Monday, December 26, 2011

Sunshine and Walking in Late December

Now that Christmas is over, things are less hectic and I'm hoping I'll be able to get back into my regular walking (and blogging) routine. I'll begin training for the Xenia Half Marathon next week, so that does give me an added incentive.

I woke up this morning to sunshine and mild temperatures. It was so pretty, I decided to drive to Antrim Park to get in some calorie-burning miles. (I ate a lot of junk yesterday.)

Antrim was every bit as beautiful as I hoped it would be! There were not many people, the lake was smooth with a few ducks swimming, no wind and the sun felt wonderful! In fact, instead of alternating directions, I walked each loop in the same direction to take advantage of as much sun as possible on my face.

I ended up walking three loops for 3.6 miles and a 14-min mile average.

I often suffer from seasonal depression. Gray, cold Ohio winters really do a number on my moods. Days like today help me to fight off depression for just a little bit longer. What a difference a little sunshine and exercise makes!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Do it Better

My husband and I have a good friend named Ed. Because both of our parents are gone, and Ed is close to the age my in-laws would be, we occasionally have fatherly conversations with him. This father of six, grandfather of 24 and great-grandfather to 24 has a lot of experience with these types of conversations.

The other night when we were talking to Ed, WALK! Magazine came up in conversation. After explaining how hard I had worked, etc., and how sad I was that I had to fold it, he turned to me and said, "Do it again."

I was stunned. Did he not hear what I had told him? Didn't he understand? I said, "I can't because..." and gave him a long list of reasons why I could not possibly restart WALK! Magazine. He repeated, "Do it again." I started to repeat my list and he stopped me.

"Do you have any idea how many times I have failed? I have failed A LOT! And after each failure I would figure out what I did wrong and do it better the next time." He talked about how he could have gone the easy route and worked for a big company like so many of his friends. Yes, they made lots of money, but they worked long hours and  never got to see their families. And basically, though he made less money than his friends, he made more than enough and he felt he had a happier life.

After his story of failure and success, he said, "You know what you did wrong. Do it better."

Many of you former subscribers to WALK! Magazine know me and know how hard the folding of the magazine was for me. It has been two years and I have tried very hard to let the idea go, but I can't. The truth is, I LOVED publishing the magazine! It was the best thing I have ever done, it was some of my best writing ever. I met some great people -- subscribers, athletes, race directors and average walkers like me. I received help from so many people who volunteered to write, who occasionally paid my hotel bill, who traveled with me to keep me company, stood in my booth for hours or just listened to my every idea or vent.

I also missed a lot of sleep as I worked 80 hours a week for 4 years, and I incurred a "little" bit of debt, but I still loved it.

So now, taking my friend Ed's advice, I hope to "Do it better."

Right now, I can't do another print publication. I don't know if I ever will. But, I can gather great information about walkers, health and fitness, nutrition and more. And I can write about people who are interesting, great places to walk, fitness products... And I can find new, maybe better, ways of connecting with other walkers.

I hope all of you will join me as I try to follow Ed's advice.

Follow WALK! on Twitter @WALK_Magazine or on Facebook.

Sign up for the WALK! Newsletter mailing list here or here.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Inspiring People One Step at a Time

Have you ever wanted to stay in bed all day with the covers over your head?

It's easy to get overwhelmed with life's problems.

When I feel like that, all I have to do is read about someone inspiring, such as Karen Stewart, and I realize I am a wimp and need to put my petty little stresses into perspective.

You see, Karen has recurring relapsing MS. There are times when her brain and hands don't communicate all that well. She may want to pick up a pencil, she may even tell her hand to pick up that pencil, but it doesn't always work. There are days when she just cannot pick up even a pencil.

In a story that I found about Karen online, it says she has spent plenty of time in wheelchairs, with walkers and with canes and then one day decided to "embrace" her disease and make it her "friend." She was going to find a way to use her illness to make herself stronger.

She started walking a little bit at a time until she finally was inspired to walk a marathon. After finishing her first marathon, she was motivated to keep going, and going and going... Here is a quote from the news story about her that I loved: "Not everybody is motivated to do marathons, but everybody can do something. ... you never know if today my story will inspire someone else to get off their duff and do something."

Karen recently finished her 47th marathon in Savannah, GA! She hopes to complete her 50th in February 2012! (Shoot -- I've done only two full marathons.)

I find Karen to be extremely motivating! Here is a woman who has been stuck in a wheelchair and she was still able to walk 47 marathons! Wow! If she can deal with a horrible disease like MS, what can't she do? If she can do all of this, what excuse do I have not to try harder to meet my personal goals.

This is all of the information I was able to get from this interview by WSAV-TV ( There are so many questions I have that this story didn't answer.

I have never met Karen, but I hope I will. My goal is to interview her and write a more complete story about her with first-hand information instead of the work of other journalists.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Flying Feather was Fun!

On Thanksgiving, I did the Flying Feather -- a 4-mile race here in central Ohio. My sister had signed up for it first, and because this was her first running race in well over 10 years, I decided to enter it, too. As it turned out, three other Buckeye Striders and one of our adult "kids" and her boyfriend were also entered.

The temps were in the mid-30s -- much more chilly and windy out in Dublin than it was at home! Before the race started, we stood next to a building to reduce the wind to help stay warm.

My little sister Cathy and Me.
She is a runner, but I still like her.
(I'm wearing the hat that was
in the race packet.)
We separated at the starting line based on how fast we thought we would be. Barbara and I went back to the 13-min mile area. These types of events attract people and families who don't enter a lot of races, and don't know they should be near the back. We almost went back farther, but decided 13 was close enough and would reduce the number of people we would have to pass.

There were huge speakers all along the starting corrals and the music was loud and great!

Immediately, Barbara and I were passing people left and right. The first mile was on a wide road, so everyone was spread out and it was easy to maneuver. I finally looked at my watch, saw that 18 minutes had gone by and realized I missed the first mile marker! (The mile markers were huge yellow flags that could be seen from more than half a mile away. I don't know how we missed it.)

The race progressed into Glacier Ridge Metro Park where the wide road turned into a narrow path. It was a little more difficult to pass people and we got stuck a few times with nowhere to go. In the park, there were trees near most of the path, so the wind was blocked pretty well. There is a section of this park we call the plains, and though it is usually pretty windy here, it wasn't this time! Both Barbara and I started to get a little bit over-heated. At the second mile marker, our time was 28:28. I knew we were way too slow.

Buckeye Striders Sharon, Barbara, Me and
Steve before the Flying Feather. (It was cold.)
We picked up the pace as the crowd thinned a little and we moved back onto wider streets to head to the finish line. We did the third mile in 13:26. This felt like a much better pace for me. The closer we got to the finish I tried to pick up the pace a tiny bit. About half a mile away, I asked Barbara if she could go a little faster and she accused me of trying to kill her -- again. (The first time was during the Air Force Half Marathon a couple of years ago.) Still, she picked up the pace a little!

As we turned onto the final stretch, there were two slow runners right in front of us and I refused to let them beat me. I went into my real race mode and passed them a few yards before the finish line! Our final mile was 13:16! (Barbara was 4 seconds behind me.)

At the end we were given a finisher's medal, bottled water, Nutri Grain bars and a bottle of Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais-Villages 2009. There were holiday cookies for those under the age of 21.

Because it was still chilly, and my sister was freezing, (she had been waiting around for me for 15 minutes)  we left quickly and walked the half-mile to the high school where we had parked.

A Thanksgiving race is a great way to start a holiday devoted to food! This one is well organized and the course is not difficult. With the registration we received a technical shirt, a fleece hat, toss-away gloves, a finisher's medal and a tasty bottle of wine. The shirt is a little bit ugly even though it is a technical shirt. (The earlier races gave cuter shirts.) But I'll wear the hat and the wine was good! So, overall, it was a positive experience and I'll probably do the race again.

Hints for this race:
1) The shirts are in men's sizes only. The size small shirt will be big on a small woman.
2) Sometimes they run out of size small shirts early. It is a good idea to pick up your packet on one of the first days, just to be sure. My sister was able to exchange her large for a small on race day, so there were plenty this year.
3) Parking can be tight, so plan to arrive early. I like to get to this race 45 minutes to an hour before the start.
4) It is OK to line up a little closer to the starting line than you would in a typical race (if you normally line up at your real pace). There will be many people strolling in blue jeans and walking with small children lined up too close to the starting line, and you will have to pass them. Do not expect to PR in this race.
5) In previous years, the volunteers were more careful about making sure each person received just one bottle of wine. We saw several people walking away with more than one bottle (one with a whole box!) and there were still plenty of people behind me. Get your wine as soon as possible after crossing the finish line to be sure you get a bottle. After all, if you don't get the wine, you might was well do any other Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

As the Days Get Shorter -- Be Safe!

Though I tend to talk about safety nearly every year after the time change, it probably cannot be repeated too often.

In the Northern Hemisphere, each day gets shorter until about December 21. And the end of Daylight Saving Time in late October or early November means it is darker in the evening all of the sudden. (Yuck!)

You could try walking in the morning, if you don't already. It's just a temporary fix though since it gets progressively darker in the mornings, too. If you have the right employer (or work at home, or are retired...), you could walk over your lunch hour. However, depending on how hard you walk, that might require access to a locker room or showers.

If you are like me, the only time of day available to seriously walk is the evening. (It is hard enough already for me to wake up in the morning -- I cannot get up any earlier!) And that means we need to be extra careful.

First, be careful where you walk. If I am alone, I will not venture into the city parks at night. There are too many dark secluded spots. Lucky for me, my neighborhood is safe and I'm comfortable walking there alone at any time.

Wear light-colored clothing if possible. My winter coat is dark purple, and all of my long pants are black, but I try to wear a white hat when I can. Regardless, in the dark, the purple might as well be black.

Reflective vests can be cute!
Wear some type of reflective clothing. Many athletic shoes have reflective spots, but that is not enough. If your jacket or pants do not have a reflective feature, be sure to wear a vest or some other safety garment. The other day, I saw reflective cuffs to wear around the biceps, reflective hats and even suspender-like straps to wear over a jacket instead of a complete vest. I wear a vest over my dark jacket.

Wear a light. I wear a headlamp. Most people in our neighborhood have lights in front of their houses, so the sidewalks are somewhat lit, but a headlamp does help me see uneven spots. But the real reason I wear a light is so that vehicles will see me when I cross the street. If you do not have access to sidewalks, a flashing red or yellow light on your back will also make you much more visible to vehicles! Don't forget to walk facing traffic if possible! (Find headlamps here: and headlamps and reflective gear here:

One of my headlamps
clips to my hat.
Keep your ears open. I always have an MP3 player with me, but especially at night I use just one ear bud. With the volume at a reasonable level, this allows me to hear other pedestrians or vehicles.

Tell someone where you are going and when you will be back. If you live with other people, this is not a problem. Living alone makes it a little more difficult. If you know your neighbors well enough, let one of them know what your plans are, then check back in when you return home. Otherwise, I have been known to call friends to let them know where I'm walking, and call again when I'm home. Anyone who supports your healthy lifestyle should be willing to do this for you!

Carry a cell phone. I know, I hate carrying the extra weight, too. Still, it is a minor inconvenience to be a little bit safer.

Darkness, rain, snow and wind are not good reasons to let your healthy lifestyle slide. With a little bit of planning and common sense, you should be able to walk outside year-round!

Let me know if any of you have any additional suggestions.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Here Comes the Sun....

On the far side of Antrim lake. Though I saw a few people a couple of times, most of the two laps I was completely alone.
Today, I was lucky enough to be free for the day at about 3:45 p.m. Though chilly and windy, the sun was shining and I rushed to change my clothes so I could get in a couple of miles in the sun.

Not to be too repetitive, but I am very affected by weather and daylight, and the lack of sun in Ohio this time of year really messes with me. To be as proactive as possible, I get outside in the sun as much as possible. And if I get the chance to generate a few endorphins at the same time, all the better!

I was able to change my clothes and be on my way to one of my favorite parks before 4. I wore just two technical shirts with long pants, a windproof jacket and gloves and earmuffs. It was the perfect amount of layers!

On my first lap, I saw two men in olive green jackets who looked somewhat official. As I walked past them, I noticed the logo said something about being community security, which made me feel great! I did only two 1.2 mile loops before the sun started to get low. I was afraid it would be too dark too quickly to make it around one more time. Even with security, I wouldn't want to be on the other side of the lake in the dark.

I pushed steadily and I could feel my breathing, but I was not breathing too hard. In fact, it felt like a medium effort. That said, my heart rate topped out at only 143 BPM and my pace was 13:04 per mile for the first lap and 12:45 for the second!

Though I'm pretty happy about my speed, I'm even happier I had the opportunity to be outside in the sunshine generating endorphins! (If it never got dark any later than it did today, I'd be fine all winter.)

I hope those reading this post had a chance to be out in the sun today, too!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Fall Morning Walks

This time of year, I get really excited when I have the chance to get in my miles in the morning. I don't know what it is about crisp, sunny, fall mornings, but walking in them is great!

Saturday the Buckeye Striders met at Whetstone Park near the Park of Roses at 8 a.m. for our weekly one-hour walk. A beautiful morning walking with friends is a great way to start the weekend.

In fact, it felt so good, I went out for another walk Sunday morning in my neighborhood. Sunday was not nearly as pretty -- it was very cloudy and windy -- but that was OK. I really enjoy starting a morning outside if possible.

Though neither walk was overly eventful, they were both wonderful in a different way. I spend way too much time inside and having two mornings in a row where I can walk outside (and the weather cooperated), well, in Ohio, that is pretty wonderful!

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Walking After the Time Change

The sun was already pretty low before
I even started my 3-mile walk.
One of the biggest problems with training outside after the Fall time change is that it starts to get dark so early. In fact, it will get darker every day until about December 21. The time change just gives the early darkness a sudden jump making it a hard immediately.

Monday evening on my way home, I stopped at a park along the river to get in a few miles while the sun was still up. I thought there would be plenty of time to get in a few miles before it got dark.

Because the painted mile markers are starting to fade, I sometimes miss them. On this day, I saw every one of them on my way out -- 1.5 miles -- but I missed  them on the way back. Regardless, after only 3 miles, the sun was already behind the trees and it was starting to get dark. It wasn't so dark I needed to stop, but it was getting close. I decided to stop.

I don't mind walking in the dark if I'm in my neighborhood and I feel safe -- I bought new batteries for my headlamp and found my reflective vest -- but who wants to walk in just their own neighborhood for a couple of months? (Not me.)

Until it is absolutely necessary for me to limit my walks to the neighborhood, I will keep trying to squeeze a few in local parks and with luck will be able to enjoy a few hours of sunshine.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Seen Today -- Seriously?

Turkey lights put up in a neighbor's yard the
day after Halloween!
Can you believe it? The day after Halloween and someone in our neighborhood had a Thanksgiving decoration out already! (The photo is difficult to see, but the white lights are in the shape of a turkey.)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Walking While Traveling

Edited to add photos 10/27/11.

Walking in Palm Springs.
Palm trees make me smile.
I'm currently in Palm Springs, CA for work. I was supposed to arrive on Sunday with the plan to spend the afternoon walking and and maybe hiking up the mountain a little. As it turned out, our plane had mechanical problems and we were not able to fly out until Monday morning. I had meetings scheduled for all day Monday, missed a couple of them and showed up in time to catch the last few.

Tuesday I also had meetings all day. I ended up with a short break at one point and was able to walk outside for about 50 min. Nearly an hour in the California sunshine in October was fantastic! Ohio can be pretty gray and dreary this time of year. The sunshine has done a lot for my mood.

Today I had a few hours free as my last meeting ended early. I walked down to the art museum, which was nice, but left before seeing everything just to be in the sun. One thing I noticed is, the temperatures change dramatically once the sun goes behind the mountain! I was a little toasty walking around in my blue jeans, but once the sun went behind a peak the temps dropped dramatically!

Andrew Wyeth painting at Palm
Springs Art Museum. I got
in trouble for taking this
If you lived here year-round, it would be necessary to plan training walks around the sun. Since I just did the Columbus Half Marathon this month, at least I didn't have to try to fit in training walks while here.

I'm heading to the Palm Springs airport at 5 a.m. and will end up spending about 3 hrs in the Dallas airport. I'm hoping that I'll be able to do a little walking there -- just as I did on our way out here.

OK, this posting is a little rambling and starting to get off topic, plus I forgot to bring my iPod cable down to the hotel lobby with me, so I'm not able to post photos. I'm heading off to bed and with luck, I'll be able to add some walking information and photos tomorrow.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Hints for the Columbus Half Marathon

The race shirts are available in
women's sizes -- and they fit!

After completing this year's Columbus Half Marathon, here are some tips for next year's event.
  1. If you are planning to enter as a "competitive" walker, read the registration information carefully. For this year's race, walkers needed to go to a separate registration table to get a second bib to wear on the back. The bib said "Competitive Walker." At the same table we were given a big orange sticker to put on the front to indicate we were walkers. Things may change next year, so be sure to read carefully.
  2. Reserve a parking space online. My friend Deb does this every year and it makes race morning much easier!
  3. The last few years this race has provided shirts in women's sizes. I tend to wear a small and the small fits. Based on my experience, I think the sizing is accurate.
  4. The best time to go to the expo is during the Buckeye game. Yeah, most of the locals will be watching the game.
  5. This race gets bigger every year -- arrive early! I heard stories about people not being able to park, the port-a-john lines at the start were very long and we also heard some people had trouble getting to the right corral because of the crowds.
  6. The weather for this race can be very cold or very hot. And even if it is chilly in the morning it will warm up as the sun comes out. Bring a shirt or sweatshirt to toss once it warms up.
  7. And don't forget the people in the corrals ahead of you will also be tossing shirts. Watch your step for at least the first mile.
  8. At the end of this year's race, it was difficult to find the tent in Celebration Village where we were to turn in our "Competitive Walker" bibs to be counted. You may have to really search.
  9. This year's after-race food was pretty skim and all junk. With any luck, it will be different in future years. There was food for sale at the after-race party. Either bring money to buy something more substantial, or have something in your car to eat after the race.
  10. Be sure to follow the Columbus Marathon on Facebook and Twitter. Sometimes the staff announces special events or opportunities to win prizes or entry fees. They often ask for opinions on issues.
  11. Don't forget to register early for the least expensive registration fees.
This is a well organized and fun event! If you are ready for some of the issues associated with a large event, it will help you have a successful race.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Columbus Marathon Review

Sunday's Columbus Marathon Half was fantastic!

The temps were in the low 50s when we arrived at the starting line. Because I am always way too cold, I was wearing a throw-away sweat shirt and a trash bag over my long-sleeved technical shirt. Deb did convince me to wear shorts.

As soon as we got there, we noticed the lines for the Port-a-johns were horrible! I was really worried we wouldn't get through before the start of the race. We must have picked the right line because we both got through relatively quickly. (Whew!)

While waiting for the start of the race, the sound system was great! In Corral F -- right before the last corral -- we could hear the Danger Brothers playing, we heard the National Anthem and we heard the start! (Well, a cannon was shot off, so I would hope we would hear it regardless.) The coolest part was the fireworks going off!

As participants approached the actual starting line, a live feed of all of us crossing the starting line was broadcast on a big screen across from the band stage. I raised my arms and waved, but I didn't see me in the crowd. Very cool!

The first mile of any race is rough. Too many walkers and runners who do not know how slow they are and too many runners go too far back. Add to this that lots of people in the front corrals tossed clothes, and we had to watch our step. Still, we hit mile marker one in 13:48.

Early on I tossed my sweatshirt.

As we went up Broad St., we passed the walking pacers who obviously lined up in the wrong spot. None of us walkers in the back could find pacers (other than 2:45) before the race.

In Bexley, the 3:00 pacer passed us and was at a slightly faster pace to make up for being behind early on. (He got stuck in a back corral and had trouble picking up his pace.) We could not maintain his acceleration pace at this point, we let him pass but we kept him in sight for the entire rest of the race. At this point Deb and I met a really nice woman named Debbie, who also wanted to finish in under 3 hours and couldn't keep up with the pacer either. She ended up staying with me till the end.

Somewhere before mile 8, Deb started to slow and said to go ahead. We had an agreement before the race, and it was OK with her that I went on ahead. I turned around periodically and did see her for a while.

In Olde Town there were tons of people on the porch of one house partying and cheering. It was neat that all of those neighbors got together to cheer us on!

Somewhere around Olde Town, we heard sirens and a firetruck and two squads were given the right of way and we were moved onto the sidewalk for a short stretch. We saw paramedics working on a man, but I just couldn't look. I never did hear what happened or how he did.

The rest of the race was very fun and uneventful. We saw great water stops, heard great music and there were plenty of great signs held by cheering crowds. One of my favorites held by a little boy said "Worst Parade Ever." (So cute!) There seemed to be much more crowd support this year than in previous years. We saw a couple different groups of people more than once, which was fun.

We turned onto High Street and the wind picked up. Lucky for us, it was at our back and almost helped us move faster. It did feel quite a bit colder than earlier in the race. Most of High Street is a slight uphill. Despite this, we kept up the pace and kept the 3-hour pacer in our sights!

At mile 12, I decided to see if I could go faster. I pushed hard and when I made that left-hand turn to the finish line, pushed even harder. Debbie tried to keep up with me and ended up jogging a few steps to pick up her pace. We did mile 13 in only 12:25! Really excited at that point, I crossed the finish line with a watch time of 2:57:19! More than 2 minutes under my goal of 3 hours!

With me after the race are Deb (middle) and Pat.
We got our medals and silver blankets (really needed), grabbed water and I ran into other Buckeye Striders who finished in about the same amount of time I did, but were just enough ahead of me in the corral that I never caught them.

The food line was efficient. We were each handed a bag with food in it. However, the food in the bag was not very exciting. I had a bag of cheese curls, a chocolate cookie, an orange, granola bar and some energy chews. We did get chocolate milk which is one of my favorite recovery foods! Though I appreciate that we got food at all, I didn't eat any of it -- I just drank the milk.

There was a security guard working hard to keep family and friends from blocking the exit out of the food area. The exit was huge, so I cannot believe that there were so many people standing there that we still could not get out. It was so much better than last year and the guard was doing his best.

It took quite a while to find where we were supposed to turn in our Competitive Walker bibs. When we finally found it, the process was easy. I can't wait to see how it is going to work. The results haven't been posted yet.

The after-race party in Celebration Village was very crowded. A band was playing and it could have been fun, but we were cold and it was difficult to get around, so we left fairly early.

Overall, the Columbus Marathon Half was a great event! Though there were a couple hiccups with pacers and after-race food, there is a lot to like about this race.

What I especially like is that the race director listens to the participants. He heard people complain about the food distribution last year with early finishers taking too much, and he tried something new. He heard that it was hard to get out of the food area, and he tried something new. He heard that the participants in the last corrals couldn't hear the music and he tried something new. Walkers asked for awards and he tried something new.

Even if everything that is tried doesn't work, you have to admire a race director who listens and is willing to make efforts to make a race better.

And I think that is why this race gets better every year.

NOTE: Because I took pictures with my iPod, many of the low-light photos did not turn out. And, because I had a speed goal, I didn't stop to take photos mid-race like I usually do.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Day Before a Big Race

In honor of my walking the Columbus Marathon Half tomorrow, this blog post will feature hints for what to do the day before a big race.
  1. Get plenty of rest. If you are like me, you will not sleep well the night before the race. Because of that, I went to bed early last night and I feel pretty good!
  2. Try not to be on your feet too much. After picking up your bib at the expo, find a place to sit down.
  3. Don't eat anything unusual today. It is so tempting when you are traveling to try foods you've never had before. Save that for after the race.
  4. Check the most up-to-date weather for tomorrow. By today, the forecast should be fairly accurate.
  5. Plan what you will wear and make sure it is ready. Is your favorite shirt clean? Do you have your socks selected? Will you take a "throwaway" shirt? If it is raining, will you take a garbage bag? (Remember, don't wear anything new and untested.)
  6. Put your race number on your shirt or racing belt. If you have a timing chip, put it on your shoe.
  7. Plan what you will eat in the morning. I eat a peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat bread before every race. I will make the sandwich tonight.
  8. Do you carry gels or an MP3 player? Pack your Spibelt with your necessities.
  9. Finally, go to bed at a reasonable time.
Races in my home town feel different from races that require travel. I like being in a hotel right across the street from the start line. I also like having planned what I'm going to wear a couple of days in advance.

At the same time, I sleep better in my own bed and I like being able to change my mind regarding clothes if necessary. (I took the totally wrong clothes to the Big Sur Marathon and I froze!)

Regardless, there is always a lot of excitement before a big race and the morning will go much smoother if you plan early.

Good luck to everyone doing a fall race!

(If I left anything out, please let me know!)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Taper Week

I'm not sure if this is an egret, heron or crane,
but I saw it today.
I was scheduled to walk just 30 min. at an easy pace today. Because it was beautiful this evening I went to Griggs Reservoir to walk along the river. I love days like this!

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Race Pace

My plan for Saturday's 8-mile training walk was to try to maintain a 14-min mile for the first 5 miles, then increase my speed to race pace for the last 3 miles. I also used the walk to try out a new heart rate monitor.

The first 2 miles were over 14 min. each -- darn! We were able to pick up the pace for the next 3 miles moving between 13:40 and 13:50. So the first few miles evened out.

We tried to pick up the pace to go as much below the 13:45 pace as possible. That 6th mile we only managed 13:50, but we also slowed down for Deb to use the water fountain. (I'm OK with that. I want her to drink water.) Unfortunately, after that mile I hit the wrong button stopping the chronograph. Argh! According to Nancy's GPS we went from a 13:30 pace to a 12:26 pace per mile -- I'm just not sure what the specific pace was for each mile. I need to be able to average faster than 13:45 per mile, so if I go slower for the first 2 miles, obviously I will need to go faster for the last few miles.

I'm VERY excited! After I warmed up, moving faster than 13:30 was not that bad. Now I just have to figure out how to warm up quicker.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Testing a HR Monitor

Today I was testing a heart rate monitor by Sportline. The watch part is very cute and I was excited to give it a good workout with either long distance or speed intervals. (This is the one I planned to test Sunday.)

The buttons on watches all work differently. It's one of the reasons I'm hesitant to switch between sport watches.

So today, I inadvertently stopped the chrono after my 5-minute warm up. I have no idea how long I walked for my first interval before I noticed the time didn't change. Somehow I did the same thing right before my last interval.

When I'm used to the buttons, I'll do a full review. For right now, I like it. The watch is cute, the chest strap is comfortable and a good design, the stop watch will do up to 50 laps...

That's probably enough teaser for now.

My Workout
Despite the user error, I had a good workout. I ended up doing 8 intervals of 3 minutes fast alternating with 2 minutes of rest. When I finished the first interval, I marked my finish spot with a stick so I could compare how I did on other laps, and was pretty close just about every time.

My stride did not feel smooth today and it was an effort to move fast. In fact, though I was not breathing overly hard, I just could not get my legs to move any faster. I knew I was not working my hardest because my heart rate did not even get above 144. (During a recent race I paced myself  using 150 bpm.)

Regardless, it was a good workout. I'm planning to keep up the speed workouts even after the Columbus half in less than 2 weeks.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

I Didn't Want to Walk Today

The changing leaves are a sure sign of fall.
It was so hard to get out of bed this morning to walk. The weather was rotten Friday and Saturday with lots of rain and clouds, and I expected it to be just as bad today. As I laid in bed, I was thinking about where I could walk where I would be least likely to quit halfway through. (Sharon Woods with the 3.8-mile loop.)

When I finally got out of bed, I was pleasantly surprised to see the sun! It was a little chilly, but there was sun.

One of my goals today was to walk faster than I have on my last few long days and try to maintain close to my intended race pace. I also hoped to pay more attention to my heart rate so I'll use my heart rate monitor better on race day. Halfway to the park I realized I left the chest strap to the HR monitor at home. Darn!

Without the monitor, I decided to just try to walk at a pace close to a 14-min. mile. I always start a little slow and it takes at least a mile for me to warm up. My first mile was 14:44 and I sped up to 14:09 for mile 2 and 14:01 for mile 3. I stayed near that pace until the last two miles which were 13:49 and 13:43. Though I was breathing a little bit hard, I could have easily maintained a conversation. It felt good.

In order to break the 3-hour mark, I'm going to have to walk all 13 miles faster than 13:45. If I can get warmed up sufficiently, I think I'll be able to do it. However, there are only two weeks left and I won't have another long-distance pace day to practice.I'll just have to be confident my training has paid off.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Not Quite as Scheduled

Monday I planned to do my regular speed workout. I didn't sleep well the night before and I did an intense 12 miles Saturday, so I was a little more tired on Monday than usual. So, I altered my plan from the scheduled eight laps of 3 min. fast alternating with 2 min. of rest to six laps. After I started walking, I discovered I was much more tired than I realized. After four laps I was done.

Though I feel somewhat bad about ending my speed workout early, I've heard from several people I respect that sometimes it is best to do that. As Bonnie Stein always says, if you don't feel like walking, walk for 10 min. If after 10 min. you don't feel like continuing, then it is OK to stop. So, after 20+ min. I just could not continue -- it was time to stop.

Today I was scheduled for 45 min. easy. I knew it was going to rain and was trying to get out of the house before it hit. By the time I got out, it was cloudy and was just starting to sprinkle. The more I walked, the harder it rained. On my way back home, about a block away, it was raining harder and I was getting soaked. Those who know me know -- I do not do rain when it is cold! Rain in September is something I hate.

I finally decided to just run.

Yeah, I hate running. But my dislike of getting rained on was just a little bit stronger.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Last Long Walk Before Half Marathon

Yesterday was our longest walk before the Columbus Marathon (Half) in October. Deb and I wanted to do 12 miles, so our plan was to walk straight out on the Alum Creek Trail for 90 min. and turn around for a total of 3 hours. We estimated that even if we walked slowly, we would walk at least 12.

We started out with a few other walkers planning to do just 8 miles. (Don't you love it when I say "just" 8?)

Our first detour was a small group of deer. The doe and fawn crossed the trail in front of us, but the buck waited and watched. The closer we got to where the two deer crossed, the more upset the buck got. He even ran at us a little. (I suggested we NOT make eye contact and walk faster.)

When we got to one part of the trail that goes under a busy road, the trail was closed due to construction. We had to go up to the street and cross. Luckily at a little after 7:00, there were few cars.

After the others left us, Deb and I walked farther than we have gone on this trail -- almost all the way to Easton! After trying to map the trail on Map My Walk, I think we walked about 6.28 miles out then  turned around.

After we turned around, the trail looked very different. We also forgot how many times the trail veered off. At one point we were totally lost, it just was not obvious which way kept us on the main trail.

When we hit the one intersection with a traffic light and then had to cross the busy street, the traffic was heavier and it was harder to cross. We ended up back at our cars after 3:04, so we definitely took longer to get back.

So, it was a beautiful morning, and despite a few obstacles we walked for more than 12 miles. It was a good beginning to the day!

9/30/11 Edited to add: I forgot to mention that two huge apples or hedge apples dropped from a really tall tree and landed inches from our feet! We both jumped (and yelped) and laughed so hard, we had to stop walking for a minute. If we had been a second faster, we both would have been hit in the head by the falling fruit.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Walking Division Prizes at Columbus Marathon

The Columbus Marathon just announced that there will be prizes for walkers who sign up to be in the competitive walker division!

From the Columbus Marathon website
Competitive Walker Division Rules
All participants in the Competitive Walker Division must wear a special sticker on the front of their shirt and a special bib on the back of their shirt on Race Day. Judges will be located on the course. Any participant in the Competitive Walker Division seen running will be ineligible for Competitive Walking Division Awards.
The Competitive Walking Division stickers & bibs can be picked up at the Competiive Walking Division table at the Expo. This table will be located next to Number Pick-up. ONLY those walkers interested in competing for awards must wear the sticker & bib; walkers taking part in the marathon and 1/2 marathon who are not competing in the Competitive Walking Division do NOT need a sticker or bib.
Following the Race, all participants in the Competitive Walker Division will be required to write their name and race number on their back bib, and turn it in to the information table in Celebration Village for verification. Those participants who fail to turn in their bib will be ineligible for awards.
I'm excited!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A 10-Mile Saturday

I'll admit it -- today a lot of the Buckeye Striders were going to be out of town, so Deb and I went to a different location for the Saturday morning walk. (I know, it was divisive.)

We were scheduled to do 8 miles, but because we didn't get up to 10 miles last week, we left 10 as an option.

We went to Sharon Woods at 7 a.m. and it was still dark and it was cold! I hate dark and cold mornings! This park has a 3.8-mile loop and large mile markers. It always takes me a while to get warmed up enough that I can walk fast comfortably. Our first mile I thought Deb had set too fast of a pace, but it took us just 14:09, not too fast at all. We tried to hover around that pace, and even got down to 13:58 for mile 3.

The first lap was uneventful except the park was beautiful! The second lap we really slowed with our slowest mile 14:25 (Deb stopped to get a drink from the fountain, so I slowed to wait for her). After 8 miles we felt great, so we decided to do two more miles. I made the executive decision to pick up the pace for mile 9 to see how fast we could get. Though she was not entirely sold on the idea, Deb hung in there, and I would not let her slow down. We did that mile in 13:38! Because she was such a good sport, we used the last mile as our cool down and finished it in a very slow 15 min.

It was a beautiful morning! The temps were perfect, though I can't stand being cold first thing in the morning. And though we did not see any deer, we did see the flock of wild turkeys. (No, wild turkeys are NOT cute!)

I'm glad Deb talked me into leaving my jacket in the car, and she is glad I talked her into walking mile 9 fast -- and that is why we train so well together!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Speed Workouts with Motion Traxx

For years I have listened to audiobooks to keep me going on my long walks. Over the years I've been told music is better for maintaining a fast pace. I'm not really into current music, so it has been difficult for me to figure out which songs are good for what pace.

Recently I discovered a podcast called Motion Traxx. Deekron the Fitness DJ puts together play lists at a specific pace for set amounts of time. There are sets as short as about 30 minutes and as long as an hour or so. There are sets as slow as 120 beats per minute (BPM) and as fast as 180 BPM. Some are a steady pace and others increase gradually.

I downloaded a couple of podcasts to try for my speed workouts. Because I had never used anything like this before, I wasn't sure how fast I would need and guessed at 160 BPM.

The music is "techno" and most of the songs have an exaggerated beat. Most of the songs in the sets I downloaded do not have lyrics, however, the credits do list the artists.

At the beginning of one set, the beat was very heavy, and I found myself flinging back my right elbow with each beat. There was something about such a heavy beat that felt as if it needed more than just normal arm movement. And of course, pushing my right elbow back caused my left elbow to go back harder and made my feet keep the beat better.

What I discovered is that music with a consistent strong beat did keep me walking at a strong consistent pace. During my eight intervals or fartleks of 3 min. each, I ended at almost the exact same point for each interval. When walking with audiobooks, I am never this consistent.

I also found out that I hate techno music. Well, I knew this all along, but I really, really do not like techno music. But by using music with such a strong beat, I can keep the volume low and use just one ear of my earphones and still benefit.

When doing intervals, 160 BPM ended up being too slow. I found myself trying to go just a little faster than the music. For my next experiment I'll try something a little fast, like maybe 170.

There are several other options for pace music including more podcasts and applications such as Podrunner. (The few sections I listened to on Podrunner were less mechanical sounding.) I'm going to keep experimenting until I find music I like at a pace that will keep me going.

If you have tried programs such as Motions Traxx, let me know if it was helpful.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Back to Training

It was cold and wet Monday morning, so I postponed my training walk until nearly noon. I was scheduled to do 8 miles and just could not do that much mileage in my neighborhood. I finally went to Antrim Park which has a 1.2-mile loop and did six laps for a total of 7.2 miles. Because I had not walked hard since the Parkersburg Half Marathon, I felt comfortable with that distance.

I started slow, walking the first lap in 17:32 for a 14:36 per mile pace. Each lap was progressively faster ending with a 16:19 lap, or 13:35 per mile pace! I'm pretty excited about that. I averaged 14:09 per mile, which is not fast enough to break a 3-hour half marathon, but 13:35 is.

Considering that I finished feeling strong and I was not breathing overly hard, I think I should be able to maintain that pace to achieve my goal. And with any luck, I will be able to do it at the Columbus Marathon Half in October.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Fiber One 80 Calories Cereal

As a participant in the General Mills Pssst... program, I periodically receive samples of General Mills' products to try and to review. Recently I received a box of Fiber One 80 Calories cereal. It was the Honey Squares flavor.

The cereal had a nice flavor and texture. If I didn't know it was a high-fiber cereal, I would not have guessed based on the texture or taste. I also liked the fact it was not overly sweet like garbage cereals. Because I use skim milk, I have almost given up eating cereal -- most get way too soggy too quickly in skim milk. Though this cereal did start to get soggy near the bottom of the bowl, it stayed fairly crisp for a while.

I am not a nutritionist or dietitian, so I'm not going to give a full nutritional review of the cereal. That said, here are some things from the label: 3/4 cup provides 10 grams of fiber and 1 gram of protein. With 1/2 cup of skim milk, it provides 50% of the calcium needed in a day. It provides 25% of many other nutrients. Though the label says it has no trans fat, it does provide 0.5 grams of polyunsaturated fat. Because it also says it has 1 gram of total fat there has to be some somewhere else that doesn't get reported because it is below a certain level. (I don't remember the rules on that.)

Friday, August 26, 2011

How the Altras Handled a Half

Too close to my most recent half marathon, I bought my first pair of zero-drop shoes made by Altra -- the Intuition. In theory, I knew they would be light and flexible enough for racewalking. (The brochure says they are designed for "toe off.") I wasn't sure they would have enough support for me to make it through an entire half marathon without killing my feet. (I've tried other lightweight shoes before and around mile 10 my feet were killing me!)

Zero drop means that the sole of the shoe is flat -- the heel and toes are the same distance off the ground. This pair is extremely flexible and is intended to encourage a natural foot motion. To learn more specifics about the shoe, read my July 31 blog post.

I was a little bit worried about blisters. The back of the shoe rubs a little along the top. In training walks, I felt a hot spot on the left foot and ended up with a small blister on my right foot. To be proactive, I applied Body Glide on my right foot and a Blister Blocker patch on my left. The Blister Blocker was pretty old, and didn't adhere quite right, but I didn't know for sure until after the race.

For the most part, these shoes performed great! It is difficult to walk in them if I am not attempting to racewalk. I could tell almost immediately if I wasn't using proper form and I was able to make adjustments before going too far "plodding" as opposed to "floating." (As if I ever really float!) I was especially amazed at how they performed on hills. They are so flexible, my feet seemed to roll with every step uphill. It felt like a very natural motion.

Going downhill was a little bit different. My feet seemed to slap the ground more than I would have liked. But that could have been more my fault than the shoes.

At about the eight-mile mark, I picked up the pace. As I approached the 10-mile mark, I started to get nervous. I could "feel" my feet a little bit, but there was no pain. As I continued, pushing when not going uphill, I felt OK.

But the test is often how you feel AFTER the race. I did not have blisters on either foot. I could still feel my feet, but I did not have pain or an overwhelming need to rip my shoes off. I would not have wanted to go much farther, though. More mileage would have started to get rough. My feet did feel much better when I finally put on my Croc sandals, but they always do. The next morning, my feet were sore when I first got out of bed, but that is pretty typical for me, too.

The main reason I need a little support is that my right ankle can be wobbly, causing my ankle bones to rub in a bad way. (I discovered this at mile 19 of my first marathon.) I did not feel any of that rubbing pain, though my ankle has been popping more than usual since finishing the half. 

So, in conclusion, the Altra Intuition is great for short-distance racewalking and is also pretty good for distances as long as a half marathon. Because I was proactive, I didn't get blisters. Because they are light, I felt the need to work harder to use racewalking form and did not plod as much as typical for me. It is possible that my feet hurt less because I was plodding less. Either way, it is a good thing. As long as there are no major negative changes to these shoes, I will most likely buy another pair.

NOTE: The Altra Intuition comes with two different insoles: Strengthen and Support. For obvious reasons, I have been using the Support insoles. They have a little bit of arch support and are a little bit stiffer. I am currently doing ankle-strengthening exercises. If my right ankle ends up no longer needing support, I will try the lighter strengthening insoles.

I had a pair of lightweight trainers I wore in the Country Music Half Marathon a few years back. By mile 10 my feet hurt so bad, I was miserable. I picked up the pace to finish as fast as possible just to get off my feet. Even walking back to the hotel was miserable. Since then, I have been a little more cautious about buying light shoes.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Parkersburg Half Marathon Review

I love the color!
The Parkersburg News and Sentinel Half Marathon is one of my favorite races! Not only are the race fees very reasonable, but the entire town gets behind the race. The volunteers and the people in the town are friendly and welcoming.

For the $45 registration fee you get: pre-race pasta dinner, post-race pizza lunch, technical shirt, finisher medal, ice-cold wet towel at the finish line and awards for walkers. There was more than one water stop per mile (closer together near the finish line), Gatorade at many water stops and ice at many water stops! There were even wet sponges at two or three stops. The finish line offered cold bottles of water, soft drinks, fruit, Panera bagels and free massages.

Along the course, there were monitors to verify that the more than 140 walkers all walked the entire race. The walker bibs were a different color and we wore two bibs -- one on both the front and the back for easy identification. That makes the fact that awards are given to walkers much more meaningful.

Most of this course is very scenic. Walking through historic neighborhoods, or along the river, looking out over the hills of West Virginia, crossing bridges -- you almost forget that it is very hilly and sometimes pretty darn hot.

The flag was lowered as trumpets played the
National Anthem.
At the start of this year's race, a giant U.S. flag was lowered from the roof of a downtown building as trumpeters from the high school band played the National Anthem. It was beautiful!

The temps were in the high 60s and the day was expected to be sunny and a little bit warm.

Deb and I did a pretty good job of walking at a quick pace, averaging 14:20 to 14:30 per mile for the first eight miles. Around mile eight, Deb was slowing a little bit and I was ready to pick up the pace, so I went on ahead. Mile nine was 13:41 for me! From there I slowed with mile 10 14:07, 11 was 14:11 and mile 12 (with the huge hill) was 14:46. The last 1.1 miles I really tried to push, passing people left and right. It took 15:13, which ends up being a 13:49 pace. I love it when I have enough left at the end to really push!

I felt good the vast majority of the race until the hill between 11 and 12. It took me a couple of minutes to recover and catch my breath.

The temps got into the mid-80s, which is pretty hot for a hilly race. The ice was a wonderful addition to the water stops! Though I chewed a few pieces, most of it ended up in my hat. (How do you explain to your doctor that you got frostbite on the top of your head in the middle of August?)

One of my favorite parts of this race is, as you approach the finish line, there are people lining the streets cheering. It is great hearing the announcer say, "From Columbus, OH, one of our racewalkers, Cindi Leeman!" And the crowd goes wild! It makes you feel like an Olympic athlete! (I am sure they didn't quite go "wild," but there was cheering.)

Though the people on the street are really waiting for the parade that starts after the race, they are familiar with racewalking and do a great job of encouraging us back-of-the-packers to finish strong. It is a lot of fun!

There were just a couple of places where traffic could be an issue. The local police did a great job of stopping the cars for us. On two roads cars drove past us in the other lane, but because of the bike patrols and the traffic cops, I felt totally safe.

The only thing I would change about this race is the shirt. The shirts are offered in men's sizes only and even the smalls are too big for small women. In the overall scheme of things, that is not such a big deal.

So, if you are tired of the over-the-top costs of destination races that do not even acknowledge walkers, I would highly recommend trying this race. I can almost guarantee that you will come back.

For this race, I paid $45 for the entry fee, half the hotel room rate of $75 and $14 for gas. We bought no food until we stopped to pick up drinks on our way back home.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Great Idea! Saving Food for the Final Race Finishers

At the end of a long race, I want my bagel!
It happens to us walkers all of the time. We get to the finish line of a runner-dominated race, and there is nothing left -- no bagels, no water, not a banana to be found.

Though not having food by itself is frustrating, the attitude of the early finishers and the race directors is what is most frustrating. Often, complaining does nothing. It doesn't stop me from complaining, but it usually does no good.

Rather than re-hash a bad situation, I'm going to fast forward to 2011 to recognize a race doing something I think will be great!

In this month's email newsletter, the Columbus Marathon announced that new this year, "More, easier-to-carry finish line food  – we will have it packed in a bag for you!"

I'm sure many people read that and didn't think a thing about it. My first reaction was, "Wow! They listened!" If you are one of those you do not get the significance, let me explain. When there are just open tables of food, early finishers grab all of the good stuff, more than enough for one person sharing it with their non-racing friends and family, meaning the people at the back of the pack who actually paid to be in the race and need food get nothing. (I'm sorry. I am not going to re-hash.)

When finishers can go through the food line and just be handed a bag of food -- one of each item, enough for one person -- then there is plenty of food for everyone, and the people at the end of the race (who paid to be in the race) get food too!

My friends and I saw the success of this type of finish line food distribution at the Detroit FreePress Marathon. (Back when I was boycotting the Columbus Marathon.) We finished the race, entered the food line and each of us was handed a bag with a bagel and other goodies, we grabbed a bottle of  water, and then we moved to an area to rest. Somewhere along the food line, a volunteer put a mark on your race bib indicating you had received food and you could not get back in line. It worked great!

To some this will seem a little severe. What if you don't want a bagel, but you would rather have two bags of chips instead? And I hate to think about the number of volunteer hours that will be needed to make this work.

But measures like this ARE necessary if we want to have large races with people taking as long as 7 or 8 hours to finish. As long as you have 4-hour marathon finishers who see the TONS of food and think it won't matter if they take a couple of extra things for their friends, we need strict regulation of finish-line food.

I thank the Columbus Marathon for listening to those of us who take a little longer to finish! I really appreciate your trying to make a tough situation work for everyone. And I especially appreciate your putting such a positive spin on this new program. Thank you!

First you offer shirts in women's sizes and now you are working to make sure everyone gets food! It just keeps getting better and better!

PS: To the guy at last year's race who walked off with a BOX of Krispy Kreme doughnuts and ignored me when I said, "Someone behind you might like a doughnut, too" -- plans like this are because of you!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Week Before the Half

You gotta love a taper week!

Yesterday we stepped down our training miles to only 8. (I just LOVE saying I walked ONLY 8 miles.) Yep, this is the official taper week before the Parkersburg Half Marathon!

At 7 a.m. we started walking along the Alum Creek trail 4 miles out and back. We couldn't find enough mile markers to be accurate, and not one of the three of us has GPS, so we decided to walk straight out for 1 hour then turn around. We tend to be faster than a 15-min mile on most days, so it should work out that we walked a little farther than 8 miles.

The temps were perfect for a long-distance day! It was warm enough that we could wear shorts and a T-shirt, but chilly enough to keep us from getting over-heated. The skies were overcast and we even had some pretty light sprinkles that didn't last long.

At one point I asked Deb and Elaine if I was going too slow. (For some reason I was setting the pace that morning.) They both said no, I was going too fast. Though I had forgotten to wear my heart rate monitor, I wasn't breathing hard at all and I felt I was not working hard enough. What a nice switch for me!

With about 2 miles left to go, we joined up with the Buckeye Striders who started after us, and Elaine and I did pick up the pace a little bit. We ended up finishing the walk in about 58 min. Though I'm sure our faster pace did add to our faster than 2-hour finish time, I think the amount of time we spent waiting for one traffic light to turn green also had an impact. We crossed the road easier on our way back than we did on our way out.

It was a nice, early Saturday morning walk. We've trained harder than we typically do for a half marathon, and it will be very interesting to see how it affects next week's race.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Best Hill Workout!

Yesterday, I decided to do a more intense hill workout than typical. The hills at Sharon Woods are my closest option, plus the park is pretty.

The hills are within the first 2 miles of my usual starting point, but the rest of the loop is pretty flat. My plan was to walk 2 miles out, turn around and walk the 2 miles back for 4 miles of hills. However, when I got to the top of the last hill, I estimated I had walked only about 1.5 miles. Because my goal was to walk hills,  I just wasn't interested in walking an extra half mile with no hills. Here's where I made an easy decision, but it is a little bit hard to explain.

At the top of that last hill, I decided to turn around, repeat the last half mile of hills then go back to the 1.5-mile point. I turned around and went back to my starting point for a total of 4 miles. (I know it is confusing, but I can't figure out a clear way to explain this.)

The workout was great! The hills were challenging and today I even felt a little bit sore. A "you did a good workout the day before" sore. I thought I was ready for the Parkerburg Half Marathon before this, but after this hill workout, I feel even better.

NOTE: Sharon Woods doesn't have half-mile markers, just mile markers. When I got to the top of that last hill, I had walked 7:36 min past the mile marker. Though I walked the first mile in 14:30 and the last mile in 14:00, I decided to estimate that 7:36 was a half mile just to make my life easier. I'm sure I walked a little farther that 4 miles.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Tapering to "Only" 10 Miles

This weekend's 10-mile training walk was moved from Saturday to Sunday. Though Deb did 8 miles Saturday, she agreed to do 10 more with me on Sunday at Sharon Woods! Now that is a good training partner! (And part of the reason we do so many races together.)

It was humid and the air felt thick, but it was not as hot as it has been for the past few weeks. It was overcast and we thought that it might rain.

We started out at our goal pace of 14:30-mile and tried to maintain that the entire time. The pace was easy for us to maintain and we did a good job of it until the last mile or so. (On long slow days, we have no problem going slow.)

Less than a mile from our starting point, we saw a flock of wild turkeys! Unfortunately, I did not have a camera with me. There were 10 turkeys and it looked as if four of them were adults -- I think two were adult Toms. I had never seen turkeys at this park before -- in fact I have never seen wild turkeys before -- but Deb saw the flock on the other end of the park at least once prior to this. (For the record, each time we saw the turkeys, we slowed a little bit.)

After about 7-miles Deb ended up with a stitch in her side, and we slowed a little. We were not out to beat a speed record, and besides, she walked 8 miles the day before, so I had no problem slowing until the pain subsided.

Toward the end of our last lap at Sharon Woods, we had to decide which direction we would go to complete the last 2 miles -- toward the hills or toward the flat section we just finished. (Sharon Woods has a 3.8-mile loop.) Because we are preparing for Parkersburg, we decided to head toward the hills. In this direction, you go down a fairly steep hill, then at the 1-mile mark, you turn around and go back up that same steep hill. We felt great climbing back up! It was not nearly as difficult as these same hills earlier in the workout!

It didn't rain, but in those last two miles the sun came out. Though that would normally be a good thing, this day it just made the air thicker, muggier and the temps hotter. Thank goodness we were nearly done.

It was a good walk at a good pace! It was nice cutting back to "only" 10 miles. Next weekend we cut back to just 8. I am feeling very ready for Parkersburg!

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Hills Again

Until after the Parkersburg Half Marathon, I have replaced speed workouts with hill workouts. Usually when I do hills with my walking friends, we do four repeats -- up one hill, down the other side, then turnaround to go back up the hill and down to the starting point.

The temps were a little milder today, making it much easier to do hills. In fact, I felt so good after the usual four repeats, I did an extra one!

After 12 miles Saturday and hills today, I know I am ready for Parkersburg! (Now if only I can figure out which shoes I'll wear.)

Sunday, July 31, 2011

New Shoes -- Altras

I have a love/hate relationship with shoes. I love having a great pair, but I hate the buying process -- never knowing for sure if the shoes are right until after you have worn them a few miles.

What adds to the difficulty for me is that I wait until my shoes are way too worn out before buying a new pair. Under these circumstances, EVERY pair of shoes feels great!

This week I went to one of my favorite running shoe stores to get half marathon shoes. There is a difference between the shoes you wear for short fast distances and longer distances. The short-distance shoes can be super light and very flexible with no padding. The long-distance shoes (for me) need to have some support and more padding. But when in the shoe store, the more supportive shoes can feel very clunky, making it hard to know if they are right.

Altra "zero drop" shoes. Look at that low heel!
After trying on some clunky shoes, my sales guy asked if I had ever tried "zero-drop" shoes. He explained that these shoes have a very low heel -- in fact the sole is the same height almost the entire length of the shoe. Since racewalkers prefer a low heel, he thought I should try them.

As soon as I put these shoes on, I loved them! It is really difficult for me to walk in them and NOT use racewalking form. It feels natural to hit the heel and roll my foot. And my foot really can roll in these shoes. The toe box is huge so the toes can spread out and grab the ground. Of course, this is supposed to be for runners trying to run more naturally, but it feels pretty good for walking too.

My main concern with these shoes is there is very little support or padding, which is why my feel roll so well. How will my feet feel after a couple of miles? I had a bad experience during the Country Music Marathon starting at mile 10 in too-light shoes.

Despite these concerns, I bought the Altras. So far I have worn them for about 8 miles, 2 to 3 miles at a time. The manufacturer recommends gradually adding mileage because the shoes are so different. I can tell that my shins feel different. They are pushing harder when I walk, which is a good thing. It also feels as if the very back of the shoe might end up with rubbing issues. I'm keeping an eye on that. If I'm setting my feet down in a racewalking "floaty" step, I think they will be fine. However, if I get into a plodding motion, as I do sometimes, I think my feet will hurt.

So, here I am just three weeks from the half marathon without shoes for the race. I can either wear a pair of old, worn out clunky shoes, or I can try these super light "will probably make my feet hurt" shoes. Or, I could buy another pair of shoes and hope I can break them in in time for the race.

I'll let you know what I decide.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

12 Miles

A group of Buckeye Striders met at 7 this morning at Griggs Reservoir. We all had different goals today, ranging from simply finishing 12 miles to getting in a fast 6 or 8. It was a pretty casual workout. We started at a very slow pace of about a 15-min mile picking up to about 14:30. As we walked, a few people would stop to use the restroom and we all slowed down. As people reached their mileage goals for the day, they would peel off. Eventually, the only ones left were me and Deb! We were the only 12 milers.

We neared our cars with 3 miles left, so I stopped to switch shoes to give my new Altras (zero-drop shoes) a few miles.

Near the police station we stopped to get water from the drinking fountain thinking it would be cooler than what we were carrying, but it wasn't. A guy resting near the fountain offered to give me a cold drink from his car, but I declined. We had just 2 miles to go, and there was cold water and Powerade in my car.

Though it was extremely humid this morning, it wasn't overly hot until that last couple miles when we climbed the hill. Before that, the skies had been overcast -- near the end the sun popped out and the temps rose quickly. We ended up slowing even more, turning this into a casual walk for the last half mile. But that was OK. Our goal was to finish, not finish fast.

Despite the heat and humidity, we felt pretty good at the end! We didn't walk very hard and that was OK. (Normally it would drive me nuts to slow down while people used the rest room or to switch shoes.) My HR monitor indicated I didn't go above 144, which is way below race pace. With all of the slowing down and stopping, etc., we still averaged about a 15-min per mile pace! That was much better than what I thought.

So, it was a good workout in heat! I think we will be ready August 20th!

NOTE: Though I do lots of half marathons, I don't recall completing a 12-mile training walk before. Usually we top out at 10 miles. Ten is enough to finish a half marathon, but I'm trying to break the 3-hour mark. I'm hoping that by increasing our longest day to 12, it will help me to have more stamina and finish faster.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Walking This Week

Lots top catch up on!

Saturday we did 8 miles on a multi-use trail along the Olentangy River. It was hot and we took it easy. I tried to sprint for the last 1/4 mile and did OK. The Parkersburg Half Marathon will be hot and I like to finish a race strong. Sprinting at the end should be good practice.

Monday I switched out my speed workout for hills. Parkersburg is hilly -- I think hills are a little more important than speed right now. And as many of you know, hills will help with speed, too.

Today I did 30 min. easy in a new pair of shoes. (I love easy days!) The interesting thing is, it is hard to walk in the new shoes without racewalking. Hmmmm. I'll post about the shoes tomorrow.

My training is going well, and I'm getting excited about the race!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

My Favorite Piece of Fitness Equipment

I am not the most techno-savvy athlete. Though I use sport watches and a HR monitor, one of the many reasons I like walking is that it doesn't require a lot of gadgets. With a good pair of shoes and good socks I can walk out my front door.

Because of this, it is surprising to me that I am becoming obsessed with my new favorite piece of fitness equipment -- my iPod Touch.

Just like with my old MP3 players, I use my iPod to listen to audio books on my long-mileage days; however, it is the many other features and applications that make this such a valuable fitness tool. With my iPod and a good Wi-Fi connection, I have access to all kinds of great health, nutrition and fitness products and information -- much of it free.

Apps (applications for those of you who live in a cave) are great! Some of the options include calorie counters, exercise trackers, recipe apps, health magazines, exercise workout programs, progress trackers, calculators for calories burned and apps for specific gym chains so you can check out what classes and programs are available in any city.

These "mini-radio" programs also cover a variety of topics: nutrition, diet books, beginning running, marathon training, yoga, stretching and exercise in general. There are talk-show formats featuring well known fitness experts. There are even programs featuring music to use in training: some for mood, others to help set a pace using a set number of beats per minute. If you have ever tried to create your own music "mix" to maintain a pace, you know it is hard to do well.

Though at first I was hesitant to switch from a cheap, sturdy, who cares if it breaks MP3 player to an iPod, the access to all of the available fitness tools makes it invaluable! I wish I had given in years earlier.

NOTE: Over the next couple of weeks I will review some of my favorite apps and podcasts.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Hills in Heat

In preparation for Parkersburg,  I have replaced speed days for hill workouts. Parkersburg is very hilly, and the half marathon is August 20. It will be hot.

With that in mind, I followed through with my plan to do hills at Griggs Reservoir tonight even though the temps were in the 90s. My goal was to do four sets at an easy pace so I could get the workout in, but not be over-exerted in this heat.

Going up the first side of the  hill was not too bad because it isn't very big. Heading down the other side was really nice! There was plenty of shade so it was a couple of degrees cooler. I didn't even mind turning around and going back up, even though this side of the hill is steeper and much harder to climb.

The workout lasted about 55 minutes and my heart rate didn't go above 144, so I know I did not overdo it. And though my legs felt heavy when I started out because of the 10 miles on Sunday, after that first hill, I felt great.

Today, I'm glad I did hills in the heat. In August, I know I'll be even happier I followed through with today's hills.

When I started, the temperature was 91 degrees and when I finished it had cooled to only 86. Woo hoo!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

10 Miles -- Again

Because I do a lot of half marathons, I always get a thrill when I reach the 10-mile training days!

There are several reasons:
  • Not just anyone can walk 10 miles.
  • It takes training and dedication to work my way up to 10.
  • It is one of the first true measures of how I will do in the half marathon. If I do well with 10, I know I'm on track. If I don't do well? I need to do something quick to make a change.

Today's 10 started a tiny bit too fast because I was with three other walkers. Laura and Catherine went ahead pretty early on. Nancy decided to make it a slow day for her and stayed at my pace. We did slow down a little after a couple of miles, but I didn't realize until about mile 7 that we probably slowed too much. But for long slow days, that is OK.

We were heading north on the bike trail between the Park of Roses and Antrim Park. Nancy and I decided to do a couple of laps around Antrim then head back to the Park of Roses. I think this is where Laura and Catherine went past us without our seeing them.

We turned back, realized we had not walked a full 10 miles, went south a little more than half a mile, then went back to the start.

10.38 miles in 2:30 -- a 14:30 pace average (what I was hoping for), but I think we were slower overall. We sprinted for the last quarter mile, and I think that made our overall average more respectable.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Speed Days and Easy Days

Tuesday's speed workout was 8 X 1/4 miles. (Though typically they are 400s on a track, I have mental issues with tracks.) Though not a fan of intervals, I know doing them is the only way I will get faster.

My goal this week was to start out slow, build gradually and shoot for breaking the 3-minute mark.

Started out way too slow at 3:20, got gradually faster and went up to 3:04 and back down. But in that last interval I was at 3:01! Didn't hit my goal -- this week, but it will not be long!

Today I did my scheduled 45-minutes easy and it felt great! I took an easy walk to the library, did one lap around the park, then walked home for a total of 3.2 miles. For me, these easy days are so much better after successfully completing some difficult intervals.

So, I'm getting faster, the easy days are easier and I'm happy!

Monday, July 11, 2011

When Motivation and Weather Conspire

Even though preparing for a race keeps me motivated over the long-haul, sometimes I still have those days when I just do not want to get in my training miles.

In my case, it is the speed workouts -- or interval training -- that cause the most problems. Though when I did full marathons, the long slow distance days were the hardest part.

Today was one of those days -- but in my defense I started out with good reasons.

There was a heat advisory and air advisory for today. Under these conditions, if I have a tough workout planned, I might tone it down -- planning a shorter distance or switch a speed workout with a lighter workout. If I'm feeling uninspired, I might not workout at all.

Imagine my surprise when we had thunder storms in the early afternoon and when I left work the temps were perfect and the air was clear! At that point, I had already made an early evening appointment and couldn't walk. By the time my appointment was over, and I got back home, it started raining again!

Luckily, half marathon training is a couple of months long and my schedule includes one extra day a week. Missing one is not the end of the world.

And now I have to figure out how I'm going to get psyched up to do this speed workout on Tuesday.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Who Knows How Long I Took to do 8 Miles

Sunday Deb and I were able to squeeze in our scheduled 8-miles -- one day late. It was very hot and humid -- the exact weather I'm expecting for the Parkersburg Half Marathon in August.

Because it was so hot and humid, we decided to take it easy and try to hover around a 14:30 to 14-min mile. From what I remember, we did pretty well. There is just one problem -- I inadvertently erased the chronograph on my watch before I wrote down my splits. Argh!

I hate when I do that!

Tonight it was still hot and humid so I waited until 7 to head out for my workout. I was scheduled to do 3 X 1 mile, but I was not in the mood to head to the park that is measured, so I went to Antrim. It is 1.2 miles around the lake. My plan was to walk for 16 min (longer than it takes me to do a mile), rest for 3 min., repeat until I've done about 3 miles.

It felt pretty good and, because I did not use a "measured mile," again I have no idea what my pace was.

Oh, well -- at least I got my miles in.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

New Training Routine

Though I have completed more than 20 half marathons, I'm not good at training. Let me clarify -- I'm very good at getting in the weekly long-distance mileage, I'm horrible at getting in the mid-week speed workouts.

So this year, because I am only doing a couple of halves, I decided to follow an intermediate training schedule as closely as possible and see what it does for my speed.

So far this week, I finished 8 X 400s as fast as possible, one 45-min "easy" day and tonight I did 3 X 1 mile at half marathon pace. Tonight's workout was difficult because 1) I had never done 1-mile intervals before, 2) I wasn't quite sure what half marathon pace would feel like if I wasn't in a race. I'm assuming that by the time the race rolls around, I will know exactly what my race pace feels like.

My splits were 13:04, 12:55 and 12:50. I'm so excited that I got faster for each split. The other cool thing is, I have done half marathons in that pace range.

I missed one "easy" day this week due to rain and I'll miss another easy day tomorrow because I have tickets to a concert. But I think I can make that up -- it's still early.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

8 X 400 -- Kinda

It was raining when I got off work yesterday, so I didn't go to the high school to do my 8 X 400s. In fact, I was expecting to not do them at all. But it was fairly early when the rain stopped and I decided to act like an adult and follow my training plan.

I haven't measured out 400 m in my neighborhood, but I know it took me a little more than 3 min for each lap last Monday. So, I went to the cul de sac across the street from my house, picked a starting point and walked as hard as I could for 3 min. I made a mark in the mud near the curb, then walked easy for two more minutes as a rest. As it turns out, that got me back to my front yard where I could grab a swig of water and do it all over again.

Most of the eight laps were progressively faster and I zoomed past that first mud mark. Unfortunately, I had two laps where I just could not pick up the speed, but that's OK.

To tell the truth, I preferred doing intervals in my neighborhood as opposed to on a track. There is something about walking around a track that can be mentally tough for me. OK, it is just plain boring. Of course walking around the cul de sac was boring too, but for some reason I was able to keep going.

Regardless, though I'm not a fan of intervals, I will try to keep them up this entire training season.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Kill the Hill

Saturday, the Buckeye Striders took a road trip to Chillicothe to walk with our good friend Pat and her new walking friends. The park we started in near the Adena Mansion was beautiful!

As we went along, we enjoyed walking through the town seeing the local neighborhoods. The people out in their yards were so friendly and all greeted us. It was very fun. But I should have been a little worried when the nice lady in her front yard asked, "Are you going to 'kill the hill?'"

Not sure what she said I just agreed and said "yeah" as we walked by. If I had really been paying attention, I would have been worried.

Shortly after, we turned a corner and caught sight of "the hill". Oh my goodness it was big!

We all tried to attack it in a smart way. All of us slowed -- some of us slowed a LOT! The walkers from Chillicothe were not nearly as fazed as the rest of us. And it wasn't until we were halfway up that we heard the stories about the very challenging race called Kill the Hill.

I found the hill so challenging, I started walking backward. (It sounds silly, but it does help because you are working your muscles just a little differently.) And at the top it did take a little while for us to recover.

The funny thing was, after the grueling hill, the locals got a little turned around. They weren't quite sure what the best way to get back to our cars was and we ended up with a couple of short backtracks and walking for nearly 20 min longer than we had expected.

The good news is, many of us had 6 miles scheduled for Saturday and we walked 5 -- with the hill I think we were even. Unfortunately, several were not acclimated and had not expected the extra mile. They were having a little difficulty.

But once we got to iHop and were able to relax and eat, we were fine!

Thanks to the Chillicothe members of the Buckeye Striders for hosting a fun walk and breakfast meeting! I'm sure we'll be back -- though I think we can skip the hill next time.