Virtual 5k Recap and my first Bucket List item

This week was the start of Toni’s Welcome to Summer Virtual 5k and 10k. I signed up for both- I ran my 5k on Tuesday and plan to use part of my long run on Saturday for the 10k.

I’ve been struggling to maintain a decent pace in the Texas heat, so I decided to run two miles to the gym as a warm up, complete my 5k on the treadmill, and jog back home.  I almost wished I was outside- trying to run a “race” when you’re going nowhere is tough! But it’s done…

Nice, sweaty picture for you.  Next time I’ll wipe it off first! I tried to “cool down” on my jog home, but long after showering at home, my face was still red.  Thanks for the motivation to push myself, Toni!

Onto my fitness bucket list item… if you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you may have seen me spill my news yesterday.  Thanks to some consistent, gentle nudging from Holly and Corey, I finally registered for my first triathlon!

The triathlon is July 15… just three weeks to “train”- (aka: learn how to survive the swim.) It’s a sprint distance- 500 meter swim, 16 mile bike, and 3.25 mile run.  Sounds doable, right?!

I’m super excited, but equally terrified… my last swim was in March, and I’ve never done an open water swim before.  The bike should be okay, although I rarely ride outdoors, I think I can manage.  And thank goodness the run is last.  I’ll be so relieved to get to that part!

I have no time goals as I have no idea what to expect- I just want to enjoy the experience and cross it off my bucket list. Stop by Jill’s for more Fitness Friday posts!

Is anyone else doing the virtual run this week?

Any advice for a first time triathlete? Training schedule tips?

Spinning for runners- part one

Since getting certified to teach RPM spinning, I’ve gotten a few requests for a post on spinning and the things I have learned.  So I’ll start with my spinning story:

I started spinning consistently after my marathon last spring.  My shin was a little achy, and I jumped back into long runs too soon, resulting in an ‘almost’ stress fracture (it was never confirmed) and a conservative two months off running.  In the healing process, I experimented with a number of spinning classes and quickly learned how much variety there is!

Initially, I was not impressed and was really missing the endorphin rush and good sweat from a nice run.  But I eventually found instructors who really pushed me, and I began to work harder.  I got to a point where I was consistently leaving class dripping wet and found my fitness improving (strength and pace).

RPM is one particular brand of cycling classes, although some of my favorite classes were free cycling… it really comes down to the instructor in most cases!

What I appreciate about RPM classes is that they emphasize interval training– hitting your peaks, then recovering so you can work hard again.  When you’re working, you should REALLY be working… it’s only 45 minutes long, so the idea is to max out in those 45 minutes.  Interval training has been shown to be the best way to get fitter.  And if you’re looking to burn calories, it revs your system and you continue burning calories for hours afterward.

After I returned to running, I found that I had not lost as much running fitness as I anticipated.  I ran my first 5k on two weeks of training and felt much better than I expected to (finished in 21:47). I continued going to spinning classes twice a week.

Spinning can effectively strengthen the entire muscles of the leg, serving as a great compliment to running, especially if you live in a flat area (like me) and don’t get a lot of hill workouts in, or rarely take the time to strength train your legs.  I credit spinning for powering me up the hills in Austin’s half marathon when I only trained on flat roads. I know that spinning has made me a more well-rounded athlete and a stronger runner.

Spinning can also replace one (or two ) easy runs per week and allow you to train harder without overtaxing your body with extra running miles.  Run Less, Run Faster encourages spinning as the cross-training of choice for this reason, and I’ve found that spinning helps me keep my mileage lower while my body still benefits from extra cardiovascular training.

I’ll continue this post on Monday with additional spinning tips that I’ve picked up along the way.  Head over to Jill’s for more Fitness Friday posts!

Do you spin or cross train?

Have you seen benefits in your running fitness from cross training?


2011 Year in Review

As I’m processing some of my goals for 2012, I have been reflecting more on the ups and downs of this past year.  I already wrote a brief 2011 running summary, but I wanted to document a few overall highlights before jumping into 2012.

1) Completing my first marathon! I’ve been running for years with little interest in training for a full marathon, but the bug finally bit me this past year.  We were living in upstate NY at the time, and I chose the Poconos marathon in May based on the location (two-hour drive) and timing (I wanted a spring marathon before our move this summer).  Unfortunately, this meant my training began in February, but I managed to tough it up through many chilly long weekend runs.  The hard work paid off, and I felt strong throughout the run until the last 2-3 miles.  I was hoping to finish between 3:40 and 4:00, so I was pleased with a finish time of 3:44:56, despite missing a Boston-qualifying time by four minutes! Of course, now the guidelines are even stricter, so I’ll have to work a bit harder next time around if I want to shave that extra time off.  But overall, it was a rewarding and satisfying experience to complete a marathon upright and smiling.

2) Breaking records! I’ve gotten by with very little speed-work in the past, but I enjoyed testing myself a little more this year.  I had never raced a 5k, so completing my first one at the Turkey Trot was an automatic pr (21:47).  My first marathon was another automatic pr, and I also ran my best times in the half marathon and 10k distance.  The half was a pre-marathon training run in April, where I finished in 1:45:50.  The 10k pr (45:43) was just last week in the Home for the Holidays Virtual 10k.  I’m really enjoying pushing myself more in the shorter distances, and have been surprised with some of the paces that feel relatively comfortable.  I’m always inspired to read other stories of breaking records, and many of your reports encouraged me to work on speed the last few months.

3) Blogging buddies!  After following (stalking?!) numerous running blogs, I finally decided to jump in and start blogging this year in order to document my training and recipe experimentation, and to connect with other runners.  I have very few runners in my day-to-day life, so I love finding so many other like-minded bloggers out there who “get it!” Thanks for making it so much fun!

4) Spinning love! Technically, this was the low point of my year, as I battled some shin stress after jumping back into high mileage too soon after my marathon.  I was initially really bummed to take time off, but a sports med doctor thought it was heading toward a stress fracture if I didn’t back off.  Since we had just moved to Texas and August wasn’t exactly ideal running weather, I felt okay about switching to swimming and biking, and came to love the spinning classes at our gym.  I found one instructor in particular who really pushes the class to work hard, and I’ve continued to go twice a week since returning to running this fall.

This is going to be a tough year to beat! I’m still thinking about what goals I’d like to set for 2012, and will post more on that soon.  Any final thoughts on your year as 2011 wraps up?

Finding my legs again

I ran my first marathon in May with the plan to stop after one, but a few weeks afterward I was already eager to train for another one!  We moved to Houston in June, and I joined a group doing long runs Saturday mornings and was back to 10-13 mile long runs in July.

Although my energy levels and motivation was high, my body let me know it needed more recovery and told me so with nagging shin pain in my left leg.  A bone scan showed a possible stress fracture, and my doctor had me take 10 weeks off running.  I was bummed, but felt okay about doing some cross training during the worst of the summer heat.

I was cleared to start back a few weeks ago, and the timing is perfect–beautiful weather, and just enough time to get back on track for a half in January.  It’s a tough balance to give my body time to catch up and remember how to run again without pushing too far or too fast.  I’m ready to jump right in where I left off, but I know I have to listen to my body and ramp up slowly.

Last week I did 2 runs of 3-4 miles and one 6 miler, and this week will be similar.  I spent the cross-training weeks swimming, cycling and lifting weights, so I’m mixing those in as well while I build my miles back up.  I feel great so far, just very slow.  It’s the longest running break I’ve ever taken in 10-plus years, and I was surprised how hard those first few runs were, despite maintaining a base in other ways.