My Favorite Things: Winter 2014

My most recent training favorites as we head into 2014. Enjoy!

Newton Energy

normalMy injuries in 2013 helped shed light onto the fact that I supinate pretty decently on my right side. For as much as I love, love LOVE the Distance U, I switched to the Energy because it has a 5th lug on the forefoot of the shoe. Maybe it’s in my head, but I think the 5th lug makes a difference when my foot strikes the ground. I’m also just loving the general feel of the shoe. Rumor has it Newton is launching a version of all of their shoes with a 5th lug. I’m anxiously awaiting the 2014 line so I can alternate the Energy with my other favorite (the Distance U). Regardless, I’m glad my injuries forced me to change up my footwear, or I would have never tried the Energy. I’m planning to keep it in my rotation after the new shoes launch.

My Bike Trainer

20140115-093600.jpgFor Christmas, my parents got me a bike trainer to keep up with my cycling throughout winter. I thought signing up for a June half-Ironman was a good idea. Me, the fair weather cyclist now has to get on my bike before May. My new trainer is not fancy or extravagant: it’s a Travel Trac. In my not-so-expert-opinion, it rocks. Of course, I have nothing to compare it to. It’s reasonably priced and nice and quiet so I can watch TV while taking it for a spin. It’s set up in my living room for the winter and my husband is a really good sport about it. It’s gotten a decent amount of use so far, and I’ve been mostly using it before work. I wake up, drink some coffee, turn on the TV and hop on for an early morning bike ride. It’s a pretty nice way to start the day.

Yaktrax

20140115-093701.jpgA few winters back, I bought these and barely used them. I think I bought them at the end of the last winter that we got a significant amount of snow (2010, maybe?). I only used them minimally over the past few winters since we didn’t have too much snow or ice. This winter, they’ve gotten a fair amount of use. A week before heading out to Alabama, I had my final key workout: a seven mile run with two miles at marathon pace. Snow was falling, so I bundled up and headed to Lehigh Parkway and didn’t miss a beat that day. Pretty useful. I suggest the actual Yak Trax brand. I’ve seen some of the knock off versions (but haven’t actually tried them) and they just don’t seem as durable.

Dorky Headlamps

20140115-093729.jpgPossibly one of the most useful presents I unwrapped this Christmas was my brand new super nerdy headlamp. With the winter break from work and my recent bout with the flu, I haven’t actually used it yet. My early morning runs on Emmaus Avenue in the dark with cars flying by should be a little less scary with my new toy. Or after work, when I want to run on the Saucon Trail but it’s starting to get dark. It’s a safe enough trail that I’m not creeped out to run there as the sun is setting. Except as soon as the sun goes down, it’s really freaking dark. I’ve gotten caught out there a few times this year after sunset and you can’t see a thing. While I enjoy running at anytime of the day and particularly love the Saucon Trail, I don’t love tripping and falling on my face in the middle of the woods in the dark.  Not a problem anymore.

Nike + Training Club App

82c4apps-december-14-nike-training-club-121213This is definitely not something new, and I’m sure everyone is already using it or used it in the past. This program was actually released in 2009 as a supplement to the NikeWomen.com website, and was turned into an app in 2011.  With half-Ironman training, my yoga practice has been less than stellar. The occasional home  practice and hitting up the Bikram studio when I can get there is about it right now. I rely on yoga to keep my muscles strong, particularly my core. I can’t just abandon strength training altogether, so I’ve been doing some circuit training for my core and stumbled upon this great little app. There are tons of well-designed circuits to fit almost any goal, and I’ve been doing the 15 minute ab circuits daily. I don’t have the time or the desire to fit any other type of activity in my schedule, so this is a good solution while I’m slacking on my yoga practice and preparing for the race.

Salted Caramel Gu

20140115-093809.jpgYeah, I’m pretty sure I’ve gone off on a tangent about this before. I’m still obsessed. I feel like I need to buy all of the Salted Caramel Gu in all of the world before it goes away forever. It seems like it’s a 2013-2014 special edition flavor, and those are known to disappear without warning. I found them at the Marshall Marathon expo and haven’t looked back since.  It. Is. So. Good.

Bikram

BYLV-Logo-65pxSo my Ashtanga practice might be slightly inconsistent lately, but I’m enjoying the new local Bikram studio this winter. First of all, it’s warm there. Hot, actually. Secondly, I don’t feel like I am overstretching or overdoing anything when I attend class. I think it’s partially because I don’t really know any better, but also because of the teachers method of instruction.  For example, we do a version of Janu Sirsasana that doesn’t make my hamstrings hate me. The teachers instruct the students to start with a bent leg as a modification. There is no pressure to fold any further or straighten the leg, so I can get a good stretch without overdoing it. Since I do have a background in yoga, I am aware that excessive heat (like the heat in the Bikram classes) can really open up your body and make your muscles susceptible to overstretching and soft tissue injuries. Knowing that makes me approach this style of yoga with a great deal of caution and not attempt to push myself past my limits. It’s no substitute for Ashtanga, but it’s been a fun way to help stretch and strengthen while I’m super busy,

Luna Protein Bars

luna-protein-5-flavor-fan1I reeeaaaaaallllyyyyy love to cook and eat (maybe more than I love to run) so I don’t always do the pre-packaged snack thing. But the whole working a full time job, training for multiple marathons and a half-Ironman, spending time with my friends and family, teaching the occasional yoga class, and trying to maintain some sort of order in my house throughout the chaos means I sometimes have to settle. I was boycotting bars for awhile because they were boring and because I’m not into buying packaged foods with preservatives. These are not a new product but have been my favorite pre or post run snack lately. They are organic, high in protein, and (bonus) I can pronounce all of the ingredients on the label. If you go on their site, they list the ingredients and provide information on ingredients you may not be familiar with. Oh yeah, and did I mention the best part? They kind of taste like a candy bar. Of course, it’s no substitute for a Snickers…but they are pretty good.

What are some of your favorite things keeping you motivated during the winter?

2014, Take 2!

marathon-recoveryNo sooner did I run my first few miles of 2014 was I knocked down with the dreaded flu. Really? Me? I don’t get the flu shot (personal choice, no judgement if you do) but I can’t tell you the last time I got seriously sick. I get hit with the occasional cold every so often, but I kick those pretty quickly. But knocked down, bedridden, all I want is tea and my couch for days sick? Maybe three years ago?

It’s really no shocker that I ended up sick. I came back from the Rocket City Marathon on December 15th completely run down from the race and the traveling. I never took any time to catch my breath and get caught up on rest. Sure, I took a break from running and training in general, but basically just swapped logging miles for logging late nights with holiday preparations. Eating like crap throughout the holiday season really didn’t help matters much. I’m pretty healthy eater all year round, even over vacations and other holidays. Something happens to me during the Christmas season and all I can think about are the cookies, confections, and decadent holiday meals…and butter.

As the ball dropped and we said “Happy New Year” I was ready to turn it all around and get back on track, but the damage had been done. I was bedridden for four days, and knocked out for eight. I attempted to go for a run two days after I finally got off my couch, but ended up not making it very far before having a coughing fit and calling it a day. I was pretty much good to go again by this past weekend, but you can still hear a hint of congestion in my voice. 2014 is off to a bit of a rocky start, but better that this happened now rather than later.

The downtime got me thinking about how I wanted to ease back into my training and continue preparing for Boston. My philosophy about missed miles changed drastically over the years of being involved with the sport. I started running over seven years ago, and when I’d miss a scheduled training run I would try to “make it up”. In the weeks following the illness, injury (or just plain laziness -there was a lot of that in the early years), I would squeeze in the missed miles on a scheduled rest day. Over time, I learned the hard way just how stupid that is. It was probably one of the first bad habits that I developed and kicked to the curb. Running miles on scheduled recovery days is the best way to get yourself into trouble.

A training plan assumes that you are feeling 100%, 100% of the time. That’s just not the case in real life. In reality, people get sick or injured – or better yet: life just happens. When you’re knocked down, the miles you miss can seem overwhelming and can add to the stress of the situation. A little piece of advice: forget about them. What’s done is done, and now your priority has to shift from following a training plan to recovering from whatever ailment had you sidelined. It doesn’t matter if it’s the flu or a stress fracture, the bottom line is the same: take time to heal now to avoid being worse off later.

Focus on getting rested and recovered so you can resume training when your body is ready. When you are completely recovered, you can assess the damage and see what measures need to be taken to come back. A good rule of thumb to follow: if you miss less than 10 days, it’s possible that you can pick up where you left off and continue as scheduled if it feels good. You may have to scale back on the intensity or mileage, but for the most part you can proceed with caution. More than 10 days? Consider revising your goal or your training plan to avoid a relapse.

By no means am I an elite athlete or healthcare professional, but I have a lot of experience with taking time off for recovering and resuming activity. I’ve had a lot of successful (and not so successful) experiences and the one variable you can control is your attitude. Having a good attitude about whatever it is that sidelined you will ultimately make a huge difference when recovering and restarting.

So, here it goes again…2014, take 2!

1,983 Miles…How do you measure a year in the life?

Happy New Year!

2013 was filled with many ups and downs, but it was ultimately a good year. I’m ashamed to admit that took writing this post to put into perspective how the good the year actually was. I’m extremely thankful for a year that was full of happiness and success.

I was fortunate enough to run and finish my third consecutive Boston MarathonThe weather was extremely cooperative this year and I ran a PR for that course. It was the first year that I understood how to pace myself there, which is a challenge in itself. Most importantly, I was not present when the tragic blasts occurred. My friends and family that came up to Boston to cheer me on were safe and sound. My husband, who typically watches me cross the finish line at the exact spot of the first explosion, was cheering for me on Beacon Street at mile 24. I am so thankful that he chose to stay in Brookline and wait for me at my aunt and uncle’s house. 

20140103-073711.jpgDespite my injuries, I checked six new states off of my list in 2013: Vermont, New York, Washington, Alaska, West Virginia, and Alabama. Vermont was one of my slowest marathons since it was shortly after recovering from a femoral shaft stress fracture. My husband’s family has a lake house in the area, so we had the opportunity to spend a weekend at the lake in the spring – something we’ve never done. I ran the race with one of my original running friends, Mike. I hadn’t seen or run with him in several years and it was wonderful to catch up on the course.

 

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I had the opportunity to run with Brooke as she finished her second marathon in Buffalo, New York. She was one of my former students and finished two marathons in her senior year of high school. I was fortunate enough to be present for both accomplishments, and Buffalo was an especially memorable experience. It was exactly a week after running the Shires of Vermont marathon. Given my prior injury, I was lucky to be able to run the race at all.

Before heading off to the west coast for the adventure of a lifetime, I won my first 5K. Well, first overall female. I’ve placed in my age group before, but never came in as the first female. It was a small event with a small field and I didn’t run a PR that day, but it was still a meaningful experience. The race was run to raise money for the victims at the Boston Marathon, which was personal to me and made winning the race even more special.

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June brought the incredible opportunity to run two west coast marathons in Washington and Alaska. Washington ended up being a PR (at the time) and was a fast enough qualifying time to secure my entry into the 2014 Boston Marathon. Since the events that transpired last year, it was a tough field to get into for 2014 and many people were turned away. I’m truly grateful for the opportunity to run the race again.

Running in Alaska was a blessing in itself, and it was one stop on the trip of a lifetime. While the setting was more than ideal and experiencing the last frontier was incredible, the real treat was my travel companions. I got to spend two weeks with my oldest friends, Jenny and Kate. We’ve know each other since grade school and though we don’t see each other often, we always stay in touch and make time for each other. We spent years growing up together and talking about what we planned to do “when we grow up”. Maybe we never dreamed of a two week trek in Alaska, but traveling together was always something we swore we would do…and we finally did it.

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The summer brought many miles spent outdoors on foot and on my road bike – almost always with Emily. I never really enjoyed riding my bike and always preferred running, but Emily took me out on some great rides this summer that sparked my interest in cycling. Sometimes, we’d ride all the way out to Kutztown and back and even completed the Gap Gallop together at the end of the summer. Throughout the summer, we were both training for the Steelman Triathlon and other fall races. I hadn’t done a triathlon in several years and was excited to give it another try.

20130731-190134.jpgAs the summer wore on, I didn’t spend too much time working on my swimming until we took our summer visit to Lake Babcock. I’d swim the length of the lake to practice open water swimming, and my husband would kayak along side of me in case I needed a break.  When the Steelman Tri finally arrived, I finished second in my age group. All of my friends that participated that day also had successful finishes and enjoyed the race. I enjoyed the race so much that it inspired me to sign up for my first half-Ironman, which I’ll be doing in early June 2014.

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Though the fall brought another injury, it also brought a lot of races and successes. The Runner’s World Festival was in October.I was fresh off of injury #2, but I still ran the “Hat Trick” – a 5K, 10K, and half-marathon in two days. It’s the second year the race has been running, and I’ve been lucky enough to complete the Hat Trick both times. My original goal for that race was to beat my overall time from last year, but I had to take it easy since it was only a week after I began running again from the tibial stress reaction. Though I didn’t meet the time goal I’d hoped for, I am thankful that I didn’t have to pass on the race altogether. I ran the 5k solo, but got to run the 10K with my friend, Mark. We pushed it harder than I anticipated on that leg of the race but it showed that I hadn’t lost as much endurance as I thought. For the half marathon, I ran it with Emily. Neither of us were racing it, and we just ran it as an easy run and had such a blast. I enjoy being outside and among the running community, and I spent the entire weekend doing just that. It was a pretty significant weekend for me because it determined whether or not I would run the rest of the fall races I’d planned prior to my injury.

photo 3November and December brought new states checked off of my list and new PRs in West Virginia and Alabama. I had the incredible opportunity to travel down to West Virginia and Alabama with several friends, including Bart Yasso. I finished the Marshall Marathon with a huge PR and first place in my age group. I thought I could never run a faster marathon, until Alabama happened just a few short weeks later and I set a new PR, 3:22:03. I still don’t know if I can run any faster, but it taught me that anything is possible.

Oh yeah, and the title of my post: I ran 1,983 miles in 2013. That’s 1,983 miles of health, happiness, and dedication. 1,983 miles spent strengthening friendships and bonding with new friends. 1,983 miles of traveling and seeing the world on foot, something I wish everyone could experience. 1,983 miles of feeling alive and strong. I walked around all throughout the fall saying how shitty 2013 was. When I put it into perspective, 2013 was actually a pretty freaking awesome year. Moving forward, it’s going to be a tough one to top.

There were other sources of happiness and success throughout the year other than in my running world, but that isn’t what this blog is all about. My injuries and setbacks throughout the year helped to shed light on areas that I’d like to improve on, and goals I’d like to achieve. Some centered around running and hitting my 50 state goal, and others in regards to life in general. So, some New Year’s resolutions are in order…but that’s a post for another day. Today, I’m thankful for all of the experiences 2013 brought and can’t wait to see what’s in store for 2014.

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