Ready for a PR

November 6, 2012 Leave a comment

I have run 100 miles per month in the last two months. I just ran my fastest 5k since 2009 when I started long-distance running. I am hoping for a PR in two weeks at the Philadelphia Marathon.

I am aiming for 4:10. My fear is that I am not as in shape as I think; I will run the first half in 2:05-2:10 and then crash instead of getting a negative split. In my two longest training runs, the last 2 miles I slowed down a lot. My hope is that I will run 2:05-2:10 in the first half and then crush the second half.

I need some new shoes and some new clothing. Then it will be time. Lay it out on the course!


Energy Bars and Exercise

What do energy bars have to do with exercise? The companies that make energy bars or gels want us to eat them early and often. The GU recommendation is 15 minutes before exercise and every 45 minutes after starting exercise. Hm. Sounds like a bit too much GU for me! The endurance nutrition companies have the main point right: you have to take care of your nutrition while working out over long periods of time. For me, this idea morphs into needing to be prepared before I do a long run. I can’t go running unless I have Nutrition! [with a superhero stance] Having Nutrition! requires Preparation![finger goes up in the air like the Statue of Liberty] which is the problem I want to address here. Figuring out the best way to prepare for long run nutrition.

First I tried to buy Preparation!: I tried Hammer Endurance products, Gatorade powder, and of course GU. At the purchase of all these products I was super stocked because I thought they would be the answer to my feeling of not being ready for my long runs. If I have these instant energy solutions, surely going on a long run will be easier! But the elation quickly died off. I bought massive amounts of Perpetuem (caffè latte flavor!) and threw half of it away after it sat unused for two years. GU has been my most used purchased product, but eating GU every weekend during long runs doesn’t match my idea of a balanced diet. With all the free GU I added to my collection at races and my limited use of GU during long runs, I have double the amount I bought originally (though different flavors).  Short story: My attempts to buy Preparation! were not long-term solutions.

Last year I tried fueling with sandwiches and other “normal” food. This matched my idea of a balanced diet better than GU, but still didn’t give me Preparation! I had to make more sandwiches every time I wanted to go on a run.  At least the products I bought lasted longer than one day. The effort put into making food for each long run was a little too much for me to incorporate the practice as a permanent solution.

My story finally comes to energy bars. I recently came across an energy bar recipe that may be my Preparation! Now finding an energy bar recipe is not unusual; I had discovered some delicious sounding energy bar recipes  at Vegetarian Runner last year when I was training for the 20in24. But I never made them. Though I think of myself as a cook and as someone familiar with foreign ingredients, some bars at the website contained ingredients that were just a little too foreign. The Spicy Carob Banana Energy Bars call for sprouted buckwheat and salba… hmm, that doesn’t sound like something I can pick up in bulk at Nuts to You.

And then I discovered this recipe: The Ultimate DIY Running Bar.
And I went out to Nuts to You and bought all the ingredients.
And went home and made energy bars.
As the bars were cooling I thought “huh, when am I planning on using these??”
I did not plan to go on a long run any time soon. But with energy bars in hand, I was ready. And you know what I did? I went on a long run that Saturday, energy bar in Ziplock bag in pocket!

What I really like about the Ultimate DIY Running Bar is that it reminds me of an oatmeal bar that I used to cook up for breakfasts on the go but more energy packed. It’s my perfect mini-meal. I’ve been using this bar as a pre-morning-workout-breakfast because I need real breakfast when I get back from the workout. It’s also the mini-meal I was missing between a day of work and an evening of Ultimate. Dinner would be too heavy before playing but lunch was not enough to hold me over until the end of the game barbecue. Boom! Energy bar=perfect mini meal!

The moral is that preparation itself can be a motivator of activity. Being prepared gives you one less reason to not do something. Blogs and articles always say things like ‘Lay out your running clothes and you will make it out the door for an early run’. Well I haven’t really listened until now. And I probably still will not lay out my running clothes. But I like these energy bars. Making them has helped get me out the door for morning workouts and for long runs.

DNF and me

I DNF’d* the Niagara Ultra on June 23rd =(

The day started off cool, but quickly got hotter than I realized (because there was little humidity). I was worried about over-hydrating which caused me to drink too little.

One sign of my deteriorated state was feeling severe emotions. I don’t know how else to describe it; during my run and subsequent walk my thoughts about stopping made me want to cry. In a regular emotional state I would probably be upset but the physical feeling of being about to cry wouldn’t happen. It was starting to feel how I felt on my last loop of the 20 in 24 in 2011–I crashed during that loop and had a fever when I stopped running.

The decision to stop was the right one.

I ran 30k (18.6 miles) in 4 hours and 10 minutes. The last 4k I was mostly walking. While sitting at the aid station waiting in the shade for a ride back to the start a few people came through. One lady asked if I was taking a break; I said yes; I didn’t want to even put the thought of stopping in her head. But as they went through moving slowly, I questioned my decision. Then I estimated that I would be out there for three more hours and reconfirmed my desire to stop.

I guess it’s a mixed blessing to have a DNF occur to me. I feel like I learned a lot. I’ve read about other people’s experiences with a DNF and believed them, but couldn’t quite relate their experience to myself. Part of me thought I would always just keep walking. But a wise ultrarunner described his DNF experience saying that it was a race he wasn’t racing so he stopped. I understand that better now. When I contemplated continuing on for at least three more hours, my immediate reaction was NO EFFING WAY! Why would I want to keep going for three hours when I already feel like I lost the race?

Plus I thought that I would do more damage to my body than finishing would be worth. Not training enough was definitely a big problem, so while I was running I kept thinking  of training runs to do in the next few days. My logic was: I need to start training better immediately. If I continue running, I will be too sore to train for a week. Being too beat up to train is counter to my desire to start training more. If I stop, I will be able to train this week.

The distance I ran (18.6 miles) is certainly not a distance to sneeze at. It sucks to have DNF’d but I have learned multiple things from this experience. Hopefully the main takeaway is how much I love arriving at a race knowing I trained properly.

(I did manage to going running a few times in the week after the race)

*DNF means Did Not Finish

Finding Motivation

Last year when I ran the 20in24 I was in shape for sure. I was running many miles per week, I was lifting regularly, I was playing Ultimate every week. Then I feel like I just stopped. I thought I was taking a training break, but it spiraled into months of not training, taking me to now.

I guess I haven’t dropped the ball completely. Since the 20in24 I ran 5 official races. I do exercise regularly; mostly walking but I have been going to the gym at least once a week and running at least once a week over the winter. I think I’ve averaged 6-7 hours of exercise a week since the marathon in November, and that is apparently a lot compared to the rest of America.

But I feel disappointed in myself.

know how to train. I just stopped taking myself seriously.

Being in shape and eating right are things we have to remind ourselves every day that we want them. It’s just so easy to forget how good that workout will make you feel when you’ve worked a 10 hour day, or commuted 2 hours round-trip in the car. It’s easy to put off the morning run and say the evening will be good for working out, only to realize you have to cook and do laundry and by the time you remember you were going to go running, you are in your pajamas in bed.

So how do we combat this?

How can we remind ourselves of what we are capable?

Three things I do to help are to play team sports, run races, and track my workouts (and sometimes my eating).

What happened to me this winter is that I didn’t have time to do my regular Ultimate league and I stopped writing down my daily and weekly progress for exercise. With only racing to motivate me, I seriously fell off the wagon.

So it’s a lesson; using only one of the three solutions is not enough for me.

I’ve started tracking my progress again. And I have a 31 mile race coming up (which is much further than the other races I’ve run since the Philadelphia Marathon). I’m on the upswing! But I’m not there yet.

Categories: motivation, training

Goals for the year

Now that it’s the beginning of April, I suppose it’s time to think about what I want to do this year. Hah, am I four months too late? What happened to my New Year’s Resolutions?

I was happy to run in the Caesar Rodney Half Marathon on March 25th, but was disappointed that I was not serious about my training over the winter. That showed in my time and in my fatigue during and after the race.

Today I still don’t have a plan. I have some races I want to run, but I don’t feel serious about my training. I keep feeling like tomorrow will be better. Tomorrow I will pack my breakfast and lunch before I climb into bed, tomorrow I will run in the morning, tomorrow I will not eat those cookies that maybe caused me to have an energy crash. In my mind, I am a morning person. I get up, exercise, go about my day with energy, relax in the evening, and take time to prepare for the next morning. In reality, I don’t know why that is my ideal and I feel far from it.

I think my goal is to always run 4 days a week and to lift at least once a week, but that feels too general. I don’t feel committed.

But back to the point, there are things I want to accomplish this year. I want to do some long bike rides, maybe even bike camping. I want to do a trail ultramarathon with lots of hills and rocks with which to contend. I am not doing the 20in24 this year because I want to do a trail ultra. Finally, I want to run the Philadelphia Marathon in the fall for a fourth year in a row.

Categories: goals

An argument for rest

When you work your muscles hard, you are literally weaker the next day.

About a month ago I took an aerobics class to combat the winter doldrums. It was fun, challenging and I was  sore for at least 3 days. The next day, with my walk stiff from the sore muscles, I rolled my left ankle on an uneven section of pavement (fortunately nothing serious). I am sure that you also have pushed yourself in a race or workout session to the point of muscles soreness the next day. Are you familiar with what could be called the “down-the-stair-wince”? You step down and your leg locks a bit and your knee feels slightly over-extended? You walk carefully and aim to hold a railing, but the knee lock still happens. It doesn’t hurt exactly, but it feels wrong. You brace yourself against it, but… *wince* there goes the knee!

In the beginning of my career as an exerciser, I was surprised that going down the stairs was worse than going up when I was sore. Now I know that walking down slope or down stairs is harder. There was an article that of course I can’t find that talked about Boston marathon times not being eligible for a world record because of the downhill drop (alternate article) but how ironically running downhills is hard and one year the leading woman could not go one after running the downhills hard because her hamstrings froze up (alternate article). Aha, that’s why going down the stairs causes me more dread than going up the stairs when I am sore!

Don’t get me wrong, I like when my muscles feel sore. But people need to be aware that you really shouldn’t do two extreme workouts in a row. And as my experience proves, you even need to be careful when you walk on the sidewalk! Weak muscles can not support your joints as well as when they are rested and recovered. You are more likely to overextend your legs or roll an ankle after a hard workout or race. Do not ignore rest days in an exercise schedule.

Categories: recovery, training

What is a normal amount of exercise?

January 23, 2012 Leave a comment

I have been sitting on this post for a while in order to clarify my argument. I still do not feel like I have teased out all I want to say, but I wanted to publish something.

After reading the New York Times article “The Fat Trap” I started reading the blog Refuse to Regain. One author of Refuse to Regain wrote in a post “… the data shows that successful study maintainers are exercising a lot (on average, about 1 hour daily)”. To me that wording implies that exercising an hour a day is abnormal. I completely disagree.

Please note: I am assuming that the 1 hour daily average mentioned in Refuse to Regain is mostly at a moderate rate not an intense rate because the National Weight Control Registry says that the most frequently mentioned activity people added to their lives is walking. And thus, I can compare my activity level below to that statement.

I recorded the amount of exercise I did in detail from March to June in 2011 including all walking longer than 10 minutes, running and other higher impact aerobic activities, lifting and stretching. For thirteen weeks I did between 13 and 26 hours of exercise and one week I did 7 hours. I was training for a 24 hour race so that was the motivation to aim for that much exercise. But even now when I am not in training for anything specific I probably average more than 7 hours a week of activity, with about 5 hours of walking.  says “Adults should do at least 2 hours and 30 minutes each week of aerobic physical activity at a moderate level OR 1 hour and 15 minutes each week of aerobic physical activity at a vigorous level.” Do we as a society really think that 2.5 hours a week is enough??

What I know is that a normal level of activity for me is much higher than 2.5 hours of exercise a week, and the doctor’s tests indicate that I am healthy.