Beautiful 10 Miler

This morning I went for an absolutely beautiful 10mi run.

Sun rise over the lake

Sunrise over the lake

It’s a cut-back week in my marathon training schedule, so my run was a bit shorter than usual. After my longer run last week, it was nice to take it easy today and just enjoy being outside. The weather was amazing, which didn’t hurt.

2013-09-14 08.29.00

Perfect running weather!

It’s crazy that it was almost 90 degrees at the end of my run last week…today it didn’t even hit 50!

Today also gave me a chance to catch up on some podcasts. I resisted podcasts for years, assuming they would be like the talk radio my mom used to torture me with on the drive to school. Turns out, podcasts are awesome. Now being the super running dork that I am, I mostly listen to podcasts about running.

Yes, you read that right, I listen to podcasts about running…while running.

Today I listened to a few episodes of the Two Gomers, a podcast about two average guys who decided to take up running. It’s so funny and makes the miles fly by, I recommend checking them out (make sure to start from the beginning)! 

Finally, I’d like to give a shout out to my mom who did an awesome 13mi run this morning! Woot!

Did you run today? What do you listen to on your runs?

 

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Becoming a Morning Runner

I am a morning person. On a typical day I am at the office before my roommate even wakes up and it’s not unusual for me to have completed my run by 6:30am.

But I wasn’t always that way! When I started grad school, I was the queen of hitting snooze and sleeping in late.

Can't I get my PhD from here?

Can’t I get my PhD from here?

When I took up running, I quickly realized what an asset getting up early would be. A few miserable, sweaty runs in the heat of the day and a few missed runs due to long days at work convinced me that morning running would be worth a shot.

Now, I am a “go big or go home” type of person…so upon deciding to try morning running, I immediately set my alarm for 5:30am the next day.

This was a bad idea. After sleeping in for years, my body/mind were not ready for such an abrupt change.

I reevaluated and decided on a more gradual approach. One week I would wake up at 8:55am and the next I would shift to 8:45. It took a while, but eventually I was able to wake up pretty much as early as I wanted.

Becoming a morning runner has done wonders for me. It makes me a happier, more productive person – I am always ready to face the day after a run. It’s also helpful when I am preparing for races, which often start early in the morning!

For the Disney Princess half marathon, we had to be on the bus at 3am!

For the Disney Princess half marathon, we had to be on the bus at 3am!

So perhaps you have been thinking about trying some morning runs. Shifting your schedule takes effort and patience – you will have groggy mornings and times when you don’t want to get out of bed.  But it gets easier and you may even learn that you love the morning! Here are some basic tips to get you started – none of this is groundbreaking, but it just might help you out:

1) Have your running gear ready!

I always lay out my outfit the night before so I don’t have to think about it in the morning. On days when I am getting up super early I actually sleep in my running clothes. Now, you may not feel like swapping your PJs for compression shorts, but preparing for your run the night before can make a big difference.

Running gear ready to go!

Running gear ready to go!

2) Get to bed early.

This one isn’t fun. It can be so tempting to check Facebook just one more time or watch just one more episode on Netflix. But it is even less fun to hear the alarm at 6am after staying up all night!

Turns out being out until 3am is not conducive to morning runs...lesson learned the hard way

Turns out being out until 3am is not conducive to morning runs…lesson learned!

3) Actually set an alarm.

This one may seem obvious, but I forget at least once every six months. This past Tuesday for example…oops.

4) Don’t hit snooze!

It’s so tempting! But once you start, it’s a slippery slope. Try putting the alarm across the room or turning off the snooze option on your phone.

Just say no!

Just say no!

5) Remind yourself how GREAT you will feel when the run is done 🙂

After an early run, I feel energized for the rest of the day. It’s wonderful not to worry about whether or not I will get my run in. I also like knowing that no matter what happens, I got a chance to run…which means it was a good day.

After the Princess Half - it's about 8am and I am already done!

After the Princess Half – it’s about 8am and I am already done 🙂

Finally, remember that there is no magic formula for becoming a morning runner and it’s not for everyone. But if you find that running later in the day is a struggle for you, it might be worth a try!

Are you a morning runner?

Volunteering at Ironman Wisconsin: Part 2

Sunday was race day and I woke up ready to go. Unfortunately it was 8am and my volunteer shift didn’t start until 5:30pm.

Around 4pm I headed to the Capitol, which is the start of the marathon…the midpoint of the marathon…and the finish line. I spent an hour cheering and got to see the top three females finish!

Cheering them on!

Cheering them on!

At 5:15pm, I made my way to the finish line for my shift. Luckily I had my wristband, which was required for access.

I'm official!

I’m official!

At first, I wasn’t quite sure where to go – it was a sea of blue volunteer shirts!  Finally, I located the rubber gloves and grabbed a pair (these ended up being very important). Then I hopped in line.

Not the most flattering picture...but the only one in my clean volunteer shirt.

Not the most flattering picture…but the only one I have in my clean volunteer shirt.

As a catcher, it was my job to literally grab the athletes as soon as they crossed the finish. There were two catcher lines, one on either side of the finish line. As each participant finished, the front person from each line would run towards them and take them by the arms. It might seem like overkill to have two people assisting every athlete, but after 140.6mi many are on the verge of collapse.

Once an athlete had been “caught,” the most important thing was to check if they needed immediate medical attention. If they were okay, they were moved through a series of stations. First they got their medal, t-shirt, and hat. Next they got a mylar blanket – these were especially important because it was breezy and cool at the finish and sweaty athletes were getting chilled quickly. Once wrapped in a blanket, athletes were offered a variety of liquids – everything from chicken broth (great because of the high sodium content) to chocolate milk (a favorite of many racers). Finally participants got in line for an official picture with their medal.

Catchers stayed with each athlete until they either a) met up with their family, or b) made it to the food or medical tent. For some participants, this meant I spent 5 minutes with them. Other participants needed 10 minutes or more before they could move on from the finish area. It was important to watch each finisher for a couple minutes, as many people who seemed okay right after crossing the finish line began to deteriorate rapidly.

Finish line before the race

Finish line before the race

I won’t lie, there were times when my shift was really hard. Supporting the weight of a 6ft, 195lbs man all the way to the medical tent is a challenge for someone who barely hits 5’3” (he ended up needing IV fluids as he had lost 5lbs over the course of the race, but was ultimately okay).  There were times when 10 athletes were coming across the finish in the span of a minute. I also learned very quickly how to gauge what an athlete needed, but it was a steep learning curve. Some finishers knew exactly what they wanted and I simply followed them around and helped them get things:
Them: “I need two chocolate milks and a water.”
Me: “Here you go, do you need me to open that for you?”

Other athletes were in a total daze and I had to take charge.
Me: “How are you feeling? Are you doing okay?”
Them: “I don’t know.”
Me: “ Do you want something to drink? Water? Chocolate milk?”
Them: “I don’t know.”
Me: “Okay, we are going to grab them all. You can try a sip of each and then decide if you want more of any of them. We are going to try walking a lap around and then we can decide if you need to sit or are okay to get in line for a picture.”

Being a catcher wasn’t always easy, but it was totally worth it. Getting to share such an amazing experience with these athletes was unforgettable.  While everyone I caught was incredibly gracious (I have never been thanked so many times in my life), there are a few finishers who stick out in my mind.

One young man named Jon had traveled from Ohio to complete his first Ironman. He crossed the finish line looking pretty good, although clearly exhausted. As we brought him through the stations, he turned to me and said, “I really want to get my picture taken and everything, but can we go find my mom first?”  Luckily his mom was waiting near by (she had made a big sign, so she was easy to find) and we headed over to the fence to see her. As he walked towards her, she started tearing up and I have never seen anyone look more proud. The hugged for a good five minutes and everyone in a 10-foot radius had tears in their eyes by the time they let go. He had worked so hard and wanted nothing more than to share it with his mom.

Another man crossed the finish…and immediately started puking. He could barely make it two feet without doubling over in pain. As we headed to the medical tent, he grabbed my arm and asked if he could stop to get his picture taken first. I was hesitant (he had apparently been puking since mile 24 of the marathon, so I was pretty worried), but as we headed towards the picture line an amazing thing happened. Everyone in line (~20 people) let him go ahead of them. These people had been moving for more than 13 hours and were willing to stand a little bit longer to let this man get his picture taken before heading to medical.

And then there was Kate. Kate is a family friend who was completing her second Ironman. She had stayed with me in August when she visited WI to take a look at the course and now was back to kick some butt! I had been keeping tabs on her all day, via text and the athlete tracker. Around 7:35pm, I knew that she was headed towards the finish line and I got ready. Catchers are allowed to keep an eye out for any finishers they know and as soon as they see the person, run to the front of the line and call off the other catcher. As soon as I saw Kate coming, I dashed to the front of the line yelling, “I got this one.” It was amazing to watch her raise her arms overhead as she crossed the line and to get to be the first one to congratulate her. Now, Kate is a total badass, so she left it all out on the course. I was worried about her for the first few minutes, but luckily it was nothing some chocolate milk couldn’t fix. As she sipped her milk and I worked on getting her shoes off, Kate noticed my car key stuck in my shoelaces. She looked at me and said “I didn’t know you had a Kia.” The look of surprise on the other catcher’s face was priceless, we had gone from worried to having a random conversation about cars in the span of about 5min. I suppose that’s just how it goes in the finish area. So a big CONGRATULATIONS to Kate on an awesome race!

In conclusion, did I get sweaty? Yes. Did I get puked on? Yes. Did I end up smelling like an odd combination of salt and chocolate milk? Oh yes. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.

Have you ever volunteered at a race?

Volunteering at Ironman Wisconsin: Part 1

The annual Ironman is a huge event in Madison. Spectators line the course as thousands of men and women swim, bike, and run 140.6 miles. I enjoyed watching the past few years and decided to get a little bit closer to the action this time – as a volunteer!

2013-09-08 17.02.20I signed up to be a finish line “catcher,” meaning that it would be my job to help the athletes as soon as they crossed the finish line. Upon signing up, I received some information via email: “Be prepared to touch, support, carry and literally pick up people as they are falling to the ground.  If you don’t like touching others, or don’t want to get your clothes full of sunscreen, sweat and salt from the athletes, drop out now and choose another volunteer job.”

Luckily, I have no problem with sweat.

On Saturday morning, I got up early to attend the volunteer meeting. First, I found the catcher table to pick up my t-shirt and wristband.

Found it!

Next we headed out to the finish line for training. Training was a 15-minute whirlwind and I tried to absorb as much as I could. We learned where all the stations (food, medical, etc) would be set up, how to carry people who could no longer support their own weight, what types of questions to ask finishers, and so much more. I left feeling overwhelmed, but excited!

Stayed tuned for Part 2 when I recap race day!

Have you ever volunteered at a race?

Rest Day Reflections

Sundays are my day off from training. It gives me a chance to rest my muscles and collect my thoughts.

This looks like a good place to rest!

This looks like a good place to rest!

Week Stats:

Miles Run: 30
Yoga Classes: 0 (oops)
Toenails Lost: 1

Things I am grateful for this week:

1) Fresh baked bread.
My roommate has been baking a lot of delicious bread lately. It was the perfect way to refuel after my tough 16 miler yesterday.

I love this bread machine

I love this bread machine

2) Good friends.
Have enjoyed some really fun moments with friends lately including an amazing birthday dinner for one of my lab mates.

3) Closed toed shoes.
Because no one wants to see my missing toenail.

Some days flip flops just don't cut it

Some days flip flops just don’t cut it

How was your week?

16 Miles

Some days the stars align and you have a perfect run.  Today was not one of those days.

My 16-miler was beyond tough and it took all I had to keep going. I knew this run would be hard within the first 100 feet, my legs just felt like lead.

Glad I brought lots of fuel along!

Glad I brought lots of fuel along!

Somehow I managed to keep putting one foot in front of the other, although it wasn’t pretty. I stopped and walked a lot, which is unusual for me. I called my parents to talk while I ran, just to keep me distracted. Finally, when I thought I couldn’t go any further, I made it home.

Am I there yet?

Am I there yet?

As someone who expects a lot from myself, it’s easy for me to feel like today was a failure. I keep reminding myself that I moved my body 16.58 miles…which isn’t too shabby! It wasn’t perfect, but I did it.

I am glad this wasn’t my first attempt at 16 miles – so I know I have it in me to cover the distance comfortably. Some days are just harder than others.

On hard days, I try to think about things that might have affected my run. Sometimes it’s obvious, other times it’s not. Today there were two clear issues:

1. Lack of sleep.
I have averaged 4 hours of sleep the past three nights. This has been shock to my system since I, like all super cool twenty-somethings, am usually in bed by 10pm.

2. Weather.
As a morning runner, I usually avoid the heat of the day. This morning I had to attend volunteer orientation for Ironman Wisconsin, so my run was pushed back later into the day. The temperature and sun took a toll on me!

Yuck!

Yuck!

How do you deal with a tough run?

Current Goals

Setting goals is one way I maintain my motivation to run. On days when I just don’t feel like running, reminding myself of my goals helps me lace up my sneakers and get out the door. My current goals for running (and life) are:

1. Run a marathon.

It took me a while to come around to the idea of running 26.2 miles. In fact, it wasn’t until I finished my 5th half marathon in February of this year that I finally decided to take the plunge. So here I am…9 weeks out from my first full marathon. Training is in full swing and I am excited/terrified!

2. Run 1000 miles in 2013.

I had this goal in 2012 as well but, due to a series of injuries, ended up only  making it to 752 for the year. For 2013, I am on track to meet this goal with almost 700mi under my belt so far!

Current 2013 miles

Current 2013 miles

3. Run a sub 2:00 half marathon.

Breaking two hours in a half marathon has been on my mind for a while. In August, I came close with a new PR of 2:01:00 at the Madison Mini. The PR was exciting, but it was frustrating to be so close to the 2 hour mark! I don’t have another half on the calendar for 2013, but I look forward to trying again in 2014.

Madison Mini medal

Madison Mini medal

4. Propose my dissertation!

Despite what you may believe, I don’t spend all of my time running/thinking about running. In between runs, I am a graduate student working towards my PhD. This month marks the beginning of what will (hopefully) be my last year of graduate school. First step: propose my dissertation!

So what are you current goals?

Taking to the Hills

The Midwest is a pretty flat place and, if you are so inclined, it’s possible to run for miles and miles without ever meeting a hill.

2013-09-05 18.32.59

So flat!

Until recently, I avoided hills. I don’t enjoy huffing and puffing up to the top, so I let the voice in the back of my head talk me into taking the easy routes.

In May, this finally caught up with me. I ran a half marathon that was hillier than my previous races…and it was awful. I survived the rolling hills early in the course but when we hit a bigger one at mile 11, I wasn’t mentally or physically prepared. I ended the race feeling disappointed – not just with my finish time, but with myself.

To avoid future disappointment, I have begun to embrace the pain of hills and incorporate them into my training. It’s still not fun, but I can feel myself getting stronger with every run.

For tonight’s run I did a series of hill repeats. Basically I ran up the hill…and then back down…and then back up…and, well, you get the drift.

It looks bigger in real life...

It looks bigger in real life…

I made it up the hill 7 times over the course of my run and I couldn’t be prouder.

Elevation profile for tonight's run!

Elevation profile for tonight’s run!

This was the same hill that I battled in mile 11 of my May half marathon. This time, however, I came out on top.

 

How it All Began

I have never been athletic. I used to fake sick to get out of gym class. When my parents made me go to soccer camp, I wanted to cry.

It’s not that I didn’t want to play sports, but they all involved one thing I just hated…running. “Why would any one do that willingly?” I always wondered when I saw people out for a run. I just didn’t get it.

The face I used to make when thinking about running :-/

The face I used to make when thinking about running :-/

My anti-running attitude lasted all the way up until the summer after my first year of graduate school. Graduate school can be stressful, and I managed to put on the doctoral student version of the freshman 15 pretty quickly.

One the phone one day, I vented to my mother about my weight and about school. My mom, who had recently run her first half marathon, suggested I take up running. I resisted. And resisted. And resisted some more.

Then my mom made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. She would take me to Disney World…if I agreed to run the Disney Princess Half Marathon with her. Next thing I knew I was registered for my first half marathon.

How could I refuse a chance to run through this castle!?!

How could I refuse a chance to run through this castle!?!

The first day I went out to run…well, it wasn’t pretty. The stitch in my side wouldn’t go away and I thought I was going to pass out after jogging for 30 seconds. But amazingly, I didn’t quit. Every run got a little easier and after six months of training, I earned my first piece of running bling.

Well, you can't see the medal...but it's there and it's beautiful!

Well, you can’t see the medal…but it’s there and it’s beautiful!

Crossing that finish line changed my life. I just wanted to run again! Since that day I have become one of those crazy people who actually loves to run. Sure, somedays it’s hard. Somedays I would rather stay in bed. But in my heart, I am a runner.