Monday, May 21, 2012

The Expiration of Running Goals & Challenging Yourself

The thing no one tells you about setting a fitness goal is that usually you achieve it.

Then what?

So you set another goal.

And achieve that one.

And so the cycle continues.

But what do you do when you "run" out of goals?

That's where I am today. I ran my first half marathon last year after collecting 5K's here and there for years. I ran my second half marathon for my birthday this year, and am signed up for an unmentionable number of 5K's throughout the summer.

I think that a lifelong goal of mine will be to run one half marathon every year, and never the same one twice (or, at least the duplicate won't count as that year's half marathon goal).

That means I'm all checked off for 2012 as far as half marathons go, but I want to challenge myself to something even more. I don't want to run a marathon. Perhaps one day I'll want to try running a marathon or aspire to ultra running, but right now I like painting my toe nails too much.

But I want some kind of unique, challenging goal that I can keep track of on this blog and that will drive me to keep running and training.

I've come up with a couple of ideas, but would love a few more to consider. Here's what I've got so far:

Run Every Marquee Race in the State
Now, due to my semi-noviceness and sheer number of running events in WI now that it's become a "thing," this goal will have to have a few stipulations. I'm thinking, in particular, any race 5K to half marathon that draws over 1,000 participants. Adding a 5K and/or Fun Run to any ol' event is now becoming the norm, so I'm hoping that by putting the participant stipulation on it, the goal will narrow down to a couple hundred races. And by "marquee" races I mean those that everyone talks about, that people travel for. Think Storm the Bastille in Milwaukee, Bellin Run in Green Bay, Gopher to Badger in Hudson.

According to one online database, the qualifications above amount to 172 races in Wisconsin.

This goal would, naturally, need a multiple year commitment, but the thing I'm most concerned with is the race fees. Budget just $30 per race and that's over $5,500 in fees alone, not to mention shoes, gear, and recovery beer.

But I still kind of want to pursue it. What do you think?

Interstate & International Races
While this goal may not specifically drive my day-to-day running in the short term, it's sort of a bucket list goal that I want to achieve. By "interstate" and "international" races I mean races that begin in one place and cross the border into another.

The Gopher-to-Badger and Ragnar Relay are good examples. Are there any that start in the U.S. and end in Canada? Because that would be awesome. And though it kind of scares me at the moment, the idea of a cross-country, days-long running goal interests me. I wouldn't be able to physically do that for at least another year, but it's on my radar. Think MS on the Run or Venture Expeditions. Naturally my heart for the nonprofit sector would need to be combined with such a marathon achievement.

Currently, I am scheduled to fulfill one new goal this summer: WI Sports Race Day.

The Brewers have been hosting a 5K event called, obviously, The Sausage Race 5K for a few years now. The Packers, in turn, started hosting a 5K to kick off training camp in 2010.

Unfortunately, for the past 2 years these events were held on the same day.

This year, however, the Packers 5K (they need to come up with a catchy name for this race) begins at 6:30 PM.

That means, crazy sports fans like myself, can run with the sausages in the morning at Miller Park, drive the equivalent of the Ragnar Relay up to Green Bay, and arrive in plenty of time to run the 5K through Lambeau Field (no leaping allowed).

So that's what I'm doing. And I'm checking it off the list. If you can think of any other fun races or endurance/fitness challenges I should undertake, let me know. 

____________________________________________________________Mandi Current Couch Potato | Aspiring Runner
Mandi needs a new running goal! State-to-State? US-to-Canada? Elliptical marathon? She's looking for something weird and challenging. Leave a comment with your suggestion!

Follow her journey.

Monday, May 7, 2012

WI Half Marathon Race Recap - No Holds Barred

My second half marathon is now firmly under my belt, and a new PR has been recorded, but, as is true for any blogger, it ain't officially over until you can answer the question, "but what did it mean???" in a wordy post.

So here goes.

But first, a word of caution.

There may be some instances of TMI in this race recap. As the bumper stickers say "Running is Sexy," er, until it isn't. This recap will cover the good, the bad, and the ugly of the expected and unexpected portions of the WI Half, and I will try to warn you before you delve headlong into the ugly just in case you want to skip to the end.

The Good

The Route
The WI marathon and half marathon course wound through the nice parts of Kenosha and along the lakefront. It was a nice, flat run (thank you Jesus), and the route double backed on itself so us slower runners could see some of the pace booty at the front.

Buff guy in the yellow shorts with no shirt at the 7-minute mile pace...thank you, sir.

Kitty likes it too.
The Medal
When I was looking for a birthday half marathon to run, I narrowed it down to three options: WI, Lake Geneva, and Cellcom. Cellcom was quickly thrust aside as this year's route does not include Lambeau Field. The Lake Geneva half marathon I'm sure will be gorgeous, but it's on the same day I'm celebrating my birthday and 13.1 miles and lots of beer do not generally mix well. The WI half marathon came out the winner mostly because of the medal. You can't quite see it in this photo, but Door County is a beer bottle opener...a most appropriate use for Door County if ever there was one.

The Weather
I woke up in Milwaukee at 4:30 AM to rain and started praying the wet weather was confined to north of Kenosha. As I drove down to Kenosha I realized this wasn't the case and started praying it let up before the race started. This was the case. The temperature was a pleasant (in my opinion) chill that worked well with my long sleeves and only at the end made me wish I had brought gloves. I have no idea how golden shorted hottie at the front was running shirtless.

The Mile 8 Water Stop
Manned by my pals from Team Challenge. It's just the point of the race when you could use friendly faces, and there they were with Gatorade in hand right by the turn in front of Carthage College. I also really appreciated Darth Vader coming to see us all off at the first mile turn in downtown with a sign that read, "May the Course Be With You." Nice one, Darth.

The Bad

The Weather
I'm pretty sure it got colder as the day wore on because by the end of the race we could all see our breath. This did not bode well for post-race stretching or, really any post-race activity. Race organizers promised beer and brats at the end, but the line was so long and the wind chill coming off Lake Michigan so fierce that I abandoned the 20-minute wait (for Miller Lite, ugh) and hobbled three blocks away to my car (it seemed close enough at the beginning of the race, excruciatingly far at the end) to warm up and make my way home. You know it's bad when they're handing out the silver hypothermia blankets along with the race medals.

As I drove the 45 minutes home I kept turning up the heater in my car, and by the end of the ride it was blowing 85 but still feeling like 60. I grabbed a beer from my fridge (Lakefront Klisch) and drank it in a scalding hot shower that somewhat managed to warm me. I think I finally became warm enough once my heat was turned up to 70, I was fresh from the hot shower, bundled in sweat pants and a sweatshirt under a blanket, with a kitty space heater on my stomach.

Mile 4
Even lining up for the race I was wondering why I was doing this to myself. My mind was not in a good spot for this half marathon. I kept doubting myself and constantly had to overcome the mental tirades "My knee hurts," "I haven't trained as much as I should've," "What happens if I can't finish?" "If I quit I'll feel so disappointed," etc. This took place up until Mile 4 and changed when I pushed myself mentally to just get over it already "You're breathing just fine," "Your legs are strong," "It's the perfect race weather," "You're this far you might as well finish," "You can do it; you ARE doing it," "There's beer at the end," "The medal is a bottle opener," etc.

In truth I felt pretty dang good the entire race physically, but mentally I was a mess. Hey, it's a cliche for a reason. I didn't have my headphones with me (the forecast predicted storms the entire race time and after my 8th grade science teacher was struck by lightning when it was just cloudy out I don't take any chances), so I couldn't lose myself in tunes. It took me awhile, but once I dug in and found a few folks to run with, by mile 7 I knew it was a sure thing.

The Ugly
Disclaimer: Okay, kids. I'm going to get real here. You've probably heard rumors about what happens to your body when you run long distances, and heck, you may have even experienced some of them yourself. A half marathon isn't in the realm of super long distance running, but still things can happen and I'm about to attest. This is a no-holds-barred post mainly because I follow a lot of running blogs that are the same and appreciate when someone can be honest and let me know that these types of things don't just happen to me. So to those that want to skip the gory details: feel free (I'm progressing from least offensive to highest TMI). To those that read on: these things don't just happen to you, K?

The Muscles - Gross Out Threat Level Green
The last time I ran a half marathon my calf muscles gave out at mile 10 and I walked the last 5K simply because that was the only way I'd finish. I could barely walk hours later my muscles were so tight and sore, and I didn't have adequate pain meds and ice therapy available at the hotel. This time my legs felt pretty great the entire race, but my quads really started tightening up at mile 12. I pushed through to the end, and it was only standing in the bracing, chilly gusts off the lakefront at the after party that my legs really started freezing up and hurting. I hobbled home, warmed up, stretched, iced, and took some Advil. I rested. Standing up and sitting down were big issues the rest of Saturday, as was my cat's insistence on sitting on my lap (ouch). I spent most of the afternoon napping on the couch with a kitty heating pad on my stomach.

On Sunday my legs were feeling better. I met some friends for breakfast, and then spent a few hours watching The Avengers mostly because I didn't want to walk up and down my stairs again before I had to meet some other friends for dinner.

Every time my legs felt tight or started hurting throughout the weekend I would either ice or try stretching again. Walking around the mall and my neighborhood helped as well.

Compared to last time, my recovery is going much better, probably due to being more prepared and conditioned pre-race, but also better aftercare. I think I'm still going to sit out tonight's softball game and pick up running on Wednesday.

The Sports Bra - Threat Level Orange
You know how when men run long distances their nipples sometimes bleed from the constant friction with their race jersey? I didn't see any of that during this race (surprisingly...I mean, it was COLD), but I did feel a glimpse of what that must be like. Did I mention it was FREEZING on the lakefront? Well, what happens to your nipples when it's cold out? And sorry men, but you don't corner the market on this one. Even with a sports bra, t-shirt, and long-sleeved shirt on I still experienced some chafing until my body heated back up. Not enough for a gross out factor, but enough to be uncomfortable. No, the gross out factor came after the race.

You see, my sports bra's seam under the cups runs along the inside of the fabric. I had forgotten about this issue from my last half marathon. In fact, I have to wonder if it happens at all to smaller chested ladies. You see, when you run, no matter your cup size, things tend to bounce around a bit. Usually this isn't an issue. I mean, that's what sports bras are for, right?

Right. But while sports bras help prevent a lot of bounce, they can't eliminate chafing. Because what else happens when the girls are bouncing, even if they're only bouncing a little bit? Your sports bra undoubtedly rubs up and down a little bit. And what happens if your sports bra rubs up and down a little bit for a long period of time?

I won't entirely spell it out for you, but just know that it kind of looks like I might've had breast implant surgery done recently. And I only now remember this happening after my last half marathon. And I wonder if it only happens to us ladies with big girls, or if my sports bra is somehow to blame. I mean, I've heard rumors that when you run marathon distances your toenails can fall off from the constant abrading against your shoe (thankfully this has never happened to me), but people don't blame that issue on bad shoes, right? It's just's a sad truth that at a certain cup size no sports bra can be expected to eliminate 100% of the bounce.

And yes, I watch The League. I've seen the bounce test episode.

The Un/Expected Visitor - Threat Level Red
I'm sure men can draw some comparisons to my sports bra issue, just, erm, in a more "southern" way. However, one thing they should feel lucky to know nothing about is a certain visitor who came to cheer me on on race day (all the female readers are now groaning). I knew she was coming and had adequately planned for it, just in case she arrived at mile 1, 5, 10, or even post-race, but usually when she visits me I get really sick. I'm talking lady pain, migraines, and nausea.

This I wasn't prepared for.

The WI half marathon was the first race I ever had to use the facilities. Again, I've heard horror stories from other runners, and thankfully have never experienced them, but at mile 12 I couldn't tell if it was leg pain radiating up or lady pain joining forces in my abdomen. I warded off two bouts of nausea at mile 3 and mile 6, but had to have a moment to myself at 12.5

Again, I won't entirely spell it out for you, but I don't know if the rest of the day was so bad strictly because of the thigh muscle soreness, or if it was also the lady pain that created one large conglomerate of punishment. Aunt Flo is a bitch.

The Awesome
Welcome back all of you who skipped to the end. You didn't miss much, I promise.

If you recall, I set a lofty goal of running my half marathon in 2:30, a realistic goal of 2:45, and a "don't want to embarrass myself" goal of 3:00. Well, ladies and gentlemen, I HAVE A NEW PR!

When I crossed the finish line, the clock said 2:47 and change. The official race results came in at 2:44:50! I even beat my goal by 10 seconds! Which, I realize, isn't much but, hey, the goal in running is to beat yourself not anyone else. So woohoo! Let's celebrate with a night on the town! Pub Golf, anyone?

____________________________________________________________Mandi Current Couch Potato | Aspiring Runner
Mandi recently completed her first marathon! Her next goal is running a full half marathon (no walking!) by her next birthday (May 13, 2012).

Follow her journey.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Seis de Mayo is Going to Blow

Tomorrow is the Wisconsin Marathon. I will be running the half, and, I admit, am kind of freaking out about it.

Part of the reason is that I am a planner by nature and I only realized two days ago that I wasn't receiving all of the e-newsletters with the race info. Therefore, I've only been "planning" for the past two days - directions, when I'm going to wake up, where to park, race route, what to pack, etc.

I like to have these details hammered out at least a week or two in advance. Or, I like to participate in destination races with a team so I don't have to think about any of this and I can just show up for a bus.

I'm picking up my race packet this evening - all the way in Kenosha, egads - and will find out if I'm actually registered or not. Perhaps they just missed my email on their database gliche, y'know?


I'd like to say that I'm all ready to go and I've never felt better for a race, but that would be a lie. I'm more prepared for this half than I was the Wine Country Half last summer, but that's not saying much. My pie-in-the-sky goal is to run a 2:30, my more-likely-to-become-reality goal is 2:45 and my don't-want-to-embarrass-myself goal is anything under 3:00.

To be fair I ran my first half marathon at 3:01 after starting the first 7 miles or so at a 2:30 pace. I bonked out at mile 10 and had to walk the last 5K.

This time I've been running regularly 3-5 miles 3-4 times per week. However, the most mileage I've done recently is 7. I've heard that if you can do 8 miles adrenaline and sheer determination will carry you through on race day. That's what I'm hoping for...that and the promise of beer and margaritas post race.


As far as nutrition goes I haven't done too much these past few days. I usually eat pretty healthy, i.e. clean, and I've just been focusing on salads, protein, and adequate carbs. Except for that one donut I had for breakfast on Tuesday.

Today I'm loading up on protein for lunch and am planning some carbs for dinner. I've read a lot of advice regarding pre-race nutrition, but it basically seems that, if your stomach gives you problems then watch what you're doing, otherwise it's best to not stray too far from your current (assuming healthy) habits. So that's what I've been doing. Pretty much the same with a few tweaks.

I have gels to carry during the race. As I understand they only start handing those out to the marathoners after the half mileage point. I plan to drink at every water stop regardless of whether or not I'm thirsty. I plan to partake in the post race beer.

Race Day

I went back and forth a few times on whether or not I'd book a hotel room for tonight. Kenosha is only 40 miles away, but it's nice to be exactly where you need to be on race day. Or, if you do have to travel, have a bus or family to drive for you.

As this is my first solo half marathon, I'm just going to wing it and hope it works out. I'm planning an early morning (god help my cat if she pulls any of her "keep Mandi up all night" shenanigans tonight), which ultimately is good because it gives my stomach a chance to settle down and digest breakfast as I drive down I-94 and through Kenosha (egads) to line up.

I hope parking doesn't suck too bad.

I hope I can easily find where I'm going for bag check, line up, and the like.

I hope I get there on time.

Post Race

I have plans set for brunch on Sunday and I have a softball game on Monday. I left the rest of Saturday open to pass out and/or stretch. If my last half marathon is any indication, I won't be moving too well the rest of this weekend, so bear with me if I'm late for's just me making my way down the stairs.

I'll post an update on how the WI half went on Monday. Until then I bid you adieu!

____________________________________________________________Mandi Current Couch Potato | Aspiring Runner
Mandi recently completed her first marathon! Her next goal is running a full half marathon (no walking!) by her next birthday (May 13, 2012).

Follow her journey.