Monday, October 14, 2019

Game Day 5k

After my surprising performance at last weekend's 5k, I decided to do something I haven't done in ages when it comes to a race: I set a time goal. Specifically, I set a pace goal. I had managed to run the abbreviated Phillippi Shores 5k with an average 9:06 pace, and after a successful and steady 4-mile bridge run on Wednesday the following week, I decided to try for a 9:00 pace this last Saturday.
The Game Day 5k is a smallish race near my parents' house once again staged by the Manasota Track Club. (I hoped this course would be measured correctly.) With Matt in Dunedin for another team paddle, it was the perfect race to fill the spot left empty when the Thrive 5k was canceled.

I knew there would be other Skirt ambassadors there and I was also taking over the Skirt instagram page that day, so everything was falling into place.
The race was set to begin at 8am, which is pretty late for a 5k in Florida no matter the time of year, but I was surprised by how cool the weather was when I first got there around 7:30. I checked my app to confirm because I couldn't believe it - it was only 68! Fall is really here!

I had to park about .1-miles from the race; as I was pulling onto the road, I noticed a bunch of runners doing their warmups had paused and were indicating I ought to turn around and park on the side of the road rather than continuing to the venue. Listening to them saved me ten minutes of navigating the overfull parking lot and having to find a farther spot, which would have messed up my morning timing. I was grateful!
Pre-race, feeling some nervous energy!
I parked and walked to the start, where I got my packet and said hello to Wendy and Marjorie. Then I had time to go back to the car, drop my things, put on my bib, and get ready to go. I felt nervous but not anxious.

Once again, there was no tracking mat at the start. I was a little discombobulated because one of my earbuds wasn't turning on, so I was distracted trying to fix that. (Afterward I had to look up how to turn the individual earbuds on and off once they're out of the case, so I'll know for next time!) So, my start wasn't great. I wasn't at the very front of the line and my GPS didn't kick in right away; generally I just felt a little stressed and unprepared when the starting gun went.

This mindset at the start meant I went out a little faster than I should have, but because I had a plan in mind, I reined it in pretty quickly. The majority of the course was shady because of the time of day, but there were patches where the sun was cutting through and already hot. The morning was sticky. This 5k also has a 10k option and I was so glad I wasn't running longer.
As usual, the last half mile of the race was tough for me. It was starting to get hot and I could feel myself slowing down. I have a tendency to take a walk break around 2.6 miles of a 5k; when I felt I may be losing my pace goal at this point, I just told myself to keep running, even if I had to slow down. Just avoid walking. Just finish in a way that you can be proud of.

Here are two blurry screenshots from the finish line video:
The time on the clock when I finished was 28:30, but my watch read 28:19. With no timing at the starting line, I'm happy to believe my watch over the clock in this case.
I can't get over how evenly matched my first two mile splits were!
I sat for awhile just past the finish line on an open stretch of curb. Eventually I saw Wendy and we got to chatting while we waited for some other friends to finish.
We made our way over to the food and celebration area, where I checked my time. I had placed 2nd in my age group! I had hoped I would place top 3, since this is a small race and the faster runners were taking on the 10k rather than the 5k.
Okay, to be fair, the age group was so small and the MTC does awards 6-deep, so I was guaranteed a place, but I was really glad to have earned it.
I went back to the car to put a shirt back on, ditch my earbuds, and grab my water. By the time I was making my way back, I could hear the announcer already calling names for awards!
Standing on a podium sure is fun!
It turns out the ladies in Skirt really cleaned up that morning! We all placed in our age groups, so we waited for all the awards to be read before getting a final picture together and going our separate ways.
Me, Wendy, Marjorie, and Bonnie. This was Marjorie's first race in the 70-74 AG! (She did the 10k and is amazing!)
Despite missing my pace goal by just a smidge and letting the wheels come off in the third mile, I am really pretty happy with this race. I signed up hoping I'd place and I did. I set a lofty goal and nearly met it. I feel like this race and last weekend's have helped realign my perspective on where I am in my training and fitness right now, which was seriously necessary.

I'm sure I'll post more on it later, but I can see now how much my slower 5ks from the summer messed with my head and my perception of my abilities.

Anyway, this was a fun race with an excellent pay-off, and I hope to run again next year!


Sunday, October 6, 2019

Phillippi Shores 5k

I was not planning to run this race. In fact, for the first time ever, I had to register on race day at packet pickup because I was so late making a decision!

It ended up working out, though. Matt and I were in Sarasota Saturday. He had a 16-mile OC6 paddle practice with his team for Chattajack and I had a 5k to keep me busy before we drove across the coast to meet little Wyatt. I planned to borrow my dad's car and get it back to him so he could start his trip across the state ahead of us.
The race started at 7:30. I got to Phillippi Shores elementary around 6:50, registered, and had plenty of time to warm up and decide on a race plan. This 5k is put on by the school to raise funds, but is supported by the local track club. That meant it was well-organized and chip-timed. The biggest surprise and disappointment, then, was that the course ended up being significantly short.

The start line didn't have a timing mat, so I lined up as close to the front as I could without being in the front row.
Find me!
There were tons of children running, and I mentally prepared myself or some dodging and weaving. However, it really ended up being fine. The numbers were small enough and the roads wide enough that I didn't have any trouble navigating the crowds, and while many of the kids didn't follow "race etiquette", they weren't bothersome. I just kept reminding myself that this race was to raise money for their school, so they kind of had the right to the road.
I came up on the 1-mile mark at .95 by my watch. I knew the race was a double-loop, so I wondered if the second loop would be a little long to account for the shortage. I clocked my first mile around 9:00 and was very pleased; I had started out way too fast and had reined it in, so knowing I had banked some time was comforting.
When I got to the second mile marker, I knew the race was going to be significantly short. My watch read 1.95. Part of me didn't mind; I thought maybe we'd still run an even 3 miles and I could still get a pretty good read on my progress this fall.

I hit my usual wall around 2.6 miles, but knowing the race was short, I kept plugging along. I talked myself out of taking a walk break due to the short course and was especially happy with that once I crossed the finish line and saw just how short. I have had to walk around the 2-mile mark for most of my runs this summer and have been running a 9:50-10:20 pace. Here I was, holding low-9s!
I managed to sprint out the end of the race and the finish line, then thought I was seriously in danger of puking. By the time I had recovered enough to look at my watch, it was too late to find an unpopulated piece of sidewalk to run another quarter mile and finish the whole distance; it wouldn't have reflected any important data, anyway, and for a race that wasn't even on my schedule, I didn't have any need to prove anything. I already knew based on my performance that I ran really well and I was ecstatic.
Here's a blurry screenshot from the finishing video.
I once ran a 5k that was only 2.65 miles; in comparison, this shortage barely matters!

I wrote in my last post that I thought maybe I could place in this race...the reason being that they do AG awards 6-deep. Sure enough, I managed to place 5th in my AG! I spent the next half hour looking for someone who could give me my medal so I could get back to my parents' quickly.
My actual pace was 9:06, which would have meant a 28:16 for a 5k. I think I could've done it!
It took some asking around, but I finally found the announcer, who agreed to sneak me my medal early. I didn't realize until I got back to the house that he had given me the 4th place medal by mistake! I feel pretty terrible about that, but hopefully they had an extra 4th place medal lying about for the woman who finished before me.

But actually 5th.
I have definitely been dealing with hangups over my last couple 5ks, where my running consistency was off and the heat really slowed me down. Even though this race wasn't a full 5k, I know if it had been I would have finished well under 30 minutes, and that has restored my confidence. Running a short race can be frustrating, but honestly, I wasn't bothered!
For people who may have trained for this race specifically, that would be a major flaw and a point of contention.

Over all, I had a great race morning, especially given my last-minute decision to run it. Our plans worked out, and Matt and I got to meet Wyatt and spend some time with the family. It turns out sometimes it's nice when plans don't work as expected!


Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Change of Plans

October is shaping up a little differently than planned. Originally I had a 5k scheduled Oct. 12; my sister was due to give birth on the 7th and I was going to run my race, then drive over to her coast to meet my nephew.

But, Baby was impatient and made his grand entrance September 30!
Meet Wyatt Todd Garreau!
So, we are going to be visiting this weekend instead of next. That works out because my Oct. 12 race was canceled, so now I have decisions to make.
Do I run a 5k this weekend before driving over to meet the little bean, or do I find another 5k for the 12th?

Part of me feels like I'm not really ready for a 5k this weekend, not with full effort. I wanted one more week of training/tapering. But ideally I'd like to race on the same Saturday I meet the baby because then I can be as lazy I want the following weekend - no traveling or racing!

I've found a possible 5k for both weekends. Based on past results, they both seem like fairly small races where, if I somehow managed to harness my true Runner Spirit, I possibly could place in my age group (based on last year's results).

I could sign up for this weekend's and then, seeing how it goes, sign up for next weekend's too.

Really, it's all up in the air but I'd like to know before tomorrow night what I plan to do. The only thing that's for certain is that this Saturday I'm going to meet this little fellow and start working on earning the title of Best Aunt Ever.
This post was kind of just an excuse to post adorable pictures of my nephew. Sorry.


Friday, September 20, 2019

An Unexpected Obstacle

You would think that after ten years, I'd be over a little solo-run anxiety, but apparently not. Despite my runs being fairly short right now - three to four miles most days - it sometimes takes me fifteen minutes or more of mental prep to get out and start moving. Not because I'm not motivated, but because I'm anxious.
Like, I will go so far as to plan out and drive to my starting location and then seriously consider backing out.
In fact, I've missed quite a few runs over the last few weeks because of this. Some nights, my anxiety is so bad it upsets my stomach, which gives me a legitimate reason (or excuse) to skip a run.

At first I thought maybe I was bored of my routes. I've been running the golf course pretty frequently and have been avoiding my usual bunny-infested neighborhood because of burnout, but now it seems the thing stopping me from going back there is some amorphous fear, not boredom.

I'm not sure if I'm just nervous about starting a real training plan now that I have a fall race lineup or if it's something else. I'm trying to psychoanalyze myself and coming up short.
Here's how it tends to go. The first few minutes of any run, I'm usually on fairly public roads or, if I'm running the golf course, on a section that is slightly visible from the road. If I've driven to a starting point, I'll feel anxious and sick the entire drive; I'll park and sit in my car, frozen and reluctant to walk away from it and start my run, for a long time...checking email and apps to buy time.

Once I do start, within a couple minutes I'll turn into a gated neighborhood or have gotten out onto the main fairway of the golf course and I feel more at ease. I feel...less visible, and therefore better. Safer.
Finally feeling good once I'm through the gates of a neighborhood where I don't belong.
This is a completely irrational anxiety, like most of my anxiety is, and it's a pretty new manifestation. I'm not anxious about the run not going well or my ability to complete it or anything like that. I'm not worried about my legs cramping up. I can't really pinpoint the cause or the trigger. I'm just...anxious.

Once I get going I feel fine, or even really good, for the entirety of the run. So logically I know that if I can just get myself over the first hurdle I'll be fine. But it's so. dang. hard.

I'm not even sure what the solution is here besides to just keep forcing myself to power through the anxiety to get to the good stuff. But it would be nice if I could get to the root of this new issue and nip it in the bud so I can get on with my training, because the bottom line is that I'm looking forward to my races and anxiety is really messing with my plans!


Wednesday, September 11, 2019

A 5k and Two Relays on the Horizon

I honestly wondered if I would have any kind of race season or calendar for the latter half of this year. Besides my goal half and a sprinkling of summer 5ks, I haven't felt much any motivation to get up early to race or put in miles for training purposes. But the school year has finally started to feel manageable and I've been able to think beyond my next opportunity to nap...and that means my mind is on racing.

This fall is going to look pretty atypical from my usual fall race seasons, though, with both my big races being relays rather than standard fare.

First, a 5k

An old colleague of mine reached out to me a few weeks ago. He is helping to plan a 5k and wanted me to sign up/spread the word. I knew it would be a good race based on timing. It's in mid-October, so I'll have time to train and it'll be a good training race for my other fall plans. It'll whet my appetite, if you will.
The race benefits foster kids, so it's a cause I can feel good about supporting!
After my last couple less-than-stellar 5ks, I'm a bit nervous for this one, but it'll give me some focus and a baseline to help get back into racing shape.

Then, a Relay

Months ago, Kristina piqued my interest in the Fort Lauderdale 13.1 relay. This year I won't be running A1A because they've moved the date from February to January and it's just not realistic due to travel. But, the Fort Lauderdale 13.1 is on a long weekend; I don't feel much like running a half in November, but the relay option sounded fun, and Matt agreed!
Our planned team name is Surf 'n Turf
We have been having a time of getting signed up, though. The website won't let you add a relay team name or add a runner without tacking on a double entry fee. I've gone back and forth with the website support rep but the problem is on the organizer's end. Basically, we will probably plan to sign up at packet pickup the day before the race and hope that works out.

Hey, if everyone is having this issue and can't sign up for the relay, then Matt and I are sure to place because there will only be two teams running - Kristina's and ours!

Finally, a Longer Relay 

Last year I turned down Michelle when she asked if I'd be interested in running the Ragnar Florida Trail relay. I just felt like it didn't fit my plans for A1A and my legs were still kind of in "recovery"; the idea of running 15.5 miles on a trail with tons of elevation was scary.

They deferred to this year, and this time when she invited me, I agreed! I still think the race sounds scary, but I feel more confident about my running than I did this time last year and I think I'm ready to tackle some bridge running after a long hiatus.
I know what you're thinking, but this course is over mountain bike trails so it's actually hilly, not just "Florida hilly".
The race is in early December and Matt is also going to run it. The last time I ran a Ragnar I had a blast, so I'm looking forward to another fantastic growing experience. This race will be the capstone of my 2019 running season and will take the most training and planning; I'm champing at the bit to get started!

So, it looks like that ties up the remainder of 2019, if all these races pan out. I had hoped this year would be about making a comeback, and I think I've been fairly successful. I'm still incredibly happy with my performance at A1A.

It'll be interesting for my two main races to be relays. Training for a relay is different because besides focusing on your own preparedness, you also want to keep your teammates in mind. Running is usually a solo sport, even when you're on a team. A relay is an entirely different animal and requires an entirely different mindset!

Still, the basics of training will be the same. In the next few days I'll be sketching out a calendar and getting down to the work of building mileage and increasing consistency. I can't wait to get started.


Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Baking with VeganEgg

My latest goal on my journey to cut animal products way down in my diet was to find a suitable egg substitute. From what I've seen, finding anything that will accurately mimic a nice, fried, over-easy egg is going to be impossible, but there are a few products out there to mimic scrambled eggs and sub in during baking.

(Quick tangent: we tried Just Egg for scrambled, and while I find it's got the same kind of flavor profile as eggs - kind of umami - it definitely doesn't taste like an egg. It pairs well with toast or pancakes and I actually really like it, but it's not egg-tasting. It's just...egg-like. The texture is really good, too! For the price though, I'm not sure it's worth it.)
While the internet tells me I can replace an egg in baking with applesauce or a banana, I wanted to try a real egg replacer because I've also read that the applesauce or banana route can change the flavor and texture of whatever you're making.

So, I picked up some VeganEgg. I like Follow Your Heart cheeses (although Violife has recently taken the top-spot in the cheese replacement category for me) and VeganEgg is made by FYH. And really, I saw it on the shelf and was like "Oh I recognize that kind of, so it must have a solid reputation, so let's try it!"
I bought it without realizing you can apparently make scramble with it (actually, I bought it without knowing anything except that it's gluten free and vegan), so maybe someday I'll test that. For now, my focus is baking.

My first impression was that the instructions were pretty unclear. Generally, 2 TBSP VeganEgg + 1/2 cup water = 1 egg, but when baking, the formula is "1/4 cup water to 1 VeganEgg" I spent some time trying to figure out if that still meant 2 TBSP or what.
Not helpful.
In the end, I just had to make a guess. The website basically says you should cut down on water per egg when baking so I assumed I was supposed to decrease the amount of water and keep the powder the same.

Second impressions: this stuff smells kind of weird and sulfury. Which I guess it should because it's mimicking eggs? The scent is not overpowering or very off-putting, but it's definitely there.
I like that there's quite a lot in there, so one packet = 12 eggs.
Third impressions: Once I mixed it up and put in the rest of my ingredients, the batter really looked just as it should so I guess I got the ratio right!
The raw batter tasted good! No obvious "fake eggy" flavor.
This mix calls for 25-30 minutes at 350F, and my muffins were definitely done at 25. I'd say my oven does tend to bake a little hot, so I don't think the VeganEgg had anything to do with that.

I noticed my finished muffins seemed pretty squat, but Simple Mills generally doesn't rise very much, so this may not be due to the eggs. Or it might be. Who knows!
Golden brown!
Tender and dense, tasty, no weird aftertaste...I'd call that a win!
They were definitely baked through (no crumbs on my tester), dense inside, and super moist. I probably should have tested the VeganEgg with a recipe I know really well so that I could easily spot any differences, but I will say that the muffins tasted great so I have no complaints.

As far as I can tell, VeganEgg is a perfectly fine egg substitute for baking. I definitely plan to continue using it in this capacity. I'm relieved to have found something that works!

Now if only I could find a good replacement for hardboiled and over-easy!


Tuesday, August 20, 2019

"No Excuses"

We've all heard it before. The various "motivational" sayings that boil down to "no excuses."
You know, this kind of BS that tries to tough-love you into feeling bad for having human setbacks.

Got a cold?
Pulling some all-nighters?
Working extra hours?
Losing sleep with your sick kids?
Struggling with grief or depression?
Coming off an injury?
Needing a little extra personal-time with your SO?
Just starting your period?

Covered in hives because you have the world's best luck and somehow contracted a virus out of nowhere?
That last one maaaay be a little personal right now. Don't worry, I'm not contagious.
The thing is - and no one who knows me will be surprised by this - I don't ascribe to "no excuses." No one reading this blog is an elite, professional runner making their income off their race results.

Running is a hobby.

It is supposed to be life-giving.

When you're in a situation where going out for a run just feels like the last thing you want to do...when you can hardly think straight and just need that extra downtime, that extra fifteen minutes of sleep, that extra mindless TV show?

Take it.

Go easy on yourself.

Running will be there for you when you're ready to come back to it. Forcing it can do more harm than good. When you buy into the "no excuses" mindset and then have a bad run or a missed run, it can wreak havoc on mental wellbeing. You beat yourself up. You forget the joy of running. You start to feel like running is a punishment instead of a benefit. Negative motivation simply isn't as effective as positive motivation/reinforcement.
So go ahead. Cut yourself some slack; take a little time off. Rest up. The first run back will feel like a welcome-back instead of a chore, and that's really what it's all about.


Thursday, August 8, 2019

Review: JBUDS Air Icon Earbuds

A few months ago, my cheap little MPOW bluetooth headphones started to die. It began with connectivity issues, needing to be manually paired with my phone every time I turned them on. They then started cutting out randomly in the middle of runs.

Generally, they still work, and they'd be fine as a backup pair of headphones, but I wanted something reliable for when I start training for longer races again. So I began a hunt for some true wireless headphones that wouldn't break the bank.

Besides cost, I was looking for: 5+ hours of battery life, water resistance, a reputable company, ease of use, and no slippage. If I could find a pair that also let in ambient noise, that would be a bonus.
After watching approximately 100 YouTube reviews on various headphones, I discovered that JLAB would soon be releasing a pair that would fit my needs. I pre-ordered them in June and anxiously awaited their late-July arrival.
The Air Icons have 6 hours of battery on a charge, plus the charging case.
While I waited, I received this email. I had expected to get my earbuds in late July/early August, so I felt this level of customer service was unnecessary but welcome!
Now that's outstanding customer service!
When my Air Icons arrived on August 2, I was immediately impressed. The packaging is minimal but sturdy and very instructive. The box comes with the earbuds, charging case with built-in plug, two sets of "cush fins", three sets of gel tips and a set of foam tips, and a slim instruction/troubleshooting manual.
I found the earbuds incredibly easy to set up and pair. You take them out of the case, they turn on. You put them back in the case, they turn off. As soon as they're on, they're in pairing mode; you don't have to hold down any buttons for your phone's bluetooth to recognize the device and pair up. I was wearing mine within two minutes of opening the box.
I tested out a few of the tips and fins. I found a combination of the smallest tips and bigger fins was perfect, as the buds stayed securely in my ears but weren't so tight as to block out all noise. (You could definitely use these as noise-cancelling earbuds, but I prefer the "looser" fit.)

The real question is...will these fall out and get lost? Let me tell you, I put them in and immediately forgot about them. They feel lightweight and comfortable. They nestled into my ear as if they were made especially for me. I bounced around, bobbing my head like I had water in my ears. I ran in place. I jumped and shook my head, to Matt's amusement.

The things stayed in!

I was excited to try them out, but it was a few days before I took them for a run.

They did not disappoint. I did have to "study" the package a bit and practice the controls before I got going. The Icon Air use touch controls, no buttons, so they are very easy to use and you don't have to fiddle with finding any buttons. I do think some of the controls will take getting used to (single, double, and triple taps on either earbud produce different results), but they're not very confusing.
They stick out a bit, but their profile is low enough that I think a cold-weather, ear-covering headband wouldn't be uncomfortable.
I have not tested the mic on a call because I don't answer the phone on a run ever, but I did take a little video and tested the sound that way. You're welcome.
On the run, the earbuds didn't move or get uncomfortable. The sound quality was great - there are three settings on the built-in equalizer and I found I preferred the Balanced setting best. I definitely could hear things around me more than usual with other earbuds, but I wouldn't claim they leave your ears as open as Aftershokz do, of course.

Speaking of the competition, here's a bit about the water resistance:
Another cool perk is that the case is magnetic inside and out, so the earbuds snap in and stay securely and the lid also snaps shut with ease and stays that way. It feels sleek and expensive, and the charger is the kind that can plug into a USB port either way, so there's no trying-to-figure-out-which-way-is-up situation.
My only gripe is that I wish the charger's cord was a little longer.
Basically, I'm incredibly happy with my purchase. The fact that these things only cost $59 is kind of unbelievable. I have confidence they'll hold up, and the warranty is pretty great, but if they crap out on me I'll be sure to update here. In the meantime, I'll be thoroughly enjoying my first pair of truly wireless earbuds.