Tuesday, February 24, 2015
This week started with a rare February day off from work. February and March are the busiest months for us with all the collegiate, club and high school championships going on. I work 15 hour days pretty much every weekend in addition to my regular work week, so when I found my calendar clear on the same day my daughter had off school, I took full advantage of it. We went to the Science Museum and saw "Hubble" in the Omni Theater...it was awesome. I love that my kids are fascinated by science and interested in the active process of learning...I can only hope it lasts! Anyway, after a busy day out and about, we headed to the Y. I had an "easy three" on the training plan today, but bailed after two on the treadmill, I was worn out. I spent the rest of the time doing core work, which reminded me, I really need to be doing A LOT more core work!
Tuesday the sub-zero windchill was back, which meant my five miler was going to be inside. I opted for the treadmill thinking that I would try to watch something on Netflix to pass the time. But after browsing my options, nothing sounded interesting. I put my music on and tried to get into a groove. It wasn't happening. After three miles, I decided I was done. That's when I opened up my Nike+ app. If you aren't familiar with Nike+, it's an app that tracks run mileage, like many others, but it is the only app I've found that accurately tracks INDOOR mileage, and you can program it so that your Facebook friends can give you "cheers" along the way. The app posts to your wall that you are on a run, and when anyone "likes" it or comments on it, you get a cheer in your headphones. Anyway, I had gotten a ton of cheers in that three miles, so I looked at my phone to see what was up. That's when I saw TEN posts from my friend Jason encouraging me to keep going. I broke into a huge smile and decided that I would finish my five miles on the track. It wasn't easy, but I was really glad to have done it. So, next time you are on Facebook and you see a friend "out on a run" with the Nike+ app, give them a cheer, you never know how badly they might need the extra push!
Wednesday I was back at TRX. I decided I was going to go into class expecting burpees and that I was going to tackle them with gusto. It paid off, we did a set of three intervals and I gave them my all...it was the first time I haven't totally hated them, so I'm calling it a win! Thank goodness we didn't do box jumps, because there is nothing I can do to make myself think those are anything other then pure torture!
Thursday we started an event at work, but knew I'd be able to get a way for my four miler over lunch. What I didn't know was that my BRF was going to suggest we go out for lunch at my favorite Chinese restaurant. I figured I'd have time to both eat and run, but wasn't really thinking about running after eating. I scarfed down a huge plate of Tofu Chow Fun (so delicious) and headed back to the pool to digest. After two hours I figured I needed to get off my butt and get this run done or I'd be out of time before the evening session of the meet started. I headed up to the TM (windchill was -2 today, I'm holding fast to my "no outside runs unless the windchill is above zero" rule). After a sloggy mile with some leftover Chow Fun threatening to become Chow Barf, I decided to bail and hit the spin bike. I did a 10-mile hill repeat that kicked my butt, and thankfully, settled my stomach!
Friday was swim day. I decided to push my pace by doing a set of 3 X 3-100's. First three were on 2:00, holding 1:45, second three were on 1:45 holding 1:30, third three were on 1:30 holding 1:20. Much to my surprise, I held them all right on interval. I even felt too slow trying to hold the 1:45's. I'm feeling stronger in the pool each week. Last year I didn't start swim training until April, so I am really excited to see how much I can improve before triathlon season starts in June!
Saturday I had my long run planned, 11 miles. Even though we had our event at work, I knew I could get away for a couple hours between sessions to get it done, and it was supposed to be considerably "warmer" on Saturday, all the way into the 20's with windchills above zero! I've never run longer than 5 miles around campus, so I wasn't sure exactly how I was going to get 11 miles in. I figured I could piece together my two normal loops, one is a little over 5 miles and the other is 4 and a half, then I would just improvise the other mile and half somewhere at the end. The windchill was 2 when I started, I had two layers of tights and a long sleeve shirt under my jacket, so I felt okay warmth-wise. The first loop on the run was the 5-miler and I felt pretty strong during that portion. I started to slow a little when I hit the second loop, but chalked that up to the massive hill I was going up. I never regained my original pace though and decided to stop worrying about that and focus on my energy level since this was the first day of my "fueling trial".
My energy of choice today was Watermelon Gu Chomps. These are gummies that are about the size of a quarter and fairly thick. They don't contain caffeine and they come 8 chews to a pack. I took two before I started. Flavor-wise they were really tasty, a little tart, but not pucker-worthy. I didn't notice any big surge of energy after I took them, but then again, I hadn't started running yet. I took two more at the three mile mark, and again while I didn't feel an instant boost, I could definitely tell I had fueled. The next two came at mile 6. I was breathing pretty heavily at this point and noticed how hard they were to chew while running and breathing hard. These things are pretty big and pretty chewy, so that was a little annoying. I took a big swig of water to help wash them down, and I definitely felt a bit renewed after taking them. I took the last two at the 8 and a half mile mark. I was starting to drag and was also preoccupied with where my route was going to go, so these last two chews seemed vital. This time I took advantage of a stop sign to eat them while waiting for a green light. They went down much easier this way than trying to eat them on the run. All in all, I give Gu Chomps 3.5 out of 5 stars. They are very tasty and definitely provide a subtle boost of sustained energy. My stomach tolerated them just fine and I did not feel the need to find a port-a-potty along my route. However, they are really big and hard to chew and the boost I got was very subtle, which was fine for a training run, but I might want something with more kick for race day.
The end of my second loop put me at 9.5 miles, just as I suspected. I was probably only about a half mile from my office at this point, so I headed up an unknown block past the football stadium. I am not very confident in my directional capabilities, but I figured if I kept the stadium in my sights I would be fine. I was starting to get a little chilled at this point too. My paced had slowed down and I was fighting some pretty slippery spots now that I was off my normal route. I turned towards campus and decided I was going to head in, whether that put me at 10 miles or 11 miles didn't really matter anymore. When hit the sidewalk that leads to my building, the pace lady on my Strava app said "10.5 miles completed". I decided I had enough left in my legs to make it a few more blocks so I could cross over on the campus ped-bridge and get that last half mile in. I was pretty relived to make it back to the pool after that. My legs were tired, my face was frozen, but I felt really accomplished. As soon as I got to the pool I changed into my swim suit and took a nice long soak in the hot tub. Until it thaws out a bit, I might need to consider doing all my long runs from work because there is no reward like an interrupted soak in a hot tub after a long, cold run!
Thursday, February 19, 2015
See, I don't eat like that anymore. Used to be that wolfing down a plate of stir-fried noodles while barely stopping to breathe was a regular occurrence for me. I ate whatever tasted good, I ate for the camaraderie of sharing time with friends; food was fun! However, in the past year and a half since I started running, I have found my attitude towards food has made a pretty drastic shift. I never used to view food as fuel for my body's activities. I enjoyed food, maybe too much, but never really thought about how it might be affecting my energy or attitude. I didn't have to worry about how much fiber was in my morning meal, or whether or not I was getting enough "good" fat in my diet. I didn't have to plan out my protein intake to make sure it was aiding in recovery after workouts, and I certainly never considered eating anything called Gu!
Now, I am keenly aware of everything that goes into my body; how it affects my ability to exercise at a peak level and how it helps replenish me after a run. Decadent treats are reserved for rest days (or after races) and a bowl of cereal no longer cuts it as breakfast. I know how often and how much I need to eat each day to maintain my weight and my energy at an optimal level. I now eat to live, instead of living to eat. This change has been gradual, and it hasn't been easy. I've given up some things I really love, but I don't feel deprived. I still have chocolate chip cookies and ice cream, I just don't have them every night. If anything, I have really learned to stop and think about what I'm about to put in my body. I think about how I'm going to feel after I eat it, I think about how it is going to affect my workout, I decide whether or not it is "worth" the calories. It is a shift that has really helped me be in a place where I am in the best shape of my life, and all the sacrifices have been worth it!
Still, there is one area of my nutrition overhaul that I haven't figured out....fueling during long runs/races. I started to experiment with this last year, but found that for most of my races I didn't really need anything other than some water. I tried some energy gels, which were all heinous, while training for my half marathon. Although I'll admit I got a good boost from them, it was torture trying to choke them down. I did discover one brand, Huma Chia Energy Gels, that tasted pretty good, but I don't know that they delivered the best bang for my buck. I have realized though, with marathon training in full swing, now is the time to get this figured out. So, I stopped by REI the other day and picked up this :
Yes, that is pretty much every variation of easy to process energy there is on the market. And I'm going to attempt to find at least one that will get me through 26.2 miles without making me want to puke, or bonk in the process. I am also planning on trying this recipe for homemade Chia gel. I am nothing if not frugal, so if I can make my own energy gel at a fraction of the cost of store-bought, sign me up!
I am working on a page where I can post reviews of everything I try, so look for that in the next week or so. In the meantime, I welcome your suggestions on what works for you, what I should avoid, or you can just tell me I am way over thinking this and I should stick to the tried and true pre-race spaghetti dinner to get me through!
Monday, February 16, 2015
Marathon Training Week Two Recap
It's February, I shouldn't be surprised that the weather sucks. And I'm not so much surprised that it sucks, it's just that I've never really had a vested interest in the weather before (other than the passing knowledge all Minnesotan must possess to carry on obligatory conversations that begin with "Well, we gotta another cold one out there today, ya know.") This year though, I'm an "outside" runner. Last year I was a treadmill runner. Last year I didn't care what the windchill was because it was always 70-degrees in the gym. But, since I discovered running outside last spring, I now dread my miles on the treadmill (hence it's nickname the "dreadmill"). I never thought I'd make an investment in cold weather tights and wool running socks, or that I'd have developed an appropriate layering system for runs in 30, 20, and 10 degrees! Unfortunately though, I have also found that I have a line I need to draw for when I need to suck it up and take it inside, and this week, like last week, I only got to breathe fresh air on one run.
Monday, glorious Monday. It's seems like a lifetime ago that I was out on campus in my 30-degree get-up (short sleeve t-shirt, light jacket, full-tights and headband). But Monday was awesome. The sun was shining, the trails were clear and loads of us were getting our Vitamin D fix outside. I had an easy 3 miler, so I stuck to my go to route "to the bridge and back". I'm not a big fan of out and back runs, but for some reason this one is not too bad. Just the right mix of flats and hills, only a couple stop lights, and there is always something interesting to see along the way. Monday it was a group of runners in shorts and shirt sleeves...Minnesotan's tend to lose their minds a little when the thermostat gets above freezing in February!
Alas, that was it. The deep freeze set in on Tuesday and never left. I had four miles on the schedule this day, so I hit the dreadmill at work. It wasn't too bad. I was to do a one mile warm up, the mid two miles at tempo, and then a one mile cool down. I did my warm up at 6.2 mph, my tempo miles at 6.4 mph and my cool down at 6.0 mph. I felt pretty strong and got to wear my new running shorts (this is one of my favorite times of the year at work, the swim teams start getting all their gear for the Big 10 and NCAA Championships, so I get a lot of left over swag!)
Wednesday was cross training with TRX. The past few weeks our class has been huge so we've done a lot of circuit training off the straps to accommodate everyone. This week, we had a nice small group, so we did most of our work on the straps, which was awesome. Of course, the trainer found a way to work some burpees in there. I fear I will never escape those things. Thursday, more negative windchill, more treadmill. The plan called for 6 miles, two more than I've ever ran on the TM before. My BRF Brandi was able to meet me on the fourth floor (our go-to treadmill area since you can see the whole gym and look out the windows!) I figured I'd just get in as many miles as Brandi was up for and call it good. She was done after three, and of course told me to stay up there and get it done. She's very persuasive, so I decided to stick it out. The six miles where to be negative split, 2/2/2. I had done the first two at 6 mph, and started the next two at 6.2 mph. By the end of the fourth mile I was sure there was no way I had two more miles in me (especially at 6.4 mph). But I ramped it up and told myself I would just do as much as I could, then I would call it good. Mile five felt okay, but mile six felt incredible! I am not sure how I got my second wind, but my stride felt really strong and my energy was up. I was definitely glad to have that one behind me though.
Friday was swim day...but it was also the only day for the foreseeable future that the temps were supposed to be above freezing. I knew I had a 10-miler on tap for Saturday, where the windchill was going to be -15 all day. I really went back and forth about doing my long run on Friday and then swimming Saturday, but my legs were a little beat after TRX and my 6-miler Thursday. I reasoned that I could do my 10-miler Sunday since it was supposed to be a little warmer. I did 1800 yards and was so glad I decided to swim. My legs were happy for the break and I swam fast and strong (this might have been due to the fact that I butted my workout right up to the time the varsity team takes over the pool...I didn't want to look like an idiot in front of them.)
This brings me to the weekend...the cold, cold weekend. Saturday morning the windchill was -25. I didn't even consider getting out. We had a fairly busy day planned anyway, so I decided to shift my rest day from Sunday. I knew Sunday wasn't supposed to be any warmer, but I held out hope that things might improve....I also had a back up plan. A couple friends of mine had told me about an indoor track in Maple Grove that was free and open to the public. Now, I would not normally consider running 10 miles on an indoor track, as the thought of circling my work track 80 times, or the Y track 90 times made me want to puke. But this track was 4.8 laps to a mile....in my mind, 48 circles sounded so much more doable. Plus, they opened at 8am on Sunday, early enough for me to get in and get home before the whole day was shot. So, when I woke up Sunday and saw that minus sign in front of the temperature, I set out for the 30 minute drive to the dome. I got there and the parking lot was packed! I couldn't imagine that there were that many people here to run...but quickly remembered it was an indoor soccer dome...I guess runners aren't the only "outdoor" athletes who need to find alternatives in the winter. The track was covered in field turf and was much narrower than I expected, but I was the only runner there for the first 20-minutes. I did have to dodge parent-walkers and an occasional soccer player warming up outside the field, but this wasn't too bad. The track started to fill up about 8:30. There were four runners with their TC Marathon shirts on who all passed me easily, but several others keeping a variety of paces. I decided to stop for some fuel after 4 and a half miles, I was out of energy gel, so I brought some fruit snacks....note to self...fruit snacks don't quite cut it, but I managed. I started back up and that was when Nike+ decided to stop telling me my mileage. I know that many of you are advocates for not running with an app squawking in your ear every half mile, but for me, sometimes the anticipation of hearing my split and knowing I'm that much closer to the finish is all that keeps me going. It was about then that I started doubting my ability to get to 10 miles. I was tired and I certainly didn't want to start counting laps at this point. So I made a deal with myself. I would run for 15 minutes and check my progress and then decide whether or not to keep going. Fifteen minutes later I walked a bit and checked, 6.2 miles, not too bad. 15 minutes later I checked again, I was sure I was running so slow that I was only at about 7.5 miles, but to my surprise I was at 8.5. This was a huge mental boost and I knew I could get to 10. I told myself to count 8 laps and then check. These last 8 laps were a long slog, and also happened to be when the game I had been watching for the first 40 laps ended and a new game began, so there was a flurry of teenage soccer players filling up the track, both doing warm up laps and trying to leave. This did not do wonders for my faith in the youth of America as most of them had little regard for those of us running the track. But, the few times I had to slow for traffic, I welcomed the rest. I kept ticking the laps off in my head and when I had one left, my legs knew it. They gave a pretty strong effort for that last go around. When I pulled out my phone to check my mileage, a huge smile broke out on my face. "10.0" the screen read. I stopped then and there and walked one more circle around. It was the first time running double digits for me since October and I was pretty darn proud of myself. One of the "marathoners" was stretching on the side when I went over to retrieve my coat and boots. He said "how far did you go?" I said "10 miles...I'm training for my first marathon". He said "Wow, I can't last more than about 5 in here, nice job". We then chatted about marathons for a bit, he had done Grandma's a few times and told me I'd be great. And you know what, after 48 circles of that track on a chilly Sunday morning, I gotta say I believe him!
Thursday, February 12, 2015
The first item listed was my biggest excuse for years, and the one I hear from people all the time..."I just don't have any motivation". Seriously, if I had a dollar for every time someone asked me "where do you find the motivation to work out?" I'd retire to a warm tropical island and spend my days running on the beach and sipping fruity drinks. If I had a dollar for every time I've had a good answer to that question, I'd be broke.
See, I used to be a classic start/stopper. I would get all worked up to start an exercise and diet plan, or a new fitness routine, and it wouldn't last. I had no motivation to keep it going. This has been going on since college. Some stints lasted longer than others, all with varying degrees of success. There was this one time back in the early part of 2000 that I got into really good shape, but that was because I was working at the Olympic Training Center and my best friend at the time was a World Record holder who made me swim with her everyday. Then, there was another time I lost a bunch of weight doing Weight Watchers at work, but that was because all my coworkers were doing it and we were allowed a free lunch hour to attend the meetings! Looking back at most of my failed attempts at sticking with a fitness plan, there is one recurring theme that I can pin my motivation to...someone else wanted me to do it more than I wanted to do it. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that having someone else pushing you to do something healthy is bad, or that the guilt you might feel about letting someone else down doesn't work for some as motivation. As a recovering Catholic, let me tell you, guilt is a HUGE factor in making me do just about anything. But, I know that in my case, I had to find a way to make myself want it more than anything before I could make it stick.
So, that leads me back to the question, where do I find the motivation to work out? And I finally think I have a pretty good answer. Learned Ignorance. See I am beginning to have a hard time remembering what my life was like before I started running and exercising regularly. I'm forgetting who I was before I found this new athlete that has taken over my body. I can't recall what it was like to not haul a huge gym bag with me to work everyday. And I have certainly pushed that out-of-shape mommy who got winded playing with her kids out of my memories. I was going to call it fear, because I am afraid to think about when fitness wasn't a part of my life. I'm afraid that if I don't go exercise that I am going to be right back where I started a year and a half ago, a sad, overweight, unmotivated woman who was jealous of all her friends who were fit and active and loving life. But that didn't really seem to capture what it is that gets me off my butt and into my workout gear everyday. I don't want to think of fear being my reason for doing anything. I instead will consider my motivation to be the fact that I have learned to be ignorant of my old excuses, that I don't need motivation anymore. I just AM this person who exercises regularly, who tries to eat healthy, who has fun competing in triathlons; this person who is training for a marathon and loves to talk about running to anyone who will listen. My motivation is that I have done this for me, but it has gotten so much bigger than me...just by doing what I've been doing I have helped my husband, my kids, my friends, and some strangers, get fit, start exercising, and to embrace their inner athlete. And I want to be a person like that!
I wish I could tell you why it stuck this time, I wish I could tell you that the road to this place I'm in is an easy one. But I can't. I don't have those answers. I can't create motivation for you and I can't make sticking with it easy. All I can do is to keep talking about it, keep sharing what I'm doing. Because the more you hear about the success stories of people leading healthy lives, the harder it will be to ignore your own desire to do it too. I can tell you though, that if you find your motivation and you stick with it, you will come to be in the same amazing place I am right now. A place where I don't need to find a reason to go work out, it is just part of who I am; and it's a much happier place than I've ever been before!
Sunday, February 8, 2015
I have a love/hate relationship with winter. I love the first snowfall, when the trees are covered in white and everything has an ethereal glow about it. I love Christmas, and warm fires in the fireplace, and a cute pair of boots; but I hate not having fresh fruit and veggies, I hate winter driving, I hate running on black ice, I hate that brown/black sludge that accumulates along the sides of roads, I hate wearing thick socks, I hate that it gets dark at 4:30, and I hate being cold! Maybe I have more of a "sort-of-like/hate" relationship with winter, either way, I chose to live in Minnesota, so I know, I know, I need to just get over it! Which leads me to beg the question...why on earth did I choose to train for a marathon during the winter?!?
Grandma's Marathon will be held on, a hopefully balmy, June 20th. When I registered I thought, "June in Duluth...it won't be too cold, it won't be too hot, perfect!" I kind of forgot to think about the fact that I was going to have to do some running to get ready for this "perfect" day in June. So, when I looked at my training plan an started counting back 20 weeks from June 20th, I got a not-so-pleasant surprise, training was going to start on February 2nd. Smack dab in the middle of winter, on Groundhogs day nonetheless. Now, I am not one to base my hopes and dreams on a made-up rodent prognosticator's opinion on whether or not we get an early spring, but man, was I pissed when that stupid thing saw his shadow! I was already sick of winter running, now I had to deal with SIX MORE WEEKS of it! Not cool, Punxsutawney Phil, not cool.
Of course the week started off in the deep freeze, negative windchills. I've run on some pretty cold days, but the last time I ran in negative windchills I almost lost my fingers to frostbite (see below), so I have drawn the line at ZERO...if it's below that line, I'm hitting the dreadmill. Monday's Three miles plus four strides and Thursday's Tempo run were both inside. Thankfully my BRF was by my side, and those runs actually felt pretty good. Tuesday I did make it outside for my "easy 3"...it started out easy anyway, then a blizzard moved in and I barely found my way back to my office....I probably should have just run home from campus, would have taken less time than my commute that night! Wednesday I cross trained with TRX, my favorite fitness class. If you aren't familiar with TRX, it's a strength training class that uses straps suspended from a metal truss and you do various exercises using your body weight for resistance. I love it, except for the part where our trainer makes us do burpees...that part sucks, but I generally live through them! Friday I got in the pool despite my mind's intense opposition to swimming that day. The pool was crowded so I had to share a lane, but in the end, as usual, I was happy to have gotten in. I did a great set of descending 100's that were surprisingly fast for me.
|Yeah, that is not normal...|
Saturday was a super busy day, the kids and I did the Twin Cities in Motion Fieldhouse Fun Run in the morning (1/4-mile for Logan, 1-mile for Kayley), then some swimming at the Y, followed by an annoying trip to Costco (however, there were ice cream and dark chocolate sea-salt caramels being sampled, so I call it a win overall). We picked up a pizza and got home around 4:45. All this time, I knew full well that at some point, I was supposed to be getting an 8-mile run in. As soon as I opened the door, Bill grabbed the pizza out of my hand and stuck it in the oven, "I'm starving!" he said. I had a moment of weakness and almost said "Oh, good, I'm hungry and exhausted, let's eat!" but I knew that if I let this day go by without doing the first long run on my training plan I was going to regret it. So I said "Okay, why don't you and the kids eat and save me a couple pieces, I'm going on my run." He didn't talk me out of it like I hoped, instead he said "Sounds good, see you at bedtime". I had to remind him that I only had 8 miles and it wasn't even 5:00 yet, I should be home WELL before bedtime...at least, I hoped so anyway.
So I set off in the dusk and finished in the dark. I felt super-strong though and feel like I would have had a much better pace if I could have seen the road in front of me. Regardless, it was a really great way to end my first week of training. I got home and scarfed down two giant pieces of pizza and a couple cookies the kids had made, and still had plenty of time to relax before bedtime :)
Thursday, February 5, 2015
- Go to Florence and see the statue of David
- Travel to all 50 states (I have 10 to go)
- Visit the Louvre
- Go snorkeling in Belize
Until last year. When I started running it was seriously just so I could finish the 3.1 miles that was required to complete the triathlon I wanted to do that summer. I really had no intention of falling in love with running, or that I would ever run more than a 5K. But, you've all heard my story; somehow running became a part of who I am, and running a marathon became part of my bucket list.
Now, if someone could just tell me how to make my brain earn enough money for that trip to Belize...
Monday, February 2, 2015
- John Legand and Idina Menzel. They should open every Super Bowl from now until the end of time. My kids were only disappointed that Idina wasn't dressed as Queen Elsa.
- Skittles and Mini Corn Dogs. If it were healthy, this would be my daily diet. I have no problem admitting to the fact that I ate like there was no tomorrow last night.
- Lenny Kravitz. He and his guitar > Katy Perry on top of a mechanical lion. I was hoping since it was announced that he would be "performing with Katy Perry at halftime" that he would have been on stage longer than the dancing sharks, but I'm calling his 30-second appearance a win.
- Liam Neesen getting a scone. It's a sad commentary on the quality of the Super Bowl commercials that Liam Neeson getting called "Lie-um" at a coffee shop is one of the most entertaining ones.
- But the best part of the night by far was: #LikeAGirl
And just because I think she is so awesome, here are some ways my daughter runs #LikeAGirl!