Rockin’ the Weekend

There’s so much to say about this past weekend’s races, some I can fully explain and some that I’m still processing and keeping to myself. But the feeling of fully enjoying and being in the moment for the three races in Virginia Beach, the 5k, Mile on the Sand, and the Half marathon, is really one that I want to hang on to for a very long time.

While my training did not go quite as planned, it was up until my iron deficiency diagnosis, consistent. I was completing every workout from the day-to-day running, crossing training, and long runs. Knowing about the iron issues now really makes me wonder what I could have accomplished if I had healthy levels for the entire training period. But I’m not looking back in a negative way. In fact, it has provided me with a positive outlook on the upcoming goals I have.

Now, about the weekend!

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My two bibs and medals from the Saturday races. (c) Stacey Cooper

For the Saturday 5k and Mile on the Sand the temps were nice and cool which hid the 93 percent humidity. I was so excited to be running and really wanted to see what I could do with the improved iron levels and speed but I really focused on staying within a certain pace keeping Sunday’s half in mind but also knowing I had about 45 minutes between the 5k and Mile on the Sand.

With that in mind I ended up cutting 5 minutes off of my current 5k time. I’m now 7 minutes off of my 5k PR from a few years ago and that now seems in reach. I haven’t felt that optimistic about working towards a PR in a long time.

One of the hard parts for me was to keep my muscles warm in between the two races. A lot of people I met were talking about just walking the mile so I still wasn’t quite sure what my plan was for this. Ultimately, I figured I start out running and see how I felt. If the sand was too difficult to run through I would walk it. When I have been running on the beach in Miami there is a section closer to the boardwalk where the sand is packed and easier to run on while in Virginia Beach the sand is very loose. It had also rained heavily the night before which made more divots in the sand and more challenging.

I started my run and took it slow to warm up my muscles again. I never felt like I was pushing myself or struggling to keep going so I ran the whole thing and smiled most of the time. It was a really great experience to have a race on the beach that I just wanted to enjoy it. So consider that goal met!

I took it easy for the rest of the day in order to save my legs for the half on Sunday where the heat and humidity would be in full force for us. The night before consisted of alight dinner and my UCAN prep for the race. Just a quick tangent here. I started using UCAN during my training and really liked the slow release of carbs while running. The unfortunate thing for me is that I started using before my diagnosis and treatment and never got a long run with it before the race. So I made my drink to have 30 minutes before the race and also made a gel version for about six or seven mile mark of the half as a just in case. They really worked well and now I’m a UCAN convert.

Now back to the race. My one and only goal was to just really enjoy this and I did just that!

Of course, once it got going I still wanted to accomplish certain things. I wanted to keep my pace pretty even and fell strong all the way. At the start my left leg was really tight and hurting to the point that I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. I just kept talking to my leg and begged it to feel better. It actually listened!

I was able to keep my pace in a certain range for most of the race until I got onto Camp Pendleton State where the roads haven’t been paved in decades. I took my UCAN gel when I entered the base but my leg started to really hurt as we were nearing the exit for the base but as soon as we got onto less choppy pavement it felt fine the rest of the way. My quads were a bit sore but nothing I haven’t experienced before and thing if I had one more long run before this that would not have been an issue.

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A rare picture of me on my blog! Also, a rare picture of me being happy at the end of a race. (c) DY

Getting onto the boardwalk was a great feeling because I knew I would be able to run it our and stay within my goal pace range. I was also able to to pass runners on the one major hill and along the boardwalk. That is always a good feeling.

An even better feeling is shaving 30 minutes off of your current half marathon pace and just 20 minutes off of my half PR, another goal to work towards.

It has been such a long time that I have been able to really thoroughly enjoy a race weekend like this!

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Not So Iron Strong

Things were going so great. I was able to complete all of my training, I was even cross training, and wait for it…I did that damn Yoga for Runners DVD again. Then I went for my annual physical. Everything was great except for one oh tiny, but oh so major issue, my iron was critically low.

Now I knew that I had been struggling through some long runs in the sense that I just couldn’t seem to get my pace to pick up. No matter how diligently I trained and making sure that I did my cross training and got my rest days nothing would improve. I just thought it had to do the weight gain I had and that as soon as I lost it all everything would kick in.

So now I know why my time never improved but how to go about correcting the anemia.

Turns out that had a solution as well and no it did not involve eating raw steak, although some friends would say that my tendency towards rare steaks would qualify as raw. Anyway, I was immediately started on iron infusions. This is a good thing because if I wasn’t so healthy in other areas I would have been sent to the hospital right away for a blood transfusion.

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One of my first iron infusions. It’s like a hookah lounge for iron. Lounge and snacks provided! (c) Stacey Cooper

The first couple of weeks I was going twice a week lasting approximately 30 minutes each. I’m now down to once a week and my numbers are improving steadily. I’ll hopefully have one or two more infusions before I go on a maintenance program. I do know why this happened and it is nothing I did wrong but I’m not going to share those details with the entire world.

But man, iron is my new super drug!

After being sidelined for two weeks until my levels got back up to decent levels I was cleared to run but only short easy runs. That meant my 10 mile long run, my longest for this weekend’s half marathon was out. The good news is that I am now able to run faster and it seems easy.

My pace for a 5k has improved by 2:30 to 3:00 minutes!

I have no idea how my races for this weekend’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach series will go. I’m doing both the 5k and Mile on the Beach races in Saturday and the half on Sunday. But I figure that running eight miles with critically low iron might be the equivalent of running 10 with a decent amount of iron in your system.

So my moral of the story for this is to be healthy and get an annual physical.

I’ll keep you all posted about the races this weekend!

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Setting Goals and Sticking With Them

Having goals is good, sticking with them to the end is even better.

If that sentence doesn’t scream, “duh,” I don’t know what does.

A few months ago I set out on a plan to try an improve my 5k time, a distance that I never really ran that much but found myself running more frequently this year. I’m still ways off of my 5k PR time but I wanted to improve my time from over the previous year. The year where I tried to get running consistently again over and over again.

This year has seen a tremendous improvement on the consistency so I knew that setting a goal like this was realistic. That’s part of the deal with settings goals — they should take work to achieve but still be in reach. That’s what I have found to keep moving forward and achieving those goals then setting new ones. That’s my life coaching hat I just put on for you.

(LC hat now removed)

So I kept plugging away at my training plan and enjoyed seeing the endurance return as well as the confidence. My next step was to actually go out and run a 5k race to achieve this. Details.

My original plan was to run a 5k while on a trip to Arizona but that just was not going to work out. So the next option was a 5k about a mile from my home. It was perfect. I could sleep in a bit and not have to rush to the race.

The weather the during the week was awesome and beautiful so of course that meant it was going to be chilly and pouring rain during the race. Thank you Mother Nature and Running Gods!

I pretty much knew that my goal time was not going to be met. But I accomplished my “B” goal of sticking to my race plan and having fun. The time goal would come another day.

That “another day” came on Memorial Day when I decided to sign up for a 5k on Roosevelt Island in NYC. Yup, it rained on race day! While it didn’t rain as heavy as my last 5k it did bring the temps down a bit. This time around I switched my “A” and “B” goals by making sticking to the race plan and having fun as the “A” goal and beating my time as my “B” goals.

This 5k course is flat so my chances of hitting both goals was improved before I even crossed the starting line. The start of this course has a couple of tight turns near the start and a couple at the finish. Other than that you just run around the island.

Turn out keeping it calm and relaxed did allow me to enjoy the race. It wasn’t until I was off the island and headed to my best buddy’s place that I realized that I hit my time goal. Yup, I had a bit of a goofy grin on my face when I realized that.

By having those realistic goals I was able to accomplish them and now am in full on training mode for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon on Labor Day Weekend. There was a hurricane there last year when my buddy and I went that brought the temps down to a very comfortable level. I’m fully expecting the super crazy heat and humidity this year that may make me wish that I never decided to do this race again. That’s just how it rolls!

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Just Running Around Here and There

Just because I haven’t anything in a gazillion weeks doesn’t mean that I have stopped running. Quite the contrary. I have been running and steadily building up my endurance. It’s just that I’ve been busy with other things lately. All good things but we’ll keep this post focused on the running since this a blog about running.

I can’t tell you what a difference a year makes. Last year at this point I was training for the Philly Broad Street Run and the Cape Cod Ragnar Relay. I was really overweight and focused on just being able to run three minutes without stopping.

Right now I’m at a much healthier weight with more to go and running much better and longer. Things are so much better that I’m back at the point where I feel a void if I don’t go out for a run. It seems like ages ago that I had that feeling.

I even got a chance to run in the Canadian Rockies last week when I had a quick overnight business trip to Banff. Running there was fantastic and invigorating. I’ve never been to Banff before and with just a quick turnaround I am so glad that I got the opportunity to see a little of the area we were staying in. I can’t wait to go back for a longer visit and run.

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It’s easy to forget how far you’ve run when this is in front of you. (c) Stacey Cooper

Next week I’ll be headed to Scottsdale, Arizona for another business trip and found a 5k that I’ll be able to participate in after my meetings are completed. I’ve been following a Coach Jenny training plan so that I can try and improve my 5k time from about a year ago. I’ve been feeling so strong while running that I’m sure I can achieve this goal.

After I take on the streets of Scottsdale I plan on running a local 5k that it about a mile from my home. It will be my first race in this area and I’m really looking forward to it before I start focusing on my next planned race, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Half Marathon in Virginia Beach during Labor Day weekend. My friend and I enjoyed it so much last year that we decided to do this one again. The course is really beautiful and I highly recommend it. Of course, last year we were there for a hurricane that kept the temperatures down so I’m expecting plenty of heat and humidity this year!

What may be the last big trip of the year that I’m in the planning stages for is the Havana Marathon. There are several races on my bucket list and even though I have always wanted to go to Cuba the timing of this race never seemed to fit and so it just remained a dream. Now it seems that the stars have aligned and I’ll be able to go this year! The trip is from November 17-20 and please let me know if you are going. Perhaps we can have a mini scoopsontherun blog meet-up!

I just wanted to give you a quick run-down (ha!) on what has been going on and the future plans. It’s spring and getting warmer so let’s get out there and be active!

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Feeling Stronger

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” — Lao Tzu

One of the hardest things when you stop running on a regular basis is what happens when you start running again. It is incredibly amazing how out of shape you feel if you’ve only stopped for a few days or months or years. Starting up again is a challenge and always feels like your legs are going fall off or a lung will pop out of your chest. But somewhere deep your brain you know that with a little work you won’t feel like that all the time.

That’s the physical aspect of it but the emotional aspect can sometimes, I think, be worse.

Trying to find that deep recess in your brain where logic lives can be hard to find and rely on when it is being block by this gigantic blob of emotions.

It is so easy to be hard on yourself and compare the current you to the you of oh so many PRs and amazing accomplishments of yesterday. Believe me it took several months and you can possibly say even a year before I stopped that comparison. It was only then that I was able allow myself to really get started on my journey to be a consistent runner again.

But even letting go of some of that emotional stuff it was still difficult to get out of safety zone and not push or challenge myself to run longer and faster. I would always tel myself, “You’ll start to focus on increasing your pace next week. Let’s just make that you can get through a week doing this and maybe then you will feel stronger.”

I’m not sure what happened, maybe it was the successful weight loss or joining Coach Jenny’s Challenge 2017 that has an incredibly supportive group of members, but it happened.

Look at that lovely training log that has consistent activity of running, walking, and cycling with one rest day. That makes me happy. (c) Stacey Cooper

Look at that lovely training log that has consistent activity of running, walking, and cycling with one rest day. That makes me happy. (c) Stacey Cooper

I was able to run consistently during the week to meet the challenge goals and then started pushing myself. When I did, that magical thing happened — I was ok and felt fine, great even. And with that I got that little boost in confidence that has continued to push me.

Having that confidence enabled me to be able to look back at my past accomplishments in a healthy way. For example, when I was running at my peak I was logging two abbreviated runs a day; one was outdoors and the other on the treadmill. At that time I noticed that I was able to increase my speed and quickly get comfortable at that new speed. This is similar to what is happening now, minus the two-a-days. When I started back up with my running a could barely reach half what that old fast speed was but the past couple of weeks I have been able to increase that speed.

Recognizing that feeling of increasing my speed I referred back to my old log book from that time and realized that while I still have a ways to go to get back to that speed I am getting closer and it doesn’t seem like an insurmountable task. I know that I can accomplish that speed again.

It really is great to feel this way again. So all I can say is if you need that little pick me up or reminder that you can get back it, let this be proof that you can!

 

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Running in the Snow

I don’t like snow but on some very rare occasions I can pretend that I do and well even enjoy running in it. But it may not necessarily have anything to do with you know, actually liking snow.

It was 6:00 pm on a Saturday evening when this was taken. Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. Well except the runner. The runner was running. (C) Stacey Cooper

I love running when it is quiet and calm. Being able to hear my breathing and my footfalls is one of the most wonderful experiences that running good gives me. This is why I love running in the dark, either early in the morning or in the evening. Knowing that no one will be out and about gives me that amazing time all by myself.

I had another opportunity this past Saturday when a light snow had started falling. Yes, I could have started my run at any time during the day but I admit, I got a little giddy at the thought of running in the snow. 

A couple of weeks ago there was much more snow and it was a bit more difficult to run through so I only ended up getting a couple of miles in. But last night I wanted more and completed a four mile loop.

It was fantastic. Hardly anyone was out and yeah, the snow helped make it that way.

It wasn’t a speed breaker due to making sure what I was running on wasn’t ice so it was slow, but when I was done I felt like I had a good workout and felt fulfilled. So yeah, this snow stuff might be growing on me.

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Hello 2017

Man am I happy to see 2016 gone. It wasn’t necessarily a bad year overall but it certainly presented me with challenges that seemed to be more of a long slog. Now we get to start with a clean slate.

For the first time in a long time I am not registered for any races and don’t have any specific goal races in mind.It certainly is bit freeing from the pressure of having to maintain a training plan and keep paying race reg fees.

Speaking of which, some races are now so pricey that I feel like race directors are making the decision for me. I’m at the point if I am going to pay $60 or more for a race that I should make it a destination race rather than pay that much to run in places I can go to every day.

That said, it doesn’t mean I haven’t been running.

I’ve been alternating between running a nice little three mile route near my home and doing the same on the treadmill. As I mentioned in my last post I have rediscovered the joys of running at night, even now that it is getting colder outside. It is supposed to snow overnight here in NYC and I’m looking forward to heading out sometime tomorrow and go running in it. Who am I, I hate snow!?!

This running for joy has allowed me to me focus on being more consistent, and surprisingly, I’m finding it much easier to do without a training plan. So much so that I joined Coach Jenny’s Challenge 2017 which is about being consistently active and creating new healthy habits. You can find out more about it here.

What I love about it so far is the instant, amazingly supportive community. This is something that I felt has been missing in some ways in my day to day running life. As we all know, sometimes you just need to change things up a bit or start doing things that you used to but haven’t done in a long time.

For me, that not only involves running for the pure joy of it, but getting back to going to my deep water running classes. Those brought so much joy to me and even helped me try yet other things, like improving my regular swim stroke in another class that the DWR instructor offered.

I’ve pretty much stopped using my Garmin and have using my Apple watch to track my runs. I was so stat and analytic heavy that I think that started taking the joy out of running. I can still get into the data and number crunching with the Apple watch but right now I’m just content with logging the miles in my paper log book and spreadsheet.

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This little guy is going to stick around in 2017. (c) Stacey Cooper

I’m also continuing to use my motivation jar. It was just a great tool in getting me out the door and I netted a few hundred dollars in 2016. I’m hoping that I can bring in more than that this year. Think about having some extra cash on hand when you are at an expo for one of those destination races. I’m so tempted to get that massage thing that looks like a car buffer.

You can also do normal stuff with it like by running shoes or even a nice dinner while you are at that destination race. After all, you earned it!

I’m finding that there is so much more that I’m open to in ways of motivating me this year and that is such a great feeling because I haven’t had that in a really long time. Yeah, that was a bit cheesy but oh well.

I think just overall I’m looking forward to really being healthy. I feel better and that translates into wanting to do all this running and healthy living stuff. Hopefully that will mean more dough in the motivation jar.

Here’s to an awesome and healthy 2017!

 

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