December 31, 2012

Happy New Year and don't be that person

First, thank you, thank you to all of you who offered advice for my ailing back. I think I tried everything but getting in the pool (only because we didn't have access to one while we were in Kentucky). Between the stretching, planking, stretching, and more stretching, something worked. It's still not 100%, but I got in 12 miles today. Six on the trail and six on the track. The trail miles definitely were harder on my back than the track miles, no surprise there. I was hoping for 20 miles to get back on track with my plan, but my run time ran out. And it probably was best that I didn't push that hard on my first day back anyway. I guess I should consider this week of training lost in the black hole of running injuries.

I'm very, very happy to be back at it. There was some pain, but I find that if I correct my posture, the pain lessens. So there's that.

Mostly I just want to wish you a happy new year.

Get on your fancy boots (compression socks not optional).


 Or eat a cheeseburger the size of your face. Hello, to my photo bomber son.


But whatever you do to celebrate the new year, don't be this person.


That video is brought to you by Rocket City and my bodily disfunctions.

What are you doing to celebrate tonight?

Will you stay up until midnight? Or are you cutting it short to get in an early morning run? I'm considering staying up late AND getting in an early morning run. Yeehaw!

December 30, 2012

How to remember your family

The last couple of weeks have been all about family time, and we’ve loved all the minutes of belly laughs, squeezy hugs, cutthroat games, late-night excursions, off key caroling (just me, my family is more talented), stuffing our guts, catching up, and repeating.

My favorite quote from the weekend was from my seven-year-old son, who said, “Don’t expect me to remember all of my cousins since I have so much.” He has 58 (yes, I had to stop for several minutes to count) cousins. That doesn’t even include cousins with kids, which is a healthy number because he has cousins who are the same age as us parentals (aka old).

Maybe this post will help him remember. Here are some pictures from my family reunion. Retain, my son, retain.

There's more than one type of smooth move.

Cousins

My sister

My dad and twinner and I

Most of the family reunioners.

Calm down, kids.

Hard to know who this is, but I think we're related.

Adult cousins

Kid cousins

On a haunted house expedition. Gatlinburg has those all year long, not just during Halloween.

Our meeting room had a disco ball. It was not wasted.

And an untouchable piano that we immediately touched.

So happy about life when opening presents.

Taking naps in between domino turns, circa 3 a.m.

My new favorite family photo.

Does anyone else agree that this is the worst name for a loyalty club ever?

The Stay Away Club. Huh?

And we went for one run during our time there. My brother was my running partner, as usual, but we added our niece to the crew for three of our miles. It was awesome to have a new recruit. 

Brrrr, I had to cut it short because of the cold. I'm a wimp.

Do you ever play dominoes with your family? 

What would you name your loyalty club? The Stay Away Club? I would probably opt for Don't Ever Come Here Club. It's more direct.

Do you have family reunions? Where? How often? Amory's family has their reunion in KY every other year. My family has a reunion every year around Christmas, sometimes in TN and sometimes in IN.

Have you ever cut a cold run short? You guys are probably a lot tougher than me in the cold. Also, having gloves would have helped. My hands lost feeling for hours afterwards. 

December 29, 2012

Down and out: the back version

Not much has been happening on the running front this week.

Here's what my schedule looked like.

Monday: 16 miles on the farm
Tuesday: rest
Wednesday: rest
Thursday: rest
Friday: stretch, stretch and more stretch. Planks. Stretch more. Run 100 yards in pain. Discover stair running.

Somehow after my run on Monday, I tweaked my lower back so bad that I could barely bend forward all week. Every day, I told myself that if I would just rest for that day, things would be fine for the next day. But here I sit on a Saturday morning, missing my 20 miler. The only consolation is that we are traveling anyway today, and I wasn't sure I would be able to fit it in before we left. But really, my back is a bigger factor.

Here's what scares me: I have a trail 50K coming up, and that isn't going to run itself. Also, I want to stay in marathon shape to eventually try again for my Boston qualifying. Eventually.

My coach gave me a four week plan two weeks ago. The first week I gave a shoddy effort at best because I had a family reunion in the middle of it and didn't really complete my end-of-the-week runs like I should have, and the second week was what you saw above, pretty much non-existent. That 16 miler was the one I was supposed to do the week prior, so I'm not even sure that it counts for this week.

I tried to run 100 yards at the gym yesterday, and the pain was excruciating. Here's what I have done about it. Called my physical therapist twenty times to confirm again and again that they have no openings. Sit around and do nothing but eat pie. Pull my knees to my chest to stretch. Do child's pose, which is surprisingly tough and not relaxing when your low back is tweaked, a thousand times.


Sit in a chair and bend forward to stretch.

Source

Ice it. Heat it. Sauna it. Have tiny children walk on it (just my upper back because kids are unpredictable with their back walking). Make my husband give me 100 back rubs. Ask for chiropractor recommendations but not call yet, still hoping that the PT miraculously opens up.

Then yesterday I made a discovery. As I was hopping up the stairs at the gym to make a depressing attempt at running, I realized that stair climbing didn't hurt my back, mainly because I could stay completely upright while doing it. Anything with a slight lean (like running!) killed. So I decided to run stairs for 30 minutes. It was actually kind of fun, and my calves are definitely feeling it today.

In addition to that running, I did some bridges (modified of course), followed by stretching.

Source

And planks, followed by stretching.

Source

What I definitely didn't do was this.

Source

This.


Source

Or this.

Source

Because who wants to wear a speedo when their low back is out?

Have you ever had back issues that interfere with running? This is a first for me, but my husband is quite experienced in the back-pain department. I think it had to do with growing up on a farm and picking up cows with one hand, or something factual like that. But really, he's had back troubles since around age 14.

Do you know any good lower back stretches? Please share! I need your ideas.

What's the hardest yoga pose you've ever pulled off? Or what yoga pose is just the hardest to you? In general, even without back pain, I can barely do anything that requires bending forward while doing a v-sit on the ground. Or while doing any sitting on the ground.

December 27, 2012

Ho, ho, here's what Santa brought and a Runnerbox winner

That's my best attempt at Longest Blog Post Title Ever. Cha-ching.

So of course, no Christmas season is complete in runnerd blog land without a recap of running gear that you either eagerly begged for or bought for yourself.

My first gift, a 50-oz. running Camelbak, I won by purchasing it for my family's dirty santa game.


I picked this one because it was the lightest version they offered. It only has one tiny pocket that could probably fit your phone, a GU, your ID and some cash. Not super spacious, but I didn't want to be weighed down by anything but water. 

Turns out that my sister-in-law had the same idea and also brought a Camelbak to the game. Seriously, what are the odds of that one in a group of 12 people? She brought one with a little more beef to it (translation: more pockets) made more for biking and hiking. We both went home with our hydration presents, partially to have mercy on other participants who were like, what the freak were they thinking when they brought that, and partially because we both followed the bring-something-you-would-want-to-take-home rule. Although, I think that rule also includes bringing what others would want to take home too. Oops. 

My second runnerd gift was a surprise from my husband and something I actually hadn't ever considered purchasing: Klipsch earbuds. No, I cannot pronounce it, so if you ask me to say it in person, I will mumble ksdkaslf;posdf. 


I've used the standard iPhone earbuds for a while now, and I never wanted to switch because I loved the controller on the headphone wire. Also, I would never have spent more than $5 on headphones because I am really talented at destroying them. Apparently my husband can see past that talent in purchasing a gift for me. 

Let me just tell you right now, these are expensive earphones, but they are the most amazing ones that I've ever worn in my life. They completely block out all other sound. Obviously not the best choice if you are running on the skreets, but perfect for gym running. 

Also perfect for farm running. I tested them and my hydration pack this week in Kentucky. 


They also included this cool idea in the instructions. 


Have you tried this? For some reason it works better on my left ear than the right, but I thought it was a pretty nifty trick.

Another thing I learned from the instruction manual, three clicks to rewind. Two years with my iPhone, and I never knew that.


That's two long years of pausing and fast forwarding only. My music-while-running life just got better. I guess that's what happens when you read instruction manuals -- you learn the basic functions of your stuff. It's so bizarre.

Then my mother-in-law gave me this Camelbak cleaning kit that she found at the bargain store. All Christmas dreams (even ones I didn't know I had) officially fulfilled.

Now it's time to fulfill someone else's wish and pick a winner for the year-long Runnerbox subscription. That's a whole year of runner goodies delivered right to your door. These will make great presents for the runnerd in your family who appears to already have every runner gadget that exists. Or even if they only have a few gadgets. This is a great way to test new products and find out if you want to invest in more.

The winner via random.org is...



Congrats, Barefoot Marathon Momma! Email me at yomommaruns (at) gmail.com, and I'll get you in contact with the people from Runnerbox.

And thank you again to Runnerbox for sponsoring this giveaway, and thanks to all of you who participated and are continuing to support this company as they begin their journey.

December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas to all

Merry Christmas to all my peoples of the interwebs! Here's a little nugget of what we've been doing to celebrate. 

Our zoo sets up some lights to lure the humans in at night. 


Cousins. That's what's up.


Refueling with giant candy canes. 


And though I love the lights at the zoo, this next set of lights is the best of my life. Mr. Gilley in Small Town, Alabamy, started setting up these crazy, amazing, cooky, fun, mechanical, everything-spins-and-twirls lights forever ago. Now he has passed away, but his family still puts the lights up in his honor every year. We drive an hour and a half one way to see these suckers. It's like the Disney World of Christmas lights. 

But mostly I love all of the carved figures. These guys tap dance and spin under a blanket of lights.


Multitasking Mary. As if being Jesus' mom wasn't enough.



I have no words for this tight rope act.


I bet King Kong up there didn't see this note before he agreed to that gig. 


Because we had to head out to a family reunion, we had Christmas early at our house.

My son gave himself a present from Santa Claus(e).


He also loves us so yery mutch. 


So much that he wrapped this up and gave it to my husband for Christmas. I love the kid phase where they wrap up random toys from around the house to give to us and each other. 


This giant set of Lincoln Logs was my best thrift store find for Christmas. They had a giant bag of these for $7. Does anyone know what the white sticks are for? 


 Plush lion not included in the thrifted Lincoln Logs.


My daughter's favorite present was these Iwako Japanese take apart erasers, which soon became part of  our nativity. Pandas and elephants in Jesus' stable make me smile. 


Another important person born this time of year: my sistah. She is so amazingly talented, healthy and fun and pretty much the best sister I could have ever hoped, wished or prayed for. The kids were stoked to hand craft some birthday goodies for her, and because my sister is the healthiest lady ever, I gave her kale and frozen blueberries for her birthday instead of cake.


She looks only a couple of years older than those kids flanking her. I'm trying to learn all of the secrets to her fountain of youth.

What's your favorite December tradition? 

Did you get any sweet deals on gifts for people? Or thrift any? 

What was the most hilarious or awesome gift you received (from a kid or adult)? 

**Don't forget to enter to win a FULL YEAR subscription to Runnerbox. Go here to enter!

December 21, 2012

XTERRA Coldwater Mountain 9.6, December 15, 2012


After my death march of a marathon at Rocket City, I was ready to just feel decent during a run, any run. So when I set off to Coldwater Mountain 9.6, my master plan was to A. not fall 100 times like during my most recent trail race and B. feel happy. Spoiler alert: I kicked that plan’s butt. I only fell once (slightly miraculous), and if I was dating running, I would have asked it to marry me at the end of this race. That’s just how much love was going on between me and running during this one.

Travel: Heading to Anniston from Birmingham, we met up at 5:30 a.m. for carpool, and we had more than enough time to pick up another runner and get to the mountain way before the race start. We definitely could have pushed our meeting time to 6:30 and made the 8:30 start. There was no traffic, and the mountain was super easy to navigate to from the interstate.

Pre-race: Check-in was easy and not crowded at all. I think Dirty Spokes held this race to around 200 entrants because of the limited parking space available at the top of the mountain. Because we were some of the first people there, we parked right by the check-in tents. Probably about ten cars could fit in the gravel lot, alongside the race tents and port-o-potties. Then the rest of the cars had to line the street heading down to the trail entrance. I’d be interested to know how far away some people had to park.

Because of our early arrival we had plenty of time to talk about the course with people in the know, visit with other Birmingham folks, and meet some of the Anniston crowd. 

Coach Alex made it out to the race too. More on this later, but Alex is my new running coach. I'm looking forward to some refreshing new changes in my schedule. One bonus I've already found since joining up with him for training: group speed work! 

Lisa and Coach Alex from Resolute Running

Look who else made it. Born to Run sandals guy.


This is another no-frills race, where you get your shirt, some Power Bar products and your bib when you check in. It makes me so happy to not have a giant stack of ads to immediately throw into recycling when I get home. And because we parked so close, we could head straight over to throw our goodies into the car.

There were four port-o-potties, plenty for the number of people there. During my 50 trips to the toilet, I had to wait a total of about 10 seconds to use the bathroom. Ahh, the perks of a small race. And they had a hand-washing station. Eating my pre-race snack usually doesn’t feel as sanitary. No wonder I’m always getting sick after races.

After they called us to the start line, it felt like four forevers before we started. Maybe I’m usually too busy rudely talking to listen to the start announcer, so I’m not used to hearing every word they say. It was a slow clock play-by-play. OK, now you have 1 minute 30 seconds. OK, now 1 minute 15 seconds. OK, now 56 seconds. But we started right on time. Kudos, race director!

Swag: The shirts at the last two Dirty Spokes races I’ve been to have been a different color depending on which size you choose, and they are now making them gender specific so I can actually wear them for working out and not just when I’m nine months pregnant.


This time it was the purple word power for the win. P.S. I really like the v-neck shirts.

At the finish of this race, they didn’t hand out medals to all the participants, but you received a medal if you placed in your age group. The top three overall for men and women also got an additional bag of goodies. Think lifetime (or at least a year) supply of Power Bar gel. And such.

That is what you call overdoing it in the smile department.

If you placed in your age group, you still got a high five with your medal, which I actually prefer to anything Power Bar. Sorry, Power Bar. I’m sure millions of people all over the world love you like I can’t.

Can I get a lifetime supply of these stellar high fives?

Course: This trail is set up for mountain biking, and even though I don’t really bike, I could see how all of the ups and downs would be really fun on a bike. On foot, it was still fun too, but if you visit, be prepared for lots of small dips and bumps in the path. Not super technical dips and bumps, but A LOT of them. Kind of like the trail version of speed bumps.

The start of the race was awkward and bottle-necked almost immediately. We started on the paved road leading to the trail, and we didn’t have enough time to thin out before we hit the narrow trail entrance. It was a very slow jog at the start, and I started close to the front. But I started on the left side when we were turning immediately right to get on the trail.

We maybe could have eliminated some of the bottle-necking by starting farther down the road so that the crowd has a chance to self sort before we hit the trail. Maybe next year it can be Coldwater 9.8.

Some people who knew the trail well told us before the start that it was up for the first four miles, then down for four miles, and then up to the end, and they were pretty much right on. The first two miles of up didn’t really feel too tough, maybe because of the slow pace with the bottle-necking. On miles 2-4, I started to feel the burn and hope for mercy on the downhill.


And man did the trail liberally dole out the mercy. Miles 4-8(ish) were very downhill. Sometimes downhills feel slight to me, but these were big, making it easy to just slingshot down the things.

Somewhere in this downhill portion, the curtain of trees parted and let out a pretty awesome view of the surrounding forest below the trail. Bring your camera for this one cause it’s a looker. I was too focused on not breaking my no-falling streak to take pictures, but I kind of regret that now.

And as promised, it was uphill for the last mile or so. The switchbacks made it bearable, but it felt kind of cruel after all that downhill-ness.

The course was well marked with frequent arrows and mile markers, and they taped off any additional trail entrances, making it pretty impossible to take a wrong turn.

The only water stops were in the second and ninth miles. It wasn’t a hot day, but I still think if I hadn’t brought my own handheld, that not enough water would definitely have negatively affected my race. They do tell you about the water stops on the race site, so you can plan to bring your own if you need more water. It would be nice to have one more water stop between those two, or instead of the one at the end. By the time you get to mile 9, it seems a little pointless to take a water break. I mean, a few more steps and you’re at the finish-line donut table anyway. Our guess was that they planned it that way to two-for-one the water stop with the shorter race. There was a 2.4 race that started with the 9.6 racers.

Side note: this park is slated to open up over 80 miles of trails. You will want to mark this one on your map for your ultra training.

My race: Because of the bottle-neckiness at the race start, I knew that I was going to have to put on my big girl britches and start passing people soon. If you’ve read my other trail race reports, you know that pacing on narrow trails is one of my weak points. Luckily these trails weren’t too narrow, and the pace was slow enough at the start that I felt completely comfortable making a move.

After what felt to me like a lot of passing, I caught up with some runners I knew from previous trail races, and I knew that I would be good hanging with their pace for a while. At the first water stop, I kept going, passing a few more people who were stopped.

When I got to the downhill, I knew that this is where I needed to make my big (it’s all relative) move. So I just started passing as much as I could. Eventually I caught up with Kristie, who placed first in our age group in our most recent race together. We still had quite a bit of downhill left at that point, and I probably should have tried to pass here, to take advantage of the downs. Because I’m so short with decent (meaning not injured) knees, the downhills are a really great place for me to get in some faster splits, but I wanted to play it a little conservative since I hadn’t really run much since the marathon. I knew hanging with Kristie would be a good bet for pacing myself. Even though I wore my watch, I didn't look at my pace at all during the race -- on purpose so that I would have fun and use my gut instead of my watch to make decisions. 

I still had some hope that I could make a move during the last half mile if I stayed close enough to Kristie.

Well, you know what they say about hindsight. As soon as we bottomed out and started our final uphill climb, I fell, and it was a big one, even for me. I still have scabs and bruises on my hip and knee. Road rash! The dirt was pretty packed with some loose gravel on top, so when I treated the ground like a slip-n-slide, it wasn’t as forgiving as some other trails. Ouch. I ran for about a half mile before I even noticed that a giant leaf (the size of my face) was stuck in my compression sock. The drag on that thing alone probably slowed me down 10 seconds over the last mile.

My goal went from making a move to maintaining my position to the end. Haley, another fast momma I met at this race, was just behind us on the trail, and at one point she yelled out that she could see me. Ahhh, she was coming for me, and it lit a fire under me to keep moving and not laze it out (which I do too often) on that last climb.

Lisa, Haley, Kristie

I finished out with no more falls and a time of 1:23:41, fifth woman overall and second in my age group.  

Team AO

Post-race: There was a table with donuts, banana (maybe more food, but my eyes barely made it past the donuts), coffee, water, OJ, and some electrolyte drink. There was so much leftover grub that the race workers were trying to talk us into taking extra donuts home. I should have, but my kids are already on a mega holiday sugar overload. And that ish cray (what she order, fish filet).

My gear: I tried out some new shoes for this race, the New Balance WT1010

WT 1010

I loved the balance of solid grip, low drop, and cushion in these shoes. Last I checked in on trail shoes I was deciding between these shoes and the New Balance WT110. The other shoe seemed to fit more snugly in the heel when I tried them on in the store, but when I readjusted the laces for the 1010s the heel fit plenty snug, which is what I wanted.

The laces are pretty darn long, so it took a little lace tying experimentation to get them just right. On the advice of one of my Alabama Outdoors teammates, I tied them like normal, then took all of the laces and knotted them over each other again. Then I tucked any extra shoelace into the crossed laces on the front of the shoe.

They also have ample room in the toe box. Downhills were not a problem at all for my toes. No smashing or jamming against the front of the shoe.

Because these shoes don’t come with a traditional liner, I experienced some blistering under my big toe, an unusual place for me to blister. If you are sensitive to blistering, you can remedy this by adding your own insert, just something to protect your toes from the shoe seams.

I loved the lightness of these on the trail. I never felt any extra drag from my shoes, but they gripped the trails like a champ.

In my current trail rotation, I already have some Salomon XR Missions which are really beefy higher-drop shoes with heavy duty cushion, and on the opposite end of the spectrum, I have the New Balance Minimus 10, that are very minimal without a rock plate and not much cushion. These New Balance WT1010s are the perfect marriage of a lower profile shoe that still has enough beef (rock plate and cushion) to protect you from the trail. In other words, exactly what I was looking for. I want to feel the trail, but I don’t want my feet to get overly bruised by rocks and roots.  

And I don’t want to trip. I’m not sure if this is something I can always blame on a shoe (though I will try), but I was able to stay significantly more upright in these shoes. Bonus.

Overall: Cost is $30 to register. Small, organized race with a well-marked course. Plus four miles of downhill to make you feel like a rockstar. With the slated opening of over 80 miles of trails, hopefully we can look to Coldwater for upcoming longer trail races.

Thank you to Alabama Outdoors for sponsoring my entry into this race! Check out their blog for any news on sales and whatever latest awesomeness of gear is coming out for camping, climbing, and, most important obviously, running. C’mon, Alabamy, let’s get outdoors.