Monday, February 25, 2013

NASCAR Provided a Bigger Wreck Than My Long Run

February is almost over! I feel like I am just burning my time until that happens because I just dislike this month so very much. I am the type of person that needs something to look forward to for day to day and week to week, and February just doesn't have much of that; I mean, when I am looking forward to the Daytona 500, you know things are a little dull!

Regardless, I have made it this far, and I have found ways to cope. This past week had some highlights, both in training and otherwise, so I was able to make things bearable. Training-wise, I was really happy with my early week runs (even though they had to be on a treadmill in order to wear my Vibrams). I also had a powerful and successful lifting session on Wednesday evening. I really wish I had had time to blog during the week because it was just one of those sessions where weights didn't feel as heavy, and I was putting up everything. The problem is, I can't remember everything I did. I do know that I made a point of going heavy weight and lower reps all week because I had done so many circuits the previous week that involved body weight and higher reps.

As for running, which I consider the main event, I had one of my best runs ever and one of my worst, all on the same weekend. Saturday was a gorgeous day, and I was able to get out in my Fivefingers for 5 miles. I did wear my new Injinji toe socks with them, which was phenomenal, and I crushed the run from beginning to end. I knew it would be a great run when I started because I hit the first mile at a casual 8:00 pace - I had to do a double-take. After that, I just continued to push, and I never felt like I was working that hard. I ended up doing the 5 miles with an average pace of 7:40 - boo yah!

Oh, then came Sunday - son of a... I get angry just thinking about it! I had to get 12 miles in, and I should have done it in the morning, but I have lazy bones. Instead, I wait until after work, so I didn't get back in until close to 7. We were having people over for the Oscars, so the whole thing felt rushed. Additionally, it was cold, I was hungry, and I hadn't fueled correctly the night before or during the day - in essence, I broke every running rule and it happened to be on a long run day - ugh.

I felt sluggish the whole time, my calves were on fire from the start, my socks kept shifting, I had to pee, and I just wasn't in it. Regardless, I pushed through, and I am better for it. I woke up with sore knees and calves, but by noon the next day, I was close to 100%.

On a brighter note, I chose my long run to try some new goodies. As you may have read, I had used Gu gel shots previously, and they were basically disgusting. This time, I went to the running store and picked up the Gu Blocks shown above. Additionally, since they were right below on the rack, I grabbed some Nuun to throw in the ol' Camelbak. The blocks were an improvement for sure because they tasted 100 times better! I would say they fueled me just as well, and I liked the overall ease of use. Plus, I felt like I was eating something a little more real and solid - I would recommend them, unless you don't have the room (the package is a little bigger than the gels).

The Nuun, on the other hand, was a little underwhelming. If you don't know, Nuun is a tablet you add to water to supplement electrolytes. Essentially, this is far more important if you sweat a lot, so I think I will wait until it goes warmer. The taste was pretty good though, and it didn't leave too goop up my saliva too much. Eventually I will try doing a 50/50 Gatorade to water mix too, which has been mentioned to me before. I just wanted to see what all the Nuun hubbub was about.

For Laughs:

Where do babies come from?

Do you use Nuun? Thoughts?

What kind of long-run-fuel do you use?

Is it warming up by you, or are you dealing with all those blizzards?

Did you miss me this week?
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, February 17, 2013

So. Very. Cold.

Here I am, sitting on my tush, watching hockey.  Wait, hockey?  Yeah, I don't generally do that, but I did graduate college from a hockey school, and you have to tune in when they are playing outside, in Soldier Field, against Notre Dame.  So far, not so good, but they have a little more time to try and pull something out.  Funny (or not funny) fact:  I have never watched my Redhawks win when I watch them on TV... Yikes. (Update: my streak continues - booooo)
I feel like I earned my right to sit on the couch today because I am finally back into double digit long runs!  The last time I went 10 miles or more was Tough Mudder in October, so I was a little nervous and excited about today.  I made sure to not go out and drink heavy last night, and instead I had a pasta dinner.  I also got plenty of sleep, had a good breakfast of oatmeal, quinoa and chia.  I wanted to make sure that this run went as smooth and painless as possible.  Unfortunately, the temps were in the teens, and I do not do well in cold weather running, especially considering I need a couple pounds of extra gear on! 
I wish it had been this warm on my run.
 What did I wear?:  I got an app the other day that is specifically designed to help me decide what to wear.  You can find it in the app store under "What To Wear."  To be honest, I didn't really follow the app because it said to only wear running tights.  The weather on Saturday was similar to today, and I didn't like how long it took for my legs to get warmed up with just tights.  Today I added some track pants on top of the tights, along with my compression sleeves on my calves, compression shorts and two layers of socks.  Finally, I put on my Koppen long-sleeve tech shirt, North Face pullover fleece, skull cap, gloves and my full Camelbak. 

Overall, I felt like it was a good run.  I started out real real real slow, at just under 9 minute miles.  Again, my legs just wouldn't warm up!  In fact, I don't feel like I really got loose until mile 7!  Regardless, runners push through, and that is exactly what I did.  Besides, it was cold, but at least it was super gorgeous out!  I get so much energy from the sun, so I just fed off that.  I also decided to take a totally different route, which proved to be a great idea.  I found out that I have so much more safe running areas than I even realize, and all I have to do is head out my door.  I am excited to keep adding more and more distance to this new route, which will eventually include a scenic trip around a PGA golf course.
Try to get your chest as low to the floor as you can.
Yesterday I put together a training-prescribed 5 mile run, but again, it was slow.  I don't have much to say about it besides that it was cold, I was sluggish, and it wasn't even sunny.  At least I followed this disaster up with a quality gym-session.  I created two circuits that focused on my legs, chest, back and core.  For the first circuit, I did 10 push-ups with both hands on one medicine ball, 10 reverse push-ups using a bar, 30 crunches and 25 box-jumps to keep my heart-rate up between sets.  I did this circuit 4 times.  For the second, I did 5 squats with 115 pounds, 30 lateral jumps, 10 push-ups on each side with one hand on a medicine ball and 10 pull-ups.  I also did some machine work on the chest and back, as well as some extra core work.  Personally, I love circuits for the simple fact that my heart rate stays up, and I know I am getting a quality workout for my time-investment.

Diet Update:
I find myself constantly trying to figure out new ways to get protein into my diet, and I think I have come up with a delicious and simple way to do it.  Runner's World recently did a short article about canned fish, and how these are often forgotten or ignored ways to get fish into our diet.  Personally, I always find cooking fish to be a pain, especially when it is cold, and I can't use my grill, so the idea of a pre-cooked alternative was alluring.  I also grew up with canned fish because my dad always had it in the house.  Yesterday I went to Trader Joe's and grabbed a few examples: sardines, anchovies and salmon.  All of these fish were broken down in the magazine, and they all have some great advantages. 
Today I threw some anchovies onto post-run salad, and I was really impressed with how good it was.  These particular anchovies were salted, so it added some that flavor, which I liked.  I also thought the texture was just like having bits of chicken!  Some people are weird about texture, and I don't think you would have an issue.  The only problem for some people might come from the smell, which is very fishy.  I don't have a problem with it, but I also don't think I will be eating this in the teacher's lounge.  I may just reserve these for my post-run work, especially considering the salt will help with recovery.  If you like fish and are lazy like me, this is a great way to go.  I am excited to try all these different flavors! (Those worried about over-fishing, most companies have made tremendous efforts to maintain populations, so this is a much smaller issue these days)

Other Things:
I am super excited to have a three day weekend!  Having that extra day to sleep in tomorrow will be amazing!  I am also excited to have some close family friends over tonight for dinner.  We went over to their house last weekend, so it was our turn to host.  I love the idea of Sunday dinner, so this is awesome. Plus, I love hanging out with my friends' kids.

I also feel like I am in a state of limbo right now.  My parents have lived in Alabama for almost 10 years now, so I only see them one or two times a year.  Recently, my father has been searching for provost positions at universities back here in Ohio, and he might hear back about one this week.  If this were the case, we might be picking up and moving this summer.  Personally, I hate moving, but I would love to have my family close by.  I definitely have my fingers crossed!

Have you ever had fish out of a can?  Do you like it or does the idea weird you out?

Are you the type that will try anything or are you picky?

Do you have to drive somewhere to go for a run or can you just go right out your door?

Anyone else have President's Day off?  What are your plans?

Friday, February 15, 2013

Runnertine's Day!

Happy Valentine's Day (yes, I know it was yesterday, but I was busy doing by V-Day duties)!  I hope you all had a wonderful and productive little holiday.  Personally, I don't mind it, aside from the obvious craziness of my teaching day (kindergarten students live for it, and I loath it), but some people hate the holiday to its core.  No matter your feelings, I think it is good to have a few days a year to make us think about those we love.  I hope you had a good day, and that maybe you got some good swag along the way.

Personally, I received a pair of Injinji toe socks to compliment by near obsession my Vibram Fivefingers. I am excited to try these out because I have been wearing them totally sock-free, and therefore, I had a limit as to what temperature I could run (I cut off around 40 degree, at which time I just put on my Brooks).  Now I probably have another 10 degrees of buffer to work with, which means more gloriously difficult but fulfilling barefoot runs.

I have been pretty fortunate with the weather lately.  This week alone I had two beautiful and semi-warm days to throw on the VFFs and hit the pavement.  To be honest, when the sun is shining, I am a far better runner.  On Monday it was cold and cloudy, and my 7 miles were totally miserable.  Tuesday was the exact opposite, and I put together a beautiful, reaffirming 4-miler.  I even did hill-repeats (the first speed work in my Vibrams), and I felt like my legs had unlimited potential.  Dayton is pretty flat, but I do have some hills right by my house.  I went up and down this little gem 6 times during the 4 miles, and I felt great after it.
Fact: Hills look and feel more intimidating in person.

I followed this run up with another fantastic experience yesterday.  Once again, it was warm enough to wear shorts, and I headed out in a great mood.  Once again, my legs felt unworldly, and I put together a quick fartlek run of 3.1 miles.  These two runs have combined to make me extra excited for my weekend, which will involve a 5 miler tomorrow, and a 10 milers on Sunday.  It is a good thing I am so excited because this will be the first double digit run I have done since before Tough Mudder in October.  My knee and my ITB feel 100% better, my legs are getting stronger, my cross training has my entire body feeling strong, and I am feeling ready to enter some real distances again.  I seriously can't wait!

Speaking of cross-training, I had a solid week in that department.  I have continued to work on my dead lifts and power cleans, which is really good for keeping me humble!  Dead lifts let me know how far I have come, but they also show me how far I have to go with my core.  While I have been working on my front side, my lower back hasn't had as much action, so I am really glad I am hitting that area strong.  I also feel like my fore-arms are getting worked more than usual, which is a tough area of the body to do.

Along with my general weight-lifting, I am continue to work on my #fitfebruary push-ups challenge.  I have been doing all different kinds of push-ups, averaging over 100 a day for the month!  I am loving what this is doing for my chest and back!  I am also loving the use of medicine balls and balance equipment for them because it forces your body to balance and adjust in the process.  When your body is working that hard, it works like a body-wide plank, which is VERY powerful.  If you have two medicine balls, try spreading them out on the floor and putting one hand on each.  Then just balance on them and do a push-up.  Try to get as low to the floor as you can, and feel your chest, back, core, shoulders and arms all working to accomplish the task - awesome, right?
Two balls is better than one... for this exercise.
This is just one example, but there are many ways medicine balls can come in handy for push-ups.  Just do a Google search, and you can spend forever trying all the ways.  The same goes for the always versatile Bosu ball, which was recently features in Runner's World.  Just try to incorporate some of these push-up exercises into your WOD or circuit, and you will get some serious upper-body strength.

Diet Update:
I would think most of you drink a protein shake on the reg, so I don't even need to recommend that.  What I do need to recommend is this:  get vanilla whey of some sort, use milk (water and protein is gross), and then add banana, strawberries and blueberries.  Yeah, your world will then be rocked!  Not only is this combo delicious, but you are getting a tremendous amount of benefits.  Personally, I like to know that the things I am eating have some sort of future benefit for my training, my body or my mental state, so this is a great way to go.  Some people like to add peanut butter, and I do like it, but I also don't want the added fat.  On a normal day, the only bad fat I have come from my morning coffee creamer, and I am not giving that up, so I had to prioritize.

Another Failure:
Valentine's Day was fun, but it has been horrendous for my diet.  I have students who have parents who like to bake, so I was showered with sugary snack.  I also received many a chocolate and plenty of candy... Ugh.  I really have no will power, so if things are placed in front of me, I tend to go overboard - the later part of this week has been no exception!  I really should have seen this coming, but I intend on seriously cracking down on things next week because I foresee no set-backs on the calendar until St. Patrick's Day.  I have still included some good things though, so I haven't felt too bad during my workouts; I just really want to tone up before race season and swim suit season!

I am becoming more and more involved on twitter, so make sure you follow me!  I feel like the dorky kid at the table though because I have next to no followers!  I just don't know how people get tens of thousands of followers!  Plus, how do they keep track of all those people?  I have a hard enough time keeping up with my current feed.  I do like all the #runchat and other chats that come along because I learn one or two new things every time.  Get on with me and let's talk running and fitness.

I am also curious as to how you feel about male bloggers.  To be honest, I didn't expect for this community to be so widely dominated by women (definitely not saying this is a bad thing), so I sometimes feel a bit out of place.  I was wondering if I am out of place, and if that is a good thing or a bad thing.  I am also curious as to whether or not this has impacted my blog's following at all.  This is just the social-scientist in me!

Finally, I am curious as to whether you have any suggestions or questions for me?  I would love to hear from you! 

How was your Valentine's Day?  Did you get any running goodies?

Is anyone else a massive Walking Dead fan?  I am.  How did you feel about the new episode?

Does sunshine dramatically impact your run?

What do you add to your protein shake?

At what mileage do you feel like you are really "running"?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Keep On Keepin' On

Sometimes I wonder if I am the worst blogger on the planet because I don't post enough, and when I do post, I do it at random times.  I really should decide on some sort of set schedule, but I don't think I would follow that.  Besides, I already have so many schedules in my life, including my training schedule, so one more may just drive me over the edge.  I figure if this whole endeavor becomes too much work, it won't be fun any more! 
This Is Me Sometimes
Anyways, I am done venting, so I hope you all forgive me for not getting on this more often.  This week I just haven't had as much to talk about as I usually do, and I still don't.  I got through another week of training, which I am happy with, but it wasn't a big deal.  I did have an absolutely amazing run on Saturday, but it wasn't too long, and aside from the beautiful weather,  it was relatively uneventful.  My legs felt great though, and I was just happy to be out in the chill/sun while half the country was getting dumped on by a massive blizzard named after a famous Pixar fish.

I did want to talk about my first ever experience with group running because, well, it was my first.  I have occasionally run with one other person, but this was definitely my first with a large group.  I have been wanting to do something like this for awhile, but I got a nudge in the right direction by a fellow-running co-worker who invited me to meet up with him and his wife.  Additionally, the meeting place was at a pub 5 minutes down the road, so I guess the stars just aligned, and I had no excuses not to go.
It was a lot like this, minus the beach, sun and warm weather.
 So Wednesday night I got out of my comfort zone and met up with a bunch of people at the tavern.  The event is a monthly event put on by a local running store.  Normally the group meets up at the store itself, but this just mixes it up.  They choose a new place to meet every month, so it was just lucky that it was so close.  There were probably 25 people there, including my coworker, his wife and some family members.  The whole group ranged in ages, ability levels and genders.  Everyone was very nice, but this being my first experience, I felt out of place.  I was just glad to know someone because I had someone to run with.  He is a much quicker runner than I am, but he had wanted someone to run a little slower with, so I was happy to oblige. 

Overall the run was great, but I had run the day before, and my legs were a little tired.  I tried to keep a good pace, going a little above a comfortable pace, and the course had some pretty solid hills.  Additionally, everyone running received a free pint glass and appetizers!  I am glad I went out and did it, and I look forward to similar experiences in the future.  I don't know if I will go out every week, but I would like to get to know some of the people better.  I read an article in the most recent Runner's World about how we should all mix up our routines by running solo AND running in groups because of the benefits of both.  This is something I will continue to talk about with time.

I would say the best benefit that I noticed about running with someone else is that they definitely make you pick up your game.  Considering how tired I was, there was no way I would have gone as fast I did without someone there.  Even though it isn't a race, I found my competitive nature kicking in much like it does during a race.  This was definitely one of the advantages mentioned by the magazine.  The key was to get out of my comfort zone, and I did that, but I like that there are real benefits to it.  I love running, but I like knowing that every bit of training I do has a purpose and an advantage.

Other Training:
The biggest change I made this week was an increase in the intensity of my weight-lifting cross-training.  I decided to take a Crossfit-like approach to my gym sessions, increasing my speed from exercise to exercise, keeping my heart-rate up, and varying what I am doing.  I find this easier if I set up a circuit, or if I use a workout of the day.  The biggest addition to these circuits has to be the use of dead-lifts and power cleans.  Dead lifts are especially important because they work so many muscles, including the core and lower back.  Power cleans are also a fuller body lift, and both are super challenging and form specific.  It is really going to take me some time to become comfortable with these techniques, but I like the challenge.
Okay, it's really only one failure, but I am not proud of it.  I had to skip my long run yesterday because I had gone out a little too hard the night before.  This was a wake-up call for me, so I really don't see me doing anything like that again (aside from St. Patricks Day) up until the marathon is over.  To be honest, I don't drink often, and I still think of myself as a drinker when I do.  I think my tolerance was way down, and I wasn't used to the higher alcohol content of the craft beers I was drinking.  I really need to crack down on this kind of thing and get serious.  My diet and my habits need to get perfected, and I need to crush this race.  I did get in the long run today though, but it was a miserable business!  My legs felt like bricks, and I just didn't have the energy I would have liked.  Plus, the weather was beautiful all day until I got home, and then it decided to get windy, cloudy and cold.

Do you find admitting your failures as a beneficial practice?

What kinds of failures have you had that were wake-up calls for your training?

Do you run solo or with groups?  Which do you prefer?  How often to you do each?  Who do you run with?

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Thrifty Ginger

Sometimes I amaze even myself, and one such occurrence happened Friday. Usually Dick's Sporting Goods is not known for good deals, and you are lucky to get out of there without spending 60 dollars on a shirt. This was not the case on Friday, and I am still shocked! I immediately hit the clearance racks, which are usually picked over and worthless. This time though, I got all the following items for about $60:

I have already used most of these on runs already. The Koppen long sleeve tech shirts are amazing! I got two of those for $9 each, and they are very comfortable and warm. I threw the yellow north face pullover on top, and I was perfectly comfortable in around 28 degree temps. The Koppen hat was $5 and I am super happy with it. All these cold weather clothes breathe while still keeping my cozy. The pullover was only $20... For North Face... What!? The Saucony run shorts were actually the most expensive, but I needed new ones now that my Under Armor shorts are falling apart. To sum up, I am now a Koppen fan for cold weather gear! Definitely take time to hit up those clearance racks folks! The women's selection was pitiful, which is a reversal of the norm at most stores, but that may just be my store.

Moving on, I came across this little tool by GNC to calculate how much protein you need. I would say it is pretty broad, but it might help you. I would just do a Google search for it if you are interested. I found out that I probably need to add more protein to my diet because I do so much lifting and cross training on top of just running. Part of this addition may be the addition of quinoa to my diet. I picked up a good sizes bag of the stuff at Sam's Club of all places, and it is even organic. I just need to figure out what I want to do with it. Quinoa is a good natural and organic source of protein, so that is a win! Maybe I can figure out a way to add it to my daily lunch, which is generally big on veggies and low on protein.

Funny Story Alert: Now that I said that, you won't find it funny, but I sure do. I have had this story for days now, but I keep forgetting to mention it. Recently I used this picture in a post for motivation:

I then mentioned how much I wanted to high five someone on a run. Well, guess what? Well? Okay, I will tell you. I high fived someone! Now, here is the thing, there are not many runners out and about around me, so I haven't had many opportunities, so I had been waiting for my opportunity. This came in the way of an older lady, and she had no idea what to make of it! She undoubtedly thought I was crazy, but felt bad for me and did it anyways. I was totally juiced for the rest of my run! I am guessing the experience was a bit like this for the woman though:

Training Stuff:

I continue to pluck away at my runs, and I am feeling great. I went on my long run yesterday, and it was easily the easiest 9.1 miles I have ever done. I feel like my whole body is strong now, so it takes punishment and recovery so much better.

I do really want my distance runs to be closer to 8:30 pacing, but I did have a lot of hills on that course, especially at the beginning. Also, on a side note, MapMyRun updated, so I was finally able to see all my splits! This new version is really phenomenal for a free app! If you don't have a garmin, or even if you do, get on this!

Another note, I had my first Gu ever on that run, and it was totally nasty. I promised myself that I would do my long runs just like I will do my marathons, so I brought fuel, and I strapped on a full Camelbak. I am just glad I had all that water to wash down the grossness! It did a good job though, and it made the second half the run easier. I will write a full review of the Camelbak in a few weeks, but I like it so far! I hated carrying a water bottle!

Beyond running, and almost as important, is my devotion to the gym and cross training. If carrying that big ass Christmas tree box is cross training, you can include that into my training log! I did do any gym over the weekend, but I went there today and hit it hard. I did the following Workout Of The Day:

I also included 30 reps of dead lifts at 155 pounds, 55 extra push-ups, 50 reps each on two back machines, 30 box jumps on a 24 inch box, side and front planks and 30 pull-ups.

I am happy with this one, and I am feeling the burn! My back is good sore from the dead lifts, and I love the challenge of power cleans! I also looked like a total but on those box jumps because I almost died several times - I am not coordinated enough! I am loving the new exercises and determination these workouts are giving me on my gym days!

Short Movie Review: Silver Linings Playbook:

I won't go too into this because I am not a movie blog, but this is a bit of a runner movie. I think we (runners) would all see a little of ourselves in both of the main characters. I know I saw a ton of myself in Bradley Cooper's character, and that was both scary and enlightening. To sum it up, the main characters are both suffering from mental illnesses, and they use running and eventually dancing to help them cope. These two things help unite both characters. I know running certainly helps me stay sane on a much lesser scale!

I really enjoyed the movie though because it was heartfelt but humorous at the same time. I love movies that take a potentially serious theme and make it appropriately funny.


How was your Super Bowl experience? Good food? Good drink? Win any money?

Doing any challenges in February? If so, which ones?

What is your favorite cold weather gear?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad