Sunday, May 27, 2012

Peak of Training: 15 Miles

Yesterday I set out to run the longest run in my half marathon training, 15 miles. A couple of weeks ago, my 14 miler didn't go very well, so I planned this week differently. Scheduling conflicts assisted, and I found that I only was able to get in one of my weight training sessions. Swapping days around would have also put my tempo run immediately before my long run. So I opted out of the tempo run as well. Sometimes, life just happens and you have to roll with it.

Last week I noticed how much better one of my tempo runs went when I had eaten a yam the day before. One whole yam, split into servings across 3 meals. I used to eat yams very regularly, year round. Somewhere along the way I fell out of the habit of them, probably in the interest of aiming for variety. I eat them "clean": no butter, sugar, or anything for that matter. Oh, occasionally I may sprinkle on some salt or cinnamon. But I find them perfectly enjoyable baked in foil until their natural sugars begin to caramelize and escape the ends of the foil. (Place them on the center rack of the oven, but put a shallow pan on the rack below to catch the sugar ooze, or you'll be cleaning your oven more often than you really care to. Or smelling burnt yam every time you bake.) I made sure I ate a yam the day before the 15 miler.

So I decreased my other training and increased my dietary carbs by adding in a yam. One other thing I did: ignored my prescribed pace. I've mentioned before, I'm a part-time runner. I find a race to train for, train appropriately, and then go back to other activities I love until I find another race I want to train for. As a part-time runner, 15 miles is a daunting run for me. I know it's going to be over 2.5 hours of running, darn near 3 if I follow prescribed slow paces for long runs. For me, that's a long time to be running. So while I had a certain "dread factor" of having to do this run, I also had an odd sense of "bring it on!" because I knew it was the longest of the long runs, and after this I go back to 12, 10, 8 as the race approaches. With that in mind, I decided to just run what felt comfortable. Run without looking at my pace watch. Run without caring if I was faster or slower than 10:42 pace prescribed. Honestly, I gave myself permission to do that because I expected to be slower. I planned an out and back course of 7.5 miles each direction and off I went.

It was sunny and 61 degrees at 8:00 a.m. That is VERY unusual for this cold climate. It was such a beautiful day, EVERYONE was out bicycling, walking their dogs, running, rowing on the water, etc. When I first started out, I met a couple of older men on bicycles who were racing each other, then coasting and laughing/talking/enjoying themselves. They passed me a few miles later after they had turned around and were now going my direction, and shouted out some encouragement to me. Many miles later, I met them again, and they guessed I was marathon training. I also ran past a guy I had passed earlier and he gave me a surprised, "I remember you from WAY over there!" LOL.

And here's the funny thing. I felt fantastic! I was full of energy and my legs felt light and I was having a fantastic run. Sneaking glances at my pace watch, I found myself to be averaging 9:50 minute/miles. MUCH faster than prescribed pace. When I was nearly at 7.5 miles, I realized I could be darn close to my last half marathon race time of 2:06. In a training run without race adrenaline! I was stoked! At that point, I decided to skip my "Halfway!" text home that I always send to check-in, and wait until I had run 13.1. I would run the remainder of the 13.1 at the same effort level, then walk/run the final 2 miles. I had a snack in my pocket and everything! It would be perfect. And then everything went south.

I had begun to feel my IT band on the left side talk to me around mile 9. Nothing major, but it was there. Around ten miles, transitions up onto curbs were difficult. I didn't have a lot of ground clearance on the left side. "Almost there, almost there..." And then WHAM! My left foot cramped up so badly, I couldn't run on it. I had to stretch it and walk it off. A couple of minutes of that, and I knew I was done. I looked at my watch: 12.07 miles in 2 hours and 2 minutes. I had it and I lost it that quick. The foot cramp cleared, but the IT band was really angry at this point. I hobbled on for about a mile until the Calvary came and picked me up to take me to my car, which was waiting where I left it at the start.

Surprisingly, I wasn't devastated by this. I've been doubting my training and unsure I could get anywhere close to my previous HM time. I've had a 5K fluke time PR that I haven't been able to duplicate. I was starting to fear that the HM time was a fluke as well. Now I know I'm close! I just have to put the pieces of the puzzle together to figure out why I'm having IT band issues now of all times! I'm on the foam roller twice a day now, no excuses, and will do a better job of warming up. I'm hoping that will solve it. I've never had my feet cramp up while running, so that's a new one to figure out. Potassium/magnesium? But why my foot and not a charlie horse in the leg? Things to ponder as I continue the last 4 weeks of training!


What are adaptogens? Adaptogens, along with plyometric training, are how the Russians kicked our butts in the Olympics in the 70s. Adaptogens are how Russian cosmonaughts could handle the stresses of space travel and training. But what are they?

Drawing from Asian and Siberian traditions from centuries ago, adaptogens are botanical extracts that have remarkable traits in reducing stress within the body on the cellular level. Emotional/psychological stress or placing the body under stress as in exercise? Both! They provide an antioxidant benefit as well as aid in muscle recovery (and even stimulate sex drive).

There are a handful of products on the market that contain adaptogens. I use Ionix Supreme from Isagenix, and felt the difference almost immediately when I first started taking it. For more info, check out this link.

Nature's Answer to Stress

And for info that doesn't come directly from Isagenix, check these out:

Adaptogenic Herbs

Adaptogens: Strength, Stamina, Stress Relief

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Unveiling the New Logo! :)

I love my new logo! If you like it too be sure to check out Erin Lak's site:

She is great to work with! Fast turnaround, reasonably priced, and professional. :)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Improved Fitness

Yesterday, the change in my level of fitness suddenly dawned on me. It was the first time in a long time I set an alarm for Sunday morning. We never sleep past six a.m. anyway, so I usually don't bother. But I had a motorcycle ride scheduled with a new friend, and I was going to need to leave the house by 10:00 a.m. The only problem with that is that I had a 10 mile run to complete to wrap up my training week. This was expected to take about an hour and 50 minutes to run. So I set the alarm for 5:30.

Flashback to Saturday. I had gotten up at 5:30 on Saturday as well, because I was going to a nutrition conference in Seattle. I left the house at 6:45 a.m. and got home right around 6:45 p.m. The conference was only from 10:00-2:00. The rest was drive time. I was in bed by 9:30 that night.

And earlier in the week? My normal "get up time" is 5:30. I may hit snooze, but I start waking up at 5:30. Off to the gym 3 days a week for weights (I'm doing Stephanie Keenan's FitLife Challenge at the moment, and the workouts are hard and fun.), on alternate days of my 3 days of running.

All of that is to point out that I normally would be tired on Sunday to begin with. But here is what got me. I'm far enough into my training plan that long runs are now back to double digits. Sunday's was 10 miles. I can remember back to 2010 when I was training for my first half marathon. When I ran a double digit run, I had to come home and pretty much rest the rest of the day. Read the paper, watch TV, and EAT. I would be starving the rest of the day. And tired.

Sunday's run was hard. I ran a hilly route, and was surprised how far out 5 miles was. I kept predicting where my turn-around point would be, and it kept being a lot farther in actuality. In the end, even with the hills, I was an average of 12 seconds faster on each mile than my prescribed pace. That surprised me! I went home, stretched, showered, and got on my motorcycle for the next 9 hours. I wasn't on it all 9 hours. We would stop and take breaks, get fuel, get coffee, relax, and ride again. But still, it was a long day of riding (and totally FUN, I'm so glad I went!). I came home and did a little laundry and got my gym stuff ready for today before relaxing for the night. That is a HUGE change from where I was in 2010.

I no longer feel like I have to eat back every calorie I run off on my long runs. I have energy left over to go do the fun things I like to do outside of the gym. My training makes me better in the rest of my life. I can ride my motorcycle without getting a sore back, for example. I'm happier, and thus more fun to be around. :p There's a million reasons why I strive for consistency in my training. This was just the first time I really noticed the payoff. :)

Friday, May 4, 2012

Trail Running

I'm a pavement pounder, but every once in a great while I take to a trail. Each and every time, I love it so much I don't know why I don't do it more often. Usually if I'm running, I'm training for a race. The whole reason I started running in the first place was to be able to run races. When I'm between races, I hardly run at all. For me, it's more about having a goal with precise measurable steps to get there, taking those steps, and seeing if I can beat my previous time. When I can't, I can usually trace it back to some error in my training. (Not in the plan itself, but in my execution.) I haven't yet reached the point where my body just simply can't do better. If I strictly limited myself to running, I'm sure I could find that upper limit. But there are too many other things I love doing, which is another topic for another day.

Back to that trail...One of the reasons I love it so much is that it frees my mind from the math of running. My pavement running is all about maintaining prescribed paces and making times and distances. I determine whether it was a good run by whether or not I hit and maintained my paces over the distance. Oh sure, I have moments of, "Wow, look at that sunrise!" even on the pavement. And some days I even stop to take a quick picture. But most of the time, I'm pretty serious about the task at hand.

On the trail, I allow all of that to go away. Mostly because if I didn't, I'd be sorely disappointed in my performance. I have YET to find a trail that doesn't somehow manage to start by going uphill. What are the odds? I always end up in more a "hike in, run out" position. But it's OK. My mind opens up to everything around me. It's liberating and humbling all at the same time. If I start to think I've gotten stronger and faster, all I have to do is hit a trail to be humbled again. In a good way, a way that makes me want to return and try again.

There's a lot to be said for not knowing what's around the next corner. The picture above is one of my favorite corners on that trail. I love the huge, moss-covered rocks and the way the trail narrows. It has a way of quickening my pace to see what is on the other side.

On that particular run that day, I saw the most beautiful woman running out. Hollywood wouldn't have thought her beautiful, with her gray ponytail and lined face. She wore running tights and a form fitting top that showcased her fit physique. Her face was flushed with the effort of her work and her form was graceful. Her body moved with youth her face no longer had, but all I could see was her beauty. Someone to look up to. Something to strive for.