Monday, April 29, 2013

Good Form Running

Last week I tried something new and went to two events offered by my local running store, Luke's Locker.  The first event was called yoRUNga on Tuesday night.  This event is hosted once a month and is supposed to be a 30 minute run followed by 30 minutes of yoga with a guest instructor from a local studio.  Unfortunately a cold front blew in last Tuesday bringing a bit of rain.  It wasn't too cold to run by most standards, but since we have Texas standards, the class opted to stay inside for the full hour.

It turned into an hour of mat pilates presented by Pilates for Life.  I've done yoga classes before and I've used pilates moves in my at-home workouts, but this was the first time I'd done a full hour pilates class.  It was a great combo of stretching, core strengthening and balance work.  It seemed like we did just a few reps of each move but I was definitely sore the next day.  The class was a good reminder to work on balance daily.  Try closing your eyes and standing on one foot.  If you can't do this for 30 seconds, you need to work on your ankle and core stability.  Many runners forget the importance of balance for a happy, aligned body.  The instructor of the night was wonderful at explaining all of the benefits of pilates.

On Wednesday, I returned to Luke's for a Good Form Running Clinic.  This was a free hour workshop where they talked about aspects that make up good running form and discussed problems bad running form can cause.  The greatest benefit of the night was when the instructor video taped each person in the class while we ran.  We were all able to see that night how we ran currently and what we needed to work on.  This individualized assessment was so worth it.

You've probably seen this handout before.  If you haven't, take some time to read it over. Source
I keep re-reading the handout we got at the clinic as reminders to myself.  The instructor showed me that I was locking my knees as I took a stride causing me to heel strike.  While I don't suffer from knee pain or shin splints, this could cause some damage to my joints and cause my quads to compensate for my calves.  The other thing I need to work on is my lean.  While I have good posture and don't bend from the waist, I also don't lean forward from my ankles.  I'm not using gravity to my advantage.  The instructor also told me I run like a T-rex because I tense up my arm/shoulders.  Now I think T-rex's are pretty cool, but Mark disagreed.

Since my running distances have remained short after my half marathon, now I focus on my form.  Running on the forefoot takes a lot of adjustment.  My calves are sore now, but they will thank me later. I'm already getting a lot better at not locking my knees out.  To make sure, Daniel and I went to the track on Saturday and videotaped eachother to see our improvements.  I think I will continue to do this periodically as a check, at least until good form comes naturally for me.

Do you run with good form?  What do you think about minimalist shoes?

Monday, April 22, 2013

Time to Try the Tri?

It has been one week since my half and a I have a mild case of "post-race blues".  This is a real thing; many bloggers post about the emotions after a race and the new found free time (aka lack of a structured training plan). I was prepared for these feelings, and the evening after my race I was already looking for my next race online and talking to Daniel about...triathlons (what?!).

Yes, you heard that right - triathlon like swim/bike/run all in one event. I want to do another half marathon in November, but that is over 6 months away and it is too early to start training. And I know the summer heat in Texas is super taxing when I try to run (50 consecutive days over 100 degrees will probably be reality soon). So I started looking at fitness activities other than running that I already enjoy.  Remember when I mentioned my weekly swims? I really enjoy and look forward to my pool workouts and I've already seen my endurance increasing. I also used to bike weekly with my dad (about 10-12 miles every Sunday). Adding swimming and biking as cross training over the summer months won't be a big stretch for me.

A quick Google search helped me find a local sprint triathlon coming up on Labor Day weekend. It is called the Blackland Triathlon. It consists of a 300m pool swim, 15 mi bike, 3.1 mi run. A triathlon has been on my bucket list, but the idea of an open water swim has always scared me a little. I think this triathlon will be perfect for a beginner wanting to try out a new challenge.

For the past week, I've been reading triathlon books to learn about equipment required and suggested training plans.  These are the two books I got from the library.

It doesn't sound too tough if my only goal is to cross the finish line. I still need to decide how much money to invest -- whether or not I want to buy a road bike or use my mountain bike.  Both books came with 12 week training plans with structured workouts. I love when I can easily follow a schedule. I'm sure I will be browsing blogs for triathlon advice. If you've ever done a triathlon, please let me know what advice you would give a newbie.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Big D Texas Half Marathon Race Recap

What a perfect race last Sunday!  Big D Texas Marathon is hosted in Dallas at Fair Park.  I've been training for this half since basically last October, but more seriously since January.  I decided to skip the Bearathon (which I did in 2011 and 2012) in Waco and try a new race in Dallas. 

When I started training in October, I told Daniel my goal was to run the 13.1 miles continuously at a 10:30 pace.  He encouraged me to sign-up for a lot of races while I was training.  I've done one race a month since September!  All of the races and running kept increasing my confidence and in turn I would turn up my training.  Quickly I was able to run faster and longer. 

Running Along - Mile 9 (I'm behind the guy in red, waving)
By race week, my new race goal was 10:00 pace and I did just that on Sunday.  My final chip time was 2:11:23.  My mile splits were mostly consistent according to my Garmin.  I had minimal pain after the race and by Monday there was only normal muscle soreness, no pain.  I couldn't have asked for a better outcome.

Posing with my Finisher Medal
The race itself was a beautiful course.  We started at Fair Park, ran around half of White Rock Lake, but back down Swiss Avenue near all of the fancy houses, and then ended back at Fair Park where we were able to go inside an air-conditioned building for post-race recovery.  The weather was perfect.  The temperatures ranged from mid 50s to mid 60s throughout the run.

Sunrise Behind the Cotton Bowl Pre-Race
My feelings during the race varied.  Of course each time I saw Daniel among a group of spectators I got really excited.  Even though he didn't run this race with me, he was so supportive and drove around the course to see me at different spots.  It kept me going knowing he was waiting for me.  For the first 5 miles or so, I felt pretty good.  I chased the 2:10 pace guys (thanks DRC!) and even passed them for a short time.  Around mile 8 I began questioning why I signed up for this race.  And between miles 10 and 13, all I could think about was the finish line and how proud I would be after I finished.  Luckily my music and spectators along the course kept me distracted during most of the run.
Running to the Finish Line
Spectators always amaze me with their creativity.  Here are my top 3 spectator signs from the race:
1. Girl holding poster that said "Why do all the cute ones keep running away?"
2. Poster said "You can't quit.  You're not the Pope." (all respects to Pope Benedict XVI)
3. Around mile 10, poster said "Repeat after me.  I am having fun...I am having fun..."
Picture at the Starting Line (happy)
Now I am resting and deciding what to do next.  I've pigged out for the last three days, so I am going to have to learn not to eat everything in sight again.  Please stay tuned....I have some exciting ideas for my next running/fitness goals.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Praying for Boston

I was going to write my race recap today, but just couldn't do it.  It will be up tomorrow. 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

March Adventures

The end of March was busy with a lot of traveling around, so be prepared for a lot of pictures in this post.  I have not posted since my 10k race on March 9.  The following weekend, Daniel and I traveled north to Oklahoma City for a good friend's wedding.

The bride and me

Allison (bride) lived in my neighborhood growing up, so we have basically been BFFs since birth.  We spent many afternoons playing Barbies and Mall Madness at eachother's houses while growing up.  I'm so happy for her and her new husband, Chris.  The wedding was beutiful.  The ceremony took place in the church where her grandparets and parents had both been married, and the reception was in the lovely Sheraton hotel downtown OKC.  The food was great, the cake was yummy, and the dancing was fun.  It was the first wedding I'd been to with a date and it was so nice to dance with Daniel and enjoy the night together.

Since Oklahoma is not my top travel desitination and I wasn't sure when I would go visit again, we stopped  by a few tourist destinations on the way home.  First we stopped at the Oklahoma National Memoiral for the Okalahoma City bombing.  It was a beautiful and touching memorial to visit.

A look across the reflection pool next to the site of the original building
Next we drove around the Oklahoma University campus after having lunch in Norman.  Not an exciting stop for a former Texas Longhorn (Daniel), so we didn't stay long.  Before crossing the border, we stopped at the famous Winstar World Casino.  We learned that it is the 2nd largest casino in the world and right next to the Texas border (how convenient).  I have never been to a casino before, so I was super excited! 
So excited! I posed at least 5 minutes for this picture.
Unfortunately, even though it was St. Patrick's day, the luck o' the Irish was not with us.  I lost $20 in an hour playing slots.  I was entertained though, and made the smart decision that gambling would not become my new hobby.  Winstar was the last stop on our Oklahoma adventure.  I had to rush home to get a long run in before the sun went down that Sunday.
My next March adventure began one week later on the 24th.  Daniel decided he wanted to go on a camping trip with his brother to Big Bend National Park.  Not going to lie, I wasn't completely on board with this plan at first given Big Bend is a 9 hour drive from home, there was no electricity at the campsites, and the website said the shower facilities were coin-operated.  But I'm glad Daniel was persistent and I didn't back out from going.  The drive to Big Bend was a boring drive across West Texas, but my favorite city was the one closest to the park.
I happily ran across the two lane road to get a picture with this sign.  The people working at the gas station across the street probably thought I was crazy.  Oh well. #runnerproblems
We stayed for three nights in Big Bend.  The park was HUGE.  I don't think we even saw half of it while we were there.  The highlights were the sunsets over the cliffs, climbing to the top of Emory Peak (7,825 ft), hiking Bocadilla canyon and watching Mexicans cross the river, hiking to Balanced Rock, and relaxing in the natural Hot Spring.  I could go on for a while about everything we did, but instead I will just share a few pictures.
 The park entrance. We finally made it!
 Starting the Emory Peak 10 Mile Hike with Daniel
 Bear Country? Sounds like home for a Baylor alum. Sic 'em!
 Right before the top of Emory Peak, but I liked the view from here.
 Bocadilla Canyon trail head with Daniel
 Standing in front of the Rio Grande. The cliffs behind me belong to Mexico.
 Balanced Rock.  I know, this picture makes me look so strong.
Night Hike to the Hot Spring
The weather was pretty good for the duration of our trip.  It was dry - no rain (major plus).  The nights were cold as temperatures dropped down to the 30s, but the days were very nice and highs were in the 70s, low 80s.  We met people from all over on our trip (Canada, New York, Kentucky, name a few).  It was amazing how different the scenery was on each hike.  One day we were hiking up a mountain, the next day we were hiking in a desert, then by the river, then near some volcanic boulders.  Pictures can't capture all the beauty of the park.  And it was the perfect break I needed from work.
The last weekend of March was Daniel's birthday (Saturday) and Easter (Sunday).  Both events were cause for celebration.  We went to Daniel's favorite restaurant on Friday night, where they made him a free photo cake with his face on it (so cool!).  Saturday was a laid back day since Daniel was recovering from the Friday celebrations, but we did go out to see Warm Bodies.

On Sunday, we went to mass with my parents.  Then my mom made an Easter feast for lunch.  We had ham, sweet potatoes, and green beans.  It was delicious.  She made Angel Food Cake for dessert and partially for Daniel's birthday.  Since I'm a kid at heart, I made everyone decorate eggs after lunch.  It was a small Easter (no big family gathering), but a good one nonetheless.

Mandatory Easter picture after Church
A sampling of our egg masterpieces
And now the first week of April is over.  I can't believe it!  My half marathon is next Sunday.  This is the third one I will complete.  My first and most important goal is to beat my PR of 2:28.  I'm pretty confident I can do that.  My other time goals are a little more of a stretch, especially after my recent training set-backs, but I will do my best!  Expect a race recap next Monday.  I hope everyone is having a great start to April.
Did anyone else travel during March?