Saturday, May 23, 2015

Running Races, Swimming Laps

Painting by Mandi Marquardt  "Dream Big" Triathlon and curling

In the past week I have thought about, and even at times attempted to write a blog about my Viking Fest Road Race Experience. I wanted to dump all the little things I learned, and all the amazingness I felt into this little blog and share it with the world.  But, every time I tried, every time i started writing, I found it just wasn't quite the direction I really wanted to take. So I stopped writing and did other things. This morning, I went to make yet another attempt, and nothing. And then I saw an Instagram post from Olympic multi sport athlete Lolo Jones, of her at the gym this fine Saturday morning, and it said "I'm willing to put in a few extra hours on the weekends to get better."  And I have no idea why, but suddenly now I know what I want to say.

 I am not the worlds greatest anything. well except- I am the worlds greatest me.  But I am never probably going to do anything that the world is going to recognize as the most amazing anything ever, and that is fine with me. But I am good.  I am good at sports, I love sports. I'm good at music, I love music. I'm good at language. I love language  I'm not good at math, but I suppose I probably could be if I had any desire to be. I don't.  But I am good at educating myself and trying things, and as I have mentioned, I have a goal to do a half triathlon. I'm not the greatest swimmer, I'm not the greatest biker, and I'm not really much of a runner at all. I don't love running, and when I do love running, its sprinting, its not any kind of distance. Running, is kind of like math. I can do it. I will do it, I will pass your stupid college algebra class, and I will excitedly accept my B- grade, but I'm mainly doing it so i can graduate- or in this case-  I run so I can swim and bike in your triathlon, and so I can say I did it. Been there, got the tee shirt. I also want to be a sports Psychologist someday.  Maybe I will be the worlds greatest sports psychologist someday. That could be my thing. I want it to be my thing. So as I do my other things, I am trying to learn about every aspect of being the best athlete you can be, not just doing the sport, getting the tee shirt, and saying "I've done that."  I need, and want to understand everything so well I can help others do their best.  I am not a sports psychologist, I have no professional opinions yet. But I do want to share what I am learning as I go about these goals.

      Last Saturday, I have been there and got the tee shirt- the Viking Fest Road Race tee shirt. I've completed my first race. It was just  mile, just a middle distance race, not  long distance race, but I did it. Step one to starting to prepare for that half marathon. Because it was my first, and because it is my weakest of the three, and because it was in fact "Shark Week"(see photo for explanation of euphemism) last week I did a lot of research before hand, and I learned a few things.

        Now, it was just a mile. So I probably learned more than I needed to. Possibly way more than you want to know.  But I thought I would share a little of  what I learned.
  a-where you are in your cycle is actually significant to how you should prepare for and recover from a race.  Depending on where you are at, there is a difference on if you should eat more carbs, or more sugar, there is a difference in your hormone levels that will affect your speed and your recovery time. Surprisingly- apart from the cramps- shark week is supposedly one one the most effective and good times for you to run.   want to know more?  here is one of the many articles I read.  -   Also I can't remember the other article I read, but one of them mentioned the Diva Cup. I don't know if you have heard of the Diva Cup. I only heard about it a few months ago, but I decided to try it during this last "Shark Week"  Its a silicon cup you can use instead of a tampon. It can stay in a lot longer.  I liked many things about it.  One thing, for me personally, was I found when i used it, my cramps were less severe. I have no idea why. I don't know if it was a mental thing, or if there is some science to that, but for me, I had less cramps, and I am glad I chose that option for during my running time. That is all I will say about that. If you are interested, I highly suggest you research the Diva Cup, and other similar products (other brands are available).  It was recommended by one of the articles i read for long distance running, because you can go 10-12 hours without messing with it.  'Nuf said.

b- Thanks again to Lolo Jones, I learned another fact for women a few months ago. Women and men have different needs when it comes to hydration, and recovery needs for protein and carbs. see this lovely article and as both this, and the other article states, where you are in your cycle matters on these matters.  Key points in case you don't want to read-  its more important that we have sodium/electrolytes in our drinks to stay hydrated, we need more protein to recover, and we have a shorter (only 30 mins) window to get those recover proteins and carbs into our system.

2- For those of us in our late late 20's and up:  In preparation for the swimming parts of things, I read Olympic Swimmer Dara Torres' book "Age is Just A Number". I learned some very valuable things. Most importantly, if you are an older athlete, you need to train different, and you need to listen to your body. Less intensity, greater recovery time. Its a good book, and I highly recommend it. One really great thing i discovered from this book is Resistance Stretching.  It is a way of both stretching your muscles and warming them up. I woke up early to do this before the race, and I like to do it before swimming too. The good news?  Videos are available free on YouTube.

Also, because I am older. I have some injuries to deal with. Though I am mostly healed, I have had issues with Plantar faciaitis, and Achilles tendinitis. And I decided to do a test "run" with my play list, phone pocket, and outfit on Thursday night, and I had a twinge in the top of my foot.  Because of the Olympics, I became familiar with a new kind of tape. Physio tape, as the British call it, or Kinestetic Tape, or sports tape as we call it here in America, is a new way to tape up your known injuries/recoveries so that they are supported and don't get injured again, with out the bulky wraps of yester-year.  I went with KT tape, but more experimenting is going to need to be done to find the right brand for me, because I had major issues with it not sticking well enough, and I followed their videos and directions as best i could. Of course, i did have way more on than just the single things they showed in their videos, so that may have affected things, but i had multiple injuries. It did its job, and I had the support i needed, and my tendons are grateful. But it did look like my skin was peeling off at the end of the race, because all my flesh colored tape was falling off. 
my probably over taped but well supported pre-race foot.

Race Time!
So I woke up at 5 am on the race day. I started my pre-race play list on my phone, so I could get into the zone. I took a shower to raise my core body temperature. I did resistance stretching, i cleaned my legs with rubbing alcohol, I taped my feet/legs, I put on my running gear, I ate a quick bowl of oatmeal- not too much, but just enough as recommended by everything I googled. I did a lot of research on what to eat the night before/morning of. Although it did recommend things like baked potatoes, pasta, oatmeal, chicken and fish for my meals, it also always emphasized not eating too much. If you want to carb load, do it the week before the race, not the day before.  Also do not eat anything spicy. I have similar things on my Tuesdays when I swim. I plan my meals very carefully for swimming, down to what hour I eat what. If not, you could have tummy trouble and no one wants that. In the pool, you could shut the whole place down if you aren't careful, on the road it would just be really really gross, uncomfortable, and embarrassing if you do not plan and you have issues. 

So I finally left my house at 8 am. I will be honest, I did not hydrate well. But this also meant that I didn't have to pee as much, and good thing because the line for the pre-race port-a-potty was ridiculous.  I went any way, just to be sure, but I was able to race with a comfortable bladder. I did small drink a Gatorade as i ran, but I should have been as careful with my hydration as i was with my food, and I was not. This was a mistake. I should have hydrated well starting days before, and not just by drinking water- as previously stated electrolytes and salt are important with that water so your body can hold onto it a bit and use it when needed.  After the race, I had muscle cramps in my quads. If I had hydrated better, that may have been avoidable.  

When you go to a race, if you can, it may be better to get your packet the day before. I got mine the morning of. I pre-registered, so that was good, I avoided a much longer line. But then we had the dilemma of this bag, I had no idea what to do with it. and a tee shirt I couldn't exactly just change into for the race then and there, because I'm a Mormon and we keep things modest, plus no one wants to see me with just a sports bra on top, even if its just for a second. I'm not in that kind of shape. 

Bib Time: So In my packet was my bib, and like a million safety pins. I don't know what all the extras are for? I guess people loose them?  maybe?  any way, it was fun and awkward to pin on. I was worried about stabbing myself, but i didn't.
This bib is cool because its all electronic-y and so they could record our times using this thing, but we weren't supposed to bend it. I was worried about what "Bend" entails, since i strapped it on my stomach, and it got  little, curvy.  but it was fine. 

At the starting line, I was with my friends. They let us have music in this one, and I was glad. I'm sure I can run without, but, it helped me to not be nervous, to be in "the Zone"  and to have fun. I did a lot of dancing and singing as a warm up, and my cute little running buddy (I think she is 10) danced a long with me.  This was my play list for the entire day. warm up, run, and cool down:

  • airplanes (b.o.b.), Awake My soul (mumford &Sons), Beautiful Life (ace of base), Zinadine (Pascal Obispo), Fan (Pascal Obispo), Brave (sara Barelles), Chandelier (glee cast), Chariots of Fire, Chasing Cars (snow Patrol), Counting Stars (one republic), Don't Stop Believing ( I have the bag pipe version, and the glee version), Dreams (brandie Carlile), Fight Song (Rachel Platten), Fire Work (katy Perry), Forever Young (brandi Carlile), Happy (Pherell Williams), Heartbeat Song (kelly Clarkson), I lived (one republic or glee cast), Its Time ( Imagine Dragons), Price Tag (jessie J), Pride and Joy (brandi Carlile), Radio Active (imagine Dragons), Roar (katy Perry), Roll Away Your Stone (mumford and sons), Shake it off (taylor Swift), Shake it out (florence and the machine, Stronger (brittany Spears), Wide Awake (katy Perry), You Raise me Up (josh Grobin), Perfect (pink) Try(Pink), Sail (AWOL nation) , Let It Go (Idina Menzel), Defying Gravity (glee Cast), How To Save A Life (The Frey), The Power of the Dream (Celine Dion), Eye of the Tiger.

Even if you can't have music while you run, if you are like me you will need it for the warm up and cool down to get your focus on. Some people need silence, I do not. I very much need my music. It helps me to feel positive, calm my nerves and get into the zone. But find what works for you, and do it, and keep things routine. Another important thing, that I learned from Greys Anatomy, is Superhero Pose. If you have something important to accomplish, stand in your superhero pose for at least 30 seconds, but a minute or two would be better, before you do it. This will help you get in that super mind set of I can do this!

Running: So I will now give you the highlights of the run. I started with my friends, two families with kids. We ran down a hill, and I got way ahead. But I missed my running buddy, so i turned back, ran up the hill, till I met them. Grabbed my buddy, and we again took off in front of our pack. So yeah, i wasted energy and about 30 seconds or so of time just right here. But it was worth it, to run with my running buddy. she helped me find motivation to keep going when I wanted to quit, and wisdom to slow down when my tendons and lack of general running fitness and preparation merited a slow down and walk. That moment was pretty much when we hit the big up hill section. As my physical therapist warned me- inclines put pressure on those tendons. I did not want an injury, so with my wisdom that has come with age, I did not push it. the second those tendons started to feel irritated, i backed off. and I think its good that I did. The very hardest part of the mile course was blessed with some encouragement. People dressed in Viking outfits gave us high fives as we reached our small summit, and headed to the final down hill, and the final turns. Then my magnetic pocket fell out of my shorts at the bottom of the hill, and i lost another 20 seconds picking it up, and restarting my play list. I was not crossing that finish line without my music. And this was my favorite part of the race. Did I mention I was a sprinter, not a distance runner? well its true. I love to run, all out for short distances. I hate going slow so i can make it long distances. Boring. Boring. Boring. I picked up my pocket/phone, shoved it back into position, and sprinted about a block. I felt alive, invigorated, and oh so pumped up and happy. me and my friend crossed the line at just over 11:44 min. In junior high gym class, they tried to make us run a 12 min mile, and i couldn't do it then, so now that I'm older I was really happy that I had done.

The Finish Line: The finish line greeted us with free water, vitamin water enhancers, bananas, oranges, and Cliff Bars. We waited for our friends, Got our times, and saw my land lord be the first one across the finish line for the 5 mile race. It was good times. then we walked about a mile back to our cars for our cool down. stretching and talking along our way. Cool downs are super important, so is stretching, and hydration and food. If you are a man, you have 2 hrs to get those things right. If you are a woman, you have 30 minutes. Use them wisely.

Some other recovery tips I learned:
I had my first Ice Bath after this race. Ice baths are good for helping your muscles heal faster, for healing micro tears, and a bunch of other stuff. It was really cold. and not fun for a couple minutes, but it felt really good after it was all over. Another good thing to do later in the evening is to take a hot Epsom salt bath. I did both. I should have done the Ice Bath much sooner than I did, but I was tired so i took a nap instead. A nap is a good thing, but make sure you have done your stretching, eating, drinking and icing before, or your muscles will just tense up while you sleep .Give your body some time to heal itself. All of this is helpful for any sport, and any distance, if you need to recover, google some of this stuff, and find out some more about it. also, Massages are a good thing, but do not get them during the day you have raced. Wait, and get them 24-48 hrs later. According to everything I read, and I read a lot getting them the day of is less helpful.

Things I wished I had done to prepare: I am pleased with myself for testing my shoes before hand, Learning how to tie my shoes different ways- tricks such as the heal lock, and things like that. However, deciding you will do a run 5 days before the run, probably isn't the best way to go about it. It would be fine, probably if I ran regularly. I don't. I hadn't ran at all in months, and due to my injuries, i haven't ran/walked for more than 18 minutes. and that was doing run/walk intervals. usually i make it all of 3 minutes. So i wasn't physically completely prepared for this. I was wise about that though, and chose to do the 1 mile, not the 5. The 5 would have killed me. I can walk a mile. I do so in about 15-20 min on a regular basis. Know your limits. I knew i could walk this if i needed to. I also wish I had planned in advance so I didn't just find out things about eating and what not the day of or the day before the race. I am excited to try this again just to find out.

Swimming Laps: So every Tuesday I have been diligently swimming laps with my friends. usually we do 14-18, 50 yard laps in 45 minutes. Many of the things I learned from this race will be also helpful for swimming, some of the things I did for swimming were helpful to running. Cross training is a good thing. mixing things up is a good thing. both work my whole body, but in different ways. There are some amazing new technologies for swimming that are coming out. There are polyester suits that last longer, Silicone swim caps, as opposed to the old latex ones, and goggles designed for swimming outside in the sun, or inside in the pool, and nose pieces that can be switched out to make them fit better. There are different kinds of swimming. Speedo has some great instructional videos to help you with your technique. featuring Olympic athletes demonstration techniques while they are being explained. Very helpful. We also got our bishops son in to help us. There is also a technique called "Perpetual motion Swimming" that is pretty interesting to learn about, and i have mixed in some points of this with my other swimming philosophy. Mainly, in that I now swim to improve my technique, and I don't use kick boards and fins, because I don't believe compartmentalizing my swimming helps my technique. Swimming is a whole body in unison thing, and getting that synchronicity is the key to improving my swimming.

tl:drThis has been an incredibly long blog post. Its been mainly me sharing links,interspersed with stories of my actual run, and not so much me sharing inspiration. But I wanted to share all these things I had learned with you, because they have helped me. doing all these things have changed me. I feel amazed at what my life is becoming, what I am able to do. One little thing I have started to do every day at work, is to spend as much of my day working from an elevated standing desk position as I can. When my legs fatigue, i sit and rest them, but sitting all day, at a desk can have major impacts on all these other activities. So I am changing that. Its little things like that that add up. Its the stretching, its what you eat, its the way you tie your shoes. Its the little things in life that make the biggest differences. Its choosing to smile at someone, instead of ignoring them, its getting enough sleep, and its showing people you love them. Its showing you that you love you. I ran a race with little preparation. I had a positive experience, and I learned a lot. It doesn't matter if you are running, swimming, working, gardening, or anything else in life, little things make huge differences.