Race Recap: Portland’s Inaugural Hop Hop Half Marathon

Sunday marked my third (yes, third) half-marathon race.  Just typing that makes me a bit excited.  To think that I ran my first half just last October and now have three under my (race) belt is pretty satisfying to say the least.  As I mentioned in a previous post, my marathon training plan (for Newport in June), called for a half as part of the preparation and the timing of this one was just about perfect.

This was the first year for the Hop Hop Half (I’ve got to admit, I’m not a huge fan of the name – a bit cutesy for my preferences – but I do understand the desire to tie it in with the holiday) and going in to it I felt like it may have been a bit of a risky move for the race sponsors.  Coming on the heels of the Shamrock Run, which is a very popular and large event, I wasn’t sure how the turnout would be.  It turned out to a moderate-sized, but lovely race.

Starting line

I had a strange set of feelings and expectations heading in to this event.  For the first time, this was not the event I’d been training for, but was part of a bigger picture.  Because of that, I didn’t want to place too much pressure on myself, but did want to give it a good effort and see how my racing ability was progressing.

Race day started out well enough.  It was a bit chilly at the start, but dry and sunny –  perfectly good racing conditions.  The event started off with a 5k that was winding down by the time the half-marathoners got going at 8:20am.  I think it’s worth noting that the race started pretty close to the scheduled time (only a minute or so late).  An on-time start always pleases me.

The race started off well and was fairly uneventful (in a good kind of way).  The first couple of miles weren’t the most interesting to run, but after about mile 3, we made our way onto a path that travels right alongside the Columbia River.  It was beautiful!  On such a lovely Spring morning, the sky was relatively clear, providing a beautiful view ahead (to the East) of some of the gorgeous mountains in the Pacific Northwest, to the left of the Columbia, complete with seagulls stretching, soaring, and basking in the sun, and the Portland Airport to the right (which may not seem like much, but is actually kind of lovely to see from that vantage point).

Rounding the turn

I’m the one in the center of this photo – in all black!

The course was pretty darn flat, so I chugged along steadily most of the way.  I did encounter an uncomfortable situation right after the turnaround point (around mile 7, I think it was).  I wanted to share it because it was so unusual and am curious if others have encountered this.  I was coming up behind another runner ahead and was running at a slightly faster pace than he was, so I was nearing him.  I was clearly going to pass him, so I maneuvered to the left, where there was space to move around him.  He glanced over his left shoulder, saw me coming, and moved directly in front of me to block my path and cut me off from passing!  It was very apparent that it was no accident.  I had indicated my intent to pass by when he looked back at me and he made a very deliberate shift in his position on the pathway.  I was shocked.  Seriously, seriously shocked.  Neither of us are elite runners, we weren’t racing to win.  Furthermore, even if we were, that is not how runners behave in my experience.  I am so used to friendly runners.  Runners who respect each other and share a certain camaraderie, even in competition, that I was totally taken aback by what happened.  Has anyone else had this happen?

I will say that I eventually still maneuvered around him and never saw him again.  Plus, my faith in the goodness of runners was restored later in the race, with less than a mile to go.  I was right at pace with another male runner and eventually started to pull ahead.  Instead of another weird encounter, this runner nodded and encouragingly shouted “Looking strong!”  It warmed my sappy runner’s heart.

When all was said and done, I finished with a new half-marathon PR – 1:49:17 – and placed 91 out of 618 total finishers!  I’m totally happy with my performance and finish, though it didn’t take long for me to realize that in just about 10 weeks I would be doing it again – twice.

Heading under the bridge

Me in black again – heading towards the final mile!

A couple of other notes on the event and race.  First, runners were treated to complimentary mimosas after the event.  Nice.  I much prefer this to the beer that is often present after a race!  While I certainly know that taking in alcohol is not the best recovery plan, I did enjoy my free brunch-y cocktail after having a couple cups of water.  I definitely approve of this beverage choice!

Second, along the way, I noticed a very young runner participating with an adult by her side.  Curious, I looked at the age group results after they were posted and saw that an 8-year old girl finished the half-marathon in just a bit over 2 hours! I am so impressed by that.  She looked like she was having the time of her life when I saw her on the course and I am so inspired by someone of that age having the focus and dedication (not to mention the skill) to do that run.  I can only wish I had had some of that when I was so young.  Amazing.

Hats off to Foot Traffic (one of my local running stores) who organized the event.  It was a smooth race and delightful event to kick off the spring running season!  I would absolutely consider running it again next year.

Why Wednesdays . . . Is Retiring (But A New Feature Is Coming)

A Note About This Feature:  Why Wednesdays is a Move Eat Create weekly feature determined to turn the mid-week doldrums upside down and celebrate things I love to do and blog about.  I have completed series on the topics of running, creativity, and food.  Now, I’m being a bit random and discussing whatever strikes me at the time!

writing

photo credit: insane_capture via photopin cc

So . . . after some deliberation, I have decided to retire my Why Wednesdays column.  This weekly feature has been a joy to write and the responses I’ve gotten have been touching and informative, but features come and go and it feels time for something new.  I will continue to write about the same types of topics and issues as I have been in this series – just in regular ole’ posts when the time is right for them.

Plus, as one feature wraps up, another begins!

Hooray!

Beginning next Thursday Move Eat Create’s new weekly feature will debut!  Stay tuned for it’s unveiling.  It involves food (yum) and a creative, adventurous spirit!

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If you’ve missed posts from the Why Wednesdays column and want to catch up, click on the column name in the tag cloud to your right or check out some prior entries here:

Why the Workout ‘Buddy’ System Isn’t For Everyone (And That’s OK!)

Why I Eat . . . Plants!

Why I Eat . . . Food From My Own Kitchen

Why I Run . . . Breaking Out of Boxes and Shutting Down ‘You Can’t’

Why I Run . . . Stress Relief

Newport Marathon Training Update: This Is Starting To Get Real, You All!

Being that today marks week 6 of training for my first marathon in Newport, I figured it was about time to check in about how it was going.

Newport symbol

First, I will say: so far, so good.

Thus far, I haven’t done anything that I haven’t done before, so to speak.  Honestly, I’ve been doing a bit less than I’ve done before.  My training plan (as training plans are keen to do) builds up over time, so my first few weeks have been relatively easy.  I’ve been consistent with my schedule and laying the groundwork to start increasing mileage.  I’m happy to say that I’m feeling strong so far.  My body is feeling healthy; I’m running what I should be and I’m fitting in some cross-training for overall balance.

Second, I will say: I think I’m about to turn a (exciting, but sort of nerve-inducing) corner.

In the coming weeks, I will surely test my endurance, time commitment, and mental resolve.  This current week is still ‘easy’, but things will start to steadily build from there.  My plan calls for me to start increasing my weeknight running mileage, as well as to build up my long run up on Saturdays.  In a month’s time, I will be pushing myself close to setting new distance personal records for myself.  I’m excited to make this progress, but, of course, my mind is always chirping at me with some self-doubt, too.

One of my biggest concerns is simply the time factor.  I know that I will make the time to log the miles that I need, but being a person with a tightly packed schedule, it does give me a bit of stress thinking of what I will have to cut back on or forego in order to make it happen.

But I will.

I will make it happen (and I’m sure I’ll tell you how it goes).

The reality of my marathon-mission set in this weekend as I took two more steps forward.  I finally booked my hotel room for the overnight stay and I registered for a half-marathon as part of my training.  My plan actually recommends that I run a half-marathon right around the mid-point of my plan, so I set out to see if there is a local one happening that weekend . . . and there is!  I’m now registered for the Hop Hop Half on March 24th!

hop-hop-half-logo-2013

So, there you have it.  Marathon training is fully underway, accommodations are arranged, and I’ve got a new race to complete in three weeks!

I know many others are also ramping up your training as spring heads our way.  How’s it going for you?

Let’s Talk About Hills, Shall We?: 6 Tips For Effective Hill Running

Hills.

Oh, hills.

photo credit: OBScurePIXels.com via photopin cc

photo credit: OBScurePIXels.com via photopin cc

How do you feel when you read or hear that word?  If you’re a runner you may have a strong reaction.  Do you love them?  Hate them?  A little bit of both?

Plenty of runners do hill repeats.  I’m not one of them yet.  I say yet, because I’m not against trying them and I likely will before too long. But for now, I’ve ignored that particular brand of glorious torture.

Now, this is not to say that I don’t run hills at all.  My neighborhood and running territory is fairly hilly.  Regardless of which direction I head out in, I am definitely running up and down at least one hill, often more, so while repeats aren’t in my current regimen, I am no stranger to inclines and declines.

As many runners may tell you, hills are an important part of running.  Not only can they provide an interesting twist on a standard run, but they provide unique and different ways to work specific muscle groups.  Also, being an effective hill runner can make all the difference in a race.  The ability to conquer hills most definitely adds to a competitive edge.

photo credit: Sam Ilić via photopin cc

photo credit: Sam Ilić via photopin cc

There are a couple of particular notes about hill running that I’d like to share based on my experience.  First, let’s talk about going uphill.  Often, I dislike going uphill.  But, I do appreciate it.  I appreciate what it does for my fitness level and my overall running performance.  I have learned a few simple tips that have helped me increase my speed and endurance as I head uphill that I include here.

Uphill Tips That Work For Me:

1)      Keep your head slightly tilted upward. 

I don’t mean to encourage anyone to crane or strain your neck here, but it can be tempting to look down and hunch over a bit when going up.  I had it pointed out to me in a helpful running book that a slight tilt in the chin/head will help keep breathing paths open while your lungs work a bit harder on the incline.  I tried it and noticed an immediate difference in my breathing.

2)      Strength train your UPPER body

I spend a decent amount of time strength training (more posts on this to come in the future).  For a while, I thought that lower body strength would help me up hills (which, is true), but I didn’t consider how much upper body strength would help, too.  I did work on my upper body because I wanted a toned, strong all over effect, but it was separate in my mind from having anything to do with my running.  Then, one day while going up a particularly steep hill, I noticed just how much the power in my arms and upper body, pumping and moving, was propelling me upward and onward.  I tuned in to my arms and the way the strength in my back and shoulders was urging my legs forward and I have never underestimated the power of strong arms, back and shoulders again.

3)      Shorten your stride

I try to be conscious most of the time about not taking strides that are too long to begin with, but it is especially important to me uphill.  Shorter strides equal quicker, less impactful, less strenuous movement up those hills, allowing me to feel less fatigued at the top and shave seconds off my time getting there.

For as much as I don’t enjoy going uphill, I so very much love going downhill.  I know that downhill running can be hard on the body, but I love it regardless.  It’s fun.  REALLY fun.  The feeling I get when I’m striding downwards, like I’m floating across the pavement is one of the greatest feelings I know.  It’s joyous and incredibly freeing to me.  Here are some ways in which I try to enjoy this wonderful feeling, while still being effective and efficient along the way.

Downhill Tips That Work For Me:

1)      Be mindful of your landing. 

When you’re really cruising downhill, it can be hard on your legs.  Running puts plenty of impact on your knees, feet, and ankles as is, but the extra impact when running downhill can really do a number on some folks.  Try to tune in to how your feet are striking the ground as you descend.  A quick step and pick-up, letting the balls of your feet (as lightly as possible) make contact and rapidly kick back up again will help minimize impact and make for quick work of those downhill miles.

2)      Lean into it – but don’t overdo it

You’re running at an angle, so it makes sense to have your body at an angle, too, but you want to be careful not to lean too far forward.  A slight lean has helped me work with gravity to move quickly and efficiently, but maintaining control is important, as well.  The last thing you want is to feel like you are careening (not striding) down the hill.  So, you may be going fast and enjoying the speed, but don’t forget about body alignment.

3)      Strengthen your core

A strong core is a great asset for runners for a variety of reasons and an important one has to do with #2, listed right above.  Being able to control your body when gravity is pulling it down is vital in preventing falls, injuries, and running chaos.  A well developed abdominal core provides me with the strength to keep my body upright when the forces of nature urge it to topple forward.  Planks, crunches, standing abdominal twists, supermans, all of those types of moves and more are valuable tools for you in this regard.

If you have key running tips for hills, please feel free to share them in the comments below.  Or, you know, just feel free to moan about or rejoice in the wonders of hill running!

Why Wednesdays? – Why I Eat . . . Series Recap

A Note About This Feature:  Why Wednesdays is a Move Eat Create weekly feature determined to turn the mid-week doldrums upside down and celebrate things I love to do and blog about.  Currently, the focus is on food, cooking, and eating.

 

Food is serious business.  As I’ve discussed over the course of this series, it impacts our health, our energy, our brains, our emotions, our bank accounts, and so on.  It’s a need that every human being has in common, yet we all have our own unique relationships to it.

Plate of raw veggies - edited

Food is also fraught with contradictions, making it a complex issue.  For instance, consider how a meal made of just a few humble ingredients can taste so complex and flavorful.  Or, how a $2.00 taco from a food truck can taste utterly rich with flavor, while a $30 pasta dish can be bland and dull if not prepared with attention.  Think about how sitting down to a meal by yourself may feel lonely on certain days, but incredibly indulgent and peaceful on others.   Also still, enjoying that same meal with loved ones can be a long-lasting memorable experience.

My point, of course, is that food is one of the most complex aspects of our lives and societies, but for some reason, we spend so much of our time treating it as if it is inconsequential.  We shove it down without patience, swallow without tasting, purchase without reading labels, and toss it away without consideration.  We may encounter food dozens of times throughout a single day, yet not spend more than a few seconds ever really thinking about it.

This has to change.

Fortunately, I think it’s starting to.

tofu - edited

With a focus of late on obesity and food costs to start, people are starting to think about food on a deeper level.  Advocates for local and sustainable food consumption and production are making some noise.  Activists are fighting for clear and proper labeling on packaged foods.  Governments are realizing that youth need help with intervention directly in schools.  And people like us are being a bit more thoughtful.

As I’ve shared in prior posts, my relationship with food has morphed dramatically over my lifetime.  I’m still not perfect, nor would I ever expect to be, but I do think that I have made great strides to not only be more sound in my food choices from both a health and social standpoint, but I’ve also made strides in enjoying it more.  I used to think I was enjoying food, but really I didn’t even know what real food was.  Fast food and processed packages just can’t hold a candle to ripe fruit, well seasoned vegetables, hearty muffins straight from the oven, or homemade bread.

Pile of muffins - edited

Plus, I was so caught up in the blame game with food that it cast a gloomy cloud over every encounter I had with it.  I was so busy telling myself I was bad for eating this or I’d eaten too much of that or I’d never look like so and so if I ate this, that all eating did for me was reinforce negative feelings and beliefs.  Sadly, this is not unusual, especially for women (though I’m sure you guys have some of it, too), but it IS unacceptable.   I don’t want to pass this habit onto future generations.

I did a quick Google search for an actual definition of food and here is what I got:

Food:

Noun; Any nutritious substance that people or animals eat or drink, or that plants absorb, in order to maintain life and growth.

Read that carefully, please.  Any NUTRITIOUS substance that people or animals eat or drink, or that plants absorb, in order to maintain LIFE and GROWTH.

That says so much to me about where we need to head when it comes to our beliefs and actions around food in our country.  Nutritious.  Life.  Growth.  I’m going to remember those three key words and try to apply them in my own diet.

It only takes a minute to ask myself:

  • Is what I’m about to eat going to be NUTRITIOUS to my overall diet?
  • Will it help me maintain my own quality of LIFE (and of others involved in its production)?
  • Will it help me continue to GROW in healthy ways?

If I can answer ‘yes’ to those three questions, I think I’ll be off to a fine start.

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Previous Entries in This Series:

#8 – Why I Eat . . . Some of My Favorite Foods

#7 – Why I Eat . . . Strictly For Myself

#6 – Why I Eat . . . Local

#5 – Why I Eat . . . To Heal and To Fuel

#4 – Why I Eat . . . Food From My Own Kitchen

#3 – Why I Eat . . . Plants!

#2 – Why I Eat . . . With Reverence

#1 –  Why I Eat . . . Thoughtfully

Why Wednesdays? – Why I Eat . . . Strictly For Myself #7

A Note About This Feature:  Why Wednesdays is a Move Eat Create weekly feature determined to turn the mid-week doldrums upside down and celebrate things I love to do and blog about.  Currently, the focus is on food, cooking, and eating.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve spent some time in my life, TOO much time in my life, doing things for other people and not for myself.  Let me be clear, I don’t mind doing a favor or helping someone out, but what I mean is that I’ve made decisions and took actions about MY OWN life because of what someone else said or did or asked or wanted and without the foremost regard for what I wanted or needed to do at the time.  Some of these things were pretty minor and irrelevant in the long run and others . . . not so much.  Regardless of how big or small they have been, the fact remains that I have made decisions about my life for the benefit of others, at least occasionally, at the sacrifice of my own well-being.

Banana Cupcakes 4

I probably will again in the future, too.  I’m not perfect and, at my core, I like to contribute to making others happy and content.  But, here’s the thing, I’ve sort of figured out that I like to make myself happy, too, and to top it off, that’s actually what I have the most control over.  Funny how that all works out.

So, what does this have to do with food?  Quite a lot, actually, as doing things for other people has often manifested in eating for or because of other people.  There are so many times when I have eaten things that I didn’t want or enjoy or have interest in, in some sort of attempt to: fit in, not be rude, get an emotional uplift, be defiant, be compliant, [fill in ridiculous reason here].  If you’re thinking you want an example or two to understand how this works, I’m happy to provide them:

I’ve eaten food I didn’t like or want because it was offered to me and I didn’t want to appear rude or ungrateful.

I’ve eaten food after I was way too full because I didn’t want to be wasteful when there are others who go without.

I’ve eaten food not out of hunger, but out of anger or pain when I’ve been upset (food is more comforting and safer at times than dealing with the person and problem at hand).

I’ve eaten food I couldn’t afford because I was trying to fit in with others who could afford it and encouraged me to join in.

raw cabbage

Like so many other things in life, our food choices can turn into so much more than hunger, nutrients, or enjoyment, and can become about something else entirely.  This is a problem.  It is a problem because all choices have outcomes and all of this eating for reasons outside of myself had way too many negative outcomes for me personally.

Sometimes I felt sick, stuffed, too full.  Other times I suffered undue stress, working to pay off credit cards because I’d spent money I didn’t have.  There were times when I felt bad emotionally about it afterwards – guilt, maybe even shame or embarrassment set in.  There were extra pounds gained and a dissatisfaction with my level of energy.  There was the knowledge that my health was being compromised – getting too much food, yet not enough of the vitamins and nutrients that I needed.

When I decided, almost two years ago, to make changes in the way I eat it was about more than weight or appearance.  It was about owning up to the fact that food had power over me in ways that it shouldn’t have and that other people had power of me in ways they shouldn’t have.  I didn’t want to eat out of anger or guilt or to please someone else.  I wanted to eat when I was hungry and interested in food.  I wanted to eat what I wanted, try new things, and say no to things I wasn’t interested in, regardless of social pressure of any kind.  I wanted to eat with pleasure and enjoyment and to provide nourishment to my body and mind.

For me.

On my terms.

I’m not perfect in my goals with this, but I am certainly much improved with them.  As a result, my relationship with food has totally changed.  It is a relationship that is built on more knowledge and respect for both myself and for food systems and production.  It is a relationship that is much healthier than it has ever been before and one that is more exciting, too.  It’s filled with possibilities and boundaries – possibilities of exploring new things (sometimes I try cooking new things even if I may be the only one in the house that likes it!) and boundaries that suit my best interests, tastes, and preferences (I say no, politely but without guilt, to food that doesn’t fit into my lifestyle).

So, maybe in this way I am selfish – but I’m okay with that.  When I look closely at the plethora of food issues our world faces (obesity, malnutrition, starvation, depletion of resources, food borne illnesses, food-related diseases) I think we could all likely be best served by being a bit more selfish in these areas.  I also think that making decisions about food driven by knowledge and a selfish desire to be mentally and physically happy and healthy isn’t such a bad idea.  In fact, I’d encourage just about anyone to practice a little selfishness in this regard.

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Previous Entries in This Series:

#6 – Why I Eat . . . Local

#5 – Why I Eat . . . To Heal and To Fuel

#4 – Why I Eat . . . Food From My Own Kitchen

#3 – Why I Eat . . . Plants!

#2 – Why I Eat . . . With Reverence

#1 –  Why I Eat . . . Thoughtfully