Thursday, March 29, 2012

Explaining My Absence

Okay, I'll admit it. I've been AWOL for about two weeks. Life got in the way of me updating. And by life, I mean the following:

1. Finals.

2. Cleaning my house. Because let's face it, when you're busy working on final projects, all other projects (ahem cleaning) seem to end up on the back burner.

3. Recovering from finals by trying to enjoy this thing they call "Spring Break."

4. A bout of Achilles tendonitis. This one requires lots of explaining, and merits its own post. So I'm leaving that one for sometime soon.

5. Saving the world, by playing the role of non-profit manager. I decided to run the Chicago Marathon on behalf of the ALS Association, and I've started raising money. I'm managing it and I'm not making any money off of it. By that logic, I'm a non-profit manager. Because my focus right now is Eugene, I'll get more into this once I start chronicling my Chicago training experience. But seriously, donate. You get to help me achieve my goal, support a great cause, and get a tax deduction for 2012!

Speaking of Eugene, it's officially one month away! Isn't that insane??

Friday, March 16, 2012

Learn From My Mistakes

I was recently thinking about this blog and its purpose. The whole purpose is to share the story of my training and in doing so, instruct others on the sport and (possibly) inspire others to lace up their trainers. I'd like to use this Friday Five to get back to that.

Five Mistakes I Made When Starting Out

Believe it or not, there was a time when I didn't run. I was new to this sport at one time, and made some idiot moves. (Alright, alright -- I still make idiot moves. Will ya cut me some slack here?) Here are a few of them:

1. Running in heavy cotton

Because of my days of crew, I knew that moisture-wicking clothing existed. What I didn't know/take into account was that such moisture-wicking clothing could be used for running too.

I've done training runs (and even a race) in a heavy, cotton hoodie. Yes, it's nice and warm (which is great for when you're trying to stay warm in your house and don't want to pay for extra heat), but once you start sweating, you start to feel like a wet dog.

Cute to look at, but who wants to feel soggy? My advice: Go to a store that sells athletic apparel and has knowledgeable staff, and ask questions. Now nobody (myself included) wants to be the person who asks 50,000 questions. But that's what they're paid to do. Some stores I'd recommend are City Sports (if you're on the East Coast), Niketown, and Jack Rabbit (if you're in NYC).

2. Not running with a water bottle

I hate carrying stuff on my runs. If I wanted to go on an excursion, I'd pack a backpack and go on a hike in the woods. But water's essential. I trust that you know about the "eight glasses a day" rule, but there are other benefits! I'm aware of these benefits, and STILL avoided bringing a water bottle. Until my epic run to Jersey.

The epic part isn't that I went to Jersey (Why would anyone do that now?). The epic part is that it was a 2.5 hour run (I was going to run 1.25 hours, then turn around and run back), and at 5:30pm, it was probably around 90ºF. Still, I headed out. I ran up to the GW Bridge, over it, and through the fine neighborhoods of Jersey. I don't remember when I started feeling off, but after an hour and eight minutes, I came across a Target and decided that I had to stop for fluids. However, Target was closed. (Seriously, what madness is that??) Fortunately, Pathmark (local supermarket) was across the parking lot and open, so I went there and bought Vitamin Water. Since it's Jersey, the NYC busses and subways were nowhere to be found, so my only option was to run back (and drink the Vitamin Water). Well, it took much longer than 1:08 to run back. And when I got home, I drank 96 oz. of water before I had to pee. (That's how you know you have issues.) It was a classic case of hyponatremia

The gist of all of that: If you're going for a run longer than an hour, suck it up and bring some water to suck down.

3. Not properly fueling before and during long runs

When thinking about my training for my first three marathons, I can't recall what I ate before my long runs. What I can recall is what I ate during them. For the second and third marathons, I brought Gu packs and would consume one on the run (two if the situation called for it). For my first marathon, I didn't bring anything. (True story: I had never heard of Gu until I was in the midst of running the Philly Marathon.)

Your muscles need glycogen for energy. Furthermore, you're limited by the number of calories worth of glycogen you can store (which, by the way, is barely enough to make it through a marathon). By consuming some sort of energy (e.g., Gu, sports drink) on your long run, you supply additional fuel for your muscles (Source). Oh, and (hopefully) prevent yourself from hitting "the wall".

4. Not using a structured training plan

When you're just starting to cook for yourself, you follow a recipe. When you're trying to install and operate that fancy surround sound system with no prior experience, you read the manual (presumably). Running is no different. Let's face it -- when you're new at anything, you want/need guidance. Why I didn't think to look for guidance when training for my first marathon is beyond me.

I had no structured training plan, but knew that I had to run and increase my mileage. In hindsight, I would've greatly benefitted from a structured training plan that told me how far to run on what days.

5. Proper shoes

For some unbeknownst reason, I thought that all training shoes were created equally. It wasn't until I had a gait analysis (where they evaluate your running form and suggest proper shoes based on that) that I realized this. Furthermore, even within running shoes, there are specific kinds. There are neutral shoes, stability shoes (for those of you like me who tend to pronate), minimalist shoes (e.g., Vibram Five Fingers), and so on.

I remember that I ran Philly in these New Balances. I don't know what model they were, but I think they may have been cross-training shoes.

My advice: Speak with an expert, get a gait analysis, and buy shoes specifically for the sport.

I'm sure I still make mistakes. But it's a learning experience. I learn, you learn, we all learn. It's a win-win situation! And as a bonus, it's Friday!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Where's My Head?

Who pauses their Garmin while stuck at a stoplight, and then realizes after about half a mile that they forgot to restart it?

That's right...ME!

In case you haven't figured it out, I'm a bit absent-minded. (Now if only I were a professor as well -- then I could have some money in my pocket for race fees.)

I went for a 5M run this evening (taking advantage of the later daylight hours), and paused my Garmin while I was waiting on the Broadway Bridge for the light to change. It changed, and I ran. I looked at my Garmin about 10 blocks later and thought, "That's odd...I should be further along than this." I then looked at the timer and realized that it wasn't ticking. I unpaused it and kept running, because I'd have been damned if that Garmin didn't read at least 5M by the end of that run.

Clearly, the end of the quarter stress has caught up with me.

Onto happier things. Remember my IT Band pain? Well, for the last 9 days, I haven't noticed it. I'm not sure if it's the dynamic warmups, the IT Band Rehab, and/or the fact that I stopped taking glucosamine & chondroitin, but whatever it is seems to be helping. I'm hoping it went away for good, and didn't simply take an epic Spring Break trip without me. Regardless, Eugene's in 46 days, so I can't afford to take any chances. Thus, I better keep doing the dynamic warmups and the IT Band Rehab, and stay away from the glucosamine pills too. Of course, all of my runs in that time period have been 9M or less, so I don't know if this applies to longer runs. Stay tuned.

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Friday, March 9, 2012

Impromptu Day Off

Oh, hey there! Yes, I've been AWOL for the last week. No, I didn't go on any exciting vacations. But I did come back for another edition of "Friday Five."

In honor of my absence, this week's theme is "Anecdotes from My Training."

1. It's warming up here! This was the forecast when I left for my long run on Saturday:

What'd this mean? I was able to leave the hat at home. I still needed the gloves. But it was much more pleasant than the run in the snow!

2. I ran into some friends along the way. On Saturday, I started my long run by myself, but between miles 6 and 7 (6.25 to be exact), I ran into my friends Jeff and Steve, who were in the midst of their long run. So I ran with them after that. It was a great balance between running by myself to recharge and get me time, and running with others to be social.

I also ran into another friend on Wednesday morning, but that wasn't as exciting because he wasn't running.

3. I explored some new routes. Or rather, I explored one new route (Tryon Creek State Park), and some variations of routes that I've previously run. It's always enjoyable to switch things up!

4. For the first time in about 6 or 7 years (I'm not sure of how long specifically, but it's been a while), I tried swimming laps. I did about 3 laps, but because of the smell of chlorine and the chlorinated water splashing into my ears, I was over it after that. Not to mention that I was already drained beforehand. But I'm still humored by the fact that I can survive running for 3+ hours on land, but can't seem to survive swimming 3+ laps in water. Goal for next time: 4 laps!

5. On Tuesday evening, I developed this craving for pancakes, and decided that they'd be a good breakfast for after my 9M run on Wednesday. Plus, it always helps to have delicious food to look forward to while running. To make my life easier on Wednesday, I made the batter Tuesday night and stuck it in the fridge. It seriously hit the spot! Plus, I had some batter leftover, so I was able to have pancakes again on Thursday!

Sweet and Savory
Left: Basic pancakes with a poached egg
Right: Chocolate chip pancakes with peanut butter

I ended up with a day off (kind of). My thesis meeting this week was switched from Friday to Thursday, and my other meeting I had scheduled got canceled. All I have scheduled is a 7M tempo run (which I should probably start on), and some homework. And the sun is shining!

Any big Friday/weekend plans?

Friday, March 2, 2012

March into Spring

It's Friday!

I'm switching up the list a bit. This week's theme: The First Five Races I Ran (and a brief story on each)

1. 2006 Jefferson Hospital Philadelphia Distance Run (Now the Philadelphia Rock 'N' Roll Half Marathon)

One of my friends had read about this race in "Runner's World," and decided to sign up for it. She also convinced her dad and a few mutual friends to sign up, and then said to me, "You'll be in Philly. You should run it." A half-marathon as my first road race? Clearly a great idea. It was a beautiful course, but running up West River Drive was so boring (nothing but trees, and not too much crowd support). But I finished in under 2 hours. And ended up running it again in 2007 (also before they sold out to ING and Competitor, Inc.).

*Note: I'm not counting that 2007 run as race #2 because it was the same race, just a different year.

2. 2007 Philadelphia Marathon

For whatever reason (I don't recall why), I was looking up fall marathons, and found the website for the Philadelphia Marathon. I noticed that the registration fee was scheduled to increase the next day, so I took that as a sign that I should sign up. What I remember from that race is a Gu pack exploding on my face because I opened it with my teeth (my fingers were frozen, so using my hands wasn't an option), being disappointed at mile 20 because I realized that I wasn't going to get any new/exciting scenery (the last half of the race is composed of a 12 mile out-and-back loop (6 miles out, 6 miles back), and the fine locals of Manayunk who were handing out beer at miles 18 and 22 (the benefits of an out-and-back: you can be at 2 different mile markers at the same time!).

Exhausted after having to wake up before the sun and run for over 3.5 hours
3. 2008 Grete's Great Gallop (half-marathon)

This was a last-minute registration, as well as my introduction to NYRR racing. This also marks the first time I ran in Central Park.

During the 2011 NYC Half Marathon
For those of you who don't know Central Park, one loop around the park is about 10K, so a half marathon is slightly more than two loops. This was great, because once I finished the first loop, I was able to tell myself that I was on the last loop. There were also bagels with lox and cream cheese at the end, which tasted delicious. I was disappointed that I missed my PR by less than a minute, but given that I hadn't intended on running a half, I wasn't fully prepared and should simply have been happy with finishing.

4. 2008 Poland Spring Marathon Kickoff (5M)

NYRR hosts this race the Sunday before the NYC Marathon to kick off Marathon Week. (Yes, NYC makes a whole week out of the Marathon.) Nothing else from this race really stands out, except that it was a sunny, October day.

5. 2008 Race to Deliver (4M)

This race benefits God's Love We Deliver, a NYC organization devoted to providing "nutritious, individually-tailored meals to people who are too sick to shop or cook for themselves" (as quoted from their website -- see hyperlink). At the time, Star Jones was one of their main spokespeople (she may still be), and she was present at the event. My per-mile split from this race was slower than my per-mile split from the Poland Spring run (by one second), which was annoying/disappointing.

About a month later, I was watching a special on running on the YES Network (to this date, I don't understand why a network devoted to Yankee baseball was airing something on running, aside from the fact that the show was focused on NY running, and the Yankees are in NY), and they showed footage from the Race to Deliver. I was thinking to myself, "Oh, that'd be really funny if I ended up on here!" Lo and behold, they showed my legs and part of the bright purple shirt I was wearing. 

It's been a fairly bad week on the training front. I caught this head cold (sore throat, sinus issues), and so I ended up taking a few days off from training so I could rest up. But I had good runs on Wednesday and Thursday. I also realized that in February, I ran 112.92 miles. That's more than January, which as we're all aware, is a longer month! 

As much as I'd love to continue this post, I have to do my training run for today (4M). Have a great weekend, and happy running!