Saturday, December 29, 2012

Another hiatus

So I took a longer break than intended. That always seems to happen to me. But I'm back and it feels good. The early sunsets always make it hard for me to run until after Christmas do I shouldn't be surprised.

Next up: training for the hot chocolate 15k and then the Publix half! Very exciting!

Sunday, November 11, 2012


It's been a while since I've posted (which is definitely becoming the norm), and it's because my schedule is super busy - as always. Right now I'm blogging from Barcelona, where I'm spending a little time for work. Running lately has happened sporadically, but at least I'm trying to keep some sort of training schedule. Having a couple races in the near future keeps me motivated.

While I'm blogging from a different locale, I thought I'd highlight some tricks I've picked up on my various travels both in the US and overseas. If you're anything like me, taking a vacation or traveling doesn't necessarily mean you have to stop running. Here's what I do to get a minimal workout in.

  • Check out the local weather and pack appropriately. It's more humid and warmer in Barcelona than it is in Atlanta right now. Consequently running in shorts and a tshirt make me look like a freak since most locals are bundled in coats and scarves, even the runners. 
  • If you're participating in any long runs or races, don't assume your usual supply of goodies (gels, recovery drinks, etc) are readily available and bring your own. 
  • Most hotels have a gym. If you don't care to run outdoors in unfamiliar territory, use the gym.
  • If you do decide to venture out, many hotels can provide a pre-mapped course for runners around the hotel. For this trip I studied a local map around the immediate area. 
  • Be flexible. If you absolutely can't run, there are lots of good exercises you can do inside your hotel room that won't disturb your neighbors. Think squats, lunges, push ups, etc. 
  • Drink plenty of water. I have found that no matter where you travel, it's hard to stay hydrated. 
Well, that's it for me! Wherever you run, be safe and have fun.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

All-State 13.1 Atlanta

So after the most half-assed training possible, I finally ran the big race last weekend. It was a grueling course (you could not make a course hillier), and I was pretty tired. Overall though I could not have asked for a better performance. I ran the whole distance, even through the water stops. AND I finished the race very close to my goal time - 2:33:45!! I had hoped to finish under 2:30, but considering all the hills I'm okay with my time.

Overall the organization of the race was nicely done. Water where we needed it, plenty of volunteers, and the start and finish areas were clearly marked and easy to find. Even parking was decent. I'd suggest running it if you're looking for a challenging course.

For future races, I've signed up for the Publix half marathon in March and the Hot Chocolate 15k in January. I'm still undecided about the Thanksgiving half marathon. It's a great way to burn calories before stuffing myself stupid, but I don't know that I feel like getting up early. Lazy, I know. We'll see.

Until next time - have a great run!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

11 Miles and Counting!

Before I talk about today's long run, let's back up a bit.

After the awesome time I had at the race last week, I knew my runs immediately following would fall into one of two categories: awesome or horrible. Guess which one I experienced?

I completed my cross training on Tuesday, pushing my run to Wednesday. Not a big deal. Unfortunately I didn't manage my meals well that day. Who knew trying to run 5 miles on less than 500 calories might be a bad idea? I felt so bad I only walked (yes walked) about half of my scheduled 5 miles. Horrible. I felt so put off by it all I didn't bother running Thursday. That meant I wouldn't really run until my long run over the weekend.

Which was great! Sometimes not following a training plan to the letter is okay. Not that I've really been following one this go around anyway but still. The weather was cool this morning for the first time in ages, and I tried out Rex's hydration belt. I've come to realize something about my long runs: I like water. 16 ounces of water gets me pretty far, but I really max out around 8-9 miles before I really feel the pinch. When I ran the 15k I not only took my hand-held water bottle and polished it off but I also drank at nearly all the water stops. How do people who run marathons do this?

So the hydration belt is simultaneously liberating and annoying. It takes a bit to get used to the sloshing sounds it makes, and for some reason the whole belt kept moving. The bottles, pouch, and belt were nowhere near where they started out on my hips. It was really nice, however, to have my hands free. I felt like I could focus better on the arm swing when before I could be too easily distracted by the bottle. I might have to get one for myself to use in the future.

So now it's just under two weeks until the big day. I'm excited!!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Ironhorse 15k!

So part of the training plan I've been loosely following involves races, and it called for me to run a 15k this weekend. Lucky for me there was actually a 15k to be run! Part of the Locomotive series, the 15k today was a great practice race leading up to the half. The course was just challenging enough with some hills that I handled better than I anticipated, and the water stops all had cold water which was really nice!

Let's start at the beginning.

Picking up my race packet was pretty good - no confusion with t-shirts, names, or whatnot. Port-o-potties were available (good since I had to go!). The only hiccup was they delayed the start of the race due to the crowds needing to use the restroom, but that's okay. I was anxious to get started but it all worked out.

The 5k started at the same time as the 15k, and we ran together on the same course until about mile 2.5 where we split off. There were more people running the longer portion than I anticipated. Usually the 5k is the super popular race. That was still true today but it was nice to see a decent turn out for the longer portion.

Hills! I knew there would be some hills, but I didn't think about them too much until it came time to actually run them. My tactic: keep running no matter what but take the ascent slower while reasonably making up time coming down. I checked my heart rate on my watch to make sure I wasn't pushing myself too hard going up. I feel pretty confident about running the course in October now.

Finishing was great! I got my finisher's medal right away and was able to get some water (again nice and cold!). The walk to the car was short since everything was being held in the mall parking lot on a Sunday, so no one else was there.

The race was well organized, well planned, and (in my opinion) well ran! 9.3 miles in 1:46:30.

After the race, I grabbed brunch so no icing my foot right away. I traded my running shoes for my casual sneakers with the orthotics in them and used my compression leg sleeves. Both seemed to help quite a bit. My left heel is still pretty tender but nothing like the hobble I had to engage in last week after my long run. I think I'm on the path to a healed foot soon but it will take some time. At least I'm seeing some improvements, and I'm still able to run.

Phew! Now that the race is done, it's time to focus on a couple more weeks of training and then the big 13.1!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

My Heel Really Hurts

So I have been experiencing a pain in my heel since around April when training for the Chicagoland Half Marathon. What started as a bruised feeling after long runs morphed into pain after most runs and has finally evolved into "yeah you're not gonna want to walk now".

After finally caving in and agreeing to see a real podiatrist about it (instead of playing Diane MD right down to the limp - that was a reference to the TV show House MD if you didn't know), he confirmed what I had already suspected: I have plantar fasciitis. Treatment includes wearing a boot at night on the affected foot, orthotics in my shoes*, taking anti-inflammatories and a neat trick with a frozen water bottle after runs.

*I'm only wearing the orthotics in my casual shoes as they don't really fit in dress shoes and I'm not putting them in my running shoes. Call me stubborn, but I run better in the less supportive shoes and this all stemmed from the more supportive ones I trained in last time. Hmph.

The boot seems to really help, although it is about as far from sexy as you can get and is a little uncomfortable to sleep in. I tend to rip it off in my sleep a few hours in. Taking ibuprofen is already something I was doing for various reasons, mainly headaches. After today's long run I did try the water bottle trick.

What is the water bottle trick? It's awesome! Freeze a water bottle and after the run, take your shoes off. Then roll your affected foot/feet on the frozen bottle. Works really well! I used it on both feet, even though it's my left that is causing me problems. Because I'm sitting a lot after the run my foot still gets stiff so when I took my obligatory post-long run nap today I slept with the boot. I also took more ibuprofen than I normally do after a long run. I usually take a few for exertion headaches.

So why the stubbornness about putting the orthotics in my running shoes? They really do help with my casual shoes. Because the Brooks Pure Cadence shoes have helped my form so much I am running much more efficiently than ever before. I'm afraid that if I put something in my shoe it'll alter my foot strike, which will alter my form overall. I'm not sore anywhere else but in my heel. Even after running 10 miles today. The last thing I need is to trade heel pain for back and hip pain, which has caused issues in the past.

So we'll see how this goes. I have a couple more weeks until race day, so I'm not easing up on the running until then. I still want to run a half on Thanksgiving Day, but if my heel doesn't agree with me it just doesn't agree with me. We will see.

In the meantime, I'm going to ice my foot every evening, wear the boot, and work on cross-training again. I let that part of my routine slip a couple weeks ago and haven't brought it back. I felt my abs working hard today, which means I need to focus on core workouts again. Planks really help!

Happy running, and try the frozen water bottle!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Breakthrough!

Alright, here's the story since the last update....

I've been running sporadically, but with little success in getting my long runs in. The longest I had run was 6 miles, and it was okay. Then I missed a weekend so no long run. I was sort of keeping up with mid-week runs, accomplished very little speed work, and even dropped some cross training. All of this on top of the fact that the few runs I had were mostly awful led me to believe that today's long run would be horrible. I was determined to complete it, even if it was miserable. And it was....

Awesome! Okay - I really felt it was going to be bad. It had all the makings of a bad long run. Seriously. What made it so successful? A few things:

  1. I finally paced myself. I started slow, let myself warm up, and then didn't let my pace get too fast. I really had the slow and steady mentality. It works!
  2. I focused on good form and just put one foot in front of the other. The new shoes helped with form as well. 
  3. I didn't allow myself to think "if I make it to mile X, I can reward myself with a walk break". That's been a huge obstacle of mine, and I've suspected for some time now that if I could get rid of the mental blocks and challenges then running would be easier. This allowed me to run all 8 miles this morning. No stops!
Post-run I actually feel really good too. The only issue I have is my left heel is really tender again. I have got to see a doctor about it. This pain started around April, and it's not going away. 

That's it so far. Hopefully this momentum keeps up!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Probably the worst start to training ever

So I am a month into the latest training plan for the half marathon I'm running in October. What progress have I made? Almost none. Sporadic rain causing migraines combined with crazy scheduling issues means I can't seem to run consistently. I ran 5 miles last Sunday and thought I was going to die. It's also been insanely hot and humid, making it hard to even get the bare minimum motivation to just think about running.

The plan this time was to train hardcore and focus on speed work. So far I haven't even had a single speed training session. I have incorporated more cross training, which has been good. That's always been an area I was lacking in before.

Long story short - this is the reason for a lack of updates. I haven't had much to update anyone on. I've got two things to focus on the next two months: get a consistent schedule for training and try to just enjoy running. The migraine issue probably won't resolve itself since so much of it is from stress (new job that I love but it's a lot of work) and rain. October ought to be interesting.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Feetures Socks Reviewed

Okay. Now that I have a few minutes and access to my laptop (I blogged that picture of the socks from my phone) I can give a real review.

I had bought one of the lower end Feetures socks to wear for the Chicagoland Half Marathon, and they were great. I liked them so much (prevented blisters, wicked away sweat, etc), that I went to my local running store and bought some more. What I didn't pay attention to were the type. They were the same brand, but cool colors. Yes, I got distracted by the colors. The new ones I bought are Feetures Elite!

What's different? A lot (besides the colors). The elite version is more like a compression sock especially around the arch. They also are nice and thin, which works well for me. My feet swell like there's no tomorrow when I run. I've run a few times with the new socks, and so far I have no skin issues (blisters, sore spots, etc). I also have fewer issues in general with my feet. Talk about a good mistake to make!

The only downside is for those who are trying to be cost conscious. I bought four more pairs of socks today and spent over $50. With a discount. The lower end Feetures do cost less. The compression feels really good though, so I'm going to invest in a few more pairs. I have enough for six days of running which is one week's worth. Whether you get them is up to you, but I'm at a point in my running where it makes sense to invest in these kinds of details. My feet ended up looking horrible from all the blisters and callouses from the last training cycle, and I think these socks will help minimize that.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Best. Socks. Ever.

I will elaborate more later, but they are amazing. I just had to share. And that's my chihuweiner in the background.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

I'm in love....

With my new shoes! It might be a little early to say for sure, but my run yesterday with the new shoes was awesome. I felt great, my form felt spot on, and the only issue I had was from the heat. I would have run again tonight, but it stormed.

I have to start training for my next half in a few days (Monday to be exact). This new training plan has be working out in some fashion 6 days a week. The days that are listed as strength training will be dedicated to either biking or exercises that improve my form. I'm very excited about being back in training. It's funny how that works. Towards the end of 3 months of total dedication, I can't wait for the race to be done so I can relax a bit. Now that it's been a few weeks since I've trained hardcore, I can't wait to begin again.

The best part about the last time I trained was I knew how to mentally prepare. Each time we face something we've conquered, it becomes easier to face it and to deal with known obstacles. The first time I trained for a half I got so burned out I didn't run regularly for a long time. Who knows? Maybe soon I'll be able to avoid those kinds of burn outs in the future. I anticipate it though if I ever tackle a full marathon. That's a lot of dedication!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Training Plans

As promised, here is the post with the information about training plans. My boss told me about Hal Higdon and his free training plans. I took a look and liked what I saw so much I think I'm going to use one for my next half marathon training.

Speaking of training, I keep having pain in my right shin. It's definitely a shin splint, but I don't know why it won't go away. I've not been running really, so I dunno. I'm going to take it easy a few more days and see.

I'll have to brave this insane heat and my right shin soon though because I need to rebuild my base before training officially begins. I also need to break in my new shoes! Since I'm in the middle of half marathons, I am taking advantage of the lull by trying some new shoes. They have a lot less padding which will help me with my form. They also mean my calves require some time to adjust so I've got to ease myself into them. They are amazingly comfortable though! As soon as I've had more time in them I'll post a review.

And on that note, have a happy holiday week and be safe in this heat!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


So it's been a minute since I posted since I've been crazy busy with my new job. Long story short, my routine is a little shaky. Combine that with the insanely hot summer we are experiencing so far, and I'm full of excuses not to run. What was my solution to that?

I'm signed up for the All-State half marathon in October! I'm really excited since it'll be a challenging course (Atlanta is known for heat, hills and humidity!). This will get me motivated like a race usually does. I ran tonight even though I didn't feel like it.

My goals for this race are to train better (including more focus on form) and achieve a better time. I was directed to a cool site with tons of free training plans that I will share in another post.

Hopefully Red and I can run together soon. It'll be good to have a running buddy again. Woohoo!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Getting some rest

So I ran the Celebrate America 10k on Memorial Day, and it went pretty well. I finished in 1:15, which is pretty good for me. My calves were a little tight and my left heel was tender but I felt good. Fast forward to the next day and I tried to run 3 miles. HA! That did not go so well. I ended up cutting it back to 2.5 miles and walked most of it. My legs were really mad at me. Then I tried walking the dog around the neighborhood the next day and my right leg was really hurting. Even my knee hurt, which is unusual for me.

Because of the issues I've had after the 10k, I'm resting. I might ride my bike a bit, but I'm trying to give my legs some time off. I think a few things have caused these problems.

I need new shoes. I'm noticing that I definitely roll my feet in when I run, and that's causing the majority of my leg issues.

I need rest. After pushing myself on the half, the 10k might have been a little too much. It was fun though.

Driving sucks. Not in that I hate driving my car, but I went from no driving for over a week to sitting in my normal hellish commute to work. That does usually make my right knee a little achy, and I think jumping right back into commuting and running made my knee mad at me. How do you ease into driving and sitting more? That's like the last thing I want to do.

Anyway, I'm going to rest a bit and do some light cross training. Then I'll get some new shoes (I am considering the minimalist shoes), and we'll start running regularly again. Red is going to start training for her half soon, so I'd like to join her on some of her runs. It'll be fun!

For those that are not familiar with running shoes, here is a link that can help you choose the right shoe. The best thing to do, however is to go to a running store near you and be fitted in person where an expert can watch you run.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Friday, May 25, 2012

I'm back!

So the race is over. Phew!! Here are a few of the highlights:

It was really, really hot. Like Atlanta hot. In the summer. The high in Chicago that day hit 93, and I am pretty sure that it was around 85 by the time I finished.

When I read forest preserve, I thought there would be lots of trees and maybe even dirt trails for much of this course. I was so wrong. Open concrete. Again, soooooooo hot!

All in all it was a good race though. Considering the heat, I feel very proud about my overall time (2:42). That puts me right at my training pace, although I noticed during the race my pace was a lot faster until the final couple of miles when the heat finally wore me down. I learned a lot during all my training and during this race, and I hope to keep that momentum going. I'll be running a 10k on Memorial Day and am considering other races in the future - especially a half on Thanksgiving.

The only downside to everything is I caught a cold. Even ran with the cold (although it wasn't anything but a sore throat at the time of the race). I'm just going to say babies are lethally cute and airplanes are a great place to get sick.

What's next? Good question. Other than the 10k I don't really have much planned but I do want to keep the long runs going. We'll see what other races I pick up this summer. Honestly that is the best way to stay motivated in my opinion.

Happy running!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

It's almost race day!

Tapering? Check.

Race gear packed? Check.

Travel plans finalized? Check.

Excitement building? Double check!

So we're a handful of days away from the Chicagoland half marathon, and I'm totally psyched. The start time for the race has been pushed up to 7 am due to the anticipated heat, which is fine with me. That's still 8 am EST, which is normally the time I tackle my long runs, and I live in a city whose corny nickname is "HOTlanta". Yes, it's terrible but it does get really hot and humid here. I think I'll be fine for the race. Regardless, I'm still going to be vigilant about staying hydrated but that was always the plan.

When we come back, I plan on some light runs and then a 10k on Memorial Day. I think 6.2 miles ought to be very doable a week after the race. If it isn't, well I'll let you know.

Stay tuned for race pictures and results!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

More Lessons Learned

Alright, it's been a minute since I've posted an update. I have been crazy busy, and it's hard to blog from my phone. Possible, but annoying.

Anyhoo, here's what happened.

I missed my 11 mile run for a migraine. Looking back I realize that I was getting tired and was due for a migraine. If I had paid attention, I would have taken my migraine meds like I was supposed to but hindsight is always 20/20. At the end of the day I think that I needed the break. My next runs were really good.

This brings me to the 12 mile run I completed this morning. The first 8 miles were fantastic. I was feeling good, on track for a 12:20 pace, and enjoying myself. Then I ran out of water. And it was about 80 degrees at that point. Dehydration did not treat me well on those last 4 miles. I walked so much I added a minute to my average pace, but running made me so worn out. Oh well. The positive: at least this happened on my training run so I have time to recover from it. The negative: it was my final super long training run. Again, oh well.

I have a plan for the race. There are water stations on the course, and I plan on taking my water bottle with me. I'll drink from my bottle while running and make sure I get extra water at the stations. Crossing my fingers on the weather, but with it being cooler up in Chicago I shouldn't sweat as much but I'm going to keep focused on my hydration. I've learned that dehydration overall is my biggest enemy. We can talk about tight calf muscles, form, motivation, pacing, whatever, but dehydration tends to get me every time.

But here's the best part: it's time for the taper!!! Two weeks to the race: I'm very excited =)

Saturday, April 21, 2012

10 miles!

This morning's run was 10 miles! I know that's not news, but it certainly is an accomplishment.

Just a few things:
-I remembered my compression sleeves so my calves feel great.
-I sweat buckets.....that always amazes me. How much can a woman sweat? Let me show you....
-I need a nap.
-The Gu with "2x caffeine" was good. No odd effects from any of it today. I must be used to it now.

The weather in Chicago today is about 20 degrees cooler than it is here in Atlanta, so I hope it stays that way when I head up there. I'm anticipating the weather to hit mid-80s here on race weekend, so I am assuming the highs will be in the 60s for Chicago. That works really well in my favor.

One final note: Body Glide is amazing. I've used it for years, but I thought I'd mention that. =D

Friday, April 20, 2012

Forced to take a break

So work was crazy last week. I had a huge conference to attend, which threw off my training schedule a bit. Last Thursday's run was cancelled, and I forgot to wear my compression leg sleeves on my long run last Saturday. Let's just say I paid for my forgetfulness.

Here's what happened. So I forgot my leg sleeves. No big deal, right? Yeah, my calves are dealing with the biggest adjustments out of all my muscle groups, and the leg sleeves help with the swelling. Why is that important? Shin splints. Because I have been properly fitted for the right shoes and they're fairly new, I know that's not the cause. My form has improved, which has helped significantly in many areas. What gets my calves is the increase in mileage. And since muscles swell a bit when they're used, that can sometimes cause some discomfort. I had a lot of discomfort during and after the long run. Sometimes even my left foot will go numb, but it does get better as I run. The leg sleeves decrease the amount of time I'm bothered by soreness, tightness, and numbness, and they also help recovery. I'm not saying everyone needs compression gear, especially since it can be kind of pricey, but I love it.

So anyway, because I was hurting I skipped the recovery run Sunday. Then it stormed Tuesday, and since I don't like to run back to back during the week I didn't run again until Thursday. My run yesterday went well, but I have noticed something about myself over the years. If I take a break, I often have to break down a lot of newly built mental blocks. Yesterday, I just didn't feel like running. I finally had to tell myself about half a mile in that I needed to get over my self pity and just run, damnit. Funny enough, once I picked up my pace (I was dragging) everything went fine. It's like I have to prove to myself again that I can run. Note to self: after the half marathon don't stop running! I've got to keep up some regular running or else I'll fall off the wagon again.

Long story short, take care of your legs and don't let the mental blocks get you. Tomorrow's long run: 10 miles!!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Gu Reviewed

So I had a fantastic run yesterday. 8 miles, 1hr 37 min. That's slow for a lot of people, but that's pretty darned good for me so I'm taking it. It was a little cool when I started out, which helps a lot since I quickly become a furnace when I'm running. Midway through I tried a pack of Gu since it was about time to fuel up (I had a banana before the run and drank water throughout). What did I think?

First of all, I'm not used to eating gels so it took a second to get over the texture. It's not bad, but again - if you're not eating gels all the time your natural instinct is to chew it. I had to chase it with water because my mouth was dry. The flavor I had contained some caffeine. I thought that since I drink coffee almost every day and also have the occasional soda I wouldn't feel the effect of the caffeine so much. I was wrong! Right after finishing up the gel my teeth started chattering. It was the caffeine! I got a little lightheaded too, but I think that was the sudden spike of sugar. Those two feelings died off very quickly, and I felt like my energy stores were totally restored so I'd say the product works!

A couple things to remember:
- If you are sensitive to caffeine, get the flavors that don't contain caffeine.
- Try to swallow the gel without chewing and chase it down with some water.
- Be respectful of your surroundings and either toss the empty wrapper in a garbage can if possible or hold onto it to dispose of properly later.

I'll continue using the product through the rest of my long runs. Very cool stuff!

Full disclosure: I have not been paid or approached by anyone to write this review. There are many fuels available to runners that are excellent. Try them all and see what works best for you.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Breaking the Mental Blocks

So this week I focused on two things: trying to get more sleep during the week so I wouldn't be so exhausted on the weekends and trying to remove the mental stumbling blocks during my runs. The first really meant just getting to bed earlier and not goofing off so much in the evenings after work. That was sort of accomplished. I did go to bed earlier, but I'm finding I'm still tired so I need to do a better job of getting my butt to bed. The second is also a work in progress, but I wanted to share a quote that inspired me this week.

"Now if you are going to win any battle you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do. The body will always give up. It is always tired in the morning, noon, and night. But the body is never tired if the mind is not tired."
- George S. Patton, U.S. Army General, 1912 Olympian

Have you ever experienced that? When you know your legs could keep going but your heart just isn't up for the run so you walk or cut the run short or decide to skip the run all together? I've done that plenty of times. We all have. If you haven't I think you're lying to yourself. Our minds are both our greatest strength and greatest weakness. How can that be? Have you ever been so determined to accomplish a task that you do anything to make it happen? Where there's a will, there's a way. And it's our minds that make that happen. The same goes for runs (or bike rides, or making it to the gym, or whatever fitness goal you're after). 

How did I use this to fuel my training this week? I quit letting my mind tell me "oh you've run far enough, it's time for a break". I stopped looking at my watch for pace and mileage so often. I still looked, but not nearly as often as I used to. I decided to just go. Let my legs do what they know how to do. Run. Breath. Relax. Let go. Once I stopped the negative thoughts from forming, they were replaced with positive thoughts. Funny how that works out. 

The end result was I had two fantastic runs, and not because I wasn't tired or tried any cool tricks. I was actually pretty tired yesterday, but the run was still good. I told myself I could run, and so I did. Will every run be that awesome? No, but that's okay too. Focus on what's positive about your runs. Quit letting the internal demons take over. Easier said than done, but it just takes practice. 

I'm hoping I can carry that momentum into tomorrow's long run. We'll just wait and see. A couple things that will be different for tomorrow: I bought some Gu (energy gel) and restocked my supply of Accellerade. The Gu came at the recommendation of a coworker who also runs a lot. The Accellerade is what I drank last year, but this year I will save it for post run only. I'm just drinking water on my runs and ingesting the gel. I'll give an update on what I think of Gu after I try it. 

For Rex running seems to be helping him a lot. He says he feels better overall and has maintained his motivation, which is really cool because he hated running before. We bought him a hydration belt so he can keep his hands free on his long runs. Evidently he hates my handheld water bottle. I might look into getting a belt that holds the water bottle on the small of my back so my hands are free too. Running is such a simple sport but the accessories are amazing! 

Tomorrow - 8 miles. Phew! We've crossed over the halfway mark towards that 13.1 goal! 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Mental Hurdles

So I'm excited that I'm progressing well with training and that I'm losing a little weight, but I'm finding that my biggest problem is inside my head. I was out last Thursday for a 3 mile run, and I was so opposed to the run I found I was walking more just because I didn't feel like running. Then the 7 mile long run went okay but it started shaky. I ended well, but I've got to keep those internal demons at bay. Today's recovery run went pretty well, but I did focus on positive thoughts.

Long story short - I have to keep reminding myself to hit the small goals in the runs and that not every run will be spectacular. These are things I've probably mentioned before, but I always find it interesting how those same issues keep creeping up on us. Stay positive! I've developed a new mantra for those tough moments (usually going up a hill) - Conquer that (insert obstacle here)! It seems to help, so I'll keep using it.

A couple other issues about the long run: around mile 5 I got really hungry, and my left calf is tightening again around mile 3.5 but loosens up by mile 4. I have an easy solution to the hunger issue: go get some running fuel! For my calf issue, I think I might need to incorporate some calf strengthening drills. I tried some of the drills today after my recovery run that help with form. Note to self: don't try them around the dog. He thinks it's play time.

We will see how this week progresses, but overall I'm still very excited about my progress. Rex has been showing a lot of improvement as well, and I hope his momentum keeps going. It's always so exciting to see others succeed :)

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Training update

Alright, I've hit the 6 mile long run! I'm only roughly halfway to the full 13.1 mileage for the race, and I feel pretty good. When I was at this point for the last half marathon (I am continually looking back at the training for that race for comparison), 6 miles nearly did me in. I limped the rest of the day. My muscles were tight, sore, and screaming for relief. I felt good just to finish the mileage, forget speed or anything else. Fast forward to yesterday's run...

And I feel great! It was a little tough getting down stairs, and my calves were really tired from earlier runs so I wore my compression leg sleeves, but overall I felt great. I also finished the run about 15 minutes faster than last time! That's a huge improvement. Keep in mind I'm not trying to break some sort of PR (maybe I am, but it's not #1 for me). I just want to finish the race and all my training in better shape than last year. And since I'm not feeling so physically drained, I think mentally I'm doing better. While it was a huge milestone to complete last year's race, I was mentally burned out and didn't really run for almost a year. Not the kind of outcome anyone really wants.

So what was different about yesterday's run? I keep harping on it, but it's improved form. I can run longer, faster, and take smaller walk breaks than before. Instead of needing a full quarter mile for a walk break, I take maybe a tenth of a mile. I run farther, aiming for at least a half mile before taking a break. So much of that depends on how I feel (earlier in the week I ran a mile and a half before considering a break), that I let my body tell me what it needs. Although I think I'm reaching a point where I really can run more but my mind is so conditioned to need a walk break that I need to break the mental barrier. We shall see.

Post-run I'm feeling amazing. Tired but not sore, tight but not stiff. I have a feeling once I begin really working on the drills I learned in class all of this will improve even more. Even though things have improved, I do keep in mind not all my runs will be fantastic. In fact, Thursday's run was sort of tough. I think the cumulative lack of sleep from the work week had been catching up to me. My mid-week evening runs also have a tendency to not be as good as my Saturday morning runs. Some of that is fatigue, some of it had been from wearing high heels to work, and some of it is hunger. I am running when I would normally be eating dinner.

We'll see how this momentum keeps up. We are now just under two months until the race. The flights are booked, the hotel rooms reserved, the rental car too. We are truly committed! The course looks fabulous, and it'll be a great time of year to be in Chicago. Whenever I think that most people see me as the crazy person paying to run these kinds of distances, I think "yeah I'm crazy and that's cool!". W00t!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Good Form Part 2

Well yesterday was the second and final good form running clinic. We learned a lot of drills that will help with our form, range of motion, and strength. We also got new videos of us to see what kind of progress we've made. It was an amazing clinic and there's a possibility that Big Peach will be doing a more intense clinic in the future. If it fits my schedule, I will definitely sign up!

Since I was busy with the clinic yesterday, I saved my long run for today. I was still a little tired and sore from the drills so the run wasn't fantastic. It was an improved time from last year, which is good. Even with fatigue I ran better due to the improved form. I did encounter something that haunted me a lot before: post-run headaches.

Seeing as how I have several more weeks of training to look forward to, I did a little googling to see if there was something I could do about these headaches. So far the common culprits seem to be dehydration, low blood sugar, electrolyte imbalance, and tense muscles. One comment mentioned that maybe we're all wearing our hats too tight, but I can't see that being the case.

For today's run, I drank water before and during the run. I admit I should have been better about it after the run, but even after I started drinking a lot more water the headache persisted. I also ate salty food last night and after the run. The banana I had before the run contained the potassium I needed. It should have had some magnesium too. My neck and shoulders actually feel okay, so I don't think they're tight. My blood sugars seemed okay, but I have no means of measuring it exactly. Suffice it to say I didn't feel any other typical low blood sugar symptoms like shakiness and irritability.

So do I have a solution? Maybe. I've been toying around with the idea of magnesium supplements since I sweat a ton on these runs. I need to check the supplement levels in salt tablets and in the snacks I will eat on the longer runs before deciding. Taking vitamins and supplements are iffy because it's known that eating foods rich in whatever you're lacking is best. It turns out that means eating a lot of beans. As a runner, we often try to avoid eating too much fiber in case it ends in gastrointestinal distress during a run. Maybe the solution is to eat more of the right foods at first? Yogurt is supposed to be high in magnesium, and I've been eating more of that lately.

Overall it seems that these kinds of headaches are actually fairly common. It's just hard to me to deal with because of my already chronic headache issues. I'll do a little more research and report back.

On a more positive note, I invested in a large foam roller to help massage larger groups of muscles. It's going to take a little time to get used to it, but let's just say it hurts so good :) My recovery today has been great aside from the headache, so the good form is still working. We will see how everything goes after I incorporate more of those drills. They fit perfectly with cross training days, so I will end up working out a lot now. It will all pay off in the end!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

And the mileage ramps up....

So I've officially been training for this half marathon now for a couple weeks. I have to report that the focus on better form seems to really be helping. I have my final clinic this weekend, so we'll see how that goes. Rex seems to have benefited greatly from the first class, and for that alone I think the money spent on the class was well worth it.

Some things I think I'll ask about are my calves (I think the sudden increase in mileage is making them tight - not as tight as they were before but still), my posture (I think I'm slouching), and the possibility of barefoot running during the week. There is no way you'll see me using the barefoot running shoes for long runs, but I think I will try them during the week. We will have to see. The suggestion before was to try running barefoot on a soft surface like grass, but I am really allergic to the stuff. Hives on my feet do me no good, so if I try this it'll have to be with the barefoot shoes.

On another note, the dog has been running a lot with us. I have decided that he will not run more than 3 miles to prevent any overheating issues or injuries. I mean, he's just 17 pounds! How far could I really take him? With some practice he's become a really nice running partner. Perfect for recovery runs.

With the weather deciding to skip some transition steps and head straight from winter to summer, I think it's good to review warm weather tips:
  • Cotton is rotten. Please try to invest in some decent dry wick clothing. I've found Target has some decent work out gear for a good price. There's no need to go all crazy and cover yourself from head to toe in all Nike or Under Armor attire, although their clothing is really nice. If you don't mind the wait, check online for sales and discount retailers.
  • Hydrate! It's important to drink plenty of water before and after your run. Just make sure you're getting enough electrolytes as well. As a runner, you can actually have more salty foods if you're sweating a lot on your runs.
  • Run during the cooler parts of the day. The morning is good but keep in mind pollen counts are higher then. The evening is a little warmer and has bugs, but less pollen and for me easier to manage. I am not a morning person.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

300th Post!

I often wonder if I should make deep, introspective posts for these kinds of milestones. Then I realize that this is just a running blog intended to keep me motivated and hopefully help others like me, and so I decide to post about my training instead. Plus I don't really have anything terrible special to share.

I do have an observation, however. So far I've been at the Greenway, which is very flat, to work on my form. Tonight I ran in my neighborhood. Let's just say it's really, really hilly. I knew it would be a little harder for me to focus with the dog joining me, but I've found that going up and down hills is also making it difficult to focus on good form. I will have to bring this up in my class. For example, I find myself wanting to essentially stomp my way up a hill and then with the faster cadence I end up having to slam on the brakes coming down, causing other problems. In the meantime the dog is pulling my left arm, running in front of me, and having to carry his mess in my other hand is both gross and limiting the movement of my right arm. I ended up with a really stiff upper body, bent at the waist, and frustrated. To top it all off I finally measured the distance of my usual route around the neighborhood and noticed it's a measly 1.3 miles. I was supposed to go 2 miles tonight.

There are a couple obstacles I need to address right away based on tonight's results: chose a new route (or alter my current route) and either deal with the dog or leave him at home. Since this is exercise too, I hesitate to leave him home for the short runs. He absolutely stays home for the long run. Not only is he distracting, but like people dogs have to build up to longer distances and faster speeds. He's just not ready for that, and I'm not taking him to that level.

I've got to figure this out before Thursday. We'll see what I can come up with. In the mean time, check out youtube and search for good form running. There are a ton of videos out there, and for me seeing a good example was really helpful. There is a lot of great, free advice out there if you know how to filter out the junk.

Happy running!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Good Form Part 1

This morning was the first of two good running form classes at the awesome Big Peach Running Store in Alpharetta GA. It was two hours of evaluating the basics of good form and basically relearning how to run. I know a lot of people think this might be silly. Doesn't everyone know how to run? Sure, but to do it efficiently is another story. Here are some of the highlights:
  • Watching yourself run after being recorded can be awkward (dude do I really look like that?!) but it's also enlightening (no wonder my back and hips are so sore!). It is especially helpful after learning what to look for in good form.
  • Cadence is paramount. I'm going to focus on that until my next class. We'll see how it goes. For those that don't know, cadence is how fast you're stepping. It actually has little to do with how fast you're running. We're talking lots of small, agile steps.
  • Arm movement is more important than you realize. I had read (and posted) about how the speed of your arms correlates to the speed of your legs. Little did I know my arm movements were not helping at all :)
  • A little barefoot running has its place, but stick to the cushioned shoes for distance running. We did a little in the parking lot and it's shocking how much difference it makes in how you run and how you think about your feet. I might end up buying a pair of barefoot shoes just for short distance training.
So far it's been a worthwhile endeavor. I will post more about my progress as I train, and obviously I'll post after the final class. Happy running!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Overdue Updates

Well it's been a little while since my last post. I try to post about once a week to keep things fresh and to keep motivating myself. What I've been doing so far since officially the training plan hasn't started yet is just get back in the groove, as my last post mentioned. Running the usual walk route with the dog, running a couple miles on the weekends. Rex has been trying to run as well and has been doing pretty well.

A couple weekends ago I ended up with something that pretty much derailed me last week. Food poisoning! I never, EVER get this kind of bug, so Rex and I were very surprised when I came down with it. The worse part was the lack of energy I had after recovering. Oh well. Luckily that didn't derail me too badly. What caused it? Good question. All I know is I was miserable.

This weekend I get new running shoes, and I'm trying to join a clinic at a local running store about good running form. It'll be nice to get a fresh start with both shoes and form. Then it's training time!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Getting into a Groove

So I was concerned about training after work. I just don't get up early enough to run before work, so I run afterwards. So far it's been pretty good. Since I'm already in the habit of taking the dog for a walk right after getting home, running just means changing into running gear instead of jeans and then running instead of walking. Distance-wise it's no different than my usual walk route so far, but I'm just building up a foundation again. Today I think I ran a whole mile before stopping. The GPS/heart rate monitor is out of juice, plus I'm trying to start easy with no pressure. I run at an easy pace until I feel tired, then I walk a bit, then run some more.

The dog is learning more about pacing, and frankly I'm relearning it myself. I know this has been posted before here, but I think it's worth repeating. It's amazing how much we forget about training when it's been a while since we've trained. I mean, intellectually I knew that my calves might feel tight and that it would be hard to pace early in the run but it's another to experience it again. Luckily at this point in my running I recognize a lot about myself much faster than before and can correct sooner. This prevents injury and keeps the run enjoyable. At the end of the day that's my goal: enjoy the run and enjoy the benefits of being in shape.

Have you ever stopped running or working out for a while and then took it back up again? This should be fairly common considering the significant drop off in gym attendance after March :)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Back to running!

The weather was perfect today (it has been an unusually warm and wet winter for us in the Southeast). Rex and I took advantage of it and headed out to the trails with the dog. Since we're just getting back into training mode we took it pretty easy. The dog has to have a chance to work up his endurance too, so I paid careful attention to him. Dogs won't tell you they are hurting or are out of energy, so be very mindful if you want to run with your dog.

All in all it was a great time! Rex needs to make a visit to a doctor for his feet, but we knew that was coming and he's working on it. This half marathon is great motivation :)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

Now that the holidays are officially over, the feasts eaten, gifts bought, opened, and possibly exchanged or returned and alcohol consumed, we now look forward to the new year and hope for a fresh start in more ways than one. This has been a rough year for a lot of people for a lot of reasons, but I think the reason we keep making resolutions is because we'd like things to be better. We're creatures who hope for better. In the spirit of clean slates, we vow to do things like make more time for family,exercise more, lose weight, and become more financially responsible. I hope everyone manages to meet at least some of their resolutions.

For those who have made fitness or weight loss related resolutions, I have compiled a few articles here to help you get started. Happy new year!!

Need music to work out? Check out these reviews.

Want to be healthier but need an idea on how to do that? Try one of these resolutions.

It's one thing to say you'll run more. It's another to actually commit and register for a race. Set a goal by finding a race here.

Good luck!