Thursday, April 21, 2011

Running for Fun

Today was my first legitimate run since my half marathon this past weekend. I really felt great while I was running and my run even included a few decent hills.

Sometimes I worry about getting tired of running, but today was one of those days when I knew that was running because I wanted to, not because I felt like I had to. I don't have any specific races lined up, and while I would like to maintain a decent amount of mileage each week, I'm not stuck to any kind of training plan right now.

As I mentioned before, I'm a new owner of a GPS watch. I absolutley love having it so that I can know how far, how fast, and exactly where I'm running. Today I decided to have a little fun with my GPS watch. Let me preface this by saying that this is not my original idea. I got the idea from a fellow runner who is somehow distantly related to me (my mom's sister's husband's sister's husband...maybe?). Anywho, he posts pictures on Facebook of the "pictures" that he has "drawn" while running using his GPS watch. So, I thought I'd give it a try.

Being my first time, I will admit I had to look at a map before I went out and plan my route so that I wouldn't mess up my picture. Thankfully the area I was running in is basically a grid, so it was fairly easy to keep up with. I figured the easiest thing to draw would be my initials. So (nerd alert!!) here's what I came up with...

Success! The total run was 3.6 miles and the time went by really fast, probably because I was focusing on what I was drawing rather than actually running. So, if you're a GPS watch owner and you're looking for a little motivation to get running, I would definitely suggest this technique!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Banana Oat Muffins

Last week before my race I had a strange craving for muffins. I don't really eat muffins that often, but I just wanted a good muffin for some reason. So I opened up my cookbook and looked at the recipes and decided to combine two recipes and make some of the ingredients a little healthier, too.

Here's what I ended up with:

Ingredients:
1 and 1/2 cups flour*
1 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup mashed bananas
*I used 3/4 cups all-purpose flour and 3/4 cups whole wheat flour

Combine the flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, beat the egg lightly. Stir in the milk, applesauce, vanilla, and mashed banana. Combine the flour mixture and the banana mixture. Line 12-18 muffin cups with paper baking cups and divide the batter among them, filling them about 2/3 of the way. Bake at 400 degrees for 18 to 20 minutes. Allow to cool (I found out that if you don't allow them to cool, they don't come out of the paper baking cups very easily...).

Enjoy!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Blue Ridge Half Marathon

Yesterday was race day for the Blue Ridge Marathon and Half Marathon. As I mentioned previously, the weather forecast was not looking that wonderful. As race time got closer, it became obvious that we would be running in the pouring rain. It could be either really fun or really not so much fun. But as I predicted in my last post, I had an absolutely amazing time.

Packet pickup at the Taubman was a little bit hectic, but I was a little excited when I saw the "lucky" race bib number I got.

I was really nervous the evening before the race, so I think I only got about 4 hours of sleep. I woke up at 4:15 and took my time getting ready, still indecisive on what to wear. I decided to go with shorts, but made a last minute decision to put on my capri tights, and I'm really glad I did (13 miles of my wet thighs rubbing together just doesn't sound that much fun to me...).

At my last half marathon, one of the things that freaked me out the most was the fact that I had to use the bathroom right before the race started but the line for the porta potty was too long. Thankfully my last race got delayed a little bit so I did get to go, but I had the same concern this time (but hey, at least it was raining so hard that if I did have to go, nobody would notice!). So I kept cycling through the line and when the race was about to start I didn't have to go. Success! I must remember to do that in the future.

7:30 finally got there and it was time for the race to begin. The atmosphere on the starting line was really exciting. Not only was this an epic course, but the weather was adding an extra element of epicness.

The climb up Mill Mountain went well. We stopped to walk a few times as we had planned, and we were relieved once we got to the top. We made up a little time on the way down and we were doing well at the bottom. The course had been rerouted a little bit because of the potential imminent flooding, and so it added some "I didn't know there were going to be more hills" to our run. At about mile 10 I could see that we were definitely going to crush our goal of finishing around 2:20, so I think that was really motivating us to keep up our pace and stay strong to the finish. The last 2 miles were definitely hard, but we knew it could only last so much longer. The finish line was finally in sight, and it was quite a relief because it meant that warm and dry clothes were not far behind!

We crossed the finish line with an official chip time of 2 hours, 14 minutes, and 49 seconds. It was so wonderful to see how much our training had paid off.

Me and my running partner

Me and my brother, who finished in 1:48!

Awesome finisher medal!

In comparing my performance in the Blue Ridge Half, which had 2,528 feet of elevation change, to the Star City Half this past November, which was completely flat, I can definitely see how much more conditioned I am now than I was then. My time for the Blue Ridge Half was exactly one minute slower than the completely flat race. I think if I were to run the flat course now I could probably knock 5-10 minutes off my time! That was really motivating for me.

I spent the rest of the afternoon stretching, refueling, enjoying being dry and warm, and napping. I enjoyed a steak at Ruby Tuesdays, then we headed downtown for a fun evening watching the Roanoke Twilight Criterium.

Now I'm contemplating what my next move will be. I'm unsure whether I'm ready to tackle a full marathon, mostly because I'm not sure if my body or my mind can take it. I love running, and I want to keep loving running so I want to avoid burning out or getting injured. So right now I am undecided about whether or not I want to approach training for a full marathon. We'll see! For now I'll just enjoy running and see where it takes me.

There was some great news coverage of the race, so be sure to check out these links!
Half Marathon Results
Full Marathon Results
Mike Dixon weathers rain, hills to win the Blue Ridge Marathon
Blue Ridge Marathon all sorts of epic
3 guys plan to double Blue Ridge marathon in Roanoke
Blue Ridge Marathon will not stop for rain

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Race Day Forecast

Like any good runner, I've been obsessively checking the weather forecast ever since Saturday showed up on the 10 day forecast. At first it said rain, then it looked pleasant, and then it went back to rain again. A lot of rain. As in, torrential downpours and severe thunderstorms and wind. Awesome. I mean, really? Of all days!

(click to enlarge)

I'm not quite sure what to expect. I imagine it will be one of those things I will complain about before and during the race, but once I'm dry and warm I'm sure I will say that even though the weather was as horrible as it could possibly get, it was one of the most fun and most memorable race experiences ever. At least, that's what I'm hoping will happen.

I'm also hoping that we won't get half way through the race and conditions will become unsafe, necessitating that all runners be pulled off the course and the race resume at a later time. It wouldn't be too horrible for me, but I just can't imagine the full marathoners running a good portion of their race and having to stop and start again. I know safety is top priority, but I would be pretty frustrated if that happened.

So keep your fingers crossed for me and pray that I can just finish the race without my foot turning into a ginormous blister, and pray that they move the race to Sunday (perfect running weather: Sunny and 66).

Now if I could just decide what to wear...shorts or capri tights?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

My New Favorite Running Gadget

As long as I've been running I've sort of just guestimated how far I have run. I run a lot on the greenway, which has mile markers every tenth of a mile. When I'm not on the greenway I could always bet on running around a 10 minute mile (I'm not fast, I know). When I wanted to venture off the greenway, I usually tried to map out my runs first to know how far a certain route would be. So my method really wasn't all that accurate and it wouldn't allow me to venture off a planned route or go one more time around the block. So it is with great pleasure that I introduce you to my newest training gadget: the Garmin 305.

This watch is GPS-enabled so it can tell me exactly how far I've gone and how fast I'm going. Once I plug it into the computer, it can give me even more information like elevation changes and what my heart rate was throughout my run. Pretty cool, huh? I've run with it 3 times now and lets just say I LOVE it.

Below are some screen shots of all the data I can get. You can click on the pictures to make them bigger (sorry they're a little blurry when reduced...)



Another cool thing you can do is import the GPS route into Google Earth and look at the satellite images. Some landmarks in Google Earth are enhanced to be 3D images (like the Star!). The red line is where I ran. Again, you might want to click on the image to make it bigger...

So being the data nerd that I am, this thing is more than awesome. I've only used it 3 times but I can definitely see where it is going to be a great training tool. It will also be good to take on hikes and Andrew can even use it for some of his bike rides.

We got a really good deal on it from Amazon.com. I think since Garmin has put out a newer and way pricier version, this one is going for much cheaper now!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Courage

"The miracle isn't that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start."
~ John Bingham

This quote was really true for me today. As I mentioned earlier in the week, I'm slightly under the weather. It's nothing major, it just makes for a good excuse. When I woke up this morning I felt tired and congested. I didn't think I would have a good run at all. Then once it got light, I looked out the window. Great. It was windy, too. And only 40 degrees. I didn't want to run. But I knew I needed to, and I knew that once I started running I would be fine.

And what a shocker, I was.

It's funny how we can blow something (not just running) way out of proportion and think it's going to be just awful. But if we just put one foot in front of the other, we can slowly but surely conquer anything one step at a time. Then we look back and say, "well that wasn't so bad after all!"

It was certainly not an easy run, but I performed way better than I expected, despite all of my excuses not to! We ran 13.1 miles (yes, we did have to do that extra .1, just to know we could do it) in 2 hours and 21 minutes. The weather was not so much our friend today as it kept going from warm and sunny to cool, windy, and even a little rainy. But I suppose it could have been worse! Our run included the climb up Mill Mountain as well as some hills in South Roanoke and a flat stretch in the end on the Greenway. I definitely think we're ready for the Blue Ridge Half in 2 weeks. I'm actually quite excited for it!

The weather forecast is looking much better for the next week or so (80 degrees on Monday!), so I'm really looking forward to running outside when it's actually nice out! But right now, all I'm looking forward to is my nap I'm about to take!