2 Years Running

I have been running for 2 years.  Funny that I can document it so specifically because I am pretty sure I got through high school P.E. without running for any appreciable amount of time (unless it was to be first in line for pizza at lunch).  When I started with Couch to 5K I knew there was something neat about starting something and knowing that in a few weeks or months I could potentially transform aspects of myself but I’d never experienced it before.  I will never forget struggling to make it to 90 seconds of non stop running, or the time I had to repeat a week of Couch to 5K because 5 minutes of sustained running was beyond my ability.

This morning’s run was good – the air was crisp and cool and I had great company along the way.  Chatting may make me a little out of breath but it makes the miles fly by.  When I first tried running I went without music, listening to MP3s was a great addition to my experience.  Now running with other people is even better.  Keep trying other approaches if your fitness regime is not something you look forward to!  I’m 5 miles away from 100 kilometers for the month which would have baffled me two years ago when I was averaging 16 minutes per mile.

Yesterday I walked a bit with my son at the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve and was thinking about how I wanted to be fit for my children so I could keep up with him.  Even long walks have improved since I started running.  At any rate, it is a nice reminder that resolutions don’t have to start January 1st, my resolve to run started January 29, 2012 with almost no prior experience except avoidance.  Happy trails!

Calico Racing’s 2013 Running from an Angel 50 Miler, Marathon, Half Marathon, 10K, and 5K Race

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I ran my first 10K race!  Since my last running update when I ran Calico Racing’s Recycled 5K, I’ve been increasing my running distances to get ready for the half marathon in March.  On December 8, 2012 I ran my longest distance, 10 miles, in 1:59:27.  Having broken the double digit barrier I decided to scale back and run 5Ks for my two weekday runs and 10Ks for my long run on the weekend until the Running from an Angel 10K on January 12th.  The weather was gorgeous on my last weekday run before the race, 52 degrees instead of the 32 degree temperatures I’d been running in – I was excited for a repeat of the weather on Saturday but alas, it was a lot colder in town by then and especially by beautiful Lake Mead (pictured above).

The race start was a little later than I’m used to: 8:50 a.m. (I usually get up at around 5 a.m. to gear up for a run before the kids wake up).  I broke my own rule of not doing anything new on race day and ate a little breakfast at 7.  Sure enough, I wasn’t feeling great on the drive down to the Lake Mead National Recreation Area but by the race’s start I felt fine.  The race takes place in the fee-based part of the park (usually we’ve parked by the trail for the Six Tunnels hike and didn’t make it to the fee area) so we paid our $10 (my husband remembered cash, I would have forgotten) and drove to the parking area.  We debated walking from the free parking but I’m glad we didn’t try.  After packet pickup we were able to warm back up in the Subie, and pin our bib numbers on without fumbling with our gloves on.

We’d registered for the race way back in August 2012 so I’d requested a Medium shirt and my husband had requested a Large – both were too big for us!  I was able to swap for a Small but he didn’t mind hanging on to his Large though I have to mention he’s now lost almost 70 pounds in the last 8 months.  I am so amazed and proud of all of his hard work.  We’ve both been using MyFitnessPal.com and have had a lot of success with tracking our exercise and calories.  I reached my “30 before 30 goal” right before the new year so I’m down 30 pounds myself – it is so important to us that we’re healthy so we can be there for our kids.  I think they’re a big part of why we decided to get healthy.  I digress, but I know many people start running for the weight loss benefit but even with losing the weight I think what really makes me feel good about myself is putting my shoes on and running distances I never thought possible (for me).  I never even ran in high school P.E., I was always in the straggler group around the track still walking.

Well, not anymore!  One of the coolest things was that I wasn’t nervous before the race as everyone lined up.  I had worked a long day the day before so I didn’t have the energy to toss and turn that night and I ran into several friends that have been my running cheerleaders.  Jodymarie was doing the half marathon (it had been her first half marathon last year so she was running it again!) while my friends Angie (check out her awesome first half marathon recap here) and Kristi (who most recently ran the Rock and Roll 1/2 Marathon here in Vegas for the second year in a row) were doing the 10K.  It was a surprise to run into all of them, I even saw a few familiar faces from law school on the course as I ran, which all went to making me feel at home.  I have to also mention my friend Kacey, who ran the 2012 Running from an Angel race as her very first half marathon at 5 months postpartum – her recap is part of why I thought I could try running myself.

I was so excited to be chatting with my friends that I didn’t notice my husband line up near the starting mat.  Our plan was to use the delay start on our Run Keeper app so we could get our phones into our tune belts (amazon affiliate link) and gloves back on.  I started my app right before I crossed the mat so my tracker didn’t kick in until a minute later.  In a way, it was good because I would see a mile marker and then get the confirmation about a tenth of a mile later that I’d done that distance (the reverse is usually more discouraging).  My initial pace was fast, even uphill, so my first mile came in at about a 9:20 minute/mile pace.  Too fast, but race starts will do that to you.  By mile 2 my split was almost 11 minutes, my mile 3 and 4 it was almost 12 minutes per mile.  I was trying to attack the hills, not get injured, and have some energy left at the turnaround point.  With a 5K you know as soon as you start that you can push yourself and still finish but with a 10K I think there’s more planning involved, especially on a course that isn’t flat.  I saw my husband already heading back when I was about 26 minutes in and not near the turnaround point.  I had lost sight of him early on because of the hills.  The crazy thing is that I then did something I’ve never managed, even in training: getting faster at the end of a run (“negative splits”).  Mile 5 was at an 11:15 pace, Mile 6 at 10:59, and the .2 bit at the end was a downhill 8:58 minute pace.  I think that last bit had to do with seeing my husband at the finish line waving me on.  I love running races with him but also hope someday I can return the favor and cheer for him at a finish line.

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Official chip time: 1:08:00.8 for a pace of 10:58 minutes per mile.  Not only a record for me since it was my first 10K race, it beat my best training run by almost half a second and was at a faster pace than my 5K race in October.  I can’t believe it!  I knew my GPS tracker was off because of my glitches at the start so the official time was a real surprise to me.  So encouraging to do that well on race day and on a trickier terrain – you can see the elevation in green on the image above.  I also included a shot of the course so you can get an idea of the beautiful views we had with the lake right there.  I got the exciting news that my husband finished 12th overall which is fantastic – he really rocked the course and we’re both excited for the half marathon we’re doing the day before our 6th wedding anniversary in March!

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Here’s a picture of me (on the left) with Angie (middle) and Kristi (right) wearing our medals.  I got cheers from both of them when we would pass one another on the course!

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This is a shot of the finish line from where they had refreshments laid out.  Someone was making fresh pancakes for people which I thought was so indicative of the kind of outfit Calico Racing is – very personable!  I made a cup of tea (best idea ever for after a cold race, though by the end of the race I’d shed my gloves and panda hat) and grabbed a banana and applesauce for the car in case I needed them but I never like to eat after running so I ended up giving those to the kids.  E and R were most excited about the medals but the race banana comes in a close second (we even had bananas at home already!).

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The wing theme was pretty cool – I saw people wearing wings on the course and our race tees (long sleeve tech tees, very nice) have white wings printed on the blue shirt.  I will wear my shirt proudly.

I still have never experienced a “runner’s high” but I was left feeling like a real part of this community.  I spent my childhood moving from place to place.  I moved to Las Vegas in the summer of 2000 but going to an event and getting to connect with friends we’ve made here and to not feel like an outsider makes me feel like I really love this place.  I think the change happened a little after our brief foray to Winnemucca, Nevada for almost a year.  We never thought we would move back, but when we did we knew we had to make an effort to make this our home.

“Bloom where you’re planted,” as a friend once told me.  I think in the last three years especially we’ve done just that.  I can still voice things I’d like to see improved here, like education or access to justice, but Nevada is our home and it really feels like I’m home.  I know it is already a little after the new year but if you are feeling unstuck or out of place where you are, please consider taking up a hobby or connecting with people in your community.  Resolve to reach out in real life (the internet is a great facilitator but I quit Facebook a few months ago and am glad I am focusing more on making time to meet people for lunch or playdates instead of just sending greetings out into the ether) and the results may surprise you.

2012 was a rough year.  We had many scares and struggles but reaching out for happiness is never a mistake.  Every day is another chance to start something and before you know it you’ll be looking back and seeing that you made a positive change in your life.

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Favorite songs during the race:

Imagine Dragons – On Top of the World (amazon affiliate link)

Tidal Wave – Sub Focus (amazon affiliate link)

Taylor Swift – Red (amazon affiliate link)

Ed Sheeran – The A Team (amazon affiliate link)

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Also, I made a page to gather my running posts: Couch to 5K and Beyond

One Hour Runner Review and What I’m Doing Next

I finished Couch to 5k at the end of July 2012 and followed up with a 10 week training plan called “One Hour Runner” (see my previous post for more details about why I chose One Hour Runner over Bridge to 10k).  Half an hour of running had seemed daunting at the start of Couch to 5k and starting 10k training was just as daunting.  How could I run an entire hour without walking?

The other issue with looking ahead and thinking about that hour run was that it was still really hot here in Vegas despite being 4 or so in the morning when I’d head out.  Many mornings the night air never cooled below 90 degrees before it started ticking up again for the new day.  The mental game for me with running seems to occur at the start of my runs.  I have read that for some people it is the getting out the door that is the trick but I viewed that as a practical matter.  Long nights with little children make you no stranger to early wake up calls, after all.  The first five to ten minutes for me are usually the hardest.  That is when I have the whole distance ahead of me and I am not feeling my best.  Then the minutes start to tick by and with each one that I’ve put behind me the run is more manageable.  After 15 minutes into a 30 minute run, for example, I just think to myself, “I just have another set of 15 minutes left and I just showed myself I can do it.”

The moon and I had some nice times together on my runs, with the right music and the sky to look at I can see now why people are able to run longer distances.  It doesn’t get boring and sometimes you get zoned out enough that it breezes by.  I don’t mean to make it seem like this is something I count the minutes to the end of, I think there’s that right mix of feeling challenged but also hoping you have enough energy to finish strong with each mile you get under your belt.

The temptation hit near the end of the program, I think I had 3 or 4 weeks left in the training plan, to push myself to longer times than I was required to.  At the end of week 7 or 8 I ran 1 hour 15 minutes and 15 seconds to accomplish my first ever 10K distance.  It felt empowering to figure out I was capable of so many miles.  Knowing I could do an hour helped me not stress about the rest of the program.  The temptation hit again the next week when I wondered if another 15 minutes (90 straight minutes of running) could carry me even further.  I was able to do over 7 miles that day!

For the final “graduation” run I actually only did another 10K but the big thing was knowing I had decided what training I was going to tackle next: a half marathon.  Now, I wanted to try for one in December of 2013 but my husband was looking into sprint triathlon training and wanted to get a half marathon in during March of 2013.  One day before our wedding anniversary at same area where we got engaged, to boot.  I wasn’t going to miss out on that one even though we’ll probably be running at our own respective paces.

So I have about 23 weeks to train for my first half marathon.  I have a 5K this month, I had planned in January that my goal 5K would be in October so it is funny that I am way beyond that distance 10 months later.  I also have a 10K race in January 2013 even though I hit that distance sooner than I thought as well.  So why not a half?  Besides, so many inspiring people I know run them all the time.  I can do this…right?

My goal is to complete the 13.1 distance with little to no walking.  All my upcoming races are pretty hilly so I will be trying to get better at handling runs uphill which is a weakness for me.  My husband has been out on some of my runs at the same time which is great, especially since I haven’t been feeling too great about running in our neighborhood this past week.

The above shot I took while running and played with some Instagram filters a little bit.  I like how it just looks like a random texture.  All these photos are ones I’ve shared along the way as I worked to complete the training program.  I can’t compare it to Bridge to 10K because I didn’t go that route but the 10 week gradual increase worked out great for me.

With cooler weather I just felt better all around but I am glad to know I got through the entire summer, start to finish, getting out there and running at least three mornings a week.  I haven’t been cross training but I’ve been continuing to count calories and am about 20 pounds down now!  I was a size 14 when I started and now I am a size 8 pant and even that is getting loose on me.  My initial goal was to lose 30 before I turned 30 in February 2013 and I’m on track to do that and then some.  I believe my new weight loss goal will be 40 pounds total but I’ll see how I feel at each stage.

My husband and I were able to run in San Diego while on vacation and the cool air was lovely even though the humidity was something I could have done without.  During our stay the San Diego Triathlon went by our hotel which was very neat and I believe sparked my husband’s idea to do the Las Vegas Triathlon next September.  We also had some treadmill time which was new to me – I discovered that my pace is way over what it should be – you’re supposed to run at a conversational pace heart-rate wise and I have been pushing too hard when I run.  I need to work on a more measured pace but luckily with more running my pace has improved anyway.  12 minute miles used to be much more of a struggle and now 11 minute miles feel the way 12 minute miles once did.

With Couch to 5K included I have run for 19 weeks straight and before that I was running off and on without a training plan since the end of January 2012.  Time passes so strangely – it feels fast when I just rattle off that I started in January but it took a lot of work to get where I am right now.  At the same time I wonder what other goals I can set and look back on.  55 days ago (I am 155 days into tracking everything I eat on My Fitness Pal) I committed to not eating potato chips at all.  I couldn’t be trusted to weigh them accurately.  Other chips I was fine with but not potato chips.  Here I am and I am still going strong.  I want to make more resolutions to be healthier, I am so pleased with just feeling better about life when I am active.  I don’t feel like I was just dealt this hand where I am the out of shape one, I can make my own destiny (to a point, of course).

The other thing that has struck me is that I need to run for those that can’t.  I think about people I care about a lot when I run, I also compose blog posts in my head which is odd considering how September only had one post here but I promise I think about how I am processing life in general and how communicating that may be of use to someone, somewhere.

I considered two main plans for half marathon training, one by Jeff Galloway and one by Hal Higdon.  Miriam over at Sometimes I Veg is a hardcore half marathoner and told me the Galloway method includes walking which is fine but I have been sticking with running goals all this time so her suggestion was to check out Hal Higdon’s plans.  I have noticed that all training plans have gradual increases of weekly mileage so with about double the time to train (Higdon’s plan is 12 weeks) I have a lot of flexibility.  Which is good considering it has gotten cooler and it is tricky some days to get out the door, run, and come back in time so that my husband (who is watching the kids) can go to work.  We’d like to run together more too since the neighborhood feels less safe and it is darker in the mornings.  At any rate, the big plan right now is to do two “short” runs per week of increasing amounts – from each being 3 miles to 4, to 5, etc. as shown in the Higdon plan and then also increase the longest weekly run as well.  Higdon’s book (amazon affiliate link) is one we’ve gotten from the library and though it is about a longer distance, his writing is engaging and has helped focus some of my plans for approaching distance running. I would love to know I am capable of 13.1 before the race out at Red Rock and also do a training run on the actual terrain.  There’s the 5K and the 10K to look forward to as well.

I think what I’ll do is keep track of my runs as I have been all along and check in on the blog at the point of each of the upcoming races leading up to the half marathon.  I’ll have to explore fueling and hydration options as well as phone carrying ideas as my mileage increases.  I also need to get properly fitted for running shoes as my pronation in my neutral shoes is putting stress on my ankles.  I don’t want to get injured, that is for certain.  The other cool thing is that the half marathon is just a week or so after my 30th birthday so I am already excited about what the next few months holds.  I have been seeing an increase in my caseload at work and working on our new firm website so that is taking time and attention but really there’s nothing like going into a court hearing after having run in the morning.  I feel confident and ready to take on the world.  Whether or not that is actually the case, I don’t know, but feeling good is part of the battle, I’m sure.

Favorite running songs of late include:

Sia – She Wolf (amazon affiliate link)

The Script – Hall of Fame (amazon affiliate link)

Passion Pit – Take a Walk (amazon affiliate link)

Of Monsters and Men – Little Talks (amazon affiliate link)

Karmin – Hello (amazon affiliate link)

Demi Lovato – Give Your Heart a Break (amazon affiliate link)

Calvin Harris – We’ll Be Coming Back (amazon affiliate link)

In fact, “Little Talks” is on my playlist multiple times – I have fallen in love with the lyrics.  Here’s a link to the music video but maybe listen just to the music first since the video might be distracting at first.  The song has a male and female vocalist and the female vocalist sings “There’s an old voice in my head / that’s holding me back,” to which the male vocalist responds, “Well tell her that I miss our little talks.”  I really like the idea of treating that voice of “can’t” as if it is just something to talk yourself out of.  I realize this may not be the intent of the writers but in this moment of time it had that particular meaning for me.  My runs are turning into little talks with myself to prove that I can be stronger than I thought possible.  I’d especially like for my children and husband to be proud of me.  Here’s to reaching 13.1 (and beyond)!

Couch to 5k Review and What I’m Doing Next

I say this with a twinge of hesitation that I shouldn’t have after reading John Bingham’s great book for “adult onset runners,” “No Need for Speed,” but: I am a runner.  Wait, don’t leave, I’m serious!  It had been on my mind for a while that I wanted to be healthy and I just couldn’t figure out how.  I have so many obligations that squeezing one in that was just for me seemed selfish and impossible but the idea of running started popping up in my mind.  If I could just lace up my shoes and walk out my door while someone watched the kids then I would be good to go, I thought.  I could even take them with me in the stroller if I had to.

With these things in mind I told my husband I was thinking of running.  The next day he called me from REI (a sporting goods store) asking about what size I wore – he was buying me some gear.  I had felt so silly telling him I wanted to do this and here he was taking me seriously and supporting me.  That was the final nudge I needed in January 2012 to give it all a shot.  How hard could it be? I wondered.  I ran until I was tired and walked until I felt ready to run.  This meant I was averaging 15 to 16 minutes a mile and feeling very lame indeed in the process.  After hurting my ankle I took some time off but after I mentioned what I was trying to do with my running to a friend, she suggested something called “Couch to 5k.”  I started in earnest early in May.

Couch to 5k is meant to take you from being a non runner (on the couch, so to speak) to doing a 5k or running or jogging 30 minutes non-stop using a 9 week training plan with runs three times per week.  I gave it a go and am happy to report that though 9 weeks ago 90 seconds of running had me counting my footfalls until I could rest, now I can run over 30 minutes at a consistent pace without stopping to walk.  I have even had a mile as fast as 10 minutes and 57 seconds and ran a 5k in 38 minutes and 5 seconds at the end of the program, beating the time I set at the Terminal 3 5k of 43 minutes and 53 seconds!

In short, the program worked for me.  My husband or mother in law (if she was visiting) would monitor the kids as they slept and I’d wake up at about 4:40am in the morning to get out to run (the photos in this post are from my mornings out and about).  Often that meant being out the door at 5:20 in the Vegas morning heat because R wanted to get just one last night nursing session in but I got out there and did it.  In the process I have lost 12 pounds in 12 weeks (along with diet of course), ran over 5 miles down a road at Mount Charleston with friends while we camped up there early in July, and felt fantastic about myself.

I had to repeat one of the weeks when I just couldn’t finish a 5 minute stretch of running at the end of week 4 but for some reason after I made it through repeating that week I never felt that discouraged again.  I have made new friends and been supported by old ones, I have been able to be a good example to my children and have even started doing other exercise as a form of cross training.  I can’t recommend giving this a try highly enough.  I do know some people do the program more than once and repeat weeks like I did so it is all about listening to your body and doing your best not to get injured but give it a try and surprise yourself like I did.

I have been trying to research what comes next and while some people follow a program called “Bridge to 10k” I thought a 6 week program to double what I could do seemed ambitious so I was going to try a 10 week training plan called “One Hour Runner” (discovered via this MetaFilter thread).  I’ve just completed week one.  A great resource I found in my searches was the post “After the Couch to 5k: What Comes Next,” which makes it clear that you can really make your own plan with the right components that you need for your particular goal but I liked having the pre-made training plan so much that I will continue with it for a while longer.  By my next milestone I should be better able to come up with a custom plan.  My next race is Calico Racing’s Recycled 5k in October and following that I am debating whether to do the 5k or 10k Running from an Angel race in January 2013 (also from Calico Racing, I’ve heard good things about how they operate).

I started with an application for my phone called “My Tracks” to track my workouts but then changed to one called “Run Keeper” that I love because you can program your training plan into it and it will give you audio cues for your intervals of running or walking.  I track my calories and exercise in My Fitness Pal and there’s even a Couch to 5k Sub-Reddit to ask and answer questions.  I also get support from a local facebook running group, I’ve found that runners are kind and encouraging no matter what your skill level and as I am what is considered a “penguin,” that helps!  I have a lot to figure out still, like what I can eat that won’t give me a side stitch as I run (right now I just drink water before runs and eat when I get home, not ideal as I try to add longer distances into the mix).

Some final notes:

  • Music really helps, here are some of my new favorites in my running mix: Wild Ones (amazon affiliate link), Chasing the Sun (amazon affiliate link), and Part of Me (amazon affiliate link).
  • Earbuds that don’t fall out of my ears are Skullcandy Chops Hanger Earbuds (amazon affiliate link).
  • My favorite sports bra is the Fiona by Moving Comfort, great if you’re a nursing mom too (amazon affiliate link).
  • A fantastic book for beginning runners: No Need for Speed by John Bingham (amazon affiliate link).
  • As far as shoes go, good ones that are larger than you’d think you’d need are a must.  Bingham writes that your feet should have lost of space in the toe of the shoe and I’ve found that to be true.  I bought a “neutral” shoe to start but I do feel my ankles tilt in so I probable need some insoles or different shoes when it comes time to buy more.  I may splurge on one of those consults that they do at running stores where they really try to find the right shoe for your running style.

I tell myself things to beat the mental game that sometimes makes me want to stop, such as a phrase I got from this blog post: “running is a privilege.”  I tell myself that I am lucky to be able to run – hurting my ankle early on made me grateful when it stopped hurting and I am grateful for the help of others to watch the kids so I can get outside early enough to beat the heat.  My other favorite was sent to me by a friend as encouragement and I can’t think of a better way to end this post: “Start where you are.  Use what you have.  Do what you can.” – Arthur Ashe