Why Do You Race? An Overlooked Benefit of Running Races.

The day was dark, gray, and dreary.  The rain had been falling off and on for days, which meant the ground would be a muddy mess.  My heart was aching for my darling horses cooped up in the barn and our energetic dog held hostage in her kennel.  For weeks I had been planning on participating in the Wrangler Run, but with the poor weather forecast, I was not one hundred percent sure.

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Nothing says, “go get’em” like an awesome barn at the foot of the Bighorns. Sadly, the fog was hiding a breathtaking view.

Multiple times earlier that week my husband had called and warned me that the weekend was not shaping up very well.  A possible winter snow advisory was circulating, making him unsure about taking our children to the event.  After a brief conversation with my mother the night before, I consented that bringing the wee ones would be a bad idea.

Since we had not been out to Eaton’s Ranch or this particular race, it was best not to risk the kids’ health by being out in the cold.  Yet, in the same breath, I did not want to wimp out and forgo supporting a cause I am passionate about.  At the last minute, I decided to go ahead and do it alone.  See running the race is only part of the story.

Why Am I So Determined and Committed?

When I search for different races and make note of the entry fee, an important question crosses my mind – Who is the benefactor and what cause am I running for?  Many races are put on to support local non-profit groups.  It is a fun way to bring awareness and hopefully raise some needed funds.  Plus runners get added perks such as T-shirts, coupons, fellowship, and if they are lucky free beer and a meal afterward.

Some races can also benefit the serious runner with qualifying times or points.  There are various organizations that will recognize particular races and award runners who meet certain specifications.

IMG_1665While I have not embarked on a serious running career yet, I can see it coming.  I am fairly competitive.  Unfortunately, however, the majority of runners I bump into are my age.  Since I am not a gifted runner, like my brother, I have decided to wait until the numbers decline.  So, about the time I am in the fifty plus age groups, I should be ready to shine.  For now, as long as I continue to improve my time and not finish dead last, I will be happy with my results.

 And So the Wrangler Run Went…

What a great race the Wrangler Run turned out to be.  Granted the course was changed last minute due to the trails being impassible.  And the weather was cold with a nip of mist.  Even so, the small crowd of super troopers was extremely friendly.  I had a wonderful time before the race chatting and enjoying a small break from the kiddos.  Added bonus:  there was poor cell phone reception, so contact from the outside world was at a minimum.

One negative was the delayed start time.  Since the course was moved to the gravel road, we had to wait for the horses to cross before we could officially begin.  Although, I am not sure how bad that was considering it was impressive to witness.

The 10K course was moderately difficult and I finished with a fairly decent time.  I ran on a slight downhill the first half, took off my top layer at the aide station, and ran back on a slight uphill to finish with a time of 1:05:37.  Ending a race uphill gave my gut an extra punch, but I quickly recovered.  A quick change of clothes was paramount due to the weather.  Followed by a little me time observing the horses in the corral.

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Horses, horses, and more horses. The beauty of running at Eaton’s Ranch.

After I felt mildly recovered, I decided to check out what was going on.  I wandered over to the club house and discovered a local brewery had graciously donated a keg.  WOW!  Fresh keg beer after a race is one of the most delightful things.  Boy, did that hit the spot!  Another awesome bonus to this race was a free meal.  I filled my empty stomach with delicious food and talked to some of the volunteers.

All in all, I am so thankful I did not decide to skip this race.  Even though the weather threw a few curve balls, everyone dealt with them tactfully.  Veterans said it was sad not to be able to run the trails, but understood why.  They will be back next year, as will I.  Furthermore, I have no doubt, Habitat for Humanity of the Eastern Bighorns was grateful that everybody braved the cold, overcast day to help support their mission.  Besides, isn’t running for a cause worth a few hiccups?  Until next time happy running!

 

 

Quest For a Healthier Lifestyle: Part 2

As the date of my second half marathon fast approaches, memories from the Mickelson Race in Deadwood, South Dakota surface.  It ended up being a great race to learn from.  Definitely, one that my husband, Mick, and I agree needs to be done each year.  While I did not do as well as I had wanted, I was not discouraged.

The day before the race, Mick and I headed out to get some needed items.  Not the best idea.  This last minute stop put us way behind our time line.  We ended up getting to our hotel around seven Saturday night.  If it were just out little family, this time may have been okay.  But we were meeting my parents, brother, sister-in-law, and their two children.  The extra chaos of getting everyone situated left us eating dinner around nine.  The menu was very limited for good pre-race meals and service was extremely slow.  In hindsight, I should have ordered the better noodles from the kid’s menu.

Sleeping soundly in hotels has never been a strength of mine and that night was no different.  I tossed and turned relentlessly.  My sleeping efforts were completely in vain.  Our five o’clock wake time came quickly.  Thankfully, the extra adrenaline running through the body race morning makes getting up a piece of cake.

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The morning of the race. Mom, Mick, and I were pumped and ready to do this!

We woke up, got dressed and tried to eat a filling breakfast.  With nerves on fire and heart pumping, Mick, my mother, and I boarded the shuttle bus that took us to the start line.  It was a half hour ride and for some odd reason, they wanted you there an hour before the race.  Snack tables were set up and serving delicious bits of goodness.

After chit-chatting and waiting for what seemed like an eternity, it was time to line up.  Millions of thoughts crossed my mind as I waited to begin.  Nothing, however, can truly prepare you for what you do not know.  I started walking like I do during workouts, to warm up my and get my mind in gear.  Then at the one-mile mark, I began jogging.  From my reading on marathon running, it was said that many take the walk/run approach.  Given my lack of training, I decided this would be a good strategy.  Yet, as the miles progressed, I realized perhaps I had planned this out all wrong.  By the finish line, I was thirsty, exhausted and slightly injured.

While I loved the participation and look forward to next year, there are so many things that I would like to do differently.  Things that I am going to work on and experiment with for the next few races I have this year.

Some Key Items That Need to be Changed for Next Year.

There were many factors (some excuses) that kept me from being as prepared as I had hoped.  The most important thing I took away was the experience.  Now I have a better idea of what to expect and what to prepare for when running long distance.  Aside from bettering my training, here are some points I will keep in mind for the next race adventure:

  • Arrive early the day before.  This will give me a chance to settle in, relax and enjoy the company of fellow racers.  May even give me a chance to do some last minute shopping!
  • Eat a quality carbohydrate meal the night before the race.  Do not overload the belly.  Split dinner into a couple small meals to avoid over eating.  Above all plan meals wisely and do not wait until nine o’clock to start dinner.
  • Have a good fueling plan for the day of the race.  One thing I highly regretted was not eating more for breakfast.  Half way through I started feeling extremely hungry, which definitely affected my performance.  I will be looking into the different gel energy options for my upcoming runs.
  • Have a source of water on hand at all times.  While the drink stations are helpful, they were not available when I felt I needed them.  At one point I was seriously considering snatching a bottle of water from a camera man.
  • Make sure I am able to rest after the race is finished.  At the end, my legs felt like led bricks and my tummy was slightly upset.  What I wanted to do more than anything was sit down.  Unfortunately, we were on a time limit with our hotel room and had to rush back to pack it up.  It would have been wiser to stay another night so that our bodies could recuperate properly.

What I am Currently Doing to Prepare for My Races Ahead.

When preparing for a long distance race it is a good idea to maintain a training schedule.  Like I mentioned before, I gave up training to recoup from moving and ended up not running again until two weeks before the race. Even then my runs were short and consistent.  I thought I could hack it, but had a lot to learn.

Due to circumstances, my running is done mainly inside on the treadmill.  WHile I did try to catch up using Hal Higdon’s Novice Half Marathon schedule, I was too far behind to make any headway.  Coupled with the fact that I did not add any extras to mimic the outdoor experience.  A mistake I will not make again. After a little more research for my post Treadmill vs Outdoor Running, I now have some new ideas on how to up my treadmill training to make it more effective.

Swimming continues to play a big part in getting ready to race.  My plan includes one day of cross-training.  While this is a good balance, my body seems to benefit from a light mile swim the day after a long run.  I simply put on my flippers and slowly swim for twenty minutes (or a mile).  During this time I focus on my breathing and stretching my muscles.  With my watch keeping track of my distance, it is a great way to get lost in thought.

I have been keeping up with my long runs on Sunday mornings.  Through trial and error, I realized that in the dry climate where I live, it is important to hydrate.  Recently, I purchased a water carrier to try before the race.  Sadly, I do not like the way it feels, but am thankful to have found that out before race day.  Any new equipment I want to try out needs to be done before.  It just makes sense.  Same goes for my shoes.  It is apparent now why there are so many types of running shoes.  Trail shoes were made for trail running.  For a very good reason I might add, but that is a story for another time.

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Mick schooling London on the ways of running for next year.

Running half marathons are an event that should not be taken lightly.  My first experience was an eye opener, but gladly not a discourager.  It was such a great time, we left Deadwood planning next year.  There are many things that will be changed, but one thing will stay the same.  Our drive to continue to do this!  It has become a family obsession.  The move out west has forever altered the way we spend family time together.  Now on to the next run!  Leading Ladies here I come!

Treadmill vs. Outdoor Running

A Stay-At-Home Mom’s Journey to Better Health

After the birth of my daughter in 2014, I decided it was time to get back in shape. A friend of mine started a challenge group, and for accountability reasons, I jumped on board. It was just the kick in the pants I needed to get my weight loss plan started. I I did very well, ten pounds shy of where I wanted to be.  Due to the age of my children and where we lived, many of my running hours were spent on a treadmill. While I understood the importance of running outside in the elements, unfortunately, our family schedule did not allow me the opportunity.

During this time, I thought it would help if I had a running goal. So, I decided to train for a half marathon (with the dream of a full marathon in the back of my mind). Through conversing with a family friend, I found myself setting up a meeting with a retired university track coach. I was super stoked to meet this man.  Receiving advice from those who have experience is something I treasure greatly.

We sat down at our mutual friend’s house and began to talk. He suggested that I start with a few short road races to get into the groove of racing. Okay, this is good advice. Then he was gracious enough to give me a speed-work schedule. I took the paper and put it in my notebook, where I have it to this day.

While I was thankful to be in the presence of genius, I was also a bit put out. The thought of running on a treadmill seemed beneath this man, and all my efforts were worthless. For weeks after our meeting I did nothing. I was too embarrassed to run a treadmill. It was not real running. Kinda like cheating. It took me quite a while to get over this mindset. Finally, I overcame and started running again…on the treadmill. I realized, I am a stay-at-home mom with small children.  My options are somewhat limited.

So, what is the difference between running on a treadmill vs. outside?

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My son, Rider, and I after the Sneakers and Spurs 5K in Sheridan, WY. First race I ran with a jogging stroller. Rider loved it!

Is there a benefit to one over the other and how does that affect the individual and their performance. Personally, I would LOVE to run outside every day.  However, due to circumstances, I have to find another way to get my miles in. Therefore, I decided to work on different techniques while running in place. This is what I have discovered from my research.

Benefits of Running on a Treadmill

One of the main reasons people choose treadmills is the safety factor during the cold months. Running outside in the winter can be very risky. The roads may be slippery, it gets darker earlier, and temperatures can actually hinder a runner’s performance. Running outside in the cold can also compromise a runner’s form, cause muscular tight spots or worse inflict injuries. Being out of commission due to an injury has to be a runner’s worst nightmare.

If the fear of boredom still lingers, here are some helpful points to keep in mind while putting in the miles inside

  • It is proven that while running on the treadmill a runner will take shorter strides, as well as, higher stride frequencies. Use this knowledge to improve form while reducing impact.
  • To get a truer to the road run, set the incline anywhere between 0.5% – 1%. This will also account for the lack of wind resistance.
  • Running on the treadmill can make the effort feel higher. So, remember do not run by the pace indicated on the screen or your watch, but by feel and effort.

Some Pitfalls of Running on a Treadmill

Treadmill running can become very boring very quickly. Staying in one place staring at the same thing for any length of time can cause a person to give up before they even start. When I first brought our treadmill home, I set it up in a bedroom facing the door which led my eye down a dull hallway. Bad idea. Super boring. I tried to spice things up with a film (I do not recommend Anne of Green Gables). Still did not help. Finally, I moved it out onto the “four seasons” sun-room. It was a hit! Although extremely chilly in the winter, I was able to gaze upon the beautiful outdoors. Almost like I was running outside.

What are some ways to reduce boredom?

  • Make a playlist of your favorite tunes in an order that coincides with your workout. I put slower songs toward the beginning while warming up. Followed by high-intensity songs when it is time to run faster. Throughout I add punch music, like the Rocky theme, to add a little kick.
  • If a television is a better motivator, pop in a high action video. Again Rocky III or IV is a good choice to get the body pumped and moving.
  • If the option is available, face a window. One thing that drives me bonkers at our YMCA is how they turned all the cardio equipment toward the inside (facing the televisions). Call me a weirdy, but I would rather have the sun shining on my face than my back.

My Overall Take Home

Today, I do long runs outside, Saturday or Sunday mornings, and my three short runs inside on the treadmill. When running inside I like to work on the psychological struggle, speed, inclines, distance and weight resistance for the upper body. On long runs outdoors, I focus on mileage, the elements, terrain, various speeds and enjoying the beauty that surrounds me. Do I feel guilty for not running outside more? Yes, more than I would like. Yet, I have come to realize this is my situation. I have three young children who demand my attention. Leaving them alone in the house for hours to get some”real” run time is not an option. I do what I can with what I have. Will I ever cross the finish line first? No. Will I break records or qualify for the Boston Marathon? No. But what I will have accomplished is exactly what I set out to do. With the best part being the three little kiddos waiting for me at the finish line.  Proud that their mother finished, regardless of how she trained.

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Greeted by Paisley and London at the finish line of the Antelope Butte 8 Mile.  Seeing their smiles was definitely worth the pain.

Quest for a Healthier Life: Part One

After living in Indiana all of my life, my husband, Mick and I decided it was time to take our family elsewhere.  Having visited my parents numerous times in Sheridan, Wyoming, it began to feel like our second home.  So, Mick applied and accepted a job with the Wyoming Department of Transportation.  In the Fall of 2016, we loaded up a U-haul and headed out West to embark on a crazy journey.

One of our family goals since arriving in Sheridan, Wyoming, is to become healthier.  In order to do so, we joined the local YMCA, keep a close eye on what we eat, and limit our consumption of alcoholic beverages.  One other action that seems to keep us motivated is finding road races.  We started off with a simple 5K, that supported our local CHAPS organization.  Then after some research and consultation with my mother, Mick and I decided to sign up for the Mickelson Half Marathon, held this year on June 4 in Deadwood, South Dakota.

Being filled with excitement and determination, we signed up as early as possible.  This left us with quite a bit of training time.  Granted this was going to be our first long race, so it seemed like a good idea to take the extra time and do it right.  Yet it was important to remember, as Hal Higdon warns in his book Marathon, The Ultimate Training Guide, one of the worst things a runner can do is over train resulting in an injury.  Depending on the injury, it can be a significant setback or even elimination from the race completely.

Each of us picked our training program and away we went.  I chose to follow Hal Higdon’s 12-week Half-Marathon: Novice schedule.  I took the month of January to ease into the groove of running.  It had been quite some time since I had been in a regular training routine.  As soon as February hit I was off and going full force.  I wrote my required distances on a workout calendar, counted my calories, and did a weigh-in every week.  I was doing good.  Then the end of March came and with it a huge upset to our lifestyle.

We had been renting a house in town.  A temporary situation, but I had come to think we would be there for at least two years.  Earlier than expected, our landlord decided it was time to sell the house, and we were given the chance to move into my parents home in the country.  Considering, we still favored the country life and our horses were coming to Wyoming at the end of April, the move was inevitable.

Having moved three times within a year, I was pretty stressed and frustrated (to say the least).  The move took its toll on my sleep, eating, and exercise routine.  In order to avoid getting sick, I decided it would be best to take the next week off.  I was hoping this would reset my nerves and give me a chance to get the house in order.  Back at the old place, I had formed a routine of sorts and changing it up made it hard to get into the right training frame of mind.  The week off ended up turning into a month and a half.

As the race date got closer, two weeks to be exact, I realized I needed to do something to get my body mildly prepared.  Running to win was never my intention, but I would like to run the majority and in a decent time.  So, I stopped the excuses and jumped on the treadmill this last week.  When starting back up I usually like to run at lease three miles.  WOW!  It felt great to be running again.  I felt awesome on the treadmill and after I finished.  It was like I had almost forgotten how accomplished one can feel after a good run.  Not to mention all the wonderful new thoughts and ideas that pop into the mind.

Overcoming the negative thoughts and just doing it can be very tough.  I was so pumped at the beginning of this adventure, but then something got in the way and distracted me for far too long.  One of our family goals was to change our lifestyle, but unfortunately, like many, I got caught up in the race to loose bunches of weight quickly.  I became too hard on myself.  When I didn’t see the scale budge each week I got angry.  I felt like I was making sacrifices for nothing.  Perhaps our second goal should be trying to figure out how to carry out the lifestyle change and maintain it.

To be continued…