Thursday, July 26, 2012

Run Me Daddy, Eight-to-the-Bar

(Somewhere in LA, a couple Andrews Sisters are rolling over in their graves right now.)

I discovered something interesting the other day… Studying the data produced by Runkeeper for my last few runs, I noticed a pattern: my pace during run intervals is all over the place – 12:48, 10:17, 11:22, 9:55… it changes by the minute!  Why would that be?  It always feels like I’m running a nice, even pace…

I thought and thought, and then it hit me – music!  It seems my cadence matches the EXACT. RHYTHM. of whatever the shuffle turns up on my iPhone.  Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” playing?  I’m running a precise (and INSANE!) 220 steps per minute.  Florence and her Machine step in with “Dog Days Are Over”?  Yep, I’m magically transported to 150 steps per minute.

I don’t know why this surprises me.  After all, I more or less go through life in eight-count rhythm.  For real.  Apparently my many years as a dancer have resulted in some sort of mental metronome.  I regularly find myself mentally tapping out a beat while preparing breakfast, taking a shower, typing, even reading.  “One, two, three and four, five, six, sevennnn, eight,” as I crack an egg, stir it with a spatula and pop two slices of bread into the toaster.

And oh yes, when I’m running you better believe I’m doing so “eight-to-the-bar.”  Which, by the way, makes it really hard for this math-challenged lady to calculate cadence; my brain counts in eights, but I lack the skills to figure out on the fly just how many steps per minute I’m running if I’m doing seven sets of eight steps in twenty seconds.  (I’d place this type of equation right up there with the classic, “If two trains leave their stations, one in Philadelphia and one in San Francisco… makes my brain hurt.)  So I instead try counting by tens and routinely get lost somewhere around 40, when my inner rhythm section valiantly pulls me back to whatever music is being pumped through my headphones. 

I’ve pondered this for a week and, aside from making for an interesting (to me, anyway), blog post, I see the potential to make this idiosyncrasy work for me: what if I were to stack my running deck by creating a race-day playlist with musical selections that result in the perfect cadence for every portion of the run?  Some slower songs for miles one and two, somewhere in the 150-160 beats-per-minute (BPM) range to force an easy, relaxed warm-up pace… then bring in a nice medley with a consistent 170-180 BPM for endurance through miles three through eight… and finish strong with the power of a solid 182-190 BPM over the final two miles…  Could I possibly create my dream race through music selection alone?

Seems plausible, so I’m going to test it out!  Hopefully with some help from a few DJ and musician friends, I’ll try to piece together the Perfect Playlist for the Tower of Terror 10-Miler.  I’ll be testing it out over the next two months and will report back on my findings.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

One of "Those" Runs

I just had "one of those runs"...

Mile 1: remember that I forgot to take preemptive action against my monthly visitor, due any minute; retrace steps back home to remedy.

Mile 2: What's that twinge in my right knee? No worries - a faster cadence makes it go away.

Miles 3-6: This is great! I love running! Look at the pretty trees, listen to the pretty birds! Good morning, world!

Mile 6: left ankle feels "funny" and I'm having tunnel vision. Why are my fingers swollen to the size of bratwurst?

Mile 6.5: Ooooowwwww! Pain shooting back and forth between left ankle and left knee.

Mile 7-8: start taking longer walk intervals, hoping pain will subside; it doesn't.

Mile 8: give in to the pain and hobble the rest of the way home.

Home: discover that I'd been so focused on knee pain, I'd completely missed the chafing situation under my new running skort's legs; take ice bath, pop an Aleve, slather on some hydrocortisone, lay on the couch wondering why I ever thought running would be a fun thing to do.


Saturday, July 14, 2012

Who ran Disney? I did!

Well folks, I’m freshly back from a fantastic 10 days at Disney World and happy to report that I continued to train during that time!  I had four runs planned – three short and one long – and pulled off three of the four, including the long run.  Sadly, my feet were just too worn out from theme parking to do the last run – a route to which I was very much looking forward.  :(  Oh well, there’s always next time, right?

Our trip began with two nights at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort (CBR), so that’s where I did my first short run.  I set out a few minute before sunrise, about 6:25am, and caught this gorgeous view as I began my run…

The CBR route is pretty straightforward: loop around the lake as many times as necessary to meet your time or distance goal.  A full loop is about 1.2 miles.

Mine was a time goal of 30 minutes, which resulted in about three loops with a detour through the center island because it’s pretty in there.  The CBR path is paved and well-maintained and mostly shaded – a major plus on a hot, mid-summer Florida run.  There were a few minor hills along the way, which spiced things up a bit, and lots of maintenance workers out sprucing up the beaches, hosing down pool decks, and keeping the beautiful resort looking tidy.  It was nice to see their smiling faces and hear their “Good morning!” greetings as I ran by. 

I give the CBR a solid A for a short run; the landscape is stunning and I ended my run feeling fresh and ready to take on the day!

Next up was my long run.  I was scheduled to do 7.5 miles, but after four Disney days, I was beat.  We took it easy the day before, spending lots of time off of my feet, but I was not feeling the running love by the time my alarm went off at 5:00am.  I decided to go for 5 miles… if I felt good at that point, I’d keep going; if not, 5 would be plenty with all of the walking I was doing in the parks.

We’d moved to the Beach Club Villas by then, so I used a few of the Epcot Resorts running routes to put in my miles.

I started with half a loop around Crescent Lake at sunrise – so pretty!

Just past the Boardwalk, I switched over to the Boardwalk Canal path and took it all the way down to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  I ran all the way up to the entrance plaza, which was neat – lots of activity up there as security and the bus drivers did their respective checks to get the park ready for opening.

From Hollywood studios, I backtracked along the canal and picked up the Crescent Lake loop again, completing the circle back to the Beach Club.  From there, I exited the resort and ran the 2.4-mile Epcot Resorts Blvd. and Buena Vista Dr. route, which brought me up to 5 miles by the time I reached the Beach Club again.  That’s a very pretty, somewhat shaded route with sidewalk for all but about 20 feet of it; beware, though, of the many short but steep little hills that run along the Swan and Dolphin properties!  Still, by the time I hit 5 miles, I was loosened up and feeling fine, so I did another loop around the lake, took a few paths through the Yacht and Beach Club properties and, yes, finished the full 7.5 miles!

My finish line – couldn’t be prettier:

After a cool-down walk to my room, I took an ice bath, ate a second breakfast and took a long shower.  I could have easily called it a day and lounged around the hotel the rest of the day, but I’d promised Leo a night at Hollywood Studios and, really, I knew it would be better for my legs to walk a bit.  Right?

Right!  I ate every calorie I’d burned earlier at the Hollywood Brown Derby and ended the night with a nod to the upcoming Tower of Terror 10-Miler.

Amazingly enough, I felt pretty okay the next day… but not okay enough to tackle a theme park first thing.  It’s not that anything hurt so much as I was just exhausted; just getting to the quiet pool right outside our room took monumental effort.  By evening, though, I was ready for a walk around Epcot to stretch the legs.

My third and, as it turned out, final Disney vacation run was a short one, so I circled Crescent Lake a couple times and did the Boardwalk Canal loop for a total of 2.5 miles.  We moved to the Villas at Wilderness Lodge for our last two nights and my final run was planned for the trail that runs between the Wilderness lodge and Fort Wilderness.

I was really excited for that one and planned it for our final morning at WDW, before checking out.  But we chose to stay out late at the Magic Kingdom the nightbefore and the combination of a late night and 10 days of being on my feet was just too much; I knew I didn’t have a mile left in me, let alone 2 or 3. 

All in all, I had a really good time running Disney and highly recommend it to anyone looking to stay on track on their Disney vacation!  I also feel like I learned some valuable things for my future long runDisney races:

1.       All of that walking adds up and means stress on your feet, if not your entire lower body.  I’ll be sure to resist any temptation to wander around parks the day before a big race.
2.       Fettuccine Alfredo the night before a long run is not a great idea.
3.       Pay no attention to the teen marathoners with ¼% body fat between the three of them lapping you 5 times in an hour.
4.       Have fun, have fun, have fun – you’re running at Disney World!

All of this will really come in handy now, too… because I am officially registered for the 2013 Princess Half-marathon!  No rest for the weary now; Princess training will commence within weeks after finishing the Tower of Terror 10-Miler.  Bring it.  :)