Tuesday, April 28, 2009

George Washington Parkway Classic 10 Miler: O, the Heat

Many of us are already running in temperatures above 75 degrees Fahrenheit. But two days before this race, on my early morning run, I was wearing long sleeves in 40 degrees. Then I saw the race-day forecast: 90+ degrees and sunny on race day. What? Where are my running shorts? Tank tops? Okay, I knew where they were, but they were dusty.

I have now run this race three times. I knew what to expect. Shuttle buses take runners from the finish in Old Town Alexandria, VA to the start 10 miles south at Mount Vernon. It is super easy to find parking, though this year a generous parking lot was offered up for the runners’ use. At 6:20 am, I parked on the street (behind the coffee shop – so I could get a cup after I was done – easy!) and walked the four short blocks to the lines of runners and buses.

The bus ride seems long, and covers most of the course, which follows (duh) the George Washington Parkway. I was at the start by 7am. Start time was 8am. I wandered down to the port-o-potties and went through the lines at least three times. (What else did I have to do? I did do a brief warm up between waits.) The organizers seem to have added some johns this year because the lines were short(ish) and moved quickly. Excellent.

More than 4,000 runners participated this year. And, a side note, the majority (around 2,100) were women. Hell, yeah!

By 8am, it was almost 80 degrees, and the sun was way up. I admit, it psyched me out a bit. I do not like running in the heat, which is why I try to run at 6am or earlier in the summer months. The Washington DC area is nasty hot. But this race day had, as they say, a “dry heat,” not really a summer-like day for DC, which would be, oh, 80 or 90 percent humidity.

The course is hilly. Non-runners say, “Oh, you’re starting on a hill, so it is all downhill, right?” Nope, nope, nope. Don’t believe them. Sure, the first mile is almost all downhill. But then the rolling starts. No hill is steep, and fast times are possible, but it is not an easy, flat course.

I was drenched in sweat after mile 1. I sweat a lot as it is (thanks, Dad), but my body was also not ready for running in 80 degrees.

Last year, runners were spread across the four lanes of the parkway. This year, we snaked through the shade, when there was shade. Now and then, when the road was closer to the Potomac River, a cool breeze came up. That was nice.

And I was fine, until mile 6, when I had to talk myself out of stopping. Early on in my running “career,” during every race, I’d have a conversation with myself (not out loud, don’t worry, I’m not that wacky, at least not in company):

“I could stop right now,” I shrug.

“Nah, don’t stop. You can do this,” without much enthusiasm.

“But why? I don’t have to,” I reply.

And I always kept going. (With one exception in the late 1990s, when the Central Park course of a 10-miler was covered in ice, I bailed after the first 5-mile loop.)

This conversation came up for the first time in years. But I kept going.

And I still felt fine, if a bit tired (and soaked). All of the runners around me looked hot and tired. No one looked perky. I kept looking for exceptions and found none. Those faring the worst were men taller than average and more than 160 pounds. They looked close to miserable. And we were “the front of the middle of the pack” (around 7:30-8:00 miles). Maybe the front runners looked perky. But we all seemed to be keeping an even and decent pace.

At mile 8.5, a police officer said, “A runner is down in the road ahead. Watch out.”

I thought, “Oh, someone fell. Sprained ankle?”

We passed a man, who looked to be in his mid 40s, with two EMS providers attending to him. He was talking loudly. Rather, he was trying to talk. His speech was slurred, and he was floppy, slumped to one side. I assume his collapse was caused by the heat. Scary.

I said to the runner next to me, “That does not sound good.” And he agreed. (I hope the downed runner is okay. I’ve looked for race news and found no mention of a seriously injured or ill runner.)

I did not want that to happen to me. At the 9-mile mark, I saw I’d run my slowest mile of the race. (But then my last mile was my fastest, 7:28, go figure.)

So, running in the heat? How does a body adjust? The advice I’ve found includes cutting down the distance and/or pace as temperatures climb to let the body adjust. Then you can build back up. For me, the shift seems to happen naturally through May and June. Sunday’s dry 80 degrees will not seem so bad in July.

But what do you do when a race is suddenly much, much hotter than what your body is prepared for? Well, you slow down and hydrate. I didn’t necessarily heed that advice. My finish time was within my usual range. And I had little control over the hydration; as in any race, organizers set up only the water stations they set up. They don’t seem to add them when the day is unexpectedly hot (probably a volunteer issue).

So be it. I survived just fine. And I’ll run it again next year. But I will hope for the drizzle and mist of 2008’s race.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Muddy Buddy 09

I haven't raced since high school. It feels good to say that, what I imagine giving your identity at an AA meeting feels like. I don't know, sometimes it just feels like I don't have the fire anymore. I used to run and race because I didn't like the circumstances which constituted my life. I love my life now and I've finally found the race to display that joy. The 2009 Muddy Buddy. Crumbs, the Austin race is filled...next year, though, I imagine you'll be more than ready to get down and dirty.

I am really looking forward to this. I have my Muddy Buddy and we are going to have so much fun!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Boston Marathon Race Report!

(photos below were taken from my cell phone while running)

If you've ever dreamed of running the Boston Marathon you've most likely read plenty of course descriptions and commentary about the race. I know I personally read a lot about the race during the months leading up to the race. But nothing quite captured the essence of the race that I experienced yesterday.

I woke up at 5:50am. Sounds late, right?!? Most races in a large city you have to wake up at 4:30 or 5am to make it to the start with plenty of time to stand in line at the port-o-johns. Nope, not Boston. Buses for the 2nd wave started loading at 6:45am. I met up with an awesome mommy runner Dorothy who I met online and her posse (including her mom who was also running Boston) and we loaded the bus. I believe Dorothy and I were the only runners of the 8-runner group from Northern Virginia who had never run Boston.

It was a 1-hour drive to the race start in Hopkinton. The winds were between 10-20mph and cold. Upon arrival it was quite a sight to see the tens of thousands of runners with their mini "campsites" set up. You could tell who was experienced and who was novice by how much equipment they had. After all, we had 2 and a half hours before we lined up at the start. Evidently, you were supposed to be prepared for anything -- terrential downpours, freezing cold temps, heatwave...anything could happen. There were sleeping bags, plastic tarps, crazy looking warm hooded jumpsuits, food and more food. All that was missing was a bonfire and some marshmallows. I was unprepared in the food department so I bummed some pretzels. As with all races, everyone lined up for the bathrooms several times and before you knew it -- time to head to the start.

We dropped our bags at the buses and began a 1/4 mile walk to the start. I took my phone and listened to all the "good luck" messages from the night before and race morning. An incredibly sweet message from my big bro brought me to tears. He is not a runner - but somehow he knew that this was pretty big and he was completely proud. Suddenly we heard "3 minutes until start...1 minute"...Dorothy and I still hadn't made it up to the first corral...we jumped a fence and started running just after the gun went off.

From the absolute beginning of the race there were thousands of spectators. I thought for sure the crowds would die down quickly. Nope! To my surprise the crowds continued through every town. Each town bigger and better. Around mile 3 I bid Dorothy farewell and we ran our own separate races.

I started the morning full of self-doubt. I had not logged many long runs prior to the race and did not stick to my training plan for the most part. So I was worried this would be a really painful day. I had also pulled my hamstring 2 weeks prior - it was super tight the first few miles.

First landmark was the biker bar with harleys lined up and bikers cheering. Wellesley College and the famous "Wellesley Girls" were just as loud and incredible as they say. Coeds offering kisses with bright red lipstick. It sounded as if The Beatles must have been running among us.

Every step along the way people were high five-ing us, handing out orange wedges, twizzlers, drinks, wet clothes, kleenex...you name it. I could not believe the numbers of people who looked me straight in the eye, offered a smile and yelled my name as loudly as they could. It was as if they somehow knew me.

For about 10 miles I ran next to legend Bill Rodgers. He is a Boston winner from the 70's and a famous runner, coach, author. Very cool to run alongside him and his entourage.

Boston College was also a real trip. This is where my father-in-law attended college and was an athlete. Soon my brother-in-law would enroll there as well. What a beautiful campus - it looked more like an old cathedral. I swear the entire college population came out to cheer. Nothing like cute college boys cheering for you!!

We even passed a nursing home who had wheeled many residents out to the curb to cheer. They offered high fives and encouragement as best they could. Later I found out this was where my awesome husband and kids were watching for me. I MISSED THEM!

Each town was electric. Each runner looked strong and determined. To my surprise no one really wanted to chat along the way. So it was a little hard for people like me who can't keep quiet.

I was thrilled to realize that my legs were holding strong. I was feeling no pain. if my quads started burning I shifted my efforts to my hams. If my hams were too tight I shifted my efforts to my knees/quads. I concentrated on form to get me through. I concentrated on form and keeping my shoulders relaxed. I thought about all the things I teach my running students. The miles passed so quickly that I even "lost" a few miles in the process - always a pleasant surprise to jump from mile 16 to 20 without realizing it! I felt so good I was taking pictures with my camera phone as I ran!!!

The entire route was a series of ups and downs. It was a really tough course - toughest I've ever run. But the real test came mid-race when you hit the REAL series of hills. 2 grueling steady climbs then the steep and dreaded "heartbreak hill" then another steady climb. People had written messages in chalk on the streets to help you dig deep and make it up the hills. Spectators picked you out of the crowd and coached you just when you needed it most.

Luckily, one of the most incredible running buddies in the world text messaged me positive affirmations every mile!!! She rocks! Heather virtually coached me all the way from VA!

At this point in the race your legs are definitely feeling it. But amazingly my legs still felt strong!! I never hit "the wall." I never wanted to quit (which had been my experience in before). I never doubted my abilities. I don't have a ton of experience with marathons - this being my third. But I was amazed that the wall never came. I simply thought about all of the amazing runners running alongside me and all the runners throughout the 113 years before me and tried to imagine their stories and their strength. I thought about all the amazing women I now call friends who I've met through seeMOMMYrun.

The final 4 miles of Boston were amazing. Crowds and crowds and more crowds. Energy like you've never felt. The wind picked up and was cold - but no one cared! I pulled out my cell phone and called my husband to tell him I had only a couple of miles to go. Tears welled up in my eyes when I heard his comforting voice. I was feeling no pain. I felt like a champion and so did everyone finishing around me.

Things I think I did RIGHT (for those training for marathons):

1. I did TONS of core and leg strengthening drills during my training (thanks to coaching my fabulous EZ8 runners and Coach Al!)

2. I continued my strength training for upper AND lower body with heavy weights (previous marathons I lightened my lower body weights thinking I would feel heavy).

3. I ate a ton during the race. Luna sports chews, GU, oranges, candy offered along the course.

4. I hydrated well - mostly gatorade at every water stop - even if it was just a tiny sip to wet my mouth.

5. I wore Oiselle running shorts and bra - no chafing and felt as if I was running in nothing!

6. I trained smart but did not overtrain (very important) and I ran only 1 race in the 3 months leading up to Boston.

7. I stuck to a high protein diet with enough carbs to power my workouts but not weigh me down.

8. I asked my friends to encourage me throughout training. When life was busy and I fell off my training plan - I asked friends to kick me back into it. I didn't wait for people to offer to run with me. I asked and asked and never felt bad about asking again for help.

That is my Boston story. I won't even get into dragging my poor 2 and 4 year olds in the car to Boston (9 hours) with me and them falling apart the day before the race. You're a mom. You know how that can go and the most inconvenient times. We all survived.

Train hard. Run Boston if you ever get the chance. Enjoy it.

~Andrea Vincent, founder of seeMOMMYrun

Friday, April 10, 2009

Mommy only fitness

Today I joined a women's only fitness club. Mostly because it was a great price and my 2 year old likes the child care. I got a 30 day pass first and tried it out. I've been going to a gym of some sort for over 20 years and thoroughly enjoy working out with my husband. I think I've always liked the challenge of competing with men too. Goes back to 6th grade when the boy I had a crush on was chasing me for a football and I realized I was faster than him. I wonderered for a second if I should let him catch me and decided against it. My husband is much faster than me, but does not choose to run more than 6 miles (he says he likes his knees). He thoroughly supports any working out regimen I choose to include 20 mile runs on Saturdays while he takes care of 4 children. He's a gem. I'm not sure how long this gym will work for me because my husband is not welcome. I may have to pay more and go back to a gym that takes men.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

The Next Big Thing

Arm warmers! I'm convinced that the next fashion fad in running is arm warmers (after the summer, that is). Leg warmers made a comeback, right? So, you heard it here first!

I [also] ran the Cherry Blossom 10-miler this past weekend. I missed having my stroller along - just an itty-bitty bit - because if I wanted to wear any extra clothes to start out, I wouldn't have anywhere to put them! It was a beautiful day, but a little chilly (50 deg F, +/-) when you weren't actually running. I had to wear shorts and short sleeves to run as fast as I could, so arm warmers were the answer! They are standard wear for bicyclists - which I am also trying to become - so it was great! When I got hot, I just tore them off and stuck them in my waistband. I didn't even need to slow down.

I chuckle a little since there are so many problems with trying to transition from jogging with a stroller to racing without one. But if I can figure out the wardrobe, at least that is a start. I used to subtract 1 min per mile from my stroller pace to approximate my non-stroller pace, but I think that the stroller must be getting heavier because I pulled 7:22 min/mi, on average, in the race and I am definitely not running 8:30s or better with the stroller these days.

Monday, April 06, 2009

"Settle": The Cherry Blossom 10-Miler

"Settle" was my mantra, my reminder. Right off, I must write that I had a good time and enjoyed the race. It is a favorite of mine (and thousands of others).


I started out too fast (at sub 7:45s) and drank too much water in the 30 minutes before the start (but I wanted it!). As a result, by mile 3, I developed a side stitch. I tried to breathe easy -- belly breaths through my nose as in yoga -- and slow to 8-minute miles. I thought, "Settle," and let my shoulder's relax and ran a little straighter. But then a fast song came on my iPod (yes, I run with music, always) -- Green Day's "Minority" -- and I picked up the pace again. "Just for this song," I thought.

I swear, I didn't really care about being faster than ever before. I just wanted to enjoy the cherry blossoms and the 10 miles.

When the song ended, I reminded myself, "Settle." I was past mile 5 (and made a port-o-loo stop -- people sure make a mess in those on-course -- icky).

I had the brutal Hains Point bit of the course remaining. Sure, it is flat and has a ton of lush cherry blossom trees. But it is a straight shot south for almost 2 miles. This part is mentally, not physically, brutal. But maybe it has that effect only on me.

"Settle." But then someone passed me. I felt myself speed up, a reaction controlled by some baser instinct. "Settle." What am I, a skittish colt? There are 14,000 people all around me. Some are going to pass me; I am going to pass some. Who cares?

The side stitch was still there, but bearable, though it did now seem to be on both sides of my abdomen. Fabulous. "Settle, settle, settle." The unintended mantra actually seemed to help. Who knew?

Once I made the turn at the point, where The Awakening statue should be but isn't anymore, I felt (almost) fine. The side stitch was a ghost. I passed mile 8 and finished the last two miles in 7:45s. Done and done in 1:18:34.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Free Stuff!

Recently I wrote about a great high-impact nursing bra. If you would like to try this bra for FREE, email me (jen_cortesi@yahoo.com). I'll randomly choose a winner on 4/14/09 and contact you if you are the winner. At that time, you can send me your address, etc. Expressiva Nursingwear will send you one for FREE!

That's a good customer service rep!

Registration is Open for the Army Ten-Miler

Yesterday I signed up for the Army Ten-Miler being held in Washington, D.C. on October 4th. Are there any fellow SeeMommyRun members running it?