What’s up?

This year is flying by, it seems. Life is busy and full of lots of things besides running for me.

With job hunting and everything else, I have not been running nearly as much as I had been. I started a new job in February that took all my focus and energy during training (about six weeks of INTENSE training), but now that I’m on a more regular schedule, life is settling into some sort of rhythm once again.

I’m getting in at least two or three runs a week (finally!) and starting to build my mileage back up now. It’s been tough getting out; during the nastiest weather, I’ve generally wimped out and gone to the gym for treadmill time. Now we are getting some better weather, though, so the outdoors has beckoned and I’ve been out on the trails more.

The new job involves working weekends (EVERY weekend), so I’m limited on the races that I can do. I have a few that were scheduled way in advance that I’ve been able to arrange for going to, though, so I’ll have at least two or three half marathons and my beloved Ragnar relay to keep me motivated to get those long runs in.

Doing a full marathon is still on my bucket list; I’d love to do one before my next birthday since I turn 60 next year (how did THAT happen?!). We will have to see how it goes with getting my mileage back up for what I currently have scheduled, though, and I do still need to work on speed so I’m not taking ALL. DAY. LONG. when I do finally get to do a full.

Part of that getting into a more regular schedule again includes taking off the 8 pounds or so that I gained over the fall/winter months. I’ve been able to keep off most of the weight that I lost (coming up on two years of maintenance, woo hoo!), but I did let some creep back on. My crazy work schedule doesn’t make it easy to lose (or even maintain), but then I don’t think weight management will ever be “easy” for me. I have a lot of bad habits from so many years of being overweight that I can easily slip back into when I’m tired or bored or stressed. Ah well, if it were easy, no one would be overweight or gain back weight once they lose it, right?

I’m going to update here more regularly (again), even though I won’t have races to talk about for awhile. What do YOU have going on these days?

New year, new goals

Much has happened since the last time I posted. I think there’s only been one race since I did Northwest Passage, and that was the Bellingham Bay Half Marathon in September. That’s one of my favorite courses, since much of it is run within sight of the water. Well, that and the fact that I love the medals they give.

Running hasn’t been as high on the priority list for the last several months. Maybe we pushed to do too many races in 2012, so we weren’t as motivated to run races in 2013. Whatever the reason, we didn’t get out as much as the year before. It’s a little harder to do longer runs as a result; I went out today to do 3+ miles, and I could definitely tell that I have not been running as often as I had been. Time to change that; I want to run 14 races in 2014, with at least 6 half marathons. I’m already signed up for three HMs plus Ragnar Northwest Passage, so I need to buckle down and get back to work.

So many changes in so many areas besides running: the company I worked for since 2001 moved out of state in October, which means my current job is looking for work. I’m also working on building a network marketing business as my long-term retirement plan since I don’t expect to ever retire otherwise. I love the products and the company and have been to a couple of international conferences already, which has allowed me to travel to Phoenix and Orlando. I never expected to be able to visit both Disneyland and Disney World in the same year; that was an unexpected blessing!

We said goodbye to our Alaskan Malamute, Kenai, a couple of months ago when she passed away. After having one or more dogs for well over 30 years, it was too hard not having one for several weeks. We are currently in the process of adopting a young, strong-willed Malamute named Stryker. He’s a gorgeous boy and has potential to be a running partner once he’s trained. Our only concern about him is the extreme interest he shows in our cat. We’re keeping them apart for now and may never be able to truly trust him with the cat if we’re not around.

Christmas was celebrated at home with my husband’s sister, her husband, and her husband’s sister making the trip up north to be with us and our daughter and her family. That was wonderful; we don’t get to see them nearly often enough, but this year we got to spend time with them both in January and December.

I ended 2013 slightly up in weight (maybe 5 pounds) from the start. It hasn’t been a big enough climb to motivate me to focus on losing those pounds, but I’d really like to drop about 10 pounds or so this year. I haven’t committed to any particular weight loss plan or timeline as yet. That may come in the next one to two weeks, though, since I know I need to do that in order to make it happen.

That about wraps it up for 2013. May 2014 be a year of stretching and growing and reaching for your goals!

Ragnar Northwest Passage

My husband and I recently had the chance to run as runners 9 (me) and 10 (him) on the Kindred Spirits team for Ragnar Northwest Passage. Ragnar is a relay race, where teams of 12 (sometimes just 6) take turns running three times each to cover about 200 miles over the course of around 36 miles. This is the second time we’ve run Ragnar Northwest Passage and the third Ragnar race we have done.

Ragnar is so much more than just a race! It is an experience unlike any other –well, at least unlike anything else I’ve ever done. One of our team members described it as “summer camp in a van,” and that is about as close as you can get. The teams we have been fortunate enough to be on are not particularly competitive; the goal is simply to finish and to have fun in the process. We had that, for sure!

My first leg was hard, both as rated by Ragnar and by my standards. The day was warm, and that took way more out of me than I anticipated. Running as the sun beat down on me turned into walking rather quickly; as a result, I took longer than projected to finish my leg. Bummer.

I was not the only one who was slower than the projected times, however. We weren’t doing too bad initially, but gradually our projected finish time slipped later and later. It was not looking too good for us to finish in time to enjoy the free pizza and (not so free) beer garden.

One of the fun things we did as a team was get pink tutus that lit up for all the women to wear on our night legs. I put mine on as we approached my second leg, which went along a trail and then into town. I couldn’t tell how visible it was, but my husband said he could see me a long way down the trail. As far as I’m concerned, there’s no such thing as being TOO visible when running at night, so I was very happy to wear the tutu!

Night legs are often what runners dread the most, especially if they haven’t done much night running. I really enjoyed my night leg, though; there’s something almost magical about running in the dark, your headlamp shining on the path ahead. The only part of this night leg that I wasn’t too excited about was when I was running through town and had to pass a man walking down the sidewalk the opposite direction. It wasn’t a problem, but I did avoid eye contact and made sure I was moving briskly at that point. I did much better on time on my second leg, which was my one easy leg.

The team time, however, had slipped enough that our team captain made the decision to contact Ragnar for permission to “leapfrog” in order to catch us up more. We had to do that last year when we ran Ragnar Las Vegas, and in that case it was a matter of dropping one runner off, then going ahead to the next exchange to drop the next runner off before the first finished to have two people running their legs concurrently. For this Ragnar, however, they had us select to runners to run one leg together and skip a leg altogether. Since my husband and I are close to the same pace and run together regularly, it was have us do one leg together. Given a choice of my last leg (6.8 miles very hard) or his (5.8 miles hard), we opted for the shorter, slightly less difficult leg to make up the most time.

That meant we had the unusual opportunity to run together on one leg during Ragnar. It. Was. Awesome! We were able to enjoy the sights along the way, like eagles hunting in a field, and keep each other company while pushing one another just a bit more than we might have run on our own. We finished his leg a couple of minutes ahead of projection, which was nice to see.

As a result of the leapfrogging and other time we were able to make up, the team finished early enough to relax, eat pizza, have a beer, and enjoy being together without feeling rushed.

I don’t know when I have laughed so much as I did with this group. Yes, we ran a lot of miles, but we had fun, no two ways about it. We’re already talking about running Ragnar Adirondacks together next year (September 2014), and of course there are plans to run Ragnar Northwest Passage again. Some of the faster runners may opt to gather people to form an ultra team (six runners instead of 12), but I think most will be back next year as part of the Kindred Spirits team. I want to work on improving my pace before next year; I’d really like to be consistently running an 11 minute mile or better as my 10K pace by then.

See Jane Run Half Marathon

A couple of weeks ago now, I had the chance to run the See Jane Run Half Marathon in Seattle free. Last fall, See Jane Run had sent out a request for volunteers to help (wo)man their booth at the Seattle Marathon; since I had the time, I gave up a few hours on a Saturday and was rewarded with a SJR track jacket and the option of either $50 cash or an entry into the race. Now I ask, how could I pass up an opportunity for a FREE entry that ends in bling, chocolate, and champagne? Sign me up!

See Jane Run races are specifically geared towards women. My husband, our friend Shannon, and I ran the first one held in Seattle in 2011, so I knew the course (relatively flat with a few exceptions). Last year, my husband and I helped out with radio communications; this year, he did radio communications while I ran.

I realized before the start that this would be a first for me: the first half marathon that I ran without a running buddy. I wasn’t sure how that would work; would I be faster, slower, or about the same? I have been really slacking with training, so although I had no real doubts that I’d be able to finish, I didn’t have a lot of expectations on what my pace would be like. Still, I can’t help but hope to meet or beat my best times when I run!

The day was warm; for once, I felt like I dressed appropriately for the weather, in the short-sleeved race shirt, shorts and running skirt. I wasn’t too cold at the start, and I wasn’t too hot most of the time. I started out great, moving well, feeling good, and at a pace that had me thinking I might actually set a new PR in this race. I saw my husband at his post in the first mile and waved.

The first four and a half miles went extremely well. I was running along the sidewalk, debating whether to take a short walk break or continue running, and it happened: I fell literally on my face. There was nothing there for me to trip over that I saw, but somehow I managed to end up face down on the sidewalk, splitting my lip, scraping my hands and bruising my knee (that didn’t show up until later). I lay there a second, stunned, and then evaluated: no teeth knocked out, knee didn’t hurt, nothing really serious. I touched my lip, though, and came away with blood–quite a bit. A couple of other ladies saw me fall and stopped to make sure I was okay; I got up and assured them I was fine other than the blood gushing from my lip, and they went off in search of a napkin or something to help. Unfortunately nothing was open nearby, so I waved them on and just kept wiping the blood off as I walked, debating what to do.

I was in between water and aid stations. I started walking, then as the bleeding slowed down I began to run. Nothing else really hurt at that point; I finally realized I could squirt some water from my bottles on my hands to clean off the blood, so I continued on, alternating running and walking. When I saw a drinking fountain along the course, I took time to do a better job of cleaning up. By the time I came to a water and aid station, the bleeding had long since stopped and I was doing fine. My lip felt enormous, but no one (except the women who had seen me fall!) seemed to notice. I figured I might as well just finish the race so I could get what I came for: bling, chocolate and champagne.

Surprisingly enough, I finished the race in 2:53:52, just 8 minutes off my PR and faster than the last half marathon. Somewhere in the last mile or so, my phone rang; seriously?? Needless to say, I did not answer; I knew from the ring it was my husband. When I found him after finishing and getting my medal, he said he didn’t realize I wasn’t done yet (how fast did you think I’d be able to do this?!). Even he didn’t really notice my lip until I told him; guess it wasn’t as bad as it felt! I got my chocolate and champagne, we enjoyed a few refreshments, and then headed home. Bad as it was to fall, it could have been so much worse. Half marathon #23, but a race of firsts in more than one way!

Portland and Seattle Rock’n'Roll (Half) Marathons

I am way overdue to post about the Portland Rock’n'Roll Half Marathon we did last month, and now we just ran the Seattle Rock’n'Roll, so this will be a two-fer post.

You never know what you’re going to get for weather in the Northwest, but we were fortunate to have good weather for both of these races. In Portland, we had a chance to meet up with some friends from SparkPeople and have dinner on Saturday night before the race as well as connect for a group pre-race picture. That was so much fun; you’d never know that our friendship has existed mostly online from the way we chatted and laughed together.

The race in Portland was a different route than last year. Those who run regularly in Portland were a bit perturbed at the decision to make the start much like other races in the city, but considering runners were stopped for traffic several times on last year’s route, this worked out pretty well: we had the potential of being stopped for a train but avoided that, and the one time police stopped us it was for a very short time. Much better in my book, it was so frustrating to be stopped three times last year!

Overall the race in Portland went well for us. My husband and I have not done as much training as we’d like (and probably should), but we were still able to finish in a reasonable time (2:52, about 7 minutes slower than last year) and had a good time to boot. Can’t ask for more than that if we haven’t trained all that well.

I wish I could say that we did better with our training in the month between Portland and Seattle, but that’s not the case. I think we did maybe two longish runs (8-9 miles) and a number of shorter ones–not the best way to prepare if one wants to PR at this distance. We need to buckle down and do more consistent speed work and long runs to improve for the future.

The day was cool to start but quickly warmed up. I usually end up overdressing for races because I hate to be cold at the beginning; for once, though, I was dressed just right: running skirt over compression shorts and the short-sleeved race shirt. I was cool at the start but not unbearably so, and except when we were running in the sun during the hottest part of the race, I wasn’t too warm either.

The race went very well the first half; we were slightly ahead of schedule for running a 2:45ish half, which is what I secretly hoped but didn’t expect. Then we got to the hills that are in the second half, and our time went gradually down. So much for a 2:45 half, not that I was really expecting to do that. Someday I will master the art of negative splits, but I have not done that yet–maybe I can find a half marathon that has all downhill at the end, LOL! Our time was a little slower than either Portland this year or Seattle Rock’n'Roll last year, 2:58. That’s still way better than our first time doing Seattle Rock’n'Roll (3:24).

I know not everyone is a fan of big races like the Rock’n'Roll series, but i enjoy them when they are organized well, and the RnR races I’ve done have been. We’re already signed up to do Portland and Seattle again next year, and we’re looking at the possibility of doing the San Antonio Rock’n'Roll with a friend in November. It doesn’t hurt that they offer extra medals for doing multiple RnR events–we will get four medals for doing Portland and Seattle, and an extra one for each additional RnR race done.

Next up will be the Kent Cornucopia Days 5K, then See Jane Run Half Marathon in July for me and Ragnar Northwest Passage for both my husband and me. At the moment, that’s as far as our race calendar goes, but I know we’ll be adding more. Having races to look forward to helps get us out the door to run more often!

Inspiring Hope 10K: A Family Affair

Saturday was the fourth annual Inspiring Hope 5K/10K Walk/Run. It’s a walk/run to raise money to fight breast cancer, and it is without a doubt my favorite race to do.

In 2010, my husband and I did the first Inspiring Hope as 5K walkers. I remember that well; I was just getting started with running, and I was too nervous about my abilities at that weight (I was around 220 pounds) to even try running any of it. It was such a great experience, though, I was hooked. I wanted to do more races, and so did my husband.

Since then, we have been running the 10K race, and we expect to keep doing that as long as the race is run. The race director has become a friend (she is the one who also got us hooked on Ragnar!), and this year I am joining her team to walk in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day walk, raising money to fight breast cancer.

This year, my daughter decided to join the fun and walked the 5K race. We got together beforehand and made pink tutus:

I was thrilled that she came to walk the race, and it was a joy seeing her, our son-in-law, and our grandson there. We met up beforehand and hung out with them until time for the 10K runners to line up, then said goodbye until afterward when we went out to celebrate Mother’s Day a day early.

The race itself was great, as always. It’s well organized, with enthusiastic volunteers and a course that goes through some lovely areas. Of course, there are also some serious HILLS on the 10K course, but that’s just how it is in most of the area. (Hills are fun, hills are fun, hills are fun–I keep telling myself that, and that they are speedwork in disguise.)

You never know how the weather will be around here this time of year. Often it’s cool and damp, but not this year. Far from it; it was downright WARM by the time we were out on the course. I was very glad that i had on a short-sleeve shirt and running skirt; even that was almost too warm. I was also happy to take advantage of the water stops along with the water I carry, I needed every drop of it.

I’ve been battling some pain in the back of my right heel, so I haven’t done as much running or as many longer runs as I usually do in preparation. I wasn’t at all sure how well I’d do on this race, but I knew i could handle the distance; I had walked the basic course the week before as part of my 3-Day training. I was able to run fine by taking it slow and easy with more frequent walk breaks.

One of the best surprises along the way was seeing our son-in-law and grandson at about the halfway point. Of course we had to stop for hugs; they had been at a school playground nearby and just happened to walk out to see if they could see any runners or walkers right when we came by.

While my time wasn’t great (1:18:40, slower than the last two years), it was better than I’d really expected. In any case, it’s a race that I will continue to participate in as long as it is held, either running or volunteering. I love this race, and I think my daughter has caught the race bug–she says she will be doing it again next year, too!

Accountability Monday

I’m doing better about keeping up with the 30 Days Stronger Challenge (hurray!), I am happy to say. Last week I did some form of PT all but one day–much better than the week before. I’m doing some combination or form of squats, pushups, lunges (front/back/side/angled), heel drops, and calf raises.

In all my runs and workouts, I am paying very close attention to how the back of my heel feels with all of this, stretching the area but doing it carefully, and that seems to be paying off with less pain. I was able to run the 10K on Saturday and then go out for a 5K training run on Sunday without a problem, so I’m hopeful that I’ll be ready enough for our next race: the Portland Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon next Sunday. It is probably not going to be as fast as I’d like, but that’s okay. My #1 goal for every race is to cross the finish line in an upright position with a smile on my face.

What’s your #1 goal for every race, or do you have one?

Accountability Monday

One of my favorite bloggers, Amanda over at Run to the Finish, posted a 30 Days Stronger challenge for the month of May. Because I know I need to do better with strength training overall, I signed up to do it.

This morning, I got an email reminder from Amanda asking many days we all remembered to do our PT exercises.

Oops.

I did them the first day . . . and then promptly forgot that I was supposed to be doing them daily. I might have done some another day, but I can’t swear to that.

Does it count that I had a personal training session on Thursday where I did some of the exercises? Kinda sorta maybe..

So in an effort to do better and actually participate in this challenge, I’m going to start posting both a recap of my workouts for the previous week and goals for the week ahead. (Goals? Plan ahead? What novel concepts!)

Workouts

May 1
Ankle exercises plus short 1.25 mile run through my neighborhood.
May 2
Half mile run on the treadmill before personal training session
May 3
Rest day (though I logged over 9,000 steps for the day!)
May 4
Training walk for 3-Day: 6.2 hilly miles plus a whole lotta standing stuffing race packets for the Inspiring Hope 5K/10K
May 5
Short 1.5 mile run

Goals

I’m running the Inspiring Hope 10K on Saturday, so this week will include 2-3 runs before that plus some combination or variation of planks, squats, lunges, and ankle stretches daily at a minimum.

Already have done squats, lunges, and ankle stretches for the day, getting ready to go for a run at the gym for some cardio. Must. Remember. Daily.

Marching on

March is nearly over–where does the time go?!

We did two half marathons this month, the Lake Sammamish Half Marathon on March 9 and St. Paddy’s Half Marathon on March 16. Yes, my husband and are a little on the crazy side, doing two half marathons a week apart, but we didn’t go out to set a PR in either of them and had fun doing them.

Lake Sammamish Half Marathon ran from Marymoor Park in Redmond along a trail to Lake Sammamish State Park. We started out from our house in bright, beautiful sunshine, but as we drove north to the race, we began to see more and more fog. It was quite foggy by the time we got to the start line, which made it quite cool. At least it wasn’t raining, though; that’s something to be thankful for in March in the Northwest!

We made the traditional pit stop and found our way to the area where we wanted to start, toward the rear but not the very back. As usual, we started out a little fast (hard not to do when everyone else is taking off fast), but once the crowd thinned out, we were able to pull back to a better pace. The first third or so fo the race, it was quite cold and foggy; no opportunity to really enjoy the scenery. About the middle third, the fog had lifted and it was quite comfortable; then the sun really came out for the last third, and I found myself taking off my Ragnar jacket (wearing that ensures you’ll meet some fellow Ragnarians!) and wishing I’d worn short sleeves, except I would have frozen the first part of the race.

The trail we ran on was gravel and well maintained, so I have a hard time considering this a real ‘trail half,’ although it’s one of several trail races that the group puts on. We did have to go up on the road for awhile where the trail was being worked on, but overall it was a nice course, reasonably flat (for Washington) with some pretty views of Lake Sammamish. I finished in 2:50:02, about my third fastest time, and I was happy with that. Any race I can enjoy and finish under 3 hours is a good one in my book.

My bib and medal from this race, kinda cool with the eagle. Almost forgot to mention, one of the highlights along the way was when we heard an eagle’s cry from the direction of the lake as we ran down the trail. Love to see and hear these majestic birds, it’s one of the blessings of living in this beautiful area.

The next weekend, we headed south to Tacoma to run the St. Paddy’s Day Half Marathon. This was also supposed to be a relatively flat race; that, however, depends on your definition of flat. More on that in a moment.

The weather forecast for the day was a few showers; we were hoping that we’d avoid most rain, but we were prepared with rain shells just in case. The race ran down a ramp (yay, downhill), along the waterfront (good, basically flat) and then through Ruston (bad, not flat) then back the same way up the ramp (bad, definitely not flat). Since we don’t have any races scheduled in the next few weeks, I decided to push myself a little bit in hopes of improving my time.

My husband and I started out together as usual, but eventually I was running faster and left him behind a bit. I was doing quite well on my time through the first part of the race. Then I hit the hill going into Ruston; that took some out of me going up that, but I managed to keep a relatively good pace until near the end. Going back up the ramp toward the finish line, my pace was definitely slower. I had to walk much more than I would have preferred, but in the end I still finished in 2:48:00, my best time this year and less than 3 minutes slower than my fastest half marathon last year. My time has improved a little in each of the three half marathons I’ve done so far this year, so I’m pleased with that.

The medal for this race is quite unusual; I don’t think it shows it very well in the picture, but the medal has a base on it so it can stand on a table or a shelf. No surprise that this race would have a high quality, special medal: it’s put on by the Tacoma City Marathon Association, where the Marathon Maniacs and Half Fanatics started.

I’m a little at a loss right now; we don’t have any races scheduled yet until May, starting with the Inspiring Hope 5K/10K followed by the Portland Rock ‘n’ Roll. We may just have to remedy that and find another half or two to do before then . . .

Reload

I am w-a-y behind on blogging! It seems like I rarely have more than a couple of minutes at any given time to write, so for now I’m simply going to try and get started with short bursts.

There have been a few races on my calendar since the last one I blogged about:

- Ragnar Las Vegas–an absolute blast to do with a great group of people. Nothing like running downhill with light snow swirling around at dawn and a tailwind pushing you to set a PR for a mile, LOL! That adventure could be three or four long blogs all by itself.

- Seattle Amica Marathon–did the half marathon again this year, in spite of thinking I’d never do it again. Hills, hills, and more hills; at least this year we weren’t drenched. I won’t say never again, but it’s not one of my favorite races.

- Tinkerbell Half Marathon–now that IS one of my favorite races! I had so much fun running this one. I decided to wear wings and a tutu, and I’m glad that I did. It was fun entering into the spirit of the race and letting myself be a kid for a bit.

I’m getting ready for a couple of half marathons in March, probably one or two in April, another in May along with a 10K, and then a full marathon (if I’m trained sufficiently) in June. Ragnar Northwest Passage is on the calendar for July (along with another half marathon and a 5K. And I’ll be walking 60 miles in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day in September. Not to mention the belly dancing class I’ve been taking, plus I’m going to start selling Seacret skin care products.

It’s gonna be a busy year, but I love it; I am blessed to be maintaining a healthy weight and in better shape than at any other point in my life!