Wednesday, April 29, 2015


Do you think the Cowardly Lion could have run a marathon? After all, he overcame all kinds of fears and obstacles throughout The Wizard of Oz. And at the end, he was awarded a medal for his bravery. Kind of similar to training for and running a marathon. What changed for him? What made him realize that he wasn't a coward, but that he was brave? When he wanted to run from the Witch, what made him stay and help Dorothy?

Are you brave? Brave enough to tackle a race? Any distance.

Strong enough not to bail at the starting line?

It takes courage to line up to run a race.

You have to trust that you trained well. Trust that you are prepared to go the distance.

But there's so much more to running a race than physical preparation.

I've written a lot about this. Last year when this cowardly lion trained for my second Chicago marathon, my so-called redemption run, I did as much mental training as I did physical training. My first attempt at Chicago was a disaster. I did the work, put in the miles, but as usual, my anxiousness and fears brought me down. I was not mentally prepared to run that race, and the results showed. After I finished, people kept telling me I should be proud that I ran a marathon. It was an accomplishment, sure. But it wasn't the race I knew I had in me. I was ashamed of my finish time, of the fact that I fell apart. I made excuses, blaming the heat, but I knew in my heart that it was all me. I learned a lot about myself during that race, but I was so scarred by my experience and my inability to run strong that it took me 3 years to get up the courage to face this distance again. When I had the opportunity to run it again last year by winning a free entry, I knew it was meant to be. But I also realized I had a lot of work to do, both physically and mentally. I wasn't going to have another bad race. No how, no way. Not happening.

It should say "start again". I absolutely love this quote.
What changed for me? What was different this time around?

Oh to be sure, my training was different. I followed a training plan designed by my coach Becky. Becky isn't a running coach. She's a CrossFit coach. She's also really smart, and she designed a plan that would make me stronger, both physically and mentally. There was running, sure. But there was also speedwork, which I hadn't done before, and there was CrossFit 1-2 times/week. Prior to this, we had been doing a variety of things to strengthen my glutes, hips, and hamstrings. Now our training was much more focused on one thing: getting me across the finish line feeling good enough to have a beer. Ha!

You know that me having a beer really isn't about the beer, right?  That beer represents a strong race, feeling good at the finish, and running a race I can be proud of. Most races serve crappy beer--I'm not sure you can even call it beer, really--at the finish. Chicago serves Goose Island 312 at the finish line. This is a good one, one of my favorites, and I wanted to savor it.

Remember my post on my speedwork, a few weeks ago? I posted a quote about having to run uncomfortable to run faster. Of course, I still can't find the exact quote. This one by Jillian Michaels will have to do. What I can tell you is that pushing through hard workouts, like my speedwork and the workouts I do with Becky, the ones that make me want to quit...those are the workouts that count the most. This training was harder than anything I've ever done. But I was so determined to make this race a success that quitting wasn't an option.

Sure, I put in the miles. That was actually the easiest part of my training. The CrossFit intervals and speedwork were tough. But the hardest work is the most rewarding work. Having the courage to push through those workouts, to not quit...that's what made me mentally tougher.

I finished that race strong and happy. I was thrilled with my finish time and got to enjoy my beer! Even after that great marathon, I still didn't get it--I didn't realize the progress I had made, mentally. The race that showed me how far I've come was my 10 miler last week. I went out way too fast, and by the time I realized it, I was in too deep. By mile 3, I was in trouble. I felt like I was going to throw up. And I'm not a puker. The old me would have quit. Those voices inside my head? Do you ever hear them? The ones that tell you can't do this, that this sucks, that you may as well give up? Those voices? The ones I heard at mile 18 of my first marathon? When I called my husband, crying, to pick me up? (Yes, that really happened.) Anyways, this time I shut those voices down. I slowed my pace and monitored my breathing. Told myself that I needed to get it together. Told myself that I wasn't quitting, no matter what. The negative voices kept coming back. I kept tuning them out and focused on my music. Motivational lyrics, courtesy of Eminem. By mile 4, I felt well enough to start sipping on my Tailwind. And at mile 5, I started hitting my pace. Kept sipping on my Tailwind. And finished strong with a 4 minute PR.

I felt so bad, I didn't know what was going to happen if I kept going. But I figured I may as well find out. Thank God I didn't quit! What a great race! There was good beer at that one too, Lagunitas IPA. I was well aware that it was waiting for me, and that was one more incentive to keep moving forward.

Becky and I talked about this race at our session this week. She told me how proud she was and that she was amazed at the difference, both physically and mentally, that she has seen in me over the past year. Self doubt? Minimized. That word "can't"? Struck from my vocabulary. Of course, during marathon training, she was threatening me with burpees every time I said I can't...I am afraid of burpees...

This year, it isn't a matter of if I run another marathon, it's which one. I'm still waiting to hear about the Chicago lottery. I'll be sad if I don't get in, but I've got few on the back up plan. UPDATE: I'm in!!! #3, here I come!

My goal? Because of course I have one. Sub-4. That means I'm going to have to run about 9 mins/mile for the entire race. I"m going to have to push hard and run uncomfortable.

26.2 miles.

Will the third one be the charm?

I'm not scared. 

I'm ready. 

"Read what my medal says. It says Courage. Ain't it the truth? Ain't it the truth?" from The Wizard of Oz

What are you afraid of? Have you ever been scared lining up to run a race? Wanted to DNS?How do you overcome your fears? 

I'm linking up with DebRuns and her Wednesday Word Link Up. I'm really liking this link up! Head on over and see everyone else's take on Courage.

I'm also linking up with Diatta and Sheila for Workout Wednesday! Check out the other posts!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Live and learn: lessons about fueling

A couple of years ago, I stopped to get gas for the car on my way to work. When I was done, I pulled out of the gas station onto the busy road I take to work. I hit the gas pedal and car died in the middle of the road. WTH? I turned around to look at the gas station and saw 5 cars at the pumps, with their hoods up. Crap! I knew exactly what happened. It was raining, pouring actually. Had been all night. I didn't buy gas, I bought water. This was confirmed, $2000 and 2 weeks later, after I picked up my car from the shop. The mechanic said I had about 80% water in my tank.

Cars don't run on water. And yes, the gas station reimbursed me for my repairs. And no, I don't buy gas there anymore.

Anyways, there's a lesson here. Besides not putting water in your gas tank.

I thought about this on my tough, tough run Sunday morning. Because I felt like my car from a few years ago. Run, run, run....and then rrrrrrrrr....I ran out of gas. I finished my run but when I looked at my splits, between mile 5 and mile 6, the fall in the numbers were stunning. I almost didn't believe them. Except that I knew what happened. I didn't fuel well for this run. I wasn't running on a dream, That Tom Petty song came on my iPod, but even he couldn't salvage this run. I was running on empty. Isn't that a Jackson Browne song? I don't think that one will make the playlist.

Most of the time, if I'm running 8 miles or less, I don't eat before I run. Sunday, that didn't work out so well for me. By mile 3, I was hungry, and by mile 5, I was flagging. My splits for the final 3 miles dropped off dramatically. I was running on fumes. Water wasn't going to get me through this run. I needed fuel. And I didn't listen to my body. Or my gut, which told me to eat before I went out.

Live and learn.

There's actually some science behind running hungry, though. Your body has limited stores of fuel, called muscle glycogen, which can be mobilized for fuel on the run. How long can you go without fuel before your performance will be affected? One study showed that runners can go up to 2 hours on muscle glycogen before they "bonk" or hit the wall. Can you train your body to efficiently utilize stored glycogen for fuel when needed? One study of cyclists in New Zealand showed that occasional fasting prior to a workout does help the body "learn" to efficiently utilize these glycogen stores when needed. However, this method was more effective in men than women. Other sources also advocate training on empty, to help the body adapt to better using stored carbs and fat.

Note that I said for both: ONE STUDY. There isn't a lot of research on this topic, but there's a whole lot of so-called "experts" telling runners how to fuel. One study does not make it so, and as I always say, you have to go with what your body tells you. I should have listened to that voice in my head that told me to eat before I went out. Haven't I mentioned how much I trust my gut instinct?

Live and learn.

So what happened to me Sunday? According to this article on Runners Connect, runners should initially run their long runs in a "glycogen depleted state". In other words, don't fuel before you go out. Fuel after about 45 minutes into the run. Towards the end of your training cycle, you will want to fuel prior to those long runs. So even if I didn't eat before I went out, I should have brought fuel with me for later into the run.

And there's my answer. As I've said, I don't always need to fuel, but I'm at the end of a long training cycle, and I should have eaten before I went out. Looking at my splits, there's no doubt that I hit the wall at mile 6. (Kicking self now. Hard.)

Hit the wall at mile 6? How pathetic is that?

Live and learn.

So how should runners fuel for a long run? What about carbo-loading? Should we be eating plate after plate of pasta the week before a marathon?

Experts are starting to rethink the whole "carbo-load" theory. There's thought that carb loading mobilizes insulin, which can impair performance and promote fat storage. Most experts now advocate a diet of 50% carbs, 30% protein, and 20% fat for endurance athletes. That's a big change from the past, where runners were told they needed 70% carbs.

There may also be a difference in fueling recommendations for women. In her book, Older Faster Stronger, Margaret Webb addresses carb loading and women athletes, noting that women metabolize carbs differently than men, and that women need a diet higher in proteins than men. Personally, I have found this to be true. I no longer carb load before a race. I've increased my dietary protein, and have found much better endurance since I started doing this. Oh, and I take in protein when I finish. Usually in the form of chocolate milk or protein shake. No matter how you do it, this helps with recovery.

I did it all wrong on Sunday.

Truth be told, the night before a race, I eat cheese pizza. With a side of red wine. Last 3 races were PRs. Coincidence? I think not.

One other interesting thing I learned is that the taper prior to a marathon actually helps with glycogen stores. This is because during the taper, the runner is running less, therefore burning less carbs, and increasing glycogen stores without any change in diet. And also reducing insulin production. Wow! Loved this! So besides resting your muscles for a fresh race day, you're also helping your fueling! Who knew?

Live and learn.

Finally, how about fueling during an endurance event? What is the best fuel? What is the best way to fuel?

Soccer's Bastian Schweinsteiger of Bayern Munich drinking a beer during the world cup. My recovery drink of choice.
Oh man. I could probably write a book on this one. Remember, I have GI issues, and fueling is probably as big, if not a bigger issue to me than training for the actual event. After all, who has time for diarrhea when you're running an endurance event?

The most important thing to remember is that you will be depleting your carb stores, and you need to replenish them. Which form you take those carbs is a matter of personal preference (altho the fueling companies may beg to differ). Here's some of my rules for fueling:
  • you need to figure this out before you race. The best thing to do is trial different fuels and forms of fuels on your training runs. Trust me on this one. The cardinal rule of running is nothing new on race day, and you don't want to be figuring this out during your marathon (or half marathon). 
  • you should plan on drinking before you get thirsty. Usually, runners need about 20-24 ounces of water every hour. If it's hot, you will need to drink more. When I ran Chicago last year, it was about 60 degrees, and I drank 24 ounces every hour. Still, I cramped at the finish line, couldn't walk, and ended up in the medical tent until I chugged a gatorade. I felt better and headed out to have my beer after that. Should I have had more water? Hard to say. I felt great the whole race. Never hit the wall. The muscle cramping may have had nothing to do with my hydration or fueling. I could just chalk it up to fatigue. Subject for another blog post.
Me and my trusty handheld.
Here's some advice:
  • you need to take in 45 grams of carbs every hour--not all at once, unless you want to visit the portapotty. How you take in the carbs is up to you. I've experimented with all forms of carbs over the years. I have a really sensitive GI tract, and I have settled on fueling with Tailwind Nutrition, which is a fuel/powder I add to 24 ounces of water every hour while I'm racing. I carry a handheld, which is annoying but for me, is least annoying option, as opposed to fuel belt or camelback. Tailwind was designed for ultramarathoners. Since I've had so many issues with fueling and diarrhea (TMI), before I started using Tailwind, I talked to the people there about my concerns prior to trying their product. They could not have been nicer or more helpful. I've had a great deal of success with this fuel. I drink a bottle before I run. About 45 minutes into an event, I begin sipping again, and sip throughout the race, attempting to take in 24 ounces/200 calories per hour. I don't need to stop at aid stations, which is really a plus to carrying my own fuel.
This totally justifies my dislike of gels. Thank you Matthew Inman! From The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons I run Long Distances. Shameless plug: Our book club book for June!
One thing I don't like about various other forms of fuel is that they are so sweet! I don't have much of a sweet tooth. Some of the products I've tried literally made my teeth hurt! Prior to using Tailwind, I used gels. I found that Clif gels worked well for me. But I still had to make portapotty stops, and that was distressing to me. I never mastered gelling or drinking water on the run, and so when I raced, I had to stop to gel and drink. I always planned on walking through water stops every 45 minutes. This strategy worked pretty well until one cold race last spring. I had a heck of a time getting the gel out of the pack, and then trying to choke it down--ugh! it was this disgusting gelatinous mass in my mouth. I almost threw up. After that, I was determined to reevaluate my fueling strategy. 

But people swear by gels, and I've had friends arguing which flavor of GU is the best--Salted Caramel seems really popular--so all I can say is try everything out and do what works for you.

If you do gels, make sure you take them with water. 8 ounces. Every.damn.time. Always. Otherwise you're going to have trouble. Trust me on this one.

I've also tried Clif Shok Bloks, which taste good, not too sweet, but are really hard for me to chew. Besides, I've had a lot of dental work (I'm old) and I'm deathly afraid of pulling off one of my crowns during a race. Imagine DNF-ing for that reason. That would suck. I've also tried Honey Stinger waffles, which so many people like, but they're messy and fall apart trying to get them out of the package. Plus they are SO sweet.

Practice fueling. Don't do what other people tell you. Do what works for you. Trust your instincts. Nothing new on race day.

Run happy and well fueled. Save that carb loading for your post race celebratory beer. Because there's no better way to recover.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Bringing my own sunshine

Truer words were never spoken, my friend.
So once again, I'm complaining about the weather. I know complaining doesn't change anything, but it makes me feel better, so bear with me.

For the past week, we've been stuck in a cold, damp, windy weather cycle. Springtime in Chicago is not for the weak. Much of our weather is controlled by that big lake, Lake Michigan. Winds blow out of the east and with those winds come clouds and cool temps over the area. I live 25 miles from the lake, and we still feel the effects of this big body of water. Before I head out for a run, I always check the temperature, yes, but also the wind direction, so that I know how my run is going to feel.  An easterly or northeasterly wind is going to feel much colder than one out of the west. It's always good to mentally prepare oneself for a blast of cold air as you head out the door.

Brought my own sunshine. BYOS. That's how I roll.
When I went out this morning, I knew it was going to be cold. I was so tempted to either skip my run (gasp!) or take it to the treadmill. Seriously. I'm so over this weather! But I reminded myself of the brutal conditions I ran in this past winter, slipped on a bright yellow shirt to cheer myself up, and headed out the door. Even my Garmin was complaining, taking its own sweet time finding a signal. Was it the heavy cloud cover? Or was it channeling my ambivalence about this run? Finally after about 5 minutes, the signal locked in, and I headed onto the road. I always head out running east and oh my gosh! was that wind cold!

And now you've got this image in your head..
Shake it off, I kept telling myself. Isn't that a Taylor Swift song? Ewwww.  How that got in my head, I'll never know. Not a fan. If you are, apologies. To each his own. Truthfully, I'll never understand the phenomenon of Taylor Swift, except that she's young, blonde, and really pretty. She can't sing to save her life. Dances as well as I do. Which isn't saying much. Before she was famous, I saw her on a TV show--she was 16--singing a cappella with her guitar, and I almost felt sorry for her, she was that bad. Who knew that it didn't matter? Talent doesn't sell. It's all about image. And catchy songs, written by a crack team of songwriters. With Taylor's input, of course.

Such are the thoughts that distract me on a run that I really don't want to do. Did I mention how cold it was? Trying to clear my head and get back into the run, I decided to mix up my route a bit, but kept heading east, so that on the way home, the wind would be at my back. I thought about all those runs I did outside this past winter. I kept reminding myself how lucky I was not to be racing today. Last week's race was on the lakefront path in Chicago, which borders Lake Michigan. When the wind shifted off the lake in the middle of the race, it was like like stepping into a deep freeze, with wind. Since it's so raw, I could only imagine the conditions along the lake shore had to be worse today. It could always be worse. Glad I was only running 5 miles today, I kept moving forward through my neighborhood.

Take that Mother Nature! But she always has the upper hand...

A reminder of what the weather was like a short 3 months ago. I thought longingly about my Thermoball this morning. I think it would have been too warm, though.
I kept thinking to myself that today's conditions felt so much colder than anything I ran in last winter. How can that be? The temperature on one of those winter runs, I believe, was -12F when I headed out. My butt froze, or became, as Beth at Shut Up and Run calls it, "popsicle butt". Truly, my butt was numb. I couldn't feel the hot water in the shower back there. It was really weird. I never had that happen before. No popsicle butt today, not even close. But the cold feels different today than in January. Does it feel colder now because it's April 25, and my expectations are higher? Is it because it was warmer a couple of weeks ago? Or is it, because, as we say, it's not the heat, it's the humidity? Certainly, it's damp today. It was drizzling during my run. Even though I'm miserable, I just keep running, because that's what we do. We run.

I'm like the post office:  
 "Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night, stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds." - Herodotus, 503 B.C. (Inscribed on the General Post Office facility on 33rd Street and 8th Avenue in New York City.) 
Sort of.

Although, as I learned today, this isn't the official motto of the post office. No surprise there, since the only thing I seem to get in the mail these days is junk mail and bills. Speaking of the post office, I hate going there. I don't know what your post office is like, but the one in my town always has a long line outside the door. I love how even though there are a ton of people in line, there's usually only 2 windows open, and how even though there's really long line of customers, postal employees close their window to take a break. When you finally get to the counter, the workers move ohhhhh soooooo sloooooowwwwww. God forbid you have a package to pick up. Better bring snacks, because it's going to take a while to walk back there and get it. I've never ever in my life seen people walk as slow as the post office employees. Seriously. I bet if you lit a fire under their butts, they'd still walk like they're wearing cement shoes.
This is my post office. Every. damn. time. Watching my life pass before my eyes.
Actually, I'm not like the post office at all. Inefficiency=USPS. Not me. Can you imagine if I worked like that in my clinic? Patients and parents would be complaining like crazy! And I'd never get through all my appointments! I'd never get to go home. Speaking of that, what happens when it's closing time at the post office and there's still people in line? Are they taken care of? Or told too bad, so sad, come back tomorrow?

I've digressed again. I keep distracting myself from feeling cold. I just can't get my head in the game today.

Back to the run. When I finished, I checked my Garmin. The time and splits were respectable, considering how I really just phoned this one in. When I got home, I was chilled to the bone. My fingers were numb. I showered in the hottest water I could stand. Put on a hoody with hand warmers, and put my feet on a heating pad. And checked the forecast for tomorrow, when I have an 8 miler to run. 55F and sunny. Ok. I can do that.

I stalked ahead to next weekend, when I have a half marathon. High of 78. Sunshine.

Would you trust his forecast? He's the weatherman on the local news that I watch.
Say what?

Mother Nature keeps us on our toes. Weather teaches us to roll with the punches she throws our way. Got plans? So does she. Only she knows what they are. Weathermen try to predict, but even that's a crap shoot. It's really the only job you can have where you can be wrong and still stay employed. Except maybe at the post office. You'd get better odds predicting weather in Vegas. Control freaks have to let it go. And just when we think we've had enough of the bad weather, Mama Nature rewards us with some pretty nice conditions.

Of course, my race is a week away, and a lot can change before then. But fingers and toes crossed. Positive thoughts.

No matter what conditions she has planned for next weekend, Mother Nature is not going stop me. I'm packing my own sunshine. Just in case.

Do you run outside no matter what the conditions? Are there any conditions that are deal breakers for you? Are you anxiously awaiting warmer weather?

I'm linking this post with Tara's Weekend Update! Head over to see what everyone else has to say.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Runfessions for April

It's already that time of the month! Yep, time for Marcia's monthly Runfessions. Feels like I just did one of these, but that was so 5 weeks ago. I have much to was hard to narrow it down to just 5. But since I want to link up with the Friday 5, even though this isn't their topic for the week, I tried my best. Somehow I had my own theme going with this one. Don't ask. The mind does some strange things when freed from all this guilt weighing it down...

King of the asanas: Last week, this yogi did something I never do. I'm usually all about being on your own journey, namaste, and MYOB. But a video posted by a page admin of himself going into headstand with the comment that he's adding yoga into his training regimen struck a nerve. I posted a nice (I thought) comment something along the lines of : dude, you don't start mountain climbing by scaling Mt Everest! And getting up into a headstand isn't yoga. IMHO, his post was irresponsible at worst and misinformed at best. I tried to make it nice, but clearly, he didn't appreciate my advice. He deleted my comment. And I deleted him. Out of sight, out of mind. What's wrong with downward facing dog anyways? Really, it offers so many more benefits for the runner than headstand. But what do I know?

From Saving Sarah Marshall. Pardon the swear...
King of the road: I've started running with my hands loose and middle finger at the ready. Between cars who run me off the road and other runners who don't return my greeting--you can't even nod?, and walkers who hog the path, it's nice to have this passive-aggressive weapon handy. Letting my business finger fly. Discreetly. Makes me feel better. Really, only I know that I'm doing it. Not like this woman.

I hope she feels better...

King of the castle:  I'm really not cut out for this parenting teenagers thing. As I write this, my son is standing in the kitchen, waiting for me to get up so he can sit down and eat. God forbid that he'd have to sit next to me. Yesterday I asked him what time he was starting work, and he gave me some smartass answer. He may have failed Spanish, but he has become quite fluent in assholian. I've had just about all I can take. I get to go to work after this, and I'm trying not to cry. Will not cry. Maybe I need to use my passive-aggressive technique with him (see above). I did throw his breakfast in the garbage, so there's that.

Pretty much sure my son feels this way.
King of hearts: I'm secretly crushing on a guy who works at one of the grocery stores that I frequent. It's been a few years, and my feelings haven't faded. He's cute and oh so personable. Every time I talk with him, he makes me feel like I'm 20 years old again. When he waits on another customer, I get a little jealous. I think he might be 29. I'm married. I could be his mother. It would never work. Oh well. I might be old but I'm not dead...And I'm not going to tell you where or what store because he's mine. Hands off.

King of pain: I've maybe mentioned that I love to sing while I run...but maybe I haven't talked about it in detail. I don't want you to think I'm weird or anything...I don't always sing...but when I do, I'm having a pretty awesome run. I get odd looks from passersby...especially those that can hear me. You know instead of thinking I'm nuts, why don't they ask themselves why they're not out running? Because running is fun. If I'm singing, you can chalk it up to me feeling really good.

Don't believe me, just watch! And try not sing, or at least dance to this one...
Do you sing while you run? Dance? Have any secret gestures you throw out there? Any crushes? Come on, you know you've got some things to share...

Here's the link to Marcia's Runfessions. If you haven't checked out her blog before, I suggest you head on over! Marcia's one of the first bloggers I followed.

And the link to the DC trifecta, Courtney, Mar, and Cynthia. Today's theme is top blogs I follow. I couldn't narrow it down to just 5, so I'm glad I've got my own thing happening...but head over and see what people are saying. Maybe we'll all find a few new blogs that we didn't know about!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Product review: SPIBelt

Truth be told...I don't like things around my waist. Maybe it's because I don't have much of a waist (I've got long legs and a short torso). I've always hated pants that buttoned at that waist. When low waisted pants came into style, it was a dream come true for me. I fear the day when high waisted pants are back.

Mom jeans
About 4 years ago, at the Walt Disney World marathon expo, I was shopping for a waist pack to carry my phone and my iPod in during the race (I was running the half). I didn't have much success with an armband (chafing) or a waist clip (I broke several of them) and I didn't want to carry anything in my hand. I walked by a booth for SPIbelt. There were some cute ladies modeling the SPIbelts. The SPIbelt features an adjustable elastic band and the salesperson promised me that I could wear it low around my hips and it wouldn't move. I was skeptical, but desperate times call for desperate measures, and because I run outside almost exclusively, I purchased the Water resistant model.

My water resistant SPIbelt performed much better than I did at last year's Florida Beach Halfathon!
I'm happy to say that same SPIbelt has been around my hips on my 4 times/weekly runs ever since. I've run in the pouring rain, and my phone has stayed dry. The pouch lies flat on my lower abdomen and doesn't move or bounce, no matter how much stuff I put in in it! I've run multiple distance events, and the SPIbelt has not let me down. I use my SPIbelt on bike rides and when I go kayaking. I've even used my SPIbelt for trips to the ballpark and other outings.

If you look closely, you can see my SPIbelt, helping keep my iPhone safe!
Only once, the SPIbelt let me down and it was only because I'm a packrat. Last fall, when I ran Chicago, I needed to bring, along with my usual gear, 3 packs of Tailwind Nutrition, which I use to fuel. The problem was, I couldn't fit all 3 of them, my phone, and other essentials in the SPIbelt. I ended up wearing an old fanny pack and the SPIbelt to carry everything. The SPIbelt didn't move. The fanny pack kept rotating around my waist and annoyed me. I should have bought another SPIbelt and used two of them. I know that the SPIbelts wouldn't have budged. Live and learn.

SPIbelt stayed put and held almost all my stuff for 26.2!
Last month, I received an email from Jessica at SPIbelt asking me if I'd be interested in doing a product review for them. She told me to pick out 2 products of my choice to trial. I picked out the Endurance model, which is described as larger for longer races, and the Double-pocket model, which has 2 pouches. I received the Double-pocket model but instead of the Endurance model, I received the Original SPIbelt. The elastic on my old Water resistant SPIbelt was starting to get kind of stretched out, so I welcomed the Original. The SPIbelts come in a variety of color and patterns, but I'm a basic kind of gal, and so I ordered black. There are also multiple models and other products on the website.

The original SPIbelt
Since receiving it, I've taken the Original SPIbelt out on multiple runs. It functions similarly to my old Water resistant model, with one exception. It isn't water resistant. Over the last couple of weeks, I've run a few speedwork sessions in the pouring rain. At the end of the runs, my phone wasn't wet, but it wasn't exactly dry. The word I would use is moist. Now that I know this, and if I'm expecting rain, I'll go back to my old Water resistant model. Or pack my phone in a zip baggie. Otherwise, I'm quite happy with the Original. I have used it for my last 2 races, and was able to fit a pack of wipes, some chafing cream, my drivers license, Visa card, $10 bill, car key, and my iPhone all in the pack. Even with all the stuff I had in there, the belt stayed in place on my hips, and maintained a flat profile under my shirt.

You can't see it but it's there! Stuffed full.
The Double-pocket model has a larger pouch and a smaller pouch. I thought this SPIbelt might come in handy to keep my money, key, and license separate from my wipes and iPhone. But the larger pouch is still smaller than the single pouch on the Original, and I couldn't fit much more than my phone into it. I wasn't sure how to position the pouches, because I didn't think that would work well with them on my hips. I rotated the belt around with the large pouch in front, and the belt clip on the side, and that worked just fine. Like the Original model, the belt stayed in place throughout my runs.

Now that I have a few SPIbelts, I think I could use 2 of them on my longer runs, placing one in the front and one in the back. I love that the elastic band stays in place. The Original works great for me. I'd still like to try the Endurance model and see if its larger capacity would really make a difference. Of course, it would probably be better for me not to carry so much stuff! But overall, after 4 years of running with a SPIbelt, I can say that I'm a fan.

Do you use a waist pack? Have you tried the SPIbelt? Do you want to? Go to the website and use the coupon code LONGWAY15 for 10% any product on the site!

disclaimer: I was provided products from SPIbelt for testing and review purposes. All the opinions here are my own. And if I were Oprah, the SPIbelt would be one of my favorite things and all of you would receive one! 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


Running is rewarding.

I'm not talking about bling, although I will admit that it is a great feeling to have a medal placed around your neck after running a half or a full marathon. But I don't run for the bling.

I'm not talking about physical fitness, although at 52, it's pretty awesome to be in the best shape of my life. Not to mention being able to eat all the food!

I run for the reward of that feeling of accomplishment of setting a goal and meeting that goal.

I run for the reward of learning how to push myself when I don't feel like I can take another step.

I run for the reward of knowing that in the end, I gave it my all and did my best. Because I don't do anything half-assed--on or off the road.

There's no reward in giving up, in quitting.

"'Cause sometimes you just feel tired, Feel weak, and when you feel weak, you feel like you wanna just give up. But you gotta search within you, you gotta find that inner strength. And just pull that shit out of you and get that motivation to not give up. And not be a quitter, no matter how bad you wanna just fall flat on your face and collapse." 
-Eminem 'Till I Collapse
Yes, this song is on my running playlist. I find motivation wherever I can.

They say the joy is in the journey. And that's true. But there is no sweeter feeling than crossing the finish line.

Achieving those goals isn't easy. I don't know about your training, but my training is tough.

I run 4 days a week. When I'm training for a race, one of those days is speedwork. Another day is a long run. The other 2 days are "just" a run. There's some reward during the training too. Like that day 4 weeks ago, when I blew my speedwork out of the water. I finished in the pouring rain but when I looked at my splits, I felt like the sun was shining on me. Was that speedwork session a fluke? Apparently not, because I've had 2 more just like it. And I'm seeing that speed on the road too. Getting faster? That's rewarding.

It might not look like it, but I was pretty miserable in this picture.
I work with a CrossFit coach one day a week. Only one day? That workout is so tough, I have to take a rest day the next day. Right now we're finishing up interval training. Soon we'll be back into a heavy lifting cycle, where she has me lift obscene amounts of weight, all in the name of firing the glutes. Last week's workout was so hard, I wanted to quit. But what is the reward in that? The reward is in pushing myself to finish a really hard workout. The rewards come later, on the road.

A few years ago, I couldn't complete a half marathon without taking walk breaks. I couldn't imagine running 13.1 miles without stopping to catch my breath. After I started cross training with Becky, I developed more endurance. In September 2013, I ran my first half marathon without stopping. It wasn't a PR, but finishing that race so strong was so rewarding. That race felt so much better to me than the one I ran 2 years before and PR'd--but stopped 3 times. And now? Not only am I rewarded by running a half marathon straight through, I'm running them fast and achieving PRs. That's rewarding.

Running 26.2 without stopping to walk? Unimaginable. Until last fall. Besides redeeming myself by running the race I knew I had in me, I paced it well and only stopped once to use the portapotty and to fill my water bottles every hour. Oh, and give a few hugs to spectators. That finish? Talk about rewarding....

The race I ran this past weekend, where I went out too fast and could have crashed and burned? I dug deep and pulled out some mental strength I didn't know I had. Battled through nausea and tired legs. Shut down those voices that told me to walk, the ones that were telling me "I can't". Finishing strong and never giving up--that was my reward.

Oh and feeling good enough to drink a beer at the finish line? Icing on the cake. Yep, that's rewarding too!

That's why I run. For the rewards.

Why do you run?

I'm linking this post up with several linkups. Normally I don't but the themes overlapped! The theme for this post was so well timed for me...who knew?

Tuesdays on the run with MCM mama, Run the Great Wide Somewhere, and My No-Guilt Life all want to know: why do you run?

Deb Runs is hosting Wednesday Word. What is rewarding to you?

And my ladies Diatta and Sheila host Workout Wednesday! Go over to their blogs to see what everyone is saying!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

CARA Lakefront 10 miler race report: PR and IPA

The Live Grit CARA Lakefront 10 miler has to be one of my favorite races. I don't normally run races repeatedly, but this was my 3rd time running this one, and I still love it. The last 2 times I ran this race, I ran it alone, but this year I had the company of my friends Sara and Marcia. We met at my house, and I made them wait while I finished my pre-race breakfast of Cheerios and OJ. The drive into the city was easy and pleasant, as we chatted and gossiped. We got to the race about 1 hour before the start time, and snagged a free! parking spot on the street near the start of the race.

In contrast to the last 2 times I ran this one, the temperature was warm, about 60 degrees and it was sunny. I left my throwaway sweatshirt in the car. This is the third race I've worn this sweatshirt, and I have yet to throw it away. I'm starting to think that this sweatshirt is full of good juju, because every race I've worn it to has been a PR for me. Maybe I need to think twice about tossing it!

Truth be told, I don't even know where this sweatshirt came from!
Anyways, we headed to the gear check tent, left our bags of essentials, and made a stop at the porta-potties. There were a ton of them, and the lines were very short.

Marcia, me, and Sara
We had some time to kill, so we walked over to the lakefront and got some photos. Marcia had plans to connect with Emily, and we walked over to meet her. What a nice person! If you don't already read her blog, you should. She's even more warm and bubbly in person! She introduced Sara and me to Erin and Zenaida, some other local bloggers. It was great to meet them.

Erin, Marcia, Sara, me, Zenaida, and Emily
One more portapotty stop, and I suddenly realized that I left my bottle of Tailwind in my gear bag. I ran over to the gear check and helped the volunteers dig through all the bags to try and find it. When we located it, I ran back to Sara and Marcia, made one more potty stop, and got in line for the race. I lined up with the 8:30 minute milers, hoping for a repeat of my Get Lucky performance. The national anthem was sung, the gun went off, and away we went.

The first 4 miles of the course are kind of a loop-de-loop, and there's giant hill thrown in for fun after mile 3. Personally, I think the hill is stupid. It was probably a garbage pile at one time that the park district covered with dirt and grass. The course runs through the grass, up the hill, and back down onto the path. I started the race too fast, and by the time I finished the hill, I felt like I was going to throw up. I tried hard to get a grip on my pace and my confidence. I got into my head and started sending positive thoughts to my brain. I focused on my music and the motivational lyrics. I worked on getting the pace under control. After the nausea calmed down, I started sipping on my Tailwind. My mind kept screaming quit, walk, but my will wouldn't let me do that. I fought that battle for about 2 miles. It took every ounce of self control to keep running.

By about mile 5, I started to feel much better. I looked down at my watch and saw my split for that mile was 8:23. Seeing that gave me an enormous boost, knowing that I was still running fast and that I felt so much better. I continued along that path at that pace, and I knew then that I would finish this thing strong.

Until mile 6. We had been running south on the lakefront path, with the wind at our backs. When the course turned north, the wind off the lake had picked up and it hit like a cold blast of ice water. I felt at once point that I was being pushed backwards. Mile 7 was difficult, and my split was 8:49. That made me mad. I had already battled through my too fast start, and now this? Determined not to let the wind get the best of me, I continued down the path. There were a lot of trees at this point, and they seemed to be breaking the wind. There were points along the final 4 miles where the wind was just brutal, though. Looking at my splits, I did a good job of battling with it.

I wasn't the only one affected by the wind. I started passing people. There were a couple women that I remember from the start, and I caught up to them. After mile 9, I passed them too. I don't know what happened at mile 9, but my legs started to fly. I spotted a woman in an Oiselle singlet. One of the flock. She looked about my age, and I tried so hard to pass her! As we approached the finish line, I continued to try to catch her. She crossed the finish line shortly before I did. That last mile split was 8:05!

After the race, I went up to her, congratulated her, and told her how I tried to pass her. We joked about being "older", and she asked me how old I was. I told her, and she told me she was 60! My jaw dropped and we talked briefly about this. She said she's been running her best since her 50s. Thrilled to hear this, I hugged her, and wished her luck in her future races. How inspiring was that?

Happy to celebrate with my PR with an IPA!
I met up with Sara, who had a great race but also struggled with the wind. While we waited for Marcia to finish, we collected our gear and put our long sleeves on to warm back up. With the wind picking up off Lake Michigan, the temperature definitely dropped. It was cold. Once we found Marcia, we headed to the beer corral so I could have my celebratory Lagunitas IPA. It's so rare that a race has decent beer at the finish, and I wasn't going to miss out on this one! We reconnected with Emily, Erin, and Zenaida, and talked about the race. The shock of the wind at mile 6 was a common theme heard over and over.

But in spite of my troubles in the beginning and then the wind, what a fun race! Racing in Chicago is always a crapshoot. Here we thought we were going to be too warm, and then mid-race, the wind shifted off the lake, bringing brutal winds and cooler temps to the runners. I was grateful not to overheat, but that was just ridiculous. Since you can't control the weather, you make the best of the day, and that's what we did. It was great to spend the morning with my friends, and to meet some new friends too. Getting to this race is easy and parking is cheap and easy, unheard of for a race in Chicago. Since this race is sponsored by the Chicago Area Runners Association, it is well organized. And who doesn't love a 10 miler?

I'm happy with what turned out to be a 4 minute PR for me, even though my fast finish only got me 5/48 in my age group. This is a tough, competitive race--I call it a runners' race--but that's what I like about it. I'm keeping this one on my must do list.

The final results:

I'm linking this post up Tara at RunningNReading for her Weekend Update!