Biking Adventures

The other day I was reading this post from the T-Rex Runner (you should read her awesome blog by the way!) and it reminded me that when I bought my bike, one of my thoughts was that since I live in the downtown area of both of the towns that I live in, I would ride my bike EVERYWHERE. I’d ride to the bars, to the store, whatever! It would be awesome. I think I have only managed to do this one time, though, and that was because I was dropping my car off to get fixed and would have had to walk home instead, making biking preferable. Here are my numerous excuses:

  • I just ran/biked and now I’m tired.
  • Where would I lock it?
  • For awhile, Kris and I were sharing a bike lock, so we couldn’t go anywhere together.
  • Too nervous.
  • I don’t know, probably laziness????

Today, though, I could not really think of any excuse. I was planning to go to the grocery store to buy ice cream and shotbloks (needed now that I’m getting to 10 mile + runs). The grocery store is only ONE mile from my house. The only real excuse I could come up with for taking my car was that I would have to find a way to cross over into 2 left-hand turn lanes. I decided that since I have done far scarier things (I’ve gone through a 6 lanes each way intersection on campus) I could probably handle it, though, and that the scary turn lanes were not a good enough excuse. I did wait for traffic to die down a little, though. The only other excuse I could think of was that I could not recall whether there was a bike rack at the store, but I have seen so many people riding their bikes to and from the store that I just knew there had to be one somewhere (there was).

Overall, my first real adventure at biking somewhere in a non-recreational manner other than campus went well. The turn lanes were not the scariest part at all. In fact, the worst part was probably the GIANT hill. I never realized how big that hill is in my car! It was also sort of scary because the hill has no shoulder and I was afraid that a car would hit me due to lack of room, but they all gave me plenty of space without even going in the other lane (the lanes must also be wider than I thought they were).

My only real issue was that I am so used to hauling about 75 pounds of stuff (slight exaggeration) with me to campus that when I was biking around with nothing in my panniers except my purse and u-lock that I kept getting a bit off balance and almost fell over twice! Once, I was turning my head to go over into one of the left turn lanes and almost fell over sideways (that would have been bad because there was a car directly behind me). The other time I held my arm up to signal a right hand turn while going downhill and braking and squeezed the brake too hard with my other hand while correcting my balance and almost fell over due to almost stopping. That would have been less bad because I was at a red light with no one behind me (meaning the hand signal was largely necessary, but I do like to practice).

One thing that makes me sad, though, is that when I bought the bike I really thought it would make going to the bars downtown more convenient. I always feel silly driving 1 mile to go to them, but it’s a bit far to walk. The more I think about it, though, the reasons that I do not want to walk are very similar to the reasons that I don’t want to bike. Yeah, it might take me a few minutes longer to walk, which is one reason that I don’t, but the main reason that I don’t walk is that I go to the bars at night, and I would be too afraid to walk by myself at night. I’d probably have to have at least one man or multiple other women with me to feel safe enough to go that far at night without a locked car door between me and the outside world. It’s not that I live in a particularly bad part of town* – I’d be scared anywhere. In fact, the only time I’ve ever actually encountered a creepy person at night was in my small 7,000 person hometown with almost no crime! I’m probably being somewhat irrational, as I’d be faster than most assailants on a bike, but I can’t help it. I’m going to the bar with a friend tonight and I am going to drive the short distance (it’s on my street for goodness sake!) to this bar out of paranoia ūüė¶

So that I don’t end on a sad/paranoid note, one final thing to mention: I have started using Twitter again! Follow me if you’d like!

*Technically, I do live in the “bad part of town” where all the “people from Kentucky” apparently live. I’ve lived in some fairly shady places, and I have relatives from Kentucky who are totally normal people. Let’s just say I think the Indianans are overreacting.

5K “PR”

Today was a day that started out somewhat poorly, but then improved.

First, I woke up a bit later than planned. I’ve been really tired ever since I moved back out to Indiana. I think it’s because of the addition of bike commuting to my daily routine on top of half marathon training. So I planned on getting up around 7, but didn’t get up until 9. It didn’t really matter that much, I guess, because I didn’t really have anything planned. I just really dislike waking up late because it makes me feel like I’m wasting the day.

Then, when I finally decided to go be productive, I set out the following plan:

  • Go to gym for 5K run
  • Go to carwash to sweep and wash gross car
  • Return home to eat leftovers for lunch
  • Clean bathroom
  • Maybe clean kitchen floor while in cleaning mode
  • Finally relax by continuing to¬†agonize over minutiae shop for purses and shoes online

I left at about 11 am to go to the gym. When I arrived, however, I discovered that it was not opening until 1 pm for some inexplicable reason. This seemed really weird to me, as all of the students are back, and all of them were trying to go to the gym. Like, 5 people walked up and yelled at the door at the same time as me. This is not normal for a Sunday (campus is usually blissfully dead), but it was normal for the first week of classes, so I was confused. Oh well, I decided, I’ll just grab some lunch (I had a bagel for breakfast and they are among the least filling things in the world) and go clean the car.

This went ok. I had a lackluster lunch at Subway and then attempted to clean my car. I think I need an industrial sized lint roller to get out all of the white dog fur, though, because 3 full vacuumings did basically nothing (well, it got out other dirt, but exactly zero hairs).  I also still need to wipe down the inside of the car, because by the time I finished sweeping, I was too lazy to buy Armor All packets out of the vending machine to wipe it down. They will be cheaper at a regular store anyway. And, speaking of regular stores, I discovered that I probably need new floor mats and seat covers. The velvety stuff on my seatcovers (to be fair, I bought these when I was 16) is coming off and I have apparently worn a hole in the floor mat where my foot sits while I drive. Lovely.  I might keep this car for a longish time, though, so buying new stuff should be worth it.

After cleaning the car, I finally returned to the gym. I was still about 15-20 minutes early, so I just sat in my car and browsed the internet to kill time. I really should have gone and waited at the doors apparently, though, because after I walked over there at about 12:55, I discovered there was a line to check in that stretched the whole way to the door! Luckily, these people were not runners (I assume) and I did not have to wait in line to use a treadmill. I’m guessing a large part of the line was people signing up for lockers now that they are in town.

So, why exactly was I wasting my time using a treadmill on a lovely Sunday morning/afternoon? After discovering that the gym was closed until 1, I did consider running outside, but then I remembered that my shoes were locked up inside of the gym, so that was not actually an option. Additionally, I planned on running at the gym because according to my training plan, I was supposed to run a 5K race today, but I couldn’t find any races. The next best thing I could think of was to run a race pace 5K, and I figured doing it on a treadmill would ensure I actually met that pace and didn’t just jog around enjoying the scenery.

After I FINALLY got into the gym, my plan payed off! I set the treadmill to 8 minutes per mile and figured I’d speed up near the end. This would put me on track for a 25 minute 5K, which I have been trying to achieve for quite awhile. I sort of achieved this goal at a 5K during the spring, but I wasn’t 100% sure whether that was real or a GPS inaccuracy. Today, I proved to myself that I could do it, running 3.1 miles in 24:47! Yay! I still need to do it in a race to feel official about it, but now I at least know that I can. It was especially rewarding to realize that I could do it after my crappy paces all summer.

Then, the day continued to go well! I came home and finished all of those chores, and I even found a purse. Well, I’m considering the purse a good thing for now. I’ve been looking for a small crossbody bag that I can put into my backpack as all of my other purses are GIANT totes or are backpacks themselves, but I am EXTREMELY picky. I drug my poor roomie/friend all around yesterday afternoon basically whining about how the purses at Macy’s weren’t perfect enough and I would have to go and look at them online again. Then, once I went online, I kept changing my mind. I could save a lot of money if I went with nylon, but I really prefer leather; I could get a really cute pink kate spade purse, but I really wanted brown or black (which cost more). You get the picture. I finally started browsing around on Ebay, where I rarely buy things despite my thrifty nature. Luckily, I came across a Coach purse that had no bids (I’m guessing because they mispelled Coach). If it arrives in terrible condition next week, you all can laugh at me, but I did some mini-research and it appears to be real (it at least has a realistic serial number). Even if it is fake, I’ll probably like it. I actually have a fake Coach (purchased for $5 at a yard sale) that is almost exactly like it that I really really like but almost never carry because it has this stupid cell phone thing on the outside that is the wrong shape for my phone. I really hate that it has this completely dysfunctional pocket that messes up the clean lines of the outside so I don’t carry it. Despite being fake, it is made of nice, durable, leather, so I actually really feel like it was a steal. ¬†I still haven’t found shoes yet, though, because I’m the pickiest person in the world.

Also, now that I’ve been so productive (I ran 3 miles and cleaned 2 whole things!), I’m super bored. I should enjoy it while it lasts, because once the semester starts tomorrow, I won’t be bored for 15 more weeks. Maybe I’ll agonize about finding perfect floor mats for my car.

 

Race Report: Double Creek Half Marathon

As you can see from yesterday’s post, I was able to accomplish my goal of completing a half marathon in under 2 hours, coming in with a time of 1:57:49! I celebrated with a post-race lunch of pulled pork and hard cider, and afternoon nap, and then an evening of shopping (for my husband, which I love doing because I get to pick out something other than the same old clothes for myself). Then, today I tried to keep my legs from getting stiff by doing a VERY slow 20 minute jog and taking a 4 mile ¬†bike ride with my husband – a test run of his new bike! Both of us are completely new to road bikes, so we are trying to just take it easy and get used to them.

I found him this beauty on Craigslist. Why is it that it was super easy to find a road bike for an average sized male in a mid-sized bike friendly city but hard to find one for a small woman in a small town? I can’t believe how much easier it was to find him a used bike. I literally scoured Craigslist for weeks before going to the LBS, being disappointed, and buying new for myself.

Before discussing the actual race, since this is my first half, I’d like to take a moment to discuss my preparation for it. I am very glad overall with how it worked out. The training program I used (Hal Higdon Novice 2) was feasible for me, though near the end it was really taking its toll on my poor body (I just could not eat enough). I ended up making some mistakes that led to me finishing it early, which gave me 2 extra weeks of really long runs (12 miles or more) and let me sneak in a practice half. This gave me a lot more confidence. I also made sure to pay attention to the advice to try out things I was thinking of doing for the race for several long runs, such as the use of nutrition gummies and trying out different breakfasts (settled on a cinnamon raisin bagel with neufchatel cheese). The morning of the race, I had everything laid out (I knew what I would wear based on what worked best in training), had everything ready to eat, and even had a plan on where I was going to stop and use the bathroom before we got there (I still had to pee in the gross porta-potties due to nerves, though).

Anyway, on to the race report!

As I mentioned yesterday, I’d say one of my biggest beefs with the course was that the hilliness was poorly represented by the elevation profile on MapMyRun. However, despite my protests, this aspect of the course may have actually been beneficial to me. I knew there was a hill – I just thought it was a gradual climb over a long distance rather than several steep up and downhills that slowly went up to the highest elevation (and the uphill 5K at the end I forgot about, which was more of the gradual uphill type thing I was thinking of). Because I knew there was a hill, I made sure to incorporate hills into ALL of my long runs – I was thinking this would give me an advantage because in these long runs I was running up big steep hills, which would surely be more difficult than my half marathon and make running such a “flat” course far easier! I was correct that it advantaged me, but not in the way that I thought. Instead, it only advantaged me because as other runners walked up the hills, I was able to continue (slowly – and I mean slow, at least in comparison to myself, these were 9-10 minute mile splits when my average pace was 8:50) running. Those of us who were able to actually run up the hills were definitely congratulating each other at the tops!

Anyway, I will stop dwelling on the hills so that I can complain about two other things (don’t worry, the good is coming, I just want to get the bad out of the way – let me rant, ok!?).

First, I would say that one poor aspect of their organization was that starting/ending the race was sort of poorly organized. It was completely unclear where the starting line was and I never actually heard anyone announce that we should get going (in fact, no information was being announced). I just sort of walked up to where other runners were standing and saw that there was a finish line there…but no starting line… and hoped we were in the right place. I think I could have started up farther in the group had I been sure of what was going on – the people around me were talking about how they weren’t sure they would be able to run the whole thing because they had not completed their training due to injury or simply had not trained. I may not be fast enough to be at the front, but I should have been in front of people who were less prepared than me. The finish was also a little confusing. Because of issues with road closures (the next thing I will talk about) when I was coming up to the finish, a car was squishing all of the runners together and it was difficult to finish strong with a crowd of people (though some woman I had been playing tag with was able to overtake me in this mess). The times were also being displayed right at the end of the route on a computer making a bit of a traffic jam of volunteers handing out medals and towels, finishers looking at their times, and people trying to get to the water station.

The second problem with the race was that they claimed that the roads would be closed, but I don’t think they were (or if they were supposed to be, it was poorly enforced). There was a sign near the starting area that said something like “slow down – runners on road,” but it really should have said “there are 5 simultaneous biking and running events occurring on this narrow, winding country road right now and you probably aren’t going to be able to get past the participants, spectators, and structures that are all over the road so just turn around.” Perhaps they could have used fewer words, but you can see how their message did not represent what was going on at all. Due to the simultaneous nature of the events (there was also a 5K and 3 different bike rides going on), people were running and riding in both directions, and this became quite tricky with cars trying to go down the road as well. There weren’t any cars at this point, but I’d like to see how it would have worked if runners, bikers, and a car would have encountered the one lane bridge that was part of the course at the same time. The worst thing that probably happened because of this was that as I was leaving, an oversized load that was literally hauling a small barn pulled right up to the finish line! I did not see the outcome of this, but as Kris and I walked back to the car, we saw a cop, lights flashing, driving up to the race. This was at about the 2:30 mark so I’m sure lots of people were still trying to finish the race in this mess. They did do a good job at having people to direct traffic at intersections, though, to be fair.

Now, on to the good! The course was very well marked (I was never confused about where to go) and they had a lot of volunteers and aid stations. I had trained myself to carry my own water and nutrition because the availability of it at the race seemed limited (the website implied there would be 2 water/bathroom stops and said little about nutrition) but they had water/gatorade stations about every other mile and several types of gels available at the near halfway point (it was the turnaround point for the route, about 5.5 miles in).They also had promised a brunch, and my hopes were not high for it (I was imagining some bananas, bagels, and water) but they had tons of different foods – donuts, bagels, fruit, PB&J, breakfast sandwiches, granola bars, bags of chips and pretzels, and lots of different beverages. I also got very cool stuff! The t-shirts they gave out (which I picked up at the very well organized packet pick up the night before) were not t-shirts but tech shirts! All of the finishers also got a medal and an ice cold towel (wasn’t expecting the towel, but was very thankful for it). I was very impressed with all of the amenities and swag, considering that registration for this race was only like $40 – this even must have a great group of volunteers and sponsors!

Pros:

  • Good hydration and nutrition amenities (especially post-race)
  • Fancy swag
  • Fairly cheap for a half-marathon
  • Course was very scenic (there were literally barnyard animals watching us as we ran past farms)
  • Having runners and cyclists going in both directions allowed for mutual encouragement
  • Having a computer displaying gun times near the end allowed you to see results very quickly

Cons:

  • Course was more difficult than I expected
  • Roads were a little crowded with cars, cyclists, and runners trying to share country roads
  • Road closures not handled well
  • Start/Finish of race poorly organized
  • I don’t think there were any photographers, so my only pic is Kris getting my back as I ran through the finish (could not really sit on the other side of the finish line due to amenity locations)

Overall Assessment: Would do again! I would love to go back and do this race for years to come if I am in the area – it was a really pretty course and the race was very cheap and overall a good experience. However, next year, Kris and I are thinking of doing one of the bike “tours” (they aren’t races, just scenic organized rides) together. They have three different events – 33, 48, or 62 miles, so we will have to see which one we are up to by next summer! Perhaps some day I’ll even have a chance to do the “endurance challenge” – finish the half marathon then hop on a bike to ride any of the three cycling events! If I want to start at the same time as him, though, I won’t be able to do the half. That’s ok, though – there are tons of half marathons I can run, but very few biking events I could do with my husband by my side!

Finish line photo! Coming in under 2 hours!

Me being triumphant afterwards!

Edit: My husband has informed me that there was in fact a race photographer, and actually, upon closer inspection, I can see him in my finish line photo *facepalm.* I just never heard anything about photos from the race organizers or actually saw my picture be taken, so I assumed there was not. Here’s hoping there is a good photo of me!

1:57:49

I’ll write a real race report later, but for now, this will suffice:

I will comment on one thing: notice the difference in the way that climbs are measured on RunKeeper (the app I use) and MapMyRun (the app the race organizers used to display the route):

Yeah, they don’t account for the fact that you go downhill before you go up that gigantic hill. Also, I somehow missed that the whole last 5K of the race was uphill. Ouch. Though, that was my fault and not the fault of an app. Let’s just say I’m glad I trained on all those hills!

New Bike!

I did it, guys. I bought the Specialized Vita.

I already got her a little dirty ūüė¶

I wasn’t sure if I should buy it now or wait until I’m back in Harrisburg later this week to buy it (so I wouldn’t have to drive it 600 miles), but then I realized that if I didn’t buy it here I wouldn’t get free tune ups here! So I ran in today before the store closed to buy it. Thus far, I am pretty happy with the purchase, though I feel like I still have soooo much more to learn about bikes.

My first ride was 3 miles on the bike trail that I run on near my apartment. I can’t believe I thought riding would be scary – it was super fun! I need to gain more confidence with speed (I was only going like 10mph lol), but otherwise I think it went really well. I also think I need to put my seat up about an inch, but otherwise everything felt comfy and great. It is easy to shift and the seat does not seem to hurt my butt a lot. I really really really love the grips on the handlebars as well. They are apparently special ones for women and they are the perfect size for my baby hands!

So far I haven’t really bought any accessories for it – I got the bare minimum of a bike rack, helmet and lock. The rack isn’t even here, yet – I ordered it on Amazon and it will be here tomorrow or Tuesday. Thankfully I can fit the bike in the back of my car if I must, but I can’t fit anything else in there, so I will need the rack for Wednesday’s trip, as I will be taking 6 weeks worth of luggage with me!

I’m very excited to ride it this summer as practice for commuting in the fall, and hoping that my husband and I can spend time together by riding – I tried to run with him last summer but that did NOT go well (I think we fought about it almost everyday). He really wanted me to bike with him then but I was still too scared. Now, I am looking forward to it!

Does Driving Burn Calories?

After yesterday’s post about seeing food as fuel, I am a little disappointed in my eating over the last 2 days. I had written that post ahead of time so that it would go up during the workshop I was at in Chicago yesterday, and so I had not yet experienced the last two days, where I ate like 1000 extra calories each. Ouch.

The problem on Thursday was a typical one: I always overeat when traveling because I am really worn out and frustrated from traveling and I typically do not have time to work out that day, so even though I am hungrier than I normally am, I do not have extra calories like I normally would. I should have known the whole day was going to go poorly after this¬†happened in the morning before I even left Harrisburg (it also damaged the park that I took Belle to the other day: at least 11 birds have died). It didn’t affect my drive, but perhaps I should have taken it as an omen of things to come.

I was already stressed out because I knew that I would have to drive through thunderstorms in Indiana and possibly in Ohio, and I am terrified of thunderstorms. I was also upset because I thought that my advisor was mad at me (he wasn’t, I’m just bad at reading emails). So when I stopped to get gas about 2 hours into my trip, I decided to treat myself at Starbucks and let myself get one of those new caramel ribbon frappucinos. I do not regret this decision: that thing tasted awesome and was totally appropriate for a “splurge” (it was under 300 calories, but I never really drink calories so I always get like 100 calorie drinks there so it felt quite splurgey). ¬†The problem was that I didn’t realize that ¬†I was going to be on the road not for 7-8 more hours…but 11. Yes, that is right, my 600 mile 9-10 hour trip turned into a 13 hour trip.

It all started when I was approaching the PA/WV border. I saw that my time to arrival had stopped decreasing, so I checked the traffic layer on google maps and saw that there was a wreck (I later realized that it was a rolled over Mountain Dew truck…why not ice cream!?). I had not yet hit the “red” area on the map, so I decided that I would keep going and then get off the first exit when I did to eat lunch. I should have stopped before I hit it, though: not only did it take me forever to move between exits, but there was nothing at them anyway, and there were no roads at these exits I could have used to easily circumvent the traffic. So I sat. FOR TWO HOURS. At least I got a break?

My drive across Ohio was then otherwise uneventful, and I had not been doing TOO badly with food up to this point. I was getting tired and frustrated with the length of my drive and the impending thunderstorms and it was over 80 degrees, though, so I somehow convinced myself that the most appropriate dinner would be a DQ blizzard. I thought this would be about 500 calories and would not be that bad (as long as I didn’t eat anything else). As I drove across the state, though, I did not see any Dairy Queens along the highway, and resorted to McDonald’s when I finally had to stop for gas near the OH/IN border. I decided I would not get the blizzard, because I only had a little over 2 hours left before I got home and I was heading into the thunderstorms.

Pretty much as soon as I got back on the highway, though, there was ANOTHER wreck. This time, it was apparently a camper fire. I was able to eventually get off of the highway and take some tiny road through the middle of nowhere (this reminded me of being in my small hometown: they had one cop and one traffic light and everyone including the cop was just standing outside watching in amazement as hundreds of trucks tried to go through this light). The initial stop on the highway and this detour added about an hour-hour and a half to my trip, though, and by this time I was even more tired, angry, and hungry. Then, the storms hit. They were not that bad, but it was the last thing I needed. I had finally made it back into the state of Indiana, and of course, as soon as I did that, a DQ finally appeared and I just HAD to have that blizzard now. This, I regret: it was WAY more calories than I thought it would be (like 700), it wasn’t as peanut buttery as I expected, and it made me feel sick (probably too much sugar/fat/richness in general). I’m just hoping all of my stressing during the drive burnt some calories.

Yesterday was a more predictable calorie overage: I ate reasonably throughout the day – they fed us some mini-danishes and mini-muffins for breakfast and I had about 400-500 calories worth; sandwiches with apples, chips, and a cookie for lunch; ¬†and cookies and pretzels (I had 1 more cookie and a handful of pretzels) for a snack. So far, so good: then we went to Giordano’s. Had I realized that they would give us to go boxes I might have eaten less, but I decided that I wanted to indulge because it’s not everyday that I get real Chicago pizza. I still ate a fairly reasonable amount (2 stuffed slices and 2 thin crust slices along with some salad), but added to the snacking throughout the day (I probably shouldn’t have had that second cookie), and considering the huge amount of calories their pizza apparently has, I again overate. At least this time I did not feel sick afterwards!

Today is going much better, though! I have amazing news: I finished my first double-digit mileage long run: 10.08 miles in 1:30:13!! I’m so excited! I am VERY confident that I will be able to run a whole half-marathon in under 2 hours, now that I have a few long runs at a 9 minute per mile pace – especially because most of my long runs have been hillier and I have been injured/underfed/overfed for them. Plus, today I got lost. Well, sort of. I knew vaguely where I was, but not EXACTLY where and exactly how to get from where I was to where I intended to go. I intended to start my run by running down a hill near my house and then running back “up” the hill by slowing winding through a park at the bottom of it and then re-emerging on the normal road/bike path where I run. Inside of the park, though, I apparently ran in the wrong direction, took probably the hilliest pedestrian route out of there, and came out on the wrong side of the park, where I had to run downhill and uphill again in order to get back to where I wanted to be. This meant that I spent the first 1/3 of my run doing hills and confusedly looking at my GPS trying to figure out what happened and what needed to happen. Oops.

Other good news: I finally broke down and bought one of these. I had been debating about ordering one, because they are kind of pricey and I didn’t know if they would fit my waist/fit my phone, so I had been carrying a little plastic bottle (like the kind you get in 24 packs of bottled water at the grocery store). Today, the label fell off my bottle and almost caused me to¬†inadvertently¬†litter, I dropped the cap twice trying to drink from it, and my hands went numb because I decided not to wear gloves so that I could hold it better ¬†and by holding it they were also more exposed to air than they normally would be (it was about 40-45 degrees). So when I went out to go grocery shopping, I stopped in at the running store (it is like right next door, I had no excuse not to) and actually looked at these in person. It was only like $5 more than online so I’m ok with that as it means that extra money goes to a local business and I don’t have to go through the hassle of return shipping if this thing is terrible. Hopefully I will stay well hydrated, now!