Thursday, February 27, 2014

Rockwood Park

Days 'til Marathon: 16

Today's Run

Rockwood Park
6.51 miles
Time- 1 hr

When I set my sights on the Instant Classic Marathon, it seemed so far in the future. The months have flown by and March 15th is almost here. 


I'm officially in "taper" mode, which means that the bulk of training for my very first marathon is behind me. What an incredible journey this has been! I hit the 21-mile mark during last Saturday's long run @ Pocahontas. Wheew! Glad to have that one behind me. I was too busy laying flat and drinking Sam Adams after that adventure to write a blog. Whoops!
I'm feeling much stronger and more confident now than I did before the 35k I ran back in January. I surprised myself that day with how good I felt; despite some crazy racing conditions, I finished strong and even won my age group (there were only 3 of us, but still...hehe). 

I've heard it said that on any given day, you are capable of way more than you think you are, and I really believe that to be true. Most of us don't push ourselves to the edge of our abilities very often, so its a bit of a mystery.  

How far, how long can I really go?

I'm hoping that on race day, I'll perform the way I know I'm capable of and enjoy the ride (not just the finish line).

This week I've been spending some time on my old stomping ground, Rockwood Park. When we first moved to Richmond, I ran at Rockwood almost every day with Porter. I haven't been there much lately because there isn't a ton of mileage, which means a lot of laps around the same trail. But, there are so many fun little hills and bridges, I decided to take the dogs there on Tuesday. That was a joke; those mutts are out of practice on their leashes; they drove me bonkers. We lasted 4.5 miles before I couldn't handle it anymore; Val trying to chase every squirrel (tough to do on a leash), Porter stopping to sniff every flippin' bush. 

Wisely, I headed there solo today, just to switch things up a little (sorry, pups). 

Rockwood is a great place to measure  power. There are a lot of short, steep hills that are too small to walk up but steep enough to really engage the legs. In other words, the kind of obnoxious little jerks that you almost have to sprint up. 

I know what I used to feel on these short hills: fatigue, pain and an acute need to drop the f-bomb.

Now, I sort of enjoy sprinting up those adorable little hills. Pretty fun to see how far me & my quads have come.

A beautiful morning out on the trail; just me, the dirt, the water and Lady Gaga. 

Gregory's Pond, taken from the Orange trail @ Rockwood Park

 Now that we are members at the YMCA (hollaa!), I've been adding more cross-training to my weekly schedule (better late than never!) and dang, does it make a difference or what?! I always knew that I should be cross-training, but now I realize its totally not optional. After just 6 weeks of adding yoga, cycling and swimming to my routine, I feel more limber and stronger than ever. Thank you, Downward-Facing Dog!
YOGA rules.

I wish I'd gotten our YMCA membership sooner; its been an incredible addition to my training program and to our little family in general. But, since I'm a bit on the thrifty side, I waited until they were offering $0 enrollment to fork over the monthly dues. Anyway, we are all loving the Y; I can't say enough good stuff!

Post-run. Rock & Roll!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Fancy Seeing You Here.

Days 'Til Marathon: 24



To say that we're getting down to the wire is an understatement. 

The bulk of my training has been really great, enjoyable, stellar, even. In contrast, the past couple of weeks have been...not. 

I like to think of myself as a pretty positive person. I try to be "go with the flow," "focused" and "flexible."  

Marathon training has proven to be challenging in so many more areas other than distance training. Here's why.

1.Time management.

Running 10-20 miles takes a pretty darn long time; 2-4 hours on average, not to mention the time spent showering, icing and basically laying around afterwards. For the past 4 months, my Saturdays have been spent doing just those things, in that order, leaving me pretty much worthless for any other activities that my family may be interested in. Week in and week out, with an entire Saturday spent this way, it gets a little tricky to get all the other things done that need attention and that are usually taken care of on Saturday. 

Added to this time-management juggling act is a part-time cleaning gig that takes me out of the house for most of Sunday as well (the extra $ is awesome, but the time away from home is iffy). Needless to say, my own house is a bit dirtier than it once was, my laundry a lot more piled up and my family slightly more neglected than they'd like (can't blame 'em). 

Lately I've caught myself daydreaming about a Saturday spent doing normal Saturday things; heading to the park, lounging in my PJ's, taking Lu for ice cream.

2. Friggin' weather.

Everyone already knows this, but this winter has been CRAZY. Between dealing with the frigid temps, pouring rain, pounding sleet and unrelenting snowfall, sticking to a regular training program has been nearly impossible. The frustration of dealing with this weather and trying to fit my runs around the whims of Mother Nature has been especially challenging. Wake me when its Spring.

3. Nagging (yet bearable) injuries. 

I guess it would be pretty naive (and cocky) to think that I could triple my weekly mileage and not have any injuries along the way. Well, until about a month ago, I had done just that. I actually thought I was going to get all the way through this training and a 26.2 mile race and have zero injuries or issues. SO dumb. 

About a month ago, the joint of my big toe started hurting during my long run. I thought it was a one-time thing, that I must have stepped weirdly or whatever. Unfortunately, this little discomfort has been coming and going ever since, popping up during most of my long runs, eager & willing to keep me company. 


The toe issue has been on my right foot. Not one to be left out, my left foot of course had to pipe up with a minuscule (but equally annoying) pain in the ankle area. I'm pretty sure both issues occurred due to increased mileage, lack of sufficient cross-training and doing so many runs in the snow and ice (making a twist/tweak even more likely). 

The recommended course of action for overuse injuries like these are rest, ice, ibuprofen and try another sport. Yeah, right.  

Ice and ibuprofen have become my new BFFs until March 16, at which point I'll be happy to rest, relax and try Zumba. 

4. Burn-out. 

Speaking of Zumba, I'm really looking forward to being able to spend more time off-trail.  Don't get me wrong, I LOVE running. I love it so much that I've made this commitment to achieve a major distance goal that I know I'll be incredibly proud of. 

I love the breeze in my face, the dirt under my feet and the salty sweat that I'm covered in after a great day on the trail. But, as I'm nearing the very end of this journey, I'm looking forward to the finish line and to achieving the goal I've worked so hard for. The part when its over.

After that, I'm looking forward to doing other stuff. 

Body Pump? You betcha.
Spinning? Can't wait.
Boot Camp? Why the hell not?

Of course, this "seeing other people" phase will likely last about a week before I'm itching to get back on the trail, but think of the options!

5. Friggin' weather.

I know, I already said that. But still.

All of my bitchin' came to a head yesterday on a cold (burrr!) morning run at Pocahontas. I left the pups at home, planning on tackling my long run that hadn't gotten taken care of over the weekend (thanks, Mother Nature). From the first mile, I knew I was ruined. The snow/ice mix from the weekend was still covering the trail, making for a slippery, slushy, messy run.

 Fun level=0. 

Around mile 2, my left ankle started pinching with every step. Great. By mile 7, I'd accepted the annoying ankle pain and was compensating a little by altering my stride slightly. Then, predictability, my friendly big toe piped up in protest.  

Fancy seeing you here. 

My not-so-long "long" run came to an end at just under 9 miles. 


I went home annoyed, defeated and pretty over it. Luckily, I have an incredibly supportive, patient and wonderful husband who listened to me whine and complain about my running woes until I got it all out of my system. I spent last night being irritated and just wanting this whole thing to be done already. I got my bitching & moaning taken care of and decided that today would be a good day, whether I wanted it to be or not. 

Funny how things work out. 

For today's short run, I decided to try out some new compression socks with my trusty Saucony sneakers, giving my Brooks Trail shoes a day off. I also (admittedly) did a little self-medicating by popping 2 Ibuprofen before hitting the dirt (take that, obnoxious pseudo-injuries!). Mother Nature smiled on our run today, granting us sunny skies and much warmer temperatures. I took my K9 trail buddies with me and cranked up Pandora (Pop Fitness Channel!), determined to feel good and run strong, despite yesterday's pity party. The result? The best, strongest and most fun 6 miles I've had in a while. 

With less than a month until the marathon, I'm feeling pumped and ready to go (with a little boost from my pals Beyonce and Ibuprofen, that is). 

Pity party & bad attitude, get outta here. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

"No Man Left Behind..." We'll leave that to the Military; this is trail running.



Trails: Forest Exploration, Loop Trail

Distance: 6.55 mi

Avg Pace: 10 min/mile

Running drop-outs: 1

Today needed to be a big day. 

Why? I'm pretty sure I won't be going anywhere on Thursday.

The forecast: MORE snow.

In the unlikely event that I AM able to get out of the driveway and through our hilly neighborhood in my itty-bitty Volkswagen, there is zero chance that Lucy will have school and therefore zero chance of a trail-run on Thursday.

Not only is this a bummer for my trail-running schedule, Lucy's Valentine's Day party is scheduled for Thursday and she was going to wear the cutest little dress. Blah!

So, today needed to be pretty dang stellar.

It all started out great. I felt awesome when I woke up, gearing up for about 7-8 miles at Pocahontas with the dogs. Got Lu up and ready for school, did the breakfast thing, dropped her off and scooted along to the park.

We headed to the Loop Trail parking area off Courthouse road, planning to run on Forest Exploration towards the boat ramp and back up along Fendley Station and the Loop Trail. I felt strong from the get-go, well rested and limber after a killer yoga class yesterday. I even remembered to wear my warmer gloves. For once, felt like I was wearing exactly the correct cold-weather attire. Layering in winter-running is tricky, at least for me. Feeling fresh out of the gate....

This is shaping up to be an amazing run.

Of course, things never go that smoothly; for me, anyway.

This morning, Porter and Val were wrestling (as they do every morning) and things got a little heated; totally normal. Their wrestling session ended abruptly when Porter went ape-shit on V for reasons unknown. At the time, I shrugged it off as "cranky old man syndrome," which comes and goes for our sweet 6 (ish) year old pup.

I figured Val had just been obnoxious (quite common for her), resulting in her big brother's smack-down and that Porter was fine for running. I noticed quickly when we started down the trail that he didn't seem as excited and happy as he usually is at the beginning of a beautiful trail run. About a mile into the run, he was lagging way behind. About a hundred yards later, I hear the yelp.

Yep, he's semi-injured. Left front leg. Damn, really?!

Porter is such a trooper (and a people-pleaser); that leg had probably been bothering him from the minute we stepped out of the car. He was probably waiting for the pain to go away, a feeling that any runner can definitely relate to. However, he's a dog (not an endurance athlete), so to push him any further would have been pretty uncool.

Now I'm in a pickle.

The "Dog Mama" in me wants to scoop him up, carry him to the car like a baby, take him home, give him a biscuit and watch the Price is Right. Trouble is, he weighs 75 pounds, smells like wet dog and doesn't like Drew Carey anyway. Plus, I am an endurance athlete; an athlete with a dwindling number of training days remaining and a snow storm on the horizon.

We jog, very gingerly, back to the car and Porter is stunned when I plop him in the seat, crack the window and head back down the trail with his equally confused gal-pal trotting behind me. Val and I headed out on our first "just us," trail run; she was almost as surprised as Porter was upset. She did great for her first time out without her babysitter, staying by my side and scaring away all the critters along the way.

When she and I returned from our little date, red-cheeked and happy, Porter wouldn't look at either of us.


Can't say that I blame him, but it had to be done. His leg is fine, he must have just tweaked it a little this morning. Poor baby, he's been lounging on the sofa all afternoon, waiting for the Wheel of Fortune to come on. He does like Vanna White.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Running makes me a better Mom.


Location: Pocahontas State Park
Trails: Bright Hope, Outer Lick
Distance: 7 miles
Time/Pace: 1hr, 11mins. 10:10 min/mile

Days 'til Marathon: 39

 Running makes me a better Mom. Motherhood has made me a better runner.

This connection is so undeniable that it deserves a mention. Today's run at Pocahontas was another example of how my "therapy," is such an effective tool in my Mommy-arsenal. 

This morning, the sun was shining (finally!) and the temperature outside didn't require full face and head protection in order to avoid frostbite. In other words, the weather was perfect for a jaunt in the woods. Better yet, it was a preschool morning, so I actually got to hit the trail. Yippee!!

 Lucy loves her preschool. Tons. I'm not sure who was more excited about today being a school-day; the wiggly, jumpy, dancing 2-year old or her equally-wiggly Mama. Oh wait, we both got trounced by the 120 pounds worth of restless and hyper-excited K9 who live here. 

I mean everybody be happy up in here.
I don't mean to sound like a total anti-Mommy Mommy here; I really do adore my kiddo and cherish every day we get to spend together. We spend a lot of time together. A LOT. Most of it it wonderful and happy and adorable and all that jazz. But, let's be honest, being a stay at home mom is NOT the easiest thing on the planet. There are a lot of perks (naptime!) and I wouldn't trade this time for anything; however, the 6 hours each week that Lu spends in preschool are pretty magical. Dang magical. 

 It may not seem like a long time, but 3 hours in kid-free mommy-land is golden. Each Tuesday and Thursday, I march my happy ass over to Golden Land with a big smile on my face. If I could whistle, I would. (Nope, I can't whistle. Whaat?!) My husband thinks its cute to try to teach me how to whistle. I think he just enjoys the part where I can't do it and he can. Nah, we aren't competitive.

Today I loaded up the pups and headed over to Pocahontas. I've never taken Val & P to the equestrian side, so we headed that way to mix it up a little.
The dogs were so happy to be out on the trail (it had been a whole week, Ma!); their energy and enthusiasm were contagious. They've been left at home for my past few trail runs due to the crazy cold weather and snow. Poor, neglected creatures; left to wallow on the warm sofa while I trudged through 3 feet of snow (OK, so it was more like 6 inches, but still).

About 5 minutes into our 7-mile route, I knew it was going to be a good one. All three of us were practically skipping down the path. 

Val, the trail scout.

I've missed running in average weather; this winter has been crazy. I'll take sunny and 45 anytime. Today was a beautiful reminder of how much fun trail running is and of why its the best natural therapy I've ever found. 

Scent-patrol on the scene. They take their job very seriously.

After a mile, my body warms up. 

Mile 3: I begin to feel energized and invigorated. 

Mile 6: I hit my groove and that amazing "I could do this all day," feeling. 

Then, of course, its over.

Damn, I love this.

 After a 10-minute drive home (Bruno Mars jammin' on the radio) and a quick shower, its time to go pick up my little one from preschool. Its been three hours and I can't wait to see her. I feel refreshed, refueled and ready to go back into "mommy-mode." Running does that for me. I'm more plugged-in when I'm with her, more playful, more patient; a better version of myself.

 As a group, I think that we moms are way too hard on ourselves. We work our tushies off to make sure that everyone in our family is fed, clean (well, somewhat clean, anyway), warm and happy. Lots of times, though, the person who is at the bottom of the "to take care of," list is ourselves. I've found that when I make running a priority, the other stuff gets much easier. I need to run. My family needs me to run. Lord knows my husband needs me to run. Why? Because I'm a much better wife,mom, friend and person for the other 21 hours of the day if i make that time to take care of me.

My outlet is hitting the trail and logging a few (or a dozen) miles. For other people, it may be painting or yoga or music. Its different for everybody; the important thing is that we all have something. What's yours?