Today was a great day to run a half-marathon! We awoke to cool breezes that promised to keep the air temperature down, and, although we were promised VOG and high humidity, by the time our group finished running the race, the weather was still holding out.
While I did not achieve my goal of running the race in less than 2 hours, I did take a few minutes off last year’s time and ran it in 2:02:31. I am happy with how I ran the race; for the first half, each time I looked at my watch, I was running faster than a 9:00 mile, which for a slow-poke like me, is quite fast. I’m not sure I’ve ever kept a pace like that up for such a long distance, and I ran my fastest 10k in 57:55; remember two years ago when I worked so hard to run a 10k in 75 minutes? Yeah, I sure do, and it felt really good to know that I could easily accomplish 6.2 miles in less than an hour today.
I would never have dreamed, that just two years later, I would be running distances far beyond 6.2 miles and doing an adequately mediocre job of it! It might seem to you that I’m selling myself short, but I’m not, and nor am I disappointed to have attained the status of being an adequately mediocre runner. I have no delusions of grandeur; I’m not going to be selected for any sort of competitive running event (hello Olympic pasta-eating team!) and I’m never going to be the winner of a race (unless I design another race of one, but then I’m both first and last place, and what is the point of that?), but to have gone from somebody who would rather lie down on a treadmill and get belt-burn on her chin than run one goddamn step to someone who signs up to run (when not being chased by a predator) kinda far for fun is pretty remarkable.
In thinking back over my race, I am happy with my pace, and I think the only way I could have saved a little time (aside from running faster, obviously) would have been to skip some of the water stations. Because I carry my water with me (on my back, like a two-legged camel), I usually don’t stop at every aid station, but, because we were warned about high-humidity and VOG, I was worried about dehydrating and stopped, briefly, at each station. I don’t know if it would have saved me three minutes to skip an aid station or two, and I’m not all that concerned about it. I’m happy with my results and now have something to work on for next year- getting faster!
We have a brief break from serious training until August when marathon season begins again. In the meantime, I’m going focus on getting stronger and faster, and, in general, fitter. I’m hoping to jump in on some longer training runs with friends who are going to run a 100 mile run around (literally, around) the Big Island of Hawaii. I’m DEFINITELY not running 100 miles… not today, not tomorrow, not ever… but I am hoping to go beyond the 26.2 mile marathon distance. We’ll see what kind of stuff I’m made of!
Yesterday was the perfect beach day. The sun rose in fiery glory above Koko Head crater, the air was thick with the kind of humidity that encourages a beach blanket snooze, and temperatures were already creeping into the high 80s by 6:30 am. What was I doing, you ask? I was running 16 miles.
We gathered early at the Kalapawai Cafe and were disappointed to feel the sticky heat of the day already making itself known. From the cafe, we were shuttled to Hawaii Kai, about 16 miles away, and dropped off to run back to Kailua. Sunday seemed to be a busy day on the island and we met many other runners and large groups of cyclists as we made our way home, and everybody looked as if they were melting in the heat. I felt myself fading early in the run, and, when we stopped at an aid station and someone mentioned that we were at the halfway point (ONLY the halfway point!), I wanted to cry. I was moving pretty slowly, but I focused on staying hydrated, eating enough to keep going, and making it to the end of our route. The heat made everything else feel worse: my knees hurt, I was tired and thirsty, my armpits were chafing, and it was so hot that to run another 8 miles felt impossible.
The other things that were starting to feel impossible were all of the hills that we had to climb. It seemed that as soon as we crested one, another was in sight and I began to understand how Sisyphus might have felt; struggling to the top only to have to do it all over again. But, like Sisyphus, maybe there is an element of joy I can find in the struggle because here’s the thing: the marathon doesn’t have many hills. While I was running up yesterday’s steep inclines in the blazing sun, I questioned the purpose of running all of these motherf@#&ing hills when there is, I’ve been told, only one real hill on the entire marathon course, but, in all honesty, these mother@#%ing hills are making me stronger.
I think that if I can make it through 16 miles of heart-stopping hills without my heart actually stopping, there is a chance that the marathon will seem not necessarily easy, but also not like a death-defying feat. If my legs are accustomed to propelling my sad little body up steep hills again and again, then maybe they won’t buckle underneath me at mile 23. And if I’m used to talking myself out of lying down in the bushes on the side of the road and hoping a wild animal eats me when I’m at the base of YET ANOTHER HILL- OH MY GOD, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU MIKE????, then maybe I’ll be able to talk myself out of veering off course, breaking into someone’s house and having a nap on their couch at mile 24. I think this is Mike’s plan; he’s putting us through torture now so that we get to mile 20 without even realizing it, and when the going gets really tough, we’ll be tougher.
I’m at the point in my training now where some pieces of equipment have failed me, and some have proven their worth a million times over. I’m still in love with my Topo Fli-Lyte sneaks because of their lightness and roomy toe box (although I was starting to have some mild foot pain after runs over 10 miles, so I did get some SuperFeet inserts for them and this seems to be just the ticket for my big ‘ole footsies), and I’ve recently fallen in love with Lululemon’s Pleat to Street running skirt. I love this skirt because it has all the benefits of wearing tight spandex shorts (no chafing, no shifting) without the embarrassment of wearing tight spandex shorts (ummm….they are made of spandex and are really tight, need I say more?). I bought this skirt (off the clearance rack, total score!) on a whim, and after wearing it on a couple of longer runs and then switching back to running shorts yesterday, it has become my bottom of choice. I love it so much that I’m considering going back to the store and buying another at full price.
Sadly, my Polar FT4 heart rate monitor was a total fail for any run longer than 8 miles. Even when I applied copious amounts of BodyGlide to my ribcage, the strap caused a lot of chafing. I even tried to put an extra-big bandaid over the chafed spots, but it didn’t help. I was pretty disappointed because I had become accustomed to pacing myself based on my heart rate, but I managed well enough without it until I found an alternative. Two weeks ago, my FitBit broke (it was old and had lived a hard life) and I upgraded to the Charge HR that tracks my heart beat using sensors on the back of my wrist. And, in true FitBit form, even though my old one was too old to be covered by a warranty, the company offered me 25% off the purchase of any model of new FitBit. I dug the discount, and so far, I’m digging the new technology.
My water bottle belt is a mixed blessing. I enjoy the luxury of having a drink of water available whenever I need it, but occasionally one of the water bottles will get bounced out of its holster. I think I’ve solved the problem by tightening the strap and placing the belt a little higher on my waist (I hate to toot my own horn*, but I do think I’ve lost a little weight- even if it is just from sweating) because I think the problem might be that the belt was sliding too low and getting bounced more than normal. I’m looking into some other portable water options for the race just in case the belt proves to be more trouble than it’s worth. One other downside to the belt is that the storage pouch is a little small. I wish there was another one on the opposite side of the belt so that I could fit my gels and my keys without having to worry about busting the zipper.
Things seem to be aligning as we get closer to marathon day; I’m nervous about our upcoming 18 mile run this weekend, but I won’t start worrying in earnest until Thursday night after I’ve made it through our weeknight runs. 18 miles seems like such a long way to run, but I remember feeling the same way about each double digit distance, and so far I’ve managed to make it and feel pretty good at the end of each run. I know some of us, yesterday, were questioning our desire to run the marathon, but I think that is probably a good sign that we are giving the distance the respect it deserves. We are not in danger of being unprepared. Although yesterday was very hot and I was going more slowly than I did when we ran over the Pali, I actually felt better at the end of this run than at the end of the other, and I think it might be because I ate more snacks along the way. In addition to a gel, I also ate a few Clif Shot Bloks, and they might have made the difference.
This morning I expected to feel stiff and crippled, but I hopped out of bed and felt no worse for the wear. At the end of our run, the proprietor of the Kalapawai Cafe (who met us at the finish having run 20 miles himself) treated us all to breakfast and I enjoyed the most divine egg and cheese sandwich ever to grace my lips. I didn’t think I was hungry, but I remember taking the first bite and then looking down to see an empty plate. I did some pretty extensive stretching after I hobbled home, and then joined Mel, a fellow runner, and her family poolside to finally enjoy the weather the way it was meant to be enjoyed. I didn’t do much swimming, but I did enjoy a Mai Tai and leaned my elbows on the edge of the pool, kicking my legs lazily while her children showed off their jumping skills. It really was a perfect afternoon and I wonder if that brief hydrotherapy made the difference in my lack of soreness and stiffness today. Perhaps it was the Mai Tai; either way, I’m considering giving it all a go again after Sunday’s 18 miles. It can’t hurt, right?
*No I don’t; that is the entire purpose of having a blog- tooting one’s own horn.
It seems that every sport has its own requisite list of essential gear items, and coming from the horse world -where not only is the gear usually expensive, but there is SO much of it!- running appears to require very little. The list of things you actually need is short- shoes and clothes to cover your body (which, as a functioning member of society, you likely own anyway). There are a handful of other items that can help make your runs more enjoyable and more successful, and, since I am all for success and enjoyment, I plan on utilizing them.
A couple of weeks ago, I gave you a virtual tour of my water bottle belt, and I hope you all went out and got one so that you can experience the joy of having a drink of water with you wherever and whenever you might need it. Hydration is my number one concern when running and my number two concern is not getting hit by a car. Wearing bright colors is a good first step, but when running at dawn or dusk we might need something more.
Since summer is, supposedly, over and the nights are darkening more quickly, visibility is becoming a concern on our evening weekday runs. Don and I have reflective belts that we can wear, but I find them a little distracting because they shift quite a bit when I move. A less-bulky option is a blinking light that can clip on to your shirt, hat, or shorts. I have this one from Nathan:
It is very lightweight and after I clip it onto the strap of my tank top, I forget it is even there. Don wears his clipped to the back of his waistband, and it is so bright that even though his shirt falls over it and obscures the light, you can still see it blinking from a long way off. Since rainstorms in Hawaii can sometimes arrive without warning, the fact that this little guy is water resistant is a bonus. It also comes in assorted colors if orange isn’t your style.
This is only one option for visibility; I’ve seen people in our group using the LightSpur or Knuckle Lights too. Anything that will allow you to be seen by cars and doesn’t distract you from running well will work, but it is important to be seen. As the days grow darker and our runs longer, I will probably invest in some other light sources. I like that the LightSpur allows cars to see you from behind, but worry that my feet are too close to the ground to catch the attention of every driver, and I like that the Knuckle Lights have the dual purpose of getting me noticed and also lighting my path, but worry that I will find them cumbersome to carry, but they might be less cumbersome than wearing a headlamp. I’ll have to experiment! Below is a short video exhibiting the intense brightness of the Strobe Light. Feel free to have a spontaneous dance party.
Marathon training is in full swing, and since humidity levels have settled around the “Must Possess Gills to Breathe this Air” mark for the past week or two, hydration has become one of the most important parts of training. Having grown up in New England and spent my young adulthood mainly in the Northeast, I had never experienced a tropical summer before moving to Hawaii and could not have imagined how sticky and hot it is. As I settled in to my new island life, my hydration belt quickly became one of my favorite pieces of equipment.
I bought my hydration belt earlier this summer at Be Fit Kailua. I had stopped by the store merely to browse, but as I turned the belt over in my hand, I realized that I had been using the heat and threat of dehydration as an excuse to keep my runs short, so I bought it. The belt I have is made by FuelBelt and is fastened around my waist with velcro. Two small water bottles (maybe 6 ounces?) sit behind me, one on each of my love handles, and a small zippered pouch sits, easily accessible, on my hip. The bottles rest in a holster and can be slid out and replaced easily so that I can continue running while I sip.
Wearing the belt took a little getting used to. At first, I found the bouncing of the water bottles annoying and, even now, I occasionally think I hear someone or something coming up behind me when I’m actually just hearing the sound of water sloshing. Any issues I have with the FuelBelt are erased by the benefits of wearing it. The obvious benefit is that, like a camel, I have a source of easily accessed, guaranteed fresh and clean water with me at all times. I watch others in my running group struggle with hydration- will there be water fountains? Can I find a good place to stash my water bottle when I get tired of carrying it? Will someone think my stashed water bottle is an orphan and will it be adopted by the time I return for it?- and I’m glad I’ve eliminated this from my list of marathon training worries.
I saw somebody with a backpack style hydration pack, but I like that the belt covers very little surface area so that I can catch whatever breeze is available. A few people have the hand grip water bottle which features a strap you put your hand through so that you aren’t actually carrying your bottle, but it is firmly attached to you, but I like that my hands are free for more important things like wiping sweat from my brow, picking wedgies, and clasping together, raising them to the sky, and pleading with whichever deity sees fit to end my suffering.
This week, our Tuesday run focused on building endurance with hills and Thursday’s run was geared toward increasing our speed. Each run was a little less than 4 miles long, but, as they both focused on things I am neither particularly fond of nor excel at, I found them just as challenging as the longer runs. Today’s long run was grueling but fantastic. We met at the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden in nearby Kaneohe and ran through the garden, to the Ko’olau Golf Club and back again. Although the hills were more difficult than I thought they would be and the 7.5ish miles make this my longest run to date (!), the scenery was so green, so lush, so indisputably tropical that I really enjoyed today’s run. I need to go back and take some photos (the zippered pouch on my FuelBelt has space for keys, chapstick and money, but not the iPhone 6) to share with you, but imagine a place where a non-animated version of the movie Fern Gully could be filmed, and you’ve captured the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden perfectly.
I sat down to write this blog post yesterday, but I couldn’t muster the energy to remain seated upright in front of a computer, so I lay back down and watched movies instead. On Saturday, I took advantage of the sunshine and warm spring weather and ran my longest distance EVER- a little over 5.5 miles. Along the way I decided that there are too many hills where I live and that I really, truly despise running, but I did it and I’m fairly proud of it.
The run, however, was not the reason I was too tired and weak to do anything but lie prone on the couch yesterday; Saturday night was a regularly scheduled ladies’ night for me and my friends, and I made this cocktail to share with them. In between my 5.5 mile run and sharing the delicious sparkling grapefruit and gin cocktail with my friends (I can hardly type the word gin without feeling queasy), I forgot to hydrate. Sure I had a glass of water when I returned from my run, but that was it and it wasn’t enough.
After my run, I was so sweaty that I had little streaks of salt on my face and probably should have consumed a gallon of water, but I didn’t and I woke up yesterday morning feeling like death warmed over. I again would like to remind us all about the importance of hydration,and while I’d also like to warn you against trying the above mentioned cocktail, I really can’t because it is too delicious- just make sure you’re properly hydrated. Consider this a PSA from someone who has learned her lesson the hard way.
Today’s plan is a slow 3 mile run with my buddy Jack, and I am currently drinking some refreshing water in preparation. I believe it was George Bush who said “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me” (or maybe he never quite said it), and I’m definitely not going to get fooled twice in the hydration game. I spent most of yesterday guzzling water and herbal tea, and I’m not going to follow this run with gin (although I bet it would have worked for Betty Draper). I’m waiting for the temperature to warm up a bit, and then I’ll lace up my sneaks, snap a leash onto the hound, and off we’ll go. I’ve already filled my 48 oz Nalgene with water to take to work with me, and I’ve stashed a smaller water bottle next to the shower in order to minimize the risks of forgetting to hydrate again. I may be overdoing it, but I’d rather be over-prepared than feel like a half-dead desert creature.
A few weeks ago, I was having trouble motivating myself in my workouts. Even on days when I walked into the gym with an interesting plan and the ambition to really ‘kill it’, that ambition would peter out not long after my workout began. At first, I blamed it on the post-vacation blahs. You know the feeling; you have a fantastic time in a new place, eating wonderful food and seeing wonderful things, and when you return home, everything seems so ordinary and a little boring in comparison. When the ‘blahs’ started to drag on a little too long, I reconciled myself to the fact that, in addition to missing the sweet freedom of vacation, the temperature here in Germany had risen drastically while I was out of town and my body just hadn’t had time to adjust.
Then, the temperature dipped back down into comfortable sweatshirt weather and I-just-got-back-from-the-BEST-vacation became I-had-a-really-fabulous-vacation-a-couple-weeks-ago and I still was having a hard time finding my groove. Everything in the gym felt difficult to do; I wasn’t able to lift as much weight, I was running more slowly and for shorter distances and spending less time at the gym in general, and I was baffled as to why. I was eating well, sleeping well, and, I thought, getting enough fluids.
It wasn’t until I started to consistently get headaches in the afternoons following my lackluster workouts that I realized maybe I was not well hydrated. I had increased the amount of water I was drinking, but I guess not enough to keep up with the amount I was losing and the super high temperatures. I started making it a point to drink lots of water and a little Gatorade throughout the day (I use the powdered Gatorade so that I can dilute it a little more), and now things are back to normal.
We’ve got to watch out for dehydration in the summer, especially when we are exercising. We lose even more through sweat and respiration when it is hot and humid than we do during the cooler months (because, duh, we sweat more and breathe harder when it is hot out. I don’t why this wasn’t obvious to me!?), and we must be sure we are replacing those fluids in order for our bodies to function properly and replacing them with things that actually hydrate us. A Dunkin Donuts Iced Latte may be a refreshing treat, but the caffeine and sugar it contains dehydrate us further, the same goes for sodas. Nothing does the job better than good, old fashioned, H2O.
Now that I’ve watered myself enough, I’m feeling FANTASTIC and am making up for my lazy days of being under-hydrated. In addition to my normal weightlifting/cardio routine, I’ve started to step up my running a bit more with some interval training and have added some sporadic swimming into the mix. In another week or so, I will be starting a fitness Boot Camp (as opposed to a weightloss Boot Camp) at my gym. The gal working at the front desk when I signed up didn’t have much information on the Boot Camp (she was on vacation when it was presented and it was her first day back when I signed up), so I actually do not know anything about it other than it is focused on fitness improvement. I could probably ask about it again, but I think I’m going to let it be a mystery and see what fun (and pain, probably some pain) awaits me. In the meantime, I’m going to stay hydrated and get a dose of fitness inspiration from tonight’s World Cup game (Deutschland v/s Argentina for the big one, Schwarz, Rot, Gold, all the way!).