Running Favorites

I have a few posts that are overdue, including a race recap, but haven’t had the time to sit down and bang them out yet. Remind me again why I thought taking a class during a super busy chunk of my life would be a good idea?! Oh, that’s right… because when I registered for the class I didn’t know 80 other things were all going to happen at once. So it goes.

Anyway, in lieu of those posts, here’s a quick and fun running questionnaire as a placeholder to remind everyone (including myself!) that I am indeed still here 🙂 Thanks to Fallon at Slacker Runner for the tag!

Running Favorites:

1) Location: Trail, Road, or Indoors?

Can I be diplomatic and say all three, depending on the time of year and weather conditions? I do most of my running on roads/sidewalks, and I like that just fine. However, during the winter (especially this past winter we are only now slightly emerging from) I’m not quite badass enough to deal with the ice and running in the roads, so indoors tends to do the trick. I do prefer indoor tracks to treadmills, though. And trails… how awesome does a nice, shady trail feel in the middle of summer when the roads are sweltering? So nice.

Stopping for a photo in the middle of a lovely, cool trail run last year

Stopping for a photo in the middle of a lovely, cool trail run last year

2) Time of Day: Morning, Noon, or Evening?

Evening. I’m not a morning person, and noon running just brings to mind thoughts of midday sun and red, throbbing faces (read: mine). I do most of my running in the evenings, so it’s what I’m most used to. However, I’m not opposed to a nice runch (lunchtime run) when it’s not a hot, summer day and I actually have the time, nor would I turn down a morning run if I could actually haul myself out of bed.

3) Weather: Sunshine, Mild or Hot?

Mild! I do not do well in the heat. My ideal running weather would be cloudy and low-50s, even upper-40s.

4) Fuel: Before, After, and sometimes during?

I try to fuel before but usually don’t do a great job (excepting the amazing job I did with fueling before my half last October!) If I’m grabbing fuel before a workout it’s usually a Honey Stinger waffle or some sort of energy bar, or if it’s before a race it’s usually something along the lines of a bagel with peanut butter and a banana. Mid-run I’ll opt for Nuun or, if I’m running for longer than an hour, I’ll usually bring along a packet of Honey Stinger chews. After a run I’ll typically grab a chocolate milk… and if it’s after a race and there’s a diner nearby, usually chocolate milk and banana pancakes!

5) Accessories: Music, Watch & More?

Definitely my Garmin (pre-Garmin it was my phone and MapMyRun) and my RoadID bracelet. That’s usually it. 99% of the time I ran it was with Colin and we’d chat as we ran so I never brought music along, and just got used to running without it. Sometimes I’ll bring headphones if I know I’m going out for a long solo run, but my earbuds tend to bounce out of my ears anyway so it’s more of nuisance than a help.

6) Rewards: Food, Wine, or …?

Food for sure! See above comment about banana pancakes 🙂

Or blueberry pancakes. I'm not picky.

Or blueberry pancakes. I’m not picky.

Also, lounging on the couch is a pretty nice reward too.

7) Type of run: Long, tempo, intervals, hill repeats, progression, or recovery/easy?

Oof. You know, I might have to go with intervals. They appeal to my natural preference for short distances and allow me to run faster than I usually do, which makes me happy. I always feel like I’ve accomplished a nice, hard workout once I’m done too, which is a nice feeling.

I nominate…

Darlin’ Rae

2 Generations Running

redfacedbutrunderful

Jess Runs Happy

Run Away With Me

And anyone else who wants to take part, either in the comments or in a running faves post elsewhere!

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Somerville Jingle Bell Run, 14 December 2014

What: 5K

Where: Somerville, Massachusetts (course map)

Who: Me, Colin, Julie, a bunch of Julie’s friends, and Kate, with moral support from Drew

Benefited: a whole bunch of things (list here)

Time: 32:43 (course PR!)

Splits (according to Simon):
Mile 1: 10:16
Mile 2: 10:41
Mile 3: 10:17
Mile 3.1: 1:28

Photos: (click to open larger versions)

The gang hanging out before the race

The gang hanging out before the race

I had just caught sight of Drew and was waving my arms like a madwoman

I had just caught sight of Drew and was waving my arms like a madwoman

Julie and Colin have also spotted Drew and are doing amazing things behind me

Julie and Colin have also spotted Drew and are doing amazing things behind me

Their amazingness gets better

Their amazingness gets better

And then I decide to do jazz hands while my tutu puffs out like it's possessed

And then I decide to do jazz hands while my tutu puffs out like it’s possessed

I enjoy this one because it looks like Kate is levitating

I enjoy this one because it looks like Kate is levitating

I'm hoping my T-Rex arms are just a result of my putting my hands down after giving a thumbs-up moments before...

I’m hoping my T-Rex arms are just a result of my putting my hands down after giving a thumbs-up moments before…

This was supposed to be our victorious arms-aloft finish line pose, but as you can see, I am M.I.A. Oh well.

This was supposed to be our victorious arms-aloft finish line pose, but as you can see, I am M.I.A. Oh well.

If we couldn't have a victorious finish line picture, at least there's this one of Colin and me sharing a mid-race laugh

If we couldn’t have a victorious finish line picture, at least there’s this one of Colin and me sharing a mid-race laugh

Recap: I have sad news to announce – this was my last* race with Colin. At least, my last race with him for the foreseeable future, as he’s moving away 😦 I’m very sad to be losing my running buddy (especially since I lost Gina already!), so this race was a little bittersweet. But it was also significant – the Somerville Jingle Bell Run was Colin’s (and Gina’s!) first 5K, so it seemed fitting that his first and last* here be the same race. It’s also the very same course as the Ras na hEireann USA, which was my first 5K, and I was eager to see if I could improve my course time. So when Julie floated the idea of a bunch of people dressing up and running the Jingle Bell, Colin and I jumped on board right away.

Originally I planned to deck myself out in a ridiculous outfit and just run-walk it for fun with Julie and her crew and then go out for drinks and frivolity after. However, once I realized that it would be my last* race with Colin, who was planning to gun for a PR, I knew I had to run it with him. (Plus, a shiny new PR sounded really nice!) We devised a plan much like what we did at our infamous Plymouth race – we’d run a fast first mile and then see how we felt from there, hoping that we had banked enough time to get us under the 30:40 mark. When we found out that another soccer teammate of ours, Kate, would be running, we decided to try to stick with her for as long as possible at the start, since she’s speedier than we are. Plan settled, we approached race day with our ambitions set high.

Packet pickup was a complete breeze for me, since Julie is awesome and picked up everyone’s packets the week before. (Thanks Julie!!) Julie had also helped me figure out my festive outfit, mostly by buying me a tutu and peer-pressuring me to wear it, and also by sending me links to tons of festive running gear. In the end, I opted for said tutu (we’ll file that under A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never* Do Again), stripey elf socks, a fabulous elf hat that was $3 at the Christmas Tree Shop, and Drew’s ugly-sweater-reindeer t-shirt that I wore at the Christmas to Give 5K last December. I came very close to draping some of Julie’s battery-powered Christmas lights over me as well, but they either choked me or got caught in the tutu so I opted out.

As gun time drew near, we all lined up between the 9 and 10-minute pace signs; Colin and I figured that trying to keep up with those around us would be a good way to ensure that we run a fast-for-us first mile. However, we quickly found that pretty much no one had paid attention to the pace signs (I’m slowly learning that most people tend to ignore them)… we felt really good about ourselves since we were keeping up with everyone and still feeling good, until we realized that we were going at about 11-minutes/mile. Oops. So much for the faster-than-usual start!

Kate was a trooper and stuck with us for the first 2 miles as we dodged around people and tried to pick up our pace. I figured the course would thin out after the first mile, but it was not to be. At the Ras, we had started in the 14-minute pace corral, so the course got quite sparse as we passed Mile 1. Starting farther up the pack AND the fact that about 1,000 more people were running this race than the Ras meant that we were jostling elbows with other runners the whole way this time around, and so we were never really able to fully speed up. I think we abandoned hope of a PR close to the first mile marker.

Around Mile 2 we gave Kate our blessing to run ahead, and she took off like a track star. Colin started breathing hard by this point and looked like he wanted to stop, and since I had decided to run this race his way, I told him that I’d stop with him if he needed to. When he didn’t answer, I asked if he wanted me to push him the rest of the way, or if I should coddle him, and after only a slight hesitation he said “Push me.” My inner running coach surfaced immediately and I began spouting what I hoped was encouragement and motivation; I tried to do for Colin what he had done for me at the Ras when I tried to stop – lots of “Okay, let’s just make it to that corner,” “One small hill ahead and then it’s downhill for a while!” “You’re doing great, we have less than a mile to go!” etc. Focusing on getting Colin to finish the race strong also took my mind off my own niggles, of which I had plenty since we hadn’t warmed up at all. Will I never learn?!

As we tackled the last two hills and fought our way to the straightaway that would bring us to the finish line, I couldn’t help but marvel at how relatively easy the race felt compared to the Ras. At the Ras, it was all I could do to put one foot in front of the other, and I averaged a 12:07 pace. On Sunday, the course was flying by so much faster, and Simon was giving me paces all under 11 minutes each time he beeped. I’m sure it helped that I actually knew the course this time, so I knew when to expect hills and turns, but it was a huge confidence boost to see how far I’d come in less than 2 years!

When we turned the final corner and caught sight of the finish line banner in the distance, I glanced at Simon and saw that we were at 28:something. If we could sprint the rest of the way (maybe a quarter-mile?), then we still had a slight chance of PRing. I told that to Colin, and I saw a steely determination enter his eyes. Our pace quickened for a bit, but the finish line was farther than it seemed, and we had been expending too much energy to sprint more than a few hundred meters. I asked Colin what his course PR was, and if he wanted to try to beat that even if we couldn’t PR overall, and he nodded his approval. Then I caught sight of it – a Shammies singlet up ahead. I’m *never* that close to another Shammie during a race, and that gave me a boost too. So much of a boost, in fact, that I decided to pick that Shammie off… something that makes me feel ashamed to admit. BUT, I figured if we could beat a Shammie then we’d have a good chance of getting Colin his course PR, and what a good way to end his season here!

We kicked into the next gear and drew level with the Shammie. Overcome with warm fuzzies, I yelled out “Nice job, Shamrock!!” (quite possibly into a stranger’s ear… if so, I’m sorry, person!) We grinned at each other and then I upped the pace even more, because the finish line was getting so close. As we got to the place where we usually sprint to the finish, we somehow verbally agreed to go for it and began running harder… only to wind up behind a wall of 5 or 6 people across, all running nice and slow toward the finish line. The course narrows right there too, so there was no way around them, and screaming “Make way!!!” seemed a tad unsportsmanlike. So we had to throw on the brakes and coast over the finish, though we did hold our arms victoriously over our heads for the finish camera. (Photos forthcoming… maybe?)

People at the finish line were yelling at everyone to keep moving, and volunteers were herding finishers into two finish chute-type-areas. We were herded straight, and I was looking so forward to a nice bottle of water, which had been obtained quickly at the Ras. Not so much at this race. I had to walk the length of the street to find any liquid whatsoever, and ended up with a bottle of raspberry tea – not water, but it was liquid and I drank it gratefully. There were also no smiling volunteers handing out medals right near the finish like there had been at the Ras; instead, a huge crowd of finishers were swarming one poor boy way down by where the water was, and he was fishing medals out of boxes as fast as he could as people crushed in on him. It was a little intense.

Despite the lackluster finishing area, the Jingle Bell was definitely a fun experience. There were nearly 5,500 runners, most of whom were dressed in festive costumes (including a water-skiing Santa being pulled by a runner-powered speedboat, as well as Santa in a sleigh being pulled by running reindeer). There was an air of fun over the whole event, and even though we didn’t PR, we still enjoyed ourselves! Plus, I knocked almost 5 minutes off my course time (37:38 at the Ras, 32:43 on Sunday), which is nothing to shake a jingle bell at! Running at a faster pace felt easier than ever, and made me want to sign up for a bunch more cold-weather races to see just how fast I can go! (Then my runner’s high evened out and I wrote this post instead of signing up for millions of races. Probably better that way.) All in all, it was a fab running sendoff for Colin, and I sincerely hope I get to run with him and Gina again. After all…

*You never know what will happen in the future!

Did you run any Jingle Bell races? Did you dress up?

What are your thoughts on running in tutus – yay or nay?

Ever gotten stuck behind slow runners right at the finish?

Flashback Friday: My “Moby Dick” of a PR

Disclaimer: This was supposed to be a “Throwback Thursday” post, but apparently that wasn’t meant to be. Flashback Friday to the rescue!

It’s crazy to think that a year (well, 3 days short of a year) has gone by since my infamous Plymouth Race… a race that frankly sucked, but that resulted in an outlier of a PR – roughly 3 minutes faster than my previous PR – one that I have been unable to get close to since. But, much like Ahab, I will keep trying until I succeed!

[Confession: It probably makes me a horrible former English major, but I have never read Moby Dick. I should remedy that someday.]

Before the Plymouth race (full recap here, for anyone interested), my PR was 33:44, and I had achieved that PR a mere 2 weeks before Plymouth. I remember being ridiculously excited to achieve my first sub-11:00 mile during the AFA Veterans Fun Run, and even more excited that each subsequent mile was faster – 10:49, 10:28, 10:10. Boo yeah! Colin and I were well chuffed.

This is technically a "before" picture from the AFA race, but we still look well chuffed, don't we?

This is technically a “before” picture from the AFA race, but we still look well chuffed, don’t we?

At that point in my running life, my 5K PRs were all relatively close together – no “major” leaps in pace: 35:08, 34:25, 33:44. The odd thing about them was that they almost all occurred in a row… 35:08 was at the Jerry Garcia River Run in late July, then I came within 7 seconds of matching that PR at the Canal Diggers Road Race, then PR’d with 34:25 at The Dam Race in October, and my next “real” race (not counting the virtual Halloween run I did) was the AFA run and 33:44 PR. Cool, right?

Cool, except that Colin and I got a bit cocky. We were basically PR machines at that point, and we may have let it go to our heads. The worst part about our cockiness is that we weren’t really training… we were just going out there and running races, with only one or two 2-ish-mile mid-week runs in between. So it all seemed so easy.

Then came Plymouth. It was frikkin’ cold that day – temperature in the teens (F) but with an ocean windchill that brought the feels-like temp down to single digits. And that ocean wind was strong. I broke out the big guns kit-wise: fleece-lined pants, knee-length wool socks, fleece-lined base-layer shirt, tech t-shirt, running jacket with the hood pulled up, gloves, and my swag from the race – a nice wicking hat. And I was still freezing.

Goofing off in an attempt to stay warm before the race started

Goofing off in an attempt to stay warm before the race started

Thankfully the restaurant at the start/finish line let everyone hang out inside where it was nice and toasty (and where there were real bathrooms!), but it felt like it took FOREVER for the race to start once we were lined up. Then our first mile was directly into that cold ocean wind. My face was completely numb, my fingers all turned white despite my gloves… it was good times.

When the starting gun went, Colin took off like a bat out of hell. I mean, straight-up sprinting and dodging around everyone, since we had started at the back. (I assumed it was because of the cold and he just wanted to run fast to warm up, but he recently said he thinks he started fast because of the sprints we did for warmups, which we usually don’t do.) I chased after him, desperately trying to keep up while simultaneously trying not running over anyone, and we made it about a mile before my body finally warmed up enough to realize what it was doing and started protesting. My chest tightened, I was fighting to catch my breath, I had horrible side stitches, and my right foot ached like crazy (I didn’t know it at the time, but my shoes had essentially given up the ghost). I was miserable, and was only able to run – much more slowly – little bits and pieces of the next 2 miles.

I remember walking at one point and feeling so disappointed that I couldn’t continue my PR streak because of all the walking I was doing. I didn’t have Simon at the time, and hadn’t brought my phone to use MapMyRun because it was far too cold for that nonsense, and Colin hadn’t brought a phone either for the same reason. So I had no idea how I was doing for time. But I felt wicked slow.

Imagine my surprise, then, as I rounded the last corner and saw 30:whatever on the finish line clock. Holy schnikes! That made me pick up the pace! I finished with an absurd 30:49, with an average pace (according to the race results) of 9:55. What fresh hell?! I had manged to keep the streak going, but had somehow PR’d way out of my league, if you will, and that 30:49 is still my seemingly unreachable Moby Dick of a PR. The closest I’ve gotten is 33:08, at the Shamrocks on the Rocks 5K back in March, and I only just registered my fastest mile on Simon as 9:50 during a recent speed workout. How did I average 9:55?!

(source)

(source)

That first mile must have been uber fast. Given how much I had to walk for the rest of the race, I’m extremely curious about how fast that mile was. Of course that had to be the one race neither Colin nor I were using a GPS tracker thingie! Colin and I did try to replicate the first-fast-mile tactic at our next race, but it didn’t go quite so well. For me, my dead shoes made my feet hurt SO bad that I practically limped the course, not to mention I got separated from Colin and our pacer, Shauna, after about 30 seconds because the course was so packed. I finished in 33:31. Colin managed a 31:something but felt dizzy during the run and nearly fainted at the finish line. Thankfully (for me, because I hate blazing out fast and then wanting to keel over!) we haven’t tried this tactic again… though I think Colin would nearly always be game to give it another go.

But the question remains: when will I catch my Moby Dick? Part of me really wants to go out guns blazing during a race to see what I can do, but most of me wants to a) enjoy the race, and b) not faint or puke or do anything else unseemly. I’m trying to stick with Steve’s speed workout tactic of getting used to running my average race pace and then slowly work at getting faster, but that “PR Machine” era has made *actually* working at getting faster more frustrating than it probably should be. One day I’ll get there. One day.

What do you prefer – going out fast and then possibly having to slow down, or starting slow and either trying to stay steady or negative split?

Do you have any “Moby Dick” PRs that haunt you?

Have you read Moby Dick? Is it worth reading?

A Case of the Doldrums

Running and I aren’t getting along very well right now. Maybe Running is angry because I ignored and eschewed it for two entire weeks after my half marathon, and it is feeling spurned. Maybe, in my post-half delirium of couch snuggling and laziness (all in the name of “recovery”!), my lack of general movement resulted in a loss of fitness. Maybe it’s just the wrong time of month. Whatever the cause, I am just not enjoying running at the moment. And this makes me sad.

Not counting soccer games or sprinting to catch my bus, I didn’t run for exactly two weeks after my half. Then, two days ago, I accompanied Colin on his training run (his first half marathon is coming up in a few weeks) and it was not pretty.

fitsnap1

Colin intended to run for an hour and a half in the late morning, and I planned to join him for 30-45 minutes of that. As I was changing into my running clothes, my right ankle gave out randomly and started hurting, and as Colin and I walked down the sidewalk to start warming up, my dodgy knees started protesting. It was like my body had gotten used to being mostly sedentary and didn’t like the prospect of exercising again. I mentally told my body to suck it up and off we went.

Once we started running, everything felt sluggish and my shins hurt. Our first mile was a slog… one of those miles where you feel like you’ve been running for ages and look down at your watch and see you’ve done less than a mile and it’s only been 10 minutes. It sucked. Mile 2 was a little better, though we still needed a long walk break, and Mile 3 was bearable only because I knew I was coming to the end of the run. It just felt hard, and honestly the only enjoyable part of the run was being back out there with my running buddy. Otherwise, ugh.

And then today happened. Colin and I were going to join the Shammies at their indoor track workout, but turns out the track is closed for the holiday. I had the day off, and since it was gorgeous out, I figured I’d take advantage of the unseasonably lovely weather, try to forget how much I hated running on Sunday, and get back on the proverbial horse. And I was met with another crap run.

fitsnap2

I walked just over a half-mile to the library to return some books, then ran from there towards the pond. I had been a little chilly while walking (everyone I passed looked at me in my shorts and t-shirt like I was crazy… they were all bundled up in hoodies and hats) but was so thankful for my minimal clothing as soon as I started running – it was 60* with 60% humidity and sunny, and I feel like I broke a sweat as soon as I took off from the library.

“Took off” is a pretty accurate term for how I ran… there was no pacing myself today. Maybe that’s why this run was so unenjoyable – I pushed myself to go faster than I have since my last awesome speed workout. I don’t know why I pushed myself either; today was my first run sans patella straps since my 10-miler a few weeks ago, and I intended to go easy to see how the ol’ knees held up. Maybe it was because I knew I wouldn’t be doing a speed workout tonight and was making up for that, or maybe it was because there were SO MANY people around town and driving past me that I felt self-conscious about plodding along slowly. So I hauled buns.

By the time I had gone four-tenths of a mile I was breathing wicked heavy and wheezing a little, and was ready to turn around and go home. I had Simon set to overall time and distance so I’m not sure what my pace was, but my first mile clocked in at 11:12 and that included a long wait for the walk signal at a busy intersection (I wish now I had paused Simon, but since I was running “for feel” and not for time I didn’t bother).

After the nice break at the lights, I ran the entire next mile (10:10, which is pretty fast for me!) and continued wanting to keel over as I went. I was breathing so hard that people could hear me coming and were giving me slightly concerned glances as I ran past them. By this point, I was cursing my decision to not bring water, and was just trying to get to the bubblers on the other side of the pond as quickly as possible.

I was so hot, and felt like my face was so red it was about to burst, and couldn’t believe how many other runners at the pond were dressed in multiple layers… and running faster than me! I was getting passed by everyone, even though I was running a fast-for-me pace, and it wasn’t helping my mood. Neither was the plethora of meandering people who apparently don’t know how to share the path, causing me to side-step them into mud puddles too many times. I usually try to smile at people as I pass, especially other runners, but today I just wasn’t in the mood.

I stopped to walk a few seconds after Simon beeped the 2-mile mark, and kept walking down to the bubblers. My face was red and throbbing and my lungs weren’t taking in air very well, but the cold water was amazing. I wanted to just give up and walk home, but a tiny voice in my head kept saying “You ran a half marathon! Two miles shouldn’t feel this hard! Suck it up and try for another… you can do this!”

After walking a little farther, I set off once again at a slightly slower pace, determined to at least make it 3 miles. Running still felt terrible, I was miserable, I was worried I might faint, and then I almost got run over by fellow runners who clearly had no time for my slowness in front of them. (Colin and I go single-file when we run past people… why is it so hard for others to do that?!) The only thing that kept me from stopping was this overwhelming feeling of shame that I could barely run 3 miles*. I should have continued running home, but as soon as Simon beeped for 3 miles I stopped and walked. My face was still red and throbbing a mile later, and I didn’t have the awesome feeling of accomplishment that I usually have after finishing a run of any distance. I was just tired and annoyed. And, to top it all off, my one remaining toe on my right foot that wasn’t gross now has a big blister.

So what gives? Were those 2 weeks of no running a spectacularly bad idea that has set me back quite a lot, fitness-wise? Is it because of my increased (and apparently evil) estrogen levels at this time of month? Were those two giant glasses of wine at dinner last night also a bad idea? Or am I just hitting my second patch of the running doldrums… a bit of a slump now that I don’t have a big race looming?

I wrote back in January about my first big slump, which coincided with winter and bad weather and a lack of races to look forward to. Joining the Shammies and signing up for the Tour de Worcester reignited the spark, so maybe I can figure a way out of this one. I haven’t been to a Shammies workout in a while, and the encouragement from my fellow run clubbers always does wonders. What worries me, though, is that I’m not bored of running – I still want to run and have 2 upcoming races that I’m looking forward to – it’s just really freaking hard to run right now, and that difficulty is making it not fun at all. Fingers crossed this is just a rough patch from lack of activity these past few weeks!

Have you ever struggled with running after a big race? Am I going to enjoy running again??

Have you experienced a running slump? How did you break out of it?

Seriously, what is up with lack of running path etiquette?!

*I realized as I was reading/editing this before posting that me-two-years-ago would be incredulous that I feel shame about not being able to run 3 miles without wanting to die. Me-two-years-ago still couldn’t run a full mile without walking, and would be completely and utterly gobsmacked that I’d be running a half marathon at all, let alone within a few years. This realization was a good dose of reality (and relativity)… instead of getting down on myself for a bad run or two, I should be amazed at how far I’ve come! Bad runs happen, right? It’s the nature of our beast. I just hope running stops being so hard soon!

“Cross-Training” Adventures: Season Wrap-Up

Back in August I wrote a post about how I was set to embark on a new adventure in “cross-training” – kickball… plus a return to soccer. The sessions started in early/mid September, and should have been over by the end of October (6-8 guaranteed weekly games with some double-headers), but due to poorly timed rainstorms, the sessions are only just now winding down. Perfect time for a wrap-up!

Kickball (3-5-0, finished 4th place)

kickball

Julie, Bluelie (another Julie nicknamed in honor of her blue hair), and I signed up as indies for a kickball league, and were assigned to the purple team, aka Thursday Night Lights. After a rocky start in our first game (detailed here, but basically, our captain was a little too serious and we got absolutely crushed by a team that was also taking the game a little too seriously) we settled into a fun, if not entirely successful, groove. Here’s how the season went down:

Game 1: Lost 10-1 to the team who would finish the season in first place (they played like jerkfaces). I made it on base once (never getting past first), and made two pretty awesome (if I do say so myself) plays at first base. Our super-organized captain would have been a very good player-manager if the rest of us had cared enough to go along with his plan for the season, but alas. Julie and I retreated our separate ways after the game.

Games 2 and 3: The Julies and I were absent for a two-loss double-header. Apparently our captain could no longer bear to lead a team of content losers, so he abandoned ship via an awkward Facebook message.

Games 4 and 5: Another set of losses, but the team seemed happy enough being the kickball version of the Bad News Bears. This was also the first time the Julies and I joined in with the after-game shenanigans at the local bar for pizza, beer, and karaoke, which became a bit of a post-game tradition.

Game 6: Our first win! Also our first cold game (I was wearing ALL the base layers). My memory is a bit hazy (all the games blended together a bit), but I think we actually won this one pretty handily… and I scored a run! Huzzah! Drew was a champ and sat in the cold to cheer us on (and take the pictures in the collage above) and I was filled with pride, both about my team and about my amazing purple and green get-up:

photo(3)

Game 7: Another win! What the heck?! I think we won less handily than the game before, but I scored a run again (yay!) despite the ump totally having it out for me for some reason. We had two umps during the season – one who was super sweet and we’d chat whenever I’d play catcher or come up to kick, and another who was reminded us all of an angry Keith Richards. He called me out for bunting, even though I swung fully (I just can’t kick far… not my fault!) and hassled me for where I was standing when I kicked the ball, even though neither he nor the other ump had called me on that before. Whatever, I played pretty well (despite maybe being a bit tipsy thanks to a pre-game drink with Drew while we waited for game time… oops) and pizza and karaoke happened again. It was my first time appearing on the karaoke “stage” though I wasn’t alone; all the ladies on the team got up and sang “Waterfalls” by TLC together. It was good times.

Some teammates singing karaoke while Russell, the creepy karaoke man, joins in

Some teammates singing karaoke while Russell, the creepy karaoke man, joins in

Game 8: This game was rained out two weeks in a row before finally being played the night before Halloween. The Julies and I all had other plans so we missed out on the team’s third win, which catapulted us – against all odds – into 4th place in our division, meaning we got a spot in the playoffs.

Quarterfinal: This game was supposed to be last night, but, once again, it’s raining and the game was postponed. The jury’s still out on whether Julie and I (Bluelie has since given up the team) will play the make-up game, but I think we’re both a bit mentally done with it all, after having not played for a month and after our team had a bit of a social split during our last karaoke night. But that’s drama we don’t need to get into right now.

In summary: Kickball was a fun little adventure, but it was most likely a one-time thing. I hadn’t played since I was 10, and it was still just as fun as it was back then… for the most part. Kickball, thankfully, isn’t taken quite as seriously as soccer in this particular league, meaning most of the teams we played were pretty chill and were just there to have fun, but there were still a few games against teams who would go to whatever lengths to win, and honestly, I’m too old/too laid-back to put up with that nonsense.

In terms of “cross-training,” I did make a handful of 60′ sprints on the base paths, and my arms got an interesting workout as I tried to throw the giant rubber ball farther than I was able, but otherwise it was more a silly diversion than legitimate cross-training. Which I sort of knew going in., and I’m okay with that.

Soccer (3-2-1, finished 4th place)

Kaci, Julie, and me. Go maroon!

Kaci, Julie, and me. Go maroon!

Drew, Colin, Julie, and I signed up as indies for a 6v6 soccer league, and were assigned to the maroon team, one of 4 indies teams in our division. The rest of our team was mostly young’uns, but that was great because young’uns tend to have a lot of energy! Last year’s 6v6 league featured gorgeous turf pitches, so the knobbly, muddy, grass fields this year took a bit of getting used to. I was also quite rusty, having not played at all for a year. Here’s how the season went down:

Game 1: Drew and I missed the first game because we were flying to Seattle, but Colin and Julie both played and so were able to give us recaps of our team’s amazing 7-1 demolition of the other team (which was another indies team). Wahoo! Great start to the season!

Game 2: Another indies vs indies match-up. I think our team expected another resounding win after our first indies-bashing, but this particular team proved to be a worthier adversary. However, this team also featured one of our least favorite league regulars, whom Drew and I had played against on various teams for about 6 years. He’s the kind of player who’s all over you – kicking at your ankles, throwing sly elbows – but if you retaliate at all, he whines immediately to the ref and starts up the drama. He’s also the kind of player who yells at the ref if a call, any kind of call, doesn’t go his way, basically causing a game-long scene. Needless to say, he’s always a pleasure to play against, and this game was no exception. It’s like the soccer director formed this team out of all the known d-bags in the league, because the whole team was like this guy. Luckily the game didn’t get as heated as it could have (mostly because my team is chill and awesome), but I only played for maybe 5 minutes total because I was utter crap on the pitch. Talk about rusty! I even managed to fly through the air and land on my bum at one point… I don’t even know how that happened. Anyway. It ended in a frustrating 1-1 tie… frustrating because we had like a million shots on goal and only the 1 went in. We should have won easily!

Game 3: Another game I didn’t play much of. I wrote about it here; my knees were just starting to bother me, the pitch was knobbly as all get-out, and the game didn’t start until 9:30 pm. Seriously, I’m too old for that shiz. This is the game I played just long enough to take out a player who kept fouling Drew. We lost. I forget the score. I was too tired to pay attention.

Game 4: I missed this game. I don’t remember why. We lost again.

Games 5 and 6: A double-header to make up a rained-out game, that was then itself rained out and postponed (which made me exorbitantly happy, because it was postponed to the week AFTER my half marathon, instead of being a mere 4 days before it). Both games were kind of amazing… our team just clicked and we won handily each time. I even scored a goal! Both of the teams we played were nice, chill, and fun, which made me reconsider (temporarily, anyway) my “I hate playing soccer in this league because everyone is psycho” feelings. It poured at one point and none of us even really cared; we were just having a blast playing soccer, and it made my heart happy. The two wins catapulted us into 4th place, landing us a spot in the playoffs. Just like kickball!

Quarterfinal: Despite my happy feelings after our victorious double-header, I felt kind of done with soccer by this point. My little cross-training adventure had done its time, and I was ready to have my Wednesday nights back… and ready to give my Thursday (kickball) nights back to run club. I secretly hoped we’d lose the quarterfinal, so that we wouldn’t have to play again the following week… and my wish came true. It was wicked cold, the pitch was terrible, and the game started late (after 9:30pm, when it was supposed to start at 9:15, which is late enough!) and my heart just wasn’t in it. The other team had one good player and apparently that was all they needed to beat us 3-1. Or was it 4-1? Whatever. It was another team that I remembered in a negative light from years past, and the same shovey, bitch-faced girl thought it would be fun to slam into me unnecessarily (and multiple times) and glare at me the whole game, and oh boy yes it was fun for us all. I was past caring though… I just wanted to go home to bed. So we lost, our season was over, and that was okay with me. The team is talking about getting together for drinks in a week or two though, which makes me happy.

In summary: Before this session, I had given up soccer in this league because I was getting too worked up about all the fouly jerkfaces and refs who let the games boil over into handbags, and I was worried that my growing rage would cause me to hurt someone (ironic, right?). But I did miss playing. This session was a good reminder that the fouly jerkfaces and crap refs are very much still there, and I think I’m done for good now, at least in this league. (Though I think fouly jerkfaces exist everywhere, unfortunately.) I’d play soccer again in a heartbeat if I could be guaranteed only chill adversaries, but that’s highly unlikely. So I’m hanging up my cleats. I did enjoy this indies team, though, and I’m glad we had one more season to play with Colin (this was his last season too).

In terms of cross-training, I’m sure if I had spent more time on the pitch in the games I did play, it would have been decent. Unlike running, where I only go forward pretty much in a straight line, soccer had me running forward, backward, and sideways, and mixing in sprints as well as slower jogs. It was basically fartleks with a ball. But the downside to using soccer as cross-training, especially in a league where fouly jerkfaces abound, is the risk of injury. Knobbly, muddy pitches aside, some people tend to go into tackles a little too enthusiastically. Definitely not the safest form of cross-training, especially when this session happened right before my half marathon! Luckily I escaped unscathed, but I think I’ll opt for more chill methods of cross-training in the future.

Have you played any rec league sports? How was/were your experience(s)?

Am I right in assuming that fouly jerkfaces exist everywhere, or do they just tend to flock to the Boston area?

What’s your favorite way to cross-train?

Tapering Like a Boss

In lieu of a Weekend Wrap-Up – since there’s really nothing to report, at all – let’s talk tapering, shall we?

Tapering, according to this Runner’s World article, is “the reduction of exercise before a competition or race.” After training hard and building up your mileage, tapering gives your body a chance to recover from all that work, rebuild glycogen stores, and repair any tissue damage that might have happened during that training (hello knees). Nearly every instance of tapering I’ve seen in blogs, on facebook, or wherever has included a runner complaining about how terrible tapering is and how cranky they get while doing so (see image above).

Maybe this makes me a terrible runner, I don’t know… but I’m loving tapering. As I struggled during my 10-mile training run two Sundays ago, I kept thinking how awesome 2 weeks of tapering would be, and that’s what got me through that run (that, and Colin being motivating and awesome as usual). However, I might be taking the rest-during-tapering instructions a little too… restfully.

I took my tapering advice from another Runner’s World article titled “How to Taper for Your First Half Marathon.” After a final long run of 10-14 miles 2 weeks out from the race, RW advises 30-minute workouts during the week, a 45-minute run on the Sunday before the race, 30-minute runs on Tuesday and Thursday, rest or a very easy run Friday, rest/walk Saturday, and go-go-go on race day (they didn’t really say go-go-go, but that sounded more exciting to me!)

So what did I do after my last long run? Rested Monday, skipped speed workout Tuesday because my knees were still bothering me, skipped soccer Wednesday to attend a fancy work shindig, kickball was rained out on Thursday, I did nothing Friday, nothing Saturday (other than beating Super Mario World, heck yes), and blew off Colin for my stepdad’s birthday party, after having promised to run my 45 minutes with him (oops – sorry Colin!). I rested, and how! The one constructive things I did all week were a) ask my doctor about my knees and, b) on her advice, buy some knee braces.

This week, during the final countdown? I’m planning a nice, easy run with Colin on Tuesday, then I have a double-header for soccer Wednesday (which I really, really want to blow off in order to protect my knees but it’s the last 2 games of the season and I’ve only played in 2 games total and feel bad leaving everyone a sub short for a double-header… pray for me, readers, or cross your fingers or send me all the knee-protecting vibes you can muster!), a wicked late kickball game on Thursday, and then I intend to rest my little legs for as much of Friday and Saturday as I can. And hydrate. And eat all the pasta. I ❤ pasta. I may test out my knee braces at some point too, to see whether a patella strap or a compression sleeve works better. And hydrate.

On top of all that, I’m going to try to calm my pre-race nerves down a bit (ha!). The pre-race stress dreams have already started, and each time I think about running 13.1 miles my heart starts to race a little. I need to remember the words of Pattie, my Shammie friend: “Just take it one mile at a time!”

Any tapering advice? Am I doing it completely wrong? 😉

What are your thoughts on patella straps? Have you used one/did it work for you?

Any half marathon advice??

Weekend Wrap-Up, 10/12(ish)

Another week in the books, during which I ran my longest run to date (double digits!!), sang my first karaoke (kind of), ran around the track like a speed demon (heck yes!), and avenged my husband on the soccer pitch (it’s how I do). Let’s recap, shall we?

Monday (scheduled): rest day
Monday (actual): rest day

Ahh, a nice, relaxing evening after a full weekend of long runs and race volunteering. Much needed and much appreciated!

Tuesday (scheduled): speed workout
Tuesday (actual): speed workout

I finally made it back to the track with the Shammies (my first speed workout since August 12!) and it was a workout worthy of a few boo-yeahs. Read all about it here in my giddy speed workout recap!

Wednesday (scheduled): soccer
Wednesday (actual): soccer (kind of)

I was surprisingly not sore after kicking butt in Tuesday’s speed workout, so I should have been raring for some soccer action… except that our game was at 9:30. At night. That’s a whole lot of nope right there. I’m getting too old for these sorts of shenanigans, especially when the team we play is young and fast and has way too much energy for that time of night.

Let’s just say my only contribution to our 2-1 loss was the ninja-like taking-out of the kid on the other team who kept stomping on Drew’s ankle. No one messes with my man. (Fun fact: I promised to always avenge him on the soccer pitch in my wedding vows, and I take my vows seriously.) One perfectly timed swipe of the ankle and my job was done… so well in fact that most of the other players on the pitch were confused as to why there was a free kick given, since I was nowhere near the kid when he went sprawling on the ground. I probably shouldn’t be proud of the fact that I’m an excellent fouler, but there you go.

Haters gon' hate. (source)

Haters gonna hate. (source)

I played for less than 10 minutes total, partly because I was too tired to even deal, but mostly because the pitch was rock-hard and knobbly and my right knee was killing me after running around for only a few minutes. If I didn’t have my first-ever half marathon coming up in a few weeks I would have pushed through it, but I don’t want to injure myself unnecessarily. In retrospect, my decision to return to soccer when I did was some pretty bad timing on my part. (The last game of the season is 4 days before my half.)

Thursday (scheduled): kickball
Thursday (actual): kickball

Still riding high from last week’s miraculous win, the Thursday Night Lights gathered at the field once again for another surprise victory. (Yay!) We didn’t have much hope when we first arrived, since the other team had apparently been there, practicing, for at least a half-hour, and because we only had 7 people show up on time. Somehow, despite not having a full team for an inning or two, and despite having the grumpy umpire who looks like Keith Richards call me out for apparently doing everything wrong at the plate (I did everything the way I always do; the other umpire never saw anything wrong with it so I assumed I was doing everything correctly), our team somehow pulled off a 3-1 win and I even managed to score one of our runs! We celebrated with pizza and beer (or cider, in my case) and a little karaoke, including my first-ever appearance behind the microphone! I only went up because every other lady on the team went up together and we all sang TLC’s “Waterfalls.” Mostly I did awkward dancing, but that counts, right?

Friday (scheduled): rest day
Friday (actual): rest day

Exhausted after two late nights in a row (like I said, I’m getting too old for these kinds of shenanigans), and unimpressed with how chilly it got at night, I opted to stay home and chat with my mum rather than be a good wife and cheer Drew on at his soccer game. He said it had been unbelievably cold up on the hill where the pitch is, so I think I made the right decision. Cozy-wise, anyway.

Saturday (scheduled): possible long run?
Saturday (actual): another rest day

It was a rainy, crappy day, perfect for being cozy inside with a cup of tea and a book. Drew and I watched some TV and played some video games, and it was a nice, chill day. Ah, lovely.

Sunday (scheduled): long run (if not done Saturday)
Sunday (actual): long run

fitsnapColin joined me this week for what was going to be my last long run before my half in two weeks. I really wanted to hit 10 miles, even though I knew that was upping my mileage a little too much/too quickly after having only hit 8.5 last week. Throwing caution to the wind, we embarked on a journey with the goal of 5 laps of the pond, with a mile of walking on either end for warm-up and cool-down.

I approached this run a little cockily after how well my long run went last week, when it was cool and cloudy and I hadn’t run very much in the week or so beforehand. My weather app said it was about the same temperature as last week, so I wore more or less the same clothes… only to have it be super sunny and quite warm once I got moving. I was ruing having worn long sleeves!

I don’t know if it was the unexpected heat, or the fact that I had run much more during the week, but my first two miles were terrible. I was getting bad cramps in my stomach that felt like side-stitches, but were front-stitches. (Is that a thing?) It hurt to breathe and I actually didn’t think I was going to make 2 miles, let alone 10, and Colin was trying to reassure me that we could quit and try again in a few hours once it cooled down. I really didn’t like the idea of going home and then having to drag myself back out for another run, so I pushed myself to just make 2 miles to see how I felt. Luckily it got better. A bit.

This long run was definitely not as good as my last one, but it did have its upsides. For one, when I hit the 7-mile mark, I didn’t suddenly want to keel over like I did last time; I actually felt pretty good at that point. The last few miles were actually relatively easy compared with the first few (that’s a good sign right??). Plus, this time I had my running buddy with me to chat with and that helped make the miles go by more quickly.

The one thing I really didn’t like about this run was how much pain I was in for most of it. In addition to my weird front-stitches in the beginning, my ankles and my right knee were hurting too. My right knee had started hurting towards the end of my long run last week, but the ankles were new. (Well, my ankles have always been pains, but they usually don’t hurt like this while I run.) The pain sort of went away after a few miles – to be replaced by hip-flexor pain where I think I might have pulled something doing that weird stretch before my first 10K a few weeks back – but then came back again toward the end. My knees, both of them now, are still bothering me the morning after, which is worrying me a bit. I’ve been icing them today and taking it easy, and hope that these next two weeks of tapering will do them good. Fingers crossed…

How was your week?

Any tips for easing knee pain, specifically in the soft bits around the kneecaps? (…should I be worried?!)

If you’re married, did you include any non-traditional parts to your vows?
I really did vow to avenge Drew on the soccer pitch! I don’t mess around 🙂