Saturday, April 30, 2011

Providence Heart & Sole Women's 5 Miler

3 mile w/u + strides
Target: win some $$
Actual: 1st place tie (2nd in results), 29:29, $450
2 mile c/d
Total: 10+ miles

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Not-So-Speedy on the Dilworth Speed Loop

30 min. w/u (4 miles)
Target: 8x3 mins. @2:45 per 800m and getting faster w/2:30 jog
Actual: 7x800m: 2:45, 2:44, 2:44, 2:41, 2:39, 2:39, 2:39
35 min. c/d (4.5 miles)
Total: 13.5-14 miles

Given the unexpected but delightful upturn in the condition of my ITB, I woke up before the sun on Tuesday morning excited to take on my first workout in several weeks. I would be meeting Caitlin, Jay, Alice and potentially a few others for some 800s on the Dilworth Speed Loop, which meant that I would simply run there from mi casa for my warmup. (As a side note, does anyone know who named the Dilworth Speed Loop? And/or who presumably wheeled the course and spray painted the 200m markers on the road? These are the questions that consume my thoughts.)

For some reason, despite the fact that it invariably takes me about 30 minutes to reach the "start line" of this course, I always head out the door thinking it will only be 20. That miscalculation, coupled with a brief but exceptionally unladylike delay that involved me forcibly dry-heaving on the side of the road in an attempt to dislodge an intrepid yet ill-fated bug from my throat, meant that I arrived several minutes late and one interval behind the rest of the group. Drat. I'd planned on easing into the ungodly early start with some stretching and a few strides, but due to my own time mismanagement I literally had to sprint to catch up with the group and start my first interval (their second) in one awkward movement. Predictably, I felt terrible. My left hamstring seemed tight, which was concerning but not quite as much so as the realization that: I. Felt. Terrible. From the outset I was summarily dropped by Caitlin and Jay and breathing waaaay too hard to be running an uninspired 2:45. I tried to fight through it by reminding myself that I never work out this early and that it always takes me a few intervals to ease into the pace, but unfortunately I just never found my groove out there this morning. It's funny; last night when a group of us were at the JCSU track doing some gait analysis with Mark Hadley, I halfway joked that I wanted to sprint in the direction of the starting line and just bang out the workout right then and there. Granted, I wouldn't have gotten home until about 11pm, but I guarantee that I would've felt much better and run faster had I done just that. Instead, this morning I felt tired, sluggish and dehydrated.

Though I was able to narrow the gap between myself and Caitlin and Jay, I was never quite able to match them on any of the intervals. This was a new experience for me, and quite a humbling one. However, as Caitlin and I often remind each other during moments of frustration, having a bad workout does not necessarily indicate poor fitness. And even if it does, sometimes you have to accept the reality of where you are at a given time and appreciate the workout for what it is, not what you think it should be. The fact is, I'm still getting over the hump of a quasi-injury and haven't put in many substantial quality workouts in the past month. I'm not where I want to be right now, but even "bad" workouts like this one are a step in the right direction of taking me where I want to go.

Platitudes aside, things went from bad to worse on the cooldown. Despite drinking what felt like a gallon of water from Rebecca's front porch, the warm air and cloying humidity had Caitlin and I hurting as we slowly meandered back through Dilworth and Freedom Park. We parted ways with another two and a half miles to run, equally dejected about having to cover that distance solo. My spirits were briefly lifted when I spotted Justin Breland (outfitted in his Craft bandanna and Karhu shoes, of course) loping toward me on the bike path. I picked up my snail's pace as we jogged together for a few minutes, then promptly started walking once he turned around. I guess it all evens out. Regardless, I was utterly exhausted when I finally made it back home, having completed my longest run in several months with a workout sandwiched in the middle. These are the days that make you tougher, despite how discouraging they might seem at the time. I'll take the discouragement any day of the week over a nagging ITB, which uttered nary a peep of objection during the entire 13+ miles. Don't call it a comeback, but, well, I think I'm ready to stage my comeback.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Week in Review

50 miles
1 hour 30 mins. elliptical
1 double
2 days off
12k at the Whitewater Center

Happy Easter! True to my word, I took a much-needed down week that included two days with no running, one of those with no exercise at all. It may be a bit much to call this an Easter miracle, but I think my counterintuitive attempt to cure my ITB via the trail race actually worked! I ran 85 minutes absolutely pain-free on Sunday, which is the farthest continuous run I've done in weeks (and certainly the farthest continuous run I've actually enjoyed). I still plan to be vigilant this week with all my exercises and foam rolling, plus I'll schedule an appointment both with Dr. Greenapple and Byron "Hands of Steel" Bullock. With any luck, this time next week I'll be able to confidently relegate this injury to a place in my rearview mirror. What a relief that would be. I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday weekend that included lots of snacks and treats from the Easter bunny!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

12k for Twelve in Twelve

~10 min. w/u (1+ miles)
Target: 12k trail race--don't fall, don't injure myself, have fun
Actual: Success! Oh, and first place female tie @48:35
~5 min. c/d (1/2 mile)
Total: 9ish miles

About a month ago I received an email from JD Lewis requesting a prize donation for his trail race, 12k for Twelve in Twelve. Naturally the title of the race piqued my curiosity, and I quickly discovered that JD was actually quite a unique guy who was undertaking an even more unique humanitarian challenge with his sons. Simply put, next year they plan to travel to 12 countries in 12 months to volunteer with local communities. This 12k trail race, put on by JD and hosted at the US National Whitewater Center just outside Charlotte, is one of several fundraisers supporting his Twelve in Twelve endeavor. After learning more about the charity and also seeing that two of my accounts, Inside Out Sports and TrySports, were involved, my participation on behalf of Karhu seemed like a no brainer. After discovering that the prizes for the overall winners were all-expense paid trips to the Sandals Caribbean resorts of their choosing, my participation as a runner seemed even more obvious. Jordan was also game, which meant that we had the potential to win two trips for two! Or one trip for four! Or four trips for....anyway, you get the gist. Pina coladas for everyone!

That is, until a few days before the race when I discovered the fine print: the grand priz
e for the overall winner was actually one Sandals trip...meaning that unless Jordan and Ben Hovis both fell off the trail and into the pond, I probably wasn't going to have any chance of taking home the travel voucher. On the other hand, it also meant that as long as Jordan won and as long as he didn't invite his other girlfriend, I could still get in on some fun in the sun. (Aruba, Jamaica, ooooh I wanna take ya...everybody now!) Thus, I wasn't too disappointed by this turn of events. However, it did drastically change my "race" strategy. Whereas beforehand I'd planned to duke it out with Alice and hopefully take advantage of her reputed clumsiness to stay bipedal and out-maneuver my way to victory, instead I approached her during our warmup and asked if she wanted to forego the whole "racing" business and instead enjoy a fun, relaxed--albeit difficult--trail run together. After all, the only other prizes up for grabs were the sweet Karhu kicks, and I'm not exactly short on those. Why kill myself to run an arbitrary time on an arbitrary distance when I could enjoy a nice girl talk sesh instead?

The other factor I haven't mentioned yet was my ITB. While for the most part I've chosen to refrain from boring all my readers with the ins and outs of this nagging injury, allow me to share with you that I spend part of literally every day undertaking at least one, if not several in tandem, of the following treatments: deep tissue massaging, foam rolling, stretching, resistance banding, active releasing, acupuncturing, icing, kinesiotaping and strengthening. While this confluence of efforts has managed to keep my pesky injury runnable, it has not been able to alleviate it completely. Shouldn't it stand to reason that a race on the hilly, muddy, sinewy, rooty, technical(y) trails of the WWC would be the worst possible thing for my ailing leg? Perhaps, but all the aforementioned treatments haven't cured it, so what's there to lose? (One could argue that's the sort of sound reasoning that found me in this predicament in the first place, but that's neither here nor there.) I decided to embrace my inner rebel (or dummy) and throw caution to the wind.

Though the forecast promised 80 degrees and sunshine today, it was low 50s and overcast when Jordan and I arrived at the WWC to set up at 8am. Conditions hadn't changed much for the 9am start, but once we got moving I felt quite comfortable. Jordan, Ben and Alice's beau Lat shot out in front, acco
mpanied by Blue Shirt #2 (I'll explain his name in a second). Alice and I were the next of the 100-person field to follow, and after about 400 meters of open running around the main whitewater rafting section we approached the woods and commenced our single-file, singletrack running. Alice entered the trails just ahead of me and we decided to trade off 10-minute increments of leading, with the intention of keeping the pace honest but conversational. As in, literally conversational; we immediately began chatting away about everything from the Boston Marathon to our weekend plans to the boys we have crushes on (spoiler alert: it's Jordan and Lat). I could hear someone breathing close on our heels; sure enough, as soon as we approached a hill that was wide enough to allow passing, a man soon christened as Blue Shirt #1 sailed past us. "Were you not enjoying our company?" I joked as he forged ahead. "Was it something we said?" He seemed decidedly unamused, and retorted with a I'm-joking-but-I'm-really-serious, "Don't take it personally." As soon as he was clear, Alice voiced what I was already thinking: "Blue Shirt is going down." Hells yes, we were going to catch him before the end of the race if for nothing else than the principle of it.

The next few miles passed with no one in our sights ahead or behind. Having never been to
the WWC before, I was delighted by the beauty and technicality of the challenging trail system. There were sections when I literally couldn't even take my eyes off the ground long enough to look at my watch, as I would've surely catapulted over a root or a rock or missed a switchback if I had. Of course it didn't help that the ground had received a good dousing from the previous 24 hours of rain, which meant that the already iffy footing was compounded by sometimes undetectable patches of slick, clay-like mud and sections with unapologetic ankle-deep puddles. For a girl who abhors camping or "roughing it" in any form, this is about as extreme as it gets. And, thanks to my trusty cohort Alice, I was absolutely loving it. As we took turns leading, we also took turns calling out to the other about upcoming obstacles and natural booby traps in our path. Roughly halfway through the race we rolled up on Blue Shirt #1 and returned his favor from earlier. "Good job, Blue Shirt!" we called as we passed. In hindsight, we should've said, "Don't take it personally." But we are ladies and that is not a ladylike way to treat a fellow competitor.

Once Blue Shirt #1 was behind us, it wasn't too long before we had Blue Shirt #2 in our sights. Apparently his blistering early pace had taken its toll, and soon he too was behind us.
At this point we knew the only targets remaining were Jordan, Ben and Lat. The first two were undoubtedly many minutes ahead of us, but we thought Lat might be our next candidate. "He's injured," Alice confided with just a touch too much excitement in her voice. "We can catch him!" So though we were beginning to tire and slip and slide around like toddlers on ice skates, we renewed our determination to seek and destroy Lat. Unfortunately, we also grossly underestimated how far along we were in the race (turns out Alice's Garmin didn't exactly have pinpoint accuracy under the tree canopies), so we were surprised and even a tad disappointed when we thought there was over a mile to go and a volunteer told us the finish line was just over the next hill. Sure enough, we crested the short climb (aka Heartbreak) and saw the finish banner about 100 yards ahead at the end of a gravel parking area. Alice and I sprinted in together and then, in a manner we both acknowledged as incredibly dorky and yet completely fitting for the scope of the occasion, we clasped our hands together and raised them over our heads in a show of solidarity as we crossed the finish line. Victory was ours!

Muddy legs post-race

After rejoining Ben and Lat a few minutes later, I learned of Jordan's mixed results. He had succeeded in winning us a trip to the Caribbean...aaaand possibly maimed himself in the process. Turns out his left hip, which had been quietly nagging him for a few days, took a turn for the worse somewhere amidst his three--yes, three--falls on the trail. When I located him a few minutes later he was in low spirits and struggled to walk. Fortunately Ben found him a sweet stick in the woods that doubled as a cane, which assisted him in walking back over for the awards ceremony. Naturally several timely Moses/Red Sea parting jokes ensued, although in hindsight I think he looked more like Rafiki from the Lion King. Either way, he was in rough shape and I felt terrible about it. Good thing he'll have plenty of time to recover with a coconut umbrella drink at Sandals!

And now, I will leave you with a few of my and Alice's favorite quotes from the race:

Me, just before the start: "I think the route is pretty well marked. There's no way we should get lost."
Alice, approximately three minutes into the race: "Um, which way did they go?"

Alice: "What pace do you think we can run?"
Me, feeling like we're running pretty hard: "I dunno, probably 6:45?"
Alice: "Okay. But just so you know, we're doing 7:30."

Me, about halfway through: "We should have a team name. How about Team Beat Blue Shirt?"
Alice: "Yes! I love it! Go Team BBB!"
Me: "Actually, it's an know what, never mind. Go Team BBB!"

Both of us, seeing Lat ahead at a switchback: "Lat, we're coming for you! We're catching you! Watch out!"
Lat, completely uninterested, shrugging: "All right."

It's definitely time to wrap this up, but I would be remiss if I closed without imploring you to check out JD's web site. Read about his mission and upcoming trip and, if you feel compelled to do so, donate to his cause. More info about Twelve in Twelve can be found here. Thanks to JD and the Whitewater Center for the great event!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Week in Review

80 miles
4 doubles
4 laps with Alana
5 AFDs

One successful workout, one lucrative race, one humbling mile on the track. Sounds like the perfect recipe for some fitness gains.

Playing Queenmaker

AM: 61 mins. (8 miles)
PM: 3 mile w/u + strides
Target: Pacing Alana @81 per lap for 1.5 miles
Actual: 5:19 (mile)
Total: 4-4.5 miles

Earlier this week, I got a call from Jenna saying she was having a difficult time finding someone to rabbit Alana Hadley for the 5k at the High Point home track meet. Alana, a 14-year-old Charlotte eighth grader who also happens to be one of the fastest youth runners in the country, was hoping to lower her 17:09 PR to a mind-boggling sub-17. I'm pretty sure when I was in eighth grade I was stoked to run the mile in sub-6:30 at the Pittsburg Middle School track meet, but that's neither here nor there. When on Saturday afternoon Jenna still hadn't located a pacer, I sent her a text that read something like this:

1. I just raced 10k today; 2. My ITB is still screwy; 3. I'm on my second glass of wine. If you accept these preconditions and understand that I promise you nothing, I will gladly attempt to pace Alana for as long as physically possible tomorrow.

Given that auspicious pretense, I was pretty excited to discover that I didn't feel half bad when warming up along the HPU greenway before the 5k. Jordan and I made the trip up with our surrogate child Caitlin in tow, and in contrast to Saturday's monsoons there was nary a cloud in the sky on Sunday afternoon. The only fault to the afternoon's weather was a brisk headwind that made itself known on the backstretch and top of the first curve. I told Alana and her father Mark that I would run on pace for as long as I could but would step aside when I feared that I would cause the tempo to drag. They both seemed amenable to this plan, so we assembled near the starting line with about a dozen other girls and waited for our chance to toe the line. Wearing hip number one, Alana was situated in the corresponding lane. As a late addition to the field, I filed in on the far right of the starting line. Alana and Mark told me just before the start that she was planning to go out in 78-79 before settling into pace, so our positioning would work to my favor as I could allow her to dictate the tempo around the first turn before falling in front of her on the home straight.

From the gun, it was clear that no one wanted to go with us. Right on plan, I took my place in front of Alana about 150 meters into the race and led us through the first lap in 78. I could tell after this lap that the headwind on the home stretch would be more of a factor than I'd originally thought. Alana would benefit from having me to block her for a while, but I wouldn't be able to last very long. I could tell after the third lap that I wouldn't be able to maintain the current pace for much longer, so true to my word I stepped aside after successfully bringing her through mile one. In hindsight, I should've stuck around for a few more laps. I wouldn't have been able to maintain 80s, but I could've definitely still managed a few 82s and at least helped bear the brunt of the wind for a few more laps. Instead I switched into cheering mode and immediately began covering the infield to cheer for Alana at different points around the track. All alone for the duration, her splits began to lag through the middle section of the race before she put together a strong finishing kick and powered home in 17:06. The sub-17 clocking eluded her, but she still notched a PR and a definitive win in windy conditions. Oh, and for those of you who didn't catch it the first time, she's only in eighth grade. Amazing.

All in all, I was happy that I had a hand in helping Alana and even happier that I can apparently still run a sub-5:20 mile. After months of marathon training and less than groundbreaking workouts, I would estimate this is the fastest mile I've run since sometime last summer. Sad, yes, but I'll take the small victories where I can get them. More importantly, huge props go to Alana for her stellar race and to Jenna for hosting a flawlessly run meet.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Rain Fest 10k

2+ mile w/u + strides
Target: win the 10k
Actual: 36:55 chip time, 1st place ($200)
Results (scroll down for 10k)
2 mile c/d
Total: 10-11 miles

Going into this race, the weather predictions were ominous to say the least. Tornadic winds, rain, hail and thunderstorms were all projected to arrive in the Charlotte area around midnight and prevail for the majority of the day Saturday. Race Fest participants received several emails detailing various contingency plans in the event of inclement weather. At the worst case scenario, the race could be delayed or even canceled. Best case would probably still involve a good dousing of rain and wind but hopefully not preclude an on-time start. Jordan and I went to bed early on Friday night having no idea what to expect when we awoke.

When the 5:30 alarm sounded, my fears about the weather were hardly assuaged. I could hear a torrential downpour slicing through the trees outside and knew that we would indeed get very, very wet. I won't lie; a tiny part of me hoped to find a cancellation email waiting in my inbox so that I could roll over and immediately return to my delightful slumber. Instead, the message read: "The race is on!" Sigh. It was time to get up and get moving.

Once Jordan and I arrived near the start in Southpark, it appeared as though the skies might actually be calming down. We stayed dry during our warmup with John and made it almost to the starting line before the rain began to fall again. Approaching the start I saw some familiar faces like Alice, Rebecca, Michelle, Aaron and the Greenapple Sports & Wellness crew. A quick scan of the starting line indicated that Alice would be my primary competition, which I'd already suspected would be the case. She's in great shape right now, coming off a top American finish at Cooper River 10k and a respectable 2:55 finish in the rain-soaked Los Angeles Marathon, and I knew that given my current lack of fitness I could realistically lose to her on a bad day. With that in mind, my race plan was simple: go out hard from the gun, establish a big lead in the first mile and (hopefully) hold off any of her late stage charges. The notoriously hilly course, compounded by the rain and wind, meant that none of us could expect blazing fast times, but the sharply downhill first mile meant that a sub-5:40 opener was perfectly reasonable.

At 7:30 sharp, anxious to start the races before the weather deteriorated further, the announcer sent us off. True to plan, I shot out to the front and settled in not far behind the lead pack of men that included Jordan, Aaron, John (who was competing in the half-marathon) and several others I didn't know. I came through the first mile marker in 5:35 and was confident I'd distanced myself from Alice and the field. My confidence eroded slightly as I struggled through the next two uphill miles, barely managing six minute pace and frustrated by the heaviness in my legs. At this point I was in no-woman's land and fading quickly. Somewhere during the fourth mile I spotted my buddy Dean Otto who had braved the weather to come out and cheer for us. Seeing him definitely boosted my spirits, as did the sight of Alejandro slowly coming back to me from his 15-20 meter lead. The fourth and fifth mile offered a forgiving downhill and a chance to slightly pick up the pace. Unfortunately for me, Alejandro had the same idea, so despite my sub-5:55s on these miles I could only watch helplessly as he distanced himself even more. By the end of the fifth mile my physical condition had upgraded from "terrible" to "potentially not bad," and for a few naive seconds I had hopes of really tightening the screws for the final mile. That is, until another minute passed and my spirits were crushed by another long and gradual uphill. Whether or not the entire final mile was uphill is debatable, but it certainly felt that way to me. All time goals were tossed out the window as I desperately just wanted to be done and back in my warm bed. Approaching the finishing straightaway I tried to put together a semblance of a kick which may or may not have been successful, somehow managing to cross the line just a few ticks under 37 minutes. It certainly didn't set the world on fire, but it was good enough.

Alice came in shortly after, so we high-fived it up in the finishing chute and then went off to find out the results of the men's race. Turns out my newly healthy boyfriend also brought home the W, followed by Aaron and a graduate student at App State. Rebecca hung on for third place in the 10k despite a bizarre yet highly entertaining incident involving a woman who thought she was running the half but somehow went off course and found herself approaching the 10k finish. Jordan and I cooled down just long enough to see the half-marathon winners come in as the skies opened up yet again. John destroyed the field on the men's side and Michelle hung on to finish as the second place female. Solid performances all around. At this point the weather appeared to be taking a turn for the worst, which I took as our cue to head home and hunker down with some coffee and flapjacks and a nice nap. Gotta love relaxing post-race Saturdays!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

McMullen Workout

4 mile w/u + strides
Target: mile (5:40), 1200 (4:10), 800 (2:44), 400, (80), 400, 800, 1200, mile all w/2 mins. jog
Actual: 5:42, 4:08, 2:44, 75, 76, 2:40, 4:07, 5:38
1.5 mile c/d
Total: 11.5 miles

For the second Wednesday in a row, I had the best possible weather scenario for my mid-day workout: sunny, 70 degrees, breezy and low humidity. We may only get a few weeks of springlike weather in Charlotte, but it's amazing while it lasts. For the second time this week I ran skins (plus sports bra), so I fully expect my runner's tan to be in full awkward bloom by the weekend.

Looking for a change of pace, Jordan suggested we venture down to McMullen greenway for this workout. I was pleasantly surprised--to be honest, I sort of forget that this venue exists, though it's located a mere ten minutes' drive from our front door--and was definitely excited about the prospect of running somewhere other than the Booty Loop or McAlpine. The few workouts I've done at McMullen have gone really well, so I felt optimistic that today would continue that trend. It also helped that Jordan designed (read: come up with 20 minutes before we left the house) a ladder workout with splits that should be relatively easy to hit, albeit with a short rest. My longer tempo workout will come this weekend in the form of the Race Fest 10k, so today would serve as an opportunity to hit some faster-paced, shorter intervals instead. After a longer than normal warmup (coach's orders) and a few strides, I was ready to begin.

From the first few steps of the initial interval, I could tell the pace felt easy. Turns out it was a bit too easy, as Jordan took me through the 800 in a pedestrian 2:53. We worked a bit harder the second half to make up the deficit, but in the end decided to let the gently rolling and winding terrain dictate the pace. If a few intervals were a second or two slow and others were a second or two fast, I wasn't going to stress about it. In the end this wouldn't matter as the leadoff mile was the only "slow" section. In fact, the middle 400's were quite a bit faster than the prescribed pace (5:00 vs. 5:20) due to the fact that Jordan made me lead these and apparently I decided it was time to sprint. Oh well. To be honest I'm surprised I can even run sub-80 pace right now so I'm definitely not complaining. Once he took over again for the final ascent up the ladder we maintained a controlled tempo, if slightly quicker than on the way down. I felt relaxed on every interval except for the final mile, when the dirt terrain and the uphill finish had me laboring quite a bit the final 400 meters.

Since I know you're all wondering, I'm happy to report that my knee/ITB was a non-issue during the workout itself. Predictably, it tightened up immediately upon finishing, but after stretching and walking around for several minutes I was able to cobble together a relatively comfortable cooldown. This is a marked improvement from last week and hopefully an indicator that this injury is headed in the right direction. In addition to a regular dose of ART and acupuncture with Dr. Greenapple, I have also begun seeing Caitlin's massage therapist Byran Bullock. Tomorrow he will be bringing the hurt with a 60-minute lower body massage designed to flush out my legs and break up all this pesky scar tissue around my knee and ITB. This ain't your grandma's massage, but it's absolutely what I need right now to rejuvenate my legs and bring me back to good health.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Week in Review

80-81 miles
3 doubles
1 workout with JSK
1 workout in ATL
6 nights in my own bed!

Slowly but surely my fitness is coming around and the mileage is pretty much where I want it to be. After returning to the QC from Atlanta tomorrow I will have another entire week at home, which always bodes well for my running both in terms of quality and quantity. I'm also super excited to have my running partner back in action, and I know he'll help keep me motivated when I'm grumbling about heading out for an evening double. These are the weeks when great fitness gains are made by simply logging the miles and consistently completing workouts. Just gotta keep plugging away.

Summer Preview Workout

3.5 mile w/u
Target: 4 mile tempo @5:50 pace, 1 mile jog, 6x1 min. surges
Actual: 5:34, 5:52, 5:58, 3:00 (for .5), 1.5 mile jog, 6x1 min. surges
1 mile c/d
Total: 11.5 miles

Unfortunately the title of this post refers to the unseasonably warm weather that awaited me for this Sunday afternoon workout in Atlanta. Never mind that a week ago I was slogging through 30 degrees and freezing rain in Central Park; when I pulled into the Chattahoochee River parking lot at 1pm today I was greeted with bright sunshine and a muggy 82-degree temperature reading. One could argue that I shouldn't have put this off until the hottest part of the day, but I sort of didn't have a choice. Sort of.

My quick Atlanta trip began around 3pm yesterday afternoon when I trekked down I-85 for my friends Jennie's and Leo's going away party. Leo just finished up chiropractic school so the duo is off to Ohio, their home state, to begin their careers. Our friend and Jennie's now-former employer Genie Beaver from West Stride hosted the soiree, which was filled with laughter and great conversation and the occasional tear-inducing toast. I'd planned all along to crash at Jennie and Leo's because, well, that's what I do--right up until the minute I learned that their U-Haul was literally loaded up and ready for their 7am departure this morning! Fortunately Genie and her husband Todd graciously offered to host me at their home, an offer I readily accepted as I didn't really have a Plan B secured. By the time the party and ensuing cleanup wound down and we were settled in for a few SNL skits, it was almost 1am. 1am?! I didn't even make it to 11pm last weekend and I was in NYC! So, needless to say, after this shockingly uncharacteristic late night none of us were in any hurry to wake up on Sunday. I lounged in the guest bedroom until the indulgent hour of 8:30am before rising to greet kiddos Sylvia and Carlyn...then I drank a cup of coffee...then another cup...then Todd made pancakes...then another cup...aaaand next thing I knew it was past noon and I was still in my PJs. Sigh. Would that the run could've magically completed itself. Instead I reluctantly changed clothes--read: put on a sports bra--and bid my wonderful hosts adieu. So, that's my compelling justification for waiting until the afternoon to run. Take it or leave it.

Once I negotiated my way into a parking spot in the overcrowded lot, the time for procrastination was over. After warming up with one loop around the dirt I came to the sobering realization that the weather was definitely going to factor into my performance. Instead of running another dirt loop for my tempo portion, I opted to branch off onto Columns Drive, a completely flat five mile out-and-back residential street that branches off from the river's other parking lot. With its wide bike lanes and smooth asphalt, I deemed it a better venue for attempting a fast run than the exceptionally crowded river loop. Minus a steady influx of cyclists, it would be relatively free of pedestrians and other obstructions and was also well-marked with reliable mile markers. If this tempo was going to happen, it was going to happen out there.

From the first step I could tell I was running too fast. The wind was at my back and I was unsure of myself, doubting the moderate effort level that my body required to produce a 5:50 mile. I came through the first mile in 5:34 breathing heavily, annoyed at my rookie pacing mistake. I made a conscious effort to back off for mile two but the generous tailwind made moderation difficult even despite my rapidly fatiguing legs. I split 5:52 and knew I would enjoy another half mile with the breeze at my back before making a wide U-turn at the traffic signal and crossing to the opposite side of the road. As soon as I did, the wind and penetrating sunlight hit me like a ton of bricks. Combined with the accumulation of lactic acid from starting out waaaay too fast (current 5k race pace, anyone?), I knew things were going south in a hurry. When I split 3:00 for the first half of the final mile, lungs burning and breath ragged and legs practically sprinting, I knew it was time to shut it down. I jogged the final stretch of Columns and counted down the minutes until I reached the parking lot and its promised water fountains. After several minutes of rest and what felt like several gallons of refreshing agua, I was ready to hit the dirt once again. Spurred on in equal parts by my frustration at the truncated tempo and my overwhelming desire to finish the run, I pushed pretty hard on the surges. By this point I was in no small danger of overheating, but I sought the shaded treeline as much as possible and vowed to rehydrate like crazy as soon as I was done. In the end I should've probably run another mile or two, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I finished off with some drills and stretches and a huge bottle of water in the parking lot before departing for the nearest smoothie purveyor. If these are the conditions I have to look forward to in the coming months, my body better get ready to do a better job of adapting than it did today. Perhaps my system is just shocked and bewildered that the conditions seem to have skipped straight from winter to summer with no refreshing spring grace period. Regardless, it's time to HTFU. If you don't know what it means, just read Jordan's socks.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Surprisingly Not Terrible Workout

2+ mile w/u + strides
Target: 3xmile @5:30; 5x1k @3:35 all w/3 mins. rest
Actual: 5:28, 5:28, 5:30 (all w/3:30); 3:37, 3:35, 3:32, 3:32, 3:33 (all w/2 mins.)
1/2 mile c/d
Total: 9.5-10 miles

Originally I'd planned to work out on Tuesday this week, but when I saw that the forecast called for rainstorms in the morning and high winds in the afternoon, I opted for Wednesday instead. Turns out I made the right decision, as Mother Nature produced an absolutely gorgeous spring day just for me. To make things even better, my trusty sidekick-slash-coach-slash running partner is finally healthy and able to assume his favorite role of dragging me through workouts again. I don't know if I could've made it through this workout solo or not, but either way I was grateful that I didn't have to try!

As we warmed up along the Footlocker course together, Jordan and I strategized what was to come. His intention was to put the hardest, fastest section first, then conclude with a more relaxed, strength-based segment. Hence we would start with mile repeats at what is probably my current 5k pace and then back off to k's at my goal 10k pace. I was a bit skeptical about hitting the prescribed 5:30s for the miles given how much I struggled to run 5:45s on the roads a few weeks ago, but Jordan convinced me that it could be done. Much to my surprise, he was correct. We coasted through the first 800 meters in 2:43 and I felt surprisingly strong and relaxed all the way to the finish. We discovered that the jog back to the start was a bit longer than previously thought (hence the 3:30 rest), but by the time interval #2 commenced I found myself fully recovered. I didn't truly begin to struggle until the last half of the third repeat, but I stayed tough mentally by reminding myself that the hardest part of the workout was already over.

True to plan, keeping the second half of the workout both shorter and slower felt incredibly comfortable. On several occasions Jordan had to remind me to hold back a bit, as the objective was strength and not all-out speed. I honestly think I could've run 3:30s for each of them on the same rest, or could've run 3:33-3:35 on only a minute rest if necessary. It goes against my instincts to hold back, especially during the last interval of a long workout, but I begrudgingly listened to Coach Kinley and forced myself to put my body on cruise control. The only part of me that didn't feel super duper was my knee/IT band. Normally running fast makes it feel better, but I could tell by midway through the k's that the constant stopping and starting was aggravating it. Sure enough, after a half-mile jog back to the stage to change shoes, the attachments seized up like invisible steel tentacles around my kneecap. I was done for the day.

Overall, though I'm frustrated with the current "two steps forward, one step back" state of my ITB, I'm extremely pleased with this workout and its indication of my current fitness level (which, in case you're wondering, has just been mentally upgraded from "terrible" to "potentially not that bad"). I've all but abandoned my hopes of racing the Payton Jordan Invite at Stanford next month, but that doesn't mean I still can't salvage my spring season and run some respectable times on the roads.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Become a Karhu shoe reviewer!

Since I get questions and comments all the time about my sweet Karhu kicks, I thought I'd pass along this exciting opportunity to try them out yourself. Simply "like" our Karhu Facebook page, then click on the tab at left that says "Wanna review Karhu?" Fill out a short form with your contact info and we'll let you know via email if you've been selected! (In case you were wondering, bribes are accepted and encouraged. Especially of the tasty variety.)

As you can see, Weezy has already staked out a few pairs...she gives them two paws up!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

13.1 NYC Week in Review

80 miles
2 doubles
5 days in NYC
5 AFDs
1 airport reunion

Another week, another successful Karhu and Craft event in the books. This week's festivities brought me to the drizzly, cold, sleety "spring" weather that is New York City in early April. Despite exhaustive and exhausting workday shifts at our partner account, City Sports in Midtown, I somehow managed to keep the mileage respectable and the quality acceptable for the week. Several of these runs were dark solo Central Park outings in the early morning hours, but on other occasions I was lucky enough to have some pavement- or trail-pounding company.

The first of these group jaunts, a Wednesday night run club at City Sports, also found us in Central Park after meandering past some famous sights such as Rockefeller Center and Radio City Music Hall with the bright lights of Times Square as our backdrop. We jogged through the park to a landmark called Belvedere's Castle--I have no idea who Belvedere was, nor would I suspect that he ever lived in this alleged domicile--then made a nice big loop past the former Tavern on the Green and Columbus Circle before returning to the store.

In contrast to this run's relaxed pace, my next group run o'fun left me with heavy legs and a reaffirmation of the unpleasant reality that I am, in fact, horribly out of shape. Earlier in the week I'd made contact with my friend Heidi, whom Caitlin and I had run with several times when she was visiting her in-laws in Charlotte earlier this winter, in hopes that we could meet up for a run. Unfortunately she was out of town but helpfully referred me to her friends and NYAC teammates Reilly and Betsy. Considering how small the running community is, it should come as no surprise that we were only two degrees separated as Reilly was teammates with my good friend Dave Nightingale and Betsy ran with my friend and former coach Jeff "G-Unit" Gaudette's girlfriend Melanie. Sight unseen, we made plans via email to meet in Central Park and embark on an "easy morning run" together. The meeting went off without a hitch, and from an observer's perspective I'm sure it appeared as though the three young, stunningly attractive, blond-ponytailed girls were laughing and chatting away and enjoying the pleasure of each other's company while running at a leisurely pace. While mostly true, in actuality it would be more accurate to say that two of the young, stunningly attractive, blond ponytailed girls were running at a leisurely pace. I, on the other hand, was basically in full tempo run mode from the outset. It felt like we were running my marathon pace up and down the undulating terrain, and though I'm sure the pace wasn't quite that quick I have no doubt that I covered well over 11 miles during the ensuing 75 minutes (and yes, that includes my shuffling/hobbling last solo mile back to my hotel). In the end, it was definitely a good wakeup call for me and a nice little unplanned workout. Turns out Reilly and Betsy ran sub-1:14 and sub-1:17 respectively at the NYC Half a few weeks ago, so they're definitely legit. I also owe them a thank you for being incredibly friendly and welcoming and also for tactfully ignoring the huffing and puffing and wheezing noises being emitted from my general direction.

Finally, my last accompanied run of the trip took place in the picturesque trails of Sleepy Hollow, north of NYC in Westchester County. While the headless horseman's absence was a bit of a disappointment, I had a great time traversing the breathtaking carriage trails and wooded areas with my new friends Shebna and Kelly for 90 minutes on a gorgeous Sunday morning. Oh, and I meant "breathtaking" in the literal sense of the word--the unrelenting hills made 7:30 pace a struggle during some portions. I met Kelly and Shebna through my friend and gracious hostess for Saturday night, Madeleine, who unfortunately is sidelined for a few weeks due to a foot injury. After brunch at the Horseman Diner, Madeleine and I packed up and headed to LaGuardia to see me off. In a delightfully unexpected turn of events, the stars aligned just in time to allow us to meet up with our long-lost friend and my former virtual training partner Jilane before seeing me off. As a communications advisor for the artist formerly known as the NFL Player's Association, Jilane is probably the only person I know whose work and travel schedule rivals mine. Thus it was only fitting that our first reunion since she watched me run at Penn Relays last year would take place with carry-on luggage in hand and an airport PA system blaring overhead. Forced ambience notwithstanding, it was a special treat to spend some quality time with these two friends before leaving on a jet plane once again.

Whew, so there you have it. Another week in the books, a few more miles tallied both on my feet and in the air. Life is short but sweet for certain, and I'm just along for the ride.