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.