Monday, February 5, 2018

wazUPwidis: The Test of Calf Fitness

photo credit: Jay Proffitt 

It's been two days since the wazUPwidis Urban Run and Stair Challenge and my calves are still sore - the good sore, the kind that reminds you that you did something fun!

I don't always write up 5Ks, but this was such a blast and so different from anything I have done before.

First you'll note the course footprint is not very large:

And the elevation profile is not one that Mother Nature would provide:

The unique course owes its fun to two parking garages, ramps, pedestrian bridges, and stairwells. (Oh and it was 20 degrees, but once you start running that part doesn't matter.)

Here are some of the highlights from the course description:
  • The start will be at the pedestrian crossing at the Wells Fargo Tower
  • Head to the transportation museum where you will encounter some locomotive inspired terrain. (Note: that meant running along parked trains, crossing rail road tracks, and running across gravel)
  • Enter the Church Avenue Garage where you will climb 165 steps.
  • At the top you will cross over the top deck of the garage, enter the stairwell and descend 165 steps back to 1st Street. 
  • Here you will head back to the MLK Bridge, head over the MLK bridge, run to the main entrance of the Gainsboro Parking Garage where you will run down the ramps, then up the stairs (57), and exit the garage
  • Run down to the Pedestrian Bridge (39 steps up).  Cross the bridge and and enter the parking garage.  Run up the parking garage ramps to the top, 7th floor. Now descend the 7 floors back to ground level.  
  • Now for the best part. Here you will climb the 20 flights of the Wells Fargo Tower (440 up), cross over to the down stairwell to the main lobby (440 steps down).  Out the front doors, taking lefts around the building toward the finish at Market Street

What I enjoyed was the fact that my brain was constantly busy!! I had no idea where I was going or what was next, so I kept an eye on the runner ahead, followed arrows, and observed course marshals at the many turns. I was busy navigating stairs, looking for ways to minimize distance, and taking advantage of any opportunity to hit the accelerator.

With my brain occupied, I was very much in the moment, and I didn't have time to judge myself, only to to do my best in each instant.

Before I knew it, the race was nearly over. We exited the tower stairwell (top photo) and turned to enjoy a short sprint to the finish - probably my best finishing kick EVER, lol!

It was exciting to have finished 3rd female (results here). But what I loved above all was the feeling of just going, of not knowing what was next, of changing gears and directions. I wasn't measuring myself against some pace standard I had set for myself, I wasn't calculating how much of the run was left, I just pushed on in that way that feels so good to me.

I felt strong and I felt happy. That's why I do this. Isn't that why any of us do this?

This was a great start to the race season and put me in the proper frame of mind. As I come up against the inevitable age-related speed declines, I'm reminded that the great feeling of racing is not tied to a number. That great feeling is tied to an honest, hard effort and a happy heart.


photo credit: Jay Proffitt 

Postscript: I used the stairclimber at the gym for just 10 minutes at about 95 spm a few times a week for the last month or so and I do think it helped for this race!

photo credit: Jay Proffitt 

It was so nice to gather in the warm Market Square building after the race! 

Friday, February 2, 2018

There's a reason fish swim in schools...

I suspect the reason fish swim in schools is that without buddies to encourage them to swim their best, they'd get complacent, swim too slow, and get gobbled up.

At least that's one of the upsides for me as part of the Christiansburg Aquatic Center master's swim group, coached by Judy Wolfe.

Yesterday we swam 12 x 100's, with diminishing rest, as part of our main set. A new member of the group was in the lane next to me and as we pushed off together, I noticed she was just a bit ahead of me, which really motivated me!! I did all I could to squeeze out as much distance per stroke as I could. By the 6th repeat I was able to match her and hold that for the duration of the set. (I'm the 4th column, she's the 8th. Each 100 was one minute plus that number of seconds.)

I finished feeling so accomplished and happy!!

There's no possible way I could have done this on my own. She said the same. It's great feedback to look over and see where you are relative to a similar/slightly faster swimmer.

We all swam well, with my lane-mate and friend Jen setting another PR for herself!!

If you have a master's or similar group in your area, I would encourage you to consider trying it out! Coaches and fellow swimmers will help you get the hang of things and there are lanes of varying speeds. Don't be intimidated! There's no need! You'll see that we are all in it together, and the benefits of coached groups swims are tremendous in terms of swimming skills, fun, and friendship!

As an aside, I found it amazing that our coach could track and record all the times for us, and send us off the wall with three lanes leaving on two different intervals (plus another lane was doing a different workout.) Then there was me, sometimes wondering if I was on the first or second 50 of the 100!!! LOL.

I'm so fortunate to be part of this group and it continues to grow, making it even more fun. Want to be part of it? We swim Sundays 5-6 pm and Thursday 6-7 pm (Mon/Wed 7 pm in March due to swim meet conflicts).

Saturday, January 27, 2018

I'll have routine, please, with a side of adventure

I am finally, happily, getting some routine back in my life. Yay!!!! From mid-November through mid-January I had two trips to Ohio and two trips to LA plus the fun but un-structure of the holidays. That, combined with an "off-season" mentality, did not offer a lot of positives for my training. But I wasn't stressing. It was just life at the moment. I knew structure and routine would return and it has. Again with the Yay!!!!

I had my longest run in quite a while today - at just over 11 miles - shared happily with my friend Kristen. She and I have both started new jobs recently and we had lots to catch up on. It was a harder effort for me than for her, but the miles flew by. And in an unrelated matter, I don't know why there is one port-o-john randomly near Allisonia on the New River Trail, but on this day I am grateful to whoever made that decision. Enough said ;-)

"Routine with a side of adventure" is very much how I prefer things so I'm glad that my days and weeks are falling into a rhythm. Days start with some early morning work, getting kids off to school, then training/errands, then my work day -- coordinating the majority of my hours to coincide with my colleagues on the west coast.

Weekly workouts are anchored by Thursday and Sunday night Master's Swim and Coach Jim populates the rest of the training schedule with bike, run, gym, other swims as needed, and REST!

Getting structure back into my training has had other positive impacts. I've been eating much better after a holiday of chocolate, cheese, wine, and more cheese, plus also cheese.

Racing (in the sense of participating in a race haha) starts for me next weekend. I'm doing the 6th annual wazUPwidis Urban Run and Stair Challenge - 3.25 miles plus 1000 steps. That should be interesting.  I've always been curious about it but have never done it. My specific "prep" has involved 10 minute stints on the stairclimber or Jacob's ladder each time I go to the gym.

The weekend following that I'm doing the Blacksburg Classic 10 miler. I said to Coach Jim that I wanted to approach it as a training run without any taper. I'm not anywhere near "race ready" in the fierce, mental sense, so I want to work hard but not go too deep into the well for that one.

Then two weeks later, weather permitting, I'd like to head to the Northeast Duathlon, which is kind of a lot of driving for a super-sprint style race, but I put it in the category of the "side of adventure."

I have no races planned for March, so I hope to get in a good training block to be fit and ready for Duathlon Nationals in early April in Greenville, SC!

In other news:

  • I finally ordered new running shoes since it's been about 10 months since the last new pair (loooooong overdue). I'm going with Brooks Pureflow and can't wait to get them!!
  • I've done a few runs on Zwift (in addition to rides) and it's pretty cool!! I'm hoping they will add swimming in soon so I can use my power-based Vasa Swim Ergometer and do an entire triathlon on Wattopia! 
  • I am hooked on the heavy rescue tow truck show called "Highway Thru Hell" on Netflix (5 seasons!) and when I need enticement for the treadmill or bike trainer I remember I can watch that! Isn't it strange what captures our interest?

Wishing each of you as much...or as little...routine and adventure as you desire!!