April 30, 2010

My Friday Night

Went to see The Back-up Plan... Heed the reviews it's been getting and save yourself. I thought it would be a sorta cute romantic comedy. Um, no. That's 90 minutes of my life that I will never get back.

I did, however, manage to eat an entire box of Sour Patch Kids. I'm calling it early carbo loading for my 17 miler on Sunday.
But the highlight of the night had to be this: After one of my mocking comments during the movie, my friend Emily punched my thigh and promptly said, "Holy shit, your legs are hard!"

I love running.

Images found here and here.

April 29, 2010

A Pain in the Ass (and heel)

Despite my three day running hiatus after the Trail Mix Race, diligent icing, lots o' stretching and even wearing something that resembles this gem at night, I still find myself battling not only the dreaded pf but also a little piriformis pain. All of this pretty much sucks because I have semi-committed to running Grandma's Marathon mid-June (meaning I've mentally committed but haven't actually signed up) and am running the New Prague Half Marathon a week from Saturday.

And did I mention that I want PRs in both? (more on that later)

With that said, I've developed a little "Get Well Soon" routine for my ailing ass-cheek and hurting heel.

Step 1: Warm up properly. I'm not a huge fan of static stretching - nor walking/jogging for ten minutes - prior to running. Instead, I usually do a series of butt kicks, high knees, and this fancy move to loosen my hips where I swing one leg back and forth as high as I can go.

Step 2: Cross-train like it's nobody's business. I am a huge fan of the recumbent bike. Put the same effort into cross-training as you do when you're running. It's my biggest pet peeve when I see people reading magazines when they're "working out." In my opinion, if you can still read small print, you're probably not working hard enough.

Step 3: Static stretch. After you workout. Like really stretch. Runner's World has a bunch of great targeted stretching routines so you can hit specific muscles. If you're short on time, cut 10 minutes out of your workout and use it to stretch. I promise you'll benefit more from that than an extra mile of running.

Step 4: Alright, stop, collaborate and listen.... (do you know where this is going?). That's right. Ice ice baby! I proactively ice, so even if I'm not necessarily feeling any pain, I'll throw some ice on my shins or other known problem area just to keep it quiet.

Step 5: I'm a recreational drug user, as in anti-inflammatories. Vitamin I is typically my drug of choice but I also use arnica and to be honest, I think it works better than Ibuprofen. After the Twin Cities Marathon last year, I took arnica in the hours after the marathon and wasn't nearly as sore as I was the year prior and it was the only thing I did differently. However, please keep in mind that pain is your body's way of telling you that something is wrong so if you have a chronic, nagging pain, you might want to get that checked out instead of self-medicating.

And that's it. This is what I've found works the best for me to keep me up and running. There is a lot of advice out there on injury prevention but I find that these are the tried and true standards that almost every article mentions. Nothing too weird or extreme.

Happy running!

April 20, 2010

The Cupcake Baking Extravaganza

A few weeks ago, my mom asked me if I would bake red velvet cupcakes for a wedding as a favor to a couple at her church. The guest list was small, probably around 100 people, she thought. I have only recently begun baking and have been on sort of a cupcake kick so I agreed. It was the least I could do in my unemployed state.

Then the guest list grew. To like 300. The couple decided to invite the entire church. However, people weren't RSVPing so a week before the wedding, they started to make phone calls asking for responses. They had a tentative list of 180 people with 40 people that "might show up." Yikes.

So Thursday evening I loaded up my car with all the ingredients and supplies that I would need to make roughly 400 cupcakes and headed off to use the church's enormous kitchen. After pre-heating the ovens, a feat in itself since none of them actually heated to the correct temperature, I began measuring and mixing and pouring and baking and cooling and tasting. Luckily my mom stopped in to help me for a few hours and it made things go by a little quicker. 250 cupcakes later, we called it a night.

some of the cupcakes

Friday morning I agreed to be an extra set of hands at a conference a girlfriend of mine was coordinating so I had to be up at 5am. I finished up helping around noon and immediately headed back to the church kitchen to finish up the cupcakes and make the frosting. Cream cheese frosting (i.e. cream cheese, butter, sugar). Yum.

That night I went home a little early to get all my gear together for the Trail Mix race the next morning. After the race, I literally cooled down for 10 minutes, hopped back in my car for my hour drive home, rinsed off in the shower and threw sweats on so I could go back to the church to decorate the cupcakes for the wedding that started in 3 hours.

So I frosted. And frosted. Then my sister Whitney came to help and we frosted together. And then my step-dad Dave came and we all frosted. And frosted. 379 cupcakes in total. Whitney and Dave were actually going to the ceremony so they took off after an hour and a half but I kept on frosting. No sooner had I frosted the last one that someone that had peeked into the ceremony told me that there were maybe 120 people in there. Not 180, not 220. 120. Ugh.

I ended up decorating all of them just in case people decided to eat 2 or 3 of them and got them out on the table in the reception hall, cleaned up and loaded my car up just in time to see the bride and groom exit the church. Their smiles made it all worth while.

Here's a shot of the finished goods:

When it was all said and done, there were 130 people at the reception. Translation: Lots o' leftovers! The church offers a free meal during the week so they kept them to use there. I think it will be a while before I bake any more cupcakes.
In running news, this is my third and final day of my running hiatus and I couldn't be more excited to get back to it. My heel still hurts a little but I've been icing and stretching. I'm planning on taking it easy the remainder of the week to make sure that I'm good to go. The last thing I want is a chronic injury. I also gave my precious Garm to my sister to use for the rest of her Fargo Marathon training. It will now be the Garm on her Arm.
Congrats to all Boston runners, especially Rachel over at The Pulse Fitness Studio. She ran yesterday and was back leading strength class this morning! Way to go, Rachel!

April 19, 2010

Trail Mix Race Recap

These past few days have been crazy! It began on Thursday with baking nearly 400 cupcakes (more on that later) and my weekend activities included my first trail race, frosting and decorating the aforementioned cupcakes, a baby shower and the beginning pains of plantar fasciitis.

Now on to the race details. For the Trail Mix race series in Bloomington, I was part of an all women's team for the 50k team event. We all start together and run a 12.5k (7.75 miles) loop. Our individual times are added together for our final score.
A friend of my mom's, Cheryl, asked me to run with her and her sister, Laurie, and her friend Melanie. I had never run a trail race before and the website didn't show a course map or elevation chart. Because I didn't really know what to expect- and started to have pain in my heel- I set a tentative goal of an 8:20 pace. Here we are pre-race:

Cheryl, me, Melanie, Laurie

We arrived up there around 8:30, an hour before the race started. It was perfect running weather. The runners participating in the 50k and 25k solo events had already started their respective races on the same loop as what we were about to run on so the start of the race was a little interesting since we couldn't start on the actual course. All of the runners sort of gathered on a hillside near the start/finish line and someone on a loudspeaker just yelled "GO" and we were off. I forgot to start the Garm on my Arm and it took me about 15 seconds to get it going.
The course was a mix of woodchip trails, grass/mud, and pavement. However, there were HILLS along the majority of it. Most of them were pretty short and steep so I just concentrated on getting up, knowing that a downhill awaited me on the other side. I felt pretty good but I felt that I was pushing the pace a little. I just told myself to keep going and I'd worry about slowing down when I hit a wall.
Around 4 miles I settled in to a group of three that seemed to be keeping a quick pace. Then we hit a BIG hill. This one was long and steep. I knew I just needed to get up so I took one look at the top, put my head down, and trucked on up, leaving the group behind me. Staying in front of them became my motivation to keep my pace.
Soon after I could hear cheering at the finish line across a lake and I just wanted to get there. I picked up the pace slightly and crossed the finish line in 1:01:47 (my official finishing time).
According to Garm, my average pace was 8:11 and since I started it a little bit late, it showed total mileage as 7.51. I definitely didn't start it a quarter mile after the start so either the course measurements were off or I am really good at running tangents. The official results had me pegged at a 7:59 pace. Either way, I surpassed my goal.
Out of the 19 all-women teams, our team finished 9th. Each of us succeed in the goals we had set for ourselves and had a great time.
Now that the race is over, I'm taking three days off from running to try to prevent any further damage to my heel. Today was my second day off and I'm going a little bit crazy already. Cross training just isn't the same.
I'll write about my Cupcake Baking Extravaganza later this week.
Happy running!

April 14, 2010

Breaking wind

After a killer leg workout on Monday, and a crushing strength class yesterday, my quads weren't feeling too enthusiastic about running 8 miles today and I especially did not want to do it indoors. Imagine my disappointment when I discovered that although it was warm outside, the wind was brutal. Like gusting. Still, I decided to do my Cambria Hill route, thinking that the river valley bluffs would protect me from Mother Nature's fury.

I was pretty much wrong about that.

The route is four miles out and back, with the middle 1.5 miles having a gradual incline as it climbs to the top of the river valley. I began running with the wind at my back and it felt great to stretch my legs a little bit. I could feel my quads loosening. I knew I was going fast but I felt pretty good. The Garm on my Arm beeped at mile 1- 7:17! Whoa, partner. I knew that with 7 hilly, windy miles to go, I'd better slow it down. Mile 2- 7:05. Really? I am blaming the wind.

Luckily I started to climb the hill and my pace for the next two miles stuck around the usual/average 8:30s. Then I hit the turnaround to head back.

Good Lord, it was like a scene from Twister. You know when you're talking over loud music and it suddenly stops? That is what running in gusting headwinds is like. Luckily I hit the 1.5 mile downhill, which provided some respite from the wind.

I tried my best to keep a consistent pace the last two-ish miles and did alright- 8:10 and 8:07 ( my pace for the last .77 miles).

No sooner had I hit "Stop" on the Garm on my Arm that this happened:

Nature really is a Mother.

Totals: 7.77 miles, 1:00:59 time, 7:51 average pace. I haven't run sub-8's for this long before! I think I might be selling myself a little short in training and may have to start challenging myself on pace a little bit.

Lesson for the day: You don't know what you can do until you try.

April 13, 2010

It's all in the hips

In effort to narrow down my options of career paths, I've been trying some new things. This past Saturday, I was able to officially cross "Professional Golfer" off the list.

I've known for years that I am a horrible golfer but my friends apparently needed some convincing. That didn't take long. I think my record number of swings before making contact with the ball was eight. Eight. I actually got pretty good at teeing off, adhering to the old golfer's adage of "It's all in the hips." (Happy Gilmore, anyone?) It was a beautiful day out, though, and I think I got a few miles of running in as I would run to find errant balls. The beer didn't hurt anything either.

And speaking of hips, my trainer at the gym showed me a great exercise to do to strengthen my hips. I've struggled with IT band syndrome in the past, a condition thought to be caused by weak hips.

To do it, tie a stretchy band and loop it above your knees. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with knees slightly bent (the band should be tight). Take small steps forward, making sure to start the movement from your hips, not just your feet. I usually walk the length of the gym- about 30 steps- and turn around and walk back. I can feel the burn when I'm done!

Trail Mix race in Bloomington this weekend. I need to find socks that come up a little higher to keep rocks and debris out of my shoes. A trip to Running Room is in order.

April 9, 2010

First Friday

It's gorgeous out today so it's fitting that I am completely unmotivated to do anything except laundry and watch "reality" tv (hello, E!). I've been running pretty hard all week- actually, for the past few weeks- and I think my body is starting to rebel. My shins are suspiciously sore and I know they are secretly planning a rebellion against this weekend's runs (8 Saturday, 10 Sunday). Perhaps ice will placate them.

I'm Hannah, by the way, and I've been running for as long as I can remember. There is a picture of me running on the beach in California when I was five while on vacation with my family. In elementary school I took pride in beating the boys on Track & Field Day and in Jr. High I ran with the Varsity track team. Once in high school, I found other distractions and running became something I did just during the spring track season and I was content with my "never first, never last" placement in races. College brought what college typically brings and my running shoes waited patiently, buried in my dorm closet.

It wasn't until after college that things changed for me. When I was 19, my mom had a little boy, Joel. At six months old, Joel was diagnosed with a rare blood diesease. The next 2 1/2 years were filled with chemotherapy, blood transfusions, and watching the sweetest little boy go through more physical pain than anyone should have to experience in a lifetime. Joel died on February 15, 2008.

In the days and weeks that followed Joel's death, our house was filled with visitors armed with comfort and food but running became my only solace. Running helped me answer the question that my mind screamed: What do I do with this pain?

Now, a little over two years later, I find the easiest answer to this question- and most questions- remains the same: Go for a run. And when I need motivation to push through the discomfort of another hill repeat or to not collapse in a heap on the curb, I think of Joel. And my feet move forward.