Saturday, February 26, 2011

Ice, Ice Baby

Long time, no post. Life has been busy, busy, busy as it seems to get in ebbs and flows.

For the last two weeks, my long runs have edged over into double digits territory. On the weekend of Valentine's day, I ran nine miles through the rural roads and vineyards behind my house and felt pretty good when it was over, then loaded in the car to go to my parents' house. Last weekend, we were scheduled to be in Portland in the early afternoon for my nephew's first birthday party, and my plan was to again have my long run out of the way before heading over the river and through the Gorge.

Well, the best laid plans...

After getting up multiple times in the night, and then early in the morning for no aparrent reason, I did not feel at all like slipping into my tights and strapping on a fuel belt to gut out my first double digits run. I packed a bag of running clothes so that if it looked like we wouldn't head out in time to get home and run on Sunday, I could just do my run in Forest Park. 

Birthday cake eaten, Happy Birthday sung, then it was off to an adult celebration of my bestie's fortieth with Italian food that would make you wanna slap your mama. I wasn't tempted to imbibe all the luscious wine that went along with it since I'd offered to drive she and her husband, so the next morning found me feeling pretty fine. We decided to head 'em up and move 'em out early, so I prepped the car and we were on our way. 

After deciding at Wendy's that a chicken sandwich (and french fries) would be just as easy to digest as a salad (Ha! right?) we had lunch down and two hours of travel left to go. About an hour from our house, I was snoozing when my husband commented that something was going wrong with the car...what?!

He pulled over to a car that acted like it was running out of gas, except that it wasn't. Awesome, trapped in nowheresville with two kiddos in the driveway of La Fundito Mexican Restaurant...for almost an hour. Sadly, all I could think was 'Why in the hell didn't I do my run before we left?!'

After calling our insurance and car companies it became clear that if we needed towed, it would be on our own dime, so my MacGuyver set to figuring out the problem. At one point, I thought he was going to blow us all up as our car shook like chitty-chitty-bang-bang when he tried to start it and leave it running spluttering long enough to look under the hood. 

The final verdict? In my slumber I'd 'accidentally' jammed my foot up under the jockey box and tripped the emergency fuel shut-off valve. Oopsie!....and we were off like a dirty shirt. 

As soon as we rolled in the driveway, I jammed dirty clothes in the washing machine, then got on my gear and headed out. It was now or never. It went, I got done, and with just an eek of daylight left...and that's about all I can say about that. 

For the next several weeks, I'll be doing my long run on Thursdays and my tempo on the weekend because it just works out better. For the next weeks it will be fine, but this week left me with just four days in between long runs. With my Bonnydale build, it was already destined that I'd be sore. 

One of the things I have come to love about running alone is that I have all this time to let my mind wander...sometimes it's not such a good thing. About mile 6, I had let my head go to the 'I haven't really found my place here yet, and don't really have a lot of friends' place which left me physically biting back tears and walking at the corner where I turn just near my son's school. Pull. Yourself. Together! I stopped, drank some water, ate a couple honey stingers and gave myself a little pep talk. I gave Pam the go-ahead and I actually felt a little spring in my step as I jaunted past the cemetery and neared the park. I glanced down to see what my pace was looking like now and thought something looked odd. Apparently, I wasn't clear in my intention to get going again, because my watch was still stopped. Awesome, over a quarter mile not recorded. Really not a big deal, right? Oh, but everything was a big deal on this run.

Long story short, I finished. Tight calves, woe is me, but I finished. I walked through the front door and as J asked how it went, I burst into tears and felt like a big, sweaty, emotional baby as I wailed 'This run was haaaaard. I was sloooooow and my calves huuuuuuurrrrrrt.' He was very kind and just reminded me that in training for a marathon there are going to be aches and pains, and there are going to be set backs.

Just then, the lure of losing my ice bath cherry sounded divine. I called upon the advice from my dear mama friend, Maggie, about how she structures hers. I peeled off my sweaty tights, put on my Oceanside shorts from Athleta, so my naughty bits wouldn't get too stunned, and filled my tub with cold water. Only cold water. Now, we're talking only enough water to cover your thighs when you're sitting down. No vital organs will be submerged which seems to help a lot in the shock factor. Frankly, though, my feet and legs were so hot and tired, that it just felt phenomenal when I slid them under the icy water.

I still had on my short and long-sleeved shirts, and had turned the TV in my bedroom onto DIY so I'd be entertained. Once I got settled in the tub, I added all of the ice from my freezer's ice-maker bin (or you could buy a small bag from the store) and laid my head against a folded towel on the edge of the tub. It was bliss. After about 20 minutes (which seemed to go kind of slowly, to be honest and not have you think it was all sunshine and fairies), I drained the water and slowly got up, shaking out my legs. My tub and shower are separate, so I switched over and got under a steamy spray, where I stayed until I felt human again.

Maggie also adds a warm drink into the mix while she's sitting in the tub which I would do if I'd been in the proper frame of mind, and my friend Erin has a warm towel from the dryer on hand. I have to say, had I not had the emotions of a four year-old, I would most likely have not tried the ice bath. I never tried it during the training for my half-marathons and I was fine. However, after rolling out of bed on Friday morning to find that I was not stiff, I am a convert. I now add to my list of faithful healing companions of 800 mg of ibuprofen, a packet of emergency and an early bedtime, an ice bath after a long run.

So there you have it. Do you have any tricks to make your ice bath more enjoyable? Or, are you one of the many out there who've yet to try? Hope this helps give you the nudge to take the plunge because it was oh-so-worth it.

My son H and I at Muffins with Mom at his school this week. Life doesn't pause just because you've got a marathon to train for :)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wednesday Words to Run By

Just do it!

After my hectic week last week, where I only got in two workouts, I am looking forward to being back to a "normal" schedule. This is the time of the school year where so much is happening. Yet I am working hard to refocus and as I mentioned last week, not let one busy week throw me off so completely that it stretches into multiple weeks without working toward my goals of exercising more and thinking about nutrition.

Last night as I was commuting home from my evening classes I was completely exhausted. I thought about how I felt that way during fall semester, especially with the first couple of classes, but I had been surprised that I did not feel that way at the start of the spring semester. I had more energy. I was not as tired.

I attributed some of it to my classes typically getting out about an hour earlier this semester, but last night when I was tired even at my first class, I started to wonder. How much of the way I was feeling better could be attributed to the fact that by the time classes had started I was two weeks in to exercising regularly and eating more balanced meals? How much of a coincidence (or not) was it that the first time this semester I felt truly exhausted was after a long weekend (4 days off) and the week that I was not exercising as much and where I ate out more in between our on the go conferences?

Though I know some of it can be attributed to the time of the year, I also think that I have been feeling so great up until last night because of the benefits of working toward a healthier lifestyle. That's one more thought to motivate me to get right back into my schedule from the start of the year until last week.

I am definitely at the stage where I have to make a conscious effort to get out there and run or go to the gym because having one week off makes it so easy to have one more relaxing evening at home or to choose any other activity on my list of possibilities. Today after school I am planning on coming home and going for an outdoor run if the weather is nice or going to the gym with my Nike shoes encouraging me along the way, reminding me of their slogan.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wednesday Words to Run By

My feeling is that any day that I am too busy to run is a day that I am too busy.
-John Bryant

This week is the most challenging for me so far this year to balance work, school, family, and exercising. Time for spring parent-teacher conferences have arrived, which means that in addition to my typical one long day a week (about 14 hours away from home for teaching and doctoral classes), I will also have two more about 12 hour days for teaching and conferences. We do, however, have Friday off in order to compensate for the two late evenings. It is usually easy to map out 4-5 days to exercise, working around my one night of classes, but with three nights in a row, I know that I am going to be drained.

Last night as I was commuting, I came to the realization that yes, I will be too busy to run for those three days. While I will pack workout clothes in my car in the event that I get the motivation to go to the gym on the way home tonight or tomorrow, I also remember clearly that after long days I typically just want to come home, be with family and relax. I had to accept that it is okay. After all, this is not what my typical weeks look like.

Rather than lamenting the lost days of exercising or figuring out a way to cram in some workouts no matter what, I am going to focus on still eating healthy during these days, getting enough sleep, and making sure to not lose my momentum in the process. I know that come Friday it is essential that I get a workout in. I know that next week I cannot let one light workout week turn into another light workout week. I need to get back on schedule because often weeks like these are enough to throw off all my attempts at making healthy lifestyle changes. I will have to consciously remember that my extra busy work is over and it is time to go back to my previous cycle of regularly exercising. As long as I do, then I will just accept that occasionally my workout plans need to shift in order to accommodate other aspects in my life.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

An Uphill Battle

In my Active Runner email today, a video was included from Dave Scott (six time Ironman World Champ, so he probably knows a thing or two) about uphill and downhill running efficiency. When I was training for the Worcester Half, we got several tips from one of the runners and they were right in line with the advise that he gives and it has helped me a lot on the hills.

I don't think anything could have saved me from the agony that was the second (unknown to us, unrepresented on the elevation chart for the course) 900 foot elevation gain in mile 11 of the Fueled by Fine Wine half, but I do have grand plans to get some major hill-work into my current training plan.

In March I'll have a 15k that has some pretty wicked (for me) elevation gains and losses, and I want to be ready to tackle it with efficiency; I'm not afraid to walk, but I'd like to stick it out in running form as long as possible.

Most hills workouts I've found for beginning runners advise to find a hill that is about 400 meters long, and has an incline of 5-15%. Starting with 3-5 repeats (running briskly while maintaining proper form up and then recovering on the downhill by either walking or jogging) and working your way up to 7-10 repeats over the course of a training period. You can obviously do this on the treadmill with less math, but I prefer my punishments to be of the more private, on-the-road variety where random cars may witness your near cardiac arrest, but an entire football team in the adjacent weight room will not.

I have just the hill in mind, but it's on my 8 mile route, when I get to the point in my training that an 8-10 miler is part of a mid-week run, I've got big plans for it. It's a little intimidating to think how quickly that point in my training will actually come!

For now, there's a similar hill right near my house that's part of a short run (anywhere from 2-4 miles) and I'm going to add the 3-5 hill repeats into it when I run it next week...I'll report back on how much my legs hate me, and I'll probably also be reporting back on my very first foray into the world of ice baths.  My friend Maggie swears by them, and I think it's time I give 'em a whirl...I just hope my girlie parts will forgive me.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Wednesday Words to Run By - Options, Options, Options

I always loved was something you could do by yourself, and under your own power. You could go in any direction, fast or slow as you wanted, fighting the wind if you felt like it, seeking out new sights just on the strength of your feet and the courage of your lungs."
-Jesse Owens

Now that I am getting back into running there are so many variables - distance, route, treadmill or outdoors, whether or not to listen to music... I can stick with a comfortable path or switch it up to have new scenery. When I run outside I have been mapping out different routes with my car tripometer. Regardless if I am ready to switch up my path or not, each run is a different experience influenced by aspects such as my mindset, the weather, and the peripheral activity for the day.

With high school cross country, I always loved the ability to understand myself as a runner and to work toward personal goals. Whether it was figuring out early on in my freshman year that I always wanted to run the whole race (after one race where I walked a bit on a hill) or mentally preparing myself for a specific aspect of a course, there was always something to focus on in order to improve and push myself.

Lately I have been focusing on just getting out there again and reconnecting with myself as a runner. It has been fun realizing what works best for me and how I can keep myself motivated and moving in the right direction. Little by little I am figuring out training plans, setting up goals, and deciding on which gear I like the most. For the record, yesterday I realized that a running skirt is not as cute on as I had pictured it might be. I will try one on again later, but for now, I will definitely stick to my capris! It was all I could do to not bust up in our famous family raucous laughter right in the dressing room. Yet, that's part of the fun - having so many options to choose from.

*Just as I was joking about my skirt experience yesterday, I saw this post over at Run Like a Mother. It instantly creates visions of how cute a running skirt should be in theory!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Two Steps Forward

This weekend was the first time that I didn't have a plan that would allow me to get my long run tackled and behind me by lunch. J's schedule was 7-3 both days, which meant he'd be home between 4 and 5. Still daylight enough that I could comfortably be laced up and ready to head up as soon as he got home and make it back after my eight miler without being in total darkness.

I'd briefly considered hitting the road before he left for work, but quickly calculated that I'd have to leave the house by 4:45am to make that happen and my route included rural back roads without streetlights and one very big scaredy cat. I decided to wait until he got home Saturday afternoon.

I awoke Saturday with the beginnings of what felt like was going to be a doozy of a head cold and a stiff neck. I figured the run would just help clear out the old sinuses and just downed an Emergen-C before my first cuppa Joe. I met a friend 'in town' with the boys and went shopping at the mall for the first time since moving to the Wild West. A late-ish lunch and plans to have my friend and her husband drive over from their house about 45 minutes away and I could see my resolve to get that run in after zooming around to pick up and get the kids settled for the afternoon quickly melting away.

When J got home, I casually announced to him that I'd be running the following afternoon. After two, okay three, glasses of wine and a late night the next morning did not exactly bring a rested and recooped Sally. Thus, the day wore on and I was just not feeling it. Sneezing every five seconds, and cringing each time due to neck pain, I did what I haven't done on any training plan to date; I skipped that week's long run.

Fast forward to this afternoon when I was anxiously lacing up and stretching for my run. I had an easy two on the books because it's technically the wind-down week for the 15k plan. My friend and I had agreed we were going to add a couple miles to each of the weekday runs in order to stay on track with where we'll be next week on our first official week of the FIRST training plan. Earlier in the day, I had asked J if he could feel anything in my neck because I have never had stiffness that lasted more than a day, two at the most and this had been nagging me since Friday. As he made his way down the nape of my neck his knuckle hit a spot on the inside of my shoulder blade and I yelped in pain, but then begged for him to make it hurt so good. Sure enough, after about five minutes I felt significantly better. 

I left the house, telling myself I just had to run two miles. By the time I hit .5 things were starting to fall into place and my pace was relatively normal. I was seriously nervous that skipping that run was going to throw me off and I'd be back to square one. I was kind of glad I hadn't mapped out a longer route because it was really empowering tonight to take turn after turn that led me further and further from home instead of turning back, with Pam letting me know I was kicking her booty all the while. (I'm terrified to make my virtual training partner's pace faster, but after beating it consistently, methinks it's time...)

When I hit the corner of our neighborhood I was at exactly four miles and I had averaged 12:24 minute miles. I am not going to dwell on that missed run; I'm not sure if I felt great tonight because I gave the body the rest it needed (that's what I'll stick with) or if I would have been just fine either way (that's what I'm pretty sure of), but I've got my eyes on the prize and know that the way I felt on Saturday afternoon, all day Sunday and again on Monday after missing the run isn't a feeling I want to repeat anytime soon.

(Running Fueled by Fine Wine Half-Marathon in Dundee, OR this summer)
So, here's to planning your work and working your plan, so you don't have to be afraid of things that go bonk in the middle of the race.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Run that Almost Wasn't

Wednesday I blogged about my plan to run 2 miles on Thursday. Yet, when I arrived at home with my older daughter, the thoughts started going through my mind - my stomach hurts a little bit, I'm tired, even if I don't run today, I will still be able to get in my 4-5 days a week later.

When my husband and other daughter got home he said, "So you're going to run two miles now, right?"

"Yeah, I have been thinking. I am kind of tired. I'm still deciding," I replied.

"I would like to run too."

"Well we can't both go at the same time because of the girls. Do you want to go or should I go?"

And then he said those magical words, "Go run, Amanda."

So I did. It felt great.

There was a gentle slope on a short part of my route, and I was thinking about how certain aspects of running come back automatically from my high school C/C days, such as running down and up hills.

When I got home, I opened my front door to see the time on my cell phone before going right back out to walk a loop around my neighborhood to cool down.

So much about changing a lifestyle is about sticking to the plan. If I say that I am going to do a certain run or workout on a certain day, I need to do it. If I start negotiating with myself about switching out days, then it is a slippery slope to reverting back to my previous sedentary lifestyle.

I have been and will need to continue, I am assuming, for quite some time to map out my workout days for the week and then stick to it!

Friday, February 4, 2011

36k for Miracles

I recently got invited by Doug W. over at Really Not A Runner ,who's also from my old stomping grounds in MA, to participate in a virtual race to benefit Boston Children's hospital.

It's pretty simple; you run either a 5k, a 10k a half-marathon or the full 32k on March 20th then post your results and a picture of yourself (if you wish) to him.

The cost is super low; $5 for 5k, $10 for 10k, 13.1 (really 14) for half marathon and $32 for the 32k. Doug is going to be running all of the races consecutively on race day and if anyone beats his time on that day, they'll get a winner certificate and bragging rights. Really, it's all about the charity and having a great reason other than your shrinking behind to hit the road that day.

I'm so excited that this is the same weekend that I'll be in my hometown celebrating baby sis' 30th birthday and we were planning to run together anyhow. I'm signed up for the half-marathon, she'll do the 5 or 10k.

Check out the description of the race at 36K for Miracles on DailyMile. If you're not already a member at Daily Mile, it's a great way to track your workouts, and see great progress. It's also the way I met Melody and learned about the Worcester running group, so it'll always have a special place in my cold, cold heart.

Male and Female winners of each distance will receive a RoadID and there are some door prizes available for slow-mo's like me who happen to be good at social networking. So join up, buttercups, or I'll be left without a chance for bling!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Just Me and My Shadow

On Tuesday, I had the best run I've had in awhile. Instead of walking the first .2 miles like I had been, I decided to just go. I had a specific physical landmark in mind, and I was going to try really hard not to look at Pam for reference until I got there. If I was honestly too tired when I got to that point, I could walk. If not, it was on to the next landmark. Not only was I not tired, but I ended up making it to three more landmarks and only then did I walk, and for only a minute. Not because I was exhausted, but because my pace was slipping and I was hoping that a break would give me a little reset. I walked that one time, and it was for a pre-determined period. My first and last miles were sub 11.5, which is awesome for me, and my slowest mile was mile 3. 

I was dressed in layers, but I was soon sweating and reveling in the bold sunshine. I glanced to my left and realized that part of the reason I love running outside is being able to see my shadow. Much like my compression tights, my shadow (at certain times when the angles aren't too obtuse and out of proportion) helps reinforce in my mind the best representation of me. I see rounded hips and thighs working as they stride forward, broad shoulders and yes, that uber-round booty trailing behind. I'll never have a small butt, or slim thighs, but that's just the way the DNA cookie crumbles. And it's alright with me.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Wednesday Words to Run By

No matter what is going on in my life, whether I’m sad, angry, frustrated, happy, bored, hungry, full, sleepy or antsy, going out for a run makes everything better. 
-From a post at Janine Does Life titled Running Makes Everything Better

Choosing to start running again in the winter months was in some ways not the best time of year to get started. Even though I loved the way it felt finally getting in an outdoor run, despite the colder weather, I only went on three outdoor runs in January. Though I did have many great shorter runs on the treadmill, when thinking over the different workouts I have been doing recently, very few are ones where I just go for a run. Even at the gym, I never go just to run on the treadmill.

In February, especially since the temperatures are warming up, I would like to commit more of my workout days to running with a special focus on getting outdoors more. I always appreciate posts such as Janine's that continue to nudge me to remember why I loved running in the first place. (I recommend that you read the full post; it was really great!) Her post also reminds me of why with so many other things that I could be doing, it is essential to continue carving out time for exercise. I have felt better. I do feel more of a sense of balance in my life.

Last night on the way home from my classes I mapped out a 2 mile run from my house to start bumping up the mileage a little bit. I plan on going tomorrow evening. I'm looking forward to posting about my progress toward my February goal of embracing the joys of running!

*On a side note, I found out about Janine Does Life from the Ben Does Life blog, which has also been a big motivation to me. I just noticed that they added Portland to their 5K tour. I will have to wait and see the date, which should be toward the end of July, but I would love to go. Maybe I can even convince Sister #3 to join in with me if it works out in our schedules.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Giving A Rat's Ass About Running

This sister is what you'd call a "people person." I like doing things together, including running. And yes, I read all your blogs about the solace and inspiration found running alone with your thoughts in the pre-dawn hours. But I prefer to gauge my breathing by the huff and puff of conversation, to engage in the friendly competition that comes, albeit mostly in my head, that you get running with a friend or partner. And my lifestyle mostly accommodates this preference. My in-laws live in our house, so my husband and I are hard-pressed to find an excuse not to run in the pre-dawn hours, or after-hours, or really whenever the old folks are not at the Village Inn.

(This is the part where all the runners with children throw eggs at my blog in bitter jealousy that I have built-in caregivers to help whenever I want to run).

Alas, I have reached the point in both my academic and physical fitness journey where I need to embrace the solitary run. I've been on my doctoral journey for four and a half years, taking classes, seminars, partnering in research projects, and basically doing everything that an academic can do with other people before the final lap: The Dissertation. I remember a conversation with my assistantship supervisor when I began writing and wanted advice. She said, simply, "If you don't give a rat's ass about your dissertation, no one else will." Kind of like running. No matter the goal, you can train with partners, follow a training guide, fuel and hydrate based on the experts' advice, but when it's race day, it's all you.

So I get up every morning, make coffee, and head to school to write for a minimum of four hours at a time. That's the promise I made to myself. Four hours a day, five days a week, no matter what. Some days I stare at the blinking cursor and the clock on the wall, willing the words to appear on the page and the hours to pass more quickly. Other days, the words and hours fly and I can't wait to come back the next day. It's mostly uphill and mentally exhausting, but I really, really want those three letters that come at the finish line: PhD. So I keep at it.

Now, running alone? That's my next challenge. How do I make the same sort of commitment to my physical self? My husband and I have found a good routine on the weekends, getting up and going for a run, planning our Saturday as we huff and puff, running toward that hot cup of coffee and sleepy-head toddler waiting for us at the finish line. But the weekdays are sporadic, still not in a solid routine that works for both of us so we end up with a couple days a week. So, this week's challenge is to find a routine that works for me. Because, after all, if I don't give a rat's ass about my, well, ass, who will?