January 31, 2012

Free race entry in Alabama

Mercedes Marathon is coming up on Feb. 12th, and you can run it for free! Blue Cross Blue Shield is offering free race entries for a few select Alabama races. The number of free entries is limited. Not sure what that means, but my brother and I just signed up for the Mercedes Half tonight for free. I'm super stoked about it. No more coveting my kids' Mercedes Marathon swag bags.

The site is beyourace.com/. It will give you a code to enter during registration at active.com.

If you could see my face right now, you would see the most stoked face you have seen all day. I have been wanting to run Mercedes ever since we moved here, but with all of the other races I have going on, I couldn't justify the funds for another race. I'm also happy because I'm watching Portlandia. So if you don't get to run Mercedes, use Portlandia as your back-up happy pill.

Speed work and some swag

Today's run: Speed-work day! I hit the treadmill hard today. I usually do half mile increments of recovery and speed for 6 miles, but today, I decided to see how far/long I could push the speed segments. I did .5 warm-up, 2 miles speed, .5 recovery, 1 mile speed, .5 recovery, 1 mile speed, .5 cool down. My speed was from 8.4 to 9 mph, and my recovery was about 6.8 mph. Totals: 6.01 miles in 45:56, average pace 7:39 min/mile. My mantra today: push through discomfort. Sometimes I back off at discomfort because I'm running marathons and feel like I need to practice comfortable speeds that will help me endure to the end. But I resolved today to make my speed-work day uncomfortable, at least at some points. I only have three weeks to practice this, so we'll see if it garners any time improvements in AZ.

Highlight of our week was getting race swag bags for the kids' first marathon, Mercedes Marathon. I was jealous of their swag and tiny technical shirts.

Iron deficiency in runners


This is one of those subjects that I feel completely under qualified to tackle, but luckily many PhD students around the world have devoted sometimes-thankless hours to researching and writing about subjects that interest a handful of people. But based on the growing numbers of endurance sports participants, it's a hefty handful. 

My interest in iron deficiency started when I was pregnant with twins. I would walk by the detergent aisle at Target and think that the smell was delicious. Not just that it smelled nice, but that something about the chemical odor was satisfying. I also chewed ice like a maniac. Both of these are symptoms of pica, a disorder that is characterized by craving substances that don't have nutrition (chalk, dirt, detergent). Sometimes the cravings lead to actually eating those substances. In my case, I never tried eating detergent, but just imagining crunching the yummy-smelling granules in my teeth was worrisome enough. With my other two pregnancies, I didn't experience any of these awkward tangos with the detergent bottles, so I surmised that the demands of carrying twins was just a touch more than my body could handle. After I had the twins, the pica symptoms disappeared. Until recently. 

I started running at the beginning of last year, training for a half marathon. My training grew as I began to train for a full marathon in November and carried that training into more marathon training. That equals lots of foot pounding and sweating. Sometime at the end of last year, I noticed that some of my pica symptoms had returned. One of the first tip-offs was that walking by the tire rack at Sam's Club was a heavenly experience. The smell of all those rubber tires, which I normally hate, was somehow satisfying. If I had more minutes in my day, I would have just stood there and inhaled. Instead I thought, "Weird, I normally hate the smell of Sam's Club." Similar things were happening at the gas pump. Yum, gas smell. And again in the detergent aisle at the store. I'm not chomping ice like I was during my pregnancy, but all of this odd euphoria over chemical smells tipped me off that something might be wrong. And P.S., I'm definitely not pregnant. 

In doing interweb research, my problem is not unique, though I've never heard any of the runners in my circle talk about it. I've heard them talk about needing iron, but not the pica side of the deficiency. I found the same thing during pregnancy. I never actually knew anyone with the same symptoms as me, but according to the interweb, it is a frequent problem. 

Dr. McDougall's Health and Medical Center suggests several reasons runners may be anemic: 

Runner's anemia: More than 30 million long distance runners live in the United States today and many of them are developing iron deficiency anemia from no obvious cause. Several possible reasons for the loss of iron have been suggested: the destruction of blood cells when the feet hit the hard ground so frequently for so long a time, loss of blood through the kidneys, iron lost in the sweat, reduced absorption of iron from the gut, and decreased production of blood cells in the bone marrow.

Another article about iron deficiency in endurance athletes suggests that we are especially susceptible to iron loss if we are endurance athletes, and it explains that our blood levels may test normal for iron while our tissue levels are inadequate. Also, our aerobic efficiency can be decreased if our iron levels aren't up to snuff. 

And if you want more reading, here's a super nerd-alert article from the European Journal of Applied Physiology that packed a powerful information punch: Athletic induced iron deficiency: new insights into the role of inflammation, cytokines and hormones. This article explores even more ways that iron absorption may be blocked during/because of endurance exercise (think hormones produced during running that negatively impact iron absorption), but it is also a great overview of some of the more basic ideas behind iron deficiency.

Basically all of this info screamed to me, get to work on your iron consumption. I'm bad at food combining (meaning I don't always pay attention to which foods block iron absorption), but I eat tons of spinach and don't shy away from red meat. Also, I'm going to order some mineral drops like these to start adding to my water. 

Have you ever dealt with anemia or pica? 

Did you know that runners are at risk for poor iron levels? 

What would your first step be to increase iron intake?

Scünci headband and running-induced iron deficiency

In looking at my recent posts, I've noticed a common theme: poop. So for once, I'm going to try to avoid the subject. But in writing about avoiding it, I've just not avoided it. So there's that. That means we'll have to shift that goal to tomorrow. So this is a promise for at least one non-poo post in the near future.

Today's workout: 5.3 miles in 48 minutes on the gym track. Taking it easy as I merge back into my new training plan, which I have vaguely formulated. I meant to run 7 today, but I was feeling slightly congested and wanted to make it to a yoga class. So 5.3 it was, and yoga was just what I needed. Luckily I got the run in before yoga. I have accidentally reversed the order of those before, and for the record, I hate running after yoga. It makes the yoga feel pointless. You just do all of that relaxing to tense your muscles up again. I'm sure there are still benefits, but those benefits just don't include all of the hippy peaceful mothering vibes like I had today when I picked up my kids up from the kids club. It also helped that when I dropped the twins off they were screaming and throwing limb-flailing tantrums. So being separated for almost two hours helped me to erase that from my memory. 

The thing that didn't work today was this new Scünci headband. On a wild, late-night Target clearance rack spree, I purchased this pack of four headbands for $2. They had a sticky lining inside the stretchy band, and I thought they would definitely stick. It also seemed like they might be a good glasses holder. My glasses tend to slip down my nose a little bit during runs. I know that I should just tighten them or wear contacts, but moving on. But wait, doesn't it look like it's going to hold my glasses in place? Well this thing stayed on for about two laps (remember nine laps equals a mile on my track).  During yoga, it didn't want to stay put either. Later in the day, I washed my hair and wore the headband the rest of the day with no problem. So either this headband is too wimpy to stand up to sun salutations, or my hair was so oily that it that it was like the headband was jumping on a slip and slide soaped up with a tall container of body wash. No chance of staying put. I will give it one more run, on a run.

Today's lunch: Leftovers! Whole wheat spaghetti, spinach, meat/onion tomato sauce, sharp cheddar cheese. All of this went into the microwave for a minute to melt the cheese and wilt the spinach. I had to eat a double lunch today because this salad plate was not enough to fill me up.

Also, some mysterious symptoms have been occurring lately, and I suspect they might be stemming from a running-induced iron deficiency. More later on these crazy symptoms that have been haunting me, in the laundry room and at the gas station. 

Have you ever been iron deficient? 

Definitely was when I was pregnant with the twins, which is why I recognize some of my current symptoms.

What do you do to make sure you are getting enough iron and other nutrients?

January 28, 2012

Group run and dog business

Today's run: 5.15 miles in 56:57. Group run out on Jemison Trail. Great way to ease back in to a new training plan. Which reminds me that I don't have a plan. Yet.

The path we took is along/near water about two thirds of the way. These are the times when I love Alabama. 

It's tricky, but I try to maintain this expression during the whole run.

Don't worry, we didn't try to run four abreast. Two and two. 

At the tail end of the run, during the stretch and relax portion, I stepped on a fragrant mound of dog poop. Thankfully one of the group runners had a plastic bag to stash the infected shoe in until I could make it home to scrub. This was after a failed attempt at scraping the bottom of my shoe along a fence, with a stick, and in the rain soaked grass. Some situations require a scrub brush. In our house, we use retired tooth brushes for jobs like this. Because I have a fear that one day someone will find a cleaning toothbrush in its under-the-sink hideaway and mistake it for a mouth-worthy brush, I always mark them with an X. X means you don't want this near your face, and today, X was a dog poo annihilator. Thanks, X.

Post-run snack (aka breakfast): wheat bagel, two eggs with purple onions, spinach and sharp cheddar.

January 27, 2012

Hanson marathon training plan review, part 2

You may remember that I was using the Hanson marathon training plan for my most recent 26.2 in Ocala. The plan is intense with up to six days of running per week. You can opt to make some of those rest days, but the optimal follow-through on the plan calls for six.

I had ten weeks from the time of my last marathon to put the Hanson plan into action. Two of those weeks I was sick with severe congestion and fever, so I got about eight solid weeks of training in before my marathon.

Luckily, the sick weeks were not during my marathon, and I went into the taper and the marathon with full health and respiratory function. What a relief, because running a marathon with only partial lung function is a fear of mine. I really enjoy gulping lots of air while running.

I set my goal pace at 8:20, which I practiced once a week (according to the plan), running up to 10 miles in a stretch at this pace. I would usually do these runs on the treadmill because I don't have a GPS watch to give me real-time feedback on my speed. In the beginning these pace runs were very difficult, and I often fell short of my pace goal. The last few weeks of the training, these pace runs got much easier, and I was able to complete the mileage at the goal pace.

The rest of my runs I would complete on an indoor track or treadmill, and I ran Saturday long runs outside. My longest run before the marathon was 16 miles, which I completed multiple times, alternating between 16-mile and lower-mileage Saturdays.

You can read about my marathon performance here. While I didn't hit my goal pace for this marathon, I will say that I felt much stronger throughout the entire marathon than I did at my previous (and first!) marathon in November 2011. I ran both marathons by how I felt, no GPS watch to check my speeds. During the second, Hanson-trained marathon, my calves did not cramp, which happened during my first race, and my legs felt relatively fresh all the way through the end of the race. With a slightly more difficult course, meaning it had more hills, I finished with a 2-minute PR. Also, I couldn't stop smiling during this race. Maybe it was just my attitude and the horses by the road, but I credit the Hanson plan for helping me to feel really great, as a result of better endurance, throughout this whole race.

The plan also claims that it will help lessen injuries because traditional plans give rest days before long runs leading to injuries (according to the Hansons). In my case, I had injuries during my more traditional training plan, and I didn't have any injuries during this 10-week cycle. Mine is just one anecdotal experience, but I was glad to come away with that many miles without any injuries.

The most amazing thing, and the reason I would repeat this training plan in the future, is that my feet felt completely normal after the race. There was no soreness in my feet at all. This is with me wearing the exact same shoes as I did in my last race. Other parts of my body were sore: back, abs and quads. Nothing in my feet. I credit the resilience of my feet to the many miles of pounding they got in before the race.

If you are looking to up your speed or just want to not feel like crap after completing 26.2, I would recommend giving this plan a shot. It's a nice change from a more traditional plan. It requires a bit more work during the week, but gives you a slight break on your Saturdays (or whichever day is your long-run day).

January 26, 2012

Workout, lunch, giveaway

Today's workout: 1 hour of slow walking on the treadmill while reading "Swamplandia." 45 minutes of slow biking while continuing to read. I've been taking it easy since the marathon this weekend. Yoga class on Tuesday, which somehow turned out to be half pilates, and the easy workout today. My legs aren't feeling sore anymore, so I'm thinking about trying a couple of running miles tomorrow. Not running gets boring quickly.

Today's lunch: mixed greens topped with leftover steak (from my husband's fancy banker dinner out last night), grilled purple onion and red pepper, and avocados.

Salad in a mixing bowl

Today's giveaway: check out Mama Loves Medals who is giving away an awesome knitted headband. Her mom is custom knitting it for the winner in the color you choose. Crocheting is one of my recent loves, and knitters seem like magical yarn elves with their double needles. Is it as tricky as it looks?

Today's goal: finish "Swamplandia" before book club tonight at 8, and don't get blown away in a tornado. The winds and rains are kicking into high gear right now.

What did you have for lunch today? 

What are you going to accomplish by the end of the day?

January 25, 2012

Pro Compression Socks

For this review, I purchased the Pro Compression socks through a recent Schwaggle deal. Schwaggle is like Groupon for athletes, and it's run by active.com. The socks are regularly $50, and the Schwaggle deal offered you a pair of socks with no shipping charges for $25. Since my previous two pairs of CEP socks did not do the trick for running a marathon, I decided to try something else, as long as I could find it cheap enough. Plus, when I saw that they had a black pair with pink stars, I really wanted in on the socks. Compression socks can be really boring, so it's nice to see something a little different. These are the limited edition MJ Marathon socks, and in case Pro Compression is wondering, black socks with red or orange stars would be equally or more awesome. 

I ordered an XS because I read somewhere on their site to go down a size if you were unsure. Since I had the problem with the actual foot of the sock being too large with CEP (I purchased a size 3 using the calf measurement chart), I decided to opt for smaller with Pro Compression in hopes that the foot would be tight enough to wear during a race. 

When the package came and I ripped it open, I thought it was a joke. The socks looked like they would be tight on my eight-year-old. Tiny! 

My foot on the left. Infant-looking sock on the right.

Despite looking like they would fit a grade schooler, they went on very easily. I just slipped them on my foot without any significant rolling or wriggling, and once I secured the foot, I easily rolled the rest of the leg up to my knee. The top of the socks hit right under my knee (I'm 5'2"). I maybe could have stretched them a little higher if I had wanted. 

The first thing I noticed was comfort. These socks give you some support without feeling too tight. The CEP socks I tried were much tighter and more uncomfortable if you are wearing them for a long time. Part of that is that the CEP socks are thicker, therefore hotter. Once I had these socks on they felt very light and comfortable, and I could have worn them for an extended period of time. Actually once I put them on, I wore them for the rest of the day. 



The stars are part of a limited edition inspired and designed by Michelle Jones, an Olympic Silver Medalist and Ironman Hawaii World Champion. Pro Compression says that "this full-length graduated compression sock incorporates her signature stars with lightweight construction, stabilizing zone and other great features of our high-performance compression design."

The best part of this sock for me was the foot. It was snug and fitted from the heel to the toe. There were no loose areas that could lead to a blister on a long run. I wore them in my most recent marathon, and the result was excellent. No blisters, and my calves felt fine throughout the race. They were thinner then my normal running socks (Asics), so I did have to snug my laces in a little tighter. I don't mind looser shoes though. Tighter shoes is where bad things start to happen, so I could handle the looser shoes when wearing these socks. 

Race day

I give these socks a thumbs up for fit, how easy they are to put on your feet, and breathability. I can wear these socks all day if I wanted. My CEP socks feel like they offer slightly more compression around the calf, but because of the sizing issue (they are too baggy around my toes), I can only wear them for recovery. Even then, after several hours I usually rip them off because they feel so tight and scratchy around my calves. The advantage of the Pro Compression socks is that I can use them for both competition and recovery. 

No one is paying me for my opinion here, but dang it, I wish they would. 

January 24, 2012

Ocala Marathon January 22, 2012

This race was a tiny little thing. Between the three events (5K, half and full) there were between 600 and 700 people (according to a volunteer). That number included almost 200 marathoners, so definitely not a giant crowd. The course was a 13-mile double loop through some amazingly scenic horse farms. Think horses staring at you while running (instead of people) and Spanish moss dangling above your head as you run under a full canopy of oak trees. Sigh, it was beautiful. I mostly enjoyed the scenery on the first loop through because on my second time around the weather started to boil up. My mom told me it was 81 degrees according to her thermometer when I finished, but weather.com swears it was only 79. I'm sticking with my mom on this one. When I left my Spanish moss canopy, it was blazing.

Even the main roads we ran weren't too shabby.

From the beginning, the organizers, volunteers, and other racers were super friendly. The packet pick-up on Saturday was in the local mall. It was a tiny bit hard to locate once you entered the mall, but when I finally weaved through all of the mall kiosks to find it, I was glad to see some really great deals on merchandise. A running store from Jacksonville, FL, had come down with a couple racks of race gear and shoes. All race gear was $10, and all shoes were $30. The Puma shirt I wore in the race was from the $10 rack. It matched my socks better, and I'm a sucker for matching in sporting events. There were only two other booths at the expo, so if it wasn't for the sale rack, I would have been in and out in ten seconds.

$10 sale. Those Asics tights are so soft!

Expo swag. That Chaquita banana sweat band is making it into the regular rotation.

The night before the race I ate at Olive Garden. I love and hate Olive Garden. Their breadsticks and chicken gnocchi soup are delicious, but I ordered a TINY plate of linguine marinara that cost $11. What?!! It was similar to a child's portion, or smaller. I definitely didn't leave hungry after pounding five breadsticks, but who charges $11 for meatless pasta that doesn't even come close to filling the plate on which it was served. Blech. Also I think I paid for it with digestion issues during the race the next day. The breadsticks were probably a little greasier than I thought and the soup not as smooth digesting as I thought it would be. Next year, I might splurge on the $15 race-sponsored pasta dinner.

Race night I went to bed at 12. Not on purpose, but it was just what time I got to bed after visiting with family and friends, laying out all of my clothes (and OCD touching everything 20 times to make sure it was still there), and taking a shower. Luckily I was exhausted from a late night of friends and karaoke the night before so I actually fell asleep for five hours. Usually I can't sleep the night before a race, so five hours was kind of an accomplishment. I wish it had been more, but I felt refreshed when I woke up.

I took my Steaz experimental, and surprisingly not disgusting, all-natural energy shot first thing, and in case you are into knowing, the Steaz and a glass of water helped me take care of some business in the bathroom. Awesome, I thought I would be set in that area, so I took to getting dressed and doing my hair. In real life, I rarely even brush my hair, but on race day, I have somehow happened upon this massive (for me) hair ritual of combing and parting and twisting and cinching my hair into double buns that don't budge. I hate to feel my hair on my back and shoulders, and any other way I fix it, it gets tangled and knotted. Plus, double buns reminds me of Baby Stout, and I like to think I'm carrying a little piece of sisterly love with me onto the course.

Outfit is Puma shirt, Nike skirt, Pro compression socks, Karhu Strong2 Fulcrum Ride shoes, Lululemon Energy sports bra, Endorphin Warrior bracelet, and twelve Goody black hair ties. 

I left the house around 6:20 and got to the mall parking lot/start line in plenty of time to use the porta-potty, check in my warm gear, and walk around aimlessly and meet people before the 7 a.m. start, which actually ended up being a 7:03 start. There was supposed to be a 6:45 warm up, but that didn't happen, unless you count walking to the start line as a warm-up. This was definitely one of the friendliest races I've attended. The difference being that once you met someone, you were guaranteed to see them again at the start line, at a turn around point in the race, at the finish line, or at a store later in the day. By the end of all that, you feel like you are legit friends, and you are really happy for them to do well and cross the finish line strong. We did one little jog up and turn around during our race, and it was cool to cheer on all of the people I met as we passed each other on that jog back. Slightly more meaningful than a random stranger cheering you on from the roadside, which is good because there were very few spectators. One guy sat in his truck bed at the end of his driveway texting in between cheering for people. Then there was the one guy who was driving by with a cowbell occasionally. Sometimes he would be standing on the side of the road cheering too. I think he must have been following his wife or girlfriend on the course. She must have been right behind me because he always looked poised and waiting for action when I saw him.

My cheering squad in Alabama.

Also a motivational maze that he said I could complete while running. He really has high expectations of my brain function while running. 

You can see in the map (below) the little tail at the bottom was the out and back and the middle is a loop we completed twice. There were rolling and regular hills for a total climb of 2,228 ft. (according to Runkeeper). Which is about 800 more than my race in Savannah. Usually Florida is pretty flat, so the hills were a bit more than I was expecting, but not too much more than I normally train on during my long runs in Birmingham, a pretty hilly city.


Here are the actual numbers from the race. Runkeeper clocked me running 27.25. Not sure how that happens, but whatever.

Mile 1 8:34

Feeling great. The start wasn't too crowded, and I barely had to do any weaving. The temperature was perfect.

Mile 2 7:55
Mile 3 8:11

Trying to run where I feel comfortable. Not listening to music, enjoying the scenery. The fog floating around the horse fields felt very magical and Moorish (just go with it -- they have foggy fields in Spain right?).

Mile 4 8:28

First big hill. Coming around some people on the climb. Eat an orange slice from the aid station, and the acidity makes me feel like vomiting. Gross. No more oranges for this course.

Mile 5 7:52
Mile 6 7:19

Netting downhill in this segment. The first half marathoner zoomed by at this point. Was wondering where this dude came from, then he hit the turn around, and I realized that he was wearing a half marathon bib. Wow, he was impressively speedy.

Mile 7 8:16

Reaching our out and back and getting a boost on the uphill from seeing familiar faces coming down the other side.

Mile 8 8:10
Mile 9 7:47
Mile 10 7:21

Still feeling really great. Swearing to myself that I won't run in an uncomfortable zone so that I have energy for later. Take my first GU from my pocket. Grab some Hammer gel for later.

Mile 11 9:13

We merge paths with the half marathoners again. A little more weaving. This is where I start using my mantra, "This is your race." Trying not to get caught up in what other runners or doing, fast or slow. Just trying to stare straight ahead so that I don't get distracted by what other people are doing.

Mile 12 8:33
Mile 13 8:41
Mile 14 9:47

This is where we lose our sweet shading and get into the hot, hot sun. Also I took a bathroom break just after the halfway point. Stomach was starting to cramp, but no relief at this potty break. Didn't want to waste more time trying to clear the intestines, so I took off. Downed a powdered Crystal Light Energy shot with Gatorade. In case you're wondering, really disgusting combo. Official clock read 1:50 as I passed the half. Took a Hammer gel at around 14. Really liked how smoothly they went down.

Mile 15 8:31
Mile 16 9:11
Mile 17 8:47

Cleared from the half marathoners for a moment. Starting to repeat our original loop. Not as magical this time around. No fog and Moors, and it's getting hotter. Still feeling strong. Still running according to how I feel, and I'm telling myself that mile 18 is halfway. Somewhere in here my number started to rip off. Weird that safety pins ripped through the paper. One side popped, and then the next side popped about a mile later. Never had that happen before.

Mile 18 9:04
Mile 19 9:21

Made it up the biggest hill for the second time around. Felt tough but didn't stop until walking through the water stop to get a drink and take another Hammer gel.

Mile 20 9:42
Mile 21 8:24
Mile 22 9:43

Starting to dream about porta-potties. Having intermittent intestinal cramps and trying to decide if it's a false alarm again or if I really need to stop. I'm so close that I hate to stop, so I pass several porta-potties trying to decide what to do.

Mile 23 9:49
Mile 24 9:57

Back in the even hotter sun. Definitely slowing down with the intestinal cramps, but my legs still feel strong. May have taken another Hammer gel in here somewhere. Still thinking of sub-4 time. I pass one of the remaining walking half marathoners, and I think she talks to me to encourage me. Sorry, I was trying so hard not to poop my pants that I didn't respond. I bet it would have been inspirational. All I'm thinking is, "No stopping. I'm so close, so close, so close."

Mile 25 12:12

Not close enough. Luckily there was a porta-potty right at the moment it was completely necessary. You know you are desperate when you risk sitting on a bare porta-potty seat. Biggest sacrifice of the race. Totally worth it. Tried to make it quick, but some things just take a minute. Very thankful for a small race where you can find a porta-potty without a line and WITH toilet paper.

The potty that saved me. 

Mile 26 9:33
Mile 27 10:04

That last hill to the finish line in the full sun felt like Mt. Everest. At this point, I've lost a little oomph because I know that my intestines put me off track, but I'm amazed that my legs are not stopping. During my last race, I could not physically run because of cramping. No cramping this race! Major achievement. Keep skipping songs to try and find a great finish song. Ended up on "Thunderstruck" by ACDC. I loved that as my finish song. All of my thoughts of time have left my head, and I'm just thinking, "Finish, finish, finish."

My times are a little off because I forgot to shut down Runkeeper at the end of the race. It logged 4:15 and 27.25, so there was a whole other Mile 28 59:28. These are the days that I dream of having a Garmin. What would accuracy feel like in running?

I was excited for the PR, but slightly bummed about not sub-4-ing. For the top three finishers (I was 4th) in each age group, this race has awesome custom horse trophies, designed to mimic giant painted horses throughout the town (see example below), so now I feel determined to come back next year and try again. In looking at the stats from last year, only one person competed in my age group. This year there were nine. Slightly more competition, but I'm not above winning because I'm the only one competing, especially when it involves a colorful horse trophy.


Also, I feel great about how my legs felt at the end. I went in with the idea that I would walk through aid stations to maintain hydration, so I did that. There were stops every one to two miles. I wish that I could figure out a way to drink and run, other than carry my water on my person in bottles. I tried pinching the cup together in the middle to prevent sloshing out, but it didn't seem to solve the problem. It's just so hard to stop moving your legs and then start them again, so I wish there was another way. But other than the water stops and the two bathroom stops, my legs didn't stop moving. There was virtually no cramping and no injury or sore spots during the race. This was a major improvement from my last race, where my legs were very unhappy, especially my calves.

Here is the other amazing part. My feet feel like nothing happened to them. No soreness at all after the run. None. Zero. Amazing. My quads are the most sore part of me, maybe from the hills, so walking down stairs is killer. Up is OK. I loved the Pro compression socks that I wore during the race. The foot was fitted and thin, so no blisters or lost toenails this time around! After the race, I popped on a clean pair of CEP compression socks, and now my calves feel totally fine. I guess I need some full body compression gear so that the rest of me can catch up with my great feeling calves and feet.

My finish-line photographer! Thanks, Aimee!

It's a challenge to get hugs from non-sweaty people after a race.

The bling

Also, I'm really thinking that having a Garmin or Nike GPS would help even out my times. Now that I have a little bit better idea of what I am capable and where I am weak (at the end!), I'd like to try and even out my splits and just go faster in general. Seeing what I'm doing on the watch might give me that extra little kick, especially at the end.

What's your favorite GPS watch, or do you run without one? 

Do you prefer small or large races?

What do you do to keep from having intestinal issues during a race?

Serious question here!

January 23, 2012

Ocala Marathon finish

I finished the race smiling and actually somewhat sprinting to the finish. This is a huge improvement over my last race, where I limped part of the way through the finish shoot and was so mentally fried that I wouldn't have recognized my family if they were standing right in front of me with name cards.

We just got back from our trip to Florida, so the full race details will be forthcoming tomorrow.

But for now the official results are 4:01:04.9, 4th in age group, 14th female, and 58th overall. Two-minute PR.

Thanks for all of your good wishes and happy e-vibes. This race was very internal, meaning I could count the number of race spectators on my fingers, and it helped to think of all you inspiring runners around the country! I love you all!

January 21, 2012

Coming home to Gator town

Ahhhh, sigh of happiness. We feel so at home in Gainesville. The first thing that made me smile was all of the runners. And bike lanes, if you're into that. Bazillions of bike lanes. I miss being constantly on high alert so I don't hit a pedestrian with my car. Yesterday's fun in pics below. A car trip full of face making. A Gator-colored Mickey D's. My favorite sushi roll from Chopstix and a double fortune at the end of the meal. Two fortune cookies in one wrapper, rarer than a four-leaf clover. Good vibes for tomorrow!

January 20, 2012

Race travel day

Road trip! Ready to hit the trail for the race in Ocala, FL. We are leaving nice and early (thanks to my SIL who's staying with the twinners), hoping to make it before the stars are out tonight.

Getting in a little more descent fuel before I start clogging my arteries with rest stop grub. Hardees, I love you.

Layered in the bowl: Liberte yogurt, raw oats, Trader Joe's milled blueberry flax seed, blueberries. 

Highlight of my running day yesterday was seeing these bad boys come in the mail. Pro compression socks. Review to come after I try them out in my race.

What the stars!

And I'm feeling double lucky that this is my race travel partner.

Rocking the casbah in those boots. 

We'll miss the brothers.

Bodiless orange eater.

 On my packing list was a load of race-day energy tricks. Not sure which ones I will actually use. The Steaz on the left is an unknown, but I impulse bought it at the health food store. Crystal Light Energy definitely packs a powerful caffeine punch, and I would use it or the Steaz pre-race to wake up. The GU will go in my shorts in case I don't like the options at the aid stations. They have stations at every mile in this race. And potties at every station. I might never leave.

If running 26.2 miles doesn't get your heart rate up, these will.

The weather is supposed to be a hot tamale 78 degrees. In the suitcase, top left is what I want to wear to the race (Nike skirt and shirt). Bottom left is all of the just-in-cases.

January 19, 2012

Elements of a dream playlist

My dream playlist has to have a perfect mix of key elements.

1. Sentimental songs. Songs that have a strong memory attached, like a song that my sister, Baby Stout, recorded. Or a song that I associate with a certain time of life. "Closer to Fine"

2. Gutsy songs. Songs that make me feel like kicking a wall or screaming really loud when I sing along. "Your Honor"

3. Shake-it songs. Any song that makes you want to dance, and you almost have to dance to it even if you aren't currently on a dance floor. Even if you are running on the treadmill. "Tambourine"

4. Repetitive songs. Running long distances shortens my thoughts. I have stubby, halting thoughts after about mile 10 (or 1), and I like music that matches that. That's why crappy pop music can make a perfect running partner. Did you just say the same thing 20 times over and call it a song? Yes, please. "Toxic"

5. Anything with the word "run." It doesn't matter what context it is in. If they say the word "run" and I'm running, it feels like I have my own theme song. "Run the World"

6. Funny songs. My playlists always include something from Flight of the Conchords because occasionally I need to remember that I'm having fun and that I should be smiling. You can't hear the keytar and not smile. Impossible!

7. Regional songs. State pride. You betcha. "Sweet Home Alabama"

8. You-can songs. These are songs that talk about achieving your dreams. "Fly"

I narrowed my marathon playlist to 9 hours. Say what? I love music, and I like to be able to fast forward when I'm not feeling it. And I always, always shuffle. There is nothing worse for me than anticipating the order of the songs.

Which song on your playlist has the most plays?

"On the Radio" Regina Spektor

Would you add a song category?

Do you shuffle your playlist?

What is success?

I will succeed. That was my yoga mantra today. Finally made it out to a class today, and I feel so much better, especially since I had a kitchen sink injury from yesterday. While standing at the sink doing a naughty-sized load of dirty dishes, I locked my leg out too hard which strained my knee and made it feel sore for the rest of the day and this morning. It makes sense that I can run 50+ miles a week and not get injured, but standing at the sink strips my knee. It's very clear what needs to be sacrificed here. Sorry, dishes.
I wish my hair looked so fancy during yoga. Or I'd settle for looking like it had been washed in the last week. (Source)
The yoga must have unkinked whatever was discombobulated in the knee because now things are fine and dandy in the knee region, and I gained some mental clarity during relaxation. I have been struggling with the fact that my family won't be at the race this weekend. During my last race, knowing that they would be there at the end propelled me forward along several challenging stretches, and seeing them along the route gave me boosts of energy and happiness to balance out my foggy, will-I-survive-this thoughts. I definitely want to survive this weekend, but I'd like to do a step better. I'd like to succeed. Hence my yoga mantra: I will succeed. 

What will success be? There are always layers of success. Making it to the start line is one layer. Crossing the finish is another. I have also envisioned other possible successes. Matching my time from the last marathon would be a success. Running a sub-4 marathon would be a success. Hitting my goal pace, 8:20, would be a success. Boston qualifying would be the uppermost and most unlikely success of this race. 

Having only run one other marathon in November, it's hard to really know well enough what to expect from myself. Will my new training style really improve my performance in a measurable way? Am I running a marathon again too soon? I'm hoping to surprise myself in a good way, but it could turn out opposite of that. 

A long time ago, I decided that I was going to serve a mission for my church. Once you submit your application to be a missionary, you have no control over where you will spend the next year and a half. Someone else decides all of the details, and you just agree that you are in for whatever is placed before you. When I submitted that application, I had to know for sure that I was in, no matter where I got asked to serve. 

The number one place I did not want to be was Russia. I had just come home from a stint in Moscow teaching English, and it was a cold and often unfriendly city. I saw things on the metro that I wish I had never seen, and people called me a little boy the whole time I was there because I brought a military-style jacket to wear in the snow. The history of the country is fascinating, but the weather and everyday hardness of that city made me disinclined to spend a lot more time there. 

Of course, I got asked to go to Russia on my mission. Of course. But before I even opened the letter with the news, I knew that wherever it was, I was all in. I had come to terms with going to Russia, or anywhere else in the world, because the point wasn't where I was going but why. I was going to stand for something I believed in and help anyone I could in the process. 

I feel the same about this race. No matter what the result, I'm all in. Just showing up and believing that anything is possible is a success. Just being able to use the talents that God gives us is a success. If you had told me a year and a half ago that I would be running my second marathon this weekend, I would have punched you (lightly) in the arm and laughed for 100 minutes. I've succeeded in living a dream that I scribbled on a piece of paper when I was 12 years old. I have succeeded, and I will succeed. 

January 17, 2012

Lowering the boom

Today's run: 5 miles in 48:46, treadmill run, highlight was being able to talk on the phone while still sort of running. I meant to run then go to yoga, but I got the times mixed up. Doh! The goal of going to one yoga class this week is still on the table, ready to be snatched up when I can figure out graphs and charts. 

Here is another little thrift store nugget. This is the kind of book that I would sometimes purchase just for the illustrations, but the info is pretty stellar too. 

I had no idea that people used to take oral vaccines on lumps of sugar. 

Lowering the boom = much more powerful sounding than push-up, but with too many syllables.

What do you think, are these from the 50s or 60s?

Thought of the day: do not let your baby exercise on the treadmill, no matter how bad they want to get on a training plan of their own. The visions of tiny treadmill-exercising babies makes me laugh every time I see this warning. 

Babies, put down your Garmin and get back to the exersaucer.

Sweatiest five miles ever. Ponytails do no mix well with sweat. 

Do you have long hair? How do you keep it from getting tangled and sweaty?