2017 thus far: goals, races and expanding my boundaries

To quote Barack Obama: “Is this thing still one?”  It’s been four months since my last post – much too long.  I had many ambitious goals for 2017, and while I am not as far along as I was expecting to be at this point, they are still attainable.  I have, however, become faster, which I will get to in a moment.  Before I go on though, I do wish to mention that I am running and exercising pain free for the first time in I don’t know how long – it’s a great feeling!

STATUS OF 2017 GOALS

  • run 500 miles – Embarrassed to say I’ve logged only 66 miles thus far, meaning I have a long way to go.
  • run a sub 25-minute 5k – Despite my lack of mileage, I am pushing myself harder than ever before.  I feel I will achieve this goal at a race this weekend.
  • run a sub 2-hour half marathon – My first attempt will be in August.
  • ride 1,000 miles on my Peloton – Currenly at 377 miles.  I think I’ll achieve this goal.
  • complete 100 lifetime Peloton rides – Currently at 91 rides.  It’s coming!

 

RECENT RACES

Sugar Drop 5k

I ran the Sugar Drop 5k in my hometown on April 1.  I can usually go with the flow, but on race day, I do not want unknowns weighing on my mind.  The course started and ended at our Town Common, but there was one minor issue: there was conflicting information about where the race actually started!  The organizers told everyone to move over to one side of the road, then the other, then another location… I’m sure you get the point.  Other than this miscommunication with the organizers, the race was fine and I am happy the proceeds went to a good cause.  I was not excited about my time, though: 27:31.

Pirate Nurse 5k

The Pirate Nurse 5k took place one week later, on April 8.  The course wrapped around and through our university’s nursing, medical and dental schools.  I used to live across the street from these schools, so it was familiar territory for me.  I was also excited to run with several friends, one of whom is just beginning to get into running.  I did not meet my goal time, but was faster than the week before: 27:06. 

IMG_0127[1]

 

Pirate Alumni Road Race 5k

I went into the Pirate Alumni Road Race 5k intending to push myself harder than I ever had before.  I’ve sometimes wondered if I have been pushing myself during the entire duration of races as much as I should.  My goal was certainly to PR, but also run a sub-25 minute 5k.  My friends and I get to the starting line, my Garmin Fenix 2 is ready to go, and we’re off!  I immediately push out of my comfort zone, telling myself that I can continue like this for 3.1 miles.  I glance at my watch every 30 seconds to check my pace, until… my GPS loses signal and my pace display is gone.  I try to reactive the pace display, but ultimately failed to do so.  As a side note: ensure your watch is charged to at least 30% before a run if you are interested in actually using all of its features.  At this point, I am relying on the actual time of day my watch is displaying and performing calculations from there.

The course is a there-and-back along a street with East Carolina University on one side, and historic houses on the other.  I was lucky enough to have a friend who lives in one of those houses, so when I passed (twice), I had a cheering section that pushed me to keep going.  I was thrilled to PR, coming in at 25:19, and I placed 3rd in my age group!

Capture2

 

I think my pain-free running and exercising has to to with the cross training I have been doing.  I am certainly gaining more miles on my Peloton than running on the road, but with a couple of longer distance races I have to look forward to later this year, I am going to have to increase my running mileage AND continue to push my pace every once in a while.  I feel I am finally in a good place where I can get faster and be more competitive.

Advertisements

Running and cello are not so different

I haven’t talked about the cello since I’ve been writing this blog, mainly because this blog is about running, but cello is a big part of my life and much of my free time is spent practicing it.  I also find that both of my hobbies are not so different.

img_1898

Practicing Rachmaninoff’s Cello Sonata in G Minor, Opus 19

I had an urge to play the cello while visiting Seattle in early 2013.  I remember sitting at Sea-Tac, waiting for my flight back home to North Carolina, when I heard Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1 Prelude being discussed on a podcast I was listening to.  I had heard it before, as it is probably one of the more well-known pieces for cello, but for some reason, I, at that moment, wanted to learn to play it.  Now, I had played an instrument before, but it was the baritone in sixth grade, and I lasted about two years.  I also dabbled with the guitar in college, as one does, but it was nothing serious.  So, sitting at Sea-Tac, waiting for my flight back home, I searched for cello teachers in my city on Google.  I was esctatic that there were several options, and after looking over their websites, I emailed one.

I left home for my first lesson a little early, wanting to make a good impression and to not be late.  While I waited, I could see my future teacher with one of his students.  His student was likely a freshman in high school, but played very well.  I did figure that most of the cello students were young, and being close to 30 years old at the time, I did feel slightly out of place.  Nevertheless, I put my pride aside and stayed to chat with the teacher for about 30 minutes.  I left with an assignment – rent a cello and purchase volume 1 of the Suzuki Cello School and Dotzauer: 113 Studies For Solo Cello.

Since my first lesson almost four years ago, I’ve been able to purchase my own cello, have completed several Suzuki books, played at a recital, and played in a concert with our local symphony orchestra.  I also continue to take lessons with my cello teacher.  So, how is playing the cello similar to running?

First of all, you need to put in the time to practice the cello to get better.  If aren’t devoting time to practice, you and your teacher will know.  You also won’t be progressing as fast as you might like.  Likewise, if you aren’t running many miles or doing speed work, it’s likely you won’t be able to handle longer distances or get faster.  To succeed, you need to devote time.

Second, you need to pay attention to your body – which I’ve learned the hard way.  An important aspect of my weekly cello lesson – and practice at home – is learning to relax, especially while playing.  If you become tense in your shoulders, for example, it will likely spread to your arms and hands, which will not only affect your playing over time, but will cause injury.  In year two of my playing, I injured my hands by continuing to practice through mounting tension through the grip on my bow, as well as the fingerboard.  I ended up seeing a physical therapist and was sidelined for several months until the pain subsided.  Needless to say I try to be much more aware of how my body is feeling while playing.  If I feel a little bit of tension, I stop playing and figure out what I need to do to relax before I start to play again.  Likewise, runners need to be aware of how their body is feeling when running.  I have too many friends who have injured themselves while running through pain, leaving them sidelined for varying lengths of time.  You shouldn’t have aches or pains while running.  While pushing yourself, you might feel that your body is working harder and you might feel more winded, but you shouldn’t have pain in your knees, ankles, etc.

Lastly, they’re both challenging.  Playing the cello is hands down the hardest thing I have ever done, and continue to do.  From learning (and re-learning) how to play completely relaxed; to learning to read bass, tenor and treble clef on the spot; to playing alone in front of an audience who has their full attention on you and you alone; it is hard.  But it is also rewarding.  The feeling I get when my teacher tells me I am starting to play (and move) like an actual cellist, as well as finishing a Suzuki cello book so I can move on to the next, it is just pure elation.  I’ve also had runs that were challenging, as runners of all skill levels have had.  I recall the Blue Ridge Relay in 2015, where I had to run three legs totaling 22 miles.  Or the Asheville Half Marathon, where the only thing you saw at mile 10 was a steep incline for the next 1.5 miles (knowing it was coming the second year I ran it didn’t make it any easier).  But I like a challenge – it’s something I seek out, similar to all of you who continue to run and push yourselves out of your comfort zone.

Here’s to many more challenges ahead!

Commitment Day 5k Review

What better way to demonstrate your commitment to attaining your goals by starting off the new year with a race, right?  I thought so, which is why I signed up for the Commitment Day 5k in Raleigh.  This meant that staying up late to see the ball drop on New Years Eve with friends, and a glass of Champagne or two, should not have been in the cards, and for the most part, it wasn’t.

We arrived at my friends beautiful new house around 6:00 pm for wine and special-ordered Chicago-style pizza from Chicago (it was delicious).  It took me about an hour to cave, but I did end up having a glass of red wine.  Later in the evening, we made a fire in a giant fire pit in my friend’s back yard, which made the 35 degree temperature a non-issue.  I also find a fire quite relaxing (as long as it is contained).  While we did not stay until midnight, we did leave around 11:00 pm, which was a little later than I intended.  I did have a great time, though, so it was certainly worth it.

Commitment Day 5k Review

The official start of the Commitment Day 5k was not until 10:00 am, which was nice, but it was about 90 minutes away from where I live.  I hit the road shortly after 7:30 am expecting traffic, but to my surprise, it was an uninterrupted ride all the way there.  This left me with about an hour to spare – but at least I was not running late!  I was worried that the run would be a wet one, since it had been raining the entire car ride to Raleigh, not to mention it was a cold morning.  However, the rain stopped shortly before the start time.

I usually start in the middle of the pack, but since it was the beginning of a new year, I thought I’d try something different by starting at the front.  The horn sounded and everyone took off.  Now, this was the first time that I participated in a race where I did not look at the map or course details beforehand, so didn’t know what to expect.  The course started at a local fitness center and quickly moved to a greenway.  It’s always nice to run somewhere where you feel safe and do not have to worry about getting hit by a car.  This greenway had numerous wooden bridges of varying length, which were quite slippery since it had been raining.  Regardless, I stepped out of my comfort zone and let gravity take over on the numerous downhills.  While doing this, I was reminded of my second leg of the Blue Ridge Relay in 2015, where I had to run several miles on gravel downhill, and while I was going as fast as I could while not trying to slip, everyone was passing me at very fast speeds.  I though they were crazy!  This seemed like a good opportunity to try to push myself in this way.  Not only did I not fall, but I was able to pass a few runners as well.

Now came the second half of the course.  I had been running so many downhills that I was wondering if we’d be going back up.  We did.  And it lasted close to a full mile.  While I would love to run on hills everyday, we just don’t have many where I live, so while I knew the last half of the race was going to be difficult, I pushed all of the negativity out of my mind and focused on my breathing, as well as my legs pushing me up the hill.  Thankfully, the last 0.5 mile was generally flat, and I was able to pick up the pace through to the finish.  I finished in a time of 29:31, which put me at 18th overall and 3rd in my age group!  This was about 3 minutes off of my PR, but considering I stayed up later than I wanted to the night before, and the difficult hills, I am more than happy with my time and place.

New year, new goals – bring on 2017

Running-wise, 2016 was pretty good and I see the culmination of my activities as a stepping stone for 2017.  I didn’t meet all of my goals (primarily a sub 2-hour half marathon), but I know they’ll come.  In 2016, I:

  • ran 269 miles
  • rode 647 miles (vast majority on my Peloton)
  • participated in 9 running events

img_1674

I also turned 33 this year, so in my eyes, I need to focus  more on my fitness, nutrition and health.  I need to take care of my body so my body can take care of me for many years to come.  This means that I can’t skip that morning run because it’s too early or cold, and that I should pass on that dessert or second glass of red wine at dinner with friends.

2017 Goals

I feel confident as I look towards 2017 and I’m quite hopeful that what I accomplished in 2016 will be built upon.  I know that I have only been running seriously since the latter half of 2014, therefore, I need to be realistic about what I am capable of accomplishing; you need to crawl before you can walk (or run).  While I know the goals I am setting may seem easy for many, they are summits I have yet to reach.  So, my goals for 2017 are to:

  • run 500 miles
  • run a sub 25-minute 5k
  • run a sub 2-hour half marathon
  • ride 1,000 miles on my Peloton
  • complete 100 lifetime Peloton rides

Here’s to a successful 2017!

Question: What did you think of 2016?  Are there running goals you achieved?  How about goals that still elude you?

A Christmas holiday – and 5k – in Nova Scotia

Having grown up in the midwest, and even a short stint in South Dakota, I was used to (and enjoyed) a cold, white Christmas.  This year, I was looking to get a taste of my childhood, but since North Carolina rarely gets either, we decided to take our Christmas to Nova Scotia, Canada.  We have wonderful friends who live on the west coast of Nova Scotia who were happy to host us.  Also, with any trip I take, I’m always looking at what running events are happening.  Lucky for me, the Boxing Day Turkey Run 5k was taking place during our stay AND in the town we were staying in.

img_1637

Christmas Day was filled with amazing food, copious amounts of Nova Scotia wine, and our friend’s large extended family.  We’re in Nova Scotia on Christmas, so of course lobster is the main event for dinner.  What makes this even better is that we picked up the lobster from a fisherman friend the day before – such fresh lobster!   It was a struggle locating the meat of the lobster hidden in various appendages – and pieces of lobster may have been flying in all directions – but everyone showed me the proper way to take it apart.

The Race

The Boxing Day Turkey Run 5k was scheduled for 10 am and was only a few short miles (or kilometers, since we’re in Canada, eh) away from our home.  I typically do not drink the day before a race, but since the it was Christmas, I made an exception.  Plus, since the race was starting a bit later than my usual 7 or 8 am start times, I figured I’d have enough time to rehydrate in the morning.  We arrived at 9:30 to pick up our race packet, which was held at Tim Hortons.  Everyone crammed inside as long as they could so they didn’t have to stand in the cold weather outside.  I knew it was going to be cold, so I dressed accordingly – ear band, mittens, running tights, long sleeved shirt.  Still, I had never run a race in 19 degrees and was quite taken aback.

The race starts.  As soon as I run a short distance, I realize how different – and difficult – it is to breath the cold air.  I tried to put this in the back of my mind, but since my breathing is what I typically focus on when I run, it was a little difficult to do so.  At around mile 1, my left shoelace came undone.  Why did I not tie a double knot?!  If I stopped to tie my shoe, I would have had to take off my watch (which was fastened over my mitten) and my mittens, which would have resulted in added time.  On the other hand, I didn’t want to break my ankle.  What did I do?  I kept going.  Thankfully, my shoe stayed tight enough for me to finish the run.

I finished the 5k in 29:16 (good enough for 55th place), which was several minutes slower than I anticipated, but I didn’t anticipate the affect the cold weather was going to have on my breathing.  It doesn’t matter, because I had fun running my first international race!

Question:  Did you run a race during the Christmas holiday?

Mill Chill 4-Miler race recap

 

I didn’t know about the The Mill Chill 4-Miler until two weeks before the event, so while it was not in my running plans, I knew I had to participate.  Held in Rocky Mount, NC on Sunday, December 11 at 1:30 pm, the event promised quite a few desirable attractions.

First, the start, finish and after-party of the race was in the heart of Rocky Mount’s burgeoning beer scene which includes two breweries and a facility that will be North Carolina’s first brewing incubator.  In addition to both Koi Pond Brewing Company and Sweet Tater’s Brewpub (which actually closed its doors for good after the event’s festivities) serving their fine beers, nearby breweries showed their support for the event as well by being sponsors and serving their beer (Tarboro Brewing Company, Trophy Brewing Company, and Bombshell Beer Company).  Two popular food trucks from nearby Raleigh were also there.

I had several friends registered for the event, as well as a few that were tagging along to show support (but more likely, to drink beer), so we carpooled as efficiently as possible and drove three vehicles the one-hour drive to Rocky Mount.  First impressions – it was chilly, but the event is called the Mill CHILL.  The sky was very cloudy, though the sun did find an occasional hole to make a brief appearance every now and then.  We arrived early because we thought there would be lines and lines of runners waiting for their packet, but we walked right in to the pick-up station with no wait at all.  This was nice, but it meant that we had to wait around in the chilly 40-degree weather for the race to start, which ended up being about 45 minutes.  At least we were among friends!

millchillfinish

Per usual, I started in the middle of the pack and settled in on my stride, doing everything I could not to start too fast.  I found a few runners that were my speed and decided to stay with them.  After a brief run on a busy road, the looped course found its way onto a greenway in the woods.  I enjoy trail running, but while the terrain was still concrete, this seemed to be the next best thing.  I must have been concentrating on my breathing a little too much because at around the 15 minute mark, a bicycle came flying towards me with a runner behind him – obviously he had made the turn-around on the course.  The cyclist shouted “stay on the left side,” and we all followed his advice.  That runner was followed by two more runners who seemed to be sprinting the entire race.  From the looks on their faces, it seemed to be just another run to them, as they did not seem to be breathing heavily.  How I would love to run that fast!

The great thing about this looped course was that I was able to see my friends during the race, even though we were not running side by side.  I found it encouraging as we shared a hand wave while passing each other.  Then the last mile came.  While some of the course was the same going back as it was starting out, I had assumed that there were no hills.  I especially thought this since I had not encountered any up to this point, and consequently, I hadn’t been holding anything back because I didn’t think I would need any extra energy until the finish.  However, a split from the course took us up several rolling hills that I was not prepared for and frankly, didn’t have enough energy for.  I was almost to the point of walking up one of them, but the race volunteers were shouting encouragements, so I pressed on – and I’m glad I did.  I rounded the final turn, passed Koi Pond Brewing Company, and sprinted to the end, finishing in 37:01 good enough for 113th place out of 249 runners.  I was hoping for a consistent 9 minute mile pace or better, but I had a great time in not ideal conditions.

Mile 1:  9:04 pace

Mile 2:  9:03 pace

Mile 3:  9:34 pace

Mile 4:  10:07 pace

2016 Turkey Trot for Tots 5k race review

I’m a little late posting this, but better late than never, right?

This Thanksgiving was the first time I ran a Turkey Trot 5k.  While the event was only a 10-minute drive from my house, I picked up my packet the night before so I could get a few extra minutes of sleep and not feel rushed on race day.  I arrived around 7:30 am ready to run.  Several runners were dressed up as turkeys, which was quite a sight to see!  What wasn’t a welcoming sight was the overcast sky.  Everyone knew it was going to rain that morning, but I at least was hoping that it would wait until after the run was over.  Who wants to run in the rain in low-50 degree weather?

I found my place in the middle of the pack at the starting line, and the race began at 8 am on the dot.  It usually takes me 1/4 mile to find my groove, and once there, I settle in and focus on my breathing.  I don’t believe I have mentioned this before, but when I run, I take in one deep breath, and exhale two short breaths, then repeat.  This is what I concentrate on almost 100% of the time, which has helped me during difficult moments running up hills or when I feel my legs are going to give up on me.  If my breathing is consistent, then I’m ok.

The rain starts around mile 2.  Ok, it’s raining, everyone will deal with it.  However, I wear prescription glasses when I run (99% of the time they’re sunglasses), and I don’t wear contacts.  So, when it rains and I’m sweating and heating up, my glasses fog up.  Which is exactly what happened.  I can either take the glasses off and not see anything, or I can continue wearing them and see a little bit through the foggy, watery lenses.  I chose the latter.

I finished the 5k in 27:15, about 45 seconds off of my PR.  After I caught my breath, I found my friend who finished a few minutes ahead of me, and we camped out by the finish line to cheer on and encourage our other family members and friends who chose to run on Thanksgiving morning as well.

turkeytrot5k2016