My Super Sweet 13(.1)

A 1st Half Marathon

83 Days Until… (Motivated to Move)

My rain-soaked bib from February 4th's Snowman Shuffle 4 Miler - I have officially completed the 2011-2012 Polar Bear Grand Prix!

What a week. And to end it with a four mile run in 40 degree weather? Why not? I ran with my boyfriend and got a wave in to a fellow Blue Mile trainee! (yay for Twitter connections!) – and we made decent time. I walked a little before the big hill; I do most of my training on Cherokee Park‘s scenic loop, and I have mental issues with the two big hills. But I have run up both of them, consecutively, and I run up at least one of them on my runs, which are getting more frequent as the Derby Mini gets closer. I’m still feeling butterflies about it, but I went ahead and signed up for the Papa John’s 10 Miler today (I already signed up for the Rhodes 10k, but I can’t make the 5k due to a wedding, which is irking me ’cause I really wanted to complete another “trio” of races); it’s the day after my birthday, so that’s kind of a cool way to start off a new “year,” don’t you think?

This was a productive running week. I didn’t go to Iroquois Hill Park to run like I mentioned on Twitter, but I did go on a great hour run on Tuesday – the weather here was surprisingly awesome for the majority of the week – and I didn’t chicken out of the group run on Monday like I did last week. I took Wednesday off, walked and yoga’d Thursday then gym’d and yoga’d Friday so I wouldn’t mess myself up for the Snowman Shuffle 4 miler today; I have officially finished my first Polar Bear Grand Prix! I ran outside in the crappiest months of the year! Well done, self!

I’m being congratulatory because it’s been hard to get motivated this week. I’ve got all sorts of aches and pains (mainly my hips) and I’ve been hydrating and stretching and all that, but running longer – and running three times a week – is still something my body’s getting used to. Luckily, Blue Mile’s been good about talking about soreness issues, and regular yoga – I do at least 20 minutes every day – helps. I’ve been trying to motivate myself with future goals – I’ve decided to try a marathon next year, or maybe at the end or middle of this one, and I’ve decided that when I’m 33 (I’ve got a few years to prepare and 3 is my favorite number) I will run the “original” marathon in Greece, from (appropriately) Marathon to Athens. It’s a very tough, hilly run, but I like how you can travel with running – I loved combining physical exertion with seeing another country when I hiked in Peru, and I’ve got all sorts of ideas on how to do that again. Also, my boyfriend, who isn’t as into running as me, and I have discussed future participation in triathlons (though I don’t think I could do an Ironman – ones with 10ks and a mile swim is what I’m thinking), which gets me excited for our active future. Finally, and what has probably helped me lace up this week the most, is that I also read Haruki Murakami‘s fabulous book What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (2008), which has made me even more ambitious and determined with my running practice. Here’s a snippet:

“Most runners run not because they want to live longer, but because they want to live life to the fullest. If you’re going to while away the years, it’s far better to live them with clear goals and fully alive than in a fog, and I believe running helps you do that. Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits; that’s the essence of running, and a metaphor for life – and for me, for writing as well. I believe most runners would agree.”

As you might glean from the quote, Murakami has a near Zen approach to running, self-discipline, and is the sort to make (and achieve) big goals (I think he’s run 24 marathons, and he started at age 33). But I don’t run because I want to live forever, though I do want that distance-runner resting heart beat, as genetics on both sides of my family point to a nearly unavoidable relationship with high blood pressure (I will fight it! Healthy diet included!). I don’t run because I want to loose weight anymore either, because I just don’t care about that part of it – I’d like to be leaner and stronger so I can go faster, which takes care of itself the more you practice and eat properly when training, but it’s not why I run. I run because it is a challenge, and I am working through it with determination and curiosity, and I, like Murakami (and apparently many others) enjoy “exerting [myself] to the fullest within [my] individual limits” and I strive to live my years “fully alive”; I just have to keep at myself to do it. And I really think that’s half the victory of any run – the race, the long one, the speed one, the slow one, the hilly one – the fact that you, well, just do it.

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89 Days Until… (Mental Flossing)

My mind runs with my body, does yours?

Sometimes the highest mountains you climb are in your head.

It’s been a wonderfully busy week – I turned in a draft of my dissertation (aiee!) which, upon review, will determine if I can apply to graduate in May. Imagine finishing your first half-marathon and graduating a couple weeks later with your doctorate. Oh happy coincidence it would be! But it might not be a go. It’s up to the universe to decide. It’s also up to the universe to decide when I hear call backs regarding jobs I’ve applied for, but that’s another worry. I’ve also got seven weddings to attend this year and several other paycheck-demanding events to think about. There’s a lot going on in my little world… and now I need to run more and further. Well. I guess I’ll have just created more time to think then.

I’ve found that I run further, and better, however, when I leave the worries behind and just <i>go</i>. It’s cold, lace up your shoes anyway. Yeah, it’s early, but put on your gloves and get out the door! I’ve found that, in order to increase my distance a good bit (and thus to feel better prepared for running 13.1 miles in one go, which, as I’ve mentioned, I’ve never done before and am thus a little scared of) I need to put in some AM runs. Argh, the inhumanity of waking up at the crack of dawn to go pound the cold hard pavement! My sleep patterns are… well, I like to sleep in. I can stay up all night but I like to move slow in the mornings. This will probably help my AM run be more of a base run than speed work. And that’s good. Also, I run better – more even tempo, less aggressive speed bursts – when I think of happy things or accomplishments to be had. So that’s my tip for the week (and the weak): think of the light at the end of the tunnel when you feel like you’re running in one.

This Saturday’s group run at Blue Mile was good, but we did 45 minutes – to a point and back – and I had 12:00 left on my clock when I got to the return point. I ran around a couple of blocks, still 5:00 to go – run a little more… And I could’ve gone farther. I’ve decided to start running with the full marathon groups a little bit. I might not go as far as them, but I’m totally fine running a 5k every time I run – I need to increase my distance and running with others always helps me pace myself. According to this article, my running up the hard hills lately will pay off, but I’m looking to move to another course. Something a little flatter. The big hills wear me out quicker, and my local loop has two – I’ve yet to go the whole 2.2 miles on this course without stopping to walk for a minute due to the hills, though I ran through a whole flat 5k. Also, it’s hard to run in the cold (Runners World has tips!) but I am doing it. I chickened out of the Blue Mile group run on Monday – I was intimidated – but I talked to one of the employees up there about it this Saturday and he soothed my worries. So tomorrow, group run! And this weekend, the final leg of the Polar Bear Grand Prix, the Snowman Shuffle Four-Miler! Woo! Attaining goals!

I spoke with a friend who’d done two minis before this week – she came to yoga with me! – and she told me that one of the best things I can do to help myself train is to cross-train. I am doing this, mostly because the weather’s been really rainy and cold this week, so I only did two outdoor runs, the rest of the week consisted of indoor gym work (and one tiny indoor run) and yoga. Livestrong.com points out the benefits of cross-training during mini and marathon training, noting:

“Some proponents of cross training advise running only three days a week and cross training the rest. If you minimally cross train, do it on the day after your long run. Weight training should be a separate workout; don’t do it before or after a run. If you run the same day, give yourself at least five hours of rest in between. Also, if you’re fatigued, you can cut out your cross training workout, but balance it out by cutting a run instead of the cross train the next time.”

Part of my problem this week was fatigue – I was working again, which is a different sort of work than staying by yourself in a retirement community and doing nothing but running, writing, reading, and yoga – and the weather took two days of potential running away from me (pouring rain in freezing temps I do avoid). But I do cross-train already, as well as (minimal) strength training, so I should be good. I miss swimming, but it’s enough that I get the motivation to run – swimming involves cold wet head. I’ll be back in the pool in March, thanks… I did get into a groove when I swam, however, and time would just fly by – I’m looking forward to that point in running, where I lose my racing thoughts and fall under the spell of the run.

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96 Days Until… (Brews & Clues)

Cranes in Florida

My beautiful running companions in Florida, along with the sun:)

Aaah! How did we get to less than 100 days until the Kentucky Derby Mini Marathon? And how many times will I type that phrase until we get to that faithful day… And is it better to say “mini-marathon” or “half marathon?” I mean, the website says “mini” but it is a half – and a half sounds more half full, I think. But ooh, less than 100 days. Better keep the pavement pounding up. Also considering getting a kettle bell and adding some strength training. I need some strength to assist my endurance.

This week Louisville will be blessed with some decent weather, a.k.a. no snow or ice. That’s good, because I’ve got three training runs scheduled this week with Blue Mile and I spent the past week running in the high 60s and upper 70s in Florida. I did one 30 minute run, a 45 minute run, then a 40 minute one, so I got my three days in, otherwise… I was working. Then my family came into town. Good times ensued.

Speaking of good times (and running) I picked up the latest issue of Runner’s World at the airport and they had an entertaining article about runners and beer. Apparently a lot of people celebrate their big runs with a cold one. While I am definitely a friend of hops and barley, I rarely want a beer after a run – I don’t even want a sports drink, I just want water water water. Later in the day, however, I want to eat crap I shouldn’t, but running a mile only burns around 100 calories. Most (good) beers are more than that. I think my mentality stems from yoga; I’ve been doing yoga for 13 years, so “mindfulness” is also no stranger to my thought processes, and I know beer, while a lovely carbohydrate source, is also a dehydrating source, so I don’t want one after a run. It’s like having a cigarette after yoga – you breathe deep for 75 minutes then inhale smoke? Can’t be a good idea, right? I mean, it’s illogical and counteractive.

Oddly, the article in the magazine said women do better with the beer, but consuming mass quantities doesn’t necessarily make you slower on your next-day run, but since you feel like crap you get slower. Duh? Not so much. Active.com got in on the action with a similar article. They state that “in general, drinking and endurance training don’t mix,” which makes me happy. Heaving through my 40 minute run in 73 degrees, I felt more thick and sluggish than I had running out in the cold. It was hard to switch from hot to cold, but it was damn great to sweat. But I blame the beer I enjoyed in not-really-moderate amounts with my family. But now it’s time to buckle down. I cranked out a lot of work and now get to keep up a pretty tight schedule as we move through the semester. I’m still excited about the race training though.

I like thinking about the race, planning my eventual track listing for my iPod, and I’m actually enjoying trying to find my base pace and doing core work after I stretch from my run – I’m getting clues as to how to improve by my enjoyment of running and just listening to my body. It’s pretty cool and a different experience for me. I really enjoyed running in the sunshine, though one night I ran after it’d rained, and it was about 65 degrees and windy, and I felt really happy to be running. I just breathed and felt the breeze. Isn’t it interesting how we can find pleasure in something that you have to be quite disciplined to do; I guess that’s why beer’s such a staple at the end of big races – you’re celebrating! But when we bump glasses in triumph, mine’ll probably have water… but we can totally go out to the bars on another night if you want:) Which is what I will be doing after the Rhodes City 10k! It’s my first 10k, I’m officially registered, and it’s on St. Patrick’s Day, so the beer that evening will be a given. I mean, I’m part Irish. It’s in me blood:)

PS: Payday is next week (and so is the final leg of the Polar Bear Grand Prix – the Snowman Shuffle! I’ll be signing up for the Papa John’s 10 miler – are ya with me?

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104 Days Until… (The Shock of Growth)

I am not running in this sort of tundra, but 17°F or -8°C is a challenge

Sorry I didn’t post anything until today; I wanted to wait and see how my first day of group running (as preparation for the KY Derby Mini-Marathon, I have signed up to train with a local group) at Blue Mile went. It went well! It’s a positive bunch of people of varied ages and running/walking levels, and we did a nice 30 minute run (I only walked over the wooden bridges – it was 17 degrees this morning and the snow from yesterday beget icy patches) of which felt exhilarating but not tiring. That brings my total mileage this week to 2.5 (Monday) + (3.0) Friday + (2.5) Today to = 9 miles run this week. Not too much (the goal is 10-15), but it was a busy week, and my Wednesday run got rained out in the morning and afternoon, and Thursday I had a 90 minute massage (not the relaxing kind, the deep tissue, sports kind – which was great great great for my tight hips, hamstrings, and lower back).

Cool thing about training at Blue Mile: the folks at Blue Mile concentrate more on how long you run, no how far you go when you run. That takes the pain out of the hills, I have to say. Coming from a South African native (the accent immediately made me listen ’cause I geek like that) who is billed as an “elite runner” (this article goes more into the Blue Mile owners’ history – one is a former Olympic runner – before they changed the store name, which was originally based in Indiana, and this article describes more of what Blue Mile’s training philosophy is like), I was charmed, by both the accent and the paradigm of happy health all the employees exhibited – to give it my 75% this morning (I did a few pushes, but tried to keep it around 5.6 mph; it was ‘effing cold, so you didn’t want to walk once you ran. Jogging a few moments helps.) The Blue Mile crew were very excited and enthusiastic in cheering us on, and everyone in the group was friendly and most people were runners but not the sort who’d done many big races. I’m excited about this program for many reasons, but I’m hoping to make some new friends – one woman was an almost-student of mine! I love how sports unite people, I just love it!

Brazil 2014, everyone! Let’s go play in the Amazon and watch the FIFA World Cup, whaddaya say? Gotta keep setting goals:)

Next week I’ll be in what my uncle calls “self-imposed exile” in Florida, which means (a) I’ll need lots of breaks from working, so I’ll have to run in (b) mid-70s degree weather! Oh hurrah! I really don’t enjoy running in the cold, though my new running tights and running shirt (plus my fleece hiking vest and wool hiking socks) passed today’s weather with flying colors. As the folks at Blue Mile say, and which I’d like to agree with, is that getting fancy gear actually does help. Yoga pants without the gusseted crotch are ixnayed from my practice once I found the increased mobility, and my super high-tech hiking pants were a Godsend in Peru. I guess that means I’ll be updating my running shoes sometime in February. Fun fact for the ladies: Replace your sports bras around the same time you replace your shoes.

I’m working through quite a lot of tasks at the moment, which means I feel bad for not moseying to others’ blogs. I’ll be able to in a couple of weeks – my dissertation is being quite demanding at the moment – but thanks to everyone who’s liked or commented on a post so far. I’ll be surfing your way soon!

Besides running and work and school, I’ve been enjoying my yoga practice. One of my teachers reads a lot from the book 365 Days of Tao by Deng Ming-Dao, and I’ve been making a note to take a quiet moment every day to read an entry. I’ve been casually studying Buddhism and Taoism/Daoism for over five years now, so to me it’s something of a cornerstone to my well-being and inner balance, but sometimes I think Taoist meditations are so universal that I can’t help but share them with whatever audience is nearby. One of the entries in 365 Days of Tao seemed applicable to sharing on this blog:

“Emerging” (#6)
Thunder and rain at night.
Growth comes with a shock.
Expression and duration
Appear in the first moment.

Excerpt: “Things cannot remain in stillness forever… All growth comes with a shock. When a sprout breaks its casing and forces its way to the surface of the earth, it is the climax to a long and deep accumulation of life force. We may think it came up suddenly, but in actuality, it emerged as the product of unseen and subtle cycle.”

In other words (to quote South Park), “Even Rocky had a montage!” (It’s hysterical. Click.)

While change is scary to most of us (it’s rare to find someone who can roll with each and every one of life’s punches with total serenity), we do adapt and get used to it. This is metaphorical for running in the cold (you’re freezing, you’re fighting yourself, you start moving, you start suddenly not being so cold and tired), but also for running itself. But it’s also a good metaphor for how we find ourselves slogging it out on the StairMaster for a hike for months on end, and then the actual event we were preparing for arrives and you complete it… you spend more time training for, preparing for, and thinking about your future goals than you usually do when you are actually in their midst.

My running history, or “long and deep accumulation of life force [as a runner]” in a nutshell:

  • I started running around the time I was 21, when beer and eating junk food caught up to me, and I’d pretty much stopped exercising other than yoga. In undergrad I actually *lost* the freshman 15, but doing lots of club drugs might be part of that, plus I didn’t eat much and swam obsessively. But by the time I got into my 20s, I began to party more and exercise less; I could do my beer + burgers in London, where I walked everywhere, but six months after my return I began packing pounds for my final year of undergrad. So I interval trained, the fat melted, I went back to swimming and the elliptical.
  • I moved to graduate school number one, where I ran outside often until I developed a bone spur on my left knee within a year, which made it hard to run indoors or out. So I went back to swimming, hiking, and the gym again. Then I moved up here to graduate school round two, and my first winter beget blubber, so I interval trained and swam and continued yoga and hiked, then trained heavily for the 4-Day Inca Trail Trek, which included 5ks and speed work and hill work, which I hoped would strengthen my legs for the hike (it did).
  • Now I’m basically ramping up the Inca Trail training, but just running instead of the (awful, nasty torture device that is the) StairMaster. And swimming. So my running thus far has been a “long and deep accumulation” of ups and downs, and I’m very positive about this training and psyched to keep it up.

But there’s more to the Taoist quote: “Expression and duration/Appear in the first moment.” The section goes on to say that “When the seedling appears, it carries with it the complete pattern for its growth, perhaps even makings of an enormous tree.  [The seedling] completely embodies its destiny. Therefore the growth and character of the plant – and its very life – are all present at the moment of emerging.” I like to think about this concept next to that of training for a big run; we have our blueprint and our physical bodies’ innate sense of what we are able to do – it’s there as soon as we recognize our role as a cognizant being. Everything we need to be who we are is present – everything we need to run the marathon or mini-marathon, by the time we get there, is present. We have ingrained it into our “destiny” by commiting to the race, our health, and, in some ways (cheap plug: donate to Fred’s Team!) our community by participating in the training, not just the race. The part that happens to us between our decision to make a big step onto the course is the most daunting and exciting part, and I’m stoked that I’m feeling very positive about it.

Blue Mile has us doing three weekly runs (two formal groups on Mondays and Saturdays, an informal group on Wednesdays) and they’re prepping us on gear and nutrition and my Monday run was actually pretty amazing-feeling, considering the 40 degrees and wind chill. So to my fellow half-marathon/mini-marathon/full marathon/tri-athletes-in-training – We have all we need when we pick our destiny to run, but first we must generate underground – building our own training montages – before we are able to sprout forth in the spring! I, however, am looking forward to embodying my destiny in the Sunshine State, which I’ll tell you all about next week! Also, next week I’m making the ultimate decision: The Rhodes City 10k, the Papa John 10 miler… or both? Hmm. I’m currently leaning toward both… But, until then, happy running!

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112 Days Until… (The Training Begins)

Red Rocks of Coconico National Park outside Sedona, AZ - a great hike to usher in the new year!

Okay, the sloth is reforming. Ye Olde Routine is getting back into gear. Ye Olde Routine is basically three days of intense workout, three days of yoga, and one day of rest, though every day is a dog walk day. As the weather cooled off, I began substituting running for swimming, which is one of the big reasons I decided to do this half-marathon; if I was going to be slogging it out on the pavement all winter anyway, why not make a goal of it? I’m going to do a short run tomorrow, with hills and what-not, and the second leg of the Polar Bear Grand Prix, the Frostbite 5k is Saturday, so I’ll that takes care of that day’s required running. Sunday may be another hike or a rest day, I haven’t decided yet. All the traveling over the holidays blessed me with a nasty sinus-cold thing, which means that I can totally run (I did a mile at 5.6 and it was easy, but I warmed up – and Kleenex’d – with 2.76 miles on the elliptical) it’s just a pain in the arse to breathe while doing so. Plus I’m lazy – coming off the holidays, about to start teaching/working on grad school stuff again – and am cherishing my slow speed days of dog walking and yoga classes.

Luckily, I have two motivating factors pushing me up the hills and down the roads these next weeks! The first one being: I am officially signed up to run the Kentucky Derby Mini-Marathon! I tried to be all ambitious on New Year’s Day and register then, but the online thing wasn’t working properly and I was visiting a friend, but January 3rd, when we returned, I registered! Fun fact: when you register, you can donate to several charities, such as the Olmstead Park’s Green Team, which was my choice – I decided not to run for the team, simply because I don’t have time to raise money, plain and unfortunate as it is. I’m trying to graduate this May; running three times a week is commitment enough, but a friend of mine is running for the Parks, so please donate to her if you’re feeling giving!

As for the second running motivator, I signed up to train with a local running store, Blue Mile. I chose Blue Mile because they seem to have a good program in place, they’re a small business with experienced trainers, the benefits are comparable to the ones I discussed in the last post, and it was the cheapest and closest training space. I know we run every Saturday at 8 or 9 am, and the first day is the 14th. I’ll be running at least three times after the 5k and thus before training begins, and then I’m off on a “dissertation vacation” where I’ll bunker down and write. But I’ll be in Florida, so I will be really excited to run there. Mmm. Shorts. My final motivators are a couple of “tech” things I bought – I got a fleecy-microfiber long-sleeve running shirt, and I bought some good running tights – it helps to have decent gear, and I can run in my capris when it’s 20 degrees outside (it helped that I had a gift card to REI – and they’re holding their end-of-year sale – and an Athleta gift card, thank you Santa). Call me chicken, but I need some buffer between my skin and the wind:)  When I spend money (and dang this stuff can cost you – $98 for running tights? I couldn’t pay that!) I use it.  There’s lots of good stuff happening, and I’m happy to be back to where I was… at the end of November. Then December, while active, had little structure and lots of short runs – the key to getting into this thing will be adding a little at a time, and I need to slow my runs down in order to do so, and I’ve just about found my pace (it’s about 5.6 miles/hour for anything more than a 5k). So I’m moving in the right direction and excited for the Frostbite 5k this Saturday. Perhaps if I get some Vicks Vapor Rub and put it all over my nose, things might improve in terms of the breathing/running issue – I’ll let you know how it works out. Sniffle sniffle jog jog!

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119 Days (Reforming Sloth)

A visual metaphor for my run count this past week

Ah, the holidays. I packed my running shoes, a sports bra, and a t-shirt and running capris. Did I run? No. I took two walks, though I did sprint through the Atlanta airport (does that count as speed work?). This is not going to fly for my preparation for the half-marathon. However, it’s hard to travel between three states and maintain a 5k every other day, and a sinus infection (along with the annual Christmas holiday hangover) put the kibosh on my plans. Argh. I’m frustrated, but after our New Year’s trip to Arizona, I think I’ll be able to get into a groove. I have decided that I’ll be training with Fleet Feet, and I’m still debating as to if I want to raise money (never my forte) for Olmstead Parks with Fred’s Team. I’d need to raise $650, and while I think it’s a worthy cause, I hate asking people for money. Either way, an interest meeting concerning Fleet Feet’s Kentucky Derby half-marathon training is on January 3, and I’ve committed to going, if for no other reason than to get more info as to what to expect. I like Ken’s Training Studio and Swag’s Sport Shoes Training Resources, but both stores/group run locations are a bit further away from home than I’d prefer, and Fleet Feet’s schedule fits perfectly with my Monday and Wednesday teaching schedules. Also, Fleet Feet’s group training price is $75, which is more do-able for my budget. My next race is the second leg of the Polar Bear Grand Prix, the Frostbite 5k. It’ll be in the park close to where I live, with hills I am already familiar with and in weather that I already know slows me down. I’m excited, though; the more I talk to people about my half-marathon aspirations, the more achievable the idea becomes.

I’ve done a lot of reading on nutrition and spoke to my boyfriend’s brother in law about the two half marathon’s he’s run (he’s done the Nashville Rock n’ Roll half twice) which was helpful. “R” said that his training for the marathons involved a slow build-up of about an extra mile a week, and he didn’t up his strength training beyond what he already had in place. “R” said that the race was initially a daunting idea, but that proper shoes and a regular running schedule were helpful. He also re-iterated something I found out when I hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu: if you commit to a date and train for it, chances are you’re going to be all right. I think I’ll be taking on the Rhodes City 10k and am still on the fence on the Papa John’s 10 Miler, though “R” told me most half-marathon training programs peak at 10 miles, as the adrenaline on race day generally carries beginning half-marathoners through the final 3.1 miles. Maybe I should just pick one? I don’t know… Oh, decisions.

My original hope for today was to squeeze in a run, but I think I’ll hit the park for some intervals later, as my sinuses make it difficult for me to breathe. I found a fun site from a “slow” runner, WaddleOn.com, John Bingham, and, while I was pretty good about avoiding excess sugars (other than beer, dang it) over the holidays, I did find some great eating-for-running advice (reminder: you’re only burning about 100 calories a mile when running sorta slow, so gels and sports drinks will only kill your calorie burn, so weight loss might not happen when you’re running unless you eat correctly) on RunningPlanet. I’ll come back next week with, hopefully, better news to report (I’ll have been to the Fleet Feet Meeting by then) and my gym will be open after January 2nd, which enables me to cross train again. Today’s forecast, thus, is a dog walk, yoga, and maybe some interval work. While in Arizona, I’m lobbying for an easy (my traveling companions aren’t on a fitness regiemen like me) 2 mile hike in Sedona, which will at least give my legs some much needed work as I try to climb out of my sloth-like fitness schedule. Fie, holidays – I will train in 2012, rain, sleet, and snow be damned!

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127 Days Until… (Get Ready…)

The misleading gentle uphill slopes of Cherokee Park (where I run a lot)

We’re 127 days away from the mini-marathon and I ran a total of four and 1/2 (4.5) miles this week. I did six (6.0) on the elliptical, partly because I was being lazy and partly because it was raining and chilly and just too nasty to have the fun run I wanted. I need to run more, obviously, but I’ve been putting in some time reading about runner’s nutrition and my lack of distance speaks to some speed work uphill (there are two hills I dread on my runs on Cherokee Park’s Scenic Loop) as well as some interval bursts. The slow time also speaks to my pauses, which are generally only 30 seconds of breathing, but my goal is to run the loop twice, which is 4.4 miles, by the end of January. Hills and all. In the interim, I’ve been hitting the elliptical and weights, with special emphasis on core work; I think getting a stronger core (this includes yoga, pilates, and hula-hooping, along with medicine ball/floor work) will improve my running experience overall.

As far as nutrition goes, it’s a 10% protein and 65% carbohydrate (good carbs, like broccoli, not Little Debbie carbs), according to MarathonRookie.com.  MarathonRookie.com points out that vitamins are good for runners, which is great because I’ve already been a vitamin freak for a while. Also, I’ve learned that I need to learn how to drink as I run, as half or mini-marathons often have water breaks, or splits, or something. I eat pretty well, and have considered sharing some recipes on here if I have the time. I’m a big banana person, I love fruit, and I drink a protein shake every day; my weaknesses are chips, ice cream – particularly milkshakes – and beer on the weekends, which has stopped due to my buddy’s status as “pregnant.”  This is actually good timing; I hate knocking back some brews after a particularly good workout; it seems counter-intuitive. I could add some more brown rice and whatnot to my diet, and I’m currently addicted to sweet potatoes, which are pretty good for you.

I’ve also been checking out online running programs, and RunnersWorld.com has up with a good one. I’m still on the fence for Fred’s Team, re: running for Olmstead Parks (see previous entry); I love the idea of giving back to the parks I use everyday, between running and our daily dog walks, but I am really not a fan of fundraising. It’s not that I don’t believe in the cause, it’s that I hate asking people for money; I couldn’t even sell Girl Scout Cookies, and they sell themselves. Also, there isn’t a clear running schedule posted yet, while Fleet Feet has a pretty sweet deal for $75, and they’re close by:

“The 2012 Fleet Feet Sports Half Marathon Training Program will officially kick off on Saturday, January 7, at 8:00 AM at the store. This group is open to runners, walkers, and run/walkers of all paces and levels of experience! The program spans 16 weeks and includes 3 weekly group workouts with mapped courses, coaches, weekly emails, vendor sponsored runs, an official training tee, and much more! In addition, this Spring we will be providing you with a subscription to workoutlog.com to help you track your progress and train better! Weekly workouts begin at our store every Monday and Wednesday at 6:30 PM and Saturday’s at 8:00 AM. This fee does not include race registration.” – FleetFeet.Com

I hope you can skip the first session – the first group run at Fleet Feet is the same day as the Frostbite 5k in January, which I’m definitely psyched about. Otherwise, it sounds like a good plan for a beginner like me. I’m taking my running shoes with me this holiday weekend, where I’ll be traveling between three states. I’ve vowed to get at least two runs in between Dec. 23 – Dec. 28; five days, two runs, sounds do-able? Who wants to sit next to chestnuts roasting on an open fire anyway? Stuffing yourself with sugar cookies – ugh, who would enjoy that?

Not me! This year, anyway. Well, maybe one cookie. Gotta keep the jolly spirits up:)

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133 Days Until… (The Starting Line)

My race bibs from 2011 minus one I can't find - not that many; I only started running races in July...

The countdown to the Kentucky Derby Festival Mini-Marathon has begun. I have spoken to doctors, I have consulted the person who shares my life and living space (and thus my schedule, dietary whims, and generally everything), I have considered the fiscal and time requirements, and I’ve bought a magazine (always the truest sign of commitment); I have decided to run my first mini-marathon. That’d be 13.1 miles. The longest length I have run is 5 – and I’ve only run 5 races. Ever; I’ll be 31 years old when I run this thing. This will require a lot of work. A LOT of work.

I think I can do it. I managed to hike the Inca Trail – about a marathon’s distance, but spread over four days and in the mountains – so perhaps I can manage to do this. At any rate, I’m going to try. I’m considering running for “Fred’s Team,” which mean’s I’d be running (raising money) for Olmstead Parks, which I use every day because one of the parks is at the end of my block, and I walk my dog, just like Cesar Milan says to, every blessed, cold and snarly Louisville day. I have galoshes, when it gets super dark at 5:30 PM I wear my headlamp. I’m also liking Fleet Feet’s training program with the group runs – I saw people doing them last spring and everyone always looked like they were having fun, and who doesn’t want new friends?:) Walking my dog and doing yoga are two activities I do with regular consistency, and have been doing the former for 5 years and the latter for 13 years, but my gym work is sporadic – usually I hit the gym harder in the colder months – and in the summer I swim laps. I could add my race number – no bib for swimming – from the Ohio River Open Swim, of which I did the 1.2 mile length this past August.

I’m writing all this to assure you that I am active, just not necessarily always a “runner” sort of active. I prefer swimming, to be honest, but it’s hard to get into the pool when it’s cold outside, for me anyway. So I’ve been hitting the pavement and doing some runs and races as the weather’s cooled off, and I wanted to sustain the fitness level I’d been working on for my Inca Trail trek. I really enjoy exercising, but I’m also a quitting smoker – it’s complicated and if you keep up with this blog you’ll hear all about it – and a graduate student working on her dissertation and applying for faculty posts. I am also a adjunct faculty at a local college, where I teach three classes. A few more things: boyfriend, couple of cats, a dog, family, friends, friends having babies in the spring, friends getting married in the spring, and some work travel – but I think the whole “graduating/completing dissertation/finding a job while working and writing” part of my life will be the biggest hindrance on my hopes for the half-marathon, which means I’ll have to be disciplined; I might have to wake up early to run. I might have to not loaf around and make myself get to the morning yoga class in order to not sacrifice it for my evening run. But I kinda dig order.

My eating habits might have to change a little, in the sense that I may need more protein, or maybe more carbohydrates for energy? Definitely things that help your body stay strong and recover from the exercise… Argh. See, this is why I need a training program. I need some direction. I’ve been tracking my calorie and fitness at Livestrong’s Daily Plate since July, which is also when I ran my first 5k (Run for the L of It! – I’d recently become an “alumni” through a degree that I didn’t actually realize I was getting). My time has improved since the first race, I’ve gotten faster, and I enjoyed the IHR Thanksgiving Day 5 miler the most of all the races I’d done, and it was the longest. It takes me a while to get into my running groove, but once I find it – about 5.5 mph – I like it. I just gotta keep at it.

So I’m 20 weeks away and might run, might not today – I’m a little sore from yoga yesterday and the run the day before that, but stats for the past week are as follows:

Walked: 7 days x 1.5 m = 10.5

Elliptical: 4.3/3 = 7.3

Run: 1.2/2.4/2.2 = 5.8

Total Distance: 23.6 / 13.1 “hard” mileage

Part of the running from this week consisted in the first race of the Polar Bear Grand Prix, the Reindeer Romp 4k, which was wicked hard in the cold of the morning. My boyfriend and I are doing all three races – the Frostbite 5k is in January, the Snowman Shuffle 4 miler – together, but he’s not interested in doing the mini-marathon. I so wanted to do the “Triple Crown” – the Anthem 5k Classic, the Rhodes City Run 10k, and Papa John’s 10 miler – but I have a wedding to go to on the same day as the Anthem 5k. I’m wondering if I’ll do the Rhodes and the 10 miler or just one of the two… Decisions. Also hoping for some more 5ks to pop up on the Race Calendar. Anyway, I also ran outside prior to the race and did treadmill work on a rainy day mid-week. I’ve been hella stiff (just got back from an international trip, so I’m still getting the plane/train strain out of my hamstrings and hips) and it’s Christmas time so I’m being very lazy and doing more yoga and elliptical work so I can read magazines while I sweat.

According to Cool Runnings, I should be getting to a point where I can run 35 miles in a week, at a peak point in the training program – most programs I’ve looked at build you up to a pretty long endurance run then pull you back a little bit before the race. I also picked up a copy of this month’s Runners World Magazine, which had a “This Year I Will… Race Farther” snippet:

“Rachel Gaffney, a running coach, says “if you’re looking to up the race-distance ante, gradually boost your mileage for six to sixteen weeks to a new plateau. This let’s your body adapt to the increased demands on your legs and lungs.  Stay on that plateau for an additional four to ten weeks before tapering for your longest-ever race. It’s a safe and solid game plane. Gaffney notes that you may need to exceed these minimums and add tempo runs and speed work, if you have an ambitious time goal. But it’s safest to set a goal of only finishing in your first attempt at a new, longer distance. After all, it’s a guaranteed PR.

  • 5k to 10k: Bump up your training to at least 20 weekly miles in a minimum of three runs, peaking with a long run of 6 or more miles.
  • 10k to Half-Marathon: Log at least 30 weekly miles in at least four runs, culminating in a long run of at least 11 miles.
  • Half to Marathon: The full 26.2 demands at least 40 weekly miles in at least four or five runs. Before tapering, nail one long run of at least 20 miles.”
    Runners World Magazine, January 2012 p. 82 
Like I said at the beginning of this entry, I have a lot to do. I think what I’ll do is try to get in a short run with the boyfriend this weekend – maybe about a 5k, total, with walk-run intervals – and then I’ll try to fit in two more 4.2 (that’s twice a local loop, and a good distance for the Christmas week craziness) equalling out to about 11 miles run for the week. I’d been doing that a bit until right before I left for my work trip, so hopefully I can make this effort to get back to that level (I hate that, when you have to go back sometimes in order to get forward) in the next few weeks, as I’ll be really busy. Once we’re into the New Year, I can work my way up to the “5k to 10k” mark in January. I’ll definitely have to pick a training program, and I may try to meet with a nutritionist on campus (the many joys of academics: you have access to anything health care related at all for zilch).  I’m sticking to my yoga and will hit the elliptical if I’m feeling tired or if my knee (I have a bone spur) acts up from too much pavement pounding. I’m shunning refined sugars and sticking with my strength training twice a week (again, crazy calendar due to holidays – gym shutting down from Christmas Eve to January 4th does not help matters. But let’s try anyway, shall we? Jolly good!
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