Showing posts with label Workout Wednesday. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Workout Wednesday. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 15, 2015


I've always been impulsive, a fly-by-the-seat of my pants kind of gal. They say opposites attract, and I think that really must be why my husband and I are married. He's the guy who needs to plan things in advance, and needs to really consider every aspect before making a decision. Change is really hard for him. His biggest challenge is keeping my feet on the ground. When I went back to school to become a nurse practitioner, he was not happy. "You're going to ruin the family", was his response. He knew I'd been toying with that move, but it still was a spontaneous one. Luckily, that decision worked out well for all of us. Considering that I've supported the family the last 2 winters while my husband has been out of work, I don't believe that I "ruined" the family. We may be having issues with my oldest son, but I can't blame it on becoming a nurse practitioner.

Most of the time, my spontaneous decisions have worked out well. I've been told that I have good instincts, and I believe that I do. You know my motto: Trust your gut.

Last year, I decided to jump into the Chicago marathon after winning a free entry from my employer. This was 14 weeks before the date of the marathon. Most marathon training plans are at least 16 weeks long. My husband, of course, told me I didn't have to run it. But I told him that I thought it was meant to be, and that it was time for me to redeem myself from my disastrous first attempt. Becky, my coach, was on board. I had a good training base already. My training went perfectly, and the race itself could not have gone better.

One of the best days of my life!
While I wouldn't recommend jumping into a marathon without planning ahead, it isn't unheard of. Beth, at Shut Up and Run, won a free entry to the Jerusalem marathon last month with only 6 weeks to prepare. As a veteran of several marathons and 2 Ironmans, she knew what to expect of the distance, and finished respectably. But she did have all that experience and a great running base.

Last winter, I read about a free entry to the Antarctica Marathon. Heck yeah, I entered! The contest was 6 weeks before the race. I'd been running in our own polar vortex, so I figured if I won, I'd throw a few long runs into the mix. Chicago winter? Antarctica? Besides no penguins, really, is there a difference? Believe it or not, my husband was on board with this one. Of course, he'd be all toasty and warm on the ship while I was out running in the tundra. But in a heartbeat, I'd have gone. Sadly, I didn't win. But as a completely random, unrelated consolation prize, there was this picture of me featured on Another Mother Runner. I love those ladies, and this was almost as good as going to Antarctica. Because Dimity is going to answer questions for next month's book club. It's funny how things work out. Plus this picture really shows that I could run in Antarctica if I wanted to. So there's that.

Antarctica got nothin' on me...and I'm almost famous...
I've run a few half marathons, signing up at the last minute. A year and half ago, I signed up to run a Thanksgiving half marathon the week of the event. My son needed some community service hours, and he was able to fulfill that obligation by volunteering at the race. I figured since he'd be there, I'd run it too. As it turns out, this was the fastest half I'd run in several years. My previous half was 2 months before, but I had continued to run my usual mileage and was in good shape prior to the race. My friends Karen, Michelle, and Sara were running too. It was all good. Well, except I never saw my son on the race course. I know he was there, but I ran right by him. So he says.

My beautiful friend Karen and me
For a nervous nelly like myself, the good thing about being spontaneous is that I don't agonize over a decision. When I signed up to run Chicago the first time, that was in January, and I had all that time get myself worked up into a lather. With last year's marathon, I didn't have a chance to get nervous. I jumped right into training, did the work, and was excited about my gains.

It's a little different this year. As running continues to become more popular, races are selling out faster than ever. I haven't planned the rest of my race calendar because I'm waiting to see if I got an entry to the Chicago marathon. I'm not really optimistic, since 70,000 people entered the lottery this year. Seriously! Hello, I'm a native Chicagoan. Doesn't that mean anything?

There are other options on my backup list, but I have my heart set on another Chicago marathon. Will the other options sell out while I wait for my lottery decision? I could always run Chicago as a charity runner. I could. I did that the first time. But I really hate the idea of hitting up my friends and family again. So if I don't get in, that might be a sign that I need to pick a different race. I'll let my gut tell me what to do.

So for this runner, it becomes more difficult to be spontaneous. The half I'm running in May? Sold out in March. I already signed up to run Sarasota next year, but that's because the race director let me defer. Sarasota is another race that sells out. I've never planned this far ahead, but hey, it's Florida. I want to do another half this summer, but as I wait to see what marathon falls onto my race calendar, will my options for half marathons narrow? Can I still be spontaneous? If I stick to smaller local races, yes. Seems like it's still my best bet for success. Stay tuned.

Are you a planner? Or a fly by the seat kind of gal/guy? What would you do if you were me, and didn't get in to Chicago? Charity? Or find a new race? Oh, the agony...

I'm linking up with DebRuns at Wednesday Words! Spontaneous is the word of the day. What say you?

And my ladies Diatta and Sheila at Workout Wednesday! Be sure to head over and see what the other bloggers have to say!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015


When I run, I run by myself. This is how it has been for many years. Some people don't get it. Over the years, I've had many offers from people wanting to run with me. I shared one story with Dimity and Sarah at Another Mother Runner about a neighbor man jumping in on my runs. I finally had to break it to him that I wasn't looking for someone to run with. It felt like a break up. When I told him that I like to run alone, he looked at me like I was crazy. And he looked hurt.

He's not the only person who has had this reaction. Another neighbor (another man, am I sending out the wrong message?) wanted to train for a half marathon with me. I told him that I would drive with him to the race, but that my training would be solo. Guess who didn't run the race?

Why is this so hard for people to understand? I actually enjoy my long, solo runs. When I run, it's just me, my music, my thoughts, and the road. My marathon training last year was completely solo. This included all my long runs. I had no problem motivating myself to head out the door to run that 18 miler (my longest run). I was looking forward to it.

Solo run along the water in Florida
I'm rarely alone. Even as I write this, my youngest son is on the couch, home from school today with a back injury from gymnastics. My husband was off work this past winter and when he finally returned to his job, I savored the solitude at home. I wandered from room to room, just taking in the quiet. There was no one asking me to find a lost item. No one asking what my plans were for the day.

Don't get me wrong. I love my family. And I'm not anti-social. My days are full.  Full of people, full of activity, full of noise. My job is in a busy clinic where we have 25 exam rooms and patients come and go. The hallways are filled with noisy children and crying babies. My home is in a highly congested suburban area of Chicago. The town borders overlap. One ends and another begins. There's a busy highway 2 blocks from my house and the noise from the road never ceases. The roads are packed with cars. Everyone is in a hurry. The stores are crowded. Airplanes fly overhead with increasing frequency and noise. Sometimes life here feels like an assault on the senses.

But there is green space here in the middle of suburbia and that is where I take my runs. The Forest Preserves, with their paths, are a place to find solitude in the middle of chaos. I ride my bike there, and I take my long runs there. Safety is an issue, as you might expect, but I try to go when there are people around. As I run through the woods, I take in the sights and sounds of nature around me, observe the seasonal changes and feel myself relax.

And when I get to take my runs to a less crowded place it is pure heaven for me.


I'm linking this post to a new link up on DebRuns! Every week she is going to feature a word for bloggers to write about. This was a great choice for the first week. I'm looking forward to this!

Deb Runs

I'm also linking up with the ladies, Diatta and Sheila, at Workout Wednesdays! Be sure to head over and see what everyone else has to say!

Femme Fitale Fit Club

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

#RunthisYear 2015 March Summary

March came in like a lion and went out like a lamb. Weather-wise and otherwise. So for the last day of this tumultuous month, I wore this RunHappy shirt from Brooks. Because that has been my mantra for this month. Actually, Brooks has some pretty awesome ladies running gear--wouldn't you agree?

Let's sum it all up...shall we?

Looking at my goals--how did I do this month? 

Run a sub-2 marathon: Yes please. Yes I did. This race, my backup plan, the Get Lucky half marathon, went better than I could have dreamed. Not only did I sub-2, but I PR'd by over 4 minutes. My finish time was 1:52:08. My previous PR was in 2011 at the North Shore Half Marathon where I finished with a time of 1:56:31. That race was memorable for my 3 portapotty stops. This year's race was memorable for no portapotties along the course. Man, was I lucky I didn't have to stop. But this race was also no frills in other areas. I came in second in my AG and there will be no award for that. Seriously. Who does that? Oh, that would be Team Ortho. Every other race I have run provides awards for the top 3 finishers in each age group. For my $80 entry fee, I expect some kind of memento. A pint glass? Maybe I could trade my cheesy sweatshirt for an AG award medal? Oh well. I'm not one to be greedy, and hey, at least I can be proud of an amazing finish.

Tom caught a puffer fish! LOL! He puffed right up. The fish, not Tom. At least he let me take this picture. And I've never seen a puffer fish outside a tank before.

Matthew on his way to a "try"
Control the mama drama: Not so much. I do think I was able to channel much of my angst into an amazing month of running. I had some of the fastest mile splits of my 20+ year running cycle. I hate to call it a career, because it's more of a hobby...but I digress. I ran 114 miles this month, and all of them were sub-9 minute miles. That is crazy fast for me and such a thrill. I can't help but wonder how long I can sustain this. Hey, if my oldest son keeps bringing trouble into my life, all I can do is take it to my favorite therapist, the road, right? We took a family vacation to Florida at the end of the month, and while he was pretty rotten to me the first couple of days--god forbid I'd take him away from his friends and make him go to Florida--he did thaw as the week went on and we ended the trip on a really positive note. After all I've been through with him, I'll take it. Now I have to figure out how to pay all these medical and therapy bills. On the plus side, my youngest son is playing a new sport this year, rugby, which he has fallen in love with. I've only been to one scrimmage--the brutal weather this month forced cancellations of many of his games--but he scored a "try" and made this mama proud. 

Becky keeps me working on my core strength. Any of you participating in that multi-blog core challenge? I'm a little scared...
Stay injury free: I'm knocking on wood as I write this, but I had a pretty uneventful month on the injury front. I was really good about foam rolling, yoga, and doing my hip stuff (clamshells and supermans) until we went to Florida. My big toe, my nemesis, is talking to me this week, but it is more sore than anything. It's time to switch out my shoes, and I think that's what my toe is telling me. I hope that's all it is. Damn toe. Usually some body part starts to hint that my shoes have exceeded their mile limitation. I probably have about 400 miles on these shoes. Even though they have a lot of good juju in them--see my race above--it's time to put them aside for the spare pair in the closet. They'll be great for CrossFit. Speaking of CrossFit, after a 3 week hiatus from Becky, I restart back this week. I'm actually looking forward to it. I have no idea what she has in store for me. It can only be good. Right? Back to the pain cave....

Remember, the link will be live April 13! Patriots' Day!
Grow the blog: The blog views have been growing. I've found new outlets for attracting new readers and that's been really fun. I'm getting approached by vendors who want me to test and review their products. That has been even more fun! I loved the Lily Trotters compression socks, and coming up this month will be a product review from SpiBelt. The first month of the book club was a huge success. I had an email interview with the author of our book, and a ton of comments on the book itself. It was so fun and rewarding to have that kind of interest. Hal Higdon has committed to an email interview for this month's selection, which I've chosen in honor of the Boston Marathon. I also have experienced some frustrations with my attempts to grow the blog and I'll be writing about those in the future. It's been interesting.

So what's up for April?

I have my favorite race, the CARA Lakefront 10 miler, on April 18. This is a runners' race, with fast finish times and great post race treats--including Lagunitas IPA at the finish line. I'll be running with my pals Sara and Marcia this year, which makes me happy, since I've done this one by myself both times in the past. April weather is fickle, and I sure hope Mother Nature cooperates! And if any of you Chicagoan bloggers are going to be there, let's plan to meet up at the beer tent after the race!

I'm hoping to get more miles on the bike. I did get out once this month, and rode 20 enjoyable miles. I love my bike. This year, I get to look forward to having some rides with Karen and Michelle, who are biking now too! I hope we can at least get one ride in this month. I've never ridden with anyone, but I imagine that it would be like running with people. So maybe not as fast as I like? We'll see...

And more rugby games with my youngest. What an exciting sport!

I hit the 300 mile mark in paradise!
The stats
-running miles: 114.18
-cycling miles: 20.79
-races: half marathon 1:52:08 PR and AG 2d place

How was your month? Any goals that you crushed? Any new mantras? Do you have lucky shirts? And does your body talk to you when it's time to change shoes?

Thanks for following along!

I almost forgot to link up with the ladies at Workout Wednesdays! Please check out all the other awesome blogs that link up at their sites!
I'm also trying a new link up with FitFoodieMama, AngelinaMarie, Pretty in Pink Fitness, and Bold Fit Mom. Oh my gosh! So many fun blogs! Check them out!
Linking up with Tuesdays on the Run for their goal check in!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Just breathe

Today in yoga, my instructor was demonstrating dolphin pose. The key to this pose, she said, was to melt your heart towards the mat. Yoga instructors say the funniest things, don't they? I asked her what that meant, and she demonstrated by literally melting her chest towards the mat. She also told us that the key to doing this correctly was the breath.

"Come back to the breath". "Move with the breath". We hear this a lot in yoga. We practice breathing techniques, which in yoga we call pranayama. Today, during savasana (when I was supposed to be relaxing), I thought about breathing and running. We as runners focus so much on technique, on training, on our times, our fuel...but how often do we focus on breathing?

Breathing is pretty important. In fact, I joke with parents of asthmatic children in the clinic about this. Often reluctant to give their wheezing child a breathing treatment, I tell them that breathing should be their number one priority. Put it like that, and even though it sounds corny, it really makes them think twice. You can't do anything else if you're not breathing, right? When being trained to do CPR, we learn the ABCs of rescue: A=airway, B=breathing, and C=circulation. Breathing comes first. Breathing comes naturally to most of us, right? But how often do you think about your breathing when you're on the run? When you're getting tired? Running too fast? Running next to someone who sounds like Darth Vader? Would using breathing techniques, similar to what we do in yoga, help us while we are running?

and proper breathing techniques...
Running is simple, right? We put on our shoes and go. But by using better breathing techniques, we can supply more oxygen to our muscles. More oxygen equals more endurance. Have you ever been on a tough run where you noticed that your breathing was ragged? Ever get a side stitch? I had one at my race last Saturday. Oh, I hate getting side stitches. Luckily, I was able to chase it away by focusing on my breathing, taking deep, slow abdominal breaths, working my diaphragm, and exhaling on the opposite side of the stitch.

Just like everything else we do as runners, we need to learn how to breathe properly. Most runners at least use a basic breathing pattern of exhaling every 4th step. An article published in Runners World  talks a lot about rhythmic breathing. Not only does this technique help with endurance but Bud Coates, the author of Running on Air: The Revolutionary Way to Run Better by Breathing Smarter, says it can help you stay injury free. He theorizes that exhaling puts the greatest stress on the side of the body you land on. So if you continually exhale on the same side of the body, you are putting a ton of stress on those joints and muscles. He suggests an odd/even pattern, so that you land alternately on your right and left foot. Coates uses a five step pattern for easy runs and a 3 step pattern for racing. Rhythmic breathing also helps give runners a feeling of centeredness--just like we feel in yoga--and keeps you relaxed and calm. In yoga we learn to exhale stress and worry. These same principles can be brought to our runs. A relaxed runner runs better. If you are feeling a twinge or pain on the run, try exhaling deeply. It takes practice but it really works! If you want to read more about Coates' techniques, chase the link above.

Incentive to become a nose breather...
Are you a nose breather or a mouth breather? I'm a mouth breather, and my biggest incentive for trying nose breathing is to avoid inhaling insects on the run. Seriously. In June, we get those clouds of gnats that fly around, and ick! I've usually inhaled a few of them every summer. Protein, right? A few years ago, while on the run, I was stung in the eyelid by a yellow jacket. Yeah, it hurt, and my eye swelled shut. But all I could think about is what if I inhaled that bugger into my gaping mouth? I could die!  Experts say that nose breathing is more efficient, keeps your heart rate and your blood pressure lower, and helps relax you. Scott Jurek, ultramarathoner and author of Eat and Run, is a nose breather. Makes sense. He recommends breathing in through the nose and exhaling through the mouth.

I have tried nose breathing and it is hard! But I do occasionally breath through my nose when forced to, like if there's a bad smell, car exhaust, roadkill, or something like that. When I do breathe through my nose, my nose starts to run and that's a problem too. Back to the mouth breathing. I'm not a snot rocketeer and don't want to start.

I wonder if Jurek uses this app I found? The Breathe Strong app (available for download on the iPhone) was developed by Alison McConnell, breathing training expert and author of the book Breathe Strong, Perform Better. The app can be used for breathing training as well as during workouts. There's an app for everything, isn't there?

Or if you don't want to use an app or get a breathing coach, you can do what I do, and go to yoga. Besides all the physical benefits of yoga, and I've written about that, yoga teaches you to move on the breath, to become more conscious of your breathing, and to breath more deeply. There's a great article on basic breathing techniques here. But like anything else, there's no shortcuts. Breathing requires practice. Who would have thought that something so natural, so basic, would require so much thought?

Just breathe.

Do you focus on breathing when you're running? Are you a mouth breather or a nose breather? Any helpful hints to improve our breathing efficiency?

I'm linking up with the ladies at Workout Wednesday! Be sure to head over to their blogs and see what everyone else is talking about!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

My racing heart...

A couple of weeks ago, I was sitting on the couch, reading, and I started to feel weird. I noticed that my heart was beating irregularly. I've had heart flutters before, and usually they just pass. It's a weird, kind of uncomfortable sensation. Have you ever felt this? This time, I did some yoga breathing to relax but the feeling didn't pass. I put my fingers on my wrist to feel my pulse, and yes, I was having irregular heart beats. I got up to get my stethoscope and put it on my chest. Very irregular.

I considered what to do. I'd been down this road before. About 10 years ago, I had something like this happen. I had chest pain and palpitations while working at the hospital. I was sent to the ER and put on a heart monitor. Of course, the act of putting me on the monitor was curative, and my heart rhythm was back to normal. I followed up with a cardiologist, was put on a 72 hour heart monitor, which was essentially normal, except for the tachycardia (fast heart rate) that occurred when I was running. Ha! I wonder what the technicians thought when they saw that!

So in light of that, I decided to ride out this episode. I felt ok, and I knew, as a medical person, that if I went to the ER, in February, which is the thick of cold and flu season, that the triage nurse would take one look at me, see a thin, athletic looking woman, and think low cardiac risk. She probably would start to judge me and think anxiety. I know how these ER nurses think, since I used to be one of them. She'd put me at the bottom of the priority list, and I'd probably sit in that waiting room for hours while they took people who were much sicker than me. That's how the ER works. Knowing all this, I figured that if I felt worse, I could always go to the ER, or I could see my personal physician the next day.

******Disclaimer: I'm not recommending anyone do what I did. If you are feeling chest pains or rapid/irregular heart beats, you need to get it checked out! I possess enough medical knowledge to be dangerous to myself. You know what they say, medical professionals make the worst patients. Do as I say, not as I do.******

The symptoms finally passed and I haven't had another episode since. Curious to find out what could have happened, I did some research. Conventional wisdom tells us that exercise is good for our heart, and puts us at low risk for cardiac issues. But some controversial studies have come out that say maybe TOO MUCH running is not good for our hearts. What happens when we run?

There's no question that endurance activities put a strain on our hearts. Your heart is a muscle, and when you train, that muscle works hard. Moderate exercise helps strengthen that muscle, and is considered "cardioprotective", or good for your heart. But what about more intense endurance activities, like marathon running or triathlons?

Over time, the heart adapts to endurance activities by increasing the effectiveness of the heart to pump blood to the body. In other words, this leads to increased muscle size of the heart and a lower pulse rate. But running an endurance event, like a marathon can lead to temporary changes in the heart muscle that indicate damage. The good news is that for most of us, everything returns to normal after 24-48 hours. And even though you do hear of people dropping dead at the finish line, those events are really, really rare.

What could be causing my palpitations? Studies show that these irregular heart beats are more common in older athletes. Actually, irregular heart beats are more common in older people in general. There can be several different types of palpitations. But for the purpose of this blog post, I'm going to focus on the 2 most common types of palpitations that occur in athletes.

In older and middle aged runners, I guess that includes me, there is an increased incidence of atrial fibrillation. This is thought to be related to changes in the structure of the heart, including the electrical pathways. Atrial fibrillation is felt like a fluttering in the chest. There can be lightheadedness, shortness of breath, and fatigue. The heart rate is elevated.

Premature ventricular contractions (PVCs) are fairly common in athletes of all ages. There are several different theories behind this, but commonly these beats are thought to be an "escape" rhythm felt between normal beats of the slower heart rate in the well trained athlete. Random PVCs are not usually a problem. I've had these many times, and I think that's most likely what was going on with me that afternoon.

There are other causes for heart palpitations that have nothing to do with running. Fatigue, caffeine, stress, thyroid problems, and hormonal changes (pregnancy, menstruation, and menopause) can also cause palpitations.

When is an irregular heartbeat a problem? Palpitations during a run are usually considered to be more serious than those that occur during rest. Those need to be checked out. But other palpitations? Like mine?

I haven't had any further episodes. There was no associated chest pain. Oddly, once I had a glass of wine, things settled down. I'm not sure what caused my heart to flutter. God knows I've had a lot of stress lately. The good thing for me is that I've had this worked up in the past, and everything was 100% normal. For now, I'm ok to wait.

And you know, it's still better to run than to sit on the couch and think about running.

But when in doubt, get it checked out.

To read more:

I'm linking up with Femme Fitale Fit Club and Workout Wednesday! Be sure to head on over and check out all the other blogs.