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.