Running Highs and Lows of 2018

For the past several years, I’ve run three half marathons a year, in my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. Because I make a racecation out of every race, and spend at least a few days checking out the area with my family after the race, I simply can’t afford to do more than 4 a year (which I used to do), nor do I have the vacation time, and since I’ve run all of the southern states with races during the winter, I usually run races in the spring, summer, and fall now (with a couple of exceptions like Utah in February 2017).

I began 2018 by running the Famous Idaho Potato Half Marathon in Boise in May. Idaho was state number 42 for me and this race was a highlight. The race began in a canyon, which was beautiful, and the course was nicely chosen as it ran along greenways and had water views of the Boise River several times. I managed to finish just under 2 hours, which I hadn’t done in quite a while. Because of the excellent course, volunteer stations, post-race goodies including a potato bar, and overall vibe of the race, it’s high on my list of favorite half marathons.

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Famous Idaho Potato Half Marathon

The following weekend after the race in Boise, I had to start training for race number two of the year in Alaska, which I’ll get to shortly. First, though, a word on running through the heat and humidity during the summer, which I did a post on here. I’ll be honest, running through the North Carolina summer is tough. I’m just not that much of a morning person to get up at 5:30 to run before work, so I ended up running after work, when the temperature was often around 90 degrees, sometimes in the upper 90’s with high humidity on top of it. Yeah, it’s every bit as brutal as it sounds, but I did it, with very little running on the treadmill.

Finally in August, I ran the Skinny Raven Half Marathon in Anchorage, Alaska, state number 43. I was very much looking forward to spending some time in Alaska and running the race in Anchorage. Although the race wasn’t one of my favorites, I wouldn’t say it was a low point of running. The race shirt and medal are my absolute favorites ever from any race, I got to go to a pasta lunch with speakers Bart Yasso and Jeff Galloway, and the race was well-organized, so it does have all of that going for it. Some people would probably enjoy running along the greenways that the race was on, but I just found it a bit disappointing since I run on greenways all the time at home and was hoping for something more unique to the area.

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Packet pickup for the Anchorage RunFest with my favorite race shirt ever

In September, I ran my first 5k in almost 20 years, not counting the one I ran with my daughter at her pace a few years ago. So this was the first 5k I ran at my pace since the very first race I ran as an adult, and funny side-note, they were both in mall parking lots. I ran the Color Vibe 5k in Raleigh, North Carolina. Color Vibe is a huge conglomeration with races in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. plus several other countries.

When I signed up for the race, I didn’t realize that it was untimed. Still, I thought, it would be something new and fun. Originally, the plan was for my daughter to run it with me, but the morning of the race she decided she wanted to run at her own pace. There was a local Zumba instructor leading the crowd before the race start and everyone seemed to be in good spirits. However, it was hot (80 degrees at the start) and not a single bit of shade along the course. I found it hard to be motivated to really try my hardest since it wasn’t timed. Ultimately I discovered I’m more competitive than I may have thought, and fun runs just aren’t for me. As expected, we were covered from head to toe in colored powder by the end of the race and my watch had me finishing in 23:33. I should have been happy because it was a definite PR for me, but since it was unofficial, I felt like it didn’t even count. What should have been a high for me turned out to not really be, although I wouldn’t count it as a low either. My race review is here.

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Post-race Color Vibe 5k

Sometime in September, I began experiencing some boredom in my running routes. First I thought about changing my route for my long runs, Changing My Long Running Route- Maybe, then I began finding new running routes for my runs during the week, Exploring While Running and Fighting Boredom. I discovered entire neighborhoods I never even knew existed even though I drove within a few miles of them to and from work every day. More importantly, I began to realize there was absolutely no reason to run the same route four days a week during the week. There are greenways all over the place where I live and even where there aren’t greenways, there are nice, safe neighborhoods where I can run. This helped with my boredom and seemed like it was going to get me through the training plan for my final race of the year.

Then it all came crashing down. I had noticed I was getting more and more out of breath on runs. This went on for months, honestly, but I kept thinking it was the heat and humidity. When it finally cooled off and the humidity dropped and I was still out of breath when I would try to run, I knew for sure something was wrong. I suspected it was low iron, and I have a history of this, so I know exactly what it feels like. Sure enough, when my blood work came back, my hemoglobin level was 6. The normal range for women my age is 12-15. This was bad, very bad. Even worse, I had a half marathon coming up in less than three weeks.

I started taking a high dose of iron prescribed by my doctor and continued to run, no matter how slowly. I figured running slowly was better than not running at all. It was hard and frustrating though. Running up a small hill felt like I was climbing a mountain. During one of my long runs, after every mile I had to pause my watch, stop and catch my breath before I could go on. I did that for 12 miles and yes, it was some of the longest miles I’ve ever run.

Still, I could feel the iron was slowly building back up in my body and while I wouldn’t say I was feeling completely better when it was time for my next half marathon (not even close, really), I knew I could at least finish it even if it meant walking, a lot. The White River Half Marathon was in November in Cotter, Arkansas, state number 44, and in hindsight after running the race, it was the absolute best race for me at the moment.

As you might guess from the name, the race is along the White River, which means it’s flat. More importantly, the first mile is downhill and you don’t have to run back up the hill at the end either. Although I can’t say for sure because I was so completely wiped out at the finish that I forgot to hit save on my Garmin and I ran more by feel so I didn’t check my watch hardly at all, I’m pretty sure my first two miles were my fastest and I seemed to be consistent after that. I finished in 1:57, which was 4th in my age group. I was of course thrilled, especially given my health. This was a great way to end my racing for the year and give my body plenty of time to get back to normal. You can read my full report on the White River Half Marathon here.

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The home stretch of the White River Half Marathon

How about you all- any running highs or lows you’d like to share?

Happy running!

Donna

 

 

 

 

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White River Half Marathon, Cotter, Arkansas-44th state

This is part of a series of posts from my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. Arkansas was my 44th state.

If you want to run a marathon, half marathon, or 5k on a blazing fast course, run one of the the White River races in Cotter, Arkansas. Seriously, this group of races is well-organized, has great volunteers, has technical long sleeve shirts for all runners, huge medals for all runners, and medals for age group winners in addition to the fast courses.

Packet pickup was quick and easy the evening before the race at Cotter Schools, and there was also the option of packet pickup the morning of the race. I got my shirt, bib, and chip shoe tags (I hadn’t seen those in quite a few years) and was out in less than 10 minutes. Shirts and some other things were being sold there but honestly I just wanted to get to dinner so I didn’t spend any time looking around. There was a pre-race pasta dinner but I wanted to try some local barbecue instead.

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Race morning, November 17, was even chillier than I was hoping, at 31 degrees. Someone mentioned how it was 70 degrees at the start of last year’s race, so I was thankful it wasn’t that warm (but I think 70 at the start is unusual). Racers for the 5k, half marathon, and marathon all started together at 7 am but fortunately the course never felt crowded, even at the beginning.

Here’s part of why this course is so fast. The first mile was downhill, and the course leveled out after that. We turned around at about mile 7.5 so we didn’t have to go back up the hill from the first mile. The course was on quiet, country roads and while the course was open to traffic, the handful of drivers we did see were courteous and gave runners a wide berth when passing. We got a couple of glimpses of the White River but mostly we saw fields and rural homes. There was a field with a couple of horses watching us at one point too.

Tailwind, water, and Gu gels were offered on the course. The volunteers at the aid stations were friendly and did a good job but there was almost no crowd support on the course, as would be expected for a small race in a rural area.

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The medals for the 5k, half marathon, and marathon are all personalized to each distance

If you follow my blog, you may recall that I recently found out I’m anemic. Just a couple of weeks before this race, my hemoglobin was 6 (normal for women my age is 12-15). Despite that, I still managed to finish in 1:57:31, 4th in my age group, 61 overall out of 287. I haven’t run a half marathon this fast since 2015. Needless to say, given my poor health, I was thrilled with my result. Unfortunately I forgot to hit save on my Garmin at the finish so I have no idea what my split times were. I also made a point of not checking my watch during this race because I just wanted to run more by feel.

As I mentioned earlier, the race medals at the finish were huge and pretty cool-looking. There were also space blankets, which was a nice touch given how cool it was that morning. There was chocolate milk, water, donuts, bagels, bananas at the finish line, and then there was even more food at Cotter School.

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The finish!

My daughter ran the 5k and came in 2nd in her age group, so my husband and daughter went to get her age group medal at the school, where the awards ceremonies were. There were sausage biscuits, bananas, lemonade, Gatorade, coffee, hot chocolate, chili, and a variety of soups when they went at 9:00 for the 5k awards. I showered and changed after the half and went to the school around 10:00 and then they had pizza instead of sausage biscuits but everything else was the same.

To be a small race, this is one of the best I’ve been to. While the course wasn’t one of the most scenic I’ve ever run on, it wasn’t bad and it was definitely one of the fastest courses I’ve raced on. The volunteers were great and the food afterwards was good and plenty of it. There was also a shoe recycling area and it looked like quite a few old running shoes were collected. If you’re looking to cross Arkansas off your list, I highly recommend this race!

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Just a portion of the shoes collected at the race

www.whiterivermarathon.com

Do any of you have plans to run a race in Arkansas or have you already? If so, which one do you want to run or have you run? Do you like races in small towns along back country roads or do you prefer racing in bigger cities with big productions like the Rock n’ Roll series for example?

Happy running!

Donna

 

 

Color Vibe 5k

It seems fitting that the Color Vibe 5k was in a mall parking lot since the only other 5k I ran (not counting the one I ran with my young daughter a few years ago at her pace) was in a mall parking lot. Hmmmm. Two 5ks in a mall parking lot? There go the points for a scenic race. Somehow I missed that when I signed up for this race. I also missed the fact that it was a fun run and therefore not timed. Therefore no age group placings and no age group awards.

My flakiness aside, let’s get to the race details. The Color Vibe 5k is in every state in the United States plus Washington, D.C. and several countries outside the US. According to their website, there have been over a million participants. I know many of you have probably run a color race of some sort before and they certainly aren’t novel. There are many different variations on color runs, where they throw colored powder at you as you run along the course.

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I ran the Color Vibe 5k in Raleigh, North Carolina on September 8, and packet pickup was on September 7 (although I believe you could pick up on race morning). It was quick, easy, and efficient. I went to the tables set up in the mall parking lot and picked up my bib along with my daughter’s, my race t-shirt (white cotton and yes I actually wore it during the race even though never in a million years would I ever wear cotton to run in unless I had absolutely nothing else to run in), two color packets, 4 temporary tattoos, and 2 pair of Color Vibe sunglasses.

On race morning, there was a local Zumba instructor leading some dance moves and getting the crowd motivated. The music was good and everyone was in good spirits. About 10 minutes before the race began, the announcer had everyone throw their colored powder that we picked up at packet pickup and it was a haze of colors everywhere. The kids in the crowd obviously loved it and the stage was set for everyone to have a great time.

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Thankfully not all of the color along the course was blown by a leaf blower as shown here!

The race began at 8 am and it was already 80 degrees out, with the sun beating down. The course wound along the shopping mall parking lot and was about as uneventful as it sounds, as far as scenery. There also wasn’t a single place along the course where there was any shade. Volunteers threw colored powder at several places throughout the course, so there was no getting away from not being absolutely covered in color by the end. There was also a water station along the course.

Thankfully, the race was over and my watch showed me finishing in 23:33. Since the race was an untimed fun run, I won’t get credit for it on any of the places that keep your race times. I was surprised at how much my competitive spirit came out during the race. Because of the hot, humid conditions, I kept thinking, what incentive do I have to push harder? There aren’t any age group recognitions or awards. What real incentive do I have to go faster? Ultimately I did push harder than if I was just out on a training run, but probably not as much as if it would have been timed.

We received bottled water and a medal at the finish. There was also an after-race party where prizes were to be given out. I was so drained from the heat and also had another 3 miles to run to get my long run in for the day that I didn’t stick around for the post-race party.

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Would I do another color run again? Probably not, especially if it’s not timed. I’ve determined “fun runs” are not for me. I do enough “fun runs” on my own, which I prefer to call “training runs.” However, I should say I ran this with the idea that my daughter would also run it and I thought we’d be running together. She wasn’t feeling it that day and ended up running a bit behind me at her own pace. My daughter, who is even more competitive than I am said she had a great time and asked if we could do it again (I told her I would not be doing it again).

What about you guys? Have you run a color run? An untimed “fun run”? What do you think of fun runs?

Happy running!

Donna

My First 5k in 20 Years!

This weekend I’ll be running a 5k, and it will only be my third 5k ever. The last 5k I ran was with my daughter at her pace a few years ago, so I’m actually not counting that one. My first 5k was my first race as an adult and it was about 20 years ago, so the race this weekend is bound to be a PR! Well, maybe.

If you follow my blog, you know I run half marathons and am currently on a quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. I just ran one in Alaska, the Skinny Raven Half Marathon in Anchorage, Alaska, my 43rd state. Since I focus on running half marathons, I just haven’t put any effort into training for and running any 5k’s, probably a mistake on my part I know, but maybe that will change now.

This weekend I’m running a Color Vibe 5k, where they throw handfuls of paint powder at you as you run the course. Hmmmm, maybe not the best choice of a race if I’m looking for a PR, you may think. I had one friend who has run a race like this tell me flat out that there will be people running like mad all around the course with no rhyme or reason and frankly no one runs a race like this if they want to PR. Further, this race isn’t chip-timed, so there will be no age group awards since there will be no official timing.

However, I’ve always done things a bit differently than others. I’ve never run a Disney race, a Rock n’ Roll series race, an obstacle race, or many of the other hugely popular races. I ran a half marathon in Naples for my Florida race Naples Daily News Half Marathon, Florida- 8th state, opting for that over one of the many half marathons in Orlando. For my race in Georgia, I chose to run along a highway Run the Reagan Half Marathon, Georgia-14th state instead of choosing the more popular races in Savannah (a big mistake on my part in retrospect since the race I ran was pretty awful).

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From the Color Vibe website

So it seems I’m going in the other direction for my next 5k, opting for one of the hugely popular races. The Color Vibe is in all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia, plus several other countries. According to their website, over a million people have participated in Color Vibe races. The group that puts on these races is for profit, but they partner with local charities to give them a portion of the proceeds, so at least there is that.

When I signed up for the race, they were running a special where a child 12 and under could run for free with an adult, and since my daughter won’t turn 13 until 2 weeks after the race, I took advantage of the deal and signed us both up. My daughter is hugely competitive, though, and will not be happy at all when I tell her there are no age group awards (she’s won several AG awards so far and has gotten spoiled by that, I think). For my $34.99 plus processing fees I get two entries to the race, a race shirt, two tattoos, color pack, sunglasses, and medal. Not bad, but honestly I kind of wish there were going to be age group awards.

I guess I’ll have to see how this race goes and maybe sign up for a “real” 5k either this fall or next spring. By real I mean one that doesn’t promote itself as a fun run and a race where I can actually push myself to my full potential without anything crazy going on around me (like packets of color being thrown in my face). I do see the value of running a 5k and would like to eventually see how I can do.

Have any of you run a color race like this one? How was it? Any last-minute 5k advice for me?

Happy running!

Donna

 

 

 

 

Book Review “Running Science: optimizing training and performance” by John Brewer

Sports scientist and Running Fitness columnist, John Brewer is the consultant editor for this book which is written by Brewer along with ten other contributors, mostly professors, scientists, and lecturers. Brewer has reviewed hundreds of scientific studies so there are many references to scientific journal articles throughout the book. Brewer and his co-contributors attempt to demonstrate how science and running are intertwined. As a scientist and runner, I was intrigued by this book.

Although this book is touted for beginner runners as well as the seasoned runner, I feel that it is definitely for the beginner runner. I also felt like there was only a minimal amount of knowledge I gained from this book but perhaps part of that is because I’m not only a seasoned runner but an experienced scientist as well. Perhaps if a seasoned runner that wasn’t a scientist read this book, they would gain more from it than I did.

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The book is laid out in a simplistic way that reminded me of a picture book, which in and of itself isn’t a bad thing. There are 192 pages divided into eight chapters. For example, the first chapter, “The runner’s body,” explains VOmax, anaerobic and aerobic respiration, lactic acid, the aging runner, and the physical benefits of running. Other chapters in the book cover running form, carb loading and nutrition, running psychology, training and racing, equipment covering everything from shoes to sunglasses, stretching and core strength, and general questions like physical limits for the marathon and women’s record running times versus men’s.

There was very little in this book that I hadn’t read somewhere else before. However, I do think it’s important to get different perspectives  on running-related information since so much of the information on running is subjective, so I didn’t feel like it was a waste of my time to read this book.

A couple of things from the book stood out to me:  1) the author points out that ice baths are best saved for periods of intense competition and not during training. I know ice baths are a bit controversial, but some people swear by them. I’m not going to get into the science explained about ice baths here, but suffice to say this isn’t the first time I’ve read that ice baths aren’t necessarily a good thing for runners and 2) the authors show evidence that ultramarathon runners have much higher pain tolerance than non-ultramarathon runners. This makes sense given how much more intense training ultramarathon runners have but I had never read any scientific articles about this before.

In summary, if you’re just getting started with running, this would be a great book to read. If you’ve been running for many years and haven’t read much about the science related to running, it would be a good book to read. However, if you’ve been running for a while and have read scientific articles about running, this may not be the book for you. Then again, borrow it from your library and see what you think. You might learn a thing or two.

Amazon link here

Have any of you read this book? If so, what did you think?

Happy running!

Donna

 

Book Review- Runner’s World Race Everything: How to Conquer Any Race at Any Distance in Any Environment and Have Fun Doing It by Bart Yasso

I’m a huge fan of Bart Yasso so when I saw this book was out, I put in a request through my library for an interlibrary loan immediately. To cut to the chase, I was not disappointed after reading it, either. The foreword by David Willey, editor in chief of Runner’s World is heartfelt and full of anecdotes and gives some good background information on Mr. Yasso.

For those of you who don’t already know, Bart Yasso started working at Runner’s World in 1987 until he retired at the end of 2017. Over the years, Yasso ran pretty much every distance race you can think of and traveled over the world. It’s this huge amass of experiences that allowed him to write this book.

This book was a quick read for me; it’s 203 pages with the index and is divided into 10 chapters. Yasso begins with the reasons to race, goes to his training principles, and has chapters on 5ks, 10ks, half marathons, marathons, ultramarathons, unconventional events, and finishes with relays and multiple race events. Finally, the last chapter is on building longevity for long runs.

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For each chapter on the various race distances, he talks about his favorite race for that distance. The Philadelphia Distance Run (now the Rock ‘N” Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon) is his favorite half marathon, for example. I was fortunate enough to run this race when it was still the Philadelphia Distance Run, and it was a fun one, but I wouldn’t say it was my favorite. Speaking from experience, Yasso gives valuable tips and advice for the races he’s personally run and some fun history. There are also beginner and seasoned runner training plans for each distance along with key workouts including why and when you should do them.

Yasso 800s are also mentioned in the book. Back in 1981, Yasso was training for a 2:50 marathon to qualify for Boston. He noticed that the average time it took to run 10 x 800 meters corresponded to his marathon finish times. For example, if it took him 2 minutes, 40 seconds to run each 800-meter interval of a 10 x 800 workout, with a 400-meter recovery jog in between, his marathon time would be about 2 hours and 40 minutes. In 1993 he shared this knowledge with Amby Burfoot, the editor at the time of Runner’s World, who then put the workout in the October 1994 issue of the magazine and called them Yasso 800s.

One thing that happened to Yasso that profoundly effected his health and running is he contracted Lyme disease in 1990. He was misdiagnosed early on and went years before he was appropriately treated. He says his health was stable until a second bout of Lyme disease in 1997 and a third bout in 2002. For anyone not familiar with Lyme disease, the tick borne illness can cause debilitating arthritis in the joints, swelling, fatigue, headaches, nerve problems, heart problems, just to name a few. Yasso has continued to run through Lyme disease but he’s said his races have been a lot less and slower than previously.

In the final chapter, Yasso says he’s run more than 1,200 races over the last 40 years and he has some advice on how others might continue running and racing as they age. In typical Bart Yasso fashion, he does so in a way that’s not pushy or preachy. He simply says what works for him:  30 minutes of strength training twice a week, dynamic warmup before running, cross-training twice a week, and a whole-foods-based diet (he’s vegetarian).

I think the final few pages sum up Bart Yasso’s life as a whole. The section “Embracing the Community” is about being part of the running community where you live. It’s about volunteering at races, encouraging people to start running, and to “inspire others to find health, joy, and meaning in running.” If only we could all be such wonderful running ambassadors as Bart Yasso has been and continues to do so!

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Bart Yasso with A Fast Paced Life blogger

Link to buy book on Amazon here.

Have any of you read this book? I know some of you follow his philosophy of running all the races you can and inspiring others to run- tell me about your experiences!

Happy running!

Donna

Running While on Vacation

Over the years, I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to 42 states in the United States where I’ve run a half marathon in each state. I’ve also traveled throughout the Caribbean, Mexico, Canada, several countries in Europe, Chile, and New Zealand for vacations. Since I’ve often been training for a half marathon while on vacation, I’ve tried to squeeze in a run whenever I can. This hasn’t always been easy to do, especially if you don’t speak the language fluently and don’t know the area well.

I’ve tried many different approaches to running while on vacation, some have worked over and over again and others not so much. I’d like to share some of what has and hasn’t worked for me here and would love for you to share some things that have worked for you when running on vacation.

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Running in the Canary Islands was great once I figured out where to run!

Probably one of the biggest things that ensures I’ll actually run while on vacation is to make it a priority to follow my training plan. For example, if I’m supposed to run for 4 miles on Tuesday while I’m on vacation according to my training plan, it almost always works best if I go out first thing in the morning to run. I’m not a morning person but I can manage to get up and out the door around 7 am even on vacation (later if it’s not going to be a hot day). That way my run is out of the way and it’s not looming over my head for the rest of the day until I run.

I always run with my phone when I’m on vacation as well. If I get lost or a sudden thunderstorm comes on for example, it gives me peace of mind to know I can call my husband to come and pick me up. I’ve never actually had to do this, thankfully, but it is better to be safe just in case.

I’ll look for running routes on Strava and MapMyRun. Heck, I’ve even looked on Google Maps to find running routes using the street view. I’ll also check local running stores and local running communities to see if they have running routes posted online. In the past I’ve asked the concierge or people at the front desk of hotels for running routes, but that’s been so unproductive I’ve stopped doing that. If the person you’re asking isn’t a runner, you’re wasting your time asking for running routes.

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Even though it’s usually hot and humid when we go the, I still have fun running in Charleston, SC and love all of these huge old trees!

I’m cognizant of what I eat before going for a run. Once when I was spending time with my husband’s family out of town, I ate bacon, eggs, and toast for breakfast and then went to go run about 45 minutes later. Big mistake. I’ve never done anything like that since then. If it’s a cooler day and I’m going to run around early evening, I know better than to have a big, rich dessert that won’t sit well in my stomach before a run (I’ll save that dessert for after I run!). I’ll pack snacks or buy some when I get to my destination that I know I can eat as soon as I wake up and eat before I go run. Speaking of snacks, I’ll also pack Honey Stinger bars to eat before or after I run and I always bring Nuun tablets to put in my water bottles during my runs. The point is, pack whatever it is you like to eat and/or drink before, during, and after you go for a run so you’ll have it with you on vacation.

Another big thing when running on vacation is to be flexible. I’ve mapped out runs before only to find out the street suddenly was closed due to construction so I’d have to make up my own detour. I’ve also been unable to find places to go for a long run based on what I’ve found on Strava or other places online because what was online was only short distances, so I’ve just gone out on my own and made it up as I went along. Sometimes the places haven’t been the most scenic but I’ve made it work.

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I ran in the bike lane here in Williamsburg, Virginia recently. At least it was shaded!

If you’re going to be in an area for more than a couple of days, look for possible running routes when you’re out driving around, especially if another person is driving. I did this when I was in the Canary Islands. The first day I went for a run, I ended up running along a fairly busy road and it was not ideal running conditions. Later that evening, I saw people walking along what looked like it might be a running path so the next time I went for a run, I ran in that direction and struck gold! It turned out to be a fabulous pedestrian path along the water that went for just the right distance for me.

Do any of you enjoy running on vacation or do you tend to just relax or spend your time with family or friends instead? What tips do you have for running while on vacation for those of you that do run on vacation?

Happy running!

Donna