Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Runners and Running/Training in Higher Altitudes

When I first moved to Nebraska (4600ft) from Houston (50ft), I had a few issues the first couple of months. It wasn’t every day, but rather it would go in spurts. And when I say this I don’t necessarily mean just as it pertained to running but rather just adjusting in general.

I would have days on end sometimes where I just felt so so so tired all the time. And then when it did come to running I definitely saw a difference in degree of difficulty. I had trouble holding what my normal training pace would be in Houston. This wore on me mentally some of the time, but eventually it all just got better.

You hear and read all the time about training in higher altitudes (much higher than here) and then running at or just above sea level and how awesome it is. While I do know that to be true by way of the elites, I never even for a moment thought it would be an advantage for me.

The few times I went home to Houston since moving here, none of those times did I run. I was always too busy and again because I wasn’t training for anything I took that time to do what I needed to do and spend time with those I wanted to spend time with. So for the past 8 months I had nothing to compare it to, nor did I even think about it.

It wasn’t until I got to NYC and on that Thursday morning, I laced up my shoes to go for a few shake out miles in Central Park (our hotel was 2 blocks away!!! So incredibly awesome!), that I realized that running/training at a higher elevation DOES make a difference even for a middle of the pack runner like myself!

I felt like I was floating as I ran from my hotel to the park. It was like buttah :O) At first I didn’t know for certain it was the change in altitude, but more like OMG I’m running in Central Park kinda high that made me feel so floaty, but then again on Saturday morning…to do more shake out miles and I felt the same exact feeling, I knew for certain that running here in Nebraska was indeed a good thing for a middle of the pack runner like myself!!!

So needless to say by the time Sunday morning rolled around and it was time to do the actual New York City Half Marathon, I was feeling pretty darn good about things. Yeah I hadn’t had the time I would have liked to train but that didn’t really matter so much given the overall goal, but man it sure made it a lot easier!

Those hills in Central Park? No problem. Running into the wind up 42nd street towards the Hudson River? No problem.

The lower elevation definitely was in my corner and I was oh so happy!

This of course bodes well for when I officially start training for Chicago (500ft range, but places are just above sea level) in October! This might turn out to be the easiest marathon I’ve ever done. That is the hope anyway!!

I have Colfax Half Marathon in May and while I initially thought I would try and get as close to my PR as possible, since this half marathon is in Denver (5,183ft), that might not be the case. At least it won’t be as hard as if I was coming from Houston training to run in Denver. They do say its flat, but I don’t know about all that. Traditionally most races tout that but it’s a whole different story sometimes when you get there and actually run the course!!!

So for now I am embracing my sometimes difficult runs here (Yes sometimes I still struggle with the altitude on runs), because I feel at the end of the day, transferring that training down to sea level or just above is definitely advantageous!!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Half Marathon Training on a Treadmill (aka Winter Race Training)

I promise I will get to the race report and review, but since being back from NYC, I have been slammed at work and its been a very stressful week.

Today is the first day that I have had time to a) catch my breath and b) feel a bit less stressed.

Since I was traveling from NYC back to NE on Monday, and it being the day after the NYC Half, obviously I did not do anything physical.

After semi-calculating my distance on Sunday including the race, my best guessitmate was 19 miles and well...I think that should be good for 2 days :O)

And for 3.

Since I also took Tuesday off.

Wednesday I did an easy 3.5 miles on the treadmill followed by some weights, a bit of CrossFit moves, and some sprints around the track there at the gym. I could still feel the achiness in my quads a bit from all the downhills in Central Park, but it could have been a lot worse I suppose. Last night I went to a Step class and it felt wonderful. Today is another rest day.

It is Friday after all.

So in lieu of that race report/review, I figured I could take a few moments to write about how training went for this cycle.

Clearly living in Nebraska poses challenges for a runner training for anything that may occur in the Winter months. Snow, ice and cold arrived here in October and well as I said, its been challenging.

It wasn't up until I knew I was actually going to have to train for an actual event that I got a bit worried.

For the most part leading up to finding out that I was in through the lottery, I ran outside when I could and the rest of the time I ran on the treadmill.

I continued to do that, but it seemed that every weekend some storm would come through or late in the week, and then on Saturday, I would be destined to the treadmill for my long run.

I accepted it for what it was and just prayed that it would be OK come race day and I had to run longer than 4 miles outside. :O)

So when I had to run long on the treadmill which was every weekend except for 2 of them, one was a 6 miler (cut back week) and the other thank God was my longest run of the cycle, being 12 miles. So at least I knew that the treadmill training was doing OK by me.

The way I approached treadmill training is to put it on a slight incline while running. I tried to make it also uncomfortable sometimes by wearing something that would make me feel warmer than I should be since running in a climate controlled environment is never going to be fact on race day :)

Additionally to conteract that warm uncomfortable feeling, when I was able to run outside free of snow and ice, it was still VERY cold and usually VERY windy (the winds here are crazy and a normal everyday occurance, just worse on some days than others).

So I had to endure those types albeit for shorter distances, but it was still necessary to run outside as often as I could no matter what the temperature might be.

There is much debate on the internet about treadmill training vs traditional training either works or doesn't work.  I know I read a lot about it, and felt confident enough that I would at least survive the half and I think I did more than that.  I clearly could have finished in a shorter period of time if I had been running alone and for a different outcome but I wasn't.  This situation gave me the out that I needed so that I didn't truly need to test the theory out for myself.

Also whenever the weather allowed I did throw in a few days of hill workouts, but never any actual speed training.  Although sometimes on the treadmill, I would throw in Tabatas here and there but that was the extent of it other than sometimes up'ing the speed to an uncomfortable pace for as long as I could until I would bring it back down.

I will say that I believe that yes a person can train for a half marathon on the treadmill.  I would also say though that I think it would be harder for a runner who had never run before.  Since I have been running outside for 98% of my running life, while training for all sorts of distances, I think it was easier for me.

I would also say that regardless of that if one is going to train for a half marathon or what-not, that the more you run outside the better off you will be.  I don't believe a treadmill can ever ever replicate the challenges a runner will face while running outside on different terrains, and with weather challenges.

However I will say right here and now, at least for while I live in Nebraska I will forego any marathons that are considered Winter.  There is no way in hell that I could ever train for a marathon on a treadmill.  2 hours on one at one time is about all I could bear.  Maybe 2.5 hours, but over 3 and I would never make it.

Also, I think once you get past a certain point in mileage or time on a treadmill, its just never going to be like what it would be if you were outside for the same amount of mileage/time.  Just my opinion.

With Chicago at least I know my longest runs will be in September and the threat of snow and ice are almost non-existent.  After that it would only be half marathons.  Even now, almost into April, and we are about to get hit with yet another few days of rain, then ice, and lots of snow.

Wasn't the first day of Spring just a couple of days ago?  ;o)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Las Vegas Running Routes

As a former Las Vegas resident, I know that the city is rich with routes for runners.  No matter where you may live in the city itself, there are accessible paths and lovely residential city sidewalks for all runners and walkers!

However, as a traveler to Las Vegas, a runner is usually sidelined in a hotel in the area known as the Strip, and rarely will venture far from there for some exercise.  Instead of subjecting oneself to the dreaded treadmill in the hotel gym, a runner or walk need only walk out to enjoy the outdoors.

Here are just a couple of options you might keep in mind when visiting Las Vegas on your travels.

While some might consider Las Vegas to be exactly known as being a runner friendly city as there are no real parks or calm streets in the center of the city. In addition, many of the streets on the southern end of the strip lack pedestrian crossing. As such, runners have had to become creative in their run and today we take a look at a couple of Vegas' more popular running routes.

Las Vegas Strip Run

Many runners start their Strip run on the corner of Tropicana Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard. Several strip hotels are located here, including Excalibur, New York New York, and the Tropicana. Many of Las Vegas casinos are going green so you may see some improvements being made at various times to accommodate those changes.

Runners simply run up on side of the strip and then back down. Many start at the MGM at the giant lion entranceway on the east side of the road and take off from there. Head down past the "Brooklyn Bridge" and continue past the Harley cafe and City Center.

After passing by the Eifel Tower at the Paris Casino, you will see the Bally Hotel with its landscaped courtyard. You will make your look there until your reach your first pedestrian bridge. Here you will cross over top of Flamingo to continue your run.

Continue past Caesars Palace, the Venetian, and finally Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville before hitting up Circus Circus Drive. You will then cross the street and continue your run back south towards the MGM Grand. Some of you may want to continue your run through the Northern part of the Vegas Strip and check out some of the old school style of Las Vegas.

Keep in mind that if you choose to run this route during the summer, you will be wise to only run this in the morning as the Vegas heat can reach in excess of 110 in the shade on an average day. (This is reality and not a cliché.)

Red Rock Canyon

If you are willing to do a little bit of driving to get to your running destination, about 17 miles from the Vegas strip is over 30 miles of running trails in the over 195,000 acre park.

White Rock Loop and the 11-mile Grand Circle Loop are among the more popular runs in Red Rock Canyon.

For the White Rock Loop, you can start either at the Willow Springs Trailhead or at White Rock Springs and run in either direction as you pass pine trees, pinon, and other forms of high-desert flora.

When running here, you will be in remote terrain, so make sure that you bring plenty of water and supplies for your run. Again, the temps do get quite high during the summer, so plan accordingly. There is a $7 fee for parking, so factor this into your budget but in exchange you do get a totally different terrain and an escape from the hustle and bustle of Las Vegas.

Monday, March 18, 2013

NYC Half Marathon - 2013

As mentioned before, I knew quite late about my entry through the lottery and without a decent running base, I had a few choices. I could just run to run, or I could run it as best I could to see how much I could push it knowing full well there was no chance in hell that I would come close to a PR (currently sitting at 2:02:xx. I figured I would just run it as a long training run...

Until I found out my friend Jaime was also going to do it with Runwell, a wonderful charity (kinda last minute decision for her) of which she has been running for recently as she prepares for the 155mile, 7 day time limit of running Iceland!!!!

When I found out she was doing NYC as well I asked her if she was going for a PR or just as another training run. She planned that just to run but if she got a PR that would be a bonus. So then I asked for her PR and knew then what I wanted to do.

I would run with her and try to get her a PR.

Jaime is a slower pace than I and generally run/walks. I knew even with run/walks I could help lower her mile pace if she didn't mind being uncomfortable sometimes. :)

I will post another entry about the race itself, the course and what-not, but for now, she got a PR.  My work was done :)

Probably could have gotten a bigger one had we not talked the whole time for the first 11 miles, plus stopping twice to hug our family members...blah blah blah.

When we were in the corral we both told each other how we don't talk when running.  Well that was BS!  We talked and talked and talked!  It was the most fun of a half marathon that I have ever had!  Oh I guess I should mention we had never met before this trip!  We both knew someone, and became FB friends, then when she decided to train for her first marathon (Chicago 2012), I helped her out a bit through messaging.

We are like 2 peas in a pod!!  It was so awesome to throw my own competitive nature out the window for a change, plus it made it easier for me to just focus on having a good time and not going cuckoo about my lack of training for a faster time.

Here we are in the lobby of the hotel before heading to Central Park for the start of the race

 OK that's all for now.  I'm exhausted but back in Nebraska!!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Monday, March 11, 2013

These Vagabond Shoes...

...are longing to stray...

Well it's almost that time.

Time for a little bit of New York!  New York!

I did my last 'long' run on Saturday which was 8 miles.

When I got up to check outside to see if the snow had arrived, it had not, and the wind didn't seem to be blowing that hard.  Yet.

But within the hour of me just waking up and enjoying my cup of coffee, the snow had started and the wind had kicked up something fierce.

The storm was on its way.

So I resigned myself to yet another Saturday run on the treadmill.

I just turned on the tunes and started cranking them out.

Nothing exciting, just a run.

I took yesterday off instead of going to the gym for a workout as it was snowing again, and it just seemed more like a stay in day and give the body its rest.

Today, while cloudy, no snow, but still quite windy.  And COLD.  Blah.

5 miles done with some rowing and a hard ab workout.

Tomorrow I will do 4 miles, take Wednesday off since I will be traveling to NYC.  Thursday will be 3 miles in Central Park.

Friday I will do 2 miles in Central Park, then take Saturday off and Sunday is race day.  Or rather this time around 'run' day.

I will write another post before I leave with my intentions for Sunday.

And wouldn't you know it, while I am gone the weather here is supposed to warm up to SEVENTY DEGREES!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?!?!??!

Oh well, I know Spring is on its way...just a little bit longer...  :)

Friday, March 8, 2013

There's Been A Change in the Weather

While yes that is indeed a true statement in that sentence structure, meaning that we got a few warm days this week and I got to run outside even skipping Step inside the gym to drain the last bit of sunshine and dry roads/trails instead...that is not exactly what I meant by that title.

What I mean by it is kinda in the way I might say "I got my running mojo back"...and the 'change in the weather' is really about the changing of an attitude and finding my way back to what I didn't realize I was missing...

We’ve all been there. We’ve all hit a slump of some kind and it suddenly became a little harder to lace up our sneakers for a run. For me it began late March 2012, when at CrossFit I managed to mess my lower back up again in a really bad way with my disc slipping and subsequently pinching my sciatic nerve. It was so much worse this time than the first incident in that I was physically unable to do much of anything and even getting out of bed each morning was painful and had to be done in a certain way. Anyway, 2 months of being down from running was tough enough and just when I was getting back into it, I made the initial trip to NE for a job interview and the next thing I knew I was moving cross country and that presented a whole new set of reasons why my running and mileage slipped as much as it did. At first I kept it up but then it just slipped more and more. Yeah I was running, but it was piddly mileage at best.

And once Winter really hit here, it was becoming even harder and harder for me to be motivated. Plus in my mind it was OK because well I didn't have any reason TO race on the calendar...etc. I stayed in OK shape by doing different sorts of things with running mixed in instead of the usual other way around.

I gained a few lbs, moreso got flabby so to speak, where I gained more in inches than in true lbs, but there was a little of both. I've lost that now, but this whole section about weight gain etc is fodder for another post at another time.

Anyway, it felt like I was just going through the motions of training — using it as a way to stay in decent shape, sure, but with my heart and mind somewhere else.

But only recently have I started to feel like I’m really back.

You know that feeling where you not only don’t mind running, you actually can’t wait to run again tomorrow? Where you wish you could just fast forward your life eight weeks, and see what kind of progress you’ve made by then? That’s where I am now, and I’ve missed this.

Over Christmas when I found out I was selected in the lottery to run the NYC Half Marathon and the training for race in March, I felt my passion for running begin to wake up. But in the past two weeks, it feels like that passion for running is on an espresso and yerba mate bender.
So much so that it is partly what fueled me to sign up for Colfax in May (another half) and for the 3rd time, Chicago (full)

I can credit three things for this new exuberance:

1. My new running habit. Or rather my reborn running habit.
2. Amazing sources of inspiration. As in people, one in particular who singlehandedly, with their incessant mantras and training posts on Facebook, each day in front of my eyes...watching their training for 5 marathons in as many months, with their 1st one just last October, on their way to running the 100 miles in Iceland this coming August...and now we will run not only NYC together, but Chicago as well...
3. Meditation and mindfulness.
I’ve done a lot of sitting meditation and concentration on my breathing over the past months. While I haven’t even scratched the surface of what’s possible with sitting, I’m really interested to approach running and the depths of physical fatigue and even pain that accompany it — from this new perspective of learning about myself.

For this, I can credit a book I’ve been reading called Running with the Mind of Meditation. Yeah, I’ve been reading a lot since I moved.  Mostly from the Bible, but a lot of other books/genres as well.

And behind all of this, as important as any of these three things, is the break from running that I took. If I hadn’t done that, I think I’d still be stuck. Don’t feel bad about “quitting,” if you know it’s what you need.

I know from what I’ve written before that a lot of you sympathize with the running rut and have dealt with your own, and maybe still are. How’s it going for you?
Runners experience these up-and-downs because, well, we're just human beings. We experience these in life, why expect anything different in our running-life. What's important is to be mindful that this too shall pass.

Slumps happen, and often times at what seems like the worst possible moment - like, just when you're feeling strong and on top of it all, ready for a breakthrough - and then, bang, slumpsville, or worse injury, or worst of all, both.

Well injuries are one thing, but slumps seem so unnecessary, so seemingly stupid. Can't we all just keep pushing and improving and pushing and improving until the bitter end? No, most of us can't - or at least we won't.

So what's a slumping runner to do?
Some recommend a break, and that may be called for depending on the situation (for instance if you are experiencing overwhelming fatigue). But a break is not always the answer. Sometimes it behooves us to push on, doggedly, even through the hard, tedious, unmotivated runs that we drag ourselves through.

I believe that you have to be out there on the good days and the bad days, and the really really sucky days, to capture, to stumble upon, those magical days that you might otherwise miss. Sometimes a change happens, for no apparent reason, when you're least expecting it - and you would never know if you weren't out there.

Being a runner is not all about loving it every single moment - just like a good marriage, or friendship - it's not all good all the time. If those are your expectations, you're in for a big let down, and you'll probably give up when perhaps you don't really want to.

There's gobs of advice and suggestions for upping one's motivation: Sign up for a race, join a running group, explore new routes, get a partner, plan an exotic running vacation, etc...But the fact remains that for most of us we must find our own reasons for going on, getting out and doing it - and these suggestions may work for a while, but it's unlikely they'll get you through a real, robust case of slumpiness.

For me it is pure habit that gets me through it. Habit takes a long time to develop, and if you quit every time you hit a rough patch, then you won't develop the habit to keep running, to just do it every day.

Instead, you will develop the habit of quitting when you just don't feel like doing it - and that's okay, if that's what you're after. It's not what I'm after, and I believe it's not what most runners are after. If it were we wouldn't complain about slumps - we would welcome them into our lives like an old friend, use the time to do something else, and then pick it up again when the mood strikes. but no. Most runners hate the slump.

"You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club." - Jack London

Running is not a state of being - it's a state of doing. You are what you do, and you must accept the ups and the downs. And though the ups are a whole lot more fun than the downs, they are all part of the journey.

If it were easy it wouldn't matter so much. If it does matter, then that means you're a runner - and you should just go for a run.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

I Got Lucky This Weekend!

After countless weekends of snowy, icy, cold-ass, or a combination of any of those, this past Saturday when I woke up and immediately checked my phone, I saw that it was 31deg outside with a wind chill of about 28, and very little wind!!
We get to do the longest run of this training cycle before NYC Half OUT.SIDE!
The night before I went back and forth on what I should wear but settled on a long sleeve Lulu and capris.  Turned out it was perfect.  
Since I live at the top of a hill it was my plan (and will be going forward in training for Colfax and Chicago) to drive the mile down to the little convenience store and do 2 mile loops from there; having water it the back of my car so that I could get fluids every loop.  This way the run would be flat and I wouldnt have to continually run up that long ass, long incline of a hill every single time!
Worked out great!  
I started shortly before 7 at the temps above and when I was done it had only reached 40.  So, so, so perfect!
I have to admit I was a bit apprehensive running that long outside since I had been doing all my long runs on the treadmill, but honestly I felt like maybe, just maybe, it helped in some weird way.  I felt so free and strong.

And because I was apprehensive, I set my Garmin for 4/1's just to be on the safe side so as not to burn out and feel defeated.  Even with the 4/1's I averaged about 10:30 a mile.  That's how great I was feeling!
After doing 5 loops, I decided to do the last of it out past the Community Center on the bike/running path just for a few hills and to just get a different scenery.  After running those loops I was starting to get a bit loopy myself!
I don't have a lot of expectations from the half there in NYC given that I really didn't have the time to train, only finding out at the end of December, but at least I feel confident that I won't entirely embarrass my inner runner-self.
Of course I am already stalking the weather and while I am hoping for cool temperatures, I would really like it to be just that temperature where I can get away with shorts and a short sleeve, with arm warmers if need be.
I got the cutest green plain Lulu shorts and the green Run Swiftly short sleeve since the race IS on St. Patricks Day after all!!!
So that 12 miler is behind me now.  This coming Saturday I'll do 8 miles for the weekend before the race.  The weather for next weekend doesn't look good here for an outdoor run, but I am hoping that it changes between now and then.
Planning on doing a bit more mileage during this week (weather looks good except for tomorrow), with my usual Thurs night Step class.
I even still went to the gym today; did a couple miles, about 1700m on the rower, some CF, some weights, ab's, and even some yoga stretches.  Felt great to get a workout in on this lazy Sunday.

2 weeks to race day!