Thoughts on Racing – Why I Run Races

It must be that time of year where people start waking up from their running hibernation and start getting out to races, because almost all of the running blogs I read have had a race re-cap sometime in the last week or two. Am I the only one who isn’t out running races?

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See? No races here.

 This has prompted me to think about my race schedule for the year, look back on all the races I’ve run, and think about my motivation for signing up for them. All this is too much for me for one post, so I’ll start with….

MOTIVATION:

There are three main reasons I sign up for races:

1. It’s Fun*

2. It’s a holiday

3. To push myself

*The second two aren’t reason enough without the first. I think races should be fun, and I don’t think I should sign up for them otherwise. In the past, there have been occasions when I’ve signed up for a race that I did not think would be fun, but I don’t want to do that anymore. It’s silly. This isn’t to say that every race IS fun; I have certainly done races that turned out not to be fun, but sometimes that just happens. One of my main goals with running is to have fun, so signing up for a race I don’t think is going to be fun, well, that’s just dumb.

Black Cat

“This race is going to be so much fun!”

Sometimes I have different ideas of what’s fun. Sometimes, I think it’s fun to push myself in a race and shoot for a PR. Other times my goal is to go slow enough to chat with my sister and cousin during the Turkey Trot or wear something crazy in the Devil’s Chase. On rare occasions, different goals can overlap, like in last year’s Reindeer Run – where I was able to push myself for a 5k PR while running w/ my husband and wearing a ridiculous Reindeer hat.

However, getting a PR in a holiday race is usually the exception, not the rule. Despite this fact I really do think that holiday races are the most fun races. I’ve come to think that holidays need to be celebrated with road races, and at this point, Thanksgiving would be incomplete without a Turkey Trot. I really find holiday races irresistible. Probably because I get to dress up, and I’m able to convince family members to join me…

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Devil’s Chase 6.66 miles…obviously we will dress as devils.

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Just a couple of 90’s Bills fans ready for the Turkey Trot

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If cousin Jeremy can’t run this year, the least we can do is put a funny picture of him on our shirts!

With that said, as much fun as holiday races are, I rarely use them as a reason to push myself. However, challenging myself is an awesome part of running, and racing has a role here too. Most of the time, when I sign up for a race “to push myself”, the pushing isn’t the primary goal on race day. If I’m trying to PR, that can be the exception, but mostly my motivation in signing up for longer races is to get myself out and running long distances on a regular basis. I love long runs, but I seem to forget that fact in the 30 min or so before I’m supposed to actually do one. Silly, brain. Once race day comes, I usually have a time goal in mind, but first and foremost, I try to enjoy myself.

When the “push myself” goal relates to a new PR or tough time goal, I need to be careful. Getting a new PR is awesome, and can quickly make a difficult race feel worth it. However, the flip side is that if I’m shooting for a PR and I miss it, the whole race might feel terrible. I want to be better about that as I shoot for my sub-two hour half marathon this year. Last time I tried this, I ended up with a 9 minute PR, but because I didn’t finish in under 2 hours, I was miserable. I thought the whole race was stupid and was disappointed and mad at myself. After that, I took a nice long break from time goals. And, hopefully, I’m better for it. I should never forget that my main motivation is to HAVE FUN.

 What about you? Why do you run races? Are you capable of celebrating a holiday without a race? Do you pressure yourself to PR at every race?

 

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Spring 1/2 Training: Week 9

Week nine and feelin’ fine!

  • Monday:  My friend was in town, and it was St. Patrick’s day. We went out to lunch and then to an Irish Bar! Fun times, but no running.
  • Tuesday:  40 minute tempo run, starting at 10 min/mile speeding up to 8:30/mile. I held each pace longer this time, and I think that was a good choice. Also, I got two 24 packs of energy gel – Chocolate Cherry Clif gel and Salted Caramel Gu.
2014-03-18 20.36.18

The box said you win something if you find the “golden yeti”, so of course I dumped the whole box on the floor immediately. Alas, no golden yeti, just normal yetis.

  • Wednesday: 4.5 “easy” run. I put the word in quotes because it didn’t feel very easy. I think my legs were a tad tired from Tuesday’s speed work. 
  • Thursday:  Easy run outside w/ Jeff, my favorite runny buddy. No Garmin, it was nice. Covered just over 3 miles in the fresh air.
  • Friday: Attempted a 5 mile pace run, outside again. I started out slightly above race pace, and then just fell apart. Honestly though, I don’t even care! I am so psyched about passing my test, that I was grinning ear to ear the entire time. Even though I averaged 11 min miles…nothing can get me down today. I passed my TEST!!! Also, it was very windy. 
Can you see the wind?

Can you see the wind? (ooof, this pic is terrible)

  • Saturday: Rest Day w/ stretching and foam rolling
  • Sunday: 11 mile long run. First long run outside during 1/2 training. My pace was a little disappointing (10:38/mile) because I’ve been faster on the treadmill, but I still had fun. I did run/walk with about a 3.5 to 1 ratio. I thought this would be a good idea today because my legs didn’t do very well on Friday and I need to get reacquainted with running on pavement and over hills. I ran the last 2.5 miles without walk breaks and it went well. There’s nothing more encouraging than finishing strong on a long run.
2014-03-23 08.19.09

I don’t want to go outside, but I will, because it’s 32F and that is WARM.

Last week, I set my goals as:

  1. Long Run: 11 milesCheck!
  2. Speed work – 40 min TempoCheck!
  3. Easy Runs: (2) – 3 mile + 4.5 mileCheck!
  4. Pace Run: 5 mile – Intentions were there, execution was off – 4 miles not at race pace
  5. Strength – Twice – Big fail*
  6. Stretch + Foam Roll – 3 times – Only twice

*I woke up on Tuesday with an unexplained wrist injury. I have a bump, and it hurts to bend it certain ways. I really don’t know what happened. I can’t think of a single thing I would have done on Monday that would cause it. It’s not that bad, but it’s preventing me from doing push-ups, and push-ups are the backbone of my lame at home strength workout. So, I flaked out on the hated strength work. This week, I’ll try to at least do the exercises that don’t hurt my wrist.

This week, I’m hoping to:

  1. Long Run: 12 miles
  2. Speed work – 9x400m
  3. Easy Runs: (2) – 3 mile + 5 mile
  4. Strength – Once
  5. Stretch + Foam Roll – 3 times
  6. Spinning Once

Again, I’ll miss some spinning this week. I’m traveling during spin class time, and I’ll be attempting my 12 mile run in Buffalo this weekend because I’m visiting for my sister’s baby shower on Saturday!  Woo!

#100HappyDays – Days 1 – 7

Last week, I told you all about my 100 Happy Days Challenge. Here’s how the first week went:

Day 1: Running 11 miles before breakfast. Running makes me happy, obviously, especially Saturday morning long runs. I don’t know what it is, but there’s a great feeling about finishing a long run first thing on a weekend morning. I think it’s that I feel so accomplished, even if I do nothing the entire rest of the day.

Day 2: Reading in bed. I love reading, and there’s something even better about waking up without an alarm and spending a little time reading in bed. Good thing the weekend has two days, so I can spend one morning on a long run, and one sleeping in and reading in bed.

Day 3: Visiting with an out of town friend. Today was a happy day. I got to have lunch with my friend from high school, Fay, who was in town to see the Veronica Mars movie. I also met (apparently for the second time.) her grad school friend who also lives in the area. We all had lunch (including milkshakes) and then hung out at the nearest Irish Bar for some drinks to celebrate St. Patrick’s day.

Day 4: Getting a package. I love getting mail! Who doesn’t? I get excited to check the mail every day; who knows what’s going to be there? I’ve been lucky enough that people have recently sent me surprise food-filled packages in the mail, but the one that I got today was one I ordered myself – from Amazon, filled with necessities – two 24 packs of energy gel and a 4 pack of steel cut oats. 🙂

Day 5: Grilled Cheese for lunch. I made it all the way to day 5 before using food as one of my happy things! I’m sure this won’t be the first. It might not even be the only time I mention grilled cheese. It’s one of my favorites.

Day 6: Running outside on the first day of Spring. It was a short run, but good news, I didn’t suck at hills, and it smells so nice outside, not at all like sweaty gym smell! Hurrah!

Day 7: I passed the first actuary exam! Next up, job search and test 2, but for now I’ll just be happy that this one is behind me. It was a lot of studying and relearning calculus, and I’m glad all the hard work paid off. Man, I really like math. 🙂

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1st Seven Days!

The Friday 5 – 3rd Edition

We’ve made it, it’s Friday! And, it’s SPRING! Here are five things I decided to write about, have fun reading them:

1. It’s TEST day. Yup, today’s the big day. I’m posting this nice and early before I head out for my test, so hopefully I’m doing well, send me some good vibes! I’ve already got some coming my way, but the more, the better. Next time I post, I could be an aspiring actuary who’s passed the first test! UPDATE: I passed my test!!! Thanks for sending your good vibes my way!

2. I’ve been thinking about racing a lot lately. Reading a lot of race ads and race re-caps will do that to a person. And, all this thinking is going to be turning into blog posts.  The first will probably be out before the next Friday Five. Hooray!

3. This is my mini figurine of Dr. Teeth. He’s the lead singer of the band “Dr. Teeth & The Electric Mayhem”.  I wonder if he’ll be in the new Muppet movie? (That comes out TODAY, by the way) I think the band’s most famous song is “Can You Picture That?”

"Everybody's lover, everybody's brother, I wanna be your lifetime friend."

“Everybody’s lover, everybody’s brother, I wanna be your lifetime friend.”

Fact is there’s nothin’ out there you can’t do
Yeah, even Santa Claus believes in you.
Beat down the walls, begin, believe, behold, begat.
Be a better drummer, be an up and comer.  

CAN YOU PICTURE THAT??!!

4. They are building this monstrosity next to our condo. It’s a garage. I don’t love it. But, on the bright side, construction is on schedule to finish this June!  They started last February, so yeah, I’m ready for it to be over. I don’t want to live in a construction zone. Construction kinda makes me want to puke. 

Monstrosity, or garage, whatever.

Monstrosity, or garage, whatever.

5. I ran outside yesterday! It was the first day of Spring and was nearly 50F, and all the snow and puddles are gone. How nice. I don’t mind running outside in the winter (but don’t love it), and I also don’t mind the treadmill (of course, there are also drawbacks). What I have a problem with is change. Switching between the two is not my favorite. Once I get in a routine, I’m fine with either and don’t want to switch back. Today’s run was good, though. Hopefully, the warm weather sticks this time.

Also, it's 6:30PM and it's light out!

Also, it’s 6:30PM and it’s light out!

Have a good weekend! I hope you run long, eat delicious food, and see the Muppet movie – or whatever you do for fun! 🙂

Spring 1/2 Training: Week 8

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I don’t have any plans for celebrating yet, but who knows what will come up.

For now, here’s a picture of Ireland:

Ancient dwelling on the Aran Islands

Ancient dwelling on the Aran Islands

Now sweetly lies old Ireland,

Emerald green beyond the foam,

Awakening old memories,

Calling the heart back home.

And, totally unrelated to the holiday, my weekly recap:

  • Monday:  3 miles easy before Spinning. The run went great, I averaged 9:17/mile and it felt pretty easy. Spinning, on the other hand, was tough! It wasn’t just me either, everyone was struggling with the workout today. I think it was a tougher one than last week.
  • Tuesday:  Rest Day, and bought new sneakers!
  • Wednesday: 3 miles easy to break in the new sneakers. 
  • Thursday:  Did my weekly speed work at the gym, 8x400m w/ 2 min rest between interval for a total of 4 miles.  Also, did my at home strength work. It wasn’t as bad as last week, and I got a new push-up high: 28! 50 push-ups here I come!  I also stretched and foam rolled. 
  • Friday: 3.5 miles and Spinning! Also, stretched and foam rolled, again. My legs are sore from the lunges that were part of my strength workout yesterday, but keeping up the stretching and foam rolling should help.
  • Saturday: 11 miles! (Treadmill, but still.) I’m hoping that the simulated hills are going to be enough to get me through a real life half marathon. 
  • Sunday: Thought about how I should be stretching and foam rolling, as well as doing my strength stuff, but didn’t. Bad Amy.

Last week, I set my goals as:

  1. Long Run: 11 miles Check!
  2. Speed work – 8 x 400m intervals Check!
  3. Easy Runs: 2-3 runs at least 3 miles  Check!
  4. Go to spinning twice Check!
  5. At home strength work – 2 times – Just Once
  6. Stretch + Foam Roll – 3 times – Close, only twice

This week, I’m hoping to:

  1. Long Run: 11 miles
  2. Speed work – 40 min Tempo
  3. Easy Runs: (2) – 3 mile + 4.5 mile
  4. Pace Run: 5 mile
  5. Strength – Twice
  6. Stretch + Foam Roll – 3 times

Spinning is only a maybe this week. I’ve got plans during both my “normal” spin class times. I might try and go to a different class, but it’s not going to be a priority.

Have a good week!

100 Happy Days

Have you heard of the 100 Happy Days Challenge? Maybe I’m a little behind because I just heard about it, but I think it sounds pretty neat. For 100 days, you do something that makes you happy and then acknowledge it by taking a picture and posting it to one of the many social media sites. You can also email it somewhere. Here’s where you can find the official explanation and registration info: http://100happydays.com/

Happy

At first, I wasn’t a big fan of the whole picture taking/posting aspect and was considering just doing it “unofficially” without that bit. However, after thinking it over, I’m now convinced that it will be neat to have a collection of photos from the whole experience. Unfortunately, posting to a blog doesn’t count for the challenge. Instead, I’m going to sign myself up and post the pictures to  twitter every day.  I do really want to blog about this challenge, though, so I’m going to do that, too. I’m not sure exactly how often I’ll post, and I might not post every picture, but for now, I’ll shoot for once a week.

Why I want to do this:

I’m happy. I’m not doing this because I need to find ways to be happy. However, it’s sometimes too easy to focus on things that make me unhappy or stressed and overlook things that make me happy. I’d like to use this challenge to shift my focus and get more joy out of all the things in my life that make me smile.

I hope you enjoy following my 100 Happy Days!

*A note about the twitter posting: I’m choosing twitter specifically because I do not normally post to twitter (twice ever, and I’ve had it for over a year), and I don’t have any followers. I don’t want to subject my facebook friends (or blog followers for that matter) to one of these posts every single day, so twitter seemed like a good alternative. If however, for some reason, you do want to follow me on twitter, you are more than welcome: @magicjello729.

The Friday 5 – 2nd Edition

Happy Friday!  Interested in some randomness? Yes? Well, you’ve come to the right place.  Enjoy my Friday Five:

1. When I do intervals on the treadmill, I change the setting to kilometers. I know that 400m is almost the same as 1/4 mile, but it’s not quite, so using the kilometers setting makes more sense to me. Of course, the entire time, I have no concept of what the numbers on the screen mean in terms of distance and speed. It’s kind of fun. I’ve figured out what the equivalent km/h setting is required for my interval pace, and that’s all I really need to know. Last night, the woman on the treadmill next to me kept looking at my screen; I’m really hoping she was confused/impressed by how fast it said I was going (even though I wasn’t – haha). Also, maybe this will help me get a bit of a handle on the metric system, I’ve always wanted to be better at that.

2. It’s Pi Day!  I’m thinking of making something pie related to celebrate, but I just made chocolate chip cookies yesterday, so maybe not.  I made these: http://chocolatecoveredkatie.com/2012/05/27/the-best-healthy-chocolate-chip-cookies/ and they’re quite delicious.  They don’t look great, though. And they are thin, wafer thin. Ha!

2014-03-13 17.31.46 2014-03-13 17.31.42

3. Jeff and I have one car. Her name is Betty, but admittedly, we don’t refer to her by name very often. One of the best little features that our car has is a saved seat position button. So when I get in the car, I just need to push “2” and the seat automatically goes to my preferred position. It’s a really awesome feature in a shared car. I still have to adjust the review mirror, but that’s not nearly as irritating as adjusting the seat would be. Whoooa, black Betty, bam ba lam!

4. I’m really freaked out about my test next Friday. I’ve been doing practice tests for a few weeks now, and I have only completed one that I feel confident would be a passing score (the grading is complicated, and there is not a predetermined percentage that would indicate a pass, so I don’t know for sure). I’ve really put it out there leaving engineering and pursuing this, and pretty much everyone I know knows I’m taking this test. I think that having to tell everyone that I’ve failed would be worse than actually failing. I’m generally a good test taker, and I know that people expect me to be able to pass. The test is so hard, though! The pass rate is less than 50%, more than half of the test takers fail…ugh!

5. While I’m terrified of next Friday, I’ve reserved a little piece of myself to be excited for the new Muppet movie. I’m a HUGE fan of the Muppets, and Muppet movies, and I can’t wait to see it. I’m hoping it will be playing at 9AM like the last Muppet Movie. I like going to the movies in the early morning – it’s cheaper and there are less people. (Yes, I still get popcorn).

Me and my Muppety Friends, Mupbert and Princess Muppette:

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And, that’s it for the second edition of the Friday Five. Enjoy your weekend.