Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wow what a year

This year has been insane. Crazy. Out of control. When I look back on the amount of running I've done and traveling we've done, I realize why I'm so tired. That being said it's been incredible. We've been to some great places and spent time with our wonderful friends and family. In terms of running I set both my 5k and 10k PRs this year, and my half marathon times were pretty solid. To top it off the IT band remained relatively quiet which is an accomplishment for me in and of itself.

The year included trips to Norfolk, VA, Crystal Mountain (in northern Michigan), Morgantown, WV (four times), Washington, D.C., Knoxville, TN, New York City, Houghton, MI, Mackinac Island, Chicago (twice), St. Joseph, MI, Riviera Maya in Mexico, Boston, and Iowa City. That doesn't include trips to visit family in Metro Detroit and day trips throughout Michigan for work (not to mention a four-day work convention in Grand Rapids). It's no wonder our dogs are getting tired of going to the boarder.

All we want for Christmas is to go with Mom and Dad
This year included a lot of running too with three half marathons (Knoxville, Portland, MI and Lansing), the Crim 10-miler in Flint, one 10k and four 5ks. I also got to do fun, relaxing runs in great cities like Boston and D.C.

Every year we get busier, and I continually say next year we'll do less.  I'm already registered for a 15k in Pensacola in February and the Green Bay marathon in May. Other than that the year is open. My husband and I love to travel, and we want to make the most of this time in our life. I expect a couple of really big trips in 2012.  Tomorrow we leave for our last trip to 2011 to the Outer Banks in North Carolina. Our pups will be thankful they get to join us on this one.

I hope everyone enjoys lots of Christmas treats and then runs them off. Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from Lansing!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Cross training with the world's toughest trainer

Let's be honest - Jillian Michaels is a bad ass trainer. Her tough love motivation totally works for me, and I dig it. The more she pushes the harder I work out. Here's the kicker - as much as I love doing Jillian's 30 Day Shred workout DVD, I find that when I'm running a lot, I don't cross train. Jillian and I need to get reacquainted.

I read Runner's World. I know intellectually the importance of cross training. With a recurring IT band injury I've been told repeatedly by my sports medicine doctor that it's important to strength my glutes and my core. Trust me - I get it. Once I start training, however, and I'm running a ton of miles, I let cross training slip. It goes out the window and I think to myself, "Look, I'm running. Isn't that enough?"

No, it's not. I know that, my doctor and physical therapist know that, and Runner's World knows it. I ignore it every single time I'm training until my IT band is screaming in pain even when I'm not running. Who else can I turn to before I start training this time but the one and only Jillian?

I'm a sporadic Biggest Loser watcher. I've watched some seasons, but once I found out Jillian was gone, I knew I wouldn't watch again. It doesn't take a fitness expert to know that Anna Kournikova is no Jillian Michaels. If anyone can keep me continually cross training, it's Jillian.

I've been doing workout videos since I was a young teenager. The 30 day shred is unequivocally the most difficult one I've done. (I've heard how hard P90X is, but I don't have that kind of time when training). Each workout is 20 minutes - and it's not easy.  When I finish my arms feel like jello and my legs are in pain. It's awesome. It's the perfect cross training to fit into my running routine. Plus it'll help me have sexy arms.

This time when I'm training for the marathon it will be different. This time I will add in cross training regularly. Maybe I'll throw in some yoga, but I promise to keep going back to Jillian. My favorite line of her DVD is "You're always told to just take the stairs. That's a false message of lethargy." See THAT is the kind of kick me in the tail motivation I need.

I had to take time off from ab workouts because of my surgery, so I did the workout yesterday for the first time in a few months.  Holy soreness - today my shoulders and quads are super sore. It feels incredible. My goal for the Green Bay Marathon is to remain uninjured.  I think Jillian and I can handle this one.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Breaking through the boredom

As much as I love running, I have to admit it can be monotonous. I know other runners know what I'm talking about - you map out a three mile, four mile, five mile loop, and then you run that loop. Over and over and over again. I have done the three and four mile loops in my neighborhood what feels like a million times. I know exactly where my IT band will start twinging and exactly how many strides I have to get to the next mile.

That is one of the major reason why I've taken to running in towns all across the country. It breaks up the routine and keeps me focused.  It doesn't always help, however, around mile four when I've got to cut back through the same part of the neighborhood to get through my five miles.

I try to mix it up as often as possible, but it's so easy (albeit sometimes boring) to just jump into the same familiar route. If I'm doing more than five miles, I immediately head to the Lansing River Trail.  There are miles of trails along the Grand River, and it makes it significantly less monotonous. That being said when I run with my co-workers we always do the same run along the river it can be a little much to do it again on the weekends.  I've also had people discuss concerns with their safety when running along the river trail alone. I probably should be more cautious, but I've never been concerned about it.

I love to mix it up and do hill runs in Mount Hope Cemetery in Lansing. The first hill in the cemetery is killer - I love it. It's also right where I can pop onto the river trail into East Lansing and run on campus, another favorite run.  

One time I did eight miles on a treadmill and lived to tell about it. Never. Again. It was torture. I can run MAYBE three miles on a treadmill before I want to pull my hair out. So if it's raining or freezing cold I'd much rather be outside than slaving away on a treadmill (seriously - it feels like slaving).

This is the time in the winter where air is a little colder, the running is a little slower, and my focus is more on Christmas shopping than PRs. After the first of the year I'll be starting the training plan for the 2012 Green Bay Marathon. Until then I'll stick with my boring four mile loop and eat an extra piece of pie.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Chasing Santa

What could possibly be better than a Santa sighting? How about running alongside dozens of Santas in a beautiful downtown? Now we're talking. Last weekend a friend and I headed to the quaint village of Paw Paw, Michigan to run the inaugural Santa Run 5k.  Instead of a t-shirt we were given Santa suits to wear during the run. It was a true fun run - no timing. It turns out that running in a Santa suit is hard work. 

Santas suiting up for the run
We arrived in Paw Paw when it was still a little dark out.  Paw Paw is about an hour and forty minutes away from Lansing, but we didn't hesitate when we were asked to come do the race. Sometimes you just can't (or don't want to) say no - I'm looking at you @pawpawlarry! Downtown Paw Paw is adorable. As we drove in the Christmas lights were gorgeous, and there is a beautifully lit nativity next to Grape Lake in the downtown. It was a beautiful Christmasy morning for a run.

Lovely downtown Paw Paw at Christmas (photo courtesy of the Village of Paw Paw)
We joined the other Santas at registration. This is one of the things I love about doing a smaller race - there were snacks before the race. Everyone was just hanging out chatting and relaxing before the run. When we walked outside it was raining, but the rain stopped quickly. It didn't rain during the entire 3.1 miles.

My friend Nikki and I rocking our Santa gear
We ran right through downtown Paw Paw. Let me tell you - it's the quintessential American small town. Main street has few (or maybe no - I tried to look but can't be sure) vacant storefronts. There are some fantastic looking restaurants and lots of small local shops. For a small race there were lots of spectators including a cheerleading squad. (As a former cheerleader I always have a soft spot for them).

Paw Paw is known for promoting great local businesses including St. Julian Winery. I may or may not have several St. Julian bottles in my wine rack. Seeing the downtown in person only reiterated the importance of local businesses in building communities. Paw Paw is doing it right.

As we were starting the run one Santa said "Nobody has ever run a PR in a Santa suit". While that may not be true, we'll never know for sure because the race wasn't timed. It is so refreshing, however, to run just for the fun of it with no pressure and no expectations. Plus both Nikki and I lost our Santa belts during the run. That definitely slowed us down.

I really did love Paw Paw's small town feel, and I've love to go back. I saw this cute restaurant on the race course - LaCantina - that sits right on the water with outdoor seating. I'm thinking that'd be a great place to go next summer and sit right outside on the water. I've got an August birthday, so I'll have to plant that seed with my husband.

Downtown Paw Paw in warmer times (photo courtesy of the Village of Paw Paw)

The Santa run is a really fun and unique idea.  While I love running races of all sizes, sometimes it's nice to step back and enjoy the town and have a greater appreciation for a run.  I am glad I got to see Paw Paw for the first time, and I'm thinking we must go back for wine tasting and some delicious Italian food. If you see my husband, drop a hint.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The winter running blues

Winter is kind of a dead spot for running - especially this time of year right before the holidays. I religiously scour the Playmakers calendar to find races, and in December there just aren't that many.  From April to November you have your pick, but these lonely winter months you're hard pressed to find regular running events.

Not that running in the winter is that much of a joy. I really do enjoy it when the temperature is in the 20s and 30s. I love the sound of snow crunching under my shoes and seeing my breath. But here in Michigan we have January and February, months where you're surprised if it's above freezing. Weeks where the temperature doesn't rise above the teens. Those days are brutal for running. Once I get out there I love it, but it takes a special kind of motivation to step out in your running clothes on a 16 degree (or colder) day.

I find winter a little depressing, and I have to force myself to get out there and run. I don't even enjoy my surroundings when I'm running. My focus is on just finishing.

This year I'm trying to remain more positive and find a few 5k races to pull me through. I've got some really good warm running gear, and that makes all the difference. This weekend a friend and I are going to Paw Paw, Michigan for the Santa Run. Instead of a t-shirt we will be receiving a Santa suit to run in. I'm not entirely sure what it's going to be like running in a Santa costume, but I'm excited to find out.

Marathon training for the Green Bay Marathon will start in mid-January. I'm sure those days will be difficult, and I'll be complaining every single time I lace up my shoes. But at the end of those cold winter runs I'll feel like I've accomplished something. I'll also be looking for races in warmer locales during those months. There are a lot of warm towns left for me to explore.