Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 By the Numbers

I'm a data geek as you might already know. So, on the last day of the year, I sat down to figure out what the numbers say about how much work I put in this year:
  • I worked out 228 of 365 days, which means I worked out about 62% of the time. 
  • I worked out an average of 19 days a month.
  • I covered 968.42 miles (at least those recorded by Garmin) in 2010.
  • 838.68 of those miles were running!
The days worked out was a little lower than 2009...I worked out 10 more times then than I did this year. I'm chalking part of that up to the taper and recovery period after the marathon (and just a touch of laziness as winter hit).
I also took a look at the goals I set last year to see which ones I actually achieved:

  1. Join a volleyball league (already started on this one: first game is 1/4!) Check, although I eventually decided the league wasn't my cup of tea and only played one season.
  2. Run a half marathon Check!
  3. Run a full marathon Check!
  4. Drink at least 64 oz of water a day (and no coffee until I have had at least 16 oz of H2O) Mostly failure. I didn't drink nearly as much water as I should have and definitely got the coffee in no mater what!
  5. Get back in the habit of making a healthy lunch at home instead of going out I did pretty well on this. The best months for this are in the fall/winter when I can make a giant batch of soup that lasts all week.
  6. Eat MORE veggies at every meal (I struggle with this in the winter...) I did great on this. Again, as the fresh summer vegetables give way to the puny looking ones shipped in from whoknowswhere, I struggle.
  7. Reach my goal weight (11.4 lbs to go as of yesterday) Not so much. My weight is pretty much exactly the same as last year. Marathon training didn't make for great weight loss. I made the choice to feed my body what it needed rather than deprive to get the last few pounds off. Now that I'm training again, I'm working to keep my calories in check and eat healthy calories.
  8. Maintain my goal weight when I get there (that's a whole other journey) While I'm not at my goal, I've definitely maintained give a pound or two fluctuation throughout the year. And, because I've really upped my strength training, I feel stronger and more toned than ever.
  9. Get professionally fitted for running shoes Check, best decision ever made!
  10. Support B. on his own journey to health Working on being a support and not a nag. Everyone has their own journey and their own story of how they got there...and it usually doesn't start with, "My girlfriend forced me to go to the gym..."
I haven't quite figured out what my goals are this coming year. I know I have a marathon lined up in April and possibly in October. I'll let you know what my running and health related goals are as soon as I get them narrowed down. 

Happy and Healthy New Year, Everyone! 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Fool Me Twice...

I've gone from "never" to "maybe...eventually" to "yes, definitely"...I went ahead and signed up for the Go! St. Louis marathon this week. I wanted to do one in Lawrence, KS, but even though the registration cost was higher for St. Louis, I figured it would all even out when you took into consideration the cost of travel, lodging, etc. What I didn't think through too thoroughly was the time...Right after I signed up, I tweeted that training started in January. Not quite, math whiz. Training for an 18 week program would have started last week. As it is, I'm planning for the average 16 week plan and starting next week. Next WEEK!

On one hand, I'll be very glad to have a regimen to follow again. I've been a terrible slacker in the running department since the last marathon. Seriously, my longest run has been a little over 10 miles...once. Usually they top out around 8. Part of that, though, has been the ridiculous cold (combined with my simultaneous distaste for the treadmill). Starting next week, there can be no more excuses, and more than likely, there will be many a run on a cold, dark winter's morning/evening that has to take place at the good old gym on the treadmill. Gotta to stop whining and do it. Hopefully, being on the treadmill will make me more likely to sprinkle in all the speed and tempo work I should be doing.

Another goal for this training cycle: not to slack off on the strength training. When I do it regularly I experience far less joint pain b/c the muscles in those areas are offering more support. That, and who doesn't want to be ripped just a little. I also have a month of unlimited classes (via LivingSocial coupons) for the boxing gym that I need to use at some point...Should I try to mix that in for cross training sessions? Will I still be able to get my money's worth?? Decisions, decisions.

So here I go again...Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. I know what I'm signing up for this time...I just hope I can find the same level of motivation I had last summer. I'll have some blog fodder at the very least!
What's your favorite marathon training plan? 
I'm looking for alternatives to the Hal Higdon one I used last time.

Monday, November 22, 2010


Today's my 32nd birthday. I'd be upset about getting "old," but I'm happier and in better shape now than I ever was in my 20s. Seriously!

I got in a couple of really good runs (one of which was finally back in double digits), so there wasn't really anything else I could ask of my birthday weekend. I got one more thing though, the sweetest, most creative, thoughtful gift possible:

B. gifted me with a permanent reminder of my marathon day! He couldn't have picked better pictures...those were the ones I wanted from the marathon photo company but was too cheap to buy. I was very impressed by his crafty abilities. The surprising part was I didn't realize my medal was missing in the days leading up to getting this!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Love at First Run

This weekend, I finally got my act together and went shopping for some new running shoes. The sales girl had told me in July that while my shoes could probably make it through the marathon, I should definitely replace them afterwards. Well, time went by, my mileage was less, my pocketbook was a little light, and I kept on running in my beat-up Asics. I could feel the lack of cushioning on every run, even the short ones. They'd had a good life. It was time to let them go.

I'd originally intended to shop all three of the local running stores and see what shoes each one recommended. That turned out to be too ambitious for someone with limited free time. So, of course, I went to my tried and true Fleet Feet. They hadn't steered me wrong yet. I told them that while the Asics Kayano 16 had been good shoes, I would be open to other brands/styles as well. The Asics had been good shoes. They helped rid me of the aches and pains in the foot that my old shoes had caused. But, on long runs, they started to feel like running with concrete blocks tied to my feet. Would it be possible to have supportive but lightweight shoes?

It was! The shoe fitter brought out a new pair of Asics and a pair of Brooks Trance 9's. I took the Brooks on a test run, then I tested one foot with Brooks and the other in Asics. The difference was immediately obvious. I had to have the Brooks. They felt light; I could barely even feel them, especially when compared with the weight of the Asics on my other foot. My mind was made up. I'm usually nervous to try new shoes (they are awfully expensive to chance not like them), but Fleet Feet will exchange them for quite awhile if they aren't working for you. In addition, I discovered that Brooks uses recycled materials to make their shoes. The average sole of a running shoe will take 1,000 years to degrade in a landfill. The Brooks soles will take 20. Big difference. Yes, I asked, and no, the shoe won't break down more quickly because of it. It was nice to be able to make a green choice and still get a product I wanted anyway.

Check 'em out!

 I was super excited that they were a lovely grey and light blue...Yes, function is important, but I care about how they look, too! I was never too keen on the white/pink combo of the Asics.

Sunday afternoon, I got the chance to take the newbies on a their inaugural run. It was a short 5 miles, as my allergies were getting the best of me. I'll need to take them on some long runs before I can be sure of my feelings, but currently I'm completely infatuated with them! They've go just enough cushioning, they look great, they feel barely there. My feet were happy (and no blisters!).

One other note...I wish I could have gotten a picture for you but didn't think of it before I left the store. I hadn't looked at the bottom off my old shoes in ages. When the shoe fitter looked at them for wear patterns, he was psyched, and at first I didn't understand why. Apparently, the fact that my shoes were VERY worn made for easily detected wear patterns, and my pattern was text book perfect. The sole and tread were worn in all the right places and almost new in the places that shouldn't be hitting the ground. Good to know my stability shoes are doing their job (and maybe my running efficiency is improving). The shoe fitter asked if he could show them around and take pictures of them to use for training. HA!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Finding Balance

I haven't officially worked out in 4 days. 4 days! In the months leading up to the marathon, that was unheard of. But, Thursday I had the opportunity to be part of a panel on women, blogging, and happiness at a local university. It was right after work, and when I got home, B. and I decided to go out to dinner. So no workout. Friday is my traditional "rest day," so, of course, no workout. Saturday I slept late but woke up with every intention of going for a run. Then, over breakfast, B. and I concocted a plan to go to the Apple Butter Festival in Kimswick, MO. By the time we got home, I needed to get started on a freelancing project with a fast approaching deadline. Yep, you guessed it, no workout (unless you want to count strolling around the festival--which I don't). And, then Sunday...I slept late again and woke up feeling crappy. I finished the freelance project and then fell into my bed to watch some Tivo from last week. Then, some festive baking (rice krispy treats, pumpkin bread, and mulled wine, anyone?). But zero working out.

 And, guess what? I don't care. That's right, you heard me. I won't pretend I didn't feel a little guilty on Saturday and Sunday or secretly worry that I was sliding down some slippery slope into lethargy. I did. Then I go thinking...I'm healthy (per my 6 mo check up last week), I'm fit (I just ran a freakin' marathon), and those things won't be undone by a 4-day break. In fact, after work tonight, I'll be out pounding the pavement, trying to beat sundown. Sometimes an extended rest is healthy. There were so many times that I drug myself out to work out this summer when I didn't feel well. While that work ethic was a good thing, it's also healthy to take a little time for yourself. There have been many, many Saturdays the past few months when I was completely consumed with the long run and then my other responsibilities. It was SO nice to not worry about eating spicy food on Friday night, sleep late on Saturday, and then spend time with B. and do some activities that don't center around sweating.

So, in many ways, I'm practicing finding my way back to the center of things again: Cutting back on the calories (hey, if you aren't going to run 35 miles a week, you also don't get to feed your face like you are), remembering what it feels like to get a "regular" amount of exercise, figuring out how to fit in adequate exercise and the activities that make the weekend fun. When not in training for an official race, I have to remember that this is my life--I eat well (and by "well" I mean a combination of mostly healthy choices and the occasional indulgence), I move most days, and sometimes, I need to kick back with a glass of wine and catch up on Project Runway!

How do you define balance?

Monday, October 18, 2010

My Relationship with Running: The DTR

In case you've never heard the acronym, the DTR is the "Define the Relationship" talk. You know, the awkward one that must be had at some point in most romantic relationships. "Am I your girlfriend?" "Are you still seeing other people?!" You get the picture. Running and I have been going steady for over a year and a half...No, that sounds too prim...Running and I are all wrapped up in each other in a nauseating Twilight-ish kind of way. If I had a notebook, I'd write our names together in a heart. We've shared some ecstatic highs and wallowed in a few down and dirty lows. But, after the marathon, I felt like running and I needed to have the next level DTR--"Where is this going?"

 I've heard people say you have one of two marathon experiences. Either you say, "that was great, and now I don't ever need to do that again" or "That was great--when can I do that again?". In that moment, when every step jarred up my body through my aching feet, I thought I was in the former group. In fact, as B. and I staggered back to the hotel (ok, I was doing most of the staggering), I said, "Oh god, don't ever make me do that again--ever!"

I felt like I'd learned many things about myself that day on the race course, not least among them, that perhaps I was less of a marathoner than a half-marathoner. I resigned myself to capping my races at 13.1. That's still  a challenge after all. It would make me no less hard core. In fact, I could focus on getting faster...get below 2 hours.

In fact, during training I'd had thoughts even more adulterous, usually while those double-digit runs were languishing on. While I adored running, while running would always be very important to me, I really missed life before the relationship was so intense, I thought. I missed regular flings with the bike, the elliptical, yoga, strength training. I mean, I barely even got to see them socially anymore. Gosh, running was really cramping my style! I imagined conversations that went something like "It's you, not me." But, alas, plans had already been made, the money already spent, the announcements made. I had to stick it out.

Then, a day or two after the race, as the aches and pains wore off, the itch returned. Maybe since this marathon experience hadn't been all I'd hoped, maybe just maybe I needed to give it another try. Then this month's Runner's World showed up with an article about how everyone hates those last 6.2 miles and how to get through them. That got me thinking maybe it wasn't my own ineptitude that made the last bit of my marathon experience suck--maybe I was normal. Maybe I was meant to be a marathoner.

So, I've become that girl--the one who waffles back and forth over her relationship. ''He's a lot of fun, but he's so high-maintenance." "Well, I don't know if he's the ONE, but he's sooo great!" It's not fair to running. I really need to figure out what I want out of this relationship. So, here goes...

You know I adore you. Really I do. And, I know we'll be together forever. But, I also think that sometimes we spend too much time together, so perhaps we need to work on cultivating our individual interests. I need to be able to spend some time with my bike, in yoga classes, and most definitely with my weights. I'm just friends with them...I don't love them like I do you. What you don't get is those things will totally strengthen our relationship!  In return for your patience, I promise you 3 days a week, and I promise to make those 3 days really count. I'll let you show me this "speed work" thing b/c I know I'll enjoy you that much more if I'm not so freakin' slow. And, I'm not placing limitations on the lengths we can go together. 5ks, 10ks, half-marathons...Is another full marathon in our future? Maybe. You never know. We make a pretty awesome team!
Cherry Blossoms

So yeah, this is my plan going forward:
1. Cut down to 3 days a week running (1 speed work, 1 tempo, and 1 long run)
2. Get back into strength training (I completely stopped toward the end of marathon training b/c I was so exhausted).
3. Finish getting to my healthiest weight. I gained about 5 pounds during training,  only a couple of which I can claim to be "muscle".

Once I feel like I have a handle on those goals, I'll figure out what's next as far as races go.

Anyone have experience with or know good resources for figuring out the whole speed work thing?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I'm a Marathoner!

Where to start? It was a whirlwind weekend full of emotion...I guess I'll start at the beginning.

Friday, we arrived in Chicago around 2:30 and took the train to our hotel. I'd reserved a room at the Hard Rock Hotel through the marathon website back in February. On a whim, I printed the confirmation email before we left, just in case. Good thing. The girl at the desk first couldn't find us in the computer; then she found us but had us down for checking in on Saturday. I whipped out my handy confirmation email and showed her what was up. We got our room.

After we checked in, we walked to the expo to pick up my packet. In retrospect, I should have done a lot less walking this weekend prior to the race. But, I  couldn't stay in that tiny room bored all weekend. The lines were nonexistent, and I had my packet and goody bag in no time. We walked around and collected freebies and tried some of the free samples. I also found my name on the Nike Wall (okay, B. found it):

 While we were waiting for the bus back from the expo, I heard someone make the comment about the high temp for Sunday being in the high 80s. Last I'd heard, it was going to be in the 70s, which was going to be hard enough. I'm just not a good runner in very warm weather...I tried not to think about it too hard and just hydrate.

Skip ahead to Sunday. I actually slept pretty well the night before, but of course, I shot out of bed when my alarm went off. The night before, I'd bought a mini wheats individual serving at the Walgreens next door and crammed the milk for it into the mini bar. I was dressed and had a full tummy by like 5:45.

When I walked out the front door, there were hoards of runners streaming toward Grant Park. Since there was plenty of time, I stopped off at Starbucks for a coffee. I kind of wished I'd gotten iced coffee because it was warm and a little muggy already. Once at the park, I stretched a little and used the portapotty (my favorite). I stood around in the start corral chatting with other runners. It was surprising how many people around me were doing their first race as well. The gun went off at 7:30, and around 8:02, I finally stepped across the start line. As soon as I started, I realized all the hydrating meant it was already time for a bathroom break. Can I wait...another few hours? Probably not. Stopping was definitely not part of the plan, but I stopped at mile 3 and wasted 5 or 6 minutes in line for a portapotty. The first few miles up to Lincoln Park went well. It was getting hot, but at least there was a breeze and quite a bit of shade.

 I got a great boost around mile 9 when I saw B. and one of his college friends on my way out of Lincoln Park on the way back to the city. I was surprised to see them b/c I'd told B. not to worry about trying to find me on the course. I figured that with all the spectators I wouldn't even see him. But, there he was filming me on his new Flip and waving. Gave me a little rush of energy!

Even though it was rapidly getting hotter, I was staying hydrated and made it to mile 10 in under 2 hours, which was on pace for me. Then thing started going down hill. By the time I made it to the half marathon point, we were leaving the downtown area, where there was lots of shade b/c of the buildings, to areas farther south where it was all concrete and blazing sun. By the time I hit the aid stations around mile 16, the event alert level had been raised to high. The announcer at that station was telling people to slow their pace and advising "novice runners" to consider dropping out of the race due to the conditions. My first thought was "Crap, I'm a novice runner, I think" followed by "There's no way in hell I'm quitting unless they physically drag me off the course." I kept going. The next few miles were increasingly harder, and I found myself doing a combination of running and fast walking. I passed a bank sign that showed the temperature as 96. 96! How late in the fall does one need to schedule a race in the Midwest to avoid the heat?!

I was running through Chinatown when I saw B. for the second time. He asked how I was doing. I answered that honestly I was doing pretty terrible, that my time goal was shot to hell but I was going to finish. I was doing a combination of walking and running when around mile 22 my left quad started cramping. I'm not sure why--I felt like I was staying hydrated--but I've never had a cramp there before. Given the choice of running dragging that leg behind me and walking stiffly, I chose walking stiffly. Up until this point, I'd done pretty well controlling my emotions, but now, the prospect of walking 4.2 miles in pain was too much. I was walking as fast as my leg would allow trying not to ugly cry. Happily, I held it down to a few quickly swiped away tear drops. I took solace in the fact that I was far from the only one having a hard time. I saw people from the seeded corrals walking hours off their expected finish times, runners sitting on the curb, and others heading to the medical tents to throw in the towel. At least I was still moving.

After a couple of miles, I started walk/running again. There was no way I'd be finishing in even the high end of my time range goal. Then I saw the mile 25 sign. Screw it, I thought, I'm going to finish running hard. Then, I saw the 1 mile left sign, followed by 800, 400, and 200 meters. I flew up the last hill and turned down the straightaway to the finish. I ran across the finish line triumphantly. I'd just done something that a year and a half ago, I'd never even dreamed of.

I collected my finisher's medal and made my way to the reunion area to find B. When he hugged m and told me how proud he was, I immediately burst into tears. No one tells you how emotional marathons are. I felt like I'd put every bit of myself into the endeavor, and I felt drained! On one hand, I was fiercely disappointed in my performance. Even though all the training plans said that first time marathoners shouldn't go into it with time goals, I'd trained super hard and just knew I could do it within this range I had in my head. Not achieving my goal time, even in the face of brutal weather conditions coupled with the fact that I'd had to walk some made me feel like I'd failed (at least partially). On the other hand, I knew I'd just completed a quest that I've been preparing for and thinking about for many many months. I'd finished what I started even in less than ideal circumstances. Yes, my time was about 10-12 minutes slower than the slowest time I'd hoped to have, but I'd given it my all. At no time did I walk when I could have been running. Given the circumstances, I did the very best I could do, and for that I'm unbelievably proud of myself.

I have to say--I'm incredibly grateful for the support I had from B. throughout training and during the race (He's 1 in a million)! You guys too--thanks for reading my journey and giving me advice and support. There will be another post soon with more about my feelings about the accomplishment of  marathon running and where I'm going from here (as soon as I wrap my own head around it).

Friday, October 8, 2010

Final Countdown!

I woke up to this in my Google Reader this morning:

I've watched that countdown go from 200 days (no kidding) to just 2. Insanely excited would be an understatement! Our flight leaves in just a couple of hours. And, in a little over 48 hours, hopefully I'll be able to call myself a marathoner (you can do that after just one race, right??).

Best of luck to everyone else running this weekend!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Come With Me!

Well, come with me sort of...You can experience the marathon with me without actually running 26.2 miles or standing outside along the race route with a gazillion other spectators. Track my progress from the comfort of your own home via text messages. You'll get a message when I hit the 10k, half marathon, and 30k marks, as well as the finish line. All you have to do is sign up here. You can find me by bib number: 10458. Select me from the search results and then enter your cell number (Disclaimer: I'm sure all the usual text message charges apply).

Friday, October 1, 2010

9 Days & Counting

Next week at this time, I'll be packing my bags and heading to the airport for the (very short) flight to Chicago. This marathon is really happening! Be prepared for more posts similar to this in the coming 9 days. Because, I really can't believe it. I think I'm ready, though. And, running is at least 10% mental, right?

Tapering has been interesting. Good part: More time in my day to spend on things besides running. Hard part: Having to stop after only 3 or 4 miles once I'm out there. Surprisingly hard to do. Next week when I have scheduled a 3, 2, and 2 will be interesting for sure.

As far as race plans go, I have my outfits picked out...yes, outfits plural. I'm not sure how cold it's going to be, so I'm going to bring a few different tops (jacket, long sleeves, short sleeves, tank, throw-away shirt) to choose from that morning. I've got plenty of Hammer Gels. I've got a hand-held bottle that doesn't leak. I've made plans to pick up my Trader Joe's Greek yogurt (the true breakfast of champions) when we get into town. What else could a girl need?
Any tips/tricks/good to knows from you seasoned marathoners??

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Basic Rules of the Road

Since sunrise has been getting later and later in the morning, I've found myself running around 7:00 a.m., instead of the 5:30 a.m. of the summer months. And, I've come to the conclusion that early morning drivers are far more considerate of objects (especially humans) in the crosswalk than drivers later in the morning. Take this morning for example, when I was almost hit twice in the same intersection when the little crosswalk man symbol was blazing plain as day.

Offender #1: High school girl. I agree that the ability to turn right at a red light is awesome. I take advantage whenever possible. However, you don't get to turn right on red when there's a runner stepping into the crosswalk. I hope my mad face and "Watch it!" woke you up for the rest of your drive to school.

Offender #2: Mom in too-large SUV with kids in the car (!!!). Yes, green still means go. But, you need to realize that the crosswalk signal is also telling pedestrians moving in the same direction as traffic to go. So, if you're turning right, you gotta hold your horses for five seconds and let me get across before lurching into the intersection. Good driving lessons you're teaching those kids by the way.

It infuriates me when a run turns into a game of Frogger. And, it's not like I'm running blindly into traffic. I wait patiently on the curb to cross when I have the signal. During that time, you'd think they had noticed me standing there, sipping my water, waiting to go. Are we really in that much of a hurry? Is squeezing through the intersection in front of a runner or biker really going to get you to work or school that much more quickly? The correct answer here is "No."

I've definitely become more conscientious of my driving around bicycles and pedestrians of all types since I started running. I give them a wide berth, pause to let them cross in front of me, because I know they appreciate it! Especially when 90% of other drivers really and truly either don't notice them or don't care about their safety...that was a totally scientific percentage made up off the top of my head by the way...

Stay safe out there!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

It's Official

My official bib number for the Chicago Marathon arrived in the mail yesterday afternoon. I'll be runner 10458. My new luck number! It all seems so much more a reality than it did even a few weeks ago. I'm officially into the first week of taper (not so different from a step back week), so all I can do is hope I'm ready. It makes me nervous just thinking about it. If I feel this excited and scared now, I can only imagine what race morning will feel like!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Yep, I'm Still Alive...

Thought I'd check in so you all didn't think Saturday's 20 miler had been the death of me. Just a few thoughts for you on this Wednesday:

1. I made it through 20 miles, no problem. It wasn't quite as transcendent an experience as the previous week's 18, but I did it, in a decent time, with no injuries. Can't ask for more than that. Why did I do 20 when I was only scheduled for 19? I know at least 10% of running is mental. And, for me, knowing that my longest pre-marathon run was scheduled to be 20, left me wondering how I'd feel about knowing there's 6.2 left when I hit that point on race day. For me, knowing there's 5 or even 4 miles left will seem more doable. See, it's all mental. So, next weekend when I'm supposed to do 20, I'm going to aim for 21-22. Just to make myself feel better. Of course, I'll listen to my body and stop sooner if things feel out of whack.

2. I had a small epiphany around mile 18 on Saturday. My feet hurt, my knees felt like they didn't want to bend any more, my legs felt heavy. The light bulb moment? What no one bothers to tell you (or me, anyway) is that marathon training isn't just about training to be able to cover the distance. It's about learning to deal with discomfort (not "ouch, something's not okay" pain, just the normal "I'm sick of running" fatigue and soreness) and to keep moving.

3. Cooler temps = faster legs? My splits have gone back to normal in the past couple of weeks, even a little faster some days. So, it's either the cooler weather, or my fitness level has made another (unexpected) jump up. Either way, I'll take it! Anyone else in the Midwest loving the advent of fall?

4. B. and I, in a moment of rare spontaneity, booked a couple of last minute tickets and spent Labor Day weekend in Chicago to hang out with one of his college BFFs. It was a whirlwind weekend of fun, friends, and food. It was exactly what I needed to recharge. Plus, in a flash of brilliance, when I signed up for PTO from work on Friday, I also signed up for Tuesday off. So, instead of getting back to the grind yesterday like the rest of the world, I took one more leisurely day to get things back in order around here. Amazing.

5. The day we returned from Chicago, I read a disturbing news story about 5 separate attacks on students at the university near our house. A couple were robbed, and a couple were robbed and sexually assaulted. The attacks had taken place mostly between midnight and 2 a.m., but I often start my long runs just a few hours later while it's still twilight. Luckily, the police caught the guy yesterday. Still, it was a sobering reminder to be vigilant.  I'm pretty paranoid about stuff like that, so I'm hyper-aware of my surroundings. I hope to project a "way more trouble than she's worth" vibe to anyone with bad intentions. B. tried to get me to buy pepper spray. To me, that seems like more trouble than the good it might do. What, would I run with it in my hand? I already carry a hand-held water bottle. If I kept in a belt, that would be ridiculous: "Hold on, sir, while I access my pepper spray...okay, you can resume your attack; I'm ready."  What do you all do? How do you plan for your safety while out on the road?

Have a wonderful short work week!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Own-ly Me

One of my new favorite bloggers Rachel Wilkerson recently posted one of her rules for life: Thou shalt own it. It’s worth your time to click over and read. If you’re short on time, basically, her post was about deciding to start owning her decisions and stop letting other people second-guess her or express unsolicited disapproval. She said, “If you’re sick of feeling guilty and ready to own it, remember this: tell people what you want, what you’re doing, what you need. Don’t ask for permission or advice.” And, then she invited the rest of us to join her in declaring what we’re “sorry, I’m not sorry” for. This really really resonated with me. And, lots of other bloggers, check it out here and here and here. Here are a few things I OWN:

  •  I like to run. I haven’t always, but I do now. You might even call it a passion. I don’t care if you think it’s crazy to pay money to run (race registration) or get up while it’s still dark out on a Saturday morning to run. I don’t need to hear about it. You don’t have to understand it or want to join me. Sorry I’m not sorry. 
  • In fact, I don’t really like running with other people. I know I’m “supposed” to join a running club or make running dates with other like-minded runner girls. I see them all in twos during the week and in packs on the weekends. Not me. Running is my time to think and not about keeping up or slowing down or making conversation. Just call me the Lone Runner. I own it.
  • While getting healthy and then starting long-distance training, I’ve cut WAY back on my alcohol intake. It really affects my ability to run well. One glass of wine on occasion, and I’m good. But, you wouldn’t believe how much crap I get from people when we go out. Peer pressure much? It’s like others believe they can’t have fun if I don’t have a drink in my hand, too. I can enjoy my time out with or without a buzz. Consider it owned.
  • I like nice things--clothes, house wares, food, vacations. I’m (very) financially responsible, but I’d rather save up for top-of-the-line or my dream item than settle for whatever’s on sale. I’d rather go out to eat only occasionally and go somewhere fabulous than eat at chains with a coupon. I’d rather go on one vacation where I stay at the Four Seasons than five where I stay at Super 8. Call me a “consumer.” Call me shallow. It’s my money, and I spend it how I want. Sorry I’m not sorry
  • I don’t do anything, just because that’s what “people do.” I know, I know. I’m in my 30s. I’m supposed to fall in line and put a ring on it and get busy having babies. In fact, depending on who you ask, I’m way behind schedule. Well, I absolutely own my life choices thus far. B. and I are 100% committed, with or without the state’s stamp of approval, and I like that my “kids” can be left at home with food and a litter box while I go out for the day.  I make choices when it’s what I want, when I want to do it, not because if fits everyone else’s conception what I should be doing. This applies to all areas of my life. Sorry, I’m not even a little sorry.

So, that’s what I own. What about you??

Monday, August 30, 2010

Force of Will

I ran 18 miles on Saturday (18.18, if you want to get technical), and it was unbelievable. I won't bore you all with yet another blow-by-blow run report, but let me just say it was a one in a million run. There was no walking, my legs felt a-mazing, my splits were back to normal, and I wasn't even tired until the last mile. And, I went out just hoping not to end up with a bloody knee again!

While I was running, I had plenty of time to think...back to about a year and a half ago when I first started running, how difficult even short treks were then, and how much endurance I've built.  If anything, the experience of running and training for long distance races has taught me about the power of, well, willpower. I've come to believe that (barring devastating disability or disease...and sometimes even then) you can train your mind and body to do almost anything with enough determination and patience. Most of the non-runners who find out about my marathon goal will say something to the effect of "there's no way I could do that." And, I tell them, sure you could, if you really wanted to. Most people don't really want to run a marathon (which is totally fine and understandable--do whatever activity floats your boat). But the point is, you have far more potential than you give yourself credit for. Trust me, the former non-runner who will rock her first marathon in 5 weeks.

Like I've said before, achieving your goal takes determination and sacrifice. Nothing worth having is free, right? But, for every ounce of effort and sacrifice I've put into my goal, I've gotten back more in the form of confidence in what I'm capable of. The following apply specifically to things I've learned while getting healthy and then in training, but I've found I now believe them to be true in other parts of my life, too:

  • I'm not so stuck in my ways that I can't make drastic positive changes in the way I live.
  • I'm much stronger than I think I am.
  • I can keep going even when my mind says I want to quit or not start at all.
  • I'm no longer intimidated by the enormity of my end goal--all I have to do is what's required right now, this minute.
  • If I genuinely want something, I'll do whatever it takes to get there.
I won't get into cheerleader mode on you, but I think those 5 bullets apply to pretty much everyone. There's nothing you can't accomplish, health and fitness related goals or otherwise, if you decide that's want you want for your life. Give yourself the chance to surprise yourself--b/c I guarantee you, you will!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Back on Track

Soooo last week didn't go exactly as prescribed by my training plan. My motivation seemed to have floated out a window somewhere. I did my Tuesday morning 5 miles, but then on Wednesday morning, I was too tired to get up and decided to go with B. to get in 8 while he went biking on Grant's Trail. I failed to remember that there are no water stops there and that in general running after a full day of work just isn't my cup of tea anymore.  I did 6 in the time it usually takes me to do 8. Not good. I made up for this on Thursday by doing 7 instead of 5. So, one way or another my midweek mileage was done.

I knew going into the weekend that getting in a long run, especially 18 was going to be difficult. B.'s brother was getting married on Saturday night. I'd already decided that I'd have to split up the run at the very least...I wanted to wear my favorite cute heels (that get far too little wear in these days of sore, tired feet), and I didn't want to be falling asleep in my wedding cake. So, the plan was 8 miles on Friday morning and 10 on Saturday morning. Friday didn't happen. Strike one. On Saturday morning, at 4:30 a.m. it was pouring. I reset my alarm. At 6:00, still pouring. I gave up at that point and went to sleep.

There was still time for redemption, I told myself. I could get up on Sunday morning before the scheduled wedding brunch and get in a minimum of 10. Not so much. My stomach is no longer used to consuming wine, red meat, and frosting all in the same night. I spent most of that night rolled in a little ball holding my tummy. After the brunch, I ran errands with B. and basically decided to consider the weekend a wash in both food and exercise and start fresh on Monday.

It's SO easy to get off track. It's like no matter how much exercise I do (and how much I love doing it most of the time) or how good I make myself eat, my "default" is lazy and fat. After a week of bad eating, it's like starting all over again to remind myself that no, in fact, we don't eat ice cream every day and that french fries are not our friends.

Exercise is easier for me to get back on a roll with. The weather is much cooler this week, so after work yesterday, instead of taking a full rest day, I went for an easy 12 mile bike ride out at Grant's Trail. It felt great! And, this morning, I put in 5 and tried to push myself a little bit faster than usual. There's something about watching the sun rise on a 65 degree morning that makes my whole day. I love rolling into work at 7:30 knowing I've done more already than most people do all day!

To make up for last week's lack of mileage, I'm doing 18 this weekend instead of taking the step-back to 13. That will mean doing 18 and 19 on back-to-back weeks, but I think I'm up for it. As far as food goes, all I can do is start fresh today and make good decisions one meal/snack at a time.

6 weeks to go!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Ruminations on "17"

The week leading up to my planned 17 mile run was a rough one. My banged up knees were recovering from their trip from the bike to the pavement last Sunday. They were definitely in working order, just a little sore, but I took it easy on them just in case. Then there was the heat warning that stretched from Monday-Friday where heat indexes were in the 110's and above. Because of this, I made the decision to hold my long run until Sunday morning as the temps were supposed to be about 10 degrees cooler.

It was not. At 5:00 a.m. on Sunday, it felt like 87 degrees according to my weather app. It was still very dark, and I anticipated that I'd get about 5 miles in before sunrise, which would be a good thing. And, I was off...

Mile 1: I see a bunny rabbit crossing a major the cross walk. Street-smart urban wildlife!

Mile 2: Stomach issue rears its ugly head, and I plan to stop off at the nearest Starbucks to use their restroom. I discover that Starbucks isn't open at 5:00 on Sunday.

Mile 2-5: Stomach settles down. Decide to wait until I reach the park at mile 5 to take my first nutrition gel just in case.

Mile 5-8: It's nice to see human beings again now that I'm on the park path. About a mile of the park path has been bulldozed out to be replaced. I, following one of those fellow human beings, ignore the detour sign and end up doing a little cross country running in the grass along side the muddy remains of the path. Note to self, follow signs, not people.

Miles 8-10: At a bathroom stop, as I'm pulling up my CW-X stability tights, I realize the seam in the inner thigh has begun to disintegrate and there's a  hole. The same thing is happening on the other side, too. Good thing I paid extra for high quality gear. I begin composing my letter to the manufacturer.

Mile 10-13: I'm daydreaming about when I'll be done and at home stretching...My shoes feel literally water logged. Not kidding, I hear sloshing...I'm sweating that much. I don't let that stop me from stopping at McDonalds for a Powerade to refill my water bottle. I hand the cashier my $2 from my Spibelt. It's also water logged. She looks at me like I'm the nastiest person alive. Guess I should have put it in the plastic bag with my phone.

Mile 13-15: I'm celebrating having only a couple of miles to go and only one more big hill. I'm trying to hold my arms away from my body b/c the Body Glide has worn off and I'm chaffing big time. I mentally note that the sidewalks are in terrible shape and I need to watch it so I don't fall. Seconds later I bite it big time. Face plant into the sidewalk. I leave the better part of the skin on the heel of my right hand on the concrete and tear a hole in the knee of the aforementioned tights. I sit on the sidewalk momentarily, teary eyed, half hoping no one saw my clumsiness, half hoping someone will come out of their house and give me a band aid. No one does.

Mile 15-16: I limp along, bleeding profusely from the hand, calling B's cell phone repeatedly (he promised to leave his ringer on in case I needed something, but he's not answering). I realize the iPhone touch screen doesn't work touched with wet fingers. B. finally answers. Turns out his ringer was on but the volume was down. I tell him where I am and keep walking in the direction of home. He meets me at exactly 16 miles. Yes, I'm counting that last mile even though I walked it.

  1. Choosing not to be disappointed by being a mile short. I said when I started that I was doing a hybrid of the novice 1 and novice 2 training plans. Plan 1 said 15, Plan 2 said 17. I was in between.
  2. Before my own feet got in the way, things were going pretty good. While being tired may have played some role in the fall, I won't allow that to make me think I can't do this!

Goal for next weekend's workout?
  1. No bleeding!
  2. Get into a good head space despite a couple of difficult experiences.
Questions I need to answer:
  1. What's the etiquette for entering businesses or making purchases while sweating like a pig?
  2. Can I still try to get my tights replaced for the defective inner thigh seams now that the knee is shot?
Here's to a better week this week!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Oooooh We're Half Way There

Nothing like a little old-school Bon Jovi shout out on a Monday morning! This is start of week 10 of training for the Chicago Marathon. 9 weeks down, 9 weeks to go--half way there! Last week was a "step back" week and looked a little like this:

Week 9
Monday - rest
Tuesday - 3.5 miles (aforementioned toe issue was bothering me so I stopped early)
Wednesday - Sick
Thursday - 4 miles
Friday - Rest
Saturday - 11 miles
Sunday - bike ride (cut short by a crash)

It was weird that 11 miles, once a big deal, felt like a short run. I returned home with all kinds of energy and proceeded to do some work after cleaning up as opposed to falling back into bed immediately. I'm psyching myself up for the next two weeks of mileage push 17 and 18 mile runs. I'm feeling confident!

All of that was momentarily called into question yesterday. I took my bike out to Grant's Trail for a little cross-training bike ride. It'd been almost two weeks since I'd had the opportunity to take Ruby out, so I was excited for a nice relaxing ride. I was enjoying the hot breeze in my face and the general lack of traffic on the trail when a kid, probably 10 years old, came riding towards me. Moments before he reached me, it seemed as though he decided to turn back in the other direction without looking to see if anyone was coming. He started to turn directly into my path. I yelled, braked, and swerved to no avail. Just off the trail on my side was a gravel parking lot with concrete parking stops. The combination of hitting one of those with my tire and the kid slamming into the side of me sent me off the bike and onto my right knee and wrist in the gravel. The kid and his bike landed on my other leg that was still straddling the bike. The kid was terrified but okay. His knee was scraped but otherwise he seemed okay. Although no parents were anywhere in sight and he wasn't wearing a helmet. Seriously, parents, manage your children. I asked him three times if he was sure he was okay before he sped off. My knee, on the other hand, was scraped and bleeding all over the place. Some nice people I'd passed earlier caught up with me and stopped to make sure I was okay. I was shaken and dripping blood but the scrape wasn't deep. And, my bike appeared to be in working order. So, I rinsed off the blood using my water bottle and headed back for my car. I could already tell my knee was swelling, so I decided to call it a day.

I showed up at home bawling, not so much because I was in pain but because I was afraid 9 weeks of training could be screwed up by one bike ride. Fortunately, I don't think that's the case. This morning, my knee is a little sore and swollen. The thing that hurts worst is my lower back...I feel a little like I've been in a minor car accident, scraped and sore in weird places but otherwise okay. I think I'm still going to do some light strength training this afternoon and my runs for the week as planned unless some new pain develops. Having a bike crash has been my biggest fear (right after accidentally catching a bug in the, seriously I think about things like that). It sucked, but it could have been much worse. So, next Sunday, I'll suck it up and get back on the proverbial bike.

Happy Running!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Small Victories, Blisters, and Pestilence

Better late than never, a report on Friday's run...Friday's 15 mile training run was AWESOME! No, I'm not being sarcastic. It seems my feelings of death during the 14 miler the previous week were due to the intense heat, not my inability to run. I left extra early on Friday morning with the expectation of getting in about 5 miles before the sun rose. The weather was uncharacteristically cool and even the humidity was bearable. My legs felt unbelievably fresh and light. The best part was that the when sunrise rolled around, it turned out to be an overcast, gray day. No direct sunlight! There was a soft breeze, and at certain points in the run, it sprinkled a little. And, 10 miles into a 15 mile run, a little rain is a welcome treat. I wasn't breaking any land speed records for sure. I took it slow and stopped to fill my hand-held water bottle at every fountain I encountered. Between mile 10 and mile 14, there aren't any fountains, so I stopped at Starbucks, dripping with sweat in line with people in suits, to buy some bottled water. Girl's gotta do what she's gotta do! Somewhere around mile 12, I became conscious that the seam of my sock was rubbing against toenail of my second toe. I crossed my fingers that I wasn't getting a massive blister and kept going...I finished strong. Tired, but so happy that I didn't feel horrible like I had the week before.

When I got around to checking out my feet, there were blisters in other places, but no rubbed spots around the cuticle of my second toe. It was tender, so I wondered if I'd managed to bruise it somehow. I didn't really think any more about it until Saturday evening when I took my shoes in the hotel room. My toe was throbbing under the nail. I grabbed some nail clippers to see if maybe the pain was from the nail poking the skin or something. On closer inspection, there was a huge blister under my nail. Just regular, not blood blister. I drained it, but my toe was still really tender. The only way I can really describe it would be a strange pressure under the nail near my cuticle. I ended up wearing flip flops for the rest of the trip. It was a great trip by the way...Here's a picture of me with my mom and sisters when we arrived at our hotel:

This morning was my first attempt at running since the problem started. The toe wasn't bothering me when I got up, so I decided to go ahead and run without figuring out how to wrap it with gauze and athletic tape. OUCH! Running up or down hill was extremely uncomfortable. I will definitely put some padding between me and my shoe for the next run. Hopefully this clears up quickly (and my toenail stays ON)!

Another experience from this morning...I had a flashback to the scariest summer of my life. I was around 5th or 6th grade age when one summer the area I lived in experienced a visit from the 7 year cicadas (ugly flying bugs the size of golf balls). They were gross on their own, swarming all over bushes and trees, but they joined forces with some other variety of cicada (13 year maybe?). I lived in terror for the few weeks that they were around. I specifically remember going to the local library and my mom having to force me from  the car because the bushes near the door were covered in the little beasts. A few weeks later, they were nothing but a bunch of shells stuck on trees and bushes. What does that have to do with this morning? While the experience of my childhood was a plague of biblical proportions, I believe they're baaaaaack. I encountered 7 on my run this morning. Seven! They would be sitting on the sidewalk looking like dead leaves until my feet got near them at which time they'd dive bomb my head. So, there were also 7 flailing dances and screams like a little girl on my part. I went so far as to make a detour to the other side of the road to avoid a particularly large one after it didn't seem phased by the stream from my water bottle. At least it was early...I think only a couple of people saw my performance. Nature...gotta love it.

Anyway, this week is a step back week in my training plan. Mid week runs are the same length, but my long run is a mere 11 miles on Saturday. Ah, relaxation!
Any readers have tips or tricks to avoid blisters and toenail trauma? Please share!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Giveaway Winner and Mental Preperation

First things first: The winner of the Gaiam Yoga Therapy Balls is:

Comment #3 from Jules! I've sent a note to the email address you provided. Just reply with your mailing address and your yoga massage kit will be on its way! Thanks for playing!

So, as I mention on Monday, this week's training schedule was moved up a day since I'm going on a girls' weekend road trip with my mom and sisters on Saturday when I'd normally do my long run. I'm off work tomorrow, so 15 it is. Today, I'm hydrating and mentally preparing. I'm also thinking of trying to leave the house by 5:00 instead of 5:30. That way I'd be around 5 or 6 miles in before the sun is even fully up. With any luck, I'll be showered and back to sleep by 8:30. My legs and hip have felt great this week, so I'm hopeful that tomorrow's run will restore my faith in my marathon-ing potential!

Week 8 Marathon Training
Monday - 4 miles (10:51 pace)
Tuesday - 7 miles (11:14 pace)
Wednesday - 4 miles (11:21 pace)...Is it me or am I getting slower as this thing goes on? Didn't think that was possible. Then again, the heat and humidity have been insane.
Thursday - Rest
Friday - 15 miles (scheduled)
Saturday & Sunday - walking doing touristy stuff/shopping and maybe a trip to the hotel fitness center.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Surviving 14...Barely

Saturday was scheduled to be my first "really long" run. I'd never run 14 miles before--the half marathon in May was my previous farthest run ever. So, in that way I was kind of excited to break new ground. I did everything I could think of to prepare. I ate a little extra at breakfast. I packed extra Hammer gels, cash in case I needed to call a cab, (kidding...mostly), and iPod in my Spibelt belt (first time using that piece of gear on a run). On the other hand, I was less than thrilled about the conditions I'd be facing. StL was under a "heat warning" last week, and the expected heat index for Saturday was around 111F. I was out the door by 5:30 a.m. to beat the heat. I'd have been out even earlier, but the sunrise wasn't until 5:50-something as it was and I'm not super comfortable running alone in the dark.

And, let me tell you, it was HOTTTT! Yes, before the sun had even risen, it was 86 degrees with 70%+ humidity. But, I was practicing positive self-talk, "You can totally do this--You're so much stronger than you think!" The first 5 miles were actually pretty good. Yes, it was steamy, but my legs felt good, I was staying hydrated, and the thought that I was about 1/3 done didn't phase me. I was super annoyed that my belt, though it did not bounce, would not stay down on my hips no matter how snugly I fastened it...

Then, I think I made a poor decision from a mental perspective. At Forest Park, instead of running clockwise around the park as I usually do, I decided to go counter-clockwise. Doesn't sound like a big deal. In fact, it actually gets the hills out of the way sooner. But, it also put me on the less shady side of the park when the sun was well up and blazing. Not to mention there are multiple water fountains in the park that are barely working (water dribbling out in a way that can't fill a water bottle) or not working at all. By the time I made it back to my starting point in the park about 11 miles into my run, I was feeling it, and not in a good way! Note to self: don't try new things on long runs. Stick with the familiar.

I took my last gel, chugged some water, and set off for home. The way home is uphill. Since I took up running, I've discovered my neighborhood is in some kind of hole. The route I chose was fairly shaded, but I couldn't get over my exhaustion. I took several walk breaks on those last 3 miles. What really killed me was the couple of blocks where I was directly in the sun. I had on sunscreen, but it seriously felt like my skin was going to go up in flames. When my Garmin finally beeped for that 14th mile, I stumbled to a walk and hightailed it for the house.

Once inside, I felt like I was going to pass out. Everything was fuzzy around the edges, and throwing up wasn't out of the question. This was followed by chills. Not good. I splashed water on my face, grabbed some Gatorade and an oatmeal cookie and laid on the floor for awhile before I stretched out. Within an hour, I felt okay again. But, wow!

The difficulty of that run really shook my confidence. Not in that I don't think my body can handle the mileage. I feel like 14 wouldn't have been such a big deal if the conditions had been better. But, I'm concerned because temperatures aren't going to get any better until late September at least. Can I still get my long runs in with such heat? I can leave early, but let's be honest...I'm a SLOOOOOOW runner. 15+ miles is just going to take me awhile. So, inevitably the sun will be well up and hot before I'm finished. I don't want to feel like that every weekend. I thought I was going to black out (and/or sit on the curb and cry for awhile). And, without a gym (still renovating from fire/flood), I don't have a treadmill option readily available. It's outside or nowhere. My next long run is Friday (moving up all my runs by a day this week b/c I'm going out of town this weekend), and just being honest, I'm scared! And, dare I say it, what if it's freakishly hot the day of the marathon...a random blazing hot day has been known to happen in October in the Midwest.

I'm looking for a way to get back into a positive mental state. But, not by being blindly optimistic. I need a plan. Ideas? Have you felt like giving up during training? How'd you overcome it?

**Don't forget...You still have until midnight Wednesday to enter my giveaway (click here to enter). There are currently 0 entries, so your chance of winning is pretty darn good.**

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Gaiam Yoga Therapy Balls Product Review & Give Away

As I mentioned a few days ago, CSN Stores gave me the opportunity to choose a product from one of their 200+ online stores to review on my blog. It was a tough decision, but here's what I finally settled on after more than an hour of virtual shopping:
I picked the Gaiam Yoga Therapy Balls with instructional dvd. Now, I'm not a huge fan of yoga with lots of props. Yoga wasn't even the main reason I decided on this product. I don't know about you, but the increase in duration and frequency of runs in marathon training has made me sore in places I didn't know existed. The soles of my feet are sore! Even if you don't run, I bet you've experienced tightness between the shoulder blades from sitting at a computer all day, sore forearms from too much typing, or discomfort in your lower back from those beautiful but uncomfortable shoes. I'm pretty much always up for a massage, how about you?

I have a lovely foam roller, but I'd heard great things about ball therapy. And, what better time to try it out than when it's free! I ordered my yoga balls last Wednesday and they arrived today. About the same as Amazon if you don't have Prime. The box arrived on my lunch break, and I had to wait the rest of the day to rip into it! It had been a long day, and I was looking forward to a little relaxation. So, I broke out my new yoga mat and got ready to chill.

I was a little concerned about the dvd...I've tried Gaiam yoga dvds before with out much success, and one of the main instructors Rodney Yee was the host for this video. The instructional video is short (25 minutes total, including Yee's introduction). He instructs the helper yogi how to strategically place the balls to release certain trigger points. Those poses are great...I especially liked the one where you lie face down with the medium-sized ball between your hip bones and the two small balls under either side of your collar bone. Wow...with all the tension I'm holding in my lower abs, you'd think they'd look a little tighter! The part of the dvd that I wasn't impressed by were the random yoga poses interspersed between the trigger point bits. They seemed unnecessary, but Gaiam is known for yoga and it was called "yoga therapy" so it was to be expected. I just skipped the poses I didn't feel like doing and went back to my massage!

The balls themselves were great. I was a little unsure when I unpacked them because they seemed pretty light. I was afraid I'd flatten them if I laid down on them. But, they were very sturdy with just enough give to be comfortable to roll around on. For some poses like the neck and lower back, the two small balls are placed in a sleeve to keep them together. The bag that came in the box was fine, but the plastic fastener on the bag doesn't work too well (or I'm using it wrong...). I think I'd prefer a drawstring. I ended up putting them in a knee sock and tying a knot at the end...I'm nothing if not ingenuitive!

In the end, I was pleased with ball therapy, not so much with the dvd. I want something more geared toward running aches and pains. So, did a little googling and came up with the following links. They mostly refer to using a tennis ball, but these would be a nice substitution as they're smoother and a little firmer.
  • This one isn't entirely running focused, but the forearm stretch felt too good not to share.
  • These two articles show how to use balls to massage the lower and upper body. 
I'll be on the look out for more to share with you.

Okay, now on to the good part--Of course, I couldn't do all this shopping for myself without passing on the love. 1 lucky reader is going to get his/her very own set of Gaiam yoga therapy balls. WooHoo--let the relaxation begin! Here's the deal:
  • The giveaway is open to U.S. and Canadian readers only. Sorry...shipping is expensive.
  • Entries will be accepted until Wednesday, July 28th at midnight (central time)
  • You can earn entries 3 ways (leave a separate comment for each):
    • Become a follower of the blog (or already are) and tell me about it via comment.
    • Spread the word on your Twitter, Facebook, or blog and let me know.
    • Share your favorite way to loosen up at the end of a long day or workout.
  • I'll randomly select 1 winner from those entries.
     Good luck!

    Fine print for "the man": The product I reviewed and am giving away were freebies, but my opinions (as always) are purely my own.

    Thursday, July 15, 2010

    As If You Needed Another Reason to Get Healthy

    Just a quick note:

    When I got to work and checked the news, I saw this  CNN article. Take a second to read it. If you're a woman, this is just one more reason that being healthy is about more than six-pack abs or fitting into a particular size. We all know that being a healthy weight improves our physical quality of life, but it might just improve your cognitive function, too!

    If you haven't already today, get out and get moving for a few minutes. Your brain will thank you!

    Tuesday, July 13, 2010

    Blisters Be Gone and a Sneak Peak

    On my last couple of long runs, I've come home with a wicked blood blister on my left foot where my big toe meets my foot. I was unsure why as I have quality synthetic socks and slather on Body Glide like it's ridiculous. Maybe it was my shoes. I bought them at the end of January, and according to my Garmin data, I've run about 375 miles on them. That was the low-end of the mileage cap, but I thought it worth checking out.

    So, when I got off work yesterday, I headed out to Fleet Feet in Chesterfield, where I bought the shoes in the first place, fully prepared to shell out for a new pair of shoes. The team member who looked over my shoes and insoles told me they are wearing evenly and still have plenty of miles in them. Nice! $150+ saved. She shared that since the humidity had increased (seriously, it's like swimming through the air here), she'd also been experiencing more blisters. It made sense...gross but I've been soaked through with sweat after runs lately, and I can only assume my feet are more sweaty too. I got another style of sock that fits more snugly on the foot to reduce friction even more. I also got a pack of Liquicell blister bands. They're just like the blister band-aids you may have seen, but the middle of the strip is filled with liquid that provides great protection (used them on this morning's run and it worked!). So, hopefully, my blister will soon be a thing of the past.

    Since it wasn't busy, I also asked about my lower calf pain. She gave me a compression sleeve to try wearing during and/or after runs when it's acting up. I didn't wear it running this morning, but I put it on afterward and it really relieved the discomfort. She also spent time talking about marathon training and offering some suggestions for exercises to strengthen the inner thigh (for muscle balance), nutrition, and stretches to do on the foam roller. As someone who constantly bitches about poor customer service, I also have to give props when props are deserved. I found it  refreshing that 1.) she was interested in what I really needed, not on making the big sale, and 2.) that she spent time offering extra advice and encouragement.

    In other news...I was recently contacted by CSN Stores about doing a product review / giveaway of one of the gazillions of items available on their online stores (there are over 200)! You can seriously find just about anything you could possibly want. I found stuff I wanted in pretty much every category...from fitness equipment to pet accessories  to housewares...and even a bathroom sink. No, seriously, they sell those too.

    I haven't quite decided which product I'll choose, but here are a few of the items I'm contemplating...

    Stay tuned! And, if you can't wait until then, check out the CSN Stores and do some shopping of your own!

    Thursday, July 8, 2010

    Know When to Say When

    I skipped my first training run this morning, and if you couldn't tell by my need to blog about it, I'm feeling a little guilty.

    You see, I've been following my Novice 2 training plan religiously. No wait, that's not even true. I've patently ignored at least one of the rest days on a regular basis. Monday is supposed to be for resting and a little stretching, but I always do strength training and perhaps a little biking. I usually do better w/ Friday rest day (Friday's are for napping after work), except for this past Friday when I did a 17 mile bike ride when I had a long run the next day.

    Being more active than prescribed seems like a good thing to me. There was a time in my life when I was a slug. Getting moving on a regular basis was a huge chore that I had to talk myself into every single time. That's changed drastically. Bodies in motion tend to stay in motion, and all that...When I run in the morning, I won't pretend I jump out of bed dying to get out there. But, by the end of the day, even on days I've already run, I tend to get a little antsy and feel like doing something to move the body, even if it's just taking a few laps around my local Target buying beauty products I don't need. Usually it's some ab or arm work. Or going biking when B. does. And then I wonder where the aches and pains have come from.

    Extra strength training (especially when legs are involved) or too much hard biking leads to undue soreness. For instance, this past Monday since I was off work, I did a 50 minute strength circuit and then for an hour long bike ride. When Tuesday's short run rolled around, I was sore. When Wednesday's long-ish run came along, I was SUPER sore. My lower calf on my right leg was tender again, my hamstrings were tight, and I had a rubbed spot on my left heel (from cute but horribly uncomfortable shoes I wore to dinner over the holiday weekend).

    So, this morning, I made an executive decision. I would skip my 3 mile run this morning and let my legs recover before this Saturday's 12 mile. If I do anything today, it will only be some ab work. Maybe not even that. I might rest entirely for the next 2 days.

    While I haven't followed the plan exactly, I've certainly never skipped a run. And, while I feel a little guilty, like somehow missing one workout means I'm a lazy slob, I think taking an extra rest (or a make-up rest day) is the best decision in my situation. I keep reminding myself that missing one short run isn't going to derail my marathon aspirations. It's only one workout. I'll be back out there at sunrise Saturday doing my thing.

    Sometimes, you have to know when to say when and live to run another day (injury free).

    Saturday, July 3, 2010

    A Reminder

    This morning on my Week 4 (!) long run, I got a little reminder about why I'm really doing this, why I really run. It's not just to make my legs look great in shorts again. It's not just about looking a certain way. My run took me through Forest Park, and at one of the water fountains, I ran into a couple in their 70s out for their training run. They were both wearing tech shirts from marathons in the last two years.

    THAT'S why I run. I want to be fit, active, and healthy for a lifetime.
    Not for one race, one event, or one swimsuit season. For life!

    I really admired them for being out there doing their thing. That's the kind of life I hope for myself and my future family.

    This theme came into play yesterday before I'd even seen these inspirational folks. I was off work yesterday and B. finished early, so in the interest of spending time together while being active, B. and I loaded our bikes onto the back of his car and went out to the Katy Trail. I'd never been and wanted to scope it out as a possible location for some of my upcoming truly long runs. The trail is mostly packed gravel, but my hybrid held up pretty well. We usually don't ride together. He's faster than me, so I usually tell him to go do his thing and I take my time doing mine. But, yesterday he asked if I wanted to stick together. It was really nice to ride along side each other and chat. We ended up doing about 17 miles, which was way more than I expected. And, we both made it up the HILL. The trail runs along side a river, and the parking lot is up on top of a cliff (for lack of a better term). There was a twisty-turny paved road that led from the parking lot to the trail. We made bets about whether or not either of us would be able to make it to the top on the way back. We both powered it out and were jelly-legged but proud of ourselves.

    I started this morning's run concerned that my legs would be sore or tired from our adventure yesterday evening. Not so much. My lower calves were a little tight, but other than that I felt strong. My goal for this run was to try to hold a semi-steady pace. I have a tendency to start out too fast and slow down the longer the run goes on. Today I was able to stay within 30 seconds of pace. I just can't help picking up speed on downhills...

    So, three more glorious no-work days! Have a happy and safe Fourth!

    Chicago Marathon Training Week 4
    Monday - Rest
    Tuesday - 3.02 mile run (10:17 pace)
    Wednesday - 6.00 mile run (10:45 pace)
    Thursday - 3.00 mile run (9:20 pace)
    Friday - 17 mile bike (11.5 mph)
    Saturday - 11.02 mile run (10:49 pace)
    Sunday - Probably a bike ride and some yoga.

    Wednesday, June 30, 2010

    And We Have a Winner

    My quest for the perfect pair of running shorts has come to a close. I finally found a pair that weren't too long, or too short, or too likely to ride up. As Goldilocks would say, "They're just right!"

    After the raw-thigh disaster that was the Nike Tempo shorts, I tried a couple of different pairs of spandex. I had a pair of off-brand cotton-y spandex that I used for volleyball...I should have known anything cotton is a bad idea. Then I tried a pair of Under Armour spandex (I think they had a 5 inch inseam). They did okay but didn't have enough staying power to keep from working their way shorter as I ran. Doable, but there had to be something better out there.
    When I found a good deal on Amazon for a pair of CW-X Pro Fit shorts, I knew I had to try them. I've spoken at length of my love for their 3/4 length stability tights. And, after this morning's run, I can safely add the shorts to my love list.

    They have the same great core support as the tights, and the webbing on the sides provides nice pressure on my hip joints. The product specs said they have a 6 inch inseam, but looking at the actual product and trying it on, I'd say it's 3 inches at most, which is fine b/c I'm not a huge fan of long shorts. However, if you have any shame left (mine has left me), you might want to go for the allegedly 10 inch ones.

    The best part? I was on a sweaty 6 miler, and those suckers didn't budge once. Now, I know what you're thinking..."Yes, but did your legs look like sausages b/c the leg openings were so tight?" Not at all. In fact, when I first put them on, I was concerned that the snug but un-sausage-like fit meant they were going to be all over the place. No problems at all during the run. The band at the leg openings is thin and sleek but stayed put. Unlike my bike shorts, which in addition to making me look like I'm wearing an adult undergarment, have thick bands that are possibly the most unflattering thing in the world. I will say that later when I was sitting on the floor stretching out, the elastic on the leg openings did flip up then. But, I can deal with that. If I wouldn't feel guilty about overspending on my hobbies, I'd buy three more pairs.

    With July and August and ever increasing long runs approaching, I'm excited to be able to do it and stay cool at the same time!

    Sunday, June 27, 2010

    3 Down 15 to Go

    Another solid week of training! I've been able to wake up early on days I run for the past three weeks. This is a major accomplishment for me. In the past, I've never sustained early rising for exercise for more than a couple of weeks. Then again, I've never tried to run this often in this kind of heat (105 heat index several days last week!).

    Biking is also going great. My gel padded bike shorts were a godsend! The bruising is...still there but less noticeable. And, it's unbelievable how much it loosens all the muscles that running makes tight. My left hip has been an issue since I first started running. The more weight I've lost, the better it's gotten. But, after a long run, or several days in a row running, it still gets very tender. The foam roller helps, but the bike is like a miracle. When I went out biking this morning, it was pretty sore. 50 minutes later, it felt like new.

    So, if you recall, a few posts ago, I was contemplating how to eat to fuel my high level of activity. I've been trying to eat healthy and spread the calories around throughout the day. When I started this, I was 8 pounds away from my goal weight (as I have been for like 3 months). According to my calorie calculator, I'm supposed to stick to 1,200 a day. Some days this works. On days I do a long run or if I do a run and strength training or an extra bike ride, it's just not enough. I get light-headed and tired. I won't pretend all my eating choices have been perfect since then (hello, frozen custard last night), but I'm up 2 more pounds. It's super disappointing to step on the scale and see that. I feel like I'm looking more toned and muscular, but the numbers don't lie (and I don't want to make excuses b/c that's what got me where I was before). I'm constantly starving lately and craving bread and trail mix...Any other long distance runners have advice on handling the ravenous appetite that comes with it? I just want to reach my goal already!!!

    I'm taking a couple of days off this week going into the holiday weekend--And, oh do I need it! Lots of physical, mental, and emotional stress lately. If I don't check in before, Happy Fourth!

    Monday, June 21, 2010


    If you recall, a few months ago when I was doing the volleyball thing, I was astounded that, although I thought myself in good shape, the quick pace of play during our first couple of games left me huffing and puffing. And, I was sore in places I thought were strong...

    Fast forward to yesterday on my first real bike ride since I was a teenager sans driver's license. Five minutes in, I was breathing like I'd been doing sprints! What the heck?--I had wheels. I thought this was going to be easier than running. But, I was really feeling it and in a different way than when I'm out running. Completely different places on my legs were burning.

    I rode around my low-traffic subdivision for a few laps to get the hang of things before taking the "secret passage" from this neighborhood into a local park. I rode around there until I felt brave (I needed to practice turning right without swinging out wide. Left turning was no problem--guess I'm not an "ambi-turner"). Then, I ventured onto some city streets, although I still limited my time on high-traffic areas. There were LOTS of hills on the route I took, but I made it up all of them but one. In the end, I rode a little more than 6 miles in my first 40 minutes out.

    Fast forward again to yesterday afternoon. OWWWW! I'd completed my ride in a new pair of bike shorts (complete with the padding that feels like wearing an adult diaper). This helped a little, but apparently I'm in for some pain until my butt toughens up. I'll spare you the details, but let's just say there are bruises and that sitting in my desk chair today is a challenge. My back is also a little sore.

    Nevertheless, I went for a run this morning before work (I had to shuffle my training schedule around due to some work stuff), and my legs felt great. None of the stiffness that I usually experience on my first run of the week.

    Moral of the story? Cross-training is awesome! I got a great workout yesterday that apparently loosened the muscles I'd used on my long run Saturday. I'm hoping this combo of exercise working muscles in different ways will leave me with the badass thighs of my dreams! Stay tuned.

    Saturday, June 19, 2010

    My New Toy

    I mentioned awhile back that I wanted a bike to use for cross-training days and that B. advised me against the cheap-o Target bikes. So, I've been saving my pennies, and today I went to adopt my new pet:

    I was going to call her Red Robin until someone mention that it sounded like the burger joint I hate...Tossing around names like RedRum or something Cardinals related. I think I need a few more miles on her to figure out a really good nickname. I'll let you know!

    More about the bike in a minute...First, the running portion of our story:
    I hauled my ass out of bed at 5:20 this morning to get ready for this week's long run, just 9 miles, nothing new or crazy. But, I wanted to get out early to beat the 100+ degree heat indexes forecasted for the late morning/afternoon. I had the worst attitude when my alarm went off. I was sound asleep for once, cozy, dreaming. It was very cloudy and dark, and I'll be honest, I was hoping for it to be raining when I looked outside so I could postpone until tomorrow...It wasn't raining. So, I made myself get dressed, eat, and head out.

    And, I'm SO glad I did. The humidity was insane (something like 92%), but it was pretty cool, in the low 70s the entire time I was out. Plus, my legs felt amazing today. The course I had mapped out for myself had several small hills, some of which I generally walk part way up on long runs. Not today, baby! My allergies were also firmly in check, leaving me to breath normally without all the huffing and puffing that's been the norm the last few weeks. I wasn't moving particularly fast, but my pace was unusually steady (something I've been working on). The best part was, I felt like I could have gone much farther without any problems. Overall, week 2 of training was amazing.

    So, after I got cleaned up for the day ahead, I asked B. if he had time to take me to a local bike shop Big Shark where he got his bike and help me pick something out. The sales guy was great. They didn't have the bike I'd found on their website in stock, but he showed me other similar models and helped me determine what style and size I needed for my frame. I got helmet-ed up and took a couple of different bikes for a spin around the block. The red Marin was the second one I tried, and I didn't have the terminology to explain why, but it felt great to ride. They tuned it up for me and added a couple of water holders. B. and I also got a double bike rack, so if we bike on the same days we can go together.

    When we got home, I took her on another spin around the neighborhood. In addition to being shiny and beautiful, she's also fast! I felt like a little kid zipping all over the subdivision. But it was SUPER hot, so I didn't stay out too long. Hopefully, I'll get a longer ride in tomorrow. On my short ride, I did, however, discover two things: 1. They aren't kidding about the value of getting those padded bike shorts. Ouch! 2. I don't remember the bike hand signals for turning. Might be something worth brushing up on before my next ride, eh?

    Who knows, this could become my next great fitness passion. Could this be the future?

    Marathon Training - Week 2:
    Monday: 50 minutes circuit training
    Tuesday: 3.12 miles (10.42 pace)
    Wednesday: 5 miles (10.52 pace)
    Thursday: 3.02 miles (10.34 pace)
    Saturday: 9 miles (10.49 pace)
    Sunday: bike riding & yoga!

    Saturday, June 12, 2010

    Training: Chicago Marathon - Week 1

    Well, despite feeling like my sinuses are going to explode (thank you, StL allergens), week 1 of 18 is in the books. I say that like it's a big deal, but the first week didn't ask any more from me than I was already doing for regular workouts. In fact, I skipped a strength session I normally do...
    Anyhow my week looked like this (Boring, yes, but I'm mostly documenting this for myself...):

    Monday - 50 minute circuit training
    Tuesday - 3.15 run (10.10 pace)
    Wednesday - 5.01 run (10.31 pace)
    Thursday - 3.01 run (10.00 pace)
    Saturday - 8.75 run (11.03 pace)
    Sunday - 60 minutes yoga (okay, so I guess week 1 isn't technically in the books yet...)

    Since it's been so stupid humid around here, I did both Thursday's and today's run in the early 6:30 am early morning. I'm proud of myself, can't you tell? Look at me being a "morning person"! Thursday was incredible. It was cool and barely humid, and best of all, the streets were virtually empty except for a few other runners and cyclists. It made me want to run early more often. Today by 6:30, it was already 80 with something like 70% humidity. There were tons of other runners out this morning. I noticed something different about morning runners...they talk to you. Every single runner I passed said hi or good morning. When I stopped at the water fountain in Forest Park to refill my water bottles, I chatted for a minute with two old guys who were training for a half. I'm definitely a lone runner, but it was nice to have a few moments of human interaction just the same.

    Anyway, that's all I've got. Have a great weekend, and happy running!

    Monday, June 7, 2010

    And So It Begins...

    Today is Day 1 of the 18 week ordeal they call marathon training. Sometimes if I think too hard, I still can't believe I volunteered for this. It's going to be a long summer, but I'm looking forward to seeing what I can do!

    I'll be using the Hal Higdon Novice program. As I'm a newbie to running, I'd never heard of Hal Higdon when I found his training programs, but apparently these were constructed specifically for training for the Chicago Marathon. Perfect! There's a Novice 1 and a Novice 2 schedule to choose from...I printed out both. The only difference is that N2 has a little more mileage per week than N1 and starts out with about the same number as I put in currently. But, I figured I'll use both of them as an average. I won't do fewer miles than listed in N1, and I'll try to do as many as listed in N2.

    The schedule in general looks like this:
    • Monday - Rest day (or in my case, probably a strength session)
    • Tuesday - Short run
    • Wednesday - Medium run
    • Thursday - Short run
    • Friday - Rest day (which I will observe with my customary Friday after work nap)
    • Saturday - Long run
    • Sunday - Cross training (which for me will be yoga class)
    Two weeks ago, on Saturday for my long run, I was able to set my alarm for regular weekday wake up time and run 10+ miles before it got blistering hot. This week, I switched my long run to Sunday, did not wake up early, and ended up slogging through a measly 8 miles feeling like I was going to spontaneously combust. Waking up early (especially while it's hot) and getting the increasingly long runs done is going to be tricky for me. I get up early during the week, but no one would accuse me of being a morning person, or even well-rested for that matter. That will be a work in progress.

    I'm also going to have to find a new yoga studio for a couple of months. True story: last Sunday when I rolled up to Bally's for yoga, the parking lot was strangely empty...completely empty, in fact. There was a pink sheet of paper on the front door. I laughed when I read it--Bally's was "condemned." I'm always complaining about how gross Bally's and its clientele are (I pretty much only go for this one really great yoga class), but it was funny to see that it was condemned. Turns out, there was a fire that set off the sprinkler system and flooded the building. According to an email from the Bally's corporate, they "don't have a time frame for when the repairs will be complete and the facility will reopen." But, they credited my membership dues until the end of August. So, until then, I'm gonna have to brave the uncharted territories of new yoga classes until I find one I like. I know yoga isn't technically cross training, but there are definitely elements of strength training involved and the stretching does wonders for my sad worn joints.

    Anyway, blah blah blah. I'm on my way to becoming a marathoner--WooHoo!!!!

    Tuesday, June 1, 2010

    CW-X Stability Tights

    My self-portrait in the mirror skills need work, but here's a look at my new CW-X stability tights. I've been coveting them for ages and finally got my hands on a pair:

    (my cat Karma just loves a photo op...)

    They looked positively tiny when I pulled them out of the box. And, there were instructions for putting them on...the mark of a serious pair of tights! Basically, the instructions were to situate the knee caps in the center diamond. These tights were significantly thicker than my others (mostly Nike Dry Fit); they felt kind of like a wet suit. I could definitely feel the support around my knees and the lower part of my hamstrings.

    They arrived just in time for my "long-ish" Tuesday run, so I was happy to take them out for a spin. I looked like a super hero in training, now it was time to see if them helped me run like one.

    It was hot and humid here last week (surprise, it's suddenly summer in StL), and I was a little concerned that the extra thickness would translate to extra heat. But, all was well. The only difference between these and my Nike tights was the lack of the "vents" (i.e., a mesh) behind the knees that my Nikes have. I did sweat buckets, but the fabric did an excellent job of wicking.

    I wasn't trying to run extra fast or anything, but my mile splits were all under 10 minutes (one as fast as 8:35). Was it the new tights? Probably just the placebo effect, but I was happy. I wore them again on my long run on Saturday (yes, I washed them in between times =) ). The support in the knees and core really helped. My hip was far less tender that day than it usually is after a double digit run. While these are pricey, for my wonky joints, they're well worth it. I'd love to get another pair of capris and probably a full length pair when winter rolls around.

    These will definitely be joining me on marathon weekend!