Sunday, December 18, 2011

Trail Runner? - Thunderbird Moonlight Trail 6K

Saturday night I ran my first trail race. Yes, my first time running a trail race, at night. You were required to wear a headlight and I got a moderately priced one at WallyWorld. I headed out to St. Francisville kind of early because I was sure I'd get lost. I had not been there since I was in middle school.

The forecast showed that it was 56 degrees, but at 5 p.m., it felt much colder. I had on another hooded jacket until 10 minutes before the start. I spent most of the time chatting with other runners and stretching. By 6 p.m., it was in the high 40s and I was nervous. I had just started running again at Comite River Park, a wonderful set of trails near my home. My first run was the previous Monday and it was slow going. I actually stopped a couple of times to check the map I carried with me. I was scared I'd get lost but the routes are well marked.

That fear hit me a few times during the race. It was a bit weird when I was by myself. You couldn't see anything except the ground illuminated by your headlamp and of course, my breath. Orange flags blocked off other routes and during stretches with no flags, I got a bit nervous until I saw another.

The trail is at the back of a parish sports complex. The first quarter mile of the race was in an open field. The grass was a bit uneven. You made one big u-turn, headed around the baseball fields and into the forest. I was in the middle of the pack. At the turn around, it was cool to see about 20 headlamps bouncing your way. As we headed toward the woods, the space between the group in front of me was growing. That made me nervous, because as I said, I worried about getting lost, but I knew it would be a bad idea to push myself so early in the race. It was only 3.7 miles, but the farthest I had ran on a trail was 2.85. As with the only other trail I had ran, you quickly were on sharp, rolling hills, some extremely steep and muddy, some filled with roots.

For most of the race, I was able to stay just out of arm's length of a few people. Once people actually hit the trail, which can be a bit like an obstacle course, they slowed down a bit. By the time I even thought to check my GPS tracker, I was at 1.9 miles. My legs were burning, the nails on my left hand were filled with mud from stopping a fall. My right hand was numb with cold and dirt-stained from using small trees to pull myself up ridges. But I was halfway through and got bit of a rush. I soon caught up to a group of three. One guy let me pass and I stuck with them through a few more obstacle-like areas. I actually felt like I had caught my breath a little bit and the path was flattening out. I had to push it. I checked my phone again and I was at three miles. The push was just barely that. My legs were heavy, but I knew it was almost over.

I came out of the woods at a gravel road and saw a single headlamp off in the distance. This was the initial turn off where volunteers directed us onto the trail. The light began bouncing and I realized the volunteer was headed towards me. He let me know to take a left with the road and I'd see the finish line. At that point, I pushed as hard as I could. My legs were heavy, the cold air was burning my lungs, but I was at the end and there was no slowing down. I finished in 44:27.3.

I didn't expect to do that well. I don't know if I'll be doing another night trail race soon, but I'm definitely sticking with the trails. I have one right near my house and my half marathon training includes three mile runs that I'll do on trails twice a week. It will help me get stronger and can only help with my road races. I think I'm addicted.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

So it begins

Yesterday was the beginning of what I hope to be many more trail runs. I only ran three miles. I live near the Comite River Park trails. It's about four miles of trails but connects to Hooper Road Park, which is about six more miles.

As you will see, it was slow going, but it was a nice cool day. Trail running definitely takes more out of you, but I'm up for the challenge. I took a water bottle, but I need one with a strap. It doesn't seem like that big of a deal to hold a water bottle while running until, you're running through the woods and exhausted. One of my goals in 2012 is to run the Forge Trail Series. Yep, all four if I'm still in Louisiana. This trail running stuff has gotten in my blood.

Monday, December 12, 2011


The year is wrapping up and I'm thinking of things I need to improve. I'm starting now. No sense in waiting an extra two weeks. No, I'm not one of those people who knocks new years resolutions, but I also don't do them. I look at what I need to do and get to it. So here goes...

I'm up to 10 miles and will be moving to 12 soon, but I still don't carry anything with me. For the most part, I have relied on a route with water fountains. But I need to order some type of hydration belt or handheld water bottle. I have my SPIbelt, which comes in handy and carries way more than you'd think.

Cold Weather workouts
I just ordered some moisture wicking long sleeve shirts. FYI, go here and NOT here. It's the worse customer service I've ever experienced in life and I may never step foot in that store or go to their web site again. I'm probably lying. My issue has been layering correctly. I've been to bundled up or not covered enough, thinking I'll get warmer as I run. It's also a good idea to some dry clothes. Still trying to find that balance.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Girls on the Run Fall 2011 5K

Today has been long, exhausting and wonderful. After three wonderful months as a co-coach with Girls on the Run of Greater Baton Rouge, we had the 5K this morning and my girls rocked it!!

Thankfully my co-head coach J was thinking very proactively and bought a few sets of gloves. It was in the low 40s when we got there. I also raided my little sister's closet for jackets that were too small for her. They both came in handy. Many of the girls had forgot gloves and they were really needed. Also seeing how we're dealing with 8-11 year olds, there were a few setbacks of their own doing. One of our girls was adamant that it wasn't that cold. Despite her mother's fussing, she decided to show up with just a thin long-sleeve shirt. I had a thick cotton hoodie I found in my sister's closet.

As the girls started to arrive and we got them all settled, two of my Black Girls Run! Baton Rouge teammates showed up. We had lots of volunteers, so they mainly were there for moral support. I also laughed at how they marveled at the organized chaos that ensues while wrangling 250 8-12 year olds.

Most of our girls could not run the 3.1 miles non-stop, so we used a buddy system that had inadvertently come together during the many practices and had them set goals on how far the would run. The whole pacing thing is still a work in progress. They all finished between 38 and 40 minutes. Not bad for elementary school girls.

I have to say I'm still learning myself. Each practice started with lessons on peer pressure, boundaries and a healthy lifestyle. At 29, there sometimes are flashbacks of how sucky things can be when you're so young and trying to figure things out. You're usually bombarded with the bad stuff and have very few people to use as sounding boards to really sort through it all. These girls are amazing wonderful people and I think they will all do great things in this world. Can't wait for next semester!! Here are some photos.  
Pratima, Mia and Anna in the front and Camille in the background.

Our liaison Mrs. Brumfield

My co-coach J with Anna, Pratima and Molly.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Third time's the charm!

I finished another 10 mile run with my good buddie Erika this morning.

We made the route kind of one big loop around the LSU lakes and the Garden District and had a goal of staying between an 11 and 12 minute per mile average. There was nothing overly spectacular about this run to most runners.

Except this is the third time in about a month that I've run 10 miles non-stop. I should also note that Erika had spinal fusion surgery a year and a half ago. So while it wasn't super fast, we both have milestones of our own.

One other small thing that I have to mention from the run: there were lots of considerate dog owners. I like to call them pet parents. We only passed three, but two had very socialized dogs who stayed on the far side of their owner and didn't bother us. The other pet parent was walking and kept her dog on a very short leash, so when he become distracted by us, he couldn't get to us. Thank you good pet parents.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Goldenflier 10 miler

Nice people, flat race, horrible route! That's the verdict of the Goldenflier 10 miler. It's two loops around a set of lakes. I thought that would be ok because I had ran that route before. It wasn't. Right up until the race started, the road at the start was still open to cars. Parts of the route that went along busy streets caused dozens of people to be crowded onto a sidewalk.

I understand that police are expensive, but that's just dangerous. The second lap thinned out and the sidewalks weren't crowded, so I guess that's how they thought about it. As I started the second lap, I still felt good. It was warming up, but I was well rested and hydrated. Then began the battle between my brain and my body. I wanted to keep at my current pace, about 10:55/mile, at least for two more miles. My legs, feeling ok, were ready to throw caution to the wind and my brain wanted to take the slow and steady approach. My brain won out until mile seven, then I steadily picked up the pace every mile.

I'm sure it sounds nuts, but I tend to talk to myself while I run. Under my breath, I'm steadily reminding myself of my keep my form, even if it means slowing down. When my body wants to blow through that water station, my brain has me mumble under my breath, that I need the water and a walk through the station wouldn't hurt. When I hit the halfway mark of most races, I give myself a verbal encouragement. On the last mile, it doesn't matter if people are around or not, I'm talking to myself about pushing it in and finishing strong. Yeah, I may be crazy, but I warned you about that in the first post. I ran the 10 miles in 1:47:14, two and half minutes faster than the first 10, which was only two weeks ago. Very proud of myself.

My new friend Brandon Williams of Claim Your Journey was there to cover it. Fellow running buddy Ernise also ran the 10 miles. I finished in time to run back and catch her in the last quarter of a mile and run it in and encourage her. I always loved seeing people who could do that.

I don't think I'll do this race again. I need one with more hills. But I feel good about the time and that I've ran 10 miles twice in such a short time. Onward and upward we go!!!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Help Somebody

I recently read the race report of fellow runner Brenton Day. He ran the New York City Marathon with Team Fox which raises money for Parkinson's research. I had previously donated to my homies G.D. who raised money for Team Groundwork and Erwin who raised money with Livestrong. I sat and just watched their progress this year, as I was completely broke and couldn't donate to anyone.

Reading Brenton's run down of visiting the city and meeting other members of Team Fox saddened me because I couldn't donate. It also made me think, "you should stop doing the small stuff." By that I mean, the $30 each I sent to my friends' organizations in previous years was really nothing. I could be raising money myself. I researched things that had affected my family and came upon Alzheimer's. I've always thought of it as one of the most disgusting and evil diseases I've ever encountered.

Not only does it relegate a person to a slow death, it leaves a family of loved ones feeling helpless in trying to make things better for said person. That has been the case with my grandmother, who was diagnosed with a mild form of it three months ago. She's still mostly lucid, but for how long? She's had such an amazing life and raised wonderful children, my dad being one of them.

On top of all of that, anytime, I hear my dad or aunts and uncles organizing things, who's taking her to the doctor, etc., you hear a profound sadness in their voices. This is their mother. And there is little they can do to comfort her and at this point and time, there is nothing they can do to stop the slow deterioration she is suffering through. She wasn't the first person in my family to suffer at the hands of this disease. And I've known quite a few people whose parents have died of the disease. When I made my decision and started planning how I'd spread the word, I learned more people had been impacted by this disease.

So I'm running the Chicago Marathon in Oct. 2012. If running 26.2 miles means someone else won't have to suffer that same pain as I and my family have because of this disease, than 26.2 miles is nothing.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Thankful for the Small Things

I got a job. It's not journalism-related, but the pay is decent and I am so over sitting around this house. Well I run, but that doesn't make me any money. And I tell ya, unemployment pay is some horrible stuff. I'll still search for something journalism-related. It may not be with a newspaper. I'm looking everywhere.

This will do for now. I always like that I'll need a stricter schedule. I'll be mainly working at night, so I'll have to get up and get my runs out of the way with enough time to spare to get ready. That's fine with me. I like order.

Friday, October 28, 2011

New Long - 10 miles

I ran 10 miles in 1:49:49 this morning. That's a 10:54/miles average. I set out to try for 11:00/mile so it was nice to stay below that. I had been preparing myself this entire week because my last attempt at a long run came up short. I made sure to watch what I was eating. A few days of heavy foods quickly turns to bloating on my runs. No bueno.

Lucky me, it rained the night before, so it was damp and windy when I took off. I still hadn't purchased any proper cold weather gear, so I was kicking myself as I'd be along two lakes most of the time. I was following the route of an upcoming race. I had on a pair of dri-fit capris, a sports top, dri-fit shirt and a long-sleeve cotton shirt I got from a previous race.

Despite being cold and a little uncomfortable mainly because of my clothing, the first five mile lap went well. I stopped at my car to shed my now soaked long sleeve shirt and grab a bottle of water. Since it was the middle of the day, I didn't encounter many people, also a plus.

There was also only one small side stitch, which was my downfall, among other things, with my previous attempt. I think I was also a bit scared to try. That makes me mad at myself because finishing a long run really is exhilarating. I'm breaking through a wall. A year ago, you couldn't tell me that I would have been able to run 10 miles, but there I was.

I still need to do better on the fueling. I don't even have a water belt and haven't tried any type of gels or chews. I think I'll need to do that before I attempt to go past 10 miles.

When I got home and iced my legs, I went ahead and registered for said 10-mile race.
I did it once, I can do it again.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Planking craze

Please excuse the huge hiatus! I won't do that again. I've been slacking on my running because I've been in job search over drive. I've only been able to do one long run. The search hasn't been as successful as I would like, but I'm not stopping. I'm not just looking at newspapers. My search is pretty wide, since I can do video editing and content management as well. I haven't decided if I'll link my professional blog here.

I'm also a volunteer coach with Girls on the Run of Greater Baton Rouge. There are 12 schools and about 200 girls. I ran the 5K a year ago and the program sounded awesome. Since I'm back home, I volunteered. The season starts next month. I am a little nervous. I like running, I like the lessons I'll teach. I've never dealt with 8-10 year-olds. My mom has given me a few pointers, since she raised three girls.

Now to the actual point of this post. This planking craze, as far as fitness, is a good thing in my opinion. But the whole timing thing in one position is boring and doesn't work enough for me. So I decided to focus on doing some dynamic planks I learned from my college coach. These things work your entire core and can be a bit hard in the beginning, but you'll quickly see the benefits. Here are four of the 12.

Dynamic Planks
These work your abs, butt and back. Form is most important because that's where you're getting a lot of the workout. Fewer reps with good form is more effective than many reps with bad form. I suggest getting your form down before working on engaging your abs. Do all for non-stop, back-to-back, then take a 30-40 second rest.

1. Prone handstand leg lifts - start in upward push-up position, lift one leg a few inches. Don't stick your butt in the air. Try to stay at a 45 degree angle. Make sure not to shift your weight to the opposite leg and arm. Start with three leg lifts on each side, focusing on form. When you're feeling less burn, increase the number.

2. Side elbow stand (leg lifts) - start in a side plank position. You should be at 45 degrees again. Don't let your hips sag. Hold in this position on each side for about 15 seconds. When you feel good, start holding longer in maybe 5 second increments. To make it even harder, try some leg lifts in that position.

3. Supine handstand leg lift - this is the reverse of the prone leg lift. Again, try not to let your butt sag. It takes some getting used to. Start with three and increase when you get your form right and feel less burn.

4. Supine shoulder bridge hip arch - lay in back with feet bent, shoulder length apart. Lift pelvis slowly. Hold at the top for two counts, then lower slowly. Start with five reps. To make it harder, you can hold at the top for longer. I am up to five seconds and you really work your butt on this one.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Hello all! I'm V, and I'm a runner. For some reason I decided to start this on my birthday. No, I'm not telling you how old I am. Let's get down to business. I've been running for about Aug. 2010. I got into it reluctantly, but now I'm addicted.

I've done a couple dozen 5ks, about five 10ks and I'm currently training for my first half marathon in March 2012.

For almost six months, I watched as about a dozen friends posted their daily runs as part of a list serv of runners. They constantly cheered for and encouraged each other, but I wanted no parts of running.I was working a hectic job and was only a couple of years removed from a college career as a long and triple jumper. No thank you.

Curiosity eventually got the best of me and I decided to just lace up my shoes and head out one day. It was a horrible one mile run and I was done for three months. The second time out was a little better. I actually had a plan. That mile and half was just as rough, but I liked the feeling of my lungs burning and breaking a sweat after almost three years of no real workout. Sounds crazy? Don't worry, most runners are and you'll read way more crazy if you decide to come back to this blog.

A couple things about me. I'm a journalist who was recently laid off. It hasn't been fun, but I'm dealing with it. I've been blessed with a very supportive family. Despite our many differences and quarrels, they are always there for me. I know there are literally millions of people who's parents can't or won't help them since they've been unemployed.

Enough of the sappy stuff. I'll stick to running.