Sunday, May 25, 2008

Weekly Challenge: 20 minutes

Last week I didn't have a weekly challenge, which was sort of nice because lately none of my challenges have gone particularly well. What can I say? 2008 has not been my year so far. I am, however, stubbornly refusing to believe that I should just throw in the towel, and I think that as long as I keep trying, at some point I will accomplish something! Yay for potential!!

For that reason, I am not abandoning my weekly challenges in spite of lackluster successes with them. And it isn't like I have completely ignored them! I just have mixed results with them. At any rate, this week I thought maybe I should just do something sort of basic, straightforward, and feel goodish.

It is unrealistic for me to expect myself to stick to a training schedule without life getting in the way, and I want to learn to not feel guilty when I am not getting in all the running I would like to. What I want to do this week is focus on just getting in twenty minutes of activity every day. Rest days will be 'active rest' days, and days when I run will be, obviously, more than twenty minutes of activity. The point here is not to exhaust myself but to keep myself in motion (even if it is just a walk around the block or through the park or something). I feel so much better when I have done some sort of physical activity than I do when I just sit around my apartment and get nothing done. I have been in such a slump lately, and feeling so lousy has really helped me to recognize how much better I feel when I just get up and do something, no matter how minor it is. So in an effort to preserve that feeling and chase the blahs away, I am taking on this 20-minutes-a-day challenge. Like I said, I am not working for a better body, just a healthier state of mind.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Oh, thank Heaven

First run with the running skirt and I am in love! I mean it, I love this thing :) I feel covered and comfortable. You do get some odd looks, though. Some of them are clearly, "Is she really running in a skirt?" kind of looks, which I really don't care about because the people who are giving me those looks don't look like they have run a day in their life and thus probably don't know the obnoxiousness that is running in a pair of shorts that just don't feel right no matter what you do. The others, though, are a bit more bothersome and are more along the lines of, "Ooooh, she's running in a skirt...I wonder if I'll be able to see her underwear if I look hard enough?" I mean, honestly. Grow up, men. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it's just that the warmer weather makes people a little more friendly and thus more likely to give you unexplained smiles (or are they leers?)...but I kind of doubt that that's the case. Regardless, I enjoyed the experience, a full two thumbs up, and a hearty wish that I had more pairs so that I could run like a girl more often!

The run itself was good but the conditions were pretty rough, with killer wind on the way back, which is, of course, the exact time when you want to be fighting a head wind. I guess this is what I get for running by the Hudson, although it really felt at times like I was just running in place. It was that bad.

I also conveniently forgot to put Body Glide on my upper arm and I once again have a welt from that stupid nike+ armband (I HATE THAT THING). And oddly, my feet are killing me. This is a problem I haven't really had before. All of a sudden, my shoes feel like they are tighter than usual, or something. I am getting chafing along the arch of my foot as well as on both of my pinkie toes. I am not tying my shoes tighter than I usually do, and I haven't laced them differently either. They are also not new shoes, nor are they old. I have been running in this model for a while and ran the half-marathon in my current pair (in addition to multiple training runs) without a problem. This also happened on Tuesday but since my run was shorter, it bothered me less, and at the time it really only affected my left foot. After this run, though, both of my feet hurt in the same places. Has anyone else had a problem like this come up out of nowhere? I'm wondering if it has something to do with the warmer weather causing my feet to swell or something...that's the only explanation I can think of, really. The pain really had an effect on my run. Around my fifth or sixth mile, it really started to set in (especially in my toes, which feel like they blistered or something--it is definitely a chafing issue and not something cramp-ish or anything like that) and I ended up taking a page out of Irish's book and dissociating as much as I could just to get through my seven miles without having to stop. I managed, but I wish my feet felt a little better (obvs).

Anyhoo, I got in a 7.11 mile run (see, that's where the post title comes from! Ha ha, I made an advertising-related joke!) which ain't too shabby.

Total mileage this week: 11.31

My life in six words or less

I've been tagged by Chris, which means two things:
  1. Obviously, I have hit the big time as a blogger.
  2. I have to write a six-word memoir and tag five additional people. I'm not sure I know another five people to tag, since Chris has already tagged some of the other bloggers I know!
So here is my memoir. It has nothing to do with running, but I think it accurately sums up my life (at least for now):
No longer a student. What next?

As for the people I am tagging in return...
  1. Jen at Birthday Challenge '08.
  2. Irish at Do It.
  3. Charlotte at Music and Veganism, if she ever gets back to blogging...
  4. And, erm...more to follow? That's all I got for now :(
In other news, I am now the proud owner of a running skirt! It's cute, too--black with a thick pink stripe up the side and pink compression shorts. I <3 Alissa's point about varying my activities and taking time to discover other activities is a good one, and it is something I am going to start focusing on as soon as I am a bit more settled (i.e. not getting ready to move in a little over a week).

At any rate, stay tuned for my comments on running in a skirt! Now that my stomach is less upset than it was yesterday I am planning on getting a run in later this afternoon/evening.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Hills are Alive

Okay, I admit that yesterday for my hill training I ran on a treadmill. Guilty as charged. And I started off at level four and ended up moving down to level one (but only after 25 out of 40 minutes). So maybe these weren't the most daunting hills ever. But the thing is I'm slightly out of shape, and this is the longest run I've logged since the half marathon, so I was pretty happy with the way things turned out. Unfortunately, as I sit here typing this, I am struggling to cope with an inexplicably upset stomach, so we'll see whether today's mid-distance run actually happens or not. If it doesn't, I can always just scoot things back by a day and make this a day off. No big deal, right?

I really appreciated everyone's comments on my training schedule--I thought you all made really good points that I hadn't taken into consideration, and based on your input I am thinking of making some modifications. Here's what I have in mind:

Monday: Off
Tuesday: Hills
Wednesday: Mid-distance easy run, weight training
Thursday: Speed/Tempo
Friday: Off, weight training
Saturday: Long run
Sunday: Easy short run, weight training

In terms of mileage, right now I think 30 miles might be a slightly lofty goal for me (given the shape I am in--that original training plan was pretty ambitious of me!) but shouldn't be unattainable once I get back into running more consistently. I think for now I will aim for 20-25, ideally even slightly over 25. We'll see how it goes!

Total mileage this week: 4.2 miles

Saturday, May 17, 2008


At the moment, my life has no structure whatsoever. It's scary. I'm now formerly a graduate student, having chosen to leave school; I have finished all the grading for the class I taught this past semester; and I have no job. I am moving out of Manhattan in about two weeks, and I have no idea what to do with myself between now and then.

"Oh!" you say, "You're so lucky! You have all the time in the world to do so many things! You could run all day if you wanted!" Technically, those things are true but unfortunately those things are also not that easy. Since finishing the half-marathon, I have felt sort of lost running-wise. This isn't unusual and it is, in fact, the reason why I started training for what would have been my second marathon immediately after finishing my first. This time around, instead of diving right into a new event, I've sort of just sat around doing very little. Except a lot of eating (and mostly for emotional reasons. The stress of not having a job and, essentially, no direction in life is incredibly weighty and entirely new to me). At the same time, though, I don't want to repeat the same mistake I made last time and start training for something else.

The structure has to come from somewhere, and it looks like I am the only one who can give me the kick in the butt that I need to move on from this driftwood state and start using my free time to accomplish things. So I have been thinking about what my non-training running schedule should look like. Here is what I have been thinking so far:

Principle goals: 1) run 5-6 times a week; 2) run about 30 miles/week.

Weekly breakdown (subject to change or modification):
  1. Monday: off, weight training.
  2. Tuesday: Hills (4-6 miles)
  3. Wednesday: mid-week middle-distance (6-9 miles), light weight training.
  4. Thursday: tempo/speed work (fartlek, intervals, whatever you want to call them) (4-6 miles)
  5. Friday: off, weight training.
  6. Saturday: long run (10-15 miles)
  7. Sunday: easy 5-8 miles.
Any suggestions? I have never really attempted anything like this before. Before I started training for my first marathon, I would just do whatever felt good, trying to meet a minimum amount of mileage. I think this is a pretty balanced plan, but I am also wondering if it isn't a little bit compulsive. I guess that's the nature of running, though. I would like to work on my speed and strength a little bit, and figure the hills and tempo/interval training are essential for that, and I also want to have a little bit of variety throughout my week. Any comments or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Food for thought: What's the deal with sugar?

As I have already mentioned, I have the worst time with nutrition. I know the fundamentals, I have a clear idea of what I should and should not be eating, and I think that for the most part, I probably eat pretty well; however, I am almost always low on energy, poorly-fueled, and I tend to get hungry pretty soon after I have eaten a meal. Clearly my application of my knowledge of nutrition leaves much to be desired, and I am admittedly extremely confused about certain things.

At the top of that list is sugar. What, exactly, is the deal with sugar? I know that the completely ubiquitous (and seemingly completely unnecessary) high fructose corn syrup is to be avoided, and I try my hardest to check the ingredient list of pretty much everything I buy because man! that stuff will sneak up on you!! It is in most cereals (even those that claim to be healthy, such as Special K) and even whole wheat breads. Even foods that are salty have high fructose corn syrup now, and don't even both trying to get a light dessert because you are probably much better off just having a small portion of the full-fat version rather than buy the low-fat, low-cal, high fructose corn syrup containing variety.

But I digress. I often wonder if my mid- to late-afternoon dips in energy have anything to do with sugar. Am I eating too much of it? Should my carbohydrates be less refined and more complex? Should I be cutting sugar out of my diet? Most importantly, how exactly does one do that? Does that mean I have to cut out foods that have higher levels of sugar even if they are fruits? One thing that always blew my mind about the first stages of the South Beach Diet was how much fruit was looked down upon because of its potentially high sugar content. I know it depends on the fruit, but I'm speaking in general terms here.

I guess what it boils down to is this: for a while I have been toying with the idea of reducing or eliminating sugar in my diet (or my eating, since diet has somewhat negative connotations) but I have no idea how to do it. Do I just get rid of added sugar and continue eating things like honey, fruit, and other foods with naturally occurring sugar? Or do I just cut it out entirely? Or is it even worth addressing?

One thing I am hoping to take a look at after this week of keeping a food diary is how much sugar I am having in a day, and whether or not it seems to affect me in any way. Maybe after that I can start making some changes, if necessary. I mean, I don't think I am a sugar junkie by any stretch of the imagination, but the whole thing does have me a bit curious.

Have you all ever tried changing the amount of sugar you eat? How did you do it, and did you see any results?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Weekly Challenge: Food Diary

I feel like proper nutrition is the bane of my existence. I go on a diet, I'm tired all the time; I go off the diet, I'm tired all the time and I gain weight; and so it goes. So I am going to try and start with a clean slate by keeping a food diary this week that will also include keeping notes of how I am feeling, particularly before/during/after running. I figure this way I can (maybe) finally get a clear idea of what is working and what isn't.

Simple, right? Why didn't I do this before, you ask? Laziness! Plus, it can be so embarrassing sometimes to look at what you have eaten and realize that yes, you really did eat about five cookies when you weren't actually hungry.


Wow, the past few days have been crazy. I apologize for my extended absence from the blogosphere; I went home to the D.C. area on Wednesday night, had a job interview on Thursday, pre-wedding (not mine, but a friend's) primping on Friday, a 5k Saturday morning and then a ceremony, reception, and party to attend (as a bridesmaid) that afternoon, and then Mother's day stuff yesterday. It was exhausting, but nice to do so many things with so many people that mean so much to me.

One of the best things about the weekend was definitely the 5k, which I ran with my older sister. It was her first 5k, and I am so proud of her! She was incredible :) It was a small race at a private boys' school in our area that benefited a foundation created in the name of a former student of the school who died in his twenties of diabetes. I was so excited to run with my sister, who has been working on her running for a while now, and always impresses me with the progress she has made. The course we ran was around the neighborhood where the school is located and had some serious hills in it, which my sister attacked pretty fearlessly! I know when I was running my first 5ks, hills terrified me. If she was terrified, she certainly didn't show it. Our father, her husband, and her daughter all came to cheer us on, and it was a great feeling to get to the final stretch of the race and see them there waving and cheering. My niece was so excited to see her mommy run that she was still talking about it the following day! She also cannot wait until the day she can run her own race. I love the fact that we already have a runner-in-waiting in the family. That certainly warms my running heart.

I know this is the beginning of a long and healthy series of races for my sister, and I hope she and I can keep running together. I know we probably won't be able to do all of our races together, but it was an honor and a joy to me to be able to be there with her for her first!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

What's Next?

You can't go through one marathon (or, in my case, 1/2 marathon) training season without giving any thought to what comes next! I had been split...Marine Corps Marathon? Or the Philadelphia Marathon (which, because it was my first marathon, will always have a special place in my heart)? I was having a hard time deciding, until this morning, when I went to the Marine Corps Marathon website in order to register. And what did I find there, you ask?


I kind of expected it, to be honest. I guess it will have to wait for another year. As for me, I guess this means I'll be running Philly :)

Monday, May 5, 2008

Weekly Challenge: Spring Cleaning

I am still looking at the title of this post and thinking maybe it isn't quite right. I want this week's challenge to be about nutrition, and maybe that title is misleading. Maybe it seems too closely related can I put this politely...high-fiber diets? This challenge is diet-related, but not necessarily fiber-related. What I am really aiming for is a feeling of 'cleanliness'. It's a bit hard to describe. I just don't want the junky, weighted-down feeling I get from eating too much of what is wrong and not enough of what is right. So I think it is time to get things together nutrition-wise.

After my diet debacle, I decided it was time to just get back to regular eating. Call me crazy, but I feel like not feeling totally drained about midway through the day is a good thing. Plus last week, when I was no longer on the diet, I felt better while running. Hmm....At any rate, this week I would like to challenge myself to eat more balanced meals, but in a concrete way. What does this mean, exactly? 5 fruits and vegetables a day! From what I understand, 5 servings of fruit/veggies is the recommended minimum, and as I have a tendency to leave those things out of my diet (buying produce in NYC is a pain in the b-u-t-t), I am going to make a point of getting my minimum.

I am hoping to weight things a bit more heavily on the veggie side (3:2 veggie to fruit ratio), and surpass my minimum when possible. As usual, this is a challenge that I am hoping to stick with even after the week has ended.

Hopefully this one goes better than my early wake-up call...maybe once I have left the indulgent life of the graduate student behind I will try that again :p

I hate running in shorts!

That's my confession: I hate running in shorts. I love the warm weather, I love the cool breezes, I love not having to pile on layers, I love feeling the sun on my skin (although I don't like the thought of a sunburn)...I just hate wearing shorts while experiencing all of these things.

See, I can't relax in shorts. I am constantly tugging at them: they are sitting too high on my waist, or not high enough, or (and this is most often the case) they are riding up between my legs. They are bunching up between my thighs. And my thighs are not particularly large. And it doesn't seem to matter what sort of shorts I wear. I have tried different brands, different lengths, different cuts, different materials, and it never seems to make a difference. No matter what I do, I find myself yanking at my shorts while running so that they stop riding up.

As a result, I dread the warm weather. I wish I could wear capri pants all the time, no matter what. Sadly, with the summers on the east coast, capri season is rather short and fleeting. What's a girl to do?

Has anyone else had a similar problem? Or any other gripes with gear that just never seems to work, no matter what you try? Misery does love company, after all.

1/2 marathon thoughts

After running 13.1 miles yesterday, I feel surprisingly comfortable today; I have no muscle soreness, no is weird, it's as though I didn't even run yesterday! Who knows what is going on with my body? I give up on trying to figure it all out.

As I mentioned briefly yesterday, the half-marathon went far better than I had thought it would. I don't actually remember the last time I did a long run (I know it was 18 miles and I know I was thirsty in spite of having my fuel belt on but I can't remember when it was exactly), and as I think I said, it had been a while since I had even run more than once or twice a week. My runs had gotten a point where they were depressing more than anything and I had definitely lost that loving feeling (toward running, anyway).

On Saturday, I made sure to pack my suitcase with everything I thought I might need: multiple pairs of shorts, t-shirts, capris in case it was colder than I was expecting it to be, a quarter-zip pull-over, two bottles of gatorade, sports bars, etc. At that point I headed downtown to catch the bus that was taking all the TNT to Long Branch, NJ. The bus ride was pretty short, not too too painful, and got us to NJ around 2 p.m. I checked into my hotel, and spent the afternoon resting and feeling half-worried, half-confident. I had to keep reminding myself that I was not just running a 5k or a 10k tomorrow, that I was going to be running 13.1 miles, which I had not done for a considerable amount of time, and which I was not sure I was capable of doing. I also had to do a fair bit of convincing myself that if I had to stop running or couldn't finish, that it was alright. I hate having to walk during races or even just training runs. I hate feeling like I have failed at something. My mom came up to NJ that evening and we had a pasta dinner that was overpriced but yummy. After she left, I went back into rest-mode, reading in bed and trying to answer my roommate's questions while still making it clear to her that I was not all that interested in chit-chat. It didn't work too well.

Sadly, I failed to sleep well. I know I slept a little bit, but it couldn't have been much. My roommate (I had no idea who she was prior to meeting her when she came in the room on Saturday afternoon) snored like an outboard motor most of the night. Not ideal. This didn't help my confidence--I'm supposed to run a half-marathon on very little sleep even though I haven't run more than 6 miles in weeks? Are you crazy?! I tried not to think negatively, and also tried to ignore how tired I was as I made my way to the starting line of the race.

The course itself was completely flat. You'd think this would be a good thing, but it was incredibly boring and tedious for my muscles. There were very slight inclines (on short bridges, for example) that were a welcome break from the flat but that didn't last long enough to really give the course any excitement. For the first four or so miles I felt fine but incredibly bored. I wondered if I was going to be able to make it through 13.1 miles of this. I was running slowly, trying to take it easy, not know how I would feel after passing the halfway mark.

Miraculously, after the halfway mark I seemed to get my second wind. Things all of a sudden felt easy. I was able to speed up a bit, feel comfortable with my stride, and enjoy myself a little bit more than I had during the beginning of the race. The boredom dissipated and although the course remained monotonous, I didn't mind so much. I remembered what it was about running that I liked--the motion, the movement, the fact that you are moving forward no matter what, accomplishing something with every step you take. My mind felt clear and my body felt strong. It had been a long time since I'd had that feeling, and I relished it. It carried me through the second half of the race and to the finish line.

My half-marathon PR is a 1:58 or so. Yesterday I ran a 2:11, but I think of it as a victory in spite of it's being thirteen minutes slower than my best time. Running those thirteen miles was like recharging my battery--I felt like I was finally a runner again.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Home again, home again

After being in New Jersey for a hot minute to run the half marathon, I am now back in New York. I am exhausted and slightly dehydrated (at least I think that is what the headache is all about) and don't really have the energy to write a long post right now. I just wanted to say, though, that I finished the 13.1 miles in 2:11, ran the whole way, and felt much better than I thought I would.

Sigh of relief :)