Sunday, December 28, 2008

Fuzzy Purple Scarf for Girls

I wanted to make an extra special scarf for my six-year-old niece, Lindsay. It had to be fun, hip, and soft. I found the perfect yarn at Yarn Barn in Lawrence, KS--Blossom Trendsetter Yarn in Purple.

With size 10.5 bamboo needles, cast on 15 stitches. Knit in garter stitch (knit all rows). There is no need for fancy stitchwork with this yarn--the fuzziness of the yarn would obscure any cabling or complex patterns. One skein made the scarf approximately 44 inches long. A tip: use wooden needles because they help ensure you won't drop a stitch with this slippery yarn.

As always, knitting is a big hit with the poofs!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Movie Review: Racing Against the Clock

As my mileage has been increasing in preparation for the Disney marathon in January, I've been searching for running motivation wherever I can find it. Before my frigid 14-miler in Chicago, I saw Spirit of the Marathon, which is getting quite a bit of press. It was exciting to watch, and a great way to share the training experience with Ben. But it did leave me feeling as if I was undertaking something more akin to a tortuous root canal than a fun challenge.

Then, I saw Racing Against the Clock, and I found myself truly inspired and cheering for the women at the master track and field events (specifically, the 2003 National Senior Olympics in Norfolk, Virginia, and World Championships in Puerto Rico). The film follows Jacqueline Board, Margaret Hinton, Leonore McDaniels, Pat Peterson, and Philippa Raschker as they train and compete in a wide variety of track and field events. (To give you an idea of how tough, tenacious, and talented these women are, Raschker was named a finalist for the Sullivan Award, the "Oscar" of the sporting world, along with a little known, and much younger, athlete by the name of Michael Phelps.)

After my grueling 18-miler last weekend, it was the perfect way to remind myself that I can do this. If a woman in her 70s can pole vault, I can run a measly 26.2 miles. Bring on my 20-miler next weekend!

The summary on the official website says:
Racing Against the Clock tells the stories of five incredible women between the ages of 50 and 82 who compete against each other, and ultimately themselves, in their quest to reach the World Masters Athletics Championships in Puerto Rico in June 2003. These women include a three-time cancer survivor, a sharecropper's daughter, a political refugee, a former cowgirl and the oldest athlete to ever be honored as a finalist for the Sullivan Award which celebrates the top amateur athletes in America. Pre-Title IX, these athletes grew up in an era when women did not participate in sports. With some not entering the realm of competition until well after retirement, there is no telling what they may have accomplished had things been different. Vibrant, inspiring and courageous, these women shatter preconceptions about aging and about the human spirit. (Runtime: 80 Minutes)

Monday, November 3, 2008

Indian Creek Trail

I ran my ten miles on Saturday on a new-to-me trail in Overland Park--Indian Creek Trail. I parked at Roe Park and ran west and south through Indian Creek Recreation Center through Corporate Woods and toward Quivira Park. The path generally curves along and over Indian Creek and was mostly asphalt, with some concrete sections along bridges. Parts of the trail were industrial, along roads and strip malls, and parts of the trail were more natural, with trees and the gurgling creek. The section along I-435 was awful--boring to run along, loud with noise from traffic and cars, decorated with some graffiti containing four-letter words, and the tunnel under the Interstate was musty and dark. If I run along Indian Creek Trail again, I'll avoid the Interstate by parking at Indian Creek Recreation Center and running east, or by parking in Corporate Woods and running south. Look at me using cardinal directions with ease--I almost feel like a mid-westerner.

It was a beautiful day--cool enough but not too cold, leaves in vibrant fall colors, and a cool dense fog that was almost creepy the morning after Halloween. They have the funniest squirrels in Missouri. They look like their tails were dipped in bright orange paint--almost like they dressed up as punk rocker squirrels for Halloween and forgot to take off their costumes.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Race Report: Waddell & Reed Kansas City Half Marathon

What a great race! The weather was crisp and sunny, the crowds were supportive, the bands along the race course were terrific, and the course wasn't nearly as hilly as I had feared. My official time was 2:33:21. I stopped along the way to take lots of pictures, and the course had more hills than I am used to, so I am thrilled with my time.

Here we all are, shivering and huddled in the morning chill. I fretted over the weather all week, as I watched the weather predictions get colder and colder. It was 40 degrees at the starting line and for the first two hours of the race. It didn't get into the 50s until after I finished the race. I ended up in long sleeves, a light-weight running jacket, capri-length tights, gloves, and a visor. I worried that I would be shedding layers throughout the race, but I kept it all on until mile 12, when I decided to shed the jacket so my race bib would be visible at the finish line.

I ran the first mile with the 2:40 pace group (a 12+ minute mile), and then decided I felt good enough to run faster than that. I also knew I would do a combination of running and walking, and this group was only running.

The first mile was flat, crowded with runners, and not scenic (which was fine since the sun had not fully risen yet).

Miles 1-3 included a steep curving uphill, so that you couldn't see the top of the hill. The picture above is just a little hill after the really big curving hill. There was also a lame switchback before the 3 mile marker that had a high school track feel, so that you could see the runners ahead and behind you, almost like being on parade. The band playing on the switchback was truly incredible. I'm not sure, but it may have been the Heather Thornton Trio.

Miles 3-8 were largely flat, with a few downhills thrown in. We traveled along a neat row of pubs and theaters, and through some nice, tree-lined neighborhoods.

Miles 8-10 were the toughest, in my opinion. It was a gentle uphill, with a virtually cheerless straight stretch through a park.

Miles 10-13 rocked. I think all races should end with a downhill stretch. I was able to pick up my pace, even when my legs were most tired. The scenery was also great, with a sweeping view of downtown Kansas City.

Here were my splits, according to my new, fancy Garmin Forerunner 405:
mile 1 - 12:26
mile 2 - 11:23
mile 3 - 12:07
mile 4 - 12:03
mile 5 - 11:15
mile 6 - 11:29
mile 7 - 11:17
mile 8 - 11:53
mile 9 - 11:53
mile 10 - 12:00
mile 11 - 11:31
mile 12 - 11:35
mile 13 - 10:54
Last 0.19 mile - 1:27 (a blazing, 7.8 mph pace!)
(I dropped a glove around mile 2 and turned back to pick it up--that, and not running the tangents accounts for the extra 0.09 mile on my Garmin)

Race pictures are available at Action Sports Images. My bib number was 4503, and my favorite two pictures are 41850-1978-026 and 41850-2206-031.

Next up, a 5K with Ben on Thanksgiving Day.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Diagonal Baby Blanket

For now: pictures

For later: pattern and description

Monday, August 18, 2008

Running Skirt Convert

I'll be the first to admit that I was skeptical of running skirts. They're so . . . girly. Sure, I saw the Runner's World article about a the Rise of Skirt Culture. And I know women who swear by them. But I just couldn't get over the stereotype that real runners don't wear skirts.

Between getting passed by dozens of skirts at the Chicago Distance Classic and watching the Olympics, I finally decided to try running in a skirt. Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh wear bikinis in their sport--and no one questions their athleticism. Bikinis!

I purchased this cute Brooks Run Skort in "sorbet" yellow and took it for its first run tonight. Only one run, and I'm already a running skirt convert! The spandex undershorts are comfy, thin, and breathable. The skirt is long enough for modesty but not so long that it rubs my thighs with each step. And best of all, no possibility of fabric bunching or riding up on long runs. The final test will be wearing a skirt with my hydration belt on a long run, but I'm confident that girly skirts will become a permanent part of my running wardrobe.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Race Report: Chicago Distance Classic Half Marathon

What a great race! Perfect weather, flat and beautiful course, good support and cheering crowds along the race route.... Despite rumors that the course was about a quarter mile too long, I still ran a personal best (2:31:33).

Ben dropped me off at the start line around 6 a.m. for a 6:30 start on Sunday. The sun was just rising and peeking out orange behind some clouds over the lake. The humidity was low, the temperature was around 60 degrees, and there was a light wind. You couldn't ask for better weather in Chicago in August. I had plenty of time to use the portojohn, do some last minute stretching, and find the 2:30 pace group that ran/walked 8/2 minutes. It was a happy group with some first time half marathoners.

Ben cheered and took photos around mile 1. Despite the wave start, the pack didn't thin out until well after the halfway point. Look at all the people!

The first half of the course was unremarkable. Two lanes of Lake Shore Drive were reserved for runners, which was a little tight given the number of participants. You could be in any city going south along the street. But the course was flat and the water stations were big and well supported. Our pace leader got us to the turnaround at exactly 1:15.

It's the second half of the course that is stunning. Traveling north along the bike path, with the beach and city laid out before you, waves crashing, and cooling breeze. I heard quite a few runners wish aloud that the race were longer or that they could freeze time to enjoy the view and the feel of the race.

Around mile 8, the race got tougher. I noticed that the pace group was falling behind pace, and I could start to feel small aches in my inner thighs and the back of my right knee. A group of five from the original pace group started running ahead, and we switched our run/walk ratio from 8/2 to 8.5/1.5. I did not see or hear from the original pace group until about mile 12.5, when the pace leader flew by at around an 8-minute mile pace. If I had stayed behind with the original group, I know my time would have been much slower. I think most, if not all, of the runners who stayed with the pace leader finished behind me. You run with a pace group to keep pace, not to keep pace, slow down considerably, and then speed up for a final mile sprint!

At around mile 10, the other four members of our splinter pace group sped up to make the 2:30 finish. I let them go ahead, because my goal was to finish strong and not to finish with a certain time. It was the right choice for me. I had a fantastic finish! During the last 0.2 mile, I passed about a dozen people, and sprinted across the finish with my arms in the air. Finishing strong was such a rush--and a better feeling than I ever could get from a number on a clock.

There are additional online race photos that show me pumping my fists in the air as I cross the finish. (My bib number was 1635.) A PR on a flat course was great. Next up is a slow, hilly race at the Waddell & Reed Half Marathon in Kansas City this October.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Real Runners Take Ice Baths

What does it take to be a "real runner"? In the beginning, little things made me feel like a real runner. I purchased running-specific shoes. I ran while on vacation. I had a training program. Then, I thought I had to run a race to be a runner. So I ran the Salem Lake 10k. Was a 10k far enough to count myself as a runner? I wasn't sure, so I ran the Charlotte RaceFest Half Marathon. But, I only ran/walked those races, and I wondered if I had to run without walking to be a real runner. So I worked up to running continuously for 30 minutes, 45 minutes, an hour...

I know that I'm a runner. I know it from my accessories--when I strap on a heart rate monitor or my Nike Plus iPod. I know it from my complicated fixation with hydration--when I mix my own Gatorade, buckle my hydration belt, or reach for an eGel on a long run. I know it from my shoes--I own several pairs of running shoes and log their miles on a spreadsheet so I never get injured running in shoes past their prime. I know it at that moment, about two or three miles into my run, when my breathing evens out and it seems somehow less of an effort to run than it would be to stand still. But sometimes I still forget, and I catch myself thinking that, even though I run, I'm not really a runner.

If I ever again doubt that I am a runner, hopefully I will think back to yesterday, when I ran 11 miles in the steamy southern summer heat. When I kept going, even if at a very slow pace, even when my fingers swelled and sweat. (Seriously, who knew that fingers could sweat?) And I knew I was a real runner after dragging my body back inside, when I took my very first ice bath. The shocking cold, goose bumps, and blessed numbness. Who would do that to themselves? Who would run in the humid stillness of a summer morning? Who would dump ice into an already tepid tub? Who would take their body to extreme heat and exertion and then to extreme cold and stillness? A real runner would.

Friday, June 27, 2008

First Long Run for CDC Training

This weekend, I'll do my first significant long run as part of my training for the Chicago Distance Classic on August 10, 2008. I'll be running 9 miles through Grant Park and along Lake Shore Drive ("LSD" for those in the know). I'm hoping it will be good practice to run along portions of the race route before the big day! Perhaps I'll find this path in this picture from last year's race, which looks like it might be near the Planetarium.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Nike Plus (with Minuses)

As a birthday gift to myself, I purchased the Nike + iPod Sport Kit. The first eight runs were terrific. After callibration, the device was accurate to within hundredths of a mile on pavement, trails, and treadmills. I liked getting instant pacing information, creating playlists for certain events (like my cheesy "Girl Power" playlist for Girls on the Run--see below), and hearing "400 meters to go" toward the end of my runs.

Then, inexplicably, my workouts stopped uploading to the Nike Sports website. It may have had something to do with the dating of the workouts--perhaps my iPod clock was reset to the year 2000? I read the help forums, learned more than I wanted to about the synching process, and finally resorted to restoring my nano (which erases all information and settings) and starting over from scratch. I lost three workouts. Since restoring, I have completed two runs and they both uploaded to the Nike website perfectly.

Here are the most helpful sites I found:
To create and add a workout to Nike Sport website - Nike Plus Edit
To browse help questions and answers on the Apple site - Apple Help Forum for Third Generation Nanos and Nike Plus

Girl Power playlist (please feel free to laugh at my choices!)
Baby One More Time - Britney Spears
Big Star - Kenny Chesney
Bye Bye - Jo Dee Messina
Cowboy Girl - Lonestar
Crush - Jennifer Paige
Fallen Angel - Jamie Warren
Good Luck - Kristy Lee (Cook)
Guys Do It All The Time - Mindy McCready
Hard On The Ticker - Tim McGraw
I Can Love You Better - Dixie Chicks
I Touch Myself - Divinyls
Nobody's Girl - Reckless Kelly
Respect - Aretha Franklin
SexyBack - Justin Timberlake
She's a Hottie - Toby Keith (powersong)
Something More - Sara Evans
SOS - Rihanna
Stronger Woman - Jewel
Think - Aretha Franklin
Women Rule the World - Lonestar

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Race Report: Greensboro Girls on the Run 5K

Local Girls on the Run teams celebrated the end of the semester with a 5k run Saturday morning at The Canterbury School in Greensboro, NC. There were approximately 200 runners, many under the age of 12. No pre-race jitters here--look at the kids having a blast just minutes before race time!

The race course was bad, the cause was good, and the weather was fantastic! The course: out and back along Old Lake Jeannette Road, going up and down three cul-de-sacs along the way--we had to run up and down one cul-de-sac twice! The cause: Girls on the Run, a self-esteem building program for younger girls. The weather: sunny, no humidity, and about 60 degrees. Despite my head cold, I ran a decent race: 32:57 gun time, and 32:40 on my watch.

I'm not in this finish-line photo. I took that shot before the race started. When I crossed the finish line, the scene was much different. All of the supporters and runners who finished before me were cheering and screaming. I slapped fives with several boys as I entered the finisher's coral. Girls on the Run is about knowing you can finish the race, not about finishing first. For a short weekend run, look for a Girls on the Run 5K race in your area!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Beginner Rib Scarf

This was my first scarf! It's easy enough for brand new beginners--you only need to know how to cast on, bind off, knit, and purl.

Using size 8 needles, cast on 40 stitches with worsted weight yarn. (You can cast on any multiple of 4 stitches to produce a skinnier or wider scarf.) Follow a knit 2, purl 2 pattern for each row until your scarf reaches the desired length. Bind off.

I used about 2.5 skeins (about 400 yards) of Vanna's Choice Lion Brand yarn in taupe to make a scarf for my very tall (6'7") fiance. Two skeins (340 yards) or less should be enough for most people. Vanna's Choice is not an exciting yarn, but it's great for beginners. It's inexpensive, widely available, 100% acrylic (washable/dryable), and neither scratchy nor overly soft.

By the time you finish, you should have a good sense of knitting the purl stitches and purling the knit stitches, which is an instruction you'll see in more advanced patterns. Additionally, you'll be a pro at switching your yarn from front to back in order to change from purl to knit, and vice versa.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

I am not new to strength training. For a year before I started running, I worked out with a trainer doing a combination of weight lifting and plyometric moves that regularly brought my legs, shoulders and arms, chest and back, and abdominal muscles to failure. I can recall vividly the times I experienced delayed onset muscle soreness, and it was always after I tweaked my routine with a new exercise--the first day of plyometrics, changing machines for calf raises and waking the next few mornings with fiery calves, and my first "boy" push-ups and subsequent difficulty shampooing my hair.

When I began running about a year ago, I gradually cut back on my strength training. First, I cut out leg days. I reasoned that the running would be enough for the major muscle groups in my legs. Then, I combined my separate shoulders/arms and chest/back days into one big upper body day. A long vacation and a new job conspired to make it increasingly difficult to get to the gym just to move around some heavy things. If I was going to find the time to exercise, it would be "real exercise" that burned lots of calories and made me sweat. Running was better than strength training because I could relax and release stress, and I didn't need to think about how much weight, how many sets, or counting repetitions. At some point, I exchanged weights for yoga--it provided extra relaxation and forced me to stretch. But the yoga class moved to an earlier time, and I could no longer make the class after work. I stopped strength training entirely. For months. I forgot all about muscle soreness.

Enter Tom Holland and The Marathon Method. He gently reminded me that strength training exists, and that I should do a full body session twice a week with an extra session of core work after my long run on Saturday. Easy enough, I thought. I even allowed myself to start with the beginner program, which only requires dumbbells for bent over rows and otherwise uses your body weight for resistance. Push-ups, bent over rows, squats, front lunges, crunches, planks, and supermans. I just ran a half marathon. This should be a piece of cake.

And on Tuesday morning, when I did these basic exercises, it did seem easy. Perhaps I could not do quite so many push-ups as I remembered. And maybe I was a little wobbly in my plank position and with my lunges. But I knew I would be back in the strength training saddle again in no time. That is, until Wednesday, when I woke up with screaming quads, tight glutes, and I found it surprisingly difficult to brush my teeth. I stretched. I drank water. I tried not to hobble. I went for a slow run and stretched again. Drank more water. Again tried not to hobble.

I eased into bed last night, a bit ashamed that my itty bitty strength training session had caused me more pain than training for and running my first half marathon. I thought that surely I would feel better when I woke up this morning. This foreign feeling, this muscle soreness--it must be some kind of fluke. I bet myself that I would feel just fine and complete my second scheduled strength training session this morning. Nope. My quads are still screaming and my glutes are still tight. (It was, thankfully, a bit easier to brush my teeth.) So, I reduced my strength training session to mere core work this morning.

I know, with time, this soreness will pass. For now, I'm still stretching, still drinking water, still trying not to hobble.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Reversible Cable Scarf

As a birthday gift to myself, I made a soft reversible cable scarf out of Plymouth Baby Alpaca Grande yarn. I bought this luxurious yarn from Charlotte Yarn, and it took me several months to find an appropriate pattern.

The cables would stand out more with a different yarn--maybe a basic worsted weight wool or a chunky yarn that has tighter strands. But this subtle lattice-like look is just what I wanted for the soft alpaca. It has enough texture to be interesting, but not enough to take away from the yarn itself.

I used size 10.5 bamboo needles, approximately two and a half skeins or 250 yards (I'm tall--two skeins or 200 yards would do for someone shorter), and followed this pattern: Ruthie Nussbaum's Reversible Cable Scarf. I usually only knit while watching American Idol or on weekends, and this project took me approximately three weeks to finish.

Several other knitting projects are in the works (hint to family and friends: you may receive a scarf for Christmas!), but I am waiting to post pictures and patterns until they reach their intended recipients.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Shoe Review: Nike Air Zoom Vomero+ 3

Last Sunday, the day after my half marathon, when the balls of my feet were still sore, I bought a new pair of shoes--Nike Air Zoom Vomero+ 3. Today, I took them out for their first run.

Pros: lots of cushioning throughout the entire foot bed, exterior plastic netting on the heel that provides an immediately supportive and comfortable fit, lightweight, great responsiveness on pavement.

Cons: not a stability shoe so there's little support to keep your foot from rolling in if you overpronate, only medium arch support, perhaps too cushioned for a trail run because they absorb the rocks and roots in the path and made me feel a little disconnected from the ground. The combination of a cushioned ride and little stability support could be a problem for running on uneven surfaces--I would hate to trip or twist an ankle because I didn't feel the ground beneath me and the shoe did not prevent my foot from rolling.

I think I might call them my Cadillac shoes because of the soft, smooth ride. They'll be great for long runs on pavement and mid-week runs on the treadmill. I'm considering getting a shoe with more stability and responsiveness for weekend trail runs, even though I have a normal arch and don't overpronate.

Even Annabelle likes the new shoes!

And, while we're talking about my first outside run since the half marathon--it felt fantastic! I'm considering a jump in my training schedule from running three times a week to running four times a week. I used the run/walk program in Marathoning for Mortals, by John Bingham and Jenny Hadfield, for the Charlotte RaceFest--I'm considering a switch to the beginner program in The Marathon Method, by Tom Holland, for the Chicago Distance Classic in August.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Race Report: Charlotte RaceFest at SouthPark Half Marathon

My first half marathon! Despite a week of fretting about the weather and a restless night before the race (Ben's flight was cancelled and I woke up at 1am to thunder, bright lightning, and--finally--his arrival), my first half marathon was great! I ran/walked (4 minutes/1 minute) in 2:36:24.

The morning of the race is smooth for me. The alarm goes off at 6am, and I take a quick shower, have a banana, peanut butter toast, and Gatorade for breakfast, and head to the start line around 7:15. Parking is easy and the line to the portojohns is not too bad. Plenty of people get in line after me and there is always a line for the ones on the course--a note to the organizers: more bathrooms next year!

My parents and Ben come with me to the start. They joke around, snap pictures, and generally help to keep me calm before the gun goes off. I adjust my Camelbak lumbar pack and then readjust it. The weather--drizzle, mid-60s, some wind--keeps many spectators away, so it is nice to have my own cheering squad. There are several pacing groups holding big signs--this race feels friendly.

Mile 1: Mostly downhill. Add that to the excitement of the race, and I start out too quick with a 10:30-ish first mile. I start my favorite mantra for pacing: slow, slow, and easy, easy...

Miles 2-5: Mostly flat. Providence Road is straight and boring, with a mix of residential and commercial use. I'd like to give a shout out to two upbeat spectators cheering in front of St. Gabriel's at the corner of Providence and Sharon Lane--you helped me to keep running after the 10K-ers veered off to head home. Two women running a similar pace to my own do a funny dance and cheer every time they pass a mile marker--it's silly and uplifting! I hit mile 5 in less than an hour, and call Mom to let her know I'm feeling good.

Mile 6: Hooray for the cheerleader jumping up at down for us at the corner of Providence and Old Providence! Last water station before the dreaded uphill on Sharon View, and I'm still feeling good.

Mile 7: Mostly uphill. Mom and Ben take photos after I conquer the biggest hill. They get a quick wave as I run by. Feeling great--especially after the enthusiastic police officers at the intersection with Carmel Road!

Miles 8-11: Mostly hilly. There's a particularly short, steep hill after crossing Fairview and entering the Foxcroft neighborhood. There are quite a few spectators in lawn chairs cheering from their yards. Beautiful houses and gardens along this stretch. I hit 2 hours, but am starting to wear out--no phone call to Mom this hour.

Miles 12-13: More rolling hills. I'm starting to notice that my Mizunos with 350 miles on them lack the cushioning I need for the balls of my feet. (It was a toss-up between buying new shoes and risking blisters or running on old ones.) My feet feel like I've been running in high heels! I see Mom from afar on Richardson and walk with Ben for a few yards on Ferncliff. I complain about aches in my right hip, calves, and feet, and he tells me to keep going. Tough love just when I need it!

The finish line: Uphill--I kid you not. The last 0.2 mile is uphill. Not as steep as Mile 7, but dreadful nonetheless. I promise myself to push through, and I jog the last 10 minutes--I even manage to smile. I finished my first half marathon!

Mom, Dad, Ben, Lisa, Russ, and Lindsay all meet me at the finish. I've sweat so much that salt has formed on my forearms and legs--the granules are small, gritty, and bright white. I drink lots of Gatorade, change into dry clothes, and stick around long enough at the soggy awards show to hear that the winners finished this race when I had more than an hour left to run.

Did I enjoy my first long race? Yes! On Monday, I signed up for the Chicago Distance Classic on August 10, 2008.