Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Does fifteen equal twenty?

Does twenty equal twenty-five? These are the questions that I am currently asking…. why? The runners from the new club that I have joined keep making these statements that they believe running a distance in Dubai heat is the same as running that distance plus an added five anywhere else.

A lot of the runners here in Dubai have said that it is difficult to complete training runs at the longer distances. That as long as you are out for three hours, then that would be same as running twenty-two or twenty-four miles. They say not to stress too much about it all – as it is physically impossible to keep up an active marathon training program in the desert…. but also that when you head back to the US or Europe and go for a run that it is a truly wonderful experience and you can run like the wind!

Running in heat and humidity is hard. I have found that you run slower and the longer you are out in the elements the harder it is on the body. So what do you think? Do you think that not hitting my mileage targets due to the environment here will hugely adversely affect my New York goals?

I don’t really know.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Tidbits from Grammie …

running star My in-laws are very supportive of my running and racing. Yesterday I received an email from my mother-in-law providing some passed on advice for the New York City Marathon. A friends’ daughter has run it a few times … anyway, here is the excerpt from the email I got from Grammie -

I volunteer with a lady whose daughter, a lawyer, has run in the NYC marathon twice. She’s not running in it this year. She passed on some tidbits of info that you may already know. Anyway for what it’s worth I am sharing the info with you.

1. Bring an old blanket and two large garbage bags. Put the garbage bags on the ground with the blanket on top. A garbage bag can be worn if it is raining while you are waiting.

2. Bring an old pair of sweats to wear while you are waiting.

3. Bring toilet paper or pocketsize Kleenex. The portable toilets often run out of toilet paper.

4. There is plenty of food, water, and Gatorade to consume. There’s plenty of time to eat because you sit there for several hours.

pee 03

5. Now for the gross info---try to run on the top level of a two level bridge. If you have to run on the lower part stay in the middle area. Mainly men tend to urinate from the top level and those on the outside of the lower level get sprayed. Ugh!

6. It is suggested that if you tend to be nervous take an Imodium tablet the morning of and after the first morning bowel movement. This prevents having a bowel movement during the course of the race as well as cramping.

7. Take Advil or any other anti-inflammatory medication halfway through the race to help with muscle pain.

8. Try consuming “GU” (I have no idea what that is) or gummy bears to chew or dissolve during the race. The gummy bears could be put in a Ziploc/sandwich bag.

9. Whoever may be meeting you at the end of race should have a backpack with pair of sweats or a change of clothes for you to put on.

10. Anyone watching the race on your behalf should have a designated spot to meet you----such as the water/Gatorade stand on the left. Lines of people tend to be 10 people deep. There are alphabet letter signs at the end of the race to help locate and meet your supporters at the end of the race. It may take over an hour to find one another.

11. You have the option of checking in your stuff at the beginning of the race; however, Tara noted that it was utter chaos with runners trying to get their belongings.

Thanks Grammie :)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Tunnels, boats, and gold souks…. a 12 mile run

eid mubarak

My second long run in Dubai coincided with Eid – the end of Ramadan and the fasting period. Traffic at 5am was busy as people flocked to the various mosques for prayer and then off to to family celebrations.

The heat and humidity was through the roof! Starting temp was 89F with 85% humidity. It rose pretty quickly to 96F during the run... with the daily high being around 106F!

This was also my second run with the Dubai Creek Striders. As usual everyone pays 10 dirham (around $2.70) for the lead runners to purchase water and disposable cups as a gas station every two miles or so. I decided to take advantage of the post-Ramadan time - during Ramadan drinking and eating in public during the day was illegal - and run with my fuel belt. This was something that I was very thankful for as the heat was intense and the extra water between the stops was much needed.

There was probably around 35 or 40 of us running through t he Dubai City streets. The run we did the Striders dubbed the “Creek Classic” – basically run to the creek, under the creek, over the creek and then back!  We had to double back a few times when we were trying to follow the creek prayerpaths due to the the mass turnout at local mosques on the water for prayer. Probably a good idea as I don't think it would have been politically correct to for a group of sweaty and scantily clad westerners to run through a throng of white dress (dishdashas) wearing men in the middle of prayers!

So, we got to the creek and negotiated a safe path to the Al Shindagha Tunnel. Thankfully it was the pedestrian underpass and not the actual  road that we used – I was getting a bit worried about the fume inhalation from running through the four lane road. Once safely on the other side of the Dubai Creek the fast runners took the path hugging the creek line while us slower runners to a half mile short cut through the Gold Souk. Cobblestone roadways smelling like incense filled with men going about their morning duties. Some of them taking time to laugh at us and take photos with their cell phones. Once through the tight walkways we met up with the other group at an abras – local passenger boats - station. After a quick water stop we piled onto four abras and headed back across the creek! It was nice to take a bit of a break!

abras 02

abras 01

12 miles is what I ran all up – I switched my garmin off about two miles out from where I had parked the car. I had to walk the final mile or two - it was just too hot, and I was spent. I am so glad I had my own water and I refilled ever few miles at our designated water stops! Towards the end I was wishing I had a camel - not a camelback - I thought a camel would do nicely to get me those miles back to my car, and would be a smart choice of animal based on location, don't you think?

dubai creek striders

Monday, September 6, 2010

Dubai Running

Well, I have completed my first outdoor run in Dubai and all I can say is "OMG!!"

We have been in Dubai for just over a week now. I have been fortunate enough to track down one of the local running clubs – the Dubai Creek Striders – and met with them for their Friday morning long run. Now, a long run on a Friday may sound pretty funny but what you need to remember is that Dubai is an Arab city and Friday is the holy day so is comparable to a Sunday. The weekends here are Friday and Saturday with the first day of the working week being Sunday. Also it is presently Ramadan – the Islamic holy month which means that the Muslims are fasting between sun-up and sun-down. It is illegal to eat or drink in public during Ramadan ... pretty much all of the cafe's, restaurants and food courts are closed during this time as well.

Anyway, I headed out with the group for a run which was meant to be somewhere between 15-18km (9-11mi). Should've been a walk in the park, right? We kicked off around 6 am and the sun was already up and the temperature was rising from 90F up and up. Coming from Texas I would've strapped on my fuel belt and just gone with the flow.... but in Dubai things are done a bit differently. For starters, no one wears a fuel belt. They stop as gas stations every 2-3km and the person who is in charge of the group goes and buys some plastic cups and large bottles of cold water along with some sports drinks if people want them.

The groups sort of broke up into a fast group, a fast slow group (9-10min/mi pace) and a slower slow group.... by pure accident I found myself with the fast slow group who for the first water stop (at 2.2mi) were with the fast group. Ooops!! Those first two miles were run at 9.30 pace for me – which for a slow long run in the heat is too fast. When I asked where the others were, I was told that someone got a bit excited and we bypassed the first water stop and had subsequently split beyond the point of no return. So, I was stuck running the next 3.4 mi with this group to the next water stop.

Around the 3.5mi mark I was regretting not bringing my fuel belt, despite the legal ramifications of drinking in public. I was parched. By the time myself and two other fellows reached it, the other 25 or so runners were taking off on the next leg. Someone stayed behind to buy us some water and one gent offered to walk back to the starting point with me. I was tempted to keep running, but being separated from the group and not knowing if the slower group was going to come past or not I did not want to tempt fate and try to navigate the roads on my own. I am not familiar with the land marks to identify the route.

So three of us ran / walked back to the car park. It worked out OK. All up I ran 6 mi with an average of 10.15 pace. The two other fellows filled me in on the local races and international races that most of the group trains for. Also information about some of the other running groups with details for where and when they meet. This group has definitely an international flavor with most being super super fast. I know I am not fast, but that doesn't bother me at all - I have my goals and training plan so I know what I should be doing. Most of these runners are seasoned marathoner and ultra runners - it was awesome chatting to them about their next race ... you know, South Africa, Europe, UK, US... I even met some fast fast runners who will be running New York!

So all I need to do now is to start building my mileage (AGAIN). It will definitely be a challenge in these conditions. Fingers crossed!!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Words for Thought

We are in the process of packing up our house in Texas ready for the big move to Dubai. As I was getting some gifts ready for one of the ladies I coach and another (who happens to be my French tutor) who I have spent a lot of time discussing training methods and race practices with I came across some running related quotes.

"We are different in essence from other men. If you want to win something, run 100 metres. If you want to experience something, run a marathon." --Emil Zatopek

"The will to win means nothing without the will to prepare" -- Juma Ikangaa, Tanzania

I gifted these lovely ladies each a copy of Born to Run. In the dedication to them I copied these words of wisdom.

Do you have any favourite running quotes?

Friday, July 9, 2010

I was lost, but now I am found…

I am glad to be back. And I have some great news to share!

First of all, I am definitely running the 2010 New York City Marathon! I am running with the NYRR’s Team for Kids. It means that I will be raising money for their great organization in exchange for my entry. My goal is to raise $2,500. If you would like to help me achieve my goal and learn more about the charity, here is the link to my donation page -

tfk_header_main_logo The next bit of exciting news is that I am now a certified RRCA running coach! Yep that’s right, I did my coaching course in June and recently passed my final test! It was a great course, and I was so lucky to not only attend but also get to participate with some great athletes and trainers! My first task as a new coach is to get me ready for the New York Marathon!


Oh, and just because I like a challenge and don’t want anything to be too easy…. my family and I will be moving to Dubai mid-August. So I will have the added burden of not only moving my house and family to another country, but also to continue with my marathon training. It will definitely be a challenge. Temperatures in Dubai can get up to 140F; yikes and I thought running in the Texan 90F heat and humidity was hard!

dubai image01  But I suppose nothing worthwhile was meant to be easy…… well, that is what I keep telling myself.

Angies Crazy Half – suck it up cupcake!

It has been a while since my last blog post. I am not sure what happened. I suppose I got busy and forgot about running for a while. Don’t get me wrong, I kept it up when I could but the passion was lost somewhere. Now that I am registered for the November 7 New York City Marathon I have found it again and am channeling it towards this event.

So where have I been and how did I get lost? I was super psyched in March to run a fast half marathon and was hoping to do that at Angies Crazy Half, but I got sick. I got pretty sick and ended up in hospital on a drip. The doctors said that it was some sort of virus and that I had it pretty bad. It resulted with me not eating for a week and trying to drink more than one bottle of Gatorade a day and keep my medicine down. After a week I was up to eating food but was pretty week and tired constantly. All up it took 6 week for me to get back to feeling normal. At this stage, even though I was eating I was still 15 pounds under my normal weight. This was two weeks before the Half!

I had a friend that I had been training up to run Angies. It was going to be her first Half Marathon. The week that I was back to feeling sort of like normal, she asked me if I could come and run her long run with her. 10 miles! I told her that as long as we took it easy and slow that I would try to get her over that hurdle, and at the same time face my demons and attempt a hurdle of my own. I had no idea if I could come back after 6 weeks of convalescence and run that far. I wanted to try, I wanted to see if I could even be up to running Angies.

We made it through the training run. Her fitness had improved and she was running a good constant pace. Although she was worried about adding an additional 3 miles to that run for the race, she was happy that her 3 months training was coming to an end and that race day was just around the corner. For me though… well I was disappointed as before I got sick I was running some good times and distances. My new goal was to run Angies, try to finish and to have fun.

Race Day – it was gearing up to be a hot and humid day. I was in the first wave to start and met up with a fellow twitter and dailymile runner (@turtlescanrun) at the start. She was aiming for a PB running sub 8’s (she is fast!). Me – well, I just wanted to finish injury free and not embarrass myself too much. I knew it would be a struggle and although I was coming into this race with no expectations other than to hope to finish, I knew in the back of my mind that was a part of me that wanted to try to run a sub 2 hour race. Silly, hey?

The first 9 miles of the race were run at a 8.40 min per mile pace. I kept looking at my garmin and calculating how many minutes under a 2 hour finish time I was at and working out how much time I had up my sleeve after I hit the wall (cause I knew I was going to hit it!) to continue and finish in around 2 hours. I said that I was silly, didn’t I? The wall came at the 9th mile. It was hard and it was big! By this stage the sun was up, the humidity and heat were up. It was disastrous. I was dead on my feet, dehydrated and exhausted!

I managed to walk run the final miles and finished in 2.06. Not my fastest half marathon, but also not my slowest. I think I was silly to race it. I knew better – I was meant to be having fun. I was coming back from being out for 6 weeks. Silly me! I suppose it is just that the official motto for the race was “suck it up cupcake!”.

Good news was that my friend who I had been training finished her first ever half marathon in 2.15! I told her that was awesome. Her family was so proud that they have framed one of her race photos and it is sitting on the fireplace at their house with the medal draped over it! Awesome!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Aramco Houston Half Marathon: “I double dare you …”

The Houston Chevron Half Marathon was on January 17, and although it came with its challenges it was totally awesome. I haven’t been able to write up a post race report until now as I just didn’t really know what to say.

55422-1756-013fOne of my kids got sick the day prior to the race and I spent the night before up taking care of him. I was exhausted to say the least when I met with some of the running club members early on the Sunday morning to catch a lift into Houston. My family weren’t going to come in to try to watch parts of the race anyway, having one sick just confirmed this for me. I was understanding, but a bit disappointed – but my husband has pointed out that my training had waned and that maybe I wasn’t that much into it anyway.

Some of the running club members were putting unrealistic expectations on me for this race. They were certain that I was going to run under two hours. My husband was right – my training had been non-existent for most of December and for the two weeks leading up to the race. There was always a chance that I could run under two, but I didn’t think so and told these people accordingly.

Lack of sleep didn’t take away from the excitement pre-race. I got to tweet up with some friends pre-race which was totally awesome. I also was able to get in a great position for the start – at the front of Wave 2. Based on how I was feeling I adjusted my race plan to go out at an 8.40 pace and try to maintain it for as long as I was physically able to. Discussions in the car on the way to the start confirmed that a 9.09 pace was all that was needed to hit the 2hr finish. Some of the other club members were aiming for that. I knew that I would tire out before the finish so I thought that if I went out strong and then just held the pace below a 9.30 I could finish with them.

55422-5739-001f 55422-5897-001f

After the gun went off, I looked down at the garmin and saw that I had run the first half mile at a 7.50 pace. Stupid! I slowed it down and kept it in the targeted area for the next 9 miles, slowing only to GU at mile 4 and 9. At mile 10 I was tired but ecstatic – I was really thinking that somehow I would be able to run 2hrs!! I slowed a bit between mile 10 and 11 and hit mile 12 at 1hr50! I knew that it would be close but I thought if I could just hold in there I might be able to finish this thing off.

All of a sudden total exhaustion overtook me along with a nauseating sensation. I felt like I was going to throw up! I stopped to catch my breath and had to steady myself as I lost my sense of balance. I was staggering on the road not unlike a drunk. The feeling passed and I started up a jog slowly. Half a mile down the track the urge to throw up almost took over my senses. I stopped again and took a few deep breaths. Slowly but steadily I started running again intent on at least finishing this race. The time was not important – I had all but forgotten about the time; I just wanted to get the race over with so I could curl up and sleep.

Fighting the surge of emotions that were bubbling over making me want to cry, I finally crossed the finish line in a time of 2hrs 04 mins. A PR by 4 minutes and the third fastest time (I think) for our running club. I didn’t make the NYCM qualifying time (by a long shot) and I didn’t break 2 hours. But, what I demonstrated was that although I wasn’t physically prepared for this race (through lack of lead up training and sleep) I was ready to give it my all and not give up. I am glad that I dared to try..

Two hours smouwers! There will be another race. And, I know with total certainty that I will do it.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

VFF Cross Country Run

I got a pair of VFF Sprints last week! After months of thinking about it I was excited to see that the running store I shop actually stocked them. After I tried them on I just knew that I needed to have them….

VFF_RUN My first run in the VFF's happened yesterday after doing a Body Pump and Yoga class . When I got home I just didn’t think about it,  just threw them on and headed out the door. Didn't plan on going more than a mile in them - I have read that you are meant to start out slow to minimize any potential injury and allow you to get used to the different running gait . I am flat footed at the best of times and found that initially I was hitting hard on the heel. I decided to head a bit off track and down an area that has yet to be developed in my area.... people normally walk their dogs down there; it is fenced off and just a grass/sand/dirt trail around some storm water ways and ponds.

Once I hit the gravel, then the dirt I thought I was in heaven! I decided to run around this whole area instead of turning around at the 0.5mi mark. At about 1.5mi I stopped the watch and checked out my prints in the soft sand... almost as though I was running barefoot - you could see the imprint of the toes mixed in with the dogs and shoes of their owners. Deep breath, choking back tears of joy I continued my run reminiscing my school cross country days. Dang - if only VFF's were around back then, I hated running in shoes but you had to on my school's cross country course. As the trail turned and pointed me back to civilization I was running alongside an area of overgrown brush - curse the military for making me run in boots and breaking my feet.

Hitting the pavement again I found that my heel strike was a lot lighter. I was running easy. Got a few funny looks and backward glances from cars and walkers. Bliss! When can I do that again?

Split pace - 9.58 / 9.47 / 9.49

black vff

Friday, January 15, 2010

What happens to a runner when a runner doesn’t run anymore?

What defines a runner? Someone once told me that003_happy_runner the difference between a runner and a jogger is a race registration form? But that can’t be right?

There are those who choose to run, run well and run far without ever seeing the need to prove their passion for running by partaking in any form of competition. For them the competitiveness comes from within and their goals and achievements are known mostly only to themselves. Then there are those who wake up one day and decide that they need to run a marathon, half marathon or 10km or 5km. They pick a race, register, maybe complete a training program, run the race and then its done. No more running.

So which is the runner and which is the jogger. Does one have more right than the other to say that they are a runner just because they have completed a race? Maybe the definition of who is a runner should come down the level of joy they get out?

I am running the Houston half marathon this weekend. I haven’t run in a few weeks due to sickness. And, I didn’t run much in December due to motivational issues. I know I won’t have a problem completing the distance, but I may have an issue making the time that I set for myself five months ago. But that shouldn’t really matter – what should matter is the feeling and expression on my face as I cross the finish line. If it is a happy one then I know that I am a runner.

Well, I hope I am anyway :)