Volunteering at Races

Tumisu / Pixabay

It’s race weekend again!  But this weekend, I’m not racing, I’m volunteering at Iron Girl Columbia.  This was my first “big” triathlon four years ago (I started triathlon with a beginner super sprint, but this was my big race.)  While I love the race, I couldn’t fit it in last year with 70.3 training, and I was really disappointed to not be out cheering.  So this year, I was determined to volunteer.  I even had it figured into my summer race plan so that I didn’t accidentally schedule something over it.

I admit, when I got the details of my volunteer gig and realized I was going to have to leave my house before 4am, I wondered exactly what I was doing.  That’s earlier than I’ve left for my last few races!  That’s earlier than I got up for my most recent race!  There was a time in my life when I was still awake at 4am.  (Now I’m often in bed before 9.)

But it’s still worth it.

Volunteers are the most important part about racing, and I say this not because I’m volunteering this weekend, but because I’ve been the beneficiary of many volunteers during my racing career.  Handing out cups of water, pointing athletes on where they should go, offering a smile or a high five, these are all so important when you’re racing, and especially when you’re struggling.  So this year, I wanted to give back and volunteer more.

Iron Girl Columbia is an especially fun race to volunteer at because of all the newbies.  There’s nothing like seeing the smile on someone’s face when they make it out of the swim or cross the finish line that they’ve worked so hard to get to.

I’ll be all over the course on Sunday, at transition doing body marking (I’m packing my headlamp), at swim finish, and probably somewhere on the run course.  My shift officially ends at 9:30, but I’m planning to stay out there through the end of the race.  So if you’re racing, look for me.

And if you haven’t ever volunteered at a race before, go do it!  It’s so worth it.

“Get To” vs “Have To”

Something I often see in the running world is people complaining about runners who say “I have to go run.”  This phrase is often uttered with a bit of exhaustion or disgust.  The common response is “No, you don’t have to run, you get to run.”  Because the ability to run is a privilege and it’s awesome and you shouldn’t complain about it.

But you know what?  Sometimes you can complain about it.  The two aren’t mutually exclusive.

First off, we all complain about things that we’re lucky to have.  There are plenty of mornings that I think “Ugh, I don’t want to get out of bed and go to work.”  I love my job and it’s awesome to be employed, but that doesn’t mean I go skipping off to the office every morning.  I also often don’t want to clean my house.  But I’m also privileged to be able to have a house.

And I think the same goes with running or any other sport you’re training for.  Some days, you just don’t want to do it.  And it’s your love of the sport that makes you do it even though you don’t want to.  If I didn’t love triathlon and want to race, there are plenty of days that I certainly wouldn’t be working out.  Sure, some days I’m looking forward to a certain workout, and many times, I’m looking forward to the endorphins and sense of satisfaction that come with completing a workout (or the food I will get to eat afterwards).  But that’s certainly not every day.  Some days, I do not want to get on the treadmill after work.  I want to sit on the couch and watch tv or read a book or go to bed early.  But I do my run anyway, and 95% of the time, I feel better for having done it.

So yes, you get to run.  But you’re allowed to not love it all the time.

 

Storing and Displaying Racing “Stuff”

I generally feel like I haven’t been racing all that long, but I ran my first half marathon in 2010 and haven’t stopped since.  So over all of those years, I’ve accumulated a lot of race medals and other related things, and I thought it might be fun to share how I store and display and encourage others to do the same.  I’m always looking for new and fun ideas.  (And yes, I know there are plenty of people who just throw their medals into boxes in the back of their closets.  Clearly, that is not me.)

Race medals as of the beginning of August.

These are my running medals.  I’m not exactly sure how many are there, but there were some years where I raced a lot.  My runDisney medals are on their own separate hanger, partly because I love them and partly because I actually have the second hanger bar hung lower because the medals are so huge.  Assuming all goes well at this year’s SpaceCoast Half Marathon and I get the fifth and final medal in the series (plus the second piece of bonus bling), I’m considering getting a separate hanger so I can display all of my awesome space shuttle medals.  I don’t often race for medals, but I definitely want those five shuttles.

Triathlon Medals as of the beginning of August

These are my triathlon medals (and one swim race medal), which hang separately.  Clearly not as numerous, but I’m pretty proud of these.

As you can tell, these all hang near windows, so they’re tough to photograph.  They’re all in the basement, which is where I also keep my treadmill and bike trainer.

Army Ten Miler coins, with plenty of space for many more years of running

The Army Ten Miler does finisher’s coins, which I absolutely love.  Clearly, I love this race, as I’ve only lived in DC since 2007, and I’ve run the race every year starting in 2008.  It’s one of my favorite races all year, and I even forced myself through it last year, two weeks after Augusta 70.3.  If someone else could run it on prosthetic legs, I could certainly run it on tired legs.

I keep all of my race bibs on a display my sister bought me.  It’s designed so you can hang them straight on the hooks, but I have so many that I ended up putting them on rings and hanging them this way.  It’s getting to be a bit much, so I may take some of them down and put them in a box for safe keeping.

Hanging above the bibs is my first marathon bib.  That one will always be special to me, so it gets its own spot.  I’m considering doing the same with my Augusta bib.

In front of my treadmill, I have these two things hanging on the wall.  The clock is actually an award from Giant Acorn, and I love that it has the wacky squirrel on it.  (Also, it tells time, which is useful.)  I also have a poster that I got after my first marathon, which is great inspiration when the training gets tough.

Finally, I have a box of stuff.  This is where I toss things that I want to save after a race.  In here, I’ve got programs from some of my first races, cool handouts, the rack labels from my Rev3 races (I’m not sure why I need to save these, I just do), stuff from virtual races, etc.  I should probably go through this and figure out what I no longer really need to keep, but it doesn’t take up much space, so for now, it’s fine.  It’s also a good place to put my bibs once I cull through the hanger.

How do you store your racing stuff?  Do you keep any of it or does it all get tossed right away?

 

Avoiding Injury While Training

RyanMcGuire / Pixabay

Injury prevention is one of the most important elements of a running or triathlon training program.  And yet, so many of us fail to do it.  I am terrible about stretching and have to force myself to do my strength training.  And you know what?  It shows.  Right now, I’m dealing with pain and tightness that could so easily have been prevented if I just did a series of stretches every day.  Good job, self.

Conveniently, I recently got an email from Cigna with some stretching tips that I’ve been using, and I decided to share the article here.  (I’m getting nothing from Cigna for sharing this, it’s just good content that I thought should be shared.)   So who is willing to commit to a stretching and strengthening routine with me?

Injury Free Training Preparation
Antonio Williams, M.S., NASM, P.E.S, Health Engagement Consultant

A mistake some runners make is not including strength training in their training program. Running without strength training could lead to injuries. You may wonder, “how can strength training prevent injuries?” Every time your foot hits the ground, it absorbs a small shock which tires your muscles as you run. Continuous running (pounding the pavement) can fatigue your muscles. As you increase your running miles, this will force your other muscles to compensate. When muscles compensate, they work harder than they should. This is when your body becomes susceptible to injury.

Running provides more muscular endurance than muscular strength. So you need strength training for your upper, as well as lower body, to prevent injury.

A lack of flexibility is the most common cause for injuries. Tight calves, hip flexors, IT bands (side of thigh), quadriceps, lats (back) and adductors (groin) all will put the runner at risk. These muscles are usually tight for people who have desk jobs or sit a lot. Athletes with tight muscles also may have slight external rotation when their foot lands during sprints. Running at top speed with a slight external rotation can cause groin strain, a pulled hip flexor and lower back pain. This is just one example of how a lack of flexibility can prevent efficient top-end speed.

A lack of flexibility may also alter proper running mechanics. Runners who can’t maintain proper running form will, ultimately, begin to slow down. This is because certain muscles are working harder than other muscles and fatigue sooner. Continued running with altered running mechanics will increase the chance of injury.

Imagine if four people are carrying a box and they each have a corner to hold. If two people decide not to carry the box, there’s more weight and pressure on the other two people. Although they are strong enough, they will soon tire out and drop the box. This same concept can happen with your body. A lack of flexibility will cause certain muscles to work harder than others. Soon your body will “drop the box” and you’ll experience muscular injuries.

Strength training two or three days a week will help your body absorb the constant pounding of the pavement. Over time, your muscles won’t tire as quickly. You’ll be able to run further, faster and for longer durations. This takes some time, so give this routine a couple of weeks to see a difference.

Stretching before and after your workouts also will help keep your body balanced. As a runner, it’s important to keep your muscles as flexible as possible. You want to prevent muscles from compensating to the point where you alter your running form. This could lead to injuries.

Calf stretch

Put both hands against a wall with arms extended. Lean with one leg bent forward and the other leg extended back. Keep your knee straight and foot positioned forward. Push rear heel to floor (toe pointed straight ahead) and move hips slightly forward. Hold stretch. Repeat with opposite leg.

Back stretch

Kneel in front of a chair or stable surface. Place one hand on the surface and slowly lower chest toward the ground. Feel the stretch in your upper shoulder area around your armpit. Do not arch your lower back, and tighten your core as you lower your chest. Repeat on opposite side.

Quad stretch

Kneel with one knee on a padded mat and your other foot positioned forward. Place back foot onto a stable surface like a bench. Slowly drive hip forward and squeeze glute on the same side as the quad being stretched. Hold stretch. Repeat with opposite side.

Groin stretch

Stand next to a stable, knee-high surface. Place your foot on the surface and slowly reach your hand toward your feet. Feel the stretch in the groin area of your leg on the surface. Keep both toes straight ahead, as feet may have a tendency to point outward. Do not shift hips toward leg on the surface. Repeat on opposite leg.

Using these stretches may help prevent injuries.

 

Wednesday Workout Recap

This cheetah doesn’t want you to know that she is totally unprepared for racing. manfredrichter / Pixabay

This weekend, I’m racing Culpeper International.  It’s local and hilly.  And I am feeling very unprepared.  At least as compared to my previous races.  I’ve really been nailing my training over the past few months, so to have such a lackluster month right before a race has me feeling a bit off kilter.

No regrets, of course – I was dealing with a small injury that led to another small injury and my quad still isn’t quite right (but it’s getting there).  And it’s not that I’m actually untrained.  Just not feeling quite as prepared as I would have liked for a race that is as challenging as this one will be.  So I’m going in without any real time goals, just to finish strong, whatever that happens to mean on the day.

On to last week’s training:

Monday: Rest Day

Tuesday: 2 mile run and Team Fight swim

Wednesday – Supposed to be an FTP test but I didn’t have the energy, so I put it off and ran Thursday’s 4 miles instead.

Thursday – FTP test time!  And when I was done, I discovered that the battery in my power meter was just low enough that it dropped out a few times during the test, so no measurable result.  Alas.

Friday – 2000 meter swim, followed by my annual physical where my doctor proudly proclaimed me healthy (and commented that she likes to see healthy people come in for checkups and why don’t more of you do this?)

Saturday – Volunteered at the Team Fight tri camp, which meant lots of swimming in some crazy water and some running of the bike/run course as I helped direct people.  Went home and finished up my 6 mile run on the treadmill.

Sunday – I was dead after Saturday, but went out to ride anyway.  Felt like I was dying the entire time, and when I finished, discovered that I was PRing segments of the course.  No wonder everything hurt!