Thursday, February 26, 2015

It's a Race Week! Bring on the Carbs!

This week *is* a race week.  The Spring Thaw 10/15/20 miler is Saturday.  But, I'm not racing this race.  On my running schedule is a 15 miler (the original was 16, but one mile short won't make or break me) with marathon intensity miles at the end.  Since I was going to be at North Park running anyway, I figured I might as well throw my money out there to get a medal for my efforts.  And soup and pizza.  Actually, it's also a good way to practice fueling, running pace with/around other runners, and also utilizing fluid stations.

Fact:  I suck at fluid stations.  Early in races they frustrate me due to congestion and later in races I just don't have the dexterity or coordination to always successfully grab a cup and get a drink without giving myself and those around me a bath in whatever I grabbed.  I still remember thinking I was going to die on the Birmingham Bridge of the Pittsburgh Half because I inhaled the Gatorade instead of drinking it.  Yes, I know the "pinch the cup" deal.  I try to do it.  I just really suck at it.  So often in races I find myself thirsty (which never ever happens to me during training).  I wonder if I shouldn't just face the fact that I'm one of "those people" who would be better off carrying their own bottle in the race.  Laugh all you want.

When a race is coming up most runners put some thought into what we all know and love as "carb-loading".  Unfortunately the thing that pops into most peoples heads is an all you can eat pasta meal late the night before the race.  This isn't always the best idea.

First things first:  It is unnecessary to carb load for most races.  I'm serious!  No need to binge on spaghetti and salad the night before a 5k, 10k, or even a half.  And you definitely shouldn't binge on anything the night before a 26.2.

Now I just want to come out and say I'm not a dietitian and I don't have any type of degree/certification in nutrition (yet - I'm thinking my next fitness cert will be in sports nutrition, but that's looking ahead a little).  I also have a high metabolism and tend to burn off things more quickly than average.  That being said, I have ran some races, including a marathon out of town, and especially as of late I run a lot of long runs.  You have to find what works for you, personally.  For me, that came with a lot of trial and error, crappy poorly fueled runs, and research...

In Pfitzinger's book Advanced Marathoning, he refers to a typical runners diet as being 60% carbs.  That seems to be pretty standard thought among running experts.  When I'm not marathon training, my typical diet lies somewhere around 40-50%.  I've had days that lie in the 30% in the carbs department.  I live with a diabetic, I love LOVE weightlifting, and lean toward a lower carb nutritional profile in the off-running season.  So during training, I like to gradually increase my carb macro instead of going full force.  During Mesocycle 1 of this training cycle, for example, I set my macros at 50/25/25.  I'm currently in Mesocycle 2 and am focused on 60/20/20.  Mid March, when I hit Mesocycle 3, I will kick the carbs up to 65% and stick with that until race week.  Now, keep in mind, this is for the "day to day".  Pre-long run and pre-race is a different story.

Long run fueling:  I like to have my body used to a routine so that when race time comes around there are no surprises.  My long run fueling has been the same for the past couple of years.  It hasn't failed me yet, so I'm not changing it.  The day before, I eat my highest protein meal early in the day (usually eggs/an omelet/greek yogurt and protein powder/something like that).  Then I wean off the protein the rest of the day and transition to eating a higher carb ratio.  My dinner that night always consists of pasta with a traditional/marinara sauce with some bread on the side.  No chunky veggies or greasy meat sauce.  Those don't do my tummy favors during a run.  Every so often I will have a small amount of turkey Italian sausage because it is low in fat and not greasy.  But that's the only thing that "agrees" with me.  Also - when I say pasta, I'm talking a single serving of pasta, not a heaping plateful like you get at a restaurant.  That usually translates into 1 cup pasta, 1/2 cup sauce.  I weigh and measure just about everything I eat.  My kitchen scale and measuring cups/spoons as well as MyFitnessPal are near and dear.  Another Fact:  my worst runs have come when I've eaten too much dinner the night before - no matter what I ate!

I try to eat this dinner fairly early in the evening.  Then I have my bedtime "pre-long run snack". Again, this is nothing scientific, nothing special other than the combination of things that I have tried over time that work.  It is simply: 1/3 cup oatmeal (the real stuff, not the packets of random BS and flavorings), cooked with water not milk, with 1 T chia seeds, 1 T raisins, 1 T honey, and a buttload of cinnamon.  I eat this about an hour before I fall asleep for the night.  I also have some green tea.

The morning of my long run, I eat a slice of light whole wheat toast with 1/2 T peanut butter.  Lately, this has been about an hour before I actually get out and run.  On the drive to North Park (or wherever I run) I eat a banana.  During my runs, I carry a bottle filled with 1/2 Gatorade and 1/2 water and I take a GU every 5 miles on runs longer than 10 miles.  Example:  a 12 miler I'll need 1 GU, a 15 I'll take 2.  I can run 10 miles and under without GU, but I always take fluid with me for 8+.  Again, trial and error, folks.  Don't come and say "well Nichole told me to"!  You might be able to go 15 miles with nothing.  You might need something every 30 minutes.  Keep playing around with it.  Even my plan evolves from time to time when I notice things aren't working anymore.  That's what all these weeks of training are for!  Don't wait until taper time to start... practice makes perfect (we can hope!).

Race fueling:  Read all of the above on long run fueling.  That is exactly what I do for races.  That is exactly what I did for MCM.  One thing I felt I did very smartly was taking my own food to DC.  I had all the stuff I was used to and ate accordingly.  The only thing different was my pasta dinner..  we found a little place that had just plain spaghetti with marinara sauce and while they did serve me about 30 pounds of it, I portioned off what I needed and just ate that.  The morning of the race - since I had to be up super early to catch the shuttle and wait around for the start - I ate half my PB & bread (I made a whole sandwich instead of a half) before I left the hotel and took the other half and a banana with me to the starting area to eat closer to my usual time.

But what about eating allllllll the carbs during taper time and especially in the days leading up to the race?  Trust me, the last thing you want to do during taper is give yourself yet another thing to go crazy about so don't obsess.  This is yet another thing that there is much agreement/disagreement among runners & running coaches about.  Some recommend eliminating certain foods in the days leading up to the race.  Some advise a few days of "carb depletion" followed by days of more intense carb-loading.  Some just say eat as you normally do.  I believe this is another thing that is so personal to your body and your needs that you just have to go with your gut and past experiences if you've BTDT and do what works for you.

Again, I will repeat that I don't think you need to follow any carb-load routine for anything under a marathon.  For a half, I think you're fine to eat what you would for a typical long run prep, and maybe be more conscientious about scaling back the fiber content if your tummy tends to get nervous and squirrelly due to race day nerves.  You don't need the extra carbs for more hours of running and I'm sure you don't want those extra pounds that won't melt off during the race (but might end up weighing you down and slowing you down!)!  A decrease in training plus adding more carbs in the weeks and days leading up to the race can and will make you gain some weight.

Now for a marathon, you need to prepare a bit.  I've only ran one marathon.  You all know this.  I'm not an expert.  But here's what worked for me after research and learning how my body reacted during training.

I ate normally (65% carbs, 1/2-3/4 g per lb of body weight in protein, and the rest fat) until race week.

Race week:  I bumped up my carbs to 70%.  Stopped focusing on the other macros for the most part.  I added more starches and low-medium GI foods.  Lots of fruits and veggies and whole grains.  I was eating sweet potatoes like it was going out of style and I remember eating rice cakes and dried apricots as snacks.  Also starting race week, I began to drink a bottle of water that included 1 Nuun tablet in it once a day.  I know a lot of people out there love Nuun and while I think it is tasty stuff, it just doesn't work for me while I'm running.  It does, however, seem to give me a nice lift and a bump in hydration outside of running, so I figured one a day might help for the race.  It could have been placebo effect, I don't know.  But it was a tasty placebo (I favor the strawberry lemonade).

I read in many places that your last "big" meal (as in one that will fill you up for a while) should be two days before the race (Friday night for a Sunday race, for example.  That would be tonight if you're thinking of Spring Thaw - so choose wisely!).  For me, I didn't exactly eat healthfully all day because I was out at the First Timers pep rally after having traveled all day and going to the expo.  I do know I had Subway for lunch and ate food I brought with us to the hotel that night.

The day before race day:  Carb macro up to 75%.  The key from here out is to eat small amounts throughout the day and hydrate.  I drank more Nuun, Gatorade, lots of water, ate a bit of fruit with a small muffin and croissant early in the day at the runners bRUNch, and munched on simple carbs (Clif bar pieces, pretzels, etc) when I got hungry.  I went to Georgetown Cupcake.  Highly recommend the Key Lime cupcake.  As the day went on, I avoided meat, dairy, high fat foods, fibrous foods, fried foods, things like that.  I think that cupcake was the heaviest thing I ate all day.  I mentioned my dinner above - plain pasta with a little sauce.  Small serving.  No greasy meat, no salad.  I had a piece of garlic bread too.  I made sure not to get full off the meal, which I had fairly early (5 ish?).  Before I hit the sack for the night I had my bedtime snack, as listed above.  Also see the Race Fueling section for what I ate that morning.

You see, I didn't spend days upon days eating pancakes and pudding and chips and pasta and whatever.  I've seen some pretty whacked out things!  My method that I will be practicing again for this next marathon is to gradually increase my carbs through training, then gradually increase them during race week.  Nothing extreme, no gorging, nothing crazy.

Honestly, while carb loading is important, I think people make too much out of it.  It doesn't have to be hard or a total bingefest.  It sure does sound like fun to eat nothing but sugar for days on end, doesn't it?  I could go for a day of laying on the couch eating ice cream and Doritos!  lol

If you're racing this weekend - good luck!  If you're just running - have fun!  Eat some healthy carbs, don't stuff yourself silly until after the race like me (omg soup & pizza buffet! the only thing that would make it perfect would be a beer tent!), and just relax.  It's just running... you paid to have fun doing this! (remind me I said that when I'm having a bad day, please)

Monday, February 23, 2015

Marathon #2 - Training Week 8

The Facts: I've been really damn busy this week in many aspects of life (work, kids off school, kid with stomach virus, family drama, etc).
I'm really not trying to neglect the blogging.  In fact, I have lots to talk about.. but I'm having trouble finding the time - see above.
Speaking of neglecting the blogging, I promise I'm not ignoring anyone.  I'm just really behind.  If I haven't at least scrolled through and skimmed all my favorite blogger's posts already, I will get around to it and comment when I can!
The weather still sucks.
I ran a lot of freaking miles this week - including 2 days in a row on the treadmill and my longest treadmill run yet!
I'm a Girls Gone Sporty Ambassador!

With that out of the way, let's review my week!

Monday: the very last workout of my strength training plan!  The plan from here was to take the rest of the week off and start again the next week (today, as of this writing).  Overall I liked doing this routine, but I'll be happy to be moving on to something else.  It's gotten to the "bleh this is getting old" feeling.   I followed up the weights with some yoga.

Tuesday:  The plan called for 7 miles at recovery pace with 6x100m stride outs.  I was going to just run it on the treadmill and nix the strides but the sun was gorgeous and I had to be outside!  I got all zoned out again and started my strides off at a weird time, but that's ok.  I did my fastest stride out at 5:47 pace!  And it wasn't even the first one, it was one of the last!  I'm really seeing the "old faster me" shining through more and more all the time and I love it.  I'm glad I went outside for this run because later in the week the weather wasn't so nice.
I did a quick yoga sequence later on that day.

Wednesday:  12 mile medium-long run.  I decided to run the North Park loop in the direction that the Spring Thaw goes because that's not my typical way.  Believe it or not, this way seemed easier to me!  The rolling hills didn't seem as hilly... I know that sounds weird, but was true for me.  And I don't know if I was just having a good day or maybe it was because my heart rate didn't spike up the hills the same or what but my pace was flying from what I usually do at the same average heart rate... It felt pretty easy too!

This happened after I got home from my 12 miler.  Glad I got it done when I did!

Thursday: Rest day!  After the next two weeks my rest day is going to change to be on Thursdays instead of Fridays so I guess this was a little preview.

How Calloway has taken to sleeping on me every single night. He purrs so loudly!  I snapped this pic first thing in the morning before he moved when I got up.  

Friday:  This was the day of my epic treadmill PR.  Previously my record was 7 miles.  Well I had a 10 mile run with tempo miles on the schedule and I was getting them done.  The kids were off school and it was way too cold to safely attempt this outside, so the treadmill at the gym won the day.  Truth:  The first few miles SUCKED.  I was really ready to throw in the towel and just be happy with getting some miles in.  But then something clicked after I cranked up the pace and I felt great!  I finished the whole run as planned (even having to do the timer hop) and was happy with the results.  I did 2 miles of easy warmup, 6 miles at half marathon pace, and 2 miles cooldown.  I've never felt that good on the treadmill before.... maybe I just need to run faster on it and not be afraid of flying into orbit? ha!

Saturday:  5 mile recovery run on the treadmill.  Again, it was way too cold to be outside - even all the running groups cancelled their group runs and I wanted to get this done and over with.  I was happy to have a nice, easy, wonderful feeling run.  Then I came home only to make a clutzy blonde out of myself and fall up my back porch.  It wasn't even particularly icy - it was just a total ditz move.  I have a nice gash on my shin and a big bruise forming.  Of course I'd do this before a 20 miler... why the hell not?  Story of my life!  I put some ice on it and felt better and did a 20 minute yoga video (YWA's newest one).  The rest of my day was pretty much eating ALLL the carbs to practice fueling for my long run. (I actually have a very specific carb loading ritual, which I am planning on sharing in a future post)

Sunday: OH, Sunday funday runday... On the plan was my first of three 20 mile runs.  Don't worry - I have a few weeks in between each so I will NOT be banging out another one next week!  Given the weather and another snowpocalypse situation, North Park is usually the go-to and best bet.  I'm taking to calling it my "winter outside treadmill".  While I much prefer the city trails they're just really unsuitable to run this time of year.  That's life.  So, NP it is.  Usually the park/county has at least the lake loop really clear no matter what the weather.  Well, I guess they decided to take the day off and have a delay of their own because when I got there at 8 something it was awful.  Most people were running in the road because the lake loop was just sloppy slushy garbage.  This didn't help my attitude (which was great before I got there), but I was determined to get my miles in.  The first loop was terrible.  I started off slow until I could get a handle on the slipping and sliding around and running in and out of the road.  All I could think was that my calves were being trashed on loop 1 and I had 4 to do!  After a bad first loop I was really mad at the situation but took on a "kill it before it kills me" mindset and forged ahead.  I think it was just the fact that I settled into/accepted the situation and went with it but my heartrate - which was doing a bounce from high end of range to low due to my slipping and being nervous about traffic, etc - settled into a nice steady rhythm, I found my cadence, and started feeling better and better.  The rest of the second loop, the third, and most of the fourth just sailed by.  I did start getting tired at the end (I'm sure all the sliding/jumping around in that first part drained my legs faster than expected), but I kept going via heart rate, kept a pretty consistent pace the whole way, and finished very strong.  I ended up going 20 miles at a sub-9 minute mile average pace and did it at a lower average heart rate than last weeks 18 miles through the city.  I am really thrilled about this.  My fitness has definitely improved over the last couple of months.  I'm seeing the proof in runs like this.  Today I feel great!  I could run if I had it on the schedule.  I've never felt like this after a 20.
Another thing that really made this run was seeing a few fellow DMers and bloggers.  It's always nice to put a real face/voice to a screen name.  I think it's just awesome how we're all out there working for something and can share in the experience.  It's pretty mind blowing how something so seemingly simple - running - brings people together who maybe wouldn't ever meet before.

Total Miles Ran: 54.48 - another distance record!
Total Running Workouts:  5 - 1 recovery with striders, 1 recovery, 1 tempo, 1 medium-long, 1 long.
Total Strength Workouts: 1, as planned.
Total Yoga Days: 3, but I'm getting unsure of how to answer this so I might nix this in the future blogs.  Sometimes if I'm feeling tight or off, I might get down into cobblers pose or hero pose or whatever and breathe for a bit.  If that "counts" as a workout, then I do yoga every day or a couple times a day.  I don't know.. take it for what you will.

Nutrition this week:  LOL.  Ok... I didn't do too bad.  This week started the Lenten season, and while I'm a pretty crappy Catholic I still am one so here comes the traditional "Fish Fridays" in addition to other fish I may eat that week.  I usually prefer baking fish (one thing I can guarantee my kids will eat is my lemon pepper cod or tilapia), but this week I was really hungry for beer battered fish so that's what we got.  Hello runger cravings!  But I also made some really good salsa chicken in the crockpot that I had over salad fixings one day and in a wrap the next. I picked up some frozen cherries for one of my favorite protein smoothie recipes and had that too.

Here's the big confession, though:  As you may or may not know I get a kick out of watching competitive and freak eaters (yes, I'm a freak for watching it).  It's hilarious and I subscribe to several YouTube channels on the topic.  Anyway, one of my favorites is Wreckless Eating and during a recent segment of "Ice Screamed My Pants" (yes, actual show name) they reviewed the ice cream flavor "Coffee & Donuts".  They all hated it and thought it was gross, but I thought it sounded good.  My husband introduced me years ago to a concoction his grandfather made called "Coffee Soup"... it's pretty much just stale donuts soaked in a cup of coffee.  Well, I thought this ice cream sounded like it would taste just like that so I sent Nick on a quest to find it.  Well needless to say he found it... and we loved it... and we are now on our second container of it in the house.  hahaha.

But really, I do keep good track of my macros and calories and eat accordingly.  Running 50+ miles a week is making me hungrier and I do eat a lot on a normal basis to keep up with my activity.  People always seem shocked when I mention how much I eat (it's not uncommon to plow back 3000 calories on long run day).  Usually the question is "Where do you put it", but I promise it all gets used.

Well, this was a good week.  I'm still feeling strong and confident and looking ahead.  This coming week is the Spring Thaw and mostly recovery miles otherwise.  Hey, at least I'll be getting a medal and hat and gloves for my long run this week! Win!
He gives Meatball snuggles too. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Marathon #2 - Training Week 7

I will not talk about the weather... I will not talk about the weather... 32 days until Spring.

This week was a "back to work" week for me bouncing into brand new territory in terms of workouts and overall mileage.  My plan adds more work in terms of improving my lactate threshold as well as continuing to increase endurance.  Both very important for marathons!

Monday: Workout A of my strength training plan (last time for this!) and 30 minutes of yoga.

Tuesday:  Tempo run.  I truly have a love/hate with these.  I get all amped up and nervous for them, go from being ok with them to hating my life during them and then feel like a freaking rockstar afterward.  This run was 3 miles of easy warmup, 5 miles @ 7:35 avg, and then 2 miles of cooldown.  It was a challenge due to mother nature, of course, but I rocked it and got it done.  This is actually the last one of this type of tempo.  The next couple focus on longer miles at half marathon pace, which is slightly slower.  Then again, I don't know... all my numbers are very arbitrary right now.  I need to run some shorter races all out but you know what?  I don't want to mess with that stuff until warmer weather, so for now - playing around with pace in regards to heart rate and RPE is how these will go.

My hrm actually didn't "kick in" until a little while into the run, so that's probably a bit higher of an avg than actual since it missed part of my easy warmup.  It all worked out for the important part, though!

Wednesday:  4 recovery miles on the treadmill.  Confession:  I'm starting to really like doing my recoveries on the treadmill.  Hey, it's less laundry to wash, anyway... and in a family of 5 that's a big freaking deal!  I also did workout B of my strength plan as well as 15 minutes of yoga.

Thursday:  The first "medium long" run of my training plan.  These runs are to be done around long run pace, which as I've said before is slightly faster than easy pace (85% heart rate max as opposed to 81% max).  This was 11 miles in less than perfect conditions and ended up being quite a bit faster than I expected.  I am really finally starting to see improvements in my pace in relation to heart rate.  I guess it is true what the research says - it takes a while, but when you see it and feel it for yourself you'll appreciate the process.  Just gotta keep sticking with it.

Friday: Rest day!!

Saturday:  I surrendered to Mother Nature and Father Winter and moved my long run to this day.  I have been doing my long runs at North Park but the RSG1 race (remember my first 10K?) was going on and I do not like running there when there is a race happening.  This is just my preference, but personally when I'm running a North Park race it bothers the hell out of me when there are people trudging around the lake loop/wherever that aren't running the race.  It's more traffic to contend with, more weaving around, and we all know how much I loooove that.  So when there's a race there I really try not to be there.

It was convenient that the Steel City Road Runners were hosting a 16 mile long run starting in the area my son had an event going on.  So, I signed up to run with them. Since I was a little concerned about not being fully recovered from Thursday's medium long run, I decided to run with the 9:30 pace group instead of the 9:00.  I'd rather go slightly slower - especially in snow - than to risk going faster than my body needs that day.  One thing running with a group takes away from me is the ability to run by heart rate.

Another thing I have a love/hate with is group runs, for a variety of reasons (pacers getting lost, the group breaking off, the route not being clear, etc) but for everything I have to bitch about during this particular run I can say something positive so I'm cool with that.  I ended up being very satisfied with my decision to run at 9:30 because I felt awesome.  Even the hill climb into Oakland (where I have never run before aside from the portion of the Great Race - yes, I'm serious!) was great.  Yes, it was the most challenging part of the run but it wasn't that hard.  I twisted my ankle on a huge chunk of ice under some snow in the Bloomfield area and it bothered me a bit but seems fine now so that's all that matters, I guess.  I got to talking with a guy in my group who was running with SCRR for his second time and we passed the miles chatting about various races and where we'd recommend and where not.  He thought given my chattiness and running ability that I was training for a 3:3x marathon, and that cracked me up.  I'm really just focused on a PR.

Now I will come out and gripe about a single item with regards to this run.  In my opinion, if you advertise a 16 mile run, there should be people actually dedicated to running 16 miles.  I knew I would have to run 2 miles on my own to get my 18, but that was no big deal.  The 12 mile point (IIRC) stopped back at the office and from there everyone from my group bolted (and when I say everyone, I mean the one guy besides me left) except one of the pacers and I.  We ended up hooking up with some others left over from the 9:00 group who wanted to head out for more miles.  Then while out around the stadiums everyone decided they were done for whatever reason and just turned around and went back.  It was just over 14 miles when I found myself alone and with almost 4 more miles still to go.  So, I just headed out and ran around the North Shore area and eventually ended up on the trail.  That was a baaaaaaaad idea.  The snow on top was ok, but the layer of thick ice underneath sucked.  I had to slow way down to stay upright.  But, I got my 18 miles in and I felt great.  Fun fact:  Even though I only monitored my heart rate those last couple of miles on my own, I came in only 2bpm average off of my target for the whole run anyway.  Cool!

That night I did 25 minutes of yoga.  It was just what I needed.

Long run recovery = ProCompression socks + a cat in the lap!

Sunday:  I told myself when I made the decision to run long on Saturday that if my legs were seriously trashed Sunday morning then I would forgo running and hop on my bike and get some yoga in.  But I only had some mild soreness - mainly in the calves, so I went to the gym and got on the treadmill.  I ran 7 miles at recovery heart rate pace (again, proving my fitness has improved as my recovery pace is faster than when I started this journey).  I felt great!  I had to the "treadmill jump" because of the silly 60 minute timer crap, but that was no big deal.  I finished up my run feeling rejuvenated and like I could have gone longer!

10 minutes of yoga before bed wrapped up my week!

Total Miles Ran: 50.07 - a shiny new PR for me!  I feel better after these 50 miles than I have after some 20 mile weeks.  I am serious! This training WORKS!
Total Running Workouts: 5 - 1 tempo, 2 recovery, 1 medium long, 1 long
Total Strength Workouts: 2
Total Yoga Days:  4

Nutrition this week: It was good... and bad.  Come on, it was Valentine's Day on long run day and I got chocolate and cupcakes!  I did have some awesome quinoa burrito bowls, great smoothies and some huge ass salads, though... Everything in moderation, right?

Banana Oatmeal Smoothie

This was a really good week.  One of those ones that built mental strength and confidence as well as physical.  I like that.  Looks like Mother Nature may put me to the test again this week and I might need to jockey my tempo run around, but we'll see!

Spring is coming!  I'm thinking positive (and flipping off the Weather Channel)!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Free Advice

Who doesn't love some free advice? ;-)

Seriously, though - I have a friendly PSA for today.  And this will be a pic-free post simply because I love you all.  Even if I don't know you and you're out there reading this I still like you too darn much to subject you to photos regarding this topic.

I've said it before... I have gnarly feet from running.  Just flat out NASTY.  I will never get a pedicure outside my own home again because I have more respect for those extremely energetic ladies at the nail salon than to put them through the trauma that is my toenail situation.

However - runners out there I am telling you NOW you need to keep tabs on your tootsies.  Do not be lazy about clipping those nails and smoothing out the rough spots.  Don't be like me and get a little lax about it and then discover your fail after a longer run.

About a week ago after a run, I had noticed on the way home that the top of my (pink) shoe looked.. well pink-er than before.  I didn't really think too much of it at the time.. I might of spilled something, ran through something.. who knows.  When I got home, however, and I popped the shoe off, the entire toe part of my sock was dried blood.  And of course, as I tried to gently peel it off, it was stuck to my toe so I had to just yank it.

Turns out, I had a sharp spot on the inside/corner of one of the little toes and it proceeded to shred the hell out of the toe next to it during my run.  It was like it went through a freaking cheese grater! I guess I really didn't feel it happening because it was so cold out and my toes had been numb.  I don't really know.  But man did it hurt like a mother after I got that shoe & sock off!  I was really ticked too, it was one of my favorite Swiftwick socks!

So, I've been nursing my poor toe back to health by keeping it clean and bandaged.  It still bothers me when my awesome bandage work doesn't hold up a whole run, but it's coming along and I suspect I'll be back to pristine toe form by the end of the week (and thank God for that, I have to run 18 miles on Sunday when it's supposed to be like 2 frickin' degrees FML).

Learn from my mistake!  Check your toes!  Take care of them and they will take care of you!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Marathon #2 - Training Week 6

AKA The week Nichole lets herself get a little lazy with no shame.

It is my recovery week, after all, and I was going to take advantage of it and let my body recover!  I ran on the treadmill twice this week, which is rare but my schedule kinda dictated it.  On other weeks I might have made the additional effort of finding a time & place to run but since it's recovery week and the two runs were just recovery runs?  Meh, I'll jump on the mill at the gym.  I also didn't do full yoga workouts all week.  I either did just a few moments of simple poses or vinyasa flow on my own or I followed some of Adriene's Foundations of Yoga videos.  These are great because they focus on one pose and break them down so you can truly understand and grow that specific posture.  They're short and sweet but very informative for me as well as a quickie workout.  I did skip a day of yoga too!  I'm telling you, I was Lazy Nichole this week and it was great!  No regrets!

This week marks the end of Mesocycle #1 of my training plan.  This cycle was focused on Overall Endurance.  In the next 5 weeks my focus will move to building upon my Lactate threshold.  God-willing, I'll be running my first race of the year and doing two 20 mile runs during this time.  Fingers crossed that my training keeps going well and things keep moving in the right direction.

Monday:  Workout B of my strength training plan plus a short yoga session.

Tuesday:  The plan called for an 8 mile easy run with 10x100m strides at the end.  I wanted to try something new and get up bright and early, go to North park to get my run in, and then be home in time to see the husband and kids off for the day.  Well, it worked but it didn't.  North Park had not yet been cleared from the refreeze that morning and it was an icy mess.  I really struggled those first couple of miles just trying to keep from falling.  Thankfully a salt truck/plow came past and got in front of me and started clearing and salting and my run got heaps better after that.  I even got my strides in at the end, though some of them were slower than others due to residual ice.  My fastest stride was 6:01 avg pace, though, so I'm definitely moving in the right direction on these!

I did a short yoga practice later that day as well.

Wednesday:  5 recovery miles on the treadmill followed by strength workout C as well as a little yoga.

Thursday:  8 "easy" miles at North Park.  My legs felt great and the miles really were easy, but it was so freaking cold.  At the time I ran (around 9:20) it was "feels like" -1 degrees.  It wouldn't have been so bad if it wasn't windy as well.  The wind was that god awful chill-you-to-the-bone wind.  My eyelashes froze on one side and damn near blinded me for goodness sakes.  At least it was sunny.  My patience for winter weather is wearing very thin, so be prepared for more bitching about this as time moves on...  I did let slip to Nick that my experiences during this first cycle of training lead me to not want to train for another full marathon over the winter.  It's just so different from what I went through for MCM.  Then I could do all my runs as planned where the hell I wanted whenever the hell I wanted.  Heat, rain, who cares.  All paces were hit and every workout was done.  This time of year it's a "do what you can" mentality which to me, just feels and seems to be ineffective (and not to mention straight up dangerous at times) training.  So, if you were to ask me right now here today at this moment I'd say the Pittsburgh Marathon will be a "one and done" thing for me.  I'll do the half again and save my marathons for when I can train over the nicer months of the year.  But - I could change my mind.  There's so much time left.  (Still trying to make a decision on my Fall race - right now it's between MCM and Philly.  I have 32 days to make a final decision on the lottery entry.)

Whew - sorry for the hissy fit there.  I did do a little yoga on Thursday, but nothing serious.  Again, I just followed my own thing on the mat.  Moving on:

Friday:  Rest!  And I do mean rest!  I hung out in my PJs!  I didn't even do yoga!

Saturday:  4 ridiculously easy recovery miles on the treadmill at the gym.  There's really not much to say about a treadmill run... You don't go anywhere or see anything.. you just set that sucker up and do your best hamster impression.  lol    I also did yoga - mainly hip openers and breath practice.

Sunday:  My cutback "long" run this week was 12 miles.  It was glorious.  I had no technical difficulties, the feet just wanted to go and the weather... wow, it was great.  Being that this was a shorter run and I was doing the lazy thing, I treated myself to more beauty sleep (go ahead and giggle there) and headed out a little later than usual so it would be even warmer.  I should know better than to wear a long sleeve and capris when it is in the mid 40s!  Short sleeve and arm sleeves you can take off, Nichole - duh!  I was pretty warm at the end and had the sleeves of my shirt pushed up.  Only other bad thing I can say about the run was I got a huge chunk of rocksalt or something inside my shoe at mile 10 and had to stop to get that thing out.  If you know me, you know I hate stopping during runs.  But, I didn't let it phase me too much and pushed out those last two miles.  It was a great run.  A little bit of yoga (twists and pigeon, oh my!) and I'm good.  :)

Total Miles Ran:  37.08 (I can't believe this is a recovery week!)
Total Running Workouts: 5 - 1 easy with strides, 2 recovery, 1 easy, 1 long
Total Strength Workouts: 2 - Speaking of, I have 1 more day of each workout left, then I'll be moving on to another plan after a short break from lifting.
Total Yoga Days: 6

Nutrition this week: Tough.  I don't think I did too badly, but RUNger is really killing me this training cycle and I'm getting ravenously hungry more often.  I'm trying to be good about choosing the right things between meals (fruit, veg & hummus, yogurt, etc), but damn that red velvet cake really hit the spot.  heh.  I did make fanfreakingtastic cilantro lime cauli-rice the other day, though.  I'm glad I made enough for a couple days because I ate that right up.  Cauli-rice is awesome and I'm glad I got turned onto it over the past year.  It's been great in this house.  I know I've mentioned before, but my husband is an insulin dependent diabetic so the standard "stuff your face with rice and pasta" runners diet doesn't really fit his needs.  So, when I find a great alternative that's just as tasty I'm thrilled.  Example: this week's menu includes shrimp scampi over angel hair... but the angel hair is really spaghetti squash.  Win!  Plus the kids get tricked into eating more veggies.  Extra Point!

The rest has been great this week but I'm ready to see what I can do this coming week.  If all goes well I'll have a weekly distance PR on my hands!

I was also lazy about taking pics this week, so I leave you with this pic I took of Meatball and Calloway.  They're pissy because I just interrupted their sparring match.  Meatball is older and weighs maybe a third of what Calloway does but she beats his ass every time.  She's declawed but can roll her paw into a proper fist and punch.  It's hilarious.  Don't be alarmed - these two have been together with us for 12 years now and they've never hurt one other... this is just true play fight/sibling rivalry. <3

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

#30DaysofYoga Final Thoughts

As you know, my #30DaysofYoga challenge via Yoga With Adriene came to an end last week.  Since I did a halfway post, I wanted to do one last wrapup, if you want to call it that.

I can solidly say that yoga has become a part of my life the last 30 days.  What started out as being just something to challenge myself and see what I could do turned into something different.  I allowed myself to enjoy the full experience and with that, I came to realize the benefits that yoga brings to my life.  These are benefits that while some might see them as minor, I am aware that even minor benefit adds up to big reward.

I realized that I need yoga.

In this 30 day adventure I learned that my yoga practice is truly mine and something that I can grow in my own time, in my own way, letting my body lead the way.  In many ways, that's how I've treated my running over the last year after being injured.  It truly falls right into my "honor my body" philosophy.  Unlike I previously thought, yoga isn't about being perfect, competitive, "the best in the room", show offish (yeah not a real word but hey), etc.  Sure, there may be some that treat their practice in that way.  But that is for them.
Feel privileged to see a peek of my swordfish tattoo in that top pic.  I rarely show that off!

Yoga is something to strive for, be patient with, and look forward to.  I cannot claim to be great at bending myself into every pose.  It took until the final few sessions for me to be able to swing my leg from 3 legged dog the whole way forward into a lunge.  I was that stiff.  I can't do a handstand or scorpion or other flashy poses and I've only been successful at holding a crow pose a short time.  But with time, consistent effort, and patience with my body's needs... they all will come.  Kind of like that BQ I want before I'm 50.  I'll get there... it doesn't need to be forced right now.  Enjoy the whole journey, not just the end result, right?  Because once the end is here, that's it.  And now I'm going to get all nerdy and quote a character from World of Warcraft and say "Life is to be savored!".

I know in my last post about #30days I listed some changes I'd noticed in just 15 practice days.  All of those things I listed are still valid, plus some.

My flexibility is vastly improved.  As I mentioned above, no I can't do a lot of those advanced postures but I have been able to get myself into ones I'd never attempted before and I can go deeper with ones I'm more familiar with.  And, like I mentioned in my last post I really notice a difference in my running recovery.  Yes, my hip flexors are the #1 thing to nag at me, especially after a particularly hilly or long run.  I have a narrow pelvis and that comes with the territory (I didn't have 3 c-sections for nothing!).  But get me into Happy Baby pose or Cobblers pose or any of the Pigeon variations and I'm good!  It's amazing!

I am far more centered.  I'm still a Type A personality, a list maker, fact checker, etc.  BUT - I have a much easier time grounding myself and allowing myself a moment for at least a cleansing breath and thought than before.

It's given me something else to share with my kids!  It's become common practice to ask "Mom, did you learn any new yoga moves today?  Show us!" and then after a demonstration, they want to do it too!  Anything that encourages a kid to move is a win in my book.

With my buddy and his various toys in the background.

Yoga gives me another goal besides running.  I love running lovelovelovelovelove it forever, however sometimes - especially when the training gets long and hard for those goal races - it can become overwhelming... and it's during these times I need something else to focus on.  Strength training gains are out of the question during peak running season due to fatigue and injury potential but yoga?  Perfect!  Maybe by the time I'm running my 3rd 20 miler this season (yeah, I did just say 3rd) I can finally get both of my heels to touch the ground in Downward Facing Dog.  haha.  It's the little things.

It has allowed me to connect with people via Instagram & YouTube and I enjoy everyone's perspective and diversity.  I love positive and encouraging people and there is no shortage of them around.

Don't you love how my stability ball, foam roller, stick, and the plug for my space heater are all stars in most of these pics?  haha.

All in all, I'm so happy I saw the challenge through.  I've even done some form of practice consistently since it ended!  Will I do yoga every day?  I don't know.  If I'm being honest, probably not, but I would like to at least put forth the effort to attempt something on most days.  I may not even be regular about posting it to DailyMile or Endomondo.  Adriene has two other programs available now, but they are for purchase and unfortunately money is kind of tight right now... especially with all the replacements for running gadgets I've had to throw out lately.  So, I'm just going to go my own way and keep on keepin' on.

I highly recommend Adriene's videos on YouTube.  She's great.  She seems like the kind of person I would totally hang out with in real life.  Maybe that's why I connected so well to the program.

So, to wrap this up, thanks to everyone for putting up with all my pics on the daily on Instagram (another new thing for me - I have never posted that many pics of myself on the interwebs, especially in that short of a time), thanks to Yoga With Adriene, and I can't wait to see where this goes from here.

 Havin' fun with the cactus arms... Namaste!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Marathon #2 - Training Week 5

5 weeks?!  Wowza.  Oh, and Happy February! First off, sorry that there have been no posts between last weeks recap and this one.  To say things have been nuts is an understatement.  The last week of a month is pretty much always like that in my world, though so I'm kind of used to it.  That being said, I do have some more things to post about this week - I even have some already drafted (go me!).

So last weeks training FLEW - and by that I'm talking both the time and my running itself!  It was a good week.. not without its challenges, of course but I completed my workouts and smashed some goals and I'm happy about that.

Monday:  Workout C of my strength plan followed by #30DaysofYoga day 25.

Tuesday:  We had another bout of winter weather and I really was unsure what to do about this run.  As scheduled, it was to be a 9 mile run with 2 miles of warmup, 5 miles @ tempo, and 2 miles of cooldown.  I was honestly leaning more toward jumping on a treadmill but my husband is the one that encouraged me to at least get out and try North Park.  He knew I'd hate my life if I ran on the treadmill for this important workout.  So, I went out and was thrilled when I pulled in to see that it was pretty cleared out.  Just a little bit of slush in places.  Yes!  Not going to lie - that last mile was HARD!  I was weaving a web of profanity (I think I scared some lady as I flew by her), but I was not backing down. I swear those cooldown miles felt like a victory lap.

My overjoyed face after totally owning that run.  It's all about that zebra print, I swear!

#30DaysofYoga Day 26 let me recoup and round out the day.

Wednesday:  5 recovery miles.  Another lake loop in more frigid temps.  I ran with my new heart rate monitor strap on this run.  I was happy when it picked right up and seemed to be working fine until half a mile or so in.  Then it gradually started giving me higher and higher numbers, topped out as high as the watch would let it, fell to zero and then totally shut off.  I even lost the ability to link back up with it on my watch.  Let the gadget struggles continue.  It's a good thing I've gotten relatively good about pacing myself on these recovery days.  Anyway, it was obvious to me then that after a battery replacement didn't fix the problem and a new strap wasn't the answer either that the problem is simply the transmitter being dead.  Well crapcakes.   Wednesday also included workout A of strength training as well as day 27 of #30DaysofYoga.

Thursday:  Without the hrm that goes with my watch, I used my Polar FT4 for this run.  Yeah, I feel like half a goof wearing 2 watches, but you do what you gotta do, right?  The plan called for 10 easy miles.  Perfect, I could just run steady in the zone I'm supposed to.  The Polar worked like a charm, of course, but here's the thing - running within my general aerobic zone on this monitor had me running faster than the old one.  Probably about 30 secs per mile faster.  I didn't feel crappy during the run, in fact it felt good to stretch out my legs a little more than I'd been lately, but it got me thinking... Which is right?  Was my old hrm dying and giving me bad readings before?  Or is the Polar giving me wrong info?  During recent "easy" runs my old hrm had me running around a 10 minute mile, give or take a few secs one way or the other.  Today I ran a 9:23 avg.  Talk about being confused..  Again, I didn't feel bad during or after this run but I did feel like I worked a little bit harder than I had been on the general runs lately.
Later that day I did #30DaysofYoga Day 28.  Hard to believe the challenge was coming to an end!

Friday:  Rest day!  Woohoo!  Still got in #30DaysofYoga Day 29, though.

Saturday:  5 more recovery miles were on the plan.  The weather was showing temps in the negative windchills again and between that, my schedule, a kid that needed to go on a field trip, etc, I just hopped on the mill at the gym... I know - shock & awe!  I just kept it slow and simple, knowing I had one heck of a workout coming up on Sunday.  I was happy that my legs seemed 100% recovered from Thursday's faster 10 miles so maybe that is the correct easy pace for me... I still don't know what to think.
Saturday was also the very last day of #30DaysofYoga.  I did it!  Can I claim this as some kind of PR because I've never done yoga this many days before?  haha.  I officially love yoga and will probably always do some form of it on most days.  Whether it's just a couple sun salutations/vinyasa or even meditative practice it's rooted in me now. :)

Sunday: This was one of those once every couple of weeks workout long runs.  16 miles, but 10 of those were supposed to be at marathon race intensity.  I planned my route to head out of the North Park boathouse and make a left, doing that loop around the Tennis courts before doing 3 lake loops.  I wore the Polar again.  The weather was ok.. not great (it was snowing), there was a bit of slush around as well as the fresh stuff coming down.  I got lucky and on my first loop around a plow came up behind me and after I let him go past I had a nice clear path to run on.  My feet still got pretty wet, though and by the last loop I did my feet were so soaked I could barely feel anything but my shoes squishing like sponges.  Bleh.  Anyway, it made for an extra challenge and I always tell myself that challenges like this are what get you through hard races in the spring and summer when you don't have to deal with this crap.  But back to the run - after my 6 mile "warmup" you could call it, I kicked it up and started my marathon run.  Honestly, I didn't feel too bad and I was shocked to find I could get up the hills easier than expected.  My legs felt great and I didn't seem to have the same gradual drain with each loop like I did last week.  I did feel like I started to fade off a bit during the last one, but I didn't let myself and kept on with my workout.  I will say that I was pretty tired when I was done, but I felt good.  Sore and drained, but not like I was at my end.  I'm taking that as a good thing.  I was shocked to see my overall pace for 16 miles was faster than I expected.  Very confidence boosting, that's for sure.  What's not confidence boosting?  When your watch gives you "low battery" warnings during a 16 mile run even though the battery indicator shows it half full (I'm an optimist, ok?).  Sigh.  So, maybe here we have the heart of the problem.  My watch itself.  Granted, it's been hazy for a while now and I knew the day was coming, but still.  So, I ordered a new watch.  It should be here sometime by the end of this week.
Even though my yoga challenge was over I really felt drawn to doing it later Sunday afternoon.  So I did.  I just let my body & breath do their thing and I ended up on the mat nearly 20 mins!

Total Miles Ran: 45.07 (if you're keeping score, this is just a mile short of my peak week for MCM!)
Total Running Workouts: 5 - 1 tempo, 2 recovery, 1 easy, 1 long/marathon pace workout
Total Strength Workouts: 2
Total Yoga Workouts: 7 <-- this may be the last week for this number but there will always be one!
Total January Miles: 173.47 - my highest EVER!  Last highest was 166 in September 2014.

Nutrition this week:  Pretty darn good.  I made an awesome black bean & quinoa casserole that served as lunches most of the week and I also made some homemade chicken & rice soup which was just awesome during these cold days.  I kept my eye on eating more veggies and fruits in between meals instead of grabbing the box of crackers.  I did have some super bowl snacks and a few pieces of candy the kids gave me.  Rule of thumb: when a kid (especially YOUR KID) gives you candy or something they made, you eat it.  Those calories don't matter one bit.  

This coming week is a recovery week for me before beginning cycle 2 of my training plan.  I'm looking forward to shorter, easier runs.  You know you've hit a strange place when you say "My long run is ONLY 12 miles this week!!".  hahaha. 

On the technology side of life, I should have my new Garmin here by the end of the week and hopefully I can break it in a couple of times before starting more hard workouts.  Again, I'm glad to be working out these kinks early on rather than in April!