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!