Saturday, March 8, 2014

4 Race Day Lessons I Never Seem to Learn....

My recent return to running at the Hampton Beach Half Marathon jolted my memory to my regular race day bloopers that I never seem to learn.  These are solely based on my personal experiences, but perhaps there are a few of you out there that can relate...or even better, maybe some of you I can save!  For those of you gearing up for a race of some kind in the near future, keep these four things in mind on game day:

1) Don't overhydrate.  This seems counterintuitive to almost every race day "best practice" that I have read.  In fact, I think I have read so much about the importance of hydration since my high school cross country and track days that I have mistakenly taken this one too far on occasion.  I have a perpetual fear of finding myself in the middle of a distance event feeling dehydrated.  This is partially due to my Irish complexion and not doing so well in sunshine and extreme temperatures.  It is also partially from a high school track experience when I found myself dehydrated and had to demand that the bus pull over after a track meet so that I could vomit and pass out in front of my coach, team members and the local fire department.  Oops.  Fast forward several years to the one marathon I have ran and I was terrified of finding myself in this predicament part way through the race.  So, I drank water...and water...and water before the race.  I then took in a cup of water at every aid station there was and finished the event with a very uncomfortable Buddha belly.  I refused to stop at any porta pottie along the way.  Thankfully, my other half caught me slugging water on the 1 1/2 hour drive to this last race and told me to stop drinking water to avoid having to stop repeatedly during the race.  This brings me to my next lesson....

2) Stopping can be ok.  Actually, sometimes stopping during a race can be very important.  The uncomfortable Buddha belly situation above is one example.  I can only imagine that my race would have been faster and much more comfortable had I done so.  I also remember a stinging sensation around my ankle around mile 5 in that marathon, but I refused to stop.  I had this illogical fear in my head that I would never get going again if I stopped for even a second.  So, I didn't.  I kept going....until I hit mile 26.2 and the volunteer at the finish line was faced with a blood soaked timing chip around my ankle.  My ankle and sock were all bloody, which has sort of a "I'm tough" feeling...for about a second.  Let's be honest, the World Series were not at stake here (do you like my Red Sox reference?).  And was it worth hobbling around for the next week in low cut flats?  I don't know.  I think I could have spared the 10 seconds to adjust that timing chip.  Fast forward to this recent race and I felt a pebble floating around in my shoe.  Instead of stopping, I kept shaking my shoe to make the pebble fall all the way to the front.  Will I ever learn?  People- please stop for something silly like this.  Take care of your feet.  Thankfully, I only ended up with a tender spot on the front of my toes after this half marathon.  Once again, will I ever learn?

3) Don't try something new with your fueling plan on game day.  It is really awesome when race events provide a gel or energy snack at an aid station.  That said, make sure to bring your own stuff that you know works for you.  I have done this a few times where I roll the dice and just throw the provided gel into my mouth only to remember that it is a flavor that I absolutely hate and now my mouth is coated in it until I can get to the next water station.  I feel like Jim Carrey in "Me, Myself and Irene" with chalk mouth.  Also, plan out and try your refueling ahead of time.  I have found this especially important in triathlon.  At the last minute before my Olympic Tri, I decided that I would shave a few seconds off my precious transition time by opening my gel and leaving it ready for me in the transition area.  Oooh the 3 seconds I might save.  I was so slick.  I finished my swim to find all of my fuel swarmed in ants.  Again, don't try something new on race day....ever!  Unfortunately I once again ignored my past experience and threw a vanilla gel into my face during this race...it wasn't terrible but I should have just stuck to my own and knew so as soon as I did it.    

4) Don't over dress.  Yes, it is a great idea to plan ahead and be prepared for anything.  That said, add twenty degrees to the temperature to estimate what you will be feeling like once you get going.  I never learn from this.  Thankfully, my better half again saved me at this last race.  I stood at the starting line with my hat, gloves and coat.  He told me he would take them and I said "No, I'm soooo cold."  I was positive I would need at least the hat and gloves.  It was February after all.  He insisted I hand them over.  Thank you.  Less than twenty minutes into the 13.1 miles I realized that I would have had to carry them or toss them.  7 miles into the race and I wanted to strip down to my short sleeve shirt, but I didn't because that would have required me to stop and re-pin my number.  Refer back to lesson #2 :) 

Have a great week and run happy!
Saturday, March 1, 2014

And the Hampton Beach Half Marathon is Done!!!

Yes it is!  I am very excited to share a "race report."  This is my first event since my Olympic Tri in July 2012 and baby #2!!!!  I had a blast getting back out there.  My race day jitters were surprisingly low key for me....I am generally pretty darn nervous before any event.  The weather was perfect- cold at the start with a race day temperature of the mid-40's but I felt great once we got going.  I didn't even need the hat and gloves I brought along.  Maybe spring is on the way? Ha!

Overall, the race went well for me.  My finishing time was 2:18, which as I predicted, is significantly slower than my previous half marathon at 2:06 when baby #1 was just about 11 months old.  I will get back there and faster!  My average per mile pace was 10:36, which I can't complain about as most of my long runs were in the 11:30-11:40 range.  I did set out too fast as I had no idea what my current pace was until the 3 mile mark, which I hit at 30 minutes into the race.  So much for negative splits!  The course had great views of the coast and was virtually flat- hooray! 

One thing I noticed very clearly is that my breathing and heart rate felt GREAT!  My struggle was with my legs- they just would. not. go.  any. faster.  I could comfortably talk, until maybe the very end.  As you can see in my pictures, my face isn't too flushed and believe me when I tell you that I am a red faced runner!  I'm thinking my legs just need to get used to distance again and probably could do with a healthy dose of strength, hills and intervals.  I did none of those things this training cycle.

So, there you have it!  Half marathon #1 of the year done and 12 weeks to go until the next one.  I am going to juggle up the training plan a bit and work to get stronger in addition to getting used to these long runs again.  Here are some of my race day pics to capture my happy running day.


Any race experiences to share?

Advice for legs that just won't go?

Have a great week!
Saturday, February 15, 2014

One Week to Go....

It's hard to believe but here we are with only one week to go until this half-marathon.  Where did that time go?  It seems like just yesterday I was pregnant thinking about my first post-partum run.  Am I ready?  I think so.  I won't be setting a personal record, but I think I have put in an honest training effort and obtained my goal of rebuilding mileage and fitness to complete the distance for this race and then focus on getting faster with my next one.  Am I tired?  I'm glad you asked...yes!  In the spirit of keeping it real, I do find fitting in my "ideal" training plan with the wee ones, work and life in general a little bit tougher than I had imagined it would be.  Purchasing a treadmill over the holidays was a blessing and I'm confident my training would not have been where it is at this point without it. 

Today was my last long run and I covered 12 miles.  Funny thing is that my training plan actually called for my last long run of 12 miles to be last week, but somehow I calculated my training weeks off a little bit and I didn't realize my error until this week.  Ooops.  Ideally, I would have covered 12 miles last week, followed by a regular week of mid-distance runs ranging 4-6 miles and then a 6 miler this weekend with a taper next week.  When I realized the error, I contemplated skipping the 12 mile run and going with 6 for the weekend, but I just couldn't do it.  Mentally, I felt like I needed to do 12 miles.  Physically, I don't know that a taper is all that important this round as I am not really running "hard."  This event is all about rebuilding some mileage and fitness so I haven't been doing speed work.  My long, slow runs have started to feel easier over the last couple of weeks and I feel comfortable as far as cardio is concerned.  My hips still feel tight after 8'ish miles but it isn't so uncomfortable to be a problem right now.

So going into next week I am both excited and nervous.  I'm excited to be back at a race, full of positive people with fitness ambitions and a zest for life.  I'm also excited for that post-race event that will have Lindt Chocolate.  Yes, you read that correctly.  I have learned that the post-race gathering area will have Lindt Chocolate and I have actually envisioned the feeling of completing a frosty 13.1 miles on the Atlantic Coast and being greeted with velvety smooth chocolate.  What can I say?  I have a problem. 

As for the nerves, they are there even though I have a relaxed goal for this race.  I have no "time" goal for this race, but I am still nervous and anticipate the jittery stomach next Sunday morning.  I have learned that no matter the distance, goal or purpose of a race, I always have race day jitters.  Every. Single. Time.  This got me thinking.  Why do I get nervous for every event???  I thought on it...and thought some more....and I think I have the answer.....

My race day jitters stem from the commitment I make to myself for an event.  When I put my toe to the line, I commit to myself to do the best I possibly can.  To do the best I possibly can, I have to get to the point that I envision in my mind as a "crossroads."  The crossroads is a point when everything in my body says "No! Stop! You could just be enjoying a bagel and coffee on the couch silly girl," and the only way to do my best from that point is for my mind to go all "Braveheart" on me, scream "Freedom" as a battle call to keep the legs going (silently of course- I promise I won't wear blue face paint and scare you out there) and charge through to the finish.  When I get to that "crossroads," temptation can easily set in.  Temptation to walk when I don't have to.  Temptation to stop when I don't need to.  Temptation to back off.  All of these temptations are not visible to race spectators.  I could opt for any one of those options and no one would know the difference.  No one would know that I didn't leave everything out there....except me.  I would.  I would wonder.  I would say "next time."  I would inevitably wish I hadn't given in. 

Those "crossroads" are tough mentally...and physically.  I think it's safe to say that we've all been there.  It's why I get nervous, but it's also why I love running.  Running is something I don't have to do, but I am honored to do it and blessed to have the good health to do it....and I get that much stronger every time I hit those "crossroads" and keep pushing.  So, that's my plan for next Sunday: get stronger!

Before I go, check out these new, awesome gloves I scored at Christmas....they will be with me next week!
 

Do you get jitters before your races?  Have a great week!
Saturday, January 25, 2014

Coconut Chocolate Chip Muffins and Long Run Update

I am forever on the quest for recipes to make fresh baked goods that I can feel good about and get the attention of the little ones.  I recently encountered a day at home with little flour in the house and I wanted to bake something on the healthy side to grab and go between morning runs and out the door.  I realized that there is a whole functionality of my Vitamix that I have practically ignored since I purchased it: grinding flour!  So, I processed my first batch of oat flour by grinding organic oats in the dry container and worked out this recipe for some grab and go muffins.

Coconut Chocolate Chip Muffins
Dry Ingredients
~1 cup oat flour
~1/2 cup coconut flour
~1 cup all purpose or whole wheat flour
~1 tbs aluminum free baking powder
~1/2 tsp baking soda
~1/2 tsp salt
~3 tbs unsweetened coconut
~3/4 cups chocolate chips of your choice
 
Wet Ingredients
 ~1/4 cup coconut oil (melted)
~1/3 cup honey
~3/4 cup full fat plain yogurt
          ~1/2 cup coconut milk (I used full fat)
       ~1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
 
Pre-heat over to 425 degrees.  Mix the dry ingredients (except the coconut and chocolate chips) together with a mixer.  Add wet ingredients and beat on low to medium speed until well incorporated.  Fold in coconut and chocolate chips.  Spoon into greased muffin tin and/or use muffin liners (I used silicone muffin liners).  Reduce the oven temperature to 400 degrees.  Bake for approximately 18 minutes.  Remove from oven, let sit for at least 10 minutes
 and then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.  This recipe made 12 regular size muffins and 3 larger size muffins.  Enjoy!
 
The yogurt I used for this recipe is a new product of the farm from where I have been purchasing meat since last April.  It is delicious.  It worked great in this recipe and I have been bringing it to work with frozen pineapple chunks and chopped almonds.
 
As for running, my long run crept up to 9 miles this week and I felt pretty good during the run.  Just about one month to go before this first 1/2 marathon- eeks!  Admittedly, the balance of getting my running done with the little ones, work etc. is harder than I thought it would be.  I feel like I just barely get it all in each week but it's getting done and I am very lucky to be able to do it.
 
How was your week?

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Treadmill Pace, Green Smoothies & Dessert

Our treadmill was delivered shortly after my last post.  Hooray!  We have had it for about 2 weeks and I feel like I can't imagine life without it now.  The convenience of a treadmill being in the basement combined with Netflix and Hulu at my finger tips have been making it much easier to stick to my training plan.  I still have to plan for the runs in the early morning or late evening as our basement isn't finished and I can't set the kids up with entertainment down there yet, but it has made running 5 days a week much easier to fit in and has especially opened up some time for me on these winter weekends before the husband heads off to work.

As for the specific model of treadmill, I went for the Sole F80.  There are so many treadmills out there, which made it hard to decide.  I used the treadmill doctor website and read the posted reviews, best buy recommendations in each price range and used their treadmill buyers guide.  I found this website incredibly helpful.  So far so good.  This treadmill had good reviews for durability but I played it safe and bought the extended maintenance plan to ensure it is maintained properly.  Mechanical maintenance is not exactly a strength of mine!

My first post-baby half-marathon is coming up at the end of next month.  Although I decided to approach this race without a time goal and focus on building mileage and getting used to running distance again, I have been surprised at my paces thus far.  Surprised, as in, they have been slower than I thought they would.  Pre-pregnancy, 10 minutes per mile was my comfy, stroller-less running pace.  Thus far, I have been struggling keeping a pace of 11 minutes per mile on the treadmill.  My long runs, which is up to 8 miles as of this week, have been in the 11:40 per mile or slightly slower pace range and I can't say those runs have felt easy.  I am not upset about it- just surprised.  I thought I would be faster, especially on the treadmill where I am not using the incline or contending with the elements. 

With these paces in mind, I had an opportunity yesterday to run outside in the afternoon.  It has been weeks since I ran outside and I guestimated my iphone would be telling me a pace of 11-12 minutes per mile based on how my workouts are going.  To my surprise, I finished my snowy, icy and a little bit hilly run in exactly 10 minutes per mile feeling good. Huh???  Does anyone else find significant differences in their treadmill versus outside pace?  I always thought treadmill pacing tends to be slightly faster.  Perhaps this was a fluke run or just a really good one for me lately.  I guess we will see when this half marathon rolls around!  Paces aside, I am feeling good getting regular mileage in.  I am up to about 22 miles per week and aiming to head for 30'ish as training progresses.

On the food front, I have been keeping up pretty well with the 30 Day Green Smoothie Challenge.  I did miss 1 or 2 days, but most of my mornings are starting with a breakfast like this:
 
 
For those that may be on the fence about green smoothies, give it a try!  They do not taste like spinach or kale or avocado.  The fruit dominates the taste of the drink and I am loving them.  It's great heading out for the day with 5'ish produce servings already consumed!  For those busy mornings, I have been making the smoothies in batches of 2 and storing the second smoothie in a mason jar in the fridge so it is ready to go for the next day.  Just add a straw and DONE!  Any old blender will work to try them out!
 
Oh- and on the dessert front (as you know, I can not forget dessert!), I had a chance to meet up with some girlfriends at a new favorite place of mine, which is a bakery/pastry shop/cocktail bar that makes homemade hot chocolate, desserts etc. etc.  Check out this beautiful apple tart:
 
 
So pretty and so delicious and fresh.  I want to go back!
 
Any treadmill pacing thoughts?  Favorite green smoothies?
 
Have a great week!
 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

2014

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and all of that stuff!  How was everyone's holiday season?  We had a ball over here.  It felt super busy and I am somewhat relieved to get back to a regular routine and hopefully regular sleep schedules.  It's amazing how all of the holiday excitement totally throws the little ones off.   

And speaking of being thrown off, I am ready to get back to the regular diet.  The holidays were incredibly fun with a lot of events, gatherings and of course deliciously baked goods, but eating as healthy as usual when the schedule is so crammed can be tough.  There was the night I had a hunk properly portioned piece of brie cheese for dinner because the thought of making something and re-dirtying the kitchen after I had just got the kiddos to bed made my stomach churn.  There was the night I made these from scratch and I am pretty sure I just scarfed down excess frosting....you know, to make sure everything turned out ok for my loved ones' dessert :)
 
 
And my family is well versed in the fact that I am a chocoholic and I was spoiled with a lot of my favorite stuff for gifts.  It has been a great few weeks but I am ready to restore a little more balance to the indulgences! 
 
I do have a few New Year's Resolutions to share and I would love to hear your resolutions too.  Here goes!
 
  1. Eat more produce.  Instead of focusing on what things to stay away from, which can be overwhelming, I want to focus on cramming more produce into the daily diet.  I'm going to aim for double digits of produce servings and my guess is that I will be staying away from more junk with filling up on that anyway.  To start, I signed up for the 30 Day Green Smoothie Challenge.  I have loved green smoothies ever since I got my Vitamix and need to keep those as a regular thing.  They taste great, provide a lot of energy and all sorts of great vitamins and health benefits.
  2. Slow down the morning routine.  Mornings are so hectic getting the family out the door so everyone can get to daycare, preschool and work.  I know slowing it down sounds counterproductive but the reality is that we aren't fleeing a burning building (thankfully) so I think a more relaxed start might get us all off to a better day.  We prepare a lot of our stuff at night and I think with a few additional night tasks and some tweaking, we will be off to a better start.
  3. Smile.  I'm getting too serious.  Maybe it's because the days feel tight with work, little ones etc.  Maybe it's from worrying too much.  Regardless, it's happening and I don't like it.  Life is too short.  Maybe I need some SNL re-runs once in a while....maybe a catch up with an old friend.  Maybe more running (more on that soon!!).  Whatever it is, smiling more is high on my priorities this year. Remind me when I forget please!
 
On the running front, I am only 7'ish weeks away from post-baby 1/2 marathon #1.  Eeeks.  I felt that my first 4 weeks of training went great.  These last 3-4 weeks have not been great.  The combination of my better half traveling for work for a couple weeks, the holidays, my own work schedule and some expected fevers, colds etc. with the little ones has resulted in missed runs.  My longest run to date is 7.6 miles.  I think I can recover in time to finish this 1/2.  I will be giving it my best and I am definitely approaching this first event as a training race.  There is no chance of a PR for this one!  I also have very exciting news that is going to greatly help with my running. 
 
Drum Roll. 
 
We are getting a treadmill! Yeehaw.  I'm spoiled- I know.  I am very lucky that my family is supportive of this.  Running seriously helps me to have a great day and I was struggling to get my runs in.  The time before work on the weekends isn't an option anymore with the ice and darkness.  I use the gym at 5AM on a few week days but need to be home for 6'ish and can't squeeze in the distance during that time.  Evenings don't work until about 8:30PM and the gym closes at 9 anyway.  I am very, very lucky and so excited.  Delivery is tomorrow.  More updates later!
 
How were your holidays? Any resolutions for 2014?
 
Have a great week!
 
Sunday, December 15, 2013

Holiday Treats

How is everyone's holiday season going so far? Things over here are going well.  I am prepping for a young one's pre-school Christmas party tomorrow and signed up to bring in wrapped treats.  I wanted to bring something in that was both a treat but somewhat healthy as we all know how many goodies we get this time of year.  So, I bought some whole grain pretzel sticks, melted some chocolate chips with a little bit of coconut oil, dipped them and then sprinkled some "snow" or unsweetened coconut on top.  I thought they came out good until.....I remembered the "no hard pretzels" guideline for pre-school snacks.  D'oh.

I don't know what even made me think of it but it would have been helpful had I thought of it before they were all done and wrapped.  C'est la vie!  Although I had to kick in a plan B for my little one's event, I do think these would make a good snack for older kids if you are looking for an idea.

Plan B?  Well, I had stumbled on this recipe for Soft Ginger Cookies over at Pennies and Pancakes yesterday coincidentally and I was tight on time but whipped up 1/3 of a batch and they came out great.  Yes, there is regular flour and sugar but they are made from scratch without any chemicals or preservatives and it turns out that Blackstrap Molasses is a good source of iron, calcium and potassium.  The sign up for wrapped treats is saved.  Thanks to Pennies and Pancakes because these came together really quickly and taste great.

 On the running front, I had gained some momentum with my half-marathon training.  In 4-5 weeks of training, I only missed one scheduled run and I was up to 7.6 miles for my long run and keeping weekly mileage of just under 20 miles per week.  The last 2 weeks were sort of a bust though.  The husband had to travel for work for a couple of weeks and I kept up with some running the first week, but the second week was filled with fevers, colds, very little sleep and all those lovely things that little ones get hit with this time of year while work is still busy for mom.  I only ran once this week.  Oh well...there really was nothing more I could have done but I will be back at it this week!  Hopefully, I do not feel the blip in training too badly!  I have about 9-10 weeks left until half marathon #1 of the year. I can do it. I can do it.

How do you handle training blips?  Are you ready for the holidays?