Saturday, January 28, 2012

half marathon training [week 4]

In this installation of "stuff that is boring to non-runners," things are pretty unremarkable. No new distances or speeds, but I did get to run outside every day this week. And I upped my dumbbells from really, really tiny to really tiny, causing me to walk around wincing in pain all day Thursday.

I am slowly getting used to Monday runs, although they're hard. I've always had Monday as a rest day because let's face it, Mondays are jerks. But to fit in three runs during the week, without doing them all in a row, I kind of had to utilize Monday. Monday is tough because I can't run right after school. Instead, I pick up Luke at school, then pick up Tommy, then dash out the door as soon as Shane gets home. Luckily Monday runs are never longer than three miles, but I still feel a little guilty saying hi and then goodbye to the boys. This particular Monday was stupid windy and I felt like I was running into the wind no matter which direction, but I got it done in 31 minutes and headed back inside to really see my boys.

Tuesday's run was a pain. The bike trail I run on had flooded at some point and then frozen over into a thin sheet of ice. Also, for some reason, there were chunks of wood on the trail. I can't figure this one out, but I was so busy watching for ice that I ended up turning an ankle on a chunk of wood. I am pretty sure I spent more time walking than running Tuesday--and I know I spent all of that time cursing myself for being out there. It was not pretty!

Thursday was a quick one mile run. It's amazing how easy this sounds, but it's really not that easy for me. I take awhile to warm up, and you don't really warm up on a one mile run. I did this in the morning before school, as I had Luke's parent-teacher conference after school (glowing report! so proud!). I have such mixed feelings about running in the dark. On one hand, I love it because it is so quiet and peaceful. Hardly any people or cars. On the other hand, I am a nervous, paranoid freak and I can't really enjoy it. I'd do it more often if there was some guarantee of safety.

This morning, I ran seven miles. I was excited because it's been awhile since I've had a run longer than five miles. I was not so excited when I saw the weather. A few inches of snow and wind gusts of up to 35 mph? I can handle the snow, but the wind. I hate you, wind. There was just enough snow to make running difficult. My usual strategy of cutting through the school parking lot and frontage road because they are always clear was a fail, as they were clear of snow, but not clear of ice. Instead of running through a clear path, I had to walk in the snow piled to the side of the road to keep from slipping! After this, I was happy to be back in the snow covered sidewalks and roads. I ended up miscalculating distance and finished my run not only uphill, but straight into the wind. I must've looked so comical. I was making running motions, but I swear I was moving backwards. Dealing with the wind and dodging snow plows was a little (okay, a lot) annoying, but it felt so good to be out there this morning. My muscles are screaming at me a little, so I'll definitely be spending some time with my foam roller today and tomorrow.
When I stopped for a snow plow at one point, I turned around and saw this view.

Isn't that beautiful? The path is the old railroad path. I always think about running down there, but I'm not sure if it belongs to someone or if there are hunters out there, so I don't want to go by myself. If anyone is ever up for a trail run/exploration, I would totally make them run this with me. Regardless, it was a beautiful sight this morning and I'm so glad I was there to see it.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Castaway Bay

We had the most wonderful weekend. A month or so ago, I received an offer for our family to visit Castaway Bay, an indoor waterpark located in Sandusky, Ohio. I jumped at the opportunity because my kids love the waterpark--and so do I. There's something really enchanting about playing indoors at an 82 degree waterpark while it snows outside. You can almost forget that it's winter. This time around, we definitely forgot that it was winter! This was our first time at Castaway Bay and we definitely return. Of the waterparks we've visited in the past, Castaway Bay quickly became our favorite. There are many reasons why, but first and foremost, we loved it because it is SO perfect for young kids. We've had incidents with shoving, running teenagers knocking into our little ones before and we've struggled with there only being one slide that's really appropriate for young kids. And let's face it, even a two year old is going to get bored after awhile. Castaway Bay was great because there is SO much to do. If you live in my area, it's super easy to travel. The distance is about the same as to Wisconsin Dells, but you miss Chicago traffic. Basically, we just got on the toll road and drove east until we got to Sandusky--it was so easy! The Ohio turnpike is great, too, because there are plenty of safe, clean places to stop. We were greeted by a table full of goodies when we got there. IMG_5232 The boys were so excited that I couldn't stop little hands from grabbing things long enough to take a photo! And while I know that as guests of the waterpark, we obviously got a little extra special treatment, but I cannot stress enough how great the entire staff was. Obviously I didn't walk around with a sign saying, "Hi, I'm a blogger," so outside of the few extra perks, we were treated just like everyone else. The staff was unbelievably kind and friendly. Every time we passed the main guest, someone would smile and ask how we were doing. When we asked for a rollaway crib for Tommy (because I like to keep him contained in baby jail), it was brought up immediately with extra linens and pillows. The staff made a point of talking *to* the kids--asking them if they were having fun. I really liked that. The family activities offered at the park are awesome. While some do involve paying a little extra for supplies, for the most part, the activities are free and plentiful. Luke and Tommy loved seeing Peanuts characters wandering around the halls and lobby! As soon as we got there, we hit the waterpark. The slides in the toddler area quickly became Tommy's favorites. IMG_5303 I loved them, too, because to get from the bottom of the slide, out of the pool, and back up to the top of the slide was completely open. This meant that I could stand at the bottom of the slide and wait for him to come back down and at no point was he out of my line of vision! This is awesome, because he wants to do everything on his own, and I didn't have to worry about losing sight of him. Safety is so important and I love it when a place is safe, yet doesn't infringe upon the fun that is being had. Luke's absolute favorite was Rendezvous Run, a water coaster. The first time we went on it, I was afraid he was going to be scared because my stomach dropped on the first hill, followed by a straight shot into a pitch black tube. Of course, as soon as I got my bearings, I realized he was laughing gleefully and not scared at all. I lost count of the number of times we went up the stairs and down this ride, but it was a lot. I love that he's tall enough to go on these sort of rides! We also discovered that he was tall enough to go on Paradise Plunge, a body slide at the top of the family funhouse. It was really cool to do these "big kid" slides with Luke and watch him REALLY enjoy them. I found myself wishing I had a waterproof case for my phone, as I would've loved to capture his joy! IMG_5296 Don't worry. I captured it in other places. IMG_5279 Friday night, we all went to a blogger dinner, where the kids got to sample some of the crafts available at Castaway Bay. I love how Castaway Bay handled this event, by the way. They seemed to understand that while we were there as bloggers, we were--first and foremost--there as families, which meant that we were interested in doing activities with our family. The boys go to color tshirts, make door hangers, and decorate cookies. IMG_5335 (Okay, I colored Tommy's for him, but Luke had a blast decorating his!) IMG_5265 IMG_5267 Cookie decorating was a huge hit... Luke had such a blast that before we left, he gave out hugs and I love yous to the two absolutely wonderful PR women behind the event. Oh, and did I mention that a special guest joined us? IMG_5263 The kid who wailed at the sight of Santa this Christmas couldn't get enough of Snoopy. Go figure. We finally had to tell Tommy that Snoopy had to go night night, because he was obsessed with seeing him again that he didn't want to go back to the waterpark before bed! Fortunately for us, we saw Snoopy the next morning on our way to the waterpark. Best of all? He was wearing pajamas, totally keeping in line with our "Snoopy went night night" fib from the night before. Tommy was so excited that he stopped dead in his tracks. IMG_5272 I didn't get any shots in the morning, because I wanted to just enjoy our last little bit there. We went up and down the waterslides more times than I count, played basketball in the pool, battled the waves in the wave pool, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Walking out of the waterpark was definitely not easy (I'm not naming any names, but one of us did have to be carried kicking and screaming out of the park). We stopped in the lobby while Shane was loading the car, where we discovered two very awesome things: free face painting and Linus! IMG_5315 I *love* that Linus has his blanket. IMG_5319 IMG_5323 (Shane is clapping because we couldn't believe that Tommy sat still for face painting.) Although it was incredibly hard to leave, I love that we were able to end the trip with face painting. It gave the boys one last experience to talk about on the ride home. IMG_5330 I didn't talk much about our room, but we were very pleased with the Starfish room. The room itself was quiet. We didn't hear any noise at all once we went to bed, which is such a blessing. I hate staying somewhere only to have none of us able to sleep because all you hear are loud people crashing around outside your room. It was just the right size for us and had a mini-fridge and microwave, both of which are essential when traveling with kids. And free wi-fi! I did check out the fitness room Saturday morning (yes, I'm crazy) and found it to be very nice. The room itself was cozy with a big window and two flat screen TVs to make working out a little less painful. I was definitely impressed. Overall, I can't say enough good things about our stay, except that we will be back and I cannot wait. If you're looking for a fun, affordable family friendly getaway, I would definitely recommended Castaway Bay! Our trip was provided by Castaway Bay, but all opinions expressed are my own. Huge thank you to Castaway Bay and thunder::tech pr for providing us with this amazing opportunity!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Half Marathon Training [week 3]

This week had some ups and downs, but overall, I felt like it was a strong week. I had the day off Monday, so I got to run in the morning. This is always a nice weekday treat! However, the school in my town did not have the day off, which meant that my usually clear mile or so through the school parking lots and frontage road were not an option because I didn't want to dodge school buses and teenage drivers. The snow we'd gotten earlier in the weekend had time to melt a little and refreeze, making for slippery running conditions--not to mention that many of the sidewalks weren't clear. Including the sidewalk in front of the police station and town hall, which was so piled with snow that I had to walk into the busy street. That was kind of a pain, but I still finished three miles in 33 minutes. Not bad considering the conditions! Tuesday was my best 5k time yet! I finished in 29:45, shaving 14 seconds off my previous best time. The funny thing was my RunMeter app wasn't working correctly and didn't announce my pace or time, so I had no idea what my time was until I finished. I kind of like it that way, because I focused on how I felt instead of what the computer was telling me. Unfortunately, I need the app to tell me distance, so it's not an option to turn that off all of the time. I kind of screwed up on Thursday and underestimated how very cold it would be. Instead of packing my Mizuno gear, I just packed regular tights and a zip up hoodie. It was cold! Single digits cold, so I ran on the treadmill. Fortunately I was only scheduled to run two miles, but I was still pouty because I'd been looking forward to a quick, easy two miles outside. Thanks, winter. You're a dumb jerk. It took me 21 minutes and I managed to hit the emergency stop button twice. Did I mention how much I dislike the treadmill? In case I didn't mention how much I dislike the treadmill, let me reiterate. Today I was scheduled to run six miles. Because we were on a mini-vacation at a waterpark (a post is coming on that very soon), my only option was to do a treadmill run in the morning. I thought I could do it. I really, really thought I could power through my treadmill dislike and do it, but I could not. I managed to run three miles in a slow 36 minutes (during which I punctuated with tweets about how much I hate the treadmill), but I honestly felt like I'd died and was in some level of hell where I was required to run the treadmill for all of eternity (I'm pretty sure Dante would've mentioned that if treadmills were around in his time). It was awful. I turned on the TV, I listened to music, and nothing worked. It was so miserable. I stopped at three miles and got on the elliptical for 3.25 miles. I know it's not the same as a six mile run, but I'm confident that I could've ran six miles if I would've been outside. Instead of in what was so obviously hell. After my run, we went back to the waterpark where I climbed up the stairs to the top of the big slide with Luke approximately eight million times, so I'm confident that I got a good workout regardless. I really need to learn to power through my treadmill dislike. I'm trying, but mental blocks are my worst enemy. I also did a Tough Mudder workout on Wednesday. I should've done one on Friday, but after four hours in the car and three hours chasing the boys around the waterpark, I was beat! Again, I'm assuming all the stair climbing counted as conditioning. According to my Daily Mile, I've logged 104 miles since December 1st! Not bad at all--I can thank the mild December for most of that. Now that we have a taste of winter, I'm definitely ready for spring. Here's hoping I'm able to run outside this whole week...

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Half Marathon Training [week 2]

Week 2 of half marathon training is in the bag! I felt pretty strong this week, especially compared to last week. Last week's migraine really killed me... I'm hoping it's awhile before another bad one hits.

Monday was definitely my strongest 5k ever. I finally finished a sub-30 5k. Granted, I finished in 29:59, but that one second counted! When I hit 2.5 miles and it read my time as 25 minutes, I panicked a little because I had two hills in front of me and was running into the wind. I actually faltered and walked a few steps before I was like, What are you doing? You can DO this. And I did. My splits were 10:23, 9:32, and 9:12.
I was a little tired and sore Tuesday, after two full days of teaching and pushing myself during Monday's run. I missed that sub-30 by six seconds, but I still felt strong. Splits were 10:10, 9:44, and 9:20. Another good negative split!

Wednesday, I followed the Tough Mudder workout and managed to not die. This is a good thing.

Thursday, heh. Thursday killed me. I knew there was a winter storm coming, but I convinced myself that I could run in it. Until I stepped outside and chipped all the ice and snow off my car and almost fell three times doing so. I swallowed my pride and trudged back inside the school to use the treadmill. A little note about me and treadmill running: I haven't done it in, oh, four years. And when I last did it, I was just starting out running and really did more of a fast walk with a few occasional jogs thrown in. So I didn't really run on it. However, I've always heard people say that treadmill runs are faster and easier, so I was all, I'm going to kill this run! It's going to be so fast! Yay easy fast run!
I love it when the universe laughs at me. I am, apparently, not a treadmill runner. I couldn't figure out pacing. I'm used to listening to my legs and letting them tell me when to speed up and slow down. Pushing buttons? Yeah, that doesn't really work for me. Looking at a wall mirror while I'm running? DEFINITELY doesn't work for me. I am horrified at how, uhh, bouncy things are. In one week, I ran my fastest and slowest 5k. I'm nothing if not random.

Friday, I again survived the Tough Mudder workout. And I managed to do a grand total of one real pushup (aka, with my knees off the floor).

Today, I finished strong with a snowy run. It took forever to find my motivation today. I had a little headache. Tommy was sick and woke me up in the middle of the night, needing comfort and snuggles. I finally pushed myself out the door and I was so glad. It was only a four mile run (funny how my miles have actually decreased for the time being!).
It was COLD and the sidewalks weren't all clear, so I stuck to the roads in places that were not heavily trafficked. My head felt light once I got out in it. As much as I detest snow, it is pretty and covered up all the ugliness of January. My splits weren't perfect, but I had to walk through a knee high snow drift at mile three. Without that, I probably could've achieved a negative split. Still, I was pretty close with splits of 11:01, 10:20, 10:43, 9:39. I am probably going to feel this run in my hips tomorrow, as I had to brace myself to keep from slipping and sliding for most of the run. In a few places, I opted to leap over snow that was piled around driveways and I kind of felt like a kid. It was fun!

It was definitely a good one! I have to say how much I love Mizuno breath thermo gear for winter running. The headband keeps my head so warm that I didn't need to pull up my hood, and the gloves keep my hand so toasty that I've yet to make it through a whole run without needing to pull them off to let my hands cool down.

I am glad I had a good week. I felt like last week was kind of a bad start to training and worried that it was a bad sign. I'm glad week two turned it around for me!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Daily Routine

If you're on instagram, you've probably been following along with the January Photo a Day meme. Basically, someone set up a plan for each day of January to correspond with a specific photo. Today was daily routine. The thing is, we have a lot of daily routines and I couldn't pick one, so I thought I'd take some of the highlights and make them into a blog post.

Morning routine:

Stumble to the bathroom at 5:30. Choose various amounts of makeup that might make myself look less zombielike and more human.
Daydream at the way the mirror splits me into two people and wish that I actually had a clone. Clone Erin could go to work and make money, while I stayed home with the kids.
Wake Luke up at 6, then move him into our bed so he can ease into the day. Tommy does his morning breathing treatment at the same time. It's so hard for me to not curl up in bed with them!
I usually make Luke's lunch the night before, but I forgot. Today I made him his own version of a lunchable, with a few extra goodies.

Load Luke into the car at 6:30. Super awesome head wound is courtesy of a gate smack while walking to the park with the sitter. It actually looks a lot better than it did Thursday!
Full moon.
Preschool dropoff.
I love the view when I pull into the parking lot at work. It makes it slightly less painful.

Afternoon routine:

Finish off a long day of teaching and meetings with essay test grading. I plowed through two classes today, and I hope I can get to the other two tomorrow.
Then on to my favorite routine, picking up my two buddies! First the taller one, who goes to school right down the street from my school. Then the shorter one, who goes to the sitter right down the street from our us. Both convenient pickups!
Fighting over who gets to check the mail is a daily routine. I usually cross my fingers and say, NO BILLS, NO BILLS.

When Shane got home, I headed right out for a quick run. I didn't think it'd be a good one, but I ended up much faster than usual and ran my first sub-30 5k! (This explains why I'm so very red faced.)
Dinner! Crock pot Italian beef, BLT pasta salad, and bread.
After dinner playtime, followed by cleaning. Tommy likes to drag out all the pots and pans to pretend to cook. Luke very sweetly put them all away tonight.

Evening routine:

Rocking Tommy... he thinks the camera flash is hilarious.
Shane has a meeting tonight, so Luke got to hang out in our bed with the iPad while I was putting Tommy down.
And finally, as soon as I hit enter and my tea finishes steeping, I'm going to settle in with a cup of tea and a good book.

Just four more days of this, then I can settle into the weekend routine, which involves yoga pants and gluttony. C'mon weekend!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Half Marathon Training

I wasn't sure if I should blog about half marathon training, because well, it's kind of boring. I mean, I put one foot in front of the other for a specified number of miles. And also, I'm always freakishly afraid that talking too much about something will mean that something will somehow end in failure. I'm insane, I know.
But in the end, I take so much inspiration from people who do write about their running successes and failures that I thought, why not?

I'm following a training program that my friend Barb shared--it was created by her friend, a certified running coach. So far, I really like it. While I like Hal Higdon's programs and would have otherwise used his, I also felt like his novice program was more about increasing miles to get to that point. This is great, but the longest run on his program is ten miles. I've already ran ten miles, and I feel like if need be, I could get up and run 13.1 miles tomorrow. I wouldn't run it strong or well, though, which is what I really want to focus on for the next fourteen weeks. Although the training plan is only twelve weeks, my race is fourteen weeks away. I like the extra time in case I need to re-do a week for whatever reason or in case the kids and I are really sick, which is always possible.

This week was a mixed bag. I felt that I ran strong, actually, but I missed Thursday's run due to a migraine (a really nasty stupid migraine that has finally convinced me that I need to see a doctor). It was only a three mile run, so I don't think it's going to make or break anything, but it's still frustrating. The plan calls for four days of running, with two days of strength/cross training, and one day of rest (yay rest!). On the non-run days, I've been doing the Tough Mudder workout. It's hard. I don't do pushups the right way and I'm not even attempting the chin-ups, but it's kicking my butt. It's needed, though! Maybe this means that someday, I can open pickle jars all on my own.

I'm really trying to work on negative splits. It's hard, because my tendency is to start out really fast, because I feel good. Unfortunately, I then can't maintain and end up slow and gasping and it's not pretty. I'm getting much better at starting out slower. Sometimes I really have to force myself to slow down, but I'm getting there. I love it when I do, because speeding up toward the end of a run feels great.
With today's five mile run, I did a pretty good job of it. Mile one was 11:11, followed by 11:03 for mile two, 10:30 for three, 9:59 for mile four, and 10:08 for mile five. Not a perfect negative split because mile five was a little slower than four, but I also had to step off the road and onto the grass to let a car pass at one point, so I'm counting it.

The nicest thing about knowing that I can probably run this distance without dying is being able to focus on improving my running itself. Of course, I say this now. Check back with me on April 1st, and I'll probably be cursing myself for ever thinking this was a good idea!