (better than my time by a full seven minutes!), and she has the long easy stride of a seasoned cross-country runner. I keep a quick cadence with my short legs, making the best use of them, and kept up for awhile, passing tons of runners while chatting with her the whole time. I’m glad that we met for dinner the night before to discuss the race, but mostly we talked about our kids, college, traveling, and what we like to do in our free time. We haven’t seen each other since graduating from high school in 1994–we were in band, soccer, and swimming together as well as some classes.

 

I was never much of a runner, but that’s how we reconnected through Facebook after so many years. Both of us started running about five years ago as a way of getting back in shape and relieving stress. Chris has done three full marathons now (and counting), and I’ve done four. But this marathon was one of the toughest ones either of us has ever faced.

Cleveland weather is often as unpredictable as a stranger’s kindness in the midwestern city, and that’s just what happened: it was predictably unpredictable. The race began with wind and light rain, followed by thunder and lightening with downpours (is that the right word?) of hail. Lots of hail! Sheets of pea-sized hail with 20-30mph winds mixed with rain, sleet, and snow plagued the race through mile 20. I’m not kidding. There would be a small break in the clouds, and I would think, “Thank, God! Sun!” Nope. HAIL would come down hard. Chris ran ahead around mile 10 because she’s fast, and I kept my steady pace. My hands swelled to three times their normal size that I had to stop and get my gummies out to eat. I couldn’t feel my fingers, nor could I move them.

I saw my dad around mile 16 and again around mile 18; he took some pictures before retreating into his friend’s house. I’m glad I didn’t miss him with the crazy weather. My mom tried to see me, but missed me by maybe ten minutes; she had to go since Sophia’s toes went numb, and she couldn’t feel her hands. I don’t blame her, and I’m surprised she even attempted to see me race! Love, you mom! Only mom would take your kid on a weather day like that to see you run a marathon. Plus, she made homemade spaghetti and meatballs for dinner, which is perfect after a race.

The weather cleared up by mile 20 just in time for the long two mile uphill on the Shoreway and into downtown Cleveland. Sun streaked through the gray clouds and the wind blew off Lake Erie from the north, whipping my left leg into my right as I crossed the last bridge. Everything is unfolding as it should… This wasn’t just a marathon, it was the Cleveland Marathon, and you have to be Cleveland tough to run it. Chris and I are Cleveland tough. We’re also thinking of another marathon to run together… maybe Rock-n-Roll Philadelphia? New York?

Thanks for running with me, Chris! You are an awesome mother runner and friend!

medal