Monday, December 28, 2009

New mid-run snack

I have tried a lot of things to eat during long runs.  Most of the gels are way too sweet.  Most of the chews are, well.... too chewy.  I like Sport Beans, but since Costco stopped selling them, they are more difficult to find (not to mention more expensive now).

I have settled on two flavors of Gu.  I use the Just Plain and the Espresso Love flavors.  I usually eat Just Plain in the earlier miles and then the 2X caffeine Espresso Love later on.   With most of my runs, two is all I really need.  But now my runs are getting longer.  I need to eat more than two Gu's during runs over fifteen miles.   Frankly, eating more than a couple is NOT appealing.  Also, Gu is BORING.

I think I found some food that makes me smile during a run.  It isn't a "sport" food.  They don't have electrolytes or any other fancy stuff to help performance, but they are yummy and seem to give me a little boost, even if it is only mental.  I tried these for the first time on Sunday and will try again next week to make sure they work for me.

Yes... I am a big kid at heart.   :-)

Happy Running.

Trail blazing

I had two great trail runs this weekend.  Today's, seriously, kicked my ass, but I'll get to that in a bit.

Saturday morning, Kelly and I met to run the Santiago Creek Trail.  It had been a while since we had run it and we were both looking forward to it.  It was COLD* and it took a while to get in the groove.  I was tired from Christmas activities and woke up with a headache.  I'm glad I had arranged to meet Kelly, otherwise I think I would have opted to stay in bed.

The morning was beautiful, once we warmed up a bit.  We were soon struck how beautiful the creek was.  The trees even had some color, something we don't get a lot of around here.  In this picture you can see a good example of southern California foliage- colorful trees and cactus. 

We had a great run talking about everything from family to religion to travel.  It was just the kind of run I needed during this chaotic time.  We both have stressful things going on in our lives and it was nice just to run and chat.

When we were heading back towards our car, I wanted to add a little mileage and suggested we run over the dam.  The last time we had run here, the "lake" by the dam was completely dry.  Saturday, it was an actual lake.

We ran across the dam, where the path ended.  We could see another trail a few hundred feet away, on the other side of the hill.  We decided to see what that other trail was like, so we decided to blaze our own trail.  I snapped a picture of Kelly climbing up the hill.  It was a fun little adventure.

As we made our way down a steep bank and onto the trail we said good morning to a woman on her horse.  She asked if we saw the sign saying to stay on the trail.  Ummm... no?  She informed us that she was an off-duty ranger for the park and that we need to stay on the trails for our safety.  Uh oh.  She was very nice and scolded us in the nicest way.   As we ran off, we both laughed.  Of course, the one time we break the rules and do something rebellious, we get caught!   We still had fun.

We ended up running nine miles at a nice, easy pace.  I am glad we didn't go too hard, especially knowing now how my Sunday run would end up.

Sunday, I set out to complete the run I started last week and was cut short.  I had done a quick estimate that it would be approximately fifteen miles.  However, it is nearly impossible to measure the distance of the trails on Gmap or Mapmyrun., especially when they are single track through the hills.

It is about five miles (mostly uphill) to the trailhead.  Once I got past the steepest part, I settled in and relaxed.  I took a Gu right before I got off the streets and into the canyons.  As I ran in, I thought for a moment about the fact that I was running by myself.  I remembered seeing so many hikers, bikers and horseback riders the day before that I wasn't worried.  But this sign gave me pause**:

Holy CRAP.  I wondered if I looked like lion food in my long-sleeved pink compression top and black running tights.  I doubted it.  There were lots of tasty rabbits all through those hills.  Why would a lion want me?  It still made me nervous.  I ran into a couple other runners who assured me that the only people who get hurt by them are the ones that get too close to the dens, especially when there are cubs.  Those mamas are very protective.  I had no intention of searching out a lion's den during my run.

The trails were tough.  They were rutty and steep.  I admit that I had to walk a few times. I didn't get to fly going downhill because I really had to watch my footing.  But it was all still a lot of fun.

The weather had warmed up nicely and it was a gorgeous day.  It is hard to believe that there is still an expanse of wilderness in this area, so close to LA.***  Looking east, all you see is wilderness.  And all this is less than five miles from my house.

There were plenty of other people on the trails.  Hikers, bikers and runners enjoyed the gorgeous morning.  Three runners blew by my like I was standing still.   As I was running behind them, I noticed footprints in the loose dirt.  One set were bare footprints!  Wow, out here on this rocky trail?  It made me think of Born to Run and the fantastic runners in that book.   I looked ahead during one of the switchbacks and realized that none of the three runners were barefoot.   Then I looked more closely at the prints and there was tread on the bare ones.  Aha!  One of those guys was wearing Vibram Five Fingers!  Cool!   What a great place to feel the ground!   I wondered briefly if I would ever get the nerve up to wear something like that on a trail like this.  I was having enough trouble in my comfy trail shoes.  Who knows?

My plan was to run along the canyon and then cut back to the streets to head back to my house.  Once in the canyon, I rarely saw any houses.  The trails took me southeast away from the neighborhoods.  After a while, I knew that I needed to get back home.  I saw some homes and started taking trails that headed that way.  But the trails kept turning away from civilization.  There was no trail access from the homes I encountered.  At one point, I was ready to hop a fence and go through someone's backyard.  I climbed a hill to get a look at where the trails went and saw one with a nice wooden fence-- definitely part of a neighborhood path.  The only way to get there, however, was to go all the way around this little canyon.  It would add several miles.  I was starting to get tired.  I had been running for about twelve miles and knew I was several miles from home and didn't want to push it too hard.  Once again, I went off the trail and cut between trails.  This time, I stayed near the houses.  It was obvious that I wasn't the first to do this.

When I finally found an outlet from the canyon into a neighborhood, I had no idea where I was.  I had forgotten to charge both my Garmin and my phone the night before.  The Garmin ran out of juice just before I found pavement and my phone was pretty low.  I didn't want to risk using all my batteries to try to find Google Maps on my phone**** since I needed to call my husband to let him know where I was.  When I found a familiar street,  I realized I had gone further than I had thought.  Had I not blazed my own trail, I would have ended up further east and MUCH farther out of my way.

It turns out, I was about six miles from home.  That was a LONG six miles.  The trails had worn me out and I was tempted to call home and ask for a ride.  My kids were sick, so I really didn't want them to go out and about.  I would just tough it out.   Those six miles were very reminiscent of the last six miles of a marathon.  My legs were hurting all over.  I was tired.  I was almost out of water and had no more Gu or candy.  I just wanted to get home.

When I finally got to my neighborhood, I took the shortcut up some stairs to get home, rather than run around the block and up the hill.  It cuts off about a half a mile or more.  I realized later***** that I am only one mile from 1000 miles.   Had it been December 31, I don't know if I could have run that extra mile to reach that milestone.   I was that tired.  I had run 18.2 miles on a very difficult route. 

I made myself take an ice bath.  Brrrrrrrr..... NOT fun in 50 degree weather!  I am pretty sure it helped, however, since I don't feel too bad today.  I am more sore than usual, but I ran three miles further than my longest run so far this training cycle.

Overall mileage for the weekend: 27 miles!  
Overall mileage for the week: 43 miles!
Overall mileage for the month (so far): 135 miles!  That is a monthly mileage PR!

*Cold for us is in the high 30's and low 40's.  I know it isn't cold by standards of the rest of the country, but i definitely needed my gloves and a couple of layers.
** It read: Mountain lions may be found in this area.  They are important members of this natural environment.  Lions are quiet, secretive and seldom seen. Give them distance and respect.  RECENT SIGHTING 12/11/09."  
*** The picture looking toward the west makes me glad to be living in the hills to the east.  It was a beautiful clear day where I was... that haze in the distance is smog!
****I have only had my phone for a couple of weeks and still don't know all the applications.
*****Since my Garmin ran out of juice, I had to map out the rest of my run.  Luckily, the Garmin captured the trail portion of the run.  I had known that the batteries were low, so I didn't even turn it on until I reached the trailhead about five miles into the run.  I ran about seven miles in the canyon.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

1000 miles???

I have been reading a lot of blogs lately that have talked about mileage goals. The most common mileage goal seems to be 1000 miles. It struck me this morning that I have no idea what my total mileage for the year is. This is odd considering my obsession over feedback on my running (pace, distance etc.) I feel lost running without my Garmin and log each run diligently on Daily Mile.  The problem is that I didn't join Daily Mile until mid-April.  Prior to that, I didn't keep track of my runs in one place.

So... today I went through my old blog entries and my SportTracks for Garmin.  I didn't write about every run and I didn't have my Garmin every time, either*.  I am sure I missed a few runs, but none of any significant distance.  I put together a spreadsheet of my mileage.  It turns out that I can account for 966 miles!!!!  I am pretty happy with that, especially when I only ran 27 miles in all of September.

In looking at my overall mileage, I am surprised at how low my mileage was leading up to the marathon in May.  During my marathon training, I was fighting shin splints and did a lot of bike riding.  I ran 71 miles in March and 86 miles in April.  I didn't up my mileage until after my RRCA training in June.  I ran 124 miles in July while training for the AFC Half Marathon.

Hopefully, the rest of my runs this year end up better than this morning's run.  It started out so good.  It was a clear, brisk morning.  I had my gloves and hat and good tunes.  I was feeling good.  I ran the first few miles at a quick pace.  I turned up a very steep hill and powered up it, only walking for a little bit.  I ran down towards my house, thinking I would add another couple of miles in the area around my house. Right around four miles, my stomach started to hurt.  I was getting pretty good cramps and started feeling very "icky."  I really just needed a restroom, but the nearest one was at home.**  I ran another quarter mile or so and then walked the final quarter mile home, taking a shortcut back to the house.

In one week, I need to run 34 miles.  It is entirely possible, but not a foregone conclusion.  Wish me luck!

*Remember the unfortunate lost Garmin?  It wasn't gone long, but it is one example of why I didn't have it at times.
**In retrospect, I think I could have stopped at the gas station to use the restroom and kept going.  But I never even thought about it... I just wanted to get home.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Holidays and fitness

We are smack dab in the middle of "the holidays.*"   This is the biggest time for excuses when it comes to exercising.   I was talking to a friend a couple of weeks ago who is on a weight loss journey who said that her goal is to maintain or only gain a pound or two during the holidays.  I told her that she is setting her sights too low and that she shouldn't expect to fail.

There are a few tips to keeping on track during this busy time.

1) Have a Goal-
It needs to be a specific goal.  Stating that you will exercise during the holidays probably won't get you up in the dark or during a storm.  A race goal in January or February is a great way to get motivated during the holidays. Two years ago, I had thought about running my first half marathon in January.  I printed out a Higdon training plan and half-heartedly started training.  Excuse after excuse kept me from running.  I didn't even sign up for the race and so it was easy to let it go.  Last year and this year I signed up for my January races to keep myself on track.  Even simple goals like "run 20 miles per week" or "go to Pilates every Wednesday" is better than no goal at all.

2) Have a Plan-
A schedule is my way of making sure I get my mileage in.  The best way to get your exercise in during busy time is to make it a planned part of the day.  I know that right now if I ran when I felt like it or had time, I wouldn't do it at all.  I have to get up early to do it before my kids get up and my husband goes to work.

My plan is not set in stone, however.  I overslept a day last week and didn't have the time to get in a run before the activities of the day had to begin.  If my schedule didn't have wiggle room, it would have sent me into a tailspin of stress.  Instead I told myself I would just have to run another day.  If that didn't work out, I knew that it would all work out in the end.  If an exercise schedule causes stress, it is not doing the job it is meant to do.

3) Watch the Treats-
Duh, right?  This seems pretty obvious.  However, this time of year, holiday treats are EVERYWHERE.  When you have plates of Christmas cookies from the neighbors staring you in the face and you have five million things to do, it is so easy to have a lunch of shortbread and brownies instead of a salad or a pita.  Try to keep some easy meals on hand.  Even a Lean Cuisine or pre-made salad** will work for a quick grab during this chaotic week.

The good news is that the more you are exercising, the more you want the healthier food (most of the time), although this time of year that gets harder and harder.  I think that many diets have it backwards.  They start with the food and calorie counting and add the exercise as almost an afterthought.  If you focus on the exercise, you will find that you can't do it well if you are eating nothing but junk.  My friend Kelly had a pretty rough run on Saturday.  She realized that it was due to eating crappy all week and having several meals consisting of holiday treats.  She was really bummed because that long run is the only time all week she gets to herself and she ruined it by failing to fuel properly.  This week she is thinking about everything she eats and how it affects her long run, one of her favorite parts of the week.

But what about the parties?  The best way to keep from pigging out at a party is to eat a small, healthy meal before going.  One of the mistakes I make is not eating all day before some sort of event (because I am usually running around like a crazy person trying to find something to wear or cooking something to bring to the party).   If you aren't starving, you can pick and choose what you want to eat instead of shoving anything into your face.  It is ok to indulge a little.  I mean, what is the point of running hundreds of miles if you can't enjoy good food?  The key is moderation.

I hope that you all enjoy the next week or so.  I hope you are able to spend it with friends and family.  In all the chaos of the next couple of weeks, I hope you are able to squeeze in a little time for yourself to run, swim, ride, do some yoga etc.

Happy Running...

*I actually meant to write this post before Thanksgiving, but have barely had time to keep up on regular posting. Sorry these tips are so late in the season.
**Careful... some of those pre-made salads are loaded with fat and calories.

A quick post about a giveaway that ends tonight!

This looks like a great giveaway.  It is a signed copy of The Runner's Rule Book: Everything a Runner Needs to Know -- And Then Some.  

It is a book I have been meaning to pick up anyway, so it would be cool to win it!

Check out the giveaway on The Beginning Runner's Blog.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Another record week!

So much for the ten percent rule...I went from a mileage PR of forty miles two weeks ago to forty-seven miles last week!  I think I need to take it a little easier this week so I don't over do it.  But as I take an inventory of how I feel, I think I am recovering pretty well.

Here is a recap of the week:
Monday-  Six miles.  A nice run in the rain.  It was a hilly route and I took it easy.  It was my first inclement weather running in a while.  Since the hard stuff didn't come down until later in the day, it was quite enjoyable.
Tuesday-  Ten miles.  I usually don't get this long of a run in during the week, but I used my free time during preschool to make up for the lack of long runs over the weekend.

Wednesday- Rest.  I normally don't rest on Wednesdays, but I was feeling tired and starting to get a sore throat Tuesday night and didn't want to push it.  I feel like I did the right thing listening to my body.
Thursday- Five miles.
Friday- Rest.
Saturday- A nice run in the rain.  Kelly and I set off to run between ten and twelve miles.  We both had a deadline to be home.  Neither one of us got into a groove right away.  We met up with some of our running buddies and ran with them for a couple of miles before having to head back.  We ended up running ten miles.  I made it back around 8, showered, got the kids dressed and headed out to have breakfast with Santa.
Sunday- My husband had to work all weekend and had to be in very early on Sunday.  There was no way I was getting in a long run.  I asked my brother and sister-in-law if my kids could hang out with their cousin for a few hours.  They were happy to host a playdate for the cousins and I headed off along the Santa Ana River for a fifteen mile run.  It takes a village.

I already had a lot of miles for the week, but I had yet to do a real LONG run during this training cycle.  I wanted to push it past thirteen miles (my threshold between long runs and REALLY long runs).  It wasn't easy, but it was a nice run.   I spent the first hour or so listening to the end of an audiobook.*  After that, I just zoned out to some good music.

I wanted to test my fitness level a bit, so I decided to run a couple of miles at a quicker pace.  I did mile twelve at half-marathon race pace and mile thirteen at marathon race pace.  I miscalculated my route and hit a steep hill at the end of mile twelve.  Where I had hoped to run under 8:30, it ended up being closer to 8:35.  I felt pretty toast at the end of that mile pushing up that hill.  However, the next mile felt pretty easy and it ended up faster than marathon pace at 8:56.  The rest of the mile splits were between 9:30 and 10:00, which is right where I wanted to run.  I felt pretty good that my 44th and 45th miles of the week (and 22nd and 23rd of the weekend) could be pushed like that.

It was a good week.  This week, on the other hand, is starting out pretty slow.   But that's ok.  I know I'll make it up along the way.

Happy Running.

*I listened to Born To Run by Christopher McDougall.  AWESOME book.  I loved every minute of it.  I will probably be buying it in paperback, just to reread down the road.   I highly recommend this book.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Fall back week

Last week I didn't plan to have a fall back week, but I only ran twenty miles.  Like I have said before, sometimes life gets in the way.  You have to be able to embrace it.  I have no regrets, because we had a great weekend.*

It may have been a good thing.  The last few days I have felt pretty tired.  I might be fighting a virus or I might have been on the verge of over training.  I'm not going to worry too much about it.  Stressing out over my training schedule isn't going to prepare me better for the marathon in February.  I am going to move forward and try to run smart to get up to where I need to be.

By now, I should have run a sixteen mile run.   The longest run I have done (since the half marathon in August) is twelve.  Once again, this next weekend, life is getting in the way of my long run.  My husband has to work some pretty crazy hours over the weekend, which will make running nearly impossible.  I may see if my brother and his wife will have my kids over to play with their cousin for a few hours on Sunday so I can try to run fifteen or sixteen miles.  As a busy mom with an even busier husband, I need to fit in my runs where I can.

On a bright note... yesterday I was able to take advantage of both kids being in school and went for not one, but two runs.  I met some friends for an easy six mile run on the river trail.  It was a slow pace, but it was nice to run and chat.  It was relaxing.  Afterward, I still had forty minutes or so until I had to pick up my son so I decided to run four more miles at a more aggressive pace.  It felt good to run a bit faster after such a pleasant warm up.  I tried to keep my pace at or below 9:00.  The first mile was easy.  The second was a bit more work due to the fact that I was running on a soft shoulder of a street the day after a heavy rain.  Between dodging puddles and slogging through soft grass, my pace was 9:15.   Ironically, that mile is the flattest of the route.  The last two miles were a stead incline.  I worked hard to keep my pace up, rather than taking it easy like I normally do on hills during a casual run (as opposed to hill repeats).  I averaged 8:56 for the entire run.

So hopefully I'll be able to put in a decent amount of miles this week.   It will definitely be a balancing act.

*Disneyland was wonderful.  It was everything we had hoped it would be.  While I missed both my Saturday and Sunday runs because of weekend activities, we definitely were not sedentary.  There was a LOT of walking around Disneyland, so I did get some time on my feet.   It was worth missing half my mileage for the week.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Through the fog

This morning I woke to thick fog and the temperature in the mid forties.  Brrr...  I really don't know how people in cold climates do it.  I wore tights, a long sleeve tech shirt with arm warmers under it, gloves and a fleece vest.  I didn't go for the knit hat yet, just my trusty Nike running hat;  I think it needs to be a few degrees cooler for a knit hat.

Where last week I set a mileage PR, this week I'll be lucky to hit the mid thirties.  Life has a tendency to get in the way of training.  I have had to cut some runs short due to my husband's work schedule (in addition to my not getting out the door early enough).  I have to be back by seven in order to get our day started.  It is hard to get longer runs in with a deadline.  I am also missing my long Saturday run.  I am not complaining, however.  We are taking the kids to Disneyland!!  They have only been once three years ago and my daughter was only six months old.  At six and three, they are the perfect age for the Magic Kingdom.  All through the move, I had promised them that we would go.  My friend's son (my son's best friend) is turning six tomorrow and we are all going to celebrate with Mickey (and Jack Sparrow and Sleeping Beauty).

So I ran today, my regular rest day.  I ran six miles, which is a decent distance during the week for me, but it won't make up for the ten I would have run tomorrow.  I had done a lot of hills this week, so I ran down to the river trail, which is flat.  The fog was really eerie.  I could see the water and tons of ducks, geese, herons and egrets.  I couldn't see across it, so I couldn't even see the headlights from the freeway.  I could almost convince myself that the traffic noise was a distant waterfall.  The fog really helped me feel like I was escaping.  It was really relaxing.

I want to wish a bunch of runners good luck this weekend on marathons and half marathons.  If I forget someone, please forgive me!
AKA Alice-Las Vegas Rock-n-Roll Half
Irene-Las Vegas Rock-n-Roll Half
Jill-Las Vegas Rock-n-Roll Half
Jimmy-Las Vegas Rock-n-Roll Half (Jimmy has been coaching the Team Challenge group.  Yeah, Coach!!)
Kristen- California International Marathon (this is Kristen's first marathon!!  She is going to do great!)
Aron- California International Marathon (this may be Aron's Boston Qualifying run!!)
Danica- California International Marathon (this race qualifies her for the Marathon Maniacs!)
Gigi- Santa Barbara Marathon

Happy Running, everyone.  I'll be sure to tell Mickey hi!!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A 40 mile week!!

I am pretty sure that last week was my highest running week ever.  I am pretty sure that my previous record was thirty-seven miles.  Ironically, I didn't do a significantly long run.  I probably could have run more on Sunday, but I really don't want to bump my overall mileage too much in one week.  I would hate to overtrain at this point.

I took it pretty easy early in the week.  I knew I was running a race on Thursday and wanted to be somewhat fresh.  I ran around four miles on Tuesday and Wednesday.  Between both races and my warm up and cool down, I ran close to eleven miles on Thursday.

After taking Friday off (as my normal rest day and to recover from Thanksgiving), I joined my friend Kelly and my new running buddies Rod and Steve for a run.  Kelly's schedule had her running ten miles, I think.  Mine said eight.  We ran twelve.  I wouldn't change a thing,  It was a great run into the hills east of here.  Rod had told us that they had seen a mountain lion up there once, so I was thankful to be running in a group.   The only wildlife we saw on Saturday were cows.  They startled me as I rounded a corner and saw a couple.   As a bunch of them started running, all I could think about was City Slickers, the stampede and Billy Crystal with a coffee grinder.

My running buddies.

Steve grabbed my camera so he could take some pictures of me.  He would run ahead and turn back to get pictures of us.  Fun!


This one is a bit blurry, but I love the setting.



It was a great run with great friends.  Kelly and I had planned on turning around at five miles to only do ten.  The guys wanted to run a full hour before turning around.  We were really enjoying ourselves and decided to run a bit further.  That's how our ten miler became a twelve miler.*

Sunday was supposed to be my long run.  I had fifteen on the schedule.  Like I mentioned above, I knew that I already had over thirty miles for the week.  In addition, the weekend of parties and family had taken it out of me.  The idea of getting up at 5 a.m. again was NOT appealing.  I like to get back early on Sundays so that Kenny has options for his day.  Also, my dad was in town and I wanted to spend some time with him.  I slept in and left after 8 a.m.  

I ran up to the Oak Canyon Nature Center, where I had gone with my dad and kids the day before.  It was a fantastic little canyon with great hiking trails.  I figured that they would be even better to run.  We had seen a ridge trail and the nice employee in the center told me that the upper ridge trail connected to the Walnut Canyon Reservoir   The trail was great.  It was a challenging single-track going up to the upper edge of the small canyon.  A steep trail with stairs went off to the left leading to the reservoir.   It was super windy up along the rim of the lake.  It was a nice, paved trail all around the lake.  There were a lot of walkers and runners around this two mile loop.   Once I finished the loop, I went back down the trail into the nature reserve.  I took the lower trail back to the entrance of the park for a nice variety. 

 Photo courtesy of Flikr  VLKT

The first part of my Sunday run was rough.  I felt like stopping on several occasions.  I was sluggish and tired.  I figured that holiday celebrating had taken its toll on me.  I actually considered cutting the run short before heading up the hill to the nature center.  I pushed on and by mile five or so, I was feeling good.  My last couple miles home were really strong.  I know I could have gone on for another hour, but I had promised my husband that I would be home by 10.  I ended up running nine miles and felt pretty good.

So that is my week in a nutshell.  I should probably write more often so that these things don't get quite so long.

Happy Running!


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