Thursday, June 24, 2010

These are a few of my favorite things

...Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens,
bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens...

I'd like to tell you all about a few of my favorite things! I haven't been running long, but in the short time I've been hitting the road and trail I've found some things that I can't live without. Let me share!

FIRST: Cherry juice

I buy this kind of cherry juice concentrate. You just mix two tablespoons of it into some other beverage like water, juice, or even (my personal favorite) coconut water.

Why cherry juice? It's packed full of antioxidants.. That means it works to repair our bodies, especially those little muscle tears caused by running. I'm not a doctor and don't know exactly how it works, but I can tell you that it makes me recover much faster than I normally would from long runs.

When I get back from long runs, I mix a couple tablespoons into twelve ounces of coconut water and guzzle heartily. I swear, it'll fix all that ails ya.

(Check out here, here, and here for info about the health benefits of cherry juice.)

SECOND: My Zensah compression sleeves

Clearly, those pictured above are not mine--I have charmingly bright white ones--but they're exactly the same, and they're awesome.

From the website:

    The Calf/Shin Recovery Sleeves are made with gradient compression which provides wide ribbing in the front for shin support and tight ribbing in the back for calf support.

    The sleeves are made with Zensah Fabric which has silver helping to regulate skin temperature and fight bacteria. The sleeves can be worn during training or for recovery to increase oxygen blood flow to the muscles of the lower leg. The more oxygen the muscles receive the faster they recover, allowing athletes to push the envelope in their training. The Zensah Calf/Shin sleeve is ideal for runners, cyclists and triathletes and anyone else who is on their feet. It can be worn during training, recovery or for traveling.

    The Zensah Calf/Shin sleeves are unique in that they provide Pin-Point Compression to the front and back of the leg. The dual action support was developed by a professional athletic trainer.

They do everything that they say they do. On days that I run without them or fail to wear them for awhile post-run, I recover seriously slower than when I'm wearing them. I can feel them supporting my calves and shins as I run, too. I wear them on every run and after every run.

THIRD: My Gracie's Gear tank

You've seen me wearing this in some of my running photos.

Ladies, go get yourself one. It's supportive and functional. The girls stay in place, and there's a front pocket big enough for your phone or iPod. There's also a loop on the side of the tank strap to thread your headphones cord through. It's magical--such a little strip of fabric being so darned nice! Also, it's long enough to hit your waist and doesn't ride up when you run.

Get one here.

What can you not live without? What are some of your favorite things?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Muddy Buddy! And my first 13.1

Last Saturday was Muddy Buddy! As I'm sure you know, I love me a good mud race. My first one was the Warrior Dash on May 22nd (click here for the race recap), and I was instantly hooked! There's just something awesome about being covered head to toe in mud in public. Love it.

Here are the all the crazy kids who came with me this time:

From left to right: Paul, Emily, Jessica, me, Rusty, and Patrick.

We decided to race in the coed division, so the teams were Paul & Emily, Jessica & Patrick, and Rusty & me.

We got there nice and early so that we'd have plenty of time to prep our gear.

We started in the fourth wave, so we had a nice, long wait in line, too.

The concept of Muddy Buddy is that you and a buddy race as a team with one bike between you. One person starts on the bike, and the other person starts running. At the end of each one-mile leg, the biker drops the bike, goes through an obstacle, and runs the next leg; the runner runs the leg, does the obstacle, and picks up the bike for the next leg. You alternate for 5 legs.

The bikers got a head start on the runners so there wouldn't be a big mess with runners and bikers trying to share the path. The whole race was on a trail with a lot of single-track, so it was important to divide up the group ahead of time!

Here go the bikers:

Here go the runners:

We decided to have the boys start on the bikes and the girls start on their feet. Jess, Emily, and I stayed together for the first leg, but Jess and Emily dropped back when we hit the first obstacle and picked up the bikes for our first biking leg. They were pretty worn out from the running leg and wanted to take it slow. They kept up with me at a 9:00-minute pace, and they aren't really runners!

The obstacles went like this:

  • After 1st leg: Cross a balance beam
  • After 2nd leg: Crawl under a fishing net
  • After 3rd leg: Climb a rock wall
  • After 4th leg: Climb a fishing net and slide down an inflatable slide
  • Before the finish line: Mud pit!

I felt pretty awesome through the first two legs! Rusty was waiting for me when I hit the bike drop at the end of the second leg, but he did have a two-minute head start at the beginning--I didn't feel too bad! The third leg (my second running leg) was a bit rough. It was HOT outside! We're talking 90's with 100% humidity. I had sweat dripping from every inch of my skin. The course was steep and hilly to boot, so it was that much harder! I ran most of the leg, but I walked up most of the steep hills. The rest of the race went by in a similar fashion--mostly running/biking with some walking up the steep hills.

Luckily Jeff's mid-race perch was at a flat spot so I was actually on the bike!

The last leg (my third running leg) was actually 1.2 miles, and it seemed to go on and on and on. Before I knew it though, I heard the roar of the finish area and saw the signs for the mud pit! Rusty was waiting for me in front of the mud pit and we crawled through together.

Rusty and I crossed the finish line first and met up with Jeff in the finish area.


Emily and Paul crossed next...

...then Jess and Patrick!

Muddy Buddies!

Muddy Buddy sucess! Rusty and I ended up finishing in 54:29, 32nd out of 63 teams in our division (coed teams whose ages add up to between 56 and 65). Rusty has finished in 54 minutes and some change for the last three years! I'm glad I was able to keep up!

I took my shoes off in the car--I was DIRTY!

After the race, I came home, iced, and ate ate ate! I knew I had a long run Sunday, and I wanted to make sure I was appropriately fueled and rested. I was scheduled to run 12 miles, and I was a little nervous about it because of what happened post-Warrior Dash. I don't have a lot of experience with back-to-back runs because my training schedule only has me running Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays.

I woke up Sunday morning, bright and early at 4:30 AM, and fueled with 1/2 a whole-wheat bagel and some Gatorade.

I left the house at 5:30 AM. Despite my goofy smile in the photo above, once I started running I felt like absolute CRAP. My shins were killing me! They threatened to give out with every step. Usually, I wear my Zensah compression sleeves on every run, but I didn't wear them at Muddy Buddy because I didn't want to get them dirty in the mud pit.

Zensah <3.

I told myself I'd reevalute the situation at mile 5. If I still felt like crap and my shins were still threatening failure, I'd turn home (at mile 5, I'd only be .4 miles from home).

Luckily, at mile 5, I felt flippin' fantastic! My shin/calf aches had worked themselves out, and I was feeling pretty powerful. I had told myself before I even started that if I was feeling good I was going to push for the whole 13.1. A half mary!

I needed to prove to myself that I could do it. I needed to know what I was made of. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about.

I did it, too! GO ME! I didn't have anything left in the tank and was certainly ready to stop at 13.1, but I did it! That's all that matters to me.

This bodes well for the weekend after next, when I'll have to run 14 miles on Saturday and then run my first 10K on Sunday!

It's the PEACHTREE ROAD RACE, baby! Once of the biggest races in the country!

More blogging soon. Miss you guys!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Magnolia Run!

So, yesterday I ran the 4-mile Magnolia Run. It was awesome!

I love racing SO MUCH.

Here are my Top-5 Reasons That Racing Rules:

  • It's the only way I can run at my top pace. No matter what I do, I just can't seem to reach race pace in my training runs. I need the pressure and competition from the others around me to push me harder. I always amaze myself at races and walk away proud as hell.
  • I love meeting other runners. Part of the reason I keep this blog is because I don't have any runner-buddies in real life! At races, I get to talk shop with other people who share my passion and insanity for running.
  • I'm a sucker for donating to charities. I don't have a lot of money to give, being a poor law student, but races give me an excuse to fork out the cash and support charities and causes I love.
  • I love swag. I'll admit it. Part of the reason I love racing is to get the free stuff they offer afterwards. I love the exposure to new products and gear.
  • It's such a rush! I'd do it everyday just for high alone. Finishing races is a adrenaline and endorphin rush like none other.

Now, on to the race! I had to wake up at the crack of dawn to get there. It's not that it was too far away--just 20 miles or so--but I like to get to races super-early because I'm always paranoid that I'm going to get lost or that I won't be able to find it. Jeff didn't want to get up at 5:30 to come with me (naturally!), so he gave me the keys to his car and told me to have fun. I had planned on taking the train there, but taking Jeff's car took about 30 minutes off of my transit time. You may remember from this post that I don't own a car or regularly drive.

I ate a bagel with peanut butter in the car and guzzled Gatorade, as per usual. The ride up there was a few minutes longer than I had expected, but I still got to the race site in plenty of time. I took some pictures with my new Blackberry to amuse myself for awhile.

It was pretty overcast, and the cloud cover was a god-send during the race!

While waiting at the starting line for the race to start, I chatted with a guy standing next to me who had run two marathons last month. He noticed my Garmin and asked what pace I was shooting for. I laughed and said that I just hoped I could average 10-minute miles and that speed wasn't my thing. He said that he felt the same because of just running the marathons. Then, we all started running.

Remember when I ran my first race in April, and I said that one of things I did wrong was run too fast in the first mile? I totally did that again! When I passed the first mile marker, the staffer calling out times yelled 8.8 as I passed! What on earth was I doing to myself?

I started to run out of a steam a bit when I reached the aid station at mile 1.5. I walked a bit after the aid station, talking myself into running again and reminding myself that I had permission to slow down.

I had to convince myself that no one was judging me. That's hard to do. I'm incredibly susceptible to peer pressure, and I was now in a pace group that was a bit out of my league.

I walked a bit more, and then got back to running, trying to ignore what was going on around me. At the second mile marker I hit my stride, and I maintained a pleasant 10-minute mile pace through the rest of the race. That's still much faster than I run in training, but it felt good on the course.

Starting at the second mile marker, some amazing things happened that reminded me why I love this sport:

  • First, once I hit my comfortable pace, I was so happy! By that, I mean I was instantly in a good mood. I remembered to smile at everyone, and I thanked all the policeman who were holding traffic as we passed through. I chitchatted with the runners around me, and I sang to myself. I was just happy!
  • Second, a guy passed me at the third mile marker and thanked me for pacing the group for the last mile, which covered a couple pretty lengthy climbs. My heart swelled so big! He said that some of them were struggling with the hills, and it was inspiring to have someone in front of them who going up them strong. I turned around and three runners gave me thumbs-up. I almost cried.
  • Third, after the guy thanked me, I sprinted up to thank the guy who I had been (inadvertently) pacing me, and he asked me if I wanted to chat and finish the race together! More heart-swelling! We talked about my calk compression sleeves, the necessity of anti-chafing cream, and other nonsense, and then we crossed together at 38:50!

I grabbed a banana, a bagel, and some water, and I wandered around the finish area a bit.

This was the first time I actually felt like a legitimate runner, like I belonged in this group. People walked up to me left and right to talk about Team in Training (I was wearing one of the shirts) and about my Zensah compression sleeves (I was wearing those, too--I swear by them!). When I went to a local running store's tent, they wanted my advice on different products and gave me all kinds of free stuff that they weren't giving others. I felt like a rock star!

All in all, it was an amazing event. I felt so good that I woke up and ran again this morning!

After the Magnolia Run, Jeff and I walked down the street from his place to the Reynoldstown Wheelbarrow Festival. Definitely one of my favorite neighborhood festivals! It was small, but it had so much heart. I really love Reynoldstown. I have an addiction to developing communities.

We were serenaded by local celebrity General Larry Platt of "Pants on the Ground" fame.

And, I got the best post-run snack ever: Mango Italian ice. YUM.

Hope all of you are having awesome weekends, too!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Long time, no talk

Hello, readers! My apologies for my absence as of late! My schedule is just not conducive to blogging these days. Hopefully it'll ease up in August after I move (yay!)!

Maybe I do neglect the blog, but there's definitely something I don't ever neglect... Yep. It's training! Things have been crazy, and they're just getting crazier. I like sticking to plans though. It's like an addiction. Check out my recent schedule.

I've had a couple amazing runs recently! I've also had a couple not-so-amazing runs, but that just happens from time to time. As a new runner, it's still really hard for me to decide whether to suck it up and push or whether to ease my pace and relax, but I usually sort it out in my head before I'm totally out of steam.

FYI: When I say that it's really hard for me to decide whether to push harder or whether to slow down, I mean it's REALLY hard. I hate admitting weakness; I'm one of those people!

This morning, for example, I was scheduled to do a smooth 3-miler, but after biking 15 miles with my roommate last night, my legs were just not working with me. I had to walk a couple blocks around mile 1.5 and again around 2.5. As it was happening, I was so embarrassed. I never walk on my short runs. I hung my head for most of the day until I could talk to some other runners about the experience, and they were able to ease my mind a bit.

"Sometimes it happens, and it happens to everyone."
"People can't be ready to run strong 24/7/52/365/whatever."
"We're human."
"We have good days and bad days."

It doesn't mean that your training is down the toilet or that you're some sort of failure. It just means that that day is not your best and that tomorrow will be better. Keep on truckin'.

Running humbles me. Daily.

So... Let's talk about upcoming events! I have a couple races coming up, as you might have seen on the schedule above.

First, there's the Magnolia Run this Saturday.

It's a 4-mile run a few miles north of the city. Should be pretty flat and fast--I think it'll be a nice change of pace.

Then, next Saturday, there's Muddy Buddy!

Oh yes, my darlings! I'm doing another mud race! This one is a bit different than the Warrior Dash because you do the whole thing with a buddy. You and your buddy have one bike between the two of you that you share throughout the race. There are 6 1-mile legs, all separated with obstacles. For each leg, one buddy runs while the other one bikes, and then you switch running and biking at each obstacle. You don't have to do all of the obstacles together, but you have to do the last one together, which is crawling through mud! Woohoo!

I'm doing the race with my friend Rusty, who recently moved to Baltimore but is coming back to do Muddy Buddy.

My roommate Jessica is doing it, too. She's buddying with our friend Patrick. Our friends Paul and Emily are going to be buddies, as well! It's going to be SO. MUCH. FUN.

Here are some pictures of the buddies. This is Paul, Rusty, and Patrick:

This is Paul, Emily, and Jessica:

There's going to be some serious craziness on the course!