Sunday, September 29, 2013

Against the odds- reflections

I've been reflective on the Air Force Marathon and why I think it went so well. All things considered, I was way undertrained for a full, and crazy for even attempting a PR. So why'd it work?

1. Strength training. And not just lower body, either. When I strength train, it's a full-body approach. Life doesn't require me to have just strong legs- life requires me to be able to manhandle 40 lb bags of salt for the softener and 44 lb bags of dog food (or 50 when they've got those bonus bags!), life requires me to be stronger than my 110 lb dog when he gets overly excited. Given my husband's job, he's not always home when I need something heavy moved, so I love being strong enough to do a two-man job by myself (like setting up our treadmill).

This is why I work every muscle group. And I think that has helped with running endurance AND speed.

2. Low mileage. Wait, what? How could 45 miles in July, 90 in August, and 64 in September be a good thing if that means I was probably undertrained? Only 199 miles for marathon training?

Here's my theory:

My particular body thrives on lower mileage with more of the above-mentioned strength training. My first and second marathons were both run after 224 miles logged in the 4 month training period, which is low to begin with. It seems like everyone I know who runs marathons logs at least 350-500 miles. But I'm not them, so I know not to compare my mileage in a negative way. These same individuals could lift weight for years and never get the biceps I get after a single month. Body composition, genetics, etc, all play into what works best for us. It's always been relatively easy for me to tone  muscles (and I'm not trying to brag here! I actually feel kind of guilty about it often!). And now that I've added weights back into my routine, it has become easier to run faster and farther.

It does make me wonder how I would perform after a higher mileage training cycle.... I won't know until I try!

But I also know I'm pro-rest days. When I have an ache, I'd rather take an extra day off than end up in a walking boot again.

3. Experience. Since I had already completed 2 fulls, I knew I could finish. That alone might be the single biggest factor for why it all went so well. Knowing it would be difficult, but also knowing I can push through really helped when it got tough.

On a related note, having a first-timer like Rebecca helped, too. I knew she was relying on me to help her simply finish. Being the one with experience, being the leader of our two-person pack not only put pressure on me, but it gave me confidence.

The marathon is a funny creature. You have to treat her with respect. Perhaps I just got lucky. Perhaps I didn't lose as much fitness after surgery as I thought. Perhaps I'm just a freak who can run long distances at slow speeds without "adequate" training.

Whatever the reason, I am looking forward to the Veteran's Marathon in November. If I'm feeling good, I might try to smash another PR. If not, I'm going to treat that course like it's my own public birthday party (since my actual birthday is the following Saturday). After all, it's 2 laps of a 13.1 mile loop... and I here there's a beer station. Happy birthday to me!

(NOTE: this is my experience with running. I am not advising anyone to attempt this; I just find it interesting to read other's training experiences and thought perhaps someone might benefit from reading mine. All I really want you to learn is the YOU ARE STRONGER THAN YOU THINK.)

Lazy Sunday

A few things...

1. I finally joined Instagram. Same handle as twitter (bomblet). You can expect craft projects, excessive photos of my dogs, and running stuff... Once I get used to it. I'm not as bad as my mother, but I will admit I'm a slow learner with technology someimes.

2. Yesterday I made the 2 hour drive to visit my mom since my aunt was in town. I made for a great day wandering through the botanical gardens
and then visiting Shipshewana (complete with a stop at Lolly's for fabric, of course!). And I just *had* to bring home some cinnamon rolls from Rise n Roll. YUM. 

3. Today is Lazy Sunday. My legs are still sore from the circuit I did on Friday (note: doubling weights makes post-workout soreness exponentially worse!). My "plan" for today is to shower and put on clean comfy clothes. I have no where that I need to be, and am taking an extra rest day. If it stops raining, I might run. Maybe. We'll see. This is the last of my guilt-free post-marathon days, though. Perhaps that alone means I should enjoy doing nothing!

Admit it: who else will be relaxing today?

Any weekend brags? Races, training runs nailed? Delicious food eaten? 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Fast Fitness Friday!

Some days, motivation is lacking... others, I feel like I'm running out of time to get a workout in. Tuesday was like this for me. But, I still managed to squeeze in a workout that had me a little sore on Wednesday!

Start out with a few minutes warm-up: put on your favorite tunes and dance for a song or two!

Main set:

10 kettlebell swings
10 kettlebell squats with oblique twist (start with the KB by left knee, raise KB as you stand and extend KB up over right side, arms fully extended)
10 kettlebell squats with oblique twist on the other side
30 seconds of tick tacks (siting in a pike with feet relaxed but off the ground, tap the kettlebell on either side of your body
10 sit ups with the KB on your chest
10 sit ups with the KB held overhead (touch it above your head on the ground, then reach it past your knees when you sit up)
1 minute plank.

Repeat 2-5 times!

Cool down with some gentle stretching.

Simple, right? I went through 3 sets, and was feeling it just enough the next day... and it only took me 20 minutes! And, I was only using a 7lb kettlebell. You can use any weight you'd like, even a dumbbell, I just like using my kettlebell (and keep it in the living room so it's always there, staring at me, reminding me to get at least a mini workout done!).

Of course, you can always substitute your favorite exercises. The point here is that with just a single weight and a short amount of time, you can get in a decent work out.

What's your favorite fast workout?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

How I fuel for 26.2

Disclosure: The following post does not endorse any product mentioned. Brands are stated for the sole purpose of letting you know what I eat. I am not sponsored by or affiliated with any of these companies; I am just a happy, running customer. All opinions, therefore, are completely honest and 100% my own.

Race day fueling strategies are as varied as the runners themselves. What works for me might be terrible for you, but I thought I'd share so you have one more perspective.

To start with, the day of a marathon (or a long run), I make sure to have a decent breakfast. My favorites include pancakes with a large glass of milk or grits with chia. If you're a grits girl/guy, try hydrating some chia and mixing it in once your grits are ready. You won't even notice the texture of them!

Buttery, salty grits with chia! YUM.

Last Saturday, I woke at 4:30 and had pumpkin pancakes, some kombucha with chia (warning: the texture of it is terrible! I have to down it like a shot, and even then I gag. But chia really seems to help keep my blood sugar level), milk, and coffee.

*Pancakes travel really well- make them ahead of time and freeze them and they become a hearty, portable breakfast. And if you forget a plate to use to heat them in the microwave, paper ads from your race swag bag will work in a pinch. :)

Since I knew I'd have a decent wait between catching the 5:30 shuttle and the 7:30 race start, I brought along a Clif Kid Zbar.

 And I had some Nuun in my water bottle leftover from overnight (Anyone else require water by their bedside? Not just before a race, either. I always wake up thirsty!).

I ate the Clif bar at 6:30, giving it plenty of time to move along.
Mmm, salted caramel!!!! 
 Once the marathon began, I started in on the Gu. I take one about every 3 miles, and it takes about half a mile to get it down. I try to eat them slowly so that I don't overload my stomach. I know for some people, every 3 miles would be way too frequently, but it works for me.

Personally, I prefer Gu gels over other brands because of their texture. I know people who prefer other brands' gels for the same reason, though, so try a few and figure it out.

During the Air Force Marathon, it took 8 gels. I brought 6 with me, and was able to snag 2 from aid stations. When you require as much fuel as I do, it helps to know how many you can get one course. I knew there were at least 2 aid stations with gels, and that it took 7 to get through my last marathon, so I only relied on getting 1 (but was grateful for the second!).

I've learned over the past year that I cannot eat bananas during a run. They make me hurl. Post run, they're awesome, but during? Not unless you want to see my guts!

Some of my other favorite fuels are Clif Shot Bloks, Sport Beans, and in a pinch, good old fashioned fruit snacks.
It all comes down to what works for YOU. My husband can run a half without a single fuel item. He's a beast. I know I can run at an easy pace for 6 miles without food, but if I want to push the pace or go further, I need fuel to fight off blood sugar issues.

This is probably the most valuable thing you can learn from those long runs. Find the fuels that work before, during, and after.

What is your favorite fuel?

Bananas: love them or hate them?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Air Force marathon 2013

Yesterday, I ran my third marathon. It's funny to think that a year ago I ran my first there. But this time, I feel like I can actually say I RAN.
First, I met Jillian, a fellow Tough Chik!!!! She's super sweet and a marathon maniac!

What started as a wet, nasty morning turned out to be perfect running weather. From the rain stopping mere minutes before we started to the cool temps to the light breeze, the weather was perfect. The course was similar to last year, and I love that, too. Spectators were plentiful enough to keep you going. And I made a race friend who I ended up running with the whole time. How lucky is that to line up next to someone perfectly matched for your goals?

I can't believe I was feeling THIS good at 15.7 miles in! My furthest run since last March was 14.11 miles. And look at that grin! Rebecca, my race friend, went with a run/walk strategy, keeping the walking to water stations and a few short (30 seconds) breaks in the last few miles.

Such a wonderful person. I wish I had gotten her contact info, but post-marathon, I didn't even think about it.

We worked as a team during that marathon. It was her first, so she was grateful for my advice. I was grateful in part to have someone rely on me, which helped me keep pushing. But she also was just the most genuine and encouraging person I've met (besides my Husbeast).

Together, we pushed through all 26.2 miles in 4:51:54!!!

I nearly cried with joy! I thought I was being ambitious, even cocky to even dream of finishing under 5:30 given how little training I had done. So to run that well and feel amazing 95% of the race, well, let's just say I was astounded.

I'm still in disbelief. What an amazing race. Hopefully, I convinced Rebecca to join Team Tough Chik this fall. She truly deserves the moniker.

On top of my great race, my Husbeast got a half marathon PR- 2:03:14!  He's amazing.

Simply put, this weekend was incredible.

4:51:54! Gah! Still amazed!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Time for another full marathon!

Tomorrow, we leave for Dayton. I'm having my rematch with the AF Marathon. I would really love to finish under 5 hours, and part of me thinks this is possible. I might even run with a pace group.

Tuesday, I ran a 5k on base and was still sooooo sore from Saturday that I was thrilled to pull off a 25:10 finishing time. Good enough for 1st female, and 3rd place predicted time (I predicted 25 minutes).

I could not believe HOW DIFFICULT it was to run, though!!!! (perhaps because I haven't done such a good job of resting this week! Can't help it, the taper makes me crazy!)

And then there's today- 80 degrees, 90% humidity, and the worst run I've had this training cycle. I'm  hoping it was all because of the heat. It was difficult to maintain even a 10 min/mile pace. Hopefully, and being (way too) sedentary most of tomorrow for traveling, I'll wake fresh on Saturday.

We shall see!

Have you ever ran with a pace group? I'm torn. I want to try to break 5 hours, and on paper I should be more like 4:30 (yikes!) so I know it's possible. I might try to hang with one just for the camaraderie. Who knows. Maybe I'll surprise myself!

Saturday, September 14, 2013


I'm still a little shocked.

At mile 2, I asked the guy, "are you sure?" He thought I was questioning distance, but I told him no, I've just never run this fast before.

First place in my age group. Top 10 finish. 23:40-something (official results will be posted later).

Are you SURE????? 

Fan-freaking-tastic day. It was great to begin with- shopping and PSLs with my good friend (who happens to be coach/friend's wife). It would have been fabulous if it ended there. But we both had so much fun, and exceeded all expectations we had for our runs. She had the best run she's had in 3 years, and I got a trophy. 

What a great day. Friendship and fast times. 


EDIT: Official results have been posted:

23:48! WHOOOP WHOOOP!!!!!!!! 9th place out of 135. I am pumped. Lesson learned: summer speed work pays off!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

3 Things Thursday!!!

1. Speed work lately has been surprising- 800s in 3:35 consistently (in 90 degree heat!), and today's 400s were all between 1:30 and 1:35. Are you SURE these are my legs? And lungs? Which leads to...

2. I have a 5k this weekend that I've been looking forward to for weeks- it's a Girls' Night Out 5K, complete with high heel dash (which I'm skipping because the big day is sooooo close), yoga, and then the run. I've never done a ladies-only event, so this should be fun!!!

BUT my coach/friend told me today he expects me to run-- get this-- sub 23:00. ARE YOU SURE? Last night, the Husbeast and I got together with Coach/friend and his wife (who is also running on Saturday- she's such an awesome person; I can't wait!), and after a beer or 2, I might have said I'm gunning for an age group award. Sometimes, given our small local community, I can place. So I said it out loud, and am now afraid I'll be embarrassed if I don't. And them he has to go and tell me that I *should* be able to run that fast.

So now, what started out as a super fun, laid-back 5k I was going to run for shiggles the weekend before the next full hast turned into something that will probably keep me awake all night. Me and my big mouth.

3. Speaking of that full, I can't believe the Air Force Marathon is next weekend!!!! And that makes the Veteran's marathon right around the corner, too. EEEK!!! I'm so excited for the AFM. It should give me a good idea what kind of goals to set for the Vets marathon.

Ever surprise yourself during a training run? I love it when I'm surprised with speed. It still feels surreal that I ran those paces.

Random: do you play Euchre? We played last night, and I still find it funny that it's such a regional thing.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

the taper...

So, I have been "enjoying" the taper in a similar fashion as last March- chilled out, mostly relaxed, excited for race days, and sniffles galore!

But, where last spring I knew it was a cold/flu and therefore would end, this time it's allergies... which won't end until we get a massive rain or it freezes. So I've been sniffling, sneezing, and apologizing everywhere I go for my chapped, nasty nose.

The interesting thing is that all year, my allergies have been the best ever- as in minimal impact, if any. And then I ate something that caused a severe allergic reaction on Wednesday evening, which then caused every other allergy I have to flare their ugly heads. So not only have I been sneezing and sniveling, my skin itches everywhere (especially my poor underarms- which REALLY sucks when I exercise) and my eyes look like they belong in a Visine commercial.

So much fun. PLus, the drainage makes me lose my voice. My poor yoga class yesterday (several of them first timers) struggled to hear every cue even though I felt like I was yelling.

The upside that all these allergy issues have made it easier to forget I have marathon #3 in 11 days.


I guess I better suck it up and run this afternoon... even though it's going to be 96 degrees! UGH.

Lest you think I'm only allergic and whiny these days, I have been having fun:

You know you're a runner when your bike night outfit consists of a race tee and a running jacket!
 We rode down to Indy with some of the guys from the unit on Saturday night, and had a snack (and I had some Smithwicks's) at the Tilted Kilt. Don't get me started on their waitresses- it was blatantly obvious who in the crowd picked the venue. But it was tons of fun.

My new strategy to battle helmet hair is to wear a sparkly headband underneath.

Anyone else wear some of their running apparel for motorcycle riding (or other non-running activities)?

I often wear my reflective gear while I'm on the back of the bike. I'd rather be highly visible and dorky than a splat on the road!

Taper crazies... do you freak out, or just go with it?

At this point, it is what it is. I'd rather be undertrained and well-rested than exhausted or injured. I get phantom pains sometimes, but for the most part, I enjoy the taper (minus colds and allergies, that is!).

Thursday, September 5, 2013

When menu planning lets you down

We all know menu planning works wonders- helps save money at the grocery and makes life easier when you're not staring down 6 o'clock with no clue what to make.

What I want to know, though, is what these menu-planning mavens do when Life happens. See, this week, we had Thai meatballs, bourbon chicken, and tuna casserole on the plan. The meatballs happened (and were delicious), but then the Husbeast went on an impromptu road trip, leaving me here. Bourbon chicken and tuna casserole make waaaaaay too much for one. So what's a girl to do?

Lazy lunch.
Today's solution is au gratin potatoes with broccoli. 

This is serving as a good reminder that I need to start thinking of cooking for one again since he Husbeast will be heading to OTS in a few months. Ugh. I love to cook, but when it's just for me, it becomes almost torture. I'm going to have to look up more freezable meals.

Any favorite meals that you like to freeze for later?

Monday, September 2, 2013

5 by the 5th: fall edition

Laura is hosting another 5 by the 5th- but this time it's 5 or 10 miles instead of 5k or 5 miles. Today, I ran my first for the series- 5 miles in 75 degree weather with- get this- 100% humidity.

Yeah. So the fact that I finished and only walked to 1) take my soggy shirt off and 2) get up the beast of a hill we live on makes me happy with the effort. 
The mostly shaded running trail helped.
And I smiled and "good morning"-ed everyone I saw.
But I was happiest when it was done.

5 miles in 49:30 in this weather conditions? I'll take it. And to feel so overall amazing after just running 14 on Saturday? Bonus. I didn't think I'd be back to that level of fitness (not being sore after 14 miles) so quickly. Another mark in the "I can finish a marathon again" column.

I spent some quality time with a book and a beverage in the backyard afterwards, and went for a motorcycle ride with the Husbeast afterwards. All in all, a fabulous Labor Day.

I hope yours was just as great!!!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Veteran's Marathon training- August recap and September goals

In case you haven't noticed, my mileage is "low" by most other marathoners' standards. I've found I stay injury free running less and cross training/strength training more. So, I was kind of surprised to log 91.33 miles for August. That's A LOT for me! It's actually my highest mileage month.... EVER.

That 13.7 mile long run really served as reassurance that I can finish the AF Marathon. Finishing = winning for that one... but I'm also hoping to at least keep it around either of my other 2 marathon times.

And the 14.11 yesterday (minus the cooler theft and mysterious return) helped boost my confidence, too (and while I'm glad I got the cooler back, I'm still pissed about the incident, and the fact that because I was out of water I had to end my run early).

So now, I enter the taper crazies for September. The plan is to keep is easy, run the AF Marathon with the sole goal of finishing (ok, maybe I semi-secretly want to PR, but I won't push things if it's not reachable), and then ease back into training. I'll probably take 5 days off, maybe more, maybe less. Playing it by ear. But I will be running a local 15K the first Saturday in October (which I can run home from to add extra mileage), then the Highway Half in Kokomo the next week, and hopefully a Halloween race of some distance. Between the 15k and the half, that leave just one week to run long alone. Just the way I like it!

Again, October wille be lower mileage than most marathon training people run. But this is what works for me. Frankly, if I hit 90 miles again, that would be stellar. Maybe I'll go big and shoot for 100.

I'm still following my half-assed Hansons plan. Fitting in the workouts I can, but listening to my body. I know when to push it, and when to pull back and look at the training plan and say, "Yeah, that's not going to happen." But if last March is any indicator, this is what works for me.

That takes me into taper #2 for the fall. As I sit here, I feel like time is going to fly by, and before we know it, I'll be at the starting line for the Veteran's Marathon, dreaming of a sub-5 hour finish.

Training this last week:

Sunday: 13.7 miles
Monday: Taught yoga and strength and conditioning
Tuesday: 3.5 hot, humid miles
Wednesday REST
Thursday: 8 x 200 (on grass), 3 miles total distance
Friday: class cancelled; 1 hour yoga at home
Saturday: 14.11

If I'm going to have another high-mileage month, I need to get more compression socks. 2 pairs isn't cutting it anymore, especially when I go balls-to-the-wall during strength and conditioning. They squeeze my swollen legs back from sausage to normal human being.

How is your September shaping up? 

Fan of compression or no? I think my love affair is in part due to super low blood pressure. Without my socks, my legs would be swollen for days. With them, they're fine by the next morning. If only they didn't cost so much....

Do you follow a training plan to the T, or use it as a guideline? Life is too unpredictable for me to try to follow training plans exactly, hence my half-assed Hansons plan.