Sunday, December 28, 2008

Hello, Global Warming. My Name is Toasty.

Wow. Who put warm spring day on his or her holiday wish list? Looks like you weren’t quite as naughty as you should have been this year.

And I totally took advantage of it.

Landon was in town for the holidays and gave me good reason to make it back down to Lock 29 for a run on the Towpath.

The air was perfect—65 degrees with only a few patches of wind and no rain—for the 5ish-miler and the trails, well, they were perfect for getting my shoes dirty. Half mud and half puddle. Good news is that the mud and puddles switched off enough to give my shoes a bath in the final stretch, so everything came out clean in the wash.

My legs felt a little muddy all day on Saturday, though. Running with Landon is always invigorating (I’m like a puppy who gets way too excited when she sees her friends), but I was just plain slow and too sluggish. Perhaps it’s the out-of-whack holiday sleep patterns. Or the eight pounds I’ve gained since Thanksgiving. My legs have been screaming about how carrying this extra weight was totally not in their contract. They might be on strike.

Which is why it was totally appropriate to visit Main Street Cupcakes while we were in the neighborhood…

Even I was surprised at myself, though, when I bought 12 cupcakes (six chocolate lava for Neil, two chai for a friend and four for future use) and didn’t eat any of them before I made it home. Instead I sipped some pomegranate juice and ate rosemary loaf. See? There’s salvation for me yet.

Lucky for me, this mass of holiday celebrations will be coming to a close. (I hope everyone had a happy season.) And putting “stop binging” on my new-year to-do won’t be necessary. Who needs to wait until Jan. 1 to do these things anyway?

Friday morning runs with E*Speed have been a good habit to pick up (thanks, girl!) and sticking to lunchtime treks through the Heights should keep me on track for the Cleveland Marathon in May. I hope to run at least part of that race with Landon.

And here’s crossing my fingers that we get the same weather we had on Saturday, Dec. 27, on Sunday, May 17!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

And Now Back to Food Week…

One of the advantages to my obsessor’s mind is that it’s pretty easy to wrangle myself free of one object when I’ve found a better object over which to obsess. Case in point: the recovery meal.

Did I mention the power of the recovery meal? Well, let me just tell you about the power of the recovery meal.

Lately it’s been some combination of bagels and protein smoothies or Teahouse Noodles’ pad thai with chicken, tofu and fresh veggies. Whatever my recovery meal, it’s light and delicious, chock full of antioxidants, lean protein and carbs. We’ll call it the magic three.

Because eating (actually, I should say enjoying food) has long been a huge motivator, it was only a matter of time before I found a new way to use it in my training. Sure, the dessert goal helped me reach my first 30-mile month and the cupcake bar pushed me to break my first 8:00/mile race. But what could be next?

Now it’s not about reach singular goals. It’s bigger carrot this time. And a tad more advantageous that some of the sweets I’ve craved in the past.

In a previous post I mentioned that I bring a “runner’s lunch” to work on days when I plan to run. And I can only eat the lunch if I am, in fact, a runner that day. There’s no “I’ll run after work” or “I’ll double up tomorrow.” I have to earn my recovery meal with something from which to recover. Like a quality workout.

So far it’s worked every time.

The downside, of course is that it might work too well. My training plan calls for Mondays off, which works perfectly with my schedule because I always have meetings galore on Mondays and feel weeks behind by Monday afternoon. Sad, huh?

But I worked my butt off to get a bunch of work-related things done this weekend and hit Monday feeling just as burned out as they say you should when you over do it.

Two morning meetings later: BOOM! No motivation to do anything at all. Let alone get a day ahead in my training schedule. Shame, too… it was such a perfect day. Sigh.

What did it? Well, it wasn’t the bag of running gear staring me in the face all day or the sunshiney weather. No. It was the normal lunch in the fridge. Where’s the motivation in that?

So, I made it home and took a nap before hitting the bike for 20 lazy minutes. Obsessing over adequate sleep should be my next goal.

Then came Tuesday morning—rainy, dark, miserable Tuesday morning. I couldn’t drag myself out of bed for my morning pilates and laughed as I packed my recovery meal. “As if…” My brain was hardly functioning and, again, motivation to do anything was pretty low.

Then lunchtime crept around. I had an everything bagel in my drawer just waiting to be warmed and enjoyed while a vanilla-almond protein smoothie was chilling in the fridge. And the only thing that stood between me and the goodies: running.

It was a no-brainer! I got up, changed and ran into the rainy day!

But I wasn’t outside for long. I ran to the rec. center track where I covered 4.5 miles at 8:50/mile, followed by various drills including 2x20-second skipping, bounding, high knees and no arms. And I had plenty left at the end of the workout to run an extra mile roundtrip to get a work bud a chai to sweeten her crappy day.

Six miles down, I settled in with my warm bagel and smoothie. Totally worth it.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Will Run for Food

One of my favorite parts of the recovery-eating obsession is picking out the healthy foods I’ll eat after a run. Granted, I get consumed in it sometimes during a run, but it works in other ways too.

Runner’s lunches, for instance, have become bigger carrots in my training regimen than the old cupcake trick of 2007.

What’s a runner’s lunch? It’s a delicious but healthy recovery meal (like everything bagels and green antioxidant-rich protein shakes or seduction bread with pomegranate and grilled chicken) that I take to work and can only eat if I run during lunch. Works like a charm.

I’ve worked my new job since early January 2008, and I never ran during lunch until October! While I had been content to train after work or in the mornings, the month off after Akron and the time change really threw me for a loop this year. Because I’ve never run during this time of year, I wasn’t prepared for that shift. Lucky for me, I have the option to make a change.

It took many attempts to get my butt out of the office during the day. Finally, I brought a bagel-and-shake combo, which I could only eat if I ran my workout, to put me over the edge. And it’s worked ever since. It helps that I don’t bring a backup lunch—so it’s either run or starve—and love the stuff I bring to eat. What can I say? I’m all about incentives.

And Thursday’s run was chock full of rewards. Not only did I have a healthy Whole Foods bean burrito and bialy bagel waiting for me, I trucked up Cedar Hill for 2x30-second hill repeats and through the Heights for a 4.5-miler that ended running down Mayfield hill in Little Italy (I intend on remembering the feeling of running down that hill next time I do 6x60-second repeats up that thing!).

Recovery or not, Friday hit me hard. It had much more to do with a stressful month than running, but I crashed hard at the end of the day. I took a much-needed nap and didn’t do much else Friday but crab and eat. But I did celebrate the 21st Amendment anniversary with my brother, Neil and Greg at Willoughby Brewing Company at night. And I was reminded why I don’t drink alcohol anymore.

No quips here about people drinking; it’s just never been for me. I spent a few months in college becoming an Irish whiskey expert, but alcohol has always hit me hard for days no matter how much or little I drank.

Like the ¾ pint of IPA I drank last night. Blah! The beer was fine (as was the bread pudding with turkey butter I ate with it) and didn’t affect me much last night. But I woke up today feeling groggy and way too yuck. My head feels heavy and my body’s so bloated.

It was a struggle to push through my 5-mile Fartlek (which didn’t get started until some time around noon) and I kept damning myself for doing something I knew was bad for me. Even if I was totally responsible about it. I guess the 21st Amendment just isn’t for all of us. Some people should be bound to their own prohibition.

Good news is I welcomed myself back from the run with another burrito-and-bagel recovery, complete with antioxidant-rich tea and a probiotic shake. So, it may be all mental—the alcoholic downside, the recovery-meal upside—but it all works for me.

Friday, December 5, 2008


Imagine my surprise almost two years ago when I first started running and a friend said, “now that you have your training started, let’s work on your diet.”

My diet? WTF is wrong with my diet?

Well, if you’ve been around my blog long enough, you probably have a few suggestions. And that friend did too. Plenty of people had plenty to say. I’m better for it now.

Obviously, the first to go were cupcakes (at least they were the first things to go on my should-not-eat list; they didn’t necessarily leave my diet) and all the tarts and tortes that make me smile. In sum: sugar was a problem.

Before I started training (running, in particular) I paid little attention to what I was eating as it related to how I was running or swimming. I was the healthiest eater I knew. Unfortunately, relativity doesn’t count here. Instead, my diet was very backward: I ran or swam or cycled to eat, not the other way around.

That food could actually help me do these things better never crossed my mind.

For years I spiked and dropped on blood sugar, ever skipping breakfast, sweetening up lunch, crashing every afternoon and overstuffing dinner. It was almost impossible to make it through a day without fighting the nappies or needing coffee to think about mounting an elliptical for a shamefully short time.

The more I talked to fit people, though, the more eating right for training made sense. Even if it did take a year and a half to really take hold.

I listened to vitamin stories and checked the magic of nutrition bars. I heard about the “hour after workout” rule and the secrets of Ensure shakes. But it was the training runs after a high-energy meal (antioxidant-rich fruits, lean protein, good carbs) that made it all dawn.

But what really brought it home for me? Recovery meals.

I was reading about the damage we do to our muscle fibers, ligaments and tendons during average and intense workouts. And all the memories of how my vitamin- and protein-deficient body let my leg fracture and my muscles ache from overuse. Sure, I was overtraining for the most part, but I wasn’t giving my body the resources to rebuild and recover at all. Like proper nutrition and rest.

While the brain-training book provided some background on nutrition, one piece of advice really stuck: you must become fanatical about eating in recovery! And if there’s anyone who can become fanatical about eating, well, that would be me.

It helped to understand a) how our bodies are damaged during exercise; b) how our bodies rebuild and improve in recovery; c) how antioxidants, lean proteins and carbs consumed within an optimal one-hour period contribute to that rebuilding effort. Perhaps it’s all a mental game (but I have been brain training!), but that knowledge somehow makes me feel better when I eat and feel lighter when I run.

And there’s so much more to learn. I just picked up a book about running nutrition, and I’m emotionally prepared to learn how bad my diet used to be and how to cope with all the guilt I feel next time I fall for that cupcake.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Well, Now What?

Taking a break in October wasn’t too difficult: my ITB was aching something rough, I was a little fatigued from the crammed training and getting behind in my life. Never have the states of my house, thesis and ironing been so wrecked.

A month off, a pilates obsession and a few hip abductor exercises later, I’m starting my training again. But this time, I’m going to do it right. At least I’ll try.

Today I began training for the Cleveland Marathon on May 17. That gives me a little less than 24 weeks to build, which should work much better than my “three weeks to a new marathon you” gig last summer.

I’ve been reading a new book this fall, called Brain Training for Runners by Matt Fitzgerald. (Sounds cheesy, doesn't it?) While it’s not a book about easy ways or tricks to training yourself to 26.2, the book helped me in just a few weeks to break down many of the mental barriers I like to build between myself and great times. In fact, I used many of the lessons I learned from the book at the Turkey Trot to achieve a 5-miler PR.

But it’s nothing new. And it’s nothing my running friends haven’t told me all along. It’s nothing my dad never told me growing up. Nothing Melissa hasn’t been reminding me for the past year and a half.

Fitzgerald’s book explains the physiology behind running and fatigue and how your brain responds to those things. And how to get over some of those triggers. Like defeating yourself. For some reason, though, reading about what my muscle fibers are doing and why I feel a certain way… well, that clicks.

And when I start to get tired at mile two, I can tell myself that my legs aren’t dying, that the burning is good, that I can push at this level and beyond.

Best of all is that the training plan for marathon takes a healthy course, building miles slowly over 24 weeks and incorporating some Fartleks, hill repeats and cross-training with the distance runs.

Obviously it’s a healthier route than my last-minute job in August, and I’m already liking it better than most other plans I’ve followed from pubs like Runner’s World. As I mentioned, the mileage builds slowly. So, week one doesn’t have a sudden 15-miler popped in on a Saturday. This week’s long: a 5-miler at base pace on Saturday. Then it ekes up from there.

To kick it off right, I woke up early for 30 minutes of morning pilates today and then ran the Heights for 4 miles at 9:05/mile during lunch. Only 23.5 weeks to go!