Saturday, September 6, 2014

Just me and my music

Last night, while flipping through the 200 or so cable channels looking for something to watch while I foam rolled and stretched, I saw that one of my favorite shows was on PBS (really, who needs cable?)--Austin City Limits. What a great show, if you like good music! I do. Last night we watched Dale Watson. Talk about a trip back in time--about 20 years ago, my husband and I saw him live at a little bar in Chicago called Schubas. In the back of the bar is a small music room where about 200 people can watch live music. Back in the day, Schubas had an "Americana series" featuring lesser known alt-country artists for about $5-10/ticket. We saw a lot of great music through this series, and Dale Watson was one of those artists. When we left that night, we asked each other why he wasn't more famous. Last night we got to hear him on ACL and that deep baritone was unforgettable. But we were surprised by his white hair and how old he has gotten. Twenty years will do that to a person, I guess... We reminisced about all the great music we saw at Schubas and it was kind of fun to take that trip down memory lane.

Isn't it funny how a song or artist can trigger a flow of memories?

Some science behind my musings...

The part of the brain that retrieves and supports memories also links music, memories, and emotions. Familiar songs light up the areas in green in this picture. This research is being applied to people with Alzheimer's dementia, in the hopes of developing music based therapy for this population. Music is also being used to trigger memories in people with severe brain damage. 
Music has always been a big part of my life. When I hear Johnny Cash, I'm brought back to my years as a young girl, trying to sleep while my parents had parties in the downstairs family room of my house. Family parties in the backyard when the adults drank too much and the kids got to run wild without much supervision. On the nights when my mom was out playing bridge with her friends, my dad would spin his 45s on the stereo console in the living room and he and I would listen together. This was mostly music from the late 50s and early 60s. But it is the memory of sharing music with my dad, just him and me (because my sisters weren't interested) that I cherish. Later, when he built a rec room over his garage and put in a jukebox filled with these songs, parties used to revolve around this 50s music. Hank Williams, Buddy Holly...I know their songs and their stories well.

Later as a teen, I began developing my own (at times questionable) taste in music. I liked loud rock music. My first concert was Boston, in 1978 at the Chicago Amphitheater. Now, when I hear Boston on the radio, I'm transported back to my 16 year old self, driving my 1973 red Pontiac Firebird (yep, with the bird on the hood), windows down, stereo turned way up (and yes, I had an 8 track player), and thinking I was just the coolest kid.  The oldies stations play all my music from high school now, and a lot of it makes me cringe. Styx? Foreigner? Kansas? I still know all the words to Walk This Way, and Aerosmith always makes me smile! But don't judge me too much...I did listen to Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin too!

Music makes the whole brain light up! Another study showed a that music activates areas of the brain responsible for motor activity, emotions, and creativity. Yet another study showed that listening to music boosts athletic performance by increasing motivation. Yes!

Even my running playlist, which is always evolving, has some of this music. And while I pride myself in having pretty good taste in music, I do have some questionable choices on my playlist. After all, to be a good running song, it has to have a steady beat and some motivating lyrics. I do have a Boston song that I like to run to. In years past, Nickelback has graced my playlist--recently one of their songs has made a reappearance on the list. I still favor the loud rock and roll that has always pumped me up, even when I wasn't a runner. While I don't think I'd listen to Invincible by Adelitas Way at home, it sure drives me forward! Earlier this week while I was doing my speed work, Eminem's 'Till I Collapse came on and I just about jumped out of my shoes to get moving. And I know this song has nothing to do with running but here are the lyrics that got me going:

"This is your moment and every single minute you spend trying to hold onto it 'cause you may never get it again. So while you’re in it try to get as much shit as you can. And when your run is over just admit when it's at its end."

As I approach the date of my 2d Chicago Marathon, I've started picking songs for my marathon playlist. The crowds there are really loud and I don't know if I'll be able to hear my music at times, but I want to be prepared with songs that will drive me forward, make me feel strong, help me reach down deep when I want to quit, and make me want to sing. Eminem's 'Till I Collapse will be there, as will his other running staple Lose Yourself. Another perpetual favorite on my last Chicago marathon playlist was Fly From the Inside by Shinedown, and the lyrics still resonate with me today:

"I am focused on what I am after, The key to the next open chapter. 'Cause I found a way to steal the sun from the sky. Long live that day that I decided to fly from the inside"

I also brought back this chestnut from the 1980s by Webb Wilder-- Tough it Out:

"I won't bow, I won't bend, I won't break, I'll tough it out. I won't budge, I won't deal, I won't change, I'll tough it out. (tough it out) Keep Rockin' (tough it out) No stoppin' 'Til I win the prize, I'll tough it out. (tough it out) straight ahead (tough it out) knock'em dead no compromise I'll tough it out."

Last but not least is Tom Petty's Running Down A Dream. Besides great lyrics, it has a great beat that makes you pick up the pace:

Yeah runnin' down a dream. That never would come to me. Workin' on a mystery, goin' wherever it leads.Runnin' down a dream 

Deal breakers? I don't like pop very much. After a few listens, most pop songs become tiresome and repetitious to me. I've made exceptions for Pharell's Happy--because it is just so darn infectious and makes me smile AND I listened to it last year for my strong Fox Valley Half Marathon; Britney Spears' Work Bitch--self explanatory; and Calvin Harris' Let's Go, because Beth at Shut Up and Run recommended it. .

Part of my love for running is about the music. I like to lose myself in the music, running to a song I know and love, where the run feels effortless. I love just running along, no thoughts in my head, just the is my escape, my me time, time where I can be alone with my music and my pace. It's truly why I enjoy running long distances. I don't know if everyone can understand that. Sometimes I don't always get it. But on those mornings when I'm driving to work and I'm not feeling it, I play my running music in the car, and it really gets me revved up for the day. As if I'm going for a run.

Funny how music can do that, isn't it?

Favorite songs? What drives you to a strong finish? Perpetual favorite songs to run to? And no, I'm not a fan of Eye of the Tiger. It's too slow!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Rules of the road

Today's blog post was brought to you by a woman I named "unfriendly runner". You see, today I was out in the rain and humidity, doing my 2 mile repeats, when I came upon a woman running towards me on the path where I train. The path has a solid yellow line down the middle, to separate the cyclists from the pedestrians. This woman was running on the line. She wouldn't make eye contact with me, so I couldn't even greet her with a nod or a good morning. And she wouldn't move over.

This isn't the first time I've encountered this on the path, but it was the first time I've had a runner do this. There are a lot of walkers on the path and some of them walk on the yellow line. And they won't move out of the way, forcing anyone who is passing them to swerve into oncoming traffic or over to the other side of the path. I will say that the path isn't completely flat, it is graded in spots and the pavement is cracked as well. So the yellow line seems to be the flattest and smoothest portion. I've run the yellow line myself. But what's with ignoring everyone around you? I wanted to give the unfriendly runner an elbow. But it would have been so obvious! So tempting tho.

And is it just me, or isn't there an unwritten rule that runners acknowledge another runner's efforts? A friendly greeting, or if you are just dying out there, a nod. A wave. Someone commented to me that maybe the runner was in her "zone". Nope. Not buying it. She was running towards me. Not only that, but we passed each other multiple times on the circular path. She knew I was there. Jerk.

I also knew that I was not in the wrong here. I did a internet search of runner etiquette. RRCA says:
Don't be a road or trail hog.
That's what I'm talking about. Look at that. Right down the center line.
Don't run down the middle of the road or trail. 
Don't run more than 2 abreast on a trail. 
Alert pedestrians when you are passing them. 

The Guardian posted the 10 commandments of running etiquette. Including:

Thou shalt nod hello

Ok, so it is a written rule. These are simply common courtesies runners should observe while training. But this got me thinking about races too. What are some of the worst offenses runners do on race day?

My number one race day pet peeve is people who line up towards the front when their pace dictates they line up further back. Of course, this will be me on marathon day, since I got placed in a corral with people who run way faster than me. But I digress... What I really dislike is weaving around slower runners at the beginning of a race. The best example I can give of this is when I ran the Hot Chocolate 15K about 3-4 years ago. This race was full of newbies, who knew nothing about lining up for a race. There were walkers at the starting line ahead of the runners. People with strollers. No one paid attention to the pace markers. And for several miles, it was a disaster for those of us who came to run. Not to mention there was no chocolate left at the finish line. I learned a few things from that race, and number one is that I will never do a novelty race again. I think it's great that people are all coming out to run, but for me, it isn't fun to run when the participants aren't aware of race etiquette. Both RRCA and CARA state:
Line up according to your planned pace. Just because you arrived early doesn't mean you get to line up at the front.
The Guardian says it best:
Be realistic. 

What else? Here's a few more things to consider:

Have you ever been running a race and someone stops in front of you, suddenly? And you almost smash into them? Another no-no. Run over to the side if you need to stop. Just so you know, I'll be running on the side with my fast corral group....

Don't be throwing gel packs and snot rockets back at the people behind you. Watch where you're dropping your discards. I've been hit with discarded gel packets at a race. Yuck. And yes, people do slip on banana peels, so those need to go somewhere safe too. I met a woman who slipped on a banana peel at mile 23 of the Chicago marathon one year. Yes, she fell. And yes, she dislocated her hip and messed up her knee. The best part of the story? She popped her hip back in and finished the race. BUT, if there hadn't been a banana peel on the ground, the whole thing could have been avoided.

Stop talking during the national anthem. Please! When we were lined up to run the Florida Halfathon last March, people continued to talk during the national anthem. Another runner told them to "STFU" and then a fight broke out. I've never been at a race when a fight broke out. It was a little unnerving! Anyways. Just hush. Be respectful.

Say thank you to the volunteers! I know this sounds so basic but think about it. They are sacrificing their free time to provide you with drinks, directions, what have you--to make your race experience a good one. They also smile when you thank them, which puts a smile on my face and makes my feet feel a little lighter for a while. Actually, along these lines, acknowledge the spectators too! Take those high fives from the little kids along the route. Just be careful so you don't plow them down.

And don't forget to touch for a power boost!
Don't hoard the post-race refreshments. I've seen runners leave races with arms full of snacks. Take only what you can eat and save the rest so that everyone gets a snack. I've heard stories about the back of the packers getting to the food tent and everything is pretty well picked over. That sucks.

Did I forget anything? What's your biggest running and/or racing pet peeves? Are you guilty of anything I mentioned above?

Well, and there is this....
Add caption

Monday, September 1, 2014

Marathon training week 7- Halfway home!

I have now passed the halfway point in my training to the Chicago marathon! Only 5 weeks left to go. Things at home have certainly settled down now that my boys are back to school. I'm finding it a little more challenging, time-wise, to get my runs in but I'll take it for the relative calm that has returned to my household. Here's how the week played out:

Monday: Crossfit intervals:

Becky had the whiteboard out. You know that's trouble! About 4 weeks ago, she had me doing what CrossFitters know as AMRAP=as many reps as possible, with 250m rowing in between, followed by a short rest period. Today my goal was to beat those intervals that I completed 4 weeks ago. 

And I did-in every category. Although, as you can see, my burpees are still pretty pathetic. 

Tuesday: I had 8 miles on the plan, and even though it was steamy outside, I managed to eake out a pretty decent run; overall average was 9:10mins/mile; and I had negative splits for the last 3 miles. I really enjoyed this run and felt like I could have kept running. 

Wednesday: I went to my weekly yoga class at the studio. We had a sub today but I've taken her class before and while she's a little gentler than the regular teacher, I felt like she hit all the high points and my legs felt great when I left the class. Which leads to...

Thursday: Again, I had 2 mile repeats x3 on the plan. I wasn't feeling great this morning--I don't know if it was a byproduct of a little too much wine the night before or what, but I wasn't sure how this would go. Last week, I struggled a little with pacing, and decided to take it slower today. Well, as you can see, that didn't happen! My legs felt light, probably as a result of yesterday's yoga class. Splits for miles 1/2= 8:17, miles 3/4= 8:25, miles 5/6=8:26. So even though the first 2 miles were too fast, it all worked out pretty well, and I felt great at the end. Really great. After that I went home to do the CrossFit homework Becky left for me since she's out of town.

First up was SB bridges x 50 reps. Slow and controlled.

Then goblet squats. I only have a 12# kettlebell, but I made sure to squeeze those glutes on the way up!

Last was step ups x50. I don't have a box like we use at CF, so I improvised and stepped up to the bench on my backyard deck. It worked great.

Friday: Rest day and back to work after being off for a week. I tried to keep my calm and serene mojo working.

Saturday: 5 hot steamy miles. My mantra for today was Larry the Cable Guy's git 'r done. Because it was all I could do to get through this one. It was 72 and 90% humidity...I slept terribly last night, felt oddly and overly anxious for no reason at all..felt a bit ill this morning with some tummy issues. But I got it done, and respectably. I turned off pacing mode on my Garmin and ran by feel. Altho my pace slowed down from my first 2 speedy miles, I still ended with a 9:05 min/mi average. Which in this heat, made me smile. 

Hey, whatever works, right?

Sunday long run: My family and I left early Sunday morning for the lake house. My boys did not want to go out of town this weekend, but we compromised and stayed home Saturday night so they could hang with their friends. But, my husband shocked me by telling them that we had to leave early so I could get my long run in. This guy never fails to surprise me! I hit the road about 8:45, much later than I normally would have and prayed that the fog would stick around for at least the first half of my run. Once I started to run, I noticed Spotify acting up; my music kept cutting in and out. I stopped a few times to try to figure it out, and I realized that I hadn't synced my new phone with my Spotify account. Cell service is pretty bad up at the lake, and relying on a cellular connection to play my music just wasn't going to work. I almost gave up, knowing that 12 miles without music was going to be tough, but I decided to see what I was made of. I did learn that I breathe really heavily when I run! When I stopped to gel about mile 4, I found out that my amphipod had leaked almost all of my Nuun. What next? I kept going, and looked for a source for water. I finally came upon a group of people sitting on a porch around mile 6, and asked them to fill my bottle. They didn't seem to understand me, and I'm not quite sure if they didn't speak English or if they were hugely hung over, since there were at least 4 cases of Corona sitting on the porch. Anyways, one of the ladies came out with a bottle of water and I filled up my handheld, this time making sure the top was screwed on tight. The rest of my run went fine. The sun was out and it warmed up but my pace stayed steady and I felt pretty strong. This run was almost comical, but I am so glad I was able to finish it. Pacing was surprisingly consistent (mile 7 wasn't that fast, I forgot to restart my Garmin after stopping for water--probably about 45 seconds after restarting my run), but a little fast for marathon pacing. But overall, the run that could have been a disaster turned out to be one of my strongest yet!

Overall, it was a good training week. Actually a good training month; I had 123 miles for the month of August. Can we get a woo hoo? 

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....