Friday, August 26, 2011

Sucking it up

My new roomies. Picture taken in 1972.
"Before we were dating." SCANDAL.
Today, my husband and I are moving in with my parents. We are 29 and 30. Yup. Can you guess how proud I am of my life right now?

Actually, I'm excited about it. Not because I just love the thought of being grown adults, with almost three college degrees between the two of us, both with full-time jobs, but not being able to make it on our own (without accumulating even more debt if that is possible). Not because I love looking back on the past 10 years and seeing all the bad financial decisions that got us here. Not because the economy has helped anything at all.

I'm excited in a glass-half-full kind of way. (This is also the mindset that makes being a Navy wife a bit more bearable.)

Starting today, our expenses will be greatly reduced. We can start attacking the monkey on our backs that is our debt.

Starting today, we are taking a giant step toward eventual home ownership.

Starting today, I actually have hope that I will be a homeowner before the age of 40. That I'll be able to have kids before I reach "advanced maternal age" and raise said kids in a house that we own.

And other perks that come with this decision: my commute will be cut in half (sadly The Sailor's commute will be longer but he's looking for a new gig anyway), we'll be much closer to many of our friends (including some of my best friends), closer to my brothers and their wives, and closer my super adorable niece. And closer to my parents. I'm lucky enough to have a great relationship with my parents. (Sure, I'd rather enjoy their company from the convenience of my own place within a 20-minute drive, but whatever.)

And a small part of me is excited to get back to my roots. Even though the town I grew up in is vastly different in 2011 than the what it was in the 1980s. (Not in a good way.) But it's home.

But you know what's funny? Since we've started telling people that we are moving in with my parents, I have been so surprised how many people (my age) replied with something like "oh yeah I live with my parents right now" or "I did that for awhile" etc. And none of them have said they regretted it.

And at the end of the day, I know I'm lucky this is even an option. My parents could have sold their house long ago and be living in a condo big enough for just the two of them. Or I could live in another state and wouldn't be able to do this without quitting my job. Or they just could have not offered to let us move in. Or we could have a bad relationship or something else to make the thought of living with them unbearable.

Or my mom, a known cat-hater, could have said we could move in, but we'd have to get rid of Olive. She is actually letting the cat live in her house. I never thought I'd see this day.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

DIY Mini College Reunion: Trip to Detroit

Somehow, even though we went to college in Chicago (Loyola), two of my best college buddies live in Detroit. This past weekend, I took a trip out there to visit them. I was only there from Thursday - Sunday, long enough to confirm that things have changed in the past seven years.

2004: Not a care in the world. Typical weekend included going to a bar and dancing with random dudes until maybe 3am or so and then sleeping until noon (or so). Some studying occurred. (Hey! I graduated Cum Laude.)

2011: Two of us are married, one of us has kids, we all have full-time jobs and various sources of debt. We went to a bar. (Both nights! Friday and Saturday!) On Friday we got home pretty early, with the best intentions of going out to another bar with dollar beers but ... didn't. Saturday night we were home early enough to catch an episode of America's Next Top Model on Bravo and be in bed by 1am and up before 9am. Despite seven more years to "exercise" my liver, I drank much less than I did in college because I don't want to get dehydrated (runner, much?) or fat (hey I'm not a hot young 21-year-old anymore.)

Time for photos!

iPod = dog sitter
Dog video on iPod = Dog Sitter

Belle Isle
Belle Isle

Jess and Mag
Great Lakes Museum

Great Lakes Museum
Great Lakes Museum

Great Lakes Museum
Great Lakes Museum

Great Lakes Museum
Great Lakes Museum

Great Lakes Museum
See those buildings across the water? That's as close as I got to Canada.

Stay classy, Detroit

Chalkboard Bathroom
Chalkboard walls in the ladies room at the bar

Someone loves me :)
I'm also another year older, as of yesterday. Flowers from The Sailor

One more year until I'm really old
From my co-workers

Monday, August 15, 2011

I'm the Rock, she's the Roll

My cousin and I have very different approaches to running. Running the Rock 'n Roll Chicago Half Marathon together really made this apparent to me.

Maggie (that would be me):
  • Always runs with my Garmin, with my heart rate monitor
  • Always runs in Injinji socks so my toes don't rub together
  • Has enough technical running clothes so that I never have to run in cotton (except for my underwear ... still have to wear cotton unders when I run in shorts/pants that aren't lined ... TMI ... deal with it) (and yes, I have started checking out performance underwear online)
  • Almost always runs with a visor + sunglasses, unless the sun has gone done, or it's cloudy and I'm not going very far
  • Wears compression socks on long runs
  • Spent way too much time figuring out the most logical travel/sleeping plan for the weekend (I have a cat ... had to make sure I wasn't apart from her for too long ... yeah ... that's my excuse) (maybe I just like making logical plans ... )
Denise (my cousin):
  • Does not own any type of running watch
  • Didn't know about Injinji socks or compression socks
  • Has technical running clothes but also cotton (oh the horror =P )
  • Never runs in a visor + sunglasses
We're related through our Moms (uh ... they're sisters). I'm guessing she gets her relaxed side from her Dad. Because our Moms are both a little ... organized. As is my Dad. Yeah. That's how I'll describe it. (For the record, I will admit I'm like my parents ... we're ... organized.)

Meanwhile, more pictures!
I'm to the left of the guy in the tie dye, Denise is to the right (arms up)

 I love this shot of her!

In case you didn't guess, I'm the neurotic one in the visor + sunglasses + compression calf sleeves, she is the carefree, hatless, sunglassesless, compressionless one.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Race Report: Rock 'n Roll Chicago Half Marathon

As I said in my last post, I was excited for the Rock 'n Roll Chicago Half. I was feeling pretty good about my training, the weather was looking good, and I was excited about the course and running in a large race.

Rock n Roll Chicago Half Marathon expoOn Saturday, I met my cousin downtown for the expo at McCormick Place. I've been to McCormick Place twice in my life - one Chicago Auto Show and one Tori Amos concert at the Airie Crown Theater. (Just a little Maggie trivia.)

Anyway, we picked up our bibs and swag (swag bag was a little drawstring backpack), walked through the vendors picking up free this and that, and then decided it was crowded and we didn't want to spend any money so we headed back to my place for a sleepover. Just like when we were kids! Well, not totally. Dinner was carry out from Buca di Beppo. This was picked intentionally so we would have leftovers waiting for us when we got home from the race the next day. Around 9pm, we went to bed.

Rock n Roll Chicago Half MarathonRace day - alarm started going off at 4am. Oy. I didn't sleep well the night before (does anyone?) Breakfast was toast and peanut butter with coffee and soy milk (I'm lactose intolerant).

Then we got dressed (it was semi-intentional that we both wore purple - I was planning to wear purple and she brought a few tops and decided to match me) and hit the road around 5:15am. My place is about 35 minutes from downtown Chicago (in the western burbs).

My plan was to park in a surface lot on Wabash, which is exactly what we did for $20. With all the road closures, I didn't think the Grant Park underground garage would be doable, plus if it was open, traffic into and out of it would be crazy. Plus with where we parked we were a couple blocks from the start line.

After doing the usual pre-race stop (you know ... you know) we headed to corral 19 (she was able to move up to mine so we could start together). I was fully expecting to start the race like 30 minutes after the first corral. Nope. We crossed the start line nine minutes and 34 seconds later.

We wanted to keep an easy pace. I have a Garmin, and kept it on my heart rate and kept it around 80% or so. We're the same age, so I figured we should be targeting the same heart rates.

Rock 'n Roll Chicago via my GarminThe course was great - through the streets of Chicago. And main streets too, so it was a wide course. At the advice of another runner I follow on, I turned off the auto-lap on my Garmin and manually lapped us when I passed the mile markers. I'm glad I did because with the tunnels + skyscrapers + overcast, my Garmin totalled 13.72mi at the end. I know I was all over the course at some points, for water and potties and weaving around people, but clearly as you can see, the Garmin isn't perfect - those squiggly lines between State St and Canal St that look like I'm running through buildings? Yeah, we were actually running down Adams. (Also I need to stay off the race's Facebook page because I cannot not respond to the posts from people who do not understand that Garmins are not 100% accurate and seem to think that this huge race, that costs tons of money, was not in fact longer than advertised.) (Although one year it was shorter - my Uncle used to run this race when it was the Chicago Distance Classic and apparently one year the official who leading the runners took a wrong turn because the course was marked wrong. He saved a clip of the article about it - I'll have to scan it.)

Anyway. The weather was PERFECT. Temps in the 60s, overcast, and it rained (lightly) on us off and on. It couldn't have been better. With the hot temps we were having a couple weeks ago, I was so worried this race would be hot, humid and miserable. It did not feel like the middle of August in Chicago at all this morning. Pretty sure it was cooler this morning than it was for the 2010 Chicago Marathon. (Which I spectated.)

Anyway, we kept going at my target heart rate, kicking it up a little in the last few miles. Once we hit mile 12, my cousin started speeding up, and I kept up with her. I'm glad we ran together - I don't know if I would have run that fast for the last mile. We passed a lot of people, who reminded me of my first half marathon. With that race I started off too fast and had to walk the last few miles. This time around, I forced us to start slow.

As you can see, I forgot to hit lap at mile 4. Also between miles 4-5 we took a potty break. And our fastest two miles were the last two. Our pace for the last 0.1 was 7:15 (which is the pace one of my friends ran the entire race - crazy!).

So, I'm pretty happy with how I did today. I'm glad we kept it slow so we could run the whole distance. We had fun with it - near the end my cousin was leaping and actually knocked her elbow into my arm and it's a little sore.

I thought the race was really well-organized. Lots of water and cytomax (which I didn't drink - tried it at the expo and thought it was gross - had GU chomps and a GU gel instead). The bands were fun. The corrals were good and fast. The course was good - no bottle-necking. The port-a-potty lines weren't too bad. The post-race photo lines went fast, and we got the usual - medal, water, banana, and also wet cloths, popsicles and more fruit and free samples of stuff. There was a beer tent but I didn't want any so we didn't even look for it. It started raining harder after we finished so we didn't stay for the post-race concert. Brett Michaels canceled and I think a Journey cover band took their place. I heard enough Journey on the course - I think I heard "Don't Stop Believing" three times. Do they overplay that song everywhere, or is it just a Chicago thing?

All in all, great race, great weather, and I'm proud of myself! Couldn't ask for a better experience! :)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Ready to Rock Chicago

Today was my last workout before Sunday's Rock 'n Roll Chicago Half Marathon. I did an easy 2-mile run and then went to my gym for a yoga class, and then rolled around on a foam roller afterward, working my IT band and trying to get knots out of my shoulders and lower back.

Note to self: Yes, running and doing your miles is the important (necessary) part of training for a race. But the other stuff definitely makes a difference. Next time you train for a race, do the other stuff - Pilates, yoga, swimming, weights, etc - at least 1-2 times per week. For a hot second there earlier this summer I looked like I was on the road to possible faint six pack. Then I stopped doing Pilates twice a week. I'm not on that road anymore. Plus my shoulders and back are feeling TIGHT right now. I don't think that will help on Sunday. 

Anyway. Back to the race. This will be my second half marathon. My first went OK, but certianly wasn't spectacular. I have run two longer distances since (15K and 10 mile). The 15K went worse (and was followed shortly thereafter by an introduction to a foam roller) but the 10 mile went really well. Still, this is only my second half marathon. I still have the first in the back of my mind. I still want to redeem myself.

However, I looked back at my training log from my first half marathon. I know I slacked. Like, really slacked. In the 10 weeks leading up to the race, I ran 92 miles (not including the race). I only ran 13.1 miles race week - that would be the actual race. I didn't run a whole lot prior to those 10 weeks before that race.

For this race, I've run 171 miles in the 10 weeks prior, plus I ran 10 or more miles each week for 9 or the 10 prior weeks. So even though I didn't stick to my training plan exactly, I did much better this time around.

So, and I hope I don't jinx myself, but I'm feeling really good going into this race. Plus, to remove any pressure I was feeling, I'm not going to push myself for this race. I'm running with my cousin, and we agreed to do an 11 min pace. If I pushed myself, I think I could pull off a 10 min pace. (Perhaps if I had stuck to my training plan exactly I could do 9:30. Oh well. There will be more races.) But I'd rather run with her. Plus I'm running an 11.5mi race in 4 weeks, and likely another half marathon 3 weeks after that. I'll push myself during one of those races.

Now all I have to do is get a good night's sleep tomorrow night (because I probably won't on Saturday night), go to the expo on Saturday, eat pasta, and then get up at 4am on Sunday.

I already have my post-race massage scheduled for Wednesday. I'm pretty sure I have like 50 knots in my back.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

How to Make Long Runs Easier

This would just stress me out.
One thing that still makes me feel like a novice runner is the fact that I still get nervous/intimidated by long runs. Basically any distance that takes me out of my comfort zone. When the weather's hot, that distance is around 7+ miles. In more comfortable temps, runs of 9+ miles intimidate me.


Well, some of it is based on experience. And others are based on the "what ifs?"

Such as ... What if I'm miles from home/my car, and ...
  • I have to go to the bathroom? Like, really go? [Been there. Not fun.]
  • I'm not just thirsty, but feeling dehydrated? Like, I will drink water out of this dirty puddle dehydrated? [Been there too. Didn't drink puddle water but did call husband.]
  • [If it's hot], I'm starting to feel heat stroke? [If it's cold], I'm starting to feel numb? 
  • Severe weather rolls in? (This is only a concern if the current weather or forecast call for it, but sometimes if you've planned your whole weekend around your long run, you just have to get out there.)
  • I get injured or feel severe pain? 
  • I just can't go any farther? 
These are just the things that go through my mind when thinking about / planning for a long run. I'm sure there are others that might cross your mind. 

So, to me, it's not the miles that intimidates me (well, not totally). It's everything else. It's the thought of being stranded miles from home with some problem. But if I can eliminate all those other nagging "what ifs," then I can just focus on my running.

For me, this is how I eliminate the what ifs.

Bring my phone with me. That way if something goes wrong, I can call my husband. This only works if he is home and available to come assist me. But I hate running with my phone. It's bulky. So I usually don't do this.

Plan my run to stop at home or at my car (and a bathroom of some sort) every few miles. It didn't occur to me to do this for awhile. Not until I overheard a co-worker talking to another co-worker about her marathon training, and she mentioned that when she runs long distances, she does 5 miles, stops at home, does 5 miles again, etc. When I heard that, I thought it was so brilliant, and so simple, why didn't I think of that? Why did I think my entire long run had to be done in one lump, and I wasn't allowed to set foot at home or go into my car until it was done? Now, in addition to planning my runs to pass by as many drinking fountains as I can (at least while the temps are high), I plan my long runs to stop by my house every few miles. (Every 3-4 miles on hot days, every 5 or so on cooler days.)

This helps for two reasons:
  • It breaks up my run. Now, I don't think of it like I'm running 12 miles. I think that I'm running 4 miles, 3 times. That sounds so much more doable. 
  • It eliminates all the worry. I know that if I suddenly have to go to the bathroom, I'll be home in a short distance. Same goes for if I get really thirsty (or need some electrolytes), or it starts storming, or I feel serious pain, or if I need to adjust my clothes (maybe I'm chaffing or I dressed much warmer than I should have).
Other things you can do (that I do not do): Before your run, hide some water or sports drink along your route. (I just don't trust other people not to steal it or tamper with it.) Or, bring cash with you so you can buy water or a sports drink while your out. (But then you have to carry a partially empty, sloshing bottle.) 

Yes, stopping at home during my runs slows me down, and it gets me in the habit of stopping during my running (and thinking I need to go pee more than I do), but when you're running a race you have support - water stations, some with a sports drink, and medical tents and port-a-potties, etc. This is how I can build that into my training runs. Plus I'm not trying to win. I'm just trying to finish and do a decent job to the best of my ability.

But most importantly for me, doing this eliminates the worry, the intimidation, the nagging "what ifs" and allows me to just focus on running.

Do you have anything that intimidates you about running? How do you deal with it?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

My gift to you! I've calculated all your target heart rates for running.

New toy came today! And it conveniently reminds me of the date of my anniversary.
Mi Garmin
A couple months ago, I invested in a Garmin watch for running, specifically the Garmin 405cx. I had been using MyTracks on my Droid to track my time, distance and pace during my runs, but frankly, I was getting tired of strapping a bulky smartphone to my arm while running. (I don't listen to music when I run.) Plus, I liked that this watch included a heart rate monitor.

(Looking for a review of the Garmin 405cx? Here it is: I love it. It's awesome. Easy to use. The whole bevel thing is fine. That seems to be the only hang-up some people have, based on the reviews I read before buying it. If you are comfortable with tech gadgets [say you are young enough that you have spent your entire life playing with tech gadgets, starting with an Atari joystick, of course] you won't have any issues with the bevel. The GPS is always accurate, and the watch finds my location fairly quickly. It's a great watch. Buy it.)

Anyway, I've had the watch for a couple months now and so far have really only paid attention to my pace. (And time/distance of course.) The heart rate stuff has been an afterthought. (Oh, that was my average heart rate? Neat.) I don't know much about heart rates and working out, what I should aim for, what's good or bad.

I figured I should though. I spent all this money on the watch, plus I don't feel like I have a very good handle on what paces I should be running. I always start off too fast. I try to listen to my body, but there's a lot to listen to - legs, lungs, heart. Obviously if I'm in pain, I'll stop/slow down. But what am I capable of? Especially as I up my weekly mileage?

And frankly, I'm nervous about my next race - the Rock 'n Roll Chicago Half Marathon. So far I've only done one half marathon, and yes, I'll admit I didn't stick to my training plan during the last couple weeks leading up to that race. But I didn't do a good job pacing myself. I averaged around 10:45-11:30 pace for the first 8 miles and then I guess I hit the wall (or the half-wall ... get it ... ) I felt like if I wanted to finish at all, I would have to walk the rest. I did much better during my last longer distance race - the Soldier Field 10. No idea what my pace was from mile-to-mile though. I must have inadvertently changed a setting on MyTracks and it didn't calculate my time at every mile.

Anyway, Google lead me to this article from Runner's World (I figure they know what they are talking about): How To Use A Heart Rate Monitor.

It's written in plain English - no mention of lactate threshold or VO2 max. (I'll save that for later.) The article gives formulas for calculating your maximum heart rate (MHR), and also suggested ranges for different types of training runs and different races (as a percentage of your MHR). Simple enough.
True story: I have a mug like this.
It was a gift from my sister-in-law.

And since I have a not-so-secret love of spreadsheets, I dumped it all into a Google doc spreadsheet, and used formulas to calculate all this stuff for me. So now when I run, I know what heart rate to target. BONUS, when I age another year, all I have to do is change one cell in the spreadsheet and all my info is updated. (Super geek mode - I'm sure I can put in a formula so that it updates my age for me based on my birthdate and the current date.)

So, my gift to you - Chart of Target Heart Rates, by age and distance.

All you have to do is replace field A2 with your current age and it should calculate your heart rate info. If you can, feel free to download a copy for yourself, or save a copy to your own Google docs. Unfortunately if you just do copy-and-paste, it won't pull the formulas, just the values. Feel free to share with others (if you share a copy and not the link above, just make sure to give credit where it is due, as I did on the spreadsheet).

My question to you - do you keep track of your heart rate while you run/exercise? Does everyone else do this and I am just the last to figure it out? 

And if you know anything about this stuff, do these formulas/heart rates sound correct? The article is about 10 years old. Honestly, the range for the easy/long run seems a little low to me. BUT I know I still have a lot to learn about running/fitness, so I'll just go with it and see what happens. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

My Uncle Tom & Me: Running Buddies. Or, discovering running memorabilia from the 1970-90s.

Uncle Tom on Easter, 1966
After my Uncle Tom passed away from cancer in 2003, I learned that he was a runner. I had no idea about this while he was alive - but it wouldn't have mattered (much) to me - I didn't run back then. My mom found all of his race bibs and other race memorabilia while going through his things and preparing photos for the wake, and that was when I first learned about it. 

I was at my parents' house tonight, and talked to my mom about my upcoming races and she mentioned my uncle (her brother) and his running. I asked her where all of his race bibs and stuff ended up ... turns out it was in a box in the family room.

So we went through it.

Not only was he a runner, but for a few years he was on the Illinois National Guard Marathon team in the 1980s. For a period of time, his "orders" from the National Guard were to run. Full-time.

Also, I learned:
  • He ran the Chicago Distance Classic many times ... well that race has been taken over by the Rock 'n Roll Marathon series, and I am running the Rock 'n Roll Chicago Half Marathon next month! Which is basically the race he used to run! 
  • He ran in many Chicago Marathons, including the first two of this go-round (1977 and 1978). 
  • He did run at least one sub-four-hour marathon. I think that was the only race photo he ever purchased - him finishing under the clock at 3:59 (forgot the exact seconds). Most of his marathon race times were around 4:20ish and up.
  • The Chicago Marathon has had many different routes. And names.
  • He also ran the Lincoln (Nebraska) Marathon many times (I think with the National Guard team) and the Grandma's Marathon, and an annual 10K in Oak Park (don't remember the name) many times. 
He saved all of his race bibs and post-race postcards (which his official time, place, etc). On some of the bibs/postcards were his "race reports." Things like the temperature at the start of the race, the wind, how he did, at what mile he hit the wall. It seemed like for a lot of marathons he started off faster than he wanted, and then ran out of energy around mile 16-17.

He also wrote his even-mile clock times on some of his bibs. While running.

My uncle wrote his mile split times upside down on his bib while running!
Yup, I am totally related to this man.
Anyway, eventually I want to go through all of this stuff, and take more pictures and/or scan some of it - he also saved many of the race program books, and letters/certificates, etc. Lots of good stuff for runnerds!