Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Training for 26.2: It's all in your head...

I'm wrapping up my week off of work. For the first time in a long time, I didn't spend my time off away from home. Instead, I made it a "staycation", and made very few plans. I requested this time off way back in March--not knowing that I was going to need it so very badly! Normally, I take a week off in July and week in August--both planning around my sons' birthdays. We used to spend those weeks up in Wisconsin at my parents' summer home. Once my youngest started playing football, we had to give up our carefree week away in August. And this year, since my oldest had a job, it was just my younger son and me for our time away in July.

I've written about my very stressful summer, and if you want to read more, you can click here. I'm not going to recap that anymore. Instead, I'm choosing now to focus on the positive and what has been my main training goal for this Chicago marathon: mental toughness. I surprised myself, especially the last couple of weeks, managing to get through one of the most stressful periods of my life relatively strong. This is not my nature. I tend to be a high strung, intense person, who gets anxious pretty easily. This is the main reason I run. Running helps me burn off a lot of negative energy. And while I love to run races, races really bring out the anxiety in me, and I do believe that is why my last attempt at the marathon did not go well. I've also written about this as well, you can read that here.

I'm really happy I chose to train with Becky, via CrossFit. The work she gives me is so hard that I want to quit sometimes. But I don't. When I'm done I feel as satisfied as if I crushed a run. And I do believe that pushing through those tough workouts is making me mentally tough as well. Physical fitness is only one aspect of training for a tough goal event. For my last marathon, I was physically ready. Crushed my 20 miler. But the day of the race, my mind got the best of me. It was hot. I know that I don't run well in the heat. And I pretty much convinced myself of that at the starting line.

So what can I do to finish this marathon under my terms--in other words, strong and proud?

Research backs Becky on the work she is doing with me. Tim Noakes, a noted sports medicine researcher, theorizes that the brain uses sensory information, such as elevated lactic acid, to send messages that we are working too hard. We get signals from the brain, such as fatigue, cramping, and pain. His thought is that we need to train our brain to tolerate more exertion. So when we are training, and we start to feel those symptoms, instead of stopping, we might want to push a little harder. Speed work is one way to increase our anaerobic threshold and help us to train our brains to tolerate a little more discomfort. Some suggestions also include mantras--I have one that I'm using right now-- "I can and I will" and staying present--I've talked about that before--meaning staying focused on the workout. I also use music--songs that have positive messages and a driving beat--to help me push through a tough run. 

In addition, it is important to stay goal focused, and one of the articles I read for this post suggests that we actually write our goals down to make them seem more real. Another author suggests having 3 goals: one that is easily achievable, a realistic but challenging goal, and an ultimate goal. But no matter what goals you set, they need to be reachable for where you are at as a runner. My goals for this marathon include a) to finish strong. Yes, b) I'd like to finish under 5 hours this time! Actually c) 4:30 would be my ultimate goal. All realistic, all achievable, but all dependent on me that day.

What about during the race? What mental strategies work best during a run? Again, staying present and focused seems to be the key to a strong finish. Runners who focused on how they were feeling tended to finish strongly and were less likely to "hit the wall", probably because they were really tuned into pace and fueling/hydration. Runners who used distraction as a strategy tended to "hit the wall" more often and had much slower finish times. Hmmm....isn't this interesting? The experts say it is ok to tune out once in a while, but to make sure to check in and see how you are feeling. I like to run alone because I like to dial into how I'm feeling. I do listen to music, but more as a motivator than a distractor. I found this information really interesting because so many people like to run in groups, to help pass the time and distract them from the discomfort of running. Because I do get into my head sometimes and engage in negative self talk, I can see how having a companion could be helpful. I just need to stay positive!

What helps me is when I am starting to feel negative, I try recruiting someone around you to run with me a bit. Usually, I'll just kind of run alongside someone for a bit, say hi...I don't actually ask them to run with me--everyone is on their own journey, right? Or I'll try giving encouragement to someone around me who is struggling. I've been on both ends of this--a few times at a half marathon when I thought I couldn't finish and someone talked me up or even ran with me! I've also done the same to another runner, and that really gave me a boost of energy. Smiling helps too--when spectators call out encouragement, smile and wave back! The little boost of energy I feel when I do that always amazes me. I think it's called endorphins...

My friend Sandy jumped in at mile 14 and ran 3-4 miles with me. It helped a ton!

And what about "hitting the wall"? "Hitting the wall" or "bonking" happens to all long distance runners at one time or another. You know the feeling of leaden legs, difficulty catching your breath, feeling like you can't take another step? Hitting the wall is very real, and it is usually a byproduct of low glycogen stores. This all sounds so common sense but recommendations include fueling before you feel fatigued and on a regular basis. If you wait too long, it could be too late because your muscles are already out of fuel and the body has to convert your fuel into energy. Another article I read suggests using even pacing strategy throughout the race, suggesting that having your pace all over the place depletes glycogen stores much faster. Jeff Galloway recommends starting out slowly and saving all your energy to the end. This will also conserve energy and glycogen stores. Try to not get caught up in the energy of the crowd and go out at your own pace!

Easier said than done.

There is also a psychological component to hitting the wall. The brain also becomes fatigued and neurotransmitters, substances that are released by the brain, send negative messages to your muscles and begin to accumulate. Keeping your carb intake steady throughout the race will help the brain as well as your muscles. Once you start feeling the symptoms of fatigue, you need to dig deep and talk yourself through it. Willpower was shown to be are great strategy for overcoming the wall. And don't tell yourself that you're going to hit the wall before you even start the race. Studies show that runners who expect to hit the wall are 3x more likely to do so. Yikes! Repeat after me...the wall? What wall? No one told me about a wall? Must gel now...

So it was really great for me to review all the research to help me prepare for my final 6 weeks of training. Physically, I got this. Mentally, I'm a work in progress. But repeat after me:

I can and I will!

Trust the plan!

Running is fun!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Marathon training week 6--and the beat goes on

La da da da dee, la dee da da da....The good part about being older is that I have all these great pop culture references for life events...

How to sum up this week? Besides being hot and humid? I still had plenty of mama drama to deal with, but I felt unstoppable with my runs. I'm thinking and hoping that this tough training is making me not only physically stronger, but mentally tougher as well. Fingers crossed.

Monday: Rest day! I was tired and sore after my hilly 14 miler the day before. I was also tired from being woke up at 1130pm by the angry father of my one of my son's friends. He was calling me from the ER where his son was a patient--passed out drunk. He was extremely upset because what he thought was a fantasy football draft turned into a party for his son and a bunch of his friends. Including my son. He wanted answers, and I had none. And neither did my son, although I knew he knew more than he was saying. So I went to bed. But I didn't sleep. The next morning, I put my yoga mat down to stretch and destress. Since I didn't start work until 1, I decided to do that SeaWheeze yoga routine I've been enjoying. Truly, this was the highlight of my day. I dealt with my son when I got home.

Tuesday: I got up early to run 6 before work. It was storming, and I was so close to running on the treadmill. There was a small window of time for me to get my run in and not be late for work, and the storm passed just before that window closed. It was hot and steamy after the storm, but I had a pretty good run for the conditions, averaging 9:12/mile. As far as my son was concerned, the saga continued as I learned that my son was the one who brought the liquor to the party. Grateful for the distraction of work and lots of cute babies on my schedule, I pushed through my day and dealt with my son when I got home.

Wednesday: Yoga! And back to school for my boys. Having taken the car away from my son as punishment, I made them take the bus. My oldest was just so put out by this. Oh well. I got them out the door and I headed to the yoga studio, a huge knot in my stomach. Today's class was all prep for a pose called Bird of Paradise. It is a beautiful pose, if you are able to open up your extended leg. I'm a little flexibility impaired, so my Bird of Paradise looks like he has a broken leg. But the prep work was perfect--all hip and hamstring openers.

Bird of paradise pose--svarga dvidasana

Thursday: Becky changed up my speed work this week. I had 2 mile repeats x 3 on the plan. I wasn't quite sure how to pace myself and I took a stab at it, pacing them at 8:30 mins/mile. The first 2 repeats/4 miles were perfect! But mile 5 was 8:45, and I was fading fast. So I stopped there and jogged the rest of the way to my car. The conditions were also very humid again, and I really need to take that into account when I'm pacing myself. Next week, I'm shooting for 8:40mins/mile for this, unless it cools off.
After that, I headed over to CrossFit. Becky had me do front lunges with 55# on a bar; 4 laps. Every half lap was sumo deadlifts x10, with a 53# kettlebell (80 total!). I was shaking when I was done. On one of my last lunges, I got stuck on my lowered knee and had trouble getting up. At the end, I had the satisfaction of dropping that barbell to the floor. I love that! After that I did bridge poses x 10--but she had me walk my legs out and back each time. My hamstrings started to cry. I swear they did.


Friday: another rest day. Also the start of a week off of work. I woke up feeling pretty sore, especially in my glutes and adductors. I had planned to do yoga, to stretch, but I lost track of time. I met one of my old friends, another nurse practitioner, for SUP (standup paddleboarding). We drove to Montrose Beach, in Chicago, rented our boards, and headed out on to Lake Michigan. The water was calm and not too cold. Once we were out on the lake, we both just looked at each other and said...ahhhh. We paddled around the harbor for an hour, just talking, getting caught up on each other's lives, and enjoying the beautiful Chicago skyline. It was wonderful. After that, we went out for lunch, had a few beers, and went home. Later that evening, I went to watch my youngest play football for the first time as a high schooler. He caught a pass, made a few tackles, and made me a proud mama. As we were leaving, I ran into one of my neighbors, another mother runner, who wasn't all that encouraging when we talked about marathon training, particularly MY marathon training. You can read about that here. I'm just so gullible--letting myself get sucked into these negative conversations. Of course, I always think about the good comebacks hours later...

Saturday: Since it was still hot and humid, I set my alarm to get up before the sun to run the 5 that Becky had on the plan. My legs were more sore than the day before. I don't know if it was DOMS or the SUP or a combination, but I could barely walk up and down the stairs in my split level home. I thought the run was going to be a bust. I headed out the door, with no goal for this run except to finish it. After the first mile, my legs loosened up, and I settled into a nice 9 min/mile pace. I was shocked at how good it felt, between the humidity and my sore muscles. As a matter of fact, I felt so great, that I ran 6 instead of 5. I would have gone further, but I had carpool duties and I needed to get home. I did get on the yoga mat to try to stretch out my painfully sore muscles. I pulled out my Eoin Finn DVD, The Pursuit of Happy Hips and did the Easy Street Routine. My hips thanked me for it.

In the afternoon, I took both boys shopping for clothes. Afterwards, we went out to lunch. We had some great conversations and I started to feel like we were getting back on track. Later that evening, we went out to dinner to celebrate both boys' birthdays. We had a lot of laughs and I felt everyone starting to relax. Later, my oldest asked to go out with a friend and I told him to behave. He said that he was done with all the nonsense. We'll see...

Sunday: I woke up at 6 to prepare for my bike ride. Becky didn't put a distance on the plan, and so I planned to do my 30 miler, which takes me about 2 hours. I headed out and about 9 miles into it, I heard my back tire making a funny sound. I looked down, and yep--flat. I have an innertube, tools, and a small air pump on my bike. I had no idea how to change the tire. I figured I could put air in the tire and go back home. But for some reason, the air pump wouldn't connect to the tire valve. I put up the white flag of surrender and called my husband to come and get me. He changed my tire, but not without a struggle! He also found a staple in the tire. I headed back out for some more miles, but decided to go a different route. I rode north of my house into a really pretty semi-rural area. I felt pretty happy until I came to a major road and there was nowhere to go. This is one of my biggest frustrations of riding around here. So I just wandered around the area to get my miles in. I did drive by a farm with these guys! There was a bunch of them and they were all pretty interested in me!

I saw a herd of alpacas!

What a stressful week! Next week is a full week of school, my oldest starts a new job, and I have a few more days off. My goals for next week are to dial down the drama and stay on track with my training. It's so funny, after a couple of days of not running, I really miss it! Even after the long bike ride and all. But you know what I say...endurance is endurance!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Can't we all just support each other....

Last night, while chatting with some of the moms at my son's football game, I ran into one of my neighbors. An accomplished runner, with multiple marathons under her belt (including Boston),  I've always been a little intimidated by her. Besides the fact that she's always so positive and bubbly. 

But there's an edge...

We greeted each other with a hug. "How come you're always so skinny and I'm so fat, even when I'm training for a marathon?" she said to me. She told me she's training for the Marine Corps Marathon in October.

She's not fat, by the way...

How do you respond to that? I told her I was training for Chicago again. I joked about how hungry I am all the time. She asked about my training and I told her I was letting my CrossFit coach train me. Her eyes got big. She laughed.

"You mean NO LONG RUNS? I'll be REAL curious to see how the race goes for you. REAL curious," she said. She told me how she used to train at the box where I work out, but stopped because she didn't want to get big. 

"I'm not getting big, " I said. "I'm getting strong." I told her how strong I've been running since I've been working with Becky. Inside, I was thinking that I didn't want to have this conversation with her. I felt like I was defending myself. It didn't feel good. And she called me skinny just a few minutes ago!

We talked a few minutes longer, while she talked about the Chicago triathlon this weekend (she's doing the sprint), and how she's needing to do more "adventures"--after all, she said, she turns 50 this year and she'll have met her goal of 10 marathons by age 50. She told me that I "have to do" some urban adventure race which sounds like a Spartan race. She told me how much fun it was.

"All I want to do," I said, "is redeem myself from my last marathon."

Again she told me how she'll be REAL interested in how my training translates to my marathon. 

I have to say that I've never considered her to be a jerk or obnoxious until our conversation yesterday. Although I have to admit that she has never been particularly supportive of my running efforts. When she ran Boston, I sent her an email of encouragement. I never heard back from her. But we've known each other for a long time and both being runners and neighbors, you would think we'd be friends. That has never happened. And I'm not quite sure why. 

Here's how I made my decision to train with my CrossFit trainer instead of following a traditional, high mileage marathon plan. When I ran Chicago 3 years ago, I used Hal Higdon's Novice 2 plan. I followed it to a "t". My 20 miler 3 weeks before the marathon went without a hitch. I ran it in 3:18. I felt great. I was ready to go. But the day of the race, I fell apart. It wa hot and humid, and I felt horrible by the time I got to the finish line. It took me 3 years to get up the courage to run it again. And since I had already been working with my trainer and was seeing great results, I decided to try a different path. 

I'm not going to win the race. I don't really have a time goal, except to finish under 5 hours. I want to finish feeling strong and I want to have a beer at the finish line. I want to celebrate with my friends. My training this time incorporates lots of intervals, weight lifting, and speed work. And yes, running. Plenty of long runs, just not a ton of high mileage weeks. I've been feeling really great about my training. And the results I'm getting.

Physically, I'll be ready. The hardest thing for me to train is my head to shut out that voice that tells me I can't do it. It's a work in progress. But I don't need people telling me that the training I'm doing isn't going to be enough. I want to prove to myself and the doubters that I can do this.

There are a lot of ways to get across the finish line. 

Thanks to my dear friend Michelle for this one!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Chocolate recovery

As you know, I've been a runner for a looooong time. But until I hit my 50s, I never really took my training seriously. Who knows why not?  Could it be my age? Hanging on to my fleeting youth? No matter.

I wrote a post a few weeks ago about my GI issues and how I've had to alter my diet. But what about recovery?

As a dedicated chocoholic, when the studies came out supporting chocolate milk as a recovery drink, I jumped for joy. Seriously, I was given permission to drink chocolate milk because it would make me feel better after a race or a long, hard run? I jumped on to the bandwagon and didn't look back.

But tasty as it was, the chocolate milk didn't seem to quite cut it for me. I felt like something was missing. And once I started training with Becky and doing those weekly CrossFit workouts, I knew I was lacking in one thing regarding my recovery. Protein.

Now, I'm not a nutritional expert. I can only speak to what works for me. And once I started adding more protein to my diet for recovery, I made some (to me) pretty impressive gains in strength and endurance. I've started eating omelets several times a week. But I wanted something I could take as a post workout recovery treat.

Disclaimer: This unscientific research was conducted by my son and me. I did not receive any products or was asked to endorse any of them. Ok, I did receive a few samples at races. But no one twisted my arm to pick their product over any of the others. But if anyone wants to send me products to sample and review, feel free...

First I tried protein bars. Specifically Luna protein. The chocolate chip bar really spoke to me. I became religious about eating them before my CrossFit sessions with Becky. But the Luna bars were so chewy and not really what I was looking for.

I found Orgain nutritional drinks at Whole Foods. Orgain has several flavors, and my favorite was the iced cafe mocha. The chocolate fudge wasn't bad either. I have to admit that I passed on the vanilla and strawberry because...there's no chocolate in those products. The drinks are purported to be developed by a "doctor" and are made with 16g of protein, fruits, and veggies. Non-GMO. 255 calories. They are delicious. I won't sugar coat it thought, they did make me a little--um....gassy...maybe it was the veggies? And out of all the drinks I've tried, Orgain is the most expensive. Even on sale.

Then I ran my 10 miler in April. Besides enjoying the Lagunitas IPA at the finish line, they were handing out Core Power chocolate drinks. I took a few home, thinking I'd give them to my football playing son.

Instead, I drank one. OMG, where have you been? Delicious, 26g of protein (whey and casein), 240 calories. So good....I hunted them down and began drinking them instead of the Orgain. The price was less than the Orgain, and if I found them on sale, I stocked up.

Fast forward to Zooma Chicago just last month. Once I reached the finish line, I was depleted, and I wanted one thing. Chocolate milk. I kept asking everyone where the Muscle Milk tent was...and they kept pointing me to the wine tent. I finally spotted the giant Muscle Milk tent in the middle of the field. I sucked down the Muscle Milk light chocolate flavor, expecting a clone of my beloved Core Power--and nope. The Muscle Milk light I drank contained 20g of protein and only 120 calories, but was nowhere near the tastiness I was accustomed to. I was so disappointed. Light does not always equal flavor.

The next day, I was shopping for the week's groceries at Whole Foods and came upon a display of Organic Valley chocolate organic fuel. They were on sale, and at this point, since I decided I was on a mission to find the best chocolate protein drink, I bought 2 of them. I drank one after a long run, and it was really tasty. 26g of protein and 260 calories. My football playing son drank the other one and proclaimed his love for it.

The following week while again shopping at Whole Foods, I spotted Odawalla's Chocolate Protein Monster at the checkout. Having run a long run of 12 that morning, I felt the need to refuel. Yes, it was an impulse buy, but I bought one and began sampling it on the way home from the store. I couldn't stop drinking it. It was so delicious. Amazing, even. But even though it contains 32g of protein, the 425 calories that I guzzled was a little more than I wanted to think about.

My final choice was a drink I found at Target. While picking out smoothies for my sons, Bolthouse Farms Protein Plus Chocolate called to me from the shelf. Hello, lover! I bought 2, tried one and fell in love. My other taste tester, my football playing son, had one this morning and loved it too. I asked him which drink he liked the best.

SOOOOO...what's the verdict? What was my favorite chocolate protein drink? When I think about all the tastiness, it really is a tough call. I can give an unequivocal 2 thumbs down to the Muscle Milk Light. Orgain, I like you. I really do. Core Power, Odawalla, Organic Valley...all delicious.

But my prevailing favorite is the Bolthouse Farms Protein Plus Chocolate. 30g of protein, 210 calories, fiber and's all good. So good.

My son? His vote goes for the Organic Valley. We are a house divided....

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

It's been the best of times and the worst of times

Normally, I love summer. I look forward to summer all winter long. This summer was no different. As with every summer, I had visions of adventures with my boys up in Wisconsin and downtown Chicago.

But they both had different visions of this summer. Teenagers now, they wanted to spend unlimited time with their friends. And I'm ok with that. I get it, it makes them normal, well adjusted, blah blah blah.

What I'm not ok with is the drama, the sleepless nights, and the number of late night phone calls I've gotten, especially lately.

All summer long, my husband and I wake up in the middle of the night to an empty house. Even though they they have a curfew, they ignore it. We call the boys to see where they are...and are told "on my way home". Doing what? Who knows. We hope for the best. Trying to trust these boys.

The last couple of weeks have been over the top.

Three weeks oldest was a passenger in a car accident. He called me at 10 (ok, not THAT late) to come and get him. No big deal. Right? But I ended up taking him to the ER to get his facial wounds closed. The car? Totalled. Thankful that everyone was ok, this shook me to my core. But red flags everywhere, I considered asking the ER doc to drug test him. Nope, I decided. I need to trust him. And he seemed ok.

Last week, my youngest son, fresh off being grounded for not coming home on time...didn't come home on time. My husband called him and he was with his friends, who were stuck in an elevator in a parking garage? The last I knew he was at a friend's house. Another sleepless night, my son was grounded again, and he didn't talk to me for the entire week. As if it were my fault.

Sunday night, my phone rang at 1130. It was the father of one of my oldest son's friends, who was in the ER after being found belligerent and drunk in a parking lot earlier in the evening. My son, who was home when the phone rang, gave me a vague rundown of the evening's events. The group of boys, who have been friends since first grade, were at another boy's house picking their players for their fantasy football league. That's when the story gets gray. No one remembers the boy drinking. Somehow they were called to where he was found when he tried to run from the police. He is in a ton of trouble. And I tossed and turned the rest of the night. I feel badly for the boy and his father. The details are starting to emerge. My son is being fingered as the one who brought the liquor. He is, of course, denying it. "What are you talking about?",  he keeps saying to me. When I told him he can't drive to school tomorrow, he just about had a meltdown. I told him to tell me the truth. But he swears he is. In my heart of hearts, I know he's lying. Because, after all, I was a teenager once.

My husband makes excuses for my son.

I've shed a lot of tears the last few weeks. Talked to a lot of my girlfriends who have been there with their teens.

These are good boys. Truly. I think that's what makes this all the more surprising to me. I know teenagers have poor judgement and do stupid things. But it is hard to accept it when it is your kids getting in trouble.

And it isn't the liquor use and the weed smoking that bothers me the most. Don't get me wrong, I'm not ok with this. But what bothers me is the lying. As a professional, I know all about teenagers and why they lie. But when it is your own son....

This has been the worst summer of my life. I'm not feeling sorry for myself. It is what it is.

The only redeeming feature of this summer has been my marathon training. I almost think that it was fate that I won this entry. That some power bigger than me knew that I was going to be challenged by my boys, and that I needed something to focus on outside of them, something that would make me tough.

My marathon training, being managed by my trainer Becky, who is a CrossFit coach, is different than any race prep I've ever done in the past. Heavy lifting, intervals, speed work, endurance work..each workout is meant to make me stronger and tougher. This is the hardest work I've ever done. And I'm loving it. I might moan and groan while I'm working out, but when I finish I feel great. I'm focused on controlling my pace and speed for every running workout I do.

Because right now, my workouts are the only thing I can control.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Marathon training week 5--What doesn't kill me is going to make me stronger...

This week was much less lower on the drama-o-meter. But still not drama free as my youngest son continues to give me a run for my money, I continued to push towards my marathon goal and away from being sucked into that parenting black hole. Thankfully school is back in session this week. 

Here's how it all shook out:

Monday: Becky had me do intervals on the rower alternating with (gulp!) burpees.
-First set was 1500m=100m all out, 100m rest followed by 15 burpees over the rower.
-Second set was 1000m-=200m all out, 200m rest followed by 10 burpees over the rower.
-Final set was 500m-=250m rest, 250m all out followed by 5 burpees.
Yep. Thought I was going to vomit when it was all over. Sweated all over the floor during my burpees. I mean, I left seriously deep puddles. And I didn't care. I got through it and even though I hated it while I was doing it, I knew it would be worth it. I didn't stick around to chit-chat when I was done. I said goodbye and quickly scooted out the door. And no recovery. I had to go to work after that and staff the sick clinic. I pushed through the first couple of hours. About 10am, I started to feel better. Luckily, it was a half day for me and when I got home, I had lunch and hit the couch for the afternoon.

Tuesday: I had 6 miles on the plan. Even though I set my Garmin to pace, I pretty much ignored it. I don't know what got into me, but I just wanted to run. And as a result of that, my splits were all over the place. First 2 miles were 8:38, yeah, but last 2 miles were 9:03 and 9:18. Not at all what I'm looking for. Ok, so I got that out of my system. And now we get back on task. Pace and consistency. That's what's going to get me across the finish line. But in the plus column, I finally got the Swirlgear top I ordered back in April and wore it for this run. Red is my favorite color, and this top was most certainly worth the wait!

Wednesday: I finally got back to the yoga studio for my favorite class with my favorite instructor. I've been carpooling my son and his friend to football all summer and wasn't able to make it to my class until this week. I put my mat down in my usual spot, the back corner of the room. We worked on back bending and it felt great. It would have been perfect, except for the guy next to me who took his ujjayi breathing to the next level--it sounded like Darth Vader was next to me. He also let out a few bodily noises, which never fail to make me chuckle. Because inside, I'm really an adolescent boy. But overall, it was a wonderful class. 

Thursday: Once again, I had mile repeats x 5 on the plan. I dropped the boys off at football and headed over to the retention pond for my workout. I just wasn't feeling it, but after the first mile, my legs loosened up and I really kicked this one out. I finished strong, with that 8:02 split! This was definitely a confidence builder!

Then I headed over to CrossFit for my weekly weight workout with Becky. She had me do deadlifts, 120# x5, 5 sets. After that I did front squats, 55# x 1 minute, alternating with pistol squats x1 minute, 3 sets. My pistols were pretty pathetic, but I got it done. What doesn't kill me will make me stronger, right? And faster? I do think CrossFit is making me both! 

And I did!

Friday: rest day. And as much as I hate rest day, I needed it. My glutes and hammies talked to me all day. Luckily my job has me on my feet most of the day, so I didn't get stuck in one position for too long. Getting in and out of my chair was a challenge though! A mother of siblings I was seeing told me she was training for the Chicago marathon. She had all kinds of questions for me, and I came to the realization that she has no clue what she's in for. Maybe that's a good thing! I think about how seriously most of us take this training, and how hard it is to run 26.2. It will be interesting to hear how she does.

Saturday: I had 5 miles on the plan, and I made it a tempo run. I was thrilled with the outcome: 

After that, I went to work for the morning, and then headed up to Wisconsin for some fun in the sun. Tired from my tempo run, and knowing that I had a long run scheduled for the morning, I wasn't going to go waterskiing, but the lure of the lake was too hard to pass up!

Sunday: I set the alarm for 5:30 (ugh) and after a restless night's sleep, got myself ready for the 14 miler that is on my marathon training schedule. It was cool, cloudy, and breezy, and since I had eaten shortly before I went out, I used that as my excuse to start out slowly. Pacing has been an issue for me, but today could not have gone better. My first 3 miles were sub-10s, and then as my legs loosened up (I'm still sore!), my pace increased moderately. The first 5 miles or so were rolling hills, but between miles 6 and 10, I encountered some really steep inclines. I felt my glutes and hammies engage and pushed up those hills without too much trouble. I only had to stop once at the top, to catch my breath. I've been reading about hills, and the key is to run by effort, not pace. I have to remember that, since here in Illinois, I don't get a whole lot of opportunity to practice hill running! I stopped once to gel, about mile 8, walking as I choked it down. My last 3 miles were sub-9, with my last mile being my fastest at 8:51. I could not have been more pleased with this run. I'm hoping that my efforts to work on pacing are paying off!

In addition to this, I discovered that a fellow FB page owner, Ashtyn from Fit Life with Ashtyn was planning on running--get this--22 miles on the local high school track in the town where we were staying. She invited me come over and meet her, and when I did, I walked a mile with her. She is training for a 100 mile race in January, and has a 50 miler coming up this fall. It was fun to talk with her and learn about her motivation for running. I was so impressed at how far she's come after running her first race only 1 year ago! We talked about our training as well--mine is so different, with the emphasis on cross training and endurance activities, while hers is lots of miles. Although she tells me she's not running as many miles as other ultra runners! It was great meeting her, and I hope we can connect again. 

Ashtyn and me! She's so young...

Overall, it was a great training week for me. I'll admit, I wasn't sure how this training plan was going to work out. But looking back on the last 2 weeks, it seems like it is all coming together. Pacing is improving, and I feel strong! The weather is supposed to warm up this week, so it will be interesting to see if the heat affects me as much as usual. 

Trust the plan, indeed!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

I'll Be Stopping

I have IBS, better known as irritable bowel syndrome, or as my ex-brother in law used to call it, "I'll be stoppin'". For years I've struggled with finding foods that don't make me have to run to the bathroom. It was a struggle for me to complete even a 5 mile run without a pit stop. When I'm planning a run, I make sure that I run by at least one bathroom! You just never know when you have to make a stop. The guys at the Speedway near my house don't blink an eye when I run in to make a pit stop. So naturally, I buy all my gas there. Small price to pay, right? According to a recent article in Runner's World, I'm not alone. It is estimated that 30-50% of distance runners struggle with gastrointestinal issues at one time or another.

You've all seen this shot:

and hope that it never happens to you! 

Three years ago, while training for the Chicago Marathon, I came to the realization that I needed to figure out what was going to make me have to stop stopping. My long runs were plagued with frequent pit stops. And as I continued to train, the number of stops increased as well. I always worried about making it to the next location where there was a bathroom. The final breaking point was when I ran a half marathon during my training and had to stop 3 times to use the porta-potty. Even the imodium I took prior to the race was no match for my intestines. The great long distance runner Bill Rodgers once said it best: 
"More marathons are won or lost in the porta toilets than at the dinner table."

Ok, so even while I laugh about it, because let's face it, poop is funny, my IBS was really starting to get to me. I'm training for a marathon and I have to worry about my stomach? This is what is going to hold me back? REALLY?

I started to do my research on IBS. There are several types of IBS, constipation-type, diarrhea-type, and the mixed type where people have constipation but occasionally have giant blowouts of diarrhea. In the spirit of full disclosure, I have the diarrhea type. In a normal day, multiple trips to the bathroom are not uncommon for me. No one has figured out what actually causes IBS. I have my theories, and I do think our crappy American diet has a lot to do with it. Food additives and junk food cannot be what nature intended for us to eat. I spend a great deal of my day as a nurse practitioner talking to parents and their children about their bowel habits. It really is a huge issue for the majority of people. Some proposed causes include food intolerance, anxiety and depression, bacterial overgrowth, motility issues, genetics...pretty much anything can be blamed for IBS. Over the years, I have tried a variety of probiotics, thinking maybe it was a bacterial imbalance, but I never had a lot of luck. I read about a new antibiotic, rifaximin, which had been trialled and shown to be effective in patients with my type of IBS, and made an appointment to see my internist.

I love my internist, because she gets me. Instead of telling me to suck it up (like the GI specialist told me years ago), we talked about different options. She offered me one other option I hadn't considered, a drug that slows down the motility of the GI tract. Because there had been some issues with bowel obstruction with this drug, there was special paperwork she and I would have to complete should I choose to go this route. She was very positive about this drug, and had had several patients take it without problems. But after a lengthy discussion, we decided to first try the antibiotic rifaximin. I picked my prescription up and almost had a heart attack when I saw my copay...and what the med actually cost. But I was determined to feel better, and after about a week on the drug, I noticed a big difference. And who can put a price on that?

Because I knew the antibiotic would make me better but not last forever, I also began to evaluate my diet to see if there were any patterns to foods I was eating and subsequent pit stops. I was able to identify 2 culprits for sure: corn and anything that contained corn, including corn syrup and the evil high fructose corn syrup; and beef. I even further speculated that because cattle are corn fed, perhaps the cows' diet was affecting me! I tried grass fed beef with mixed results and eventually learned that even most grass fed cattle are "finished off" with corn before they go to market. Who knew? Anyways, once I became a label reader and eliminated those items from my diet, things continued to improve and I was able to run farther distances without those pesky bathroom stops. I have since tried reintroducing beef back into my diet and as long as I limit the frequency, I seem to be ok. But just recently, I ate some steak and that set me back for about a week. I was miserable. Lower fat cuts of beef seem to be much better for me, such as skirt steak and flank steak. Live and learn, right?

What about gels? I experimented with several different gels and learned that the ones that contain fructose, such as GU, are not an option for me. Fructose is a complex carbohydrate well known to cause GI issues in susceptible individuals. Interestingly, the combination of fructose and glucose seems to negate the GI problems associated with fructose alone in most people. But I stick with Clif Razz Gel, which contains cane sugar, for fueling during long distances. And water only. Gatorade is not my friend. No fancy fuels for this girl. I can drink Nuun, tho.

A few years ago, I was treated for Lyme disease, and because I know antibiotics can stir up trouble for me, I started taking the probiotic, Culturelle. I found that also seemed to help me with ongoing issues. So to this day, I continue to take it, once a day.

Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) has been implicated as a culprit in IBS. Several studies have shown ibuprofen to aggravate exercise induced GI injury and increased GI symptoms. After learning that, I kicked the habit of popping 3 ibuprofens for every ache and pain and just learned to tough it out. This also forces me to stretch and foam roll more, and that is a good thing.

Finally, prior to a race, I really simplify my diet. Lots of pasta and easy to digest foods. Nothing high in fiber. I didn't make all these changes right away. A lot of what I've learned is trial and error from running long distances over many years. But once I found what works, it was easy for me to incorporate these changes into my life. After all, it sure beats running to the bathroom all the time!

Oh and that Chicago Marathon? I had 99 problems but a potty stop wasn't one!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Marathon training week 4: Drama mama

Oh, how I hate drama. But this week, personal drama was unavoidable. No need to recap. You can read all about it here. Thankfully, it was all over with in 24 hours. I was worried about the impact on my runs, but maybe in spite of all the trauma to my psyche, I was able to get my runs under control and eek out some awesome pacing.

Monday: rest day. Well, a rest day from running, anyways...

Tuesday: was supposed to be an 8 miler, but lack of sleep from the events of Monday left me lagging. This night, I did get a good night's sleep, since both my boys were home and I didn't have to worry about them.

Wednesday: I pulled up my bootstraps and hit the road for that 8 miler. I had an fantastic run, with consistent split times, averaging about 9:10mins/mile, which is about what I wanted for this distance. I felt good. This was the run I needed, the one I've been looking for since coming back from my injury. I was smiling from ear to ear. When I got home, I hit the mat for my scheduled yoga session. I did the SeaWheeze 2014 routine again. And went to work smiling and calm.

Thursday: Once again, I had mile repeats x 5 on the plan. My goal was to get myself through all 5, at a fast pace but with consistent times for all. I met that goal and was happy to see my splits:

That 8:18? Well, I think these look pretty good considering that I've been all over the place with this! My Spotify playlist was great and the last song was Rob Zombie's Never Gonna Stop Me, which spoke volumes to me, and got me home. Nice work, and yes, I'm patting myself on the back. Next up was Crossfit. I don't know what got into Becky. While I was warming up on the rower, I saw her carrying the prowler outside. Ok. When I went outside to start the workout, she strapped the sled to my back. And put a 20# plate on the sled. She had my push the prowler with the sled behind me. O...M...G...! My hamstrings were screaming! When I finished after my first lap, I fell to the ground. She started laughing while I caught my breath. Holy sh**! I did 2 more laps of that and we headed back inside. I was sweating profusely. Actually, I think it was my hamstrings crying.

After the prowler, she had me do progressive deadlifts x 5; 5 sets with max of 115#. In between sets, I did overhead squats with sandbags x 15. And to top it off, I had to do 15 burpees, as fast as I could. Which wasn't very fast. When I got home, I stretched and foam rolled.

Friday: thankfully a rest day. Surprisingly, I wasn't all that sore! My morning in the clinic went smoothly, and I was able to get outside for a brisk 30 minute walk at lunch, which felt great.

Saturday: 5 mile tempo run. Again, working on consistency, I kept my Garmin set on pace instead of miles. I was happy to see this at the end of my run: 

It isn't so much the pace that I was excited about, it was the pacing. Not much variation there, and that's what I'm working on! Now if I can bring that to 26.2...

Sunday: Long run of 12 miles on the plan. I started out slower, but still faster than I'd like. My goal pace is 9:30, this run ended up being about 9:20 mins/mile. It felt hard, tho. I'm not sure why--if my legs were tired from the week or if that extra glass of wine I had last night took a toll. The weather was really nice when I started, about 69F and overcast, with a light breeze to keep me cool. It was fairly humid and I really sweated a lot. I also had some issues with my music--somehow a whole album of Incubus songs got downloaded onto my playlist, and I had to keep stopping to fast forward past them. I just couldn't listen to it--this run was too hard and I needed my running music to push me. I fixed that problem when I got home. Kind of interesting, usually when I run at the retention pond where there is a 2 mile path, I'm usually one of the few runners, sharing the path with walkers and bikers. Today there were some speedy runners--I watched them fly by. I had to hold back not to try to keep up with them. I kept telling myself that I'm running long and slow today. My inner competitor wanted to come out, I guess!

So a few things to work on...pacing is improving, for sure, but I still need to focus on that. I need to do more foam rolling and stretching to keep everything loose. Now I'll be increasing my miles, which should help with my confidence. 

And I'm hoping for a drama-free week. I'm really glad I was able to push through it. Maybe because this week, my runs were the only thing I could control.