Stunt Puppy!

I never would have guessed that our dog Mesa would snag a cool sponsorship before I did!

While out at OR (a trade show in Utah) I was browsing through some really cool dog gear made by a company called Stunt Puppy. Their stuff is so cool - extremely purpose built (seriously - every stitch and design component has a specific purpose), made for people that are running or active with their dogs.


I've run with Mesa since the day we adopted her. In fact, our first run was 9 miles, when we stopped only because I thought it was unnatural to run her any futher (she wasn't even panting after 9... I knew I was in trouble then!). She now runs a lot of miles (probably 50 or so a week? That's more than most humans!) & LOVES it :). It's pretty fun :). I've always used a regular leash, mostly because I didn't know what was available. My inlaws bought me a Ruff Wear stretchy leash/belt thing for Christmas last year, but it was so long that Mesa would practically be running in the middle of the street (doesn't help that both of us are smaller, so an already big/long product looks even bigger...). I tried to loop it around my waist to shorten it, but it'd always come undone or get tangled. Ug. So I'd revert back to the leash, sometimes switching off every 3-4 miles on a run with Nate because my arm would get a little tired. It worked, though. And Mesa didn't have any complaints :) (other than when we'd end our run :))


Anyway - back to the trade show. I was chatting with Stunt Puppy's founder at the booth and found out that they were actually based in Minneapolis. When I mentioned that I was also from MN, had qualified for the trials, and ran most of my miles with Mesa, they asked if I'd be willing to test out their gear & give feedback on new products. Of course!! I am beyond thrilled to do so (as I hope Mesa is!!)!


They first gave me their original "Stunt Runner" to try. What a difference from the Ruff Wear version!!!! Much shorter, and much better tension. I can actually use it for daily runs! And wow, what a difference -- runs are SO much more enjoyable with her now! They also have a prototype that's shorter and tighter, which I've found to be my FAVORITE so far. It keeps Mesa close, but allows her to move up and back without affecting my pace or stride. *Love*


I have a few more products to test out, which is super fun. I'm just excited to have something that works SO well for Mesa and I, and also help develop further products.



(Photo above from our "Photo Shoot". Ha! Who would have thought I'd EVER say that :)?!? This is with their original Stunt Runner product) I honestly think Mesa knew she was modeling, she behaved and ran better than she ever has before :).


We have already made an appearance on their facebook page. Please all "like" their page. And if you have/run with a dog at all, seriously, check out their stuff. You'll love it!

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The best support crew!

I needed to do a 8x800m workout during the middle of the week. I mentioned it to the YMCA runners on Monday to see if anyone would be interested... they all were either "travelling", "not able to make it Tuesday" or "going to be sick". :) Ha.

But I came Tuesday just to ask again if anyone wanted to join (figuring no one would, but it was worth a try). No one said "no", and we headed out towards their 800 "course" (which is back and forth between two electric poles). Immediately, 2 of the guys started on their own repeats. Two faster guys started shortly after, and I shortly after that. Gotta love a good reverse pursuit workout!

Long story short, the group did 4 repeats with me. I am SO thankful -- to think that a group of men would do a repeat workout just to help me!! Seriously, amazing. I knew I needed the help (it's so much easier to chase someone!), and it would have been nearly impossible to have done all 8 well alone. I am in awe of the YMCA group - the fact that they would come out and run any random, crazy workout that I may have planned for the day - and be so upbeat and supportive of what I'm doing. They are such good sports, and I love that I've started to run more with them.

Times weren't great, but not bad either: 2:41, 2:40, 2:41, 2:42, 2:47 (had to run around a car that pulled out without looking - ug!), 2:43, 2:44, 2:44.

I considered not doing the 8th repeat. My legs were TOAST. But, I told myself that there was no way that the top 50 women in the US were skipping out of their last repeat -- so I just gave myself a little more rest & started out.

One other change in my running (and came out on that last repeat): God. Before Grandma's, I prayed fairly regularly asking for help. During Grandma's, I thought about him a lot: "I hope I'm running with everything you've given me", "Please help me through this". There was a preacher about 1/2 way that asked the runners as we passed whether we were running away from sin, or towards God. I answered that I was running towards God, and I fully BELIEVED what I told myself (as with everything else I told myself that day). This is new for me... I don't consider myself a super religous person.

But during the last repeat on Tuesday, I thanked God for the opportunity to be outside, running hard, and pushing myself. This is really weird for me to say... again, I've never been super religous or had these thoughts often before. Towards the end of the repeat my thoughts went again to Him, asking him to get me through in a good time. He got me through, in another 2:44 (would have liked faster, but my legs were completely fried, so I guess a 2:44 isn't bad :) )

So in addition, I feel I need to acknowledge the latest person to have joined my team: "God". I don't want that to sound cheesy, but I do feel like that's a big part of the mental strength I've gained during this journey. Thank you to EVERYONE that has helped along the way. I am blessed.

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Onward!

First, a very nice article on Running Minnesota: http://runningminnesota.blogspot.com/2011/08/nichole-porath.html

This week is my first week back since Grandma's. I've maintained decent mileage after Grandma's, but it hasn't been stellar (45-60/week). Starting up again with a defined plan and goal has been GREAT.

The plan for the next 5 weeks is to work back into mileage and get myself ready for an even tougher marathon training cycle. So, this week I started with 70 miles (which feels surprisingly easy, crazy to think that a less than a year ago 70 would have been a big week for me) and will bump that up gradually to 90-100 in the next month. The intensity will be a little lower, so it'll be a nice way to introduce my legs/body to higher mileage again.

So, what's the plan, you ask? I had a really hard time answering this question. I guess I had never really thought about what I'd do post-Grandma's or post-qualifying. A lot of people congratulated me on the race and then would comment, "A huge PR! Wow! And you’ve only been training consistently for the marathon for a year! Gee I wonder what you could do with 15 or 20 months of training." "Do you think you could shoot for the A-standard?" That obviously got me pretty excited.

As I said in the Running MN interview, I also really, really MISSED training after Grandma’s. I missed waking up in the morning and struggling to get my workouts, strength work, and all of the little things into my day on top of a demanding full-time job and a part-time hobby job. I missed chasing a “big” goal. I usually get so wrapped up in achieving goals that I don’t enjoy the “process” of achieving the goal. This was one of the first things I’ve done that I truly enjoyed the process, and recognized that during the cycle. Without any of this, I was completely lost. I NEEDED a new goal. So I emailed Jerry within a couple of days to ask him to write up a fall marathon plan right away.

He, very smartly, didn’t respond until at least a week after the race, which gave me time to cool off and think more clearly. I also realized that I maybe wasn't as ready as I thought. I did a track workout about two weeks from Grandma's and my legs were pretty shot on the cool down. I realized that I was not at all ready to crave this feeling yet. Mentally, I just needed more time. I also needed a bit of time physically.

We talked about a few things, including trying to shoot for the A-standard at either Chicago or NYC (where I was extended an offer to run in their professional women’s division), but decided that there was just too little time –either after Grandma’s to prep for Chicago, or after NYC to prep for the Trials. Well, I can't say that I was that logical - I really wanted to take advantage of the NYC offer. I felt like it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. But, as Jerry reminded me, it would be too difficult to try to fit both in. I could certainly run both, and I'm sure both would be a lot of fun, but I'd do mediocre, which isn't the goal right now.

So my focus will be on the Trials, trying to run somewhere in the low to sub-2:40s, and trying to place as high as I can. Jerry threw out a top-50 finish, which would be amazing.

It's so nice to have a concrete goal again. It re-energizes me & gives me a purpose behind each of my workouts (during the hard workouts I literally ask myself if I think I'm pushing it as hard as the top 50 women in the US are... makes me push all the harder). I am really, really excited to chase down this huge goal.

Like I said, this week was my first week toward this goal: 70 miles and two harder days. I did a 6x1000m workout on Wednesday, which wasn't very pretty. I finished my first repeat in 4:05... to which I thought, wow, could I really have lost THAT much so quickly? Have my legs completely forgotten how to run? The next reps were in the low 3:50s, so better, but still pathetically slow. I purposefully did these on the roads so I wasn't constantly thinking about 200m splits, paces, etc -- I'm trying to give myself a little break from the more-strict hard workouts that I know will be coming. I also tend to care a little less about my finishing times when I'm on the road... but even though I wasn't trying to care too much, being THIS slow was obviously a little concerning.

I figured out later that day that I had set my watch to .67 of a mile instead of the correct .625. Haha! So the repeats were really in the low 3:30s. That's still slow, but at least I'm not left wondering if God decided to take away my running ability completely. :)

Tomorrow I'll use the MDRA 15k as a workout. My cousin and husband will be running the 5k as well, so it'll be a fun family event :).

So, a great start to the training plan. I know I've said it more than a few times lately, but I am beyond excited for this next cycle! Onward to the Trials!!


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SO excited

Jerry just outlined the first few weeks of the next cycle. I can't tell you how EXCITED I am about them (and the prospect of following a structured, challenging plan again)!! Seriously :). He is so good.

I also like how he titled the email "Beginnings". He probably didn't mean anything about it - this is the beginning of a new planning phase - but it struck a chord with me. I really feel like this is the beginning of something fun, something exciting. Just have to stay healthy (main focus!) and mentally positive, and I'm pumped to see what will come.

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Last Half - 13.1 to the 2:44.46 Finish


At mile 25 or 25.5 - can't wait to finish!



Yes, yes, I know what you're thinking... it's about time :). I have been so unbelievably busy that I'm surprised I'm able to post even now! If you haven't read my report about the first half of Grandma's Marathon, here it is.

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Shortly after half way, I thought I sensed some fatigue in my quads. Not a good sign, I thought to myself. Should I slow? This could hurt a LOT by the end if I’m already feeling something now. I put it out of my mind. Whatever will be will be - just keep going. All you need to do is run a 1:23.30 for the next half. You can slow if you need to. I took a caffeinated gel at mile 15, and the quad fatigue went away shortly thereafter (note for next time: do I need to take more earlier?).

Taking gels and my bottles turned out to be a mess. All of the bottles looked the same, and although I had orange paper wrapped around mine, it was really hard to find. At two of the bottle tables I literally had to stop for a half of a second with my hand hovering over the bottles, frantically searching. They were pretty heavy to carry, even though they were only ½ full (and the squirt top didn’t work very well so I actually didn’t take much out of any of them) – so next time I’ll have to do a better job with them in general. It IS really nice to have them out on the course, if nothing else just as a way to get my gels out on the course.

From miles 13.1-20, Brenden and I cruised. At a couple of the “check point times” I had written on my hand I realized how far under I was. With each mile I gained another 2-3 seconds. I got so excited that after 2 of the check-points (I only had 5 written – 5k, 10k, 10, 19, 23 or 24) I dropped a 6:06 and 6:04. Oops! I was just so excited to be under my times & feeling good :) (and obviously wasn’t really paying attention to my watch enough!). Other than these two miles, my splits were VERY consistent. Amazing, actually. I hardly looked at my watch – just cruised effortlessly. Despite this, I found ourselves in no-man’s land after we caught and passed the “slower” OTQ group of women at mile 4. There was literally no one around us or running our same pace. This surprised me. It wasn’t like my strategy was that weird… just 3 slower miles, and then locking into a few seconds under MP. I found myself completely alone, except for Brenden. So much for “pack running” with the other OTQ hopeful women.

I passed one of the “fast group” OTQ women that had fallen off the group around mile 19. I encouraged her to stick with us. She looked at me in a way that I knew she was hurting & there was no chance she was going to try. She just said, “You look GREAT! Keep going!”. We had a pact amongst us that we wouldn’t say anything negative (Not even to let the group know that you have a bad blister or that your contact is bothering you). I didn’t realize how key this pact was – and would be.

Overall, though, energy was managed very well. I took gels at about mile 6, mile 11, 15 and mile 18-21 (sipped on it). I took water at about every stop, sipping a little and pouring the rest over my head. I would have taken more gel, but I developed a side-ache after about 20 miles. I simply couldn’t eat any more. I got pretty dizzy the last few miles of the race, which I think is due to low blood-sugar (low brain sugar? Is there such a thing?) – I really think I should be taking more during the last half of the race.
At 20, Brenden reminded me that it was time to start racing. Ug. Really, I thought to myself? We have a 1:15 cushion! I thought about it a little more, and I knew deep down in me that I could push it if I needed to. I decided not to, though – my reasoning was purely “don’t screw this up”. Sounds very negative, but I knew at this point that I could only lose the OTQ. Just keep running, I reminded myself (one of the few things Brenden told me earlier in the race… that simple reminder would be so key these last 6.2 miles)

I was extremely positive throughout the entire race, with the help of the sports psychologist and his CD I had worked with for the last couple of weeks. The thing that most sticks out for me were the times I told myself, “You HAVE this!” and “This is your race!” and other miscellaneous cheesy positive thoughts. I usually tell myself these things during a race, but I’ve never told myself & BELIEVED like I did during the marathon. It’s really hard to describe. I also had practiced embracing and welcoming the pain I knew would be coming. Dr. Asp had coached me to think of pain as a good thing: it was a sign that I was doing what I was supposed to be doing and therefore, I should be looking for and welcoming any feelings of pain. I did exactly that. With 10k to go, I know I felt a few seconds of discomfort/pain, but immediately shut it out. Oh, good, I told myself. But other than a few seconds here and there of allowing myself to recognize how I was actually feeling, I totally shut out pain. I have NEVER done this, to this extent – to be so positive about how poorly I felt. I will be forever thankful for Dr. Asp’s help.

Brenden and I hadn’t discussed the “nothing negative” pact before the race. Turns out after the race, he told me that he was hurting really bad from about 22-23 to the end. What?! I exclaimed to him. I honestly had no idea – I thought he was doing great & pushing me. Had he said ANYTHING about hurting, I know I would have acknowledged my pain & wanted to stop/slow/walk.

I knew I was passing a few of the “fast pack” OTQ women between 20-25, but I had no idea how many. Turns out, I passed all of them except for 2 – one of which we caught at mile 25.5 and encouraged her to come with us. That’s pretty amazing to me. The pack was at least 20, if not larger, at the start of the race. [I have to shake my head a little bit. It seems like there would have been a lot more had they paced a little smarter?]

I had another “checkpoint” time on my hand at mile 23 or 24. I tried to do the math. WHAT?!? I knew I hadn’t been paying attention to my mile splits, but this couldn’t be right. According to my calculations I was going to finish in 2:48 or so. My heart sunk a little. But then I remembered that not too long ago Nate had yelled out to say I had a 1:15 cushion. Could I really have lost ALL of that, plus some? How long ago had he said that? I thought about it, in slow-motion pace, for a little bit before deciding that I just shouldn't be doing math or thinking hard about anything at this point. I reiterated Brenden’s phrase from earlier in the race: We have this, as long as we keep running. So I told myself to stop thinking and just “keep running”.

The last 5k was a blur. We caught 2 women, fading quickly, around mile 25 or 25.5 and encouraged them to come with us. Both did. Other than that, I don’t have many memories of the last 5k, or the last 10k, for that matter. I didn’t hear any mile splits during that time, either. That could have been bad, but I found out later that the last 10k turned out to be within seconds of my first 10k. Wow.

And then we turned the last corner, with just under .2 to do. Brenden dropped back. What? I sort of looked behind me, as if to ask him why. I wondered if he was just letting me cruise in alone, so I could have the finish line to myself when I crossed? He should be here with me, I thought to myself! Did something happen to him? As I found out later, he had been holding on for dear life the last miles, and with .2 to go, he knew I could do it alone.
I tried to pick it up down the homestretch, but I don’t know if I actually did. It didn’t matter. I knew I had it. I saw the clock and knew I was in with plenty of time to spare. YESSS!!! Arms up right after I crossed, in relief and joy :). (video evidence)

Once the adrenaline left me, I realized I didn’t feel well at all. Nate took me over to the medical tent, where they quickly laid me down to do their routine tests (blood pressure 3 times because they didn't quite believe the numbers, threatened to take blood (I am so deathly afraid of needles!), etc). I didn't even care. Pretty sure even though I felt terrible that I had a huge smile on my face the entire time. I had made it!
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Since the marathon there have been two very nice articles highlighting my race:
Northfield News, June 21
Marshall Independent, July 1

Thanks again to everyone on my "team". I had a lot of help to get me to 2:44:46, and a ton of fun doing it. Now on the the next one!

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