Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Whidbey Island Half Marathon Race Report Part 1

Well it's about time I got around to writing a recap! I don't know what it is about finishing a race but I just go into some kind of withdrawal where I don't want to think or write about running. I kind of go cold turkey which isn't good. Sigh.. something to work on for the future. 

Goals for the Whidbey Island 1/2 Marathon (my second 1/2)

Goal A: Beat my first 1/2 time of 2:37. Obviously I would like to better my time to show that I have improved.

Goal B: Get under 2:30. I definitely want to get sub 2:30 and never go over 2:30 again. I would prefer to be a 1/2 marathon runner that can finish in under 2 1/2 hours.

Goal C: Shave 10 minutes off my first time and get 2:27

I had been reading how hilly and challenging this course was so I wasn't sure how realistic my goals were but I also knew that I felt stronger and more prepared than the first one so I was hoping these 2 factors would balance each other out. But there was also Jeff's IT band injury to take into consideration and I didn't want to finish without him.

Our plan for the weekend was to arrive in the area on Saturday afternoon, with no rush except to get to package pick up before closing time, grab a course map and drive the route to get a feel of what we were getting ourselves into, have dinner, lay out our gear and head to bed early.

Everything went as planned. The package pick up/ expo was very small so we were in and out pretty quick. But not before picking up our ugly ass race shirts! Not even kidding, they were the most hideous shirts I have ever seen in my life! WTF were they thinking!?

Here is Hubby and I modelling the fugliness:

So. Bad.

So we drove as much of the route we could and the hills we saw were freaking me out a bit. My stomach was starting to turn and I was getting nervous. We are so not used to running hills and it was worse than we thought. Ugh! Oh well, at least hills meant downhill and we would just have to make up time on the downhill.

We went for a pasta dinner and then laid out all our gear. I was having a hard time trying to decide what to wear because although it was supposed to be a beautiful sunny day, it was still chilly in the morning. I decided to wear crops, a tank top and layer with a long sleeve swiftly top that I could easily take off and tie around my waist. We also brought some throw away shirts in case we had to wait outside in the cold for a long time.

It was still early and light out so we decided to go for a nice walk to shake out the legs and nerves a bit. It was a beautiful night and I'm so glad we decided to do this. It gave us a chance to reflect on our training and talk about our race strategy. We decided we would stick to our 10:1 intervals as much as possible but skip walk breaks on downhills and if we were running slower than we could walk up some of the steeper hills then we would walk. We wanted to keep our overall pace at around 6:50 as much as possible. We had printed a pace band for a 2:27 finish before we left that we were going to try to follow as well.

The race started at 8:30am but there was a bridge closure for the full marathon at around 7am which would have gotten us to the parking area too late if we didn't try to go before the closure. So we decided to get up at 5:30 and leave at about 6:30 to get us to the area around 7ish and then we would just wait around until start time. We went to bed and surprisingly had a really good sleep! I was really happy because the last race, we slept horribly. 

The morning went smoothly except for a few GI issues (sorry but my tummy does not do well with nerves!). And then we found out that the Garmin was frozen and didn't charge properly!!! EFF! I was upset but couldn't do anything about it. Because we were in the US we also couldn't use the GPS apps on our iPhones due to high roaming charges. Except for the pacer, mile markers and our stopwatch we were pretty much running blind. So much for the pace band we printed out :(

We had some bananas, apples and coconut chia pudding for breakfast and were out the door on time.

We got to the parking lot with lots of spaces still left and it was nice and close to the start line so we just had to wait it out in the car for an hour or so. It was a good time to just relax. We were supposed to meet our friend Zyta who had also come out to race but we sadly got a text that morning that she couldn't make it as her partner was really sick and she couldn't leave him alone at the hotel. We were SOO sad and felt so bad for them both. Zyta is a really good runner and works so hard that I'm sure she was disappointed and we really wanted to share this experience with her but I would have not left my sick hubby alone away from home either. 

The hour wait flew by as we went back and forth to the bathroom nearby and watched all the runners pile in. It was a brisk but sunny morning and the weather could not have been more perfect. They had a really good gear drop off station so we didn't need the throwaway shirts and just wore some light shells to ward off the morning chill until we had to start getting into our corral.

It was a much smaller, quieter crowd than the SeaWheeze but it was still exciting! The corrals were self seeding so we got behind the 2:30 pacer and hoped for the best! And off the start gun went!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Week 17 Recap - Taper Week

Monday: Rest Day

Tueday: Yoga
I just have to say again how much I love yoga. I have completely fallen in love with it. This was a really good, strong class for me. All my balance poses were great and I was able to hold Crow Pose for a bit longer than normal. I also had a really strong single leg side plank that I held the whole time. AND I was able to do Camel Pose comfortably. Camel Pose always freaks me out because I feel like my neck is going to snap or get injured and I have a weak lower back. I'm always afraid to let go on this one but I did it with lots of confidence during this class. Jeff of course has always been able to do Camel Pose. For a guy, he is a total freak of nature! Aren't girls supposed to be more flexible than guys?! Anyways, I felt AMAZING after this class! 

Single leg side plank

Camel Pose

Wednesday: 6k Race Pace, Pace 6:29 mins/km (faster than my intended race pace)
Jeff wasn't going to run at all this week so I headed out on my own to do 1 loop of my road (yes it's MY road now ; ) I haven't really decided what I want my race pace to be so I decided to do what felt good and push myself a bit. I was going faster than normal and breathing through my mouth. It sucked not to have any water for this. Soooo I was pleasantly surprised to end up with a pace of 6:29 mins/km. It's still not speedy in most people's books but it's fast for me!  I haven't done a single training run under 6:30 so I was very happy. In fact, I did 10:1 intervals for this run since that is what I will be doing for the race and I was faster than my fastest 6k run that I ran straight through! That's is a true testament to how well the 10:1's work for me!

I was very satisfied with this run and kind of want to end this training on a high note so I skipped my 6k Friday run. If anything, I might just do an easy 3 or 4k on Saturday just to keep my legs fresh.

And that takes me to the end of my training for my second 1/2 marathon!!! Can't believe it! It's been a long 4 months of highs and lows but I would say it was mostly highs. I am pretty proud of myself A) for training through the winter since I hate being cold B) for doing a large part of the last month by myself since Jeff has been injured C) for never skipping a long run D) coming out injury free!

It has been a very successful program and I have seen some nice improvements. Now all I can do is trust in my training!

Week 16 Recap - Speed and Tapering

Last I wrote we just finished our epic 20k training run. We were both quite stiff on our walk home after that and promptly put on our compression socks. Jeff's knee was quite swollen so it was time for lots of rest for him. I did notice some slight pain in my left foot on the inside arch during the last couple of kms of the run but nothing I couldn't handle. 

Monday: Rest Day
The next day my legs felt great and I had tons of energy. Hubby on the other hand had to work and said he was walking around like a zombie. Not surprised since he did increase his mileage by so much. I had the day off and thought I would lounge all day and just be a big bump on a log but I had energy to burn so I did a bunch of housework. When I was standing in the kitchen for a long period of time doing dishes I noticed my arch start to tighten up and hurt again. I have had fallen arches in both feet before from walking for a few hours in flip flops and the pain was similar but not as severe and only on one foot on the outside edge. The pain was alleviated by walking around on my tiptoes. I was only slightly worried and was sure it was only inflamed a bit from such a long run and would be temporary. I took some Motrin and put my foot up as much as I could and it seemed to go away. Thank God!

Tuesday: Yoga
This is the pose we are currently working on.  It's called Koundinyasana. When our teacher first did it we all looked at each other like she was crazy and laughed!! But you know what happens when I set my mind on something! Yep.....one day!

Wednesday: Speed Training at the track, 4 x 800m Intervals
Oh man, I was not looking forward to this workout. We even totally left it to the last minute and didn't head out til around 8pm. I told Hubby to decide if we were going to forego it or not and I thought for sure he would choose to not do it but then last minute he said let's go! Ugh I was mad! 
We hit the track and did about a 5 lap warm up. Then we had to run as fast as we could for 800m, rest for 2 mins then repeat 4 times.
The first 800 felt good and was pretty speedy at 4:17. Jeff said I was flying around the track. I was very winded but onto the next one. The second one was ver consistent at 4:19. But unfortunately after this one I felt like throwing up! I hear that's supposed to be a desired result! Lol! I told Jeff I needed to slow the next one down. The third one was 4:40. Yep definitely slowed down and I was kind of done. I considered calling it a day but I'm not really one to quit so did one more. The last one was 4:31. Picked it up a bit but I was tired! Overall though I was really happy with the times.

Done and done!

Thursday: Yoga
Hubby had work to do so couldn't go to yoga. I decided to just do some yoga at home. It turned out to be a really good workout. We've been doing yoga for about 9 months now and have built up a pretty good knowledge of all the yoga poses. I managed to give myself almost an hour long class and I was sweating up a storm.

I am proud to say I can do almost all of theses poses!

Friday: 8k Moderate Run, Pace 6:58 mins/km
I was supposed to do 11k but had to cut it short because I forgot to put a blister band aid on and didn't bring any water. I had to do this run alone since Hubby worked late and decided he wanted to do bike work and the row machine at a gym since his knee was still tender. 
This was just your average run. I stupidly forgot to put on a blister band aid and I was feeling soreness and rubbing on my one ankle. I didn't want to open a new wound so decided to cut the run short. 

Saturday: Rest Day
I had to work so enough said

Sunday: 11k Hilly, Challenging Run, Pace 7:22 mins/km
So I have been freaking out about the hills for the Whidbey Island 1/2. I can run flat all day long but throw in some long, steep hills and I am worried. It's just not something I am conditioned for. Sure we did our hill repeats but that seems so long ago.
Hubby and I decided we needed to do a long-ish run with lots of hills before the race to see how we would do. Queen Elizabeth Park was the perfect place to do this because it is very hilly, with some fairly step inclines and some flat sections. It turned out to be the perfect choice as it was a beautiful spring day and all the cherry blossom trees were in full bloom.
We warmed up for 2k on a flat section and then headed up the steepest hill in the park. OMG it was hard. We ran up the steepest part but then the incline just continued! I was sucking wind! I had to pull off to a flat section to catch my breath. After near death, we continued on. After the run was challenging but doable. Any hills during our training are repeats and not continuous runs so this was a good test of our stamina and a great workout. It was good to go outside of our comfort zone. I have to say I do love a good downhill though so that is the only good thing about hills. 
We did stop a few times to take pics, catch our breath and we ran into a friend. Jeff paused the Garmin for some of the stops but not all of them so I was pretty pleased with our time considering how challenging this was for me. At one point about 8k in, we were trying to decide which direction to head next - there was a flat winding path and a really steep hill, I chose the winding path but something crazy came over me when we were near the hill and I decided to try the hill. Hubby was totally shocked, I think I was too but I did it without stopping! Anyways we finished up 11k and feel slightly less intimidated by the upcoming hilly race route!
We treated ourself to ice cream after! 

Progress Report


One of my goals this year was to do a headstand on my own and I am almost there! I have been practicing a lot lately and feel much stronger in my core so that I can steadily lift my legs on my own without using momentum (which can cause me to lose balance and fall over) or the wall. I'm not confident enough yet to not be near a wall but I am slowly getting farther away and more times than not I can do it on my own. I NEVER thought I would be able to do a headstand so you really can do anything you set your mind to!

Overall, I feel stronger and more flexible in yoga practice. My poses get better all the time and I love seeing the progress. I honestly love what yoga has done for my mind, body and soul and I actually have running to thank for it since I took yoga to help with running. Thank you running!


Everyone has their own set of rules when it comes to running. You just really have to find what works for you. For beginner runners it's a lot of trial and error. Some people like to be critical of others own personal methods but I don't think there's room for judgement in the running community. There should be nothing but support.

I've already done a post on 10:1 intervals which really works well for me but there are a lot of naysayers. Another topic that creates some stir is mouth breathing vs nasal breathing. Personally I do both and they each serve their own purpose.

To give examples on both sides, Scott Jurek, the famous ultra runner, said he breathes through his nose while running easy because nasal breathing "lowers one's heart rate and helps brain activity."

Runners Connect says mouth breathing is by far the best way to breath while running, largely because it brings in more oxygen than breathing through the nose.

I love breathing through my nose because it puts me into a "Zone". It's like a Zen-like state where everything just flows, without conscious effort or exertion. This relaxes me. When I want to run to relax and enjoy myself, I breathe through my nose. Panting through mouth breathing just isn't very relaxing to me. I do nasal breathing on moderate and long, slow distance runs and it has really helped me to enjoy running more.

During speed work I have no choice but to really open up and breathe through my mouth. I am working harder and using maximum effort. There is no way I could breathe through my nose for the paces that take me out of my comfort zone. And that's ok.

Where the progress report comes in is that my threshold for nasal breathing has really improved with this training. I used to only be able to breathe through my nose for speeds over a pace of 7:20 mins/km or so. Now I am comfortably breathing through my nose at about a pace of 6:45. Which is awesome for me! I hope to see it keep improving which will mean that I am getting faster!

Recovery after long runs is noticeably better over last training as well. I usually feel great the next day whereas last time I quite often felt stiff, sore and like a bag of crap. The compression socks have worked like a wonder as well!

During the long runs I am a lot more low maintenance for fuelling. Because I breathe through my nose my mouth doesn't dry out and I don't need a lot of water. I'm also noticing I'm ok without taking a gel. I know the cooler weather makes a big difference since I'm not sweating as much but it's nice to know that my conditioning seems to have improved.


I have leaned out even more since moving to 2 yoga classes per week. My weight has been hovering around 105 and last training session I was around 108-110. When I decided to start running I was 118. I know weight doesn't mean a lot but I thought it was interesting. Now I just want to gain muscle weight!

The most noticeable difference in my body is my stomach. It's my favourite result : ) 

I still don't have guns but I am noticing some definition in my shoulders. Hundreds of downward dogs are making a difference! I still want guns one day. 

There's not much to see in theses pics but hopefully my next progress report will have some baby guns.

Both my toenails have totally grown in and they are no longer black! Yay!! I might actually be able to wear light coloured nail polish this summer and have pretty feet!


All the other topics are going to have to get an A on the progress report but nutrition will have to be a fail. A big fat F. I still don't eat breakfast and don't drink nearly enough water. I still eat whatever I want and love my candy and chips. Sometimes I make healthy choices but it's not a regular habit. I guess it's a good thing that my favourite food is salad!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Week 15 Recap

Oops! I'm a bit behind on my blogging. I think I've just been focussing so much on work and training that I haven't felt like writing. Anyways, better late than never!

By the way, how great was Hubby's guest post!? I loved it! Who knew he could write so well. His description of my Lululemon knowledge made me laugh because it's SO true! And his thoughts of my running journey warmed my heart. Love him!

So we were a week short on the training program and decided to skip Week 14 since it was very similar to Week 15.

Monday: Strength Training, Weights and Squats at home

Tuesday: Yoga

Wednesday: Speed Training Intervals, 3 x 1km, Average Pace 5:36 mins/km
My least favourite day! I mean who likes to run faster than your comfort zone that you feel like puking!? Not my first choice for a fun activity. However when we finish I always feel so great and accomplished. It's a love/hate thing really.
We warmed up for about 1.5km and the goal was to run the 1km between 5 - 6 mins/km then rest for 2 mins by walking or jogging in between? I was feeling a bit tired so would have been a lot more comfortable closer to 6 but just went with how I felt. The first km was 5:22 which felt fast for me. The next was 5:39 which was fine but tired me and the last was 5:50 where I just wanted to be done.
As much as I hate gasping for air, I know it's good for me and will help with my speed. Yep, love/hate.

Thursday: Yoga
Our regular teacher was away so we had a substitute and it was a nice relaxing class. 

These cartoons totally make me laugh. This was us at the beginning!

We were supposed to do a 9k on Friday or Saturday but it never happened. I think it was the weather? Yeah it was the weather......I think it poured? Yeah we'll go with that : )

Sunday: 20k Long, Slow Run, Pace 7:06 mins/km
Since we didn't do our moderate run yet, the plan was to do a 9k run and see how Jeff felt with his knee. In my mind I pretty much decided I wanted to do the 20k instead. I figured if I got the 9k done with Jeff, I would only have to do 1/2 of the 20k by myself and not have to worry about having to do a full 20k the next day and carry water. If I was going to do 9k, I might as well do 20k. Wow, I never thought I would ever say that sentence in my life! Lol! 
I'm really enjoying doing loops right now as I know exactly where I am distance wise and know how much more I have to run. So to do 20k we had to do about 4 loops of our fave road. If Jeff had issues he could pack it in after 2 loops. Well 2 loops passed and he decided to continue on. He was stopping to stretch out his knee a lot so I wore the Garmin and would just carry on and he would catch up. I was running a nice comfortable pace with nasal breathing and felt pretty good. I was happy with the decision to do the 20k and skip the 9k. I knew that a 20k would be a big confidence builder. I really had no issues the whole run. I had a blister band aid on my one bothersome ankle and didn't feel it all, my legs were feeling good and because I breathe through my nose I don't have to drink a lot of water. I also don't feel the need for a lot of fuelling lately. My energy doesn't seem to deplete. If anything it seems to pick up.  A couple of Cliff Shot Blocks seem to do the trick for the most part. 
My legs did start to tire at about 18k and felt a bit heavier and my feet got a bit sore, but it was nothing compared to the tiredness I felt at 18k at the SeaWheeze. When I got to 20k, the time was 2:22 and in my head I was thinking it was so much better than the SeaWheeze. In hindsight I should have just done the 1.1k and I would have gotten a PR and been under 2:30 which is my goal for this race! Damn! Oh well, I guess it's a bit more exciting to PR at an actual race.
Jeff didn't expect to be able to run a full 20k but he did!! He did have some pain and had to stop to stretch a lot but he was able to do it and now he can just rest up until the race. Fingers crossed for the 1/2!
I was really happy with the pace as it was comfortable and there is still room for me to push the pace a bit for when it counts. HOWEVER, the race route is supposed to be very hilly which I am kind of freaking out about. Based on this I will have to be realistic about my goals which I will talk about another time.
Only 2 weeks left!!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Guest Post - Jeff Rowley talks about training through injury

Without further ado, here's hubby!

Ok, before I even start the conversation about training through injury I need to address the point of my wife, her training, her writing and the inspiration she has been to me as a runner! 
 At the start of this whole adventure of becoming healthier as a couple my wife decided that in order to do this the only option was to start running as she couldn't stand the idea of going to a gym, uuuuuummmmmm did you just say running? My wife hated running and was admittedly someone who never found themselves a strong runner or to have the stamina to run distance so this shocked the hell out of me! In true fashion of my wife's personality she settled in and started to do research on training for beginners and the adventure began! I told her in the beginning of our training that if she wanted to run I would be beside her every step of the way (little did I know this would lead to half marathons!). We started out with run/walk intervals that would be like 30 seconds of running at a time and I would hear things like "I will never be able to run for 5 mins straight!" Well, as you know, we passed that mark, and so on and so on. The dedication that she has shown during this training process has been nothing short of inspirational, it is the reason why I am running and it is what pushes me to continue running. I have always been somewhat athletic but this accomplishment is something I can only credit to her and her dedication alone!
 There came a point when all the running was starting to wear on her and it was becoming a bit more of a chore, she was feeling like she was not getting the results she wanted, she hit a bump in the road! Some people might stop, quit, or make excuses and fade off to the glory and comfort of the couch....not my wife, she hunkered in and found inspiration from other sources like running forums, blogs and any information she could get her hands on in true Mel fashion! This not only kept her running, but it also lead to the blog that she writes to document her (our) journey, trials, highs, lows and all the little entertaining things that happen that she so perfectly captures with her words! To be honest I am nervous to be writing on her blog as she has such a perfect way of capturing the moments of each journey, not to mention her ability to decipher each and every colour and name of every existing piece of Lululemon clothing! I have shorts and tees from Lulu, my wife has something like.....racer back sports top in pink bubblegum peach with forest moss green highlights! It's always funny when we go into the Lululemon store and staff ask if she needs any help with getting to know the products! :)
 Ok, on to the topic of running with or thru an injury!

 I have been very fortunate with running and being injury free, until recently! Up till this point I have finished runs and at worst had some sore or tight muscles, but not anymore. Recently I came back from a bad run and was not happy, so next run I set out to have a great run.........didn't happen, I came home with a tight hip and a very sore knee at the side so I did what my wife would do, research!!!! I came to the conclusion that I might be having IT Band issues so I started to try and find a way to correct it....we have a race in weeks dammit!!! I started following the recommendation of taking anti inflammatory, using the foam roller, icing, stretching and trying to get extra rest. All of these things helped a bit but then I would try and run again a few days later and the pain would come back in the first few kms. How was I ever going to be able to run a half when I can hardly finish a several kms without hobbling home after to barely be able to walk up or down stairs! This trend continued over and over until I went to see someone from Physio where I was advised I was doing the right things but doing them slightly wrong, I was working hard on the area of the IT Band when I should have been working on the muscles attached to it, a very common mistake! So feeling that I was doing a great job I went off for another run with Mel and halfway thru I am right back to hobbling, DAMMIT!!!!! I am beyond frustrated and I have no idea what to do, Mel is running by herself, finishing runs that I can't finish and all I want to do is scream! All this training is spiralling downhill and I have no expectations for race day. Then I find a YouTube video on IT Band band stretches and I try them out using a belt, they almost make me cry they are so focused on the area that is giving me all the grief but it is a good kinda almost crying as it immediately gives me a more mobile and relaxed leg. I followed these 2-3 times a day for three days then set out for a run with my wife. Our goal was 9km but we ended up hitting the pavement for 20 km! My legs are tired and sore but not from IT Band issues, just tired and sore!

Next up, race day!